The New Year has brought us numerous come-from-behind victories in the bowls including an exciting Virginia Tech win
over Louisville 35-24 in the Gator Bowl, hopefully bringing an end to the “Jacksonville jinx.” The Hokies were
able to move the ball on the ground behind big efforts from Cedric Humes and Brandon Ore as well as the revamped
offensive line. Marcus Vick handled the Cardinalsï¿½ pressure well and made some big plays on several deep passes. Tech
also won the turnover battle 4-0 including a huge interception by James Anderson to seal the game.
However, the best aspect to the game was that the Hokies kept their composure and rallied in the fourth quarter,
scoring the last 22 points. Virginia Tech fans have been skeptical about the teamï¿½s ability to pull out big wins and
hopefully this victory can begin to put some of those concerns to rest.
Establishing the running game was paramount for Virginia Tech winning the Gator Bowl. As identified in the previous
article, Louisville lost to the only other teams with strong ground attacks, so the Hokies needed a big day rushing
without a key blocker, left tackle Jimmy Martin, who suffered an MCL sprain earlier in the week. Brandon Frye stepped in
at left tackle and played superbly against one of the best defensive ends in the country, Elvis Dumervil. Cedric Humes
ran exceptionally hard and was named the MVP of the bowl game with 113 yards on 22 carries. Marcus Vickï¿½s ability to
scramble was also a major factor in this game as he was able to buy time and hit a number of big passes to Hokie
receivers who had gotten behind the Louisville secondary. Except for some early personal foul penalties, Tech played
relatively error free and regained their composure in the second half, showing a lot of character in making a number of
big plays down the stretch.
The projected statistics were generally on target for this game:
|Toyota Gator Bowl||Virginia Tech||Louisville|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||44-158||48-187||30-137||30-127|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||15-25||11-21||15-37||19-30|
The Hokies ran the ball slightly better than expected and won the turnover battle decisively, but otherwise the
projections were very close to the game statistics. Losing quarterback Brian Brohm for the game was certainly a factor
for Louisvilleï¿½s lower production, but Hunter Cantwell performed well considering the circumstances. The Hokie defense
played well, especially late in the game, and the offense made big plays at crucial times. All in all, Iï¿½m glad I made
the trip to Jacksonville to see a great senior class go out with a big win.
While I was very close on my projected score for the Virginia Tech game (31-20 prediction), I was not so good on some
of the other major bowl games. I thought that Florida-Iowa and Alabama-Texas Tech were toss ups (both of which I picked
incorrectly) so I wasnï¿½t surprised at the results, but I didnï¿½t see Wisconsin staying with Auburn at all. The Badger
players must have put out a great effort for Barry Alvarezï¿½s last game since Auburn clearly looked like the stronger
team coming into the game. Obviously, I havenï¿½t had a chance to see the game yet since I just got back from the Gator
Bowl, but I will have to check out the tape of that game closely to see what happened.
The Fiesta Bowl, as the first of the four BCS bowls, had a big name match-up with Ohio State facing Notre Dame. The
key to this game was the inability of the Fighting Irish secondary to handle the speed of the Buckeye wide receivers ï¿½
Ted Ginn and Santonio Holmes. Ginn had a phenomenal day with 167 yards receiving and an additional 73 yards rushing and
Santonio Holmes added 124 receiving yards in his final college game. Notre Dame had no answer for Ohio Stateï¿½s speed
and the Irish were actually fortunate that the game was not more one-sided. Here are the projected vs. actual statistics
for the Fiesta Bowl:
|Fiesta Bowl||Ohio State||Notre Dame|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||38-146||36-275||34-65||28-62|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||16-27||19-28||24-37||29-45|
The Sugar Bowl saw West Virginia jump out to an astounding 28-0 lead and then hang on for a 38-35 victory over
Georgia. I certainly didnï¿½t anticipate a high-scoring battle between these two teams, much less a game in which both
teams had over 500 yards total offense. Both defenses struggled with the other teamï¿½s speed on offense allowing a
number of big plays. True freshman running back Steve Slaton was sensational for the Mountaineers in setting a Sugar
Bowl record with 204 rushing yards, including two 52-yard touchdown runs. In the end, Georgia was never able to recover
from West Virginiaï¿½s fast start, though the Bulldogs did make a game of it. The statistics were not even close for
this game as you can see from the results:
|Sugar Bowl||West Virginia||Georgia|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||48-236||63-382||35-104||28-224|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||10-16||11-14||17-29||20-33|
Too much speed on offense, or lack of speed on defense, depending on your perspective, seems to be the theme in the
first two BCS bowl games. Will this pattern hold true in the remaining two bowl games?
FedEx Orange Bowl: Jan. 3 ï¿½ Penn State (10-1; 7-1) vs. Florida State (8-4; 6-3), 8:00 PM EST, ABC
In the Orange Bowl, or should we call it the “Granddadï¿½s Bowl,” we have the two coaches with the most
wins in college football history ï¿½ Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. Penn State has rebounded from two straight losing
seasons to win the Big 10 championship, including a huge win over Ohio State, 17-10. The Nittany Lions only loss was to
Michigan (27-25) on a TD reception with no time left on the clock. Florida State, as all Hokie fans know, slumped badly
at the end of the season losing three straight to N.C. State (20-15), Clemson (35-14), and Florida (34-7) before
upsetting Virginia Tech in the first ACC Championship Game, 27-22. FSU also defeated Miami (10-7) in the opening game of
the season and defeated Boston College (28-17) in the Eagles first conference game, but later lost to Virginia, 26-21.
So the question has to be, which Florida State team will show up in the Orange Bowl?
Much of Florida Stateï¿½s inconsistency this year can be attributed to the lack of a running game, thus the Seminoles
have difficulty in controlling the ball. FSU only averages 3.4 yards per carry and is led in rushing by Lorenzo Booker
(#28, 5-11 187, r-Jr.) with only 550 yards. The Seminoles have suffered an unusually high number of injuries on their
offensive line and star running back Leon Washington (#3, 5-9 202, Sr., 400 yards) has been out for much of the year as
well. Without a running game, Florida State has had to rely on the passing of first-year quarterback Drew Weatherford
(#11, 6-3 210, r-Fr., 2,962 passing yards, 17 TDs, 17 interceptions) who is improving but still makes too many mistakes.
FSU has a bevy of receivers led by Chris Davis (#5, 6-0 176, r-Jr., 611 yards), Willie Reid (#26, 5-10 186, Sr., 579
yards), and Greg Carr (#89, 6-6 200, Fr., 593 yards with 9 TDs). The key to Florida Stateï¿½s offense, though, will
likely be the play of the offensive line headed by center Dave Castillo (#63, 6-2 304, r-Sr.) to hold up against the
physical defensive front of Penn State.
Florida State still has a fast, aggressive defense that is very strong against the run, allowing only 2.9 yards per
carry. The defensive front, led by defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley (#52, 6-3 291, Sr.), played exceptionally well
against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game and they will need a big effort against Penn State as well. The
linebackers are very active headed by super-athlete Ernie Sims (#20, 6-0 220, Jr.) on the strong side. The secondary has
been erratic with some young, but talented players. The leader of the secondary is free safety Pat Watson (#22, 6-4 195,
Sr.), but the players to watch are the young cornerbacks, Tony Carter (#15, 5-9 160, r-Fr.) and J.R. Bryant (#18, 6-1
181, So.). The cornerbacks are very fast but can be exploited by more complex pass patterns and both are relatively
small. The Florida State defense needs to keep the Seminoles in the game by shutting down the run and making Penn State
into a one-dimensional passing team.
Penn State is led on offense by Varina, VA product, Michael Robinson (#12, 6-2 217, r-Sr.) who has been great this
year with 2,097 yards passing and 785 yards on the ground. The Nittany Lions rely on their ground game with another
Virginia high school player (T.C. Williams HS), Tony Hunt (#26, 6-2 219, Jr.), gaining 1,047 yards and 6.0 yards per
carry. The leading receiver for Penn State also hails from Virginia (C.D. Hylton HS) in former walk-on Deon Butler (#3,
5-10 163, r-Fr.) with 36 catches for 678 yards and 9 touchdowns. However, the key for Penn Stateï¿½s offense is for the
line, led by left tackle Levi Brown (#67, 6-5 324, r-Jr. from Granby, VA HS) and guard Tyler Reed (#74, 6-4 307, r-Sr.),
to hold up against Florida Stateï¿½s relentless pressure.
The Nittany Lion defense is led by outside linebacker Paul Posluszny (#31, 6-2 229, Jr.) and defensive end Tamba Hali
(#91, 6-3 267, Sr.). Penn State only allows 2.6 yards per carry and will likely make running the ball nearly impossible
for Florida State. The secondary is also very talented and experienced, headed by cornerbacks Alan Zemaitis (#21, 6-2
201, Sr.) and Anwar Phillips (#1, 6-1 182, Sr.), who will be tested by FSUï¿½s passing game.
Looking at the game statistically, here are the averages for the season for the two teams (rounded to the nearest
|Orange Bowl||Florida State||Penn State|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||29-100||37-106||41-220||38-99|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||23-40||18-30||14-27||20-36|
Plugging all of the data into my statistical projection model, here is how the computer sees the game:
|Orange Bowl Projection||Florida State||Penn State|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||27-42||40-177|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||26-45||14-26|
The key to this game will be Penn Stateï¿½s ability to run the ball. The Nittany Lions will not go to the air
exclusively, so if Florida State can shut down the run, then the Seminoles stand a very good chance in this game. FSU
will not be able to run the ball, so Weatherford will need to take care of the ball and try to generate some offense on
big passing plays. I see this game being a defensive struggle with turnovers and special teams playing a major role in
the outcome. I like the balance of Penn Stateï¿½s defense slightly more and will go with the Nittany Lions in a game
that easily could go either way ï¿½ Penn State by 3 (16-13).
Rose Bowl: Jan. 4 ï¿½ Southern Cal (12-0; 8-0) vs. Texas (12-0; 9-0), 8:00 PM EST, ABC
In the most anticipated BCS championship game ever, two undefeated powerhouses will clash in a matchup of the two
best teams to ever meet in college football, at least in my opinion. USC rolled through the Pac 10 this year with the
only scares coming in non-conference games against Notre Dame (34-31) in South Bend and Fresno State (50-42). Texas had
little trouble with the Big 12 this year and the Longhornsï¿½ only close game came against Ohio State (25-22) in an
early season battle on the road, though Texas A&M (40-29) did give them a battle.
Southern Cal is led by the Heisman Trophy winning duo of running back Reggie Bush (#5, 6-0 200, Jr.) and quarterback
Matt Leinert (#11, 6-5 225, Sr.). Bush, who has 1,658 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns (8.9 yards per carry), combines
with LenDale White (#21, 6-2 235, Jr., 1,178 yards) to give the Trojans an incredibly potent running attack. When
combined with Leinertï¿½s ability to throw (3,450 passing yards for 27 TDs with 7 interceptions), the USC offense is
almost impossible to stop. Leinertï¿½s favorite targets are Dwayne Jarrett (#8, 6-5 195, So., 81 catches for 1,153 yards
and 15 TDs) and Steve Smith (#2, 6-1 195, Jr., 57 receptions for 928 yards). The Trojans offense operates behind a huge,
and experienced, offensive line led by tackles Sam Baker (#79, 6-5 305, r-So.) and Winston Justice (#74, 6-6 300,
r-Jr.). The USC offense seemingly has no weakness.
The Trojan defense is also very talented, but probably not quite as strong as last yearï¿½s championship team. USC is
solid up front, led by defensive end Lawrence Jackson (#96, 6-5 270, r-So.), but teams can have some success rushing
(allowing 3.5 yards per carry). The linebacking corps is headed by talented Keith Rivers (#55, 6-3 220, So.), but his
counterpart outside, Dallas Sartz (#42, 6-5 220, Sr.) is out with a shoulder injury and true freshman Brian Cushing
(#10, 6-4 235) will take his place. The young outside linebackers will play a key role in trying to contain the
scrambling of Vince Young. Southern Calï¿½s secondary has been erratic with the cornerback play being questionable at
times. Look for Texas to pick on converted free safety Josh Pinkard (#36, 6-1 200, So.) at times in the game. Darnell
Bing (#20, 6-2 220, Jr.) is a physical presence at strong safety and he could be a key player for USC in this contest.
Texas, of course, is led by dynamic quarterback Vince Young (#10, 6-5 233, r-Jr.) with 2,769 passing yards with 26
touchdowns and 10 interceptions along with 850 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns. His incredible athleticism makes the
Longhorns offense extremely difficult to defend. Texas also runs the ball very well with speedy Jamaal Charles (#25, 6-1
190, Fr.) gaining 844 yards on just 114 carries (7.4 average). The Longhorns use a number of receivers with Limas Sweed
(#4, 6-5 219, r-So.) possibly providing the most difficult match-up for USC. Vince Young and company operate behind
possibly the best offensive line in college football. Texas has a big, physical line led by tackles Jonathan Scott (#73,
6-7 315, r-Sr.) and Justin Blalock (#63, 6-4 329, r-Jr.) and guards Will Allen (#72, 6-6 315, r-Sr.) and Kasey Studdard
(#64, 6-3 305, r-Jr.) that will need to dominate the smaller USC defensive line. Look for Texas to try to establish the
run and control the ball behind this massive offensive line.
Texas also has one of the best defensive lines in college football headed by tackles Rodrique Wright (#90, 6-5 315,
Sr.) and Frank Okam (#97, 6-5 315, So.). Aaron Harris (#2, 6-0 235, Sr.) leads a physical linebacker corps that will be
challenged by the speed of USC. The secondary is very good, headed by strong safety/cornerback Michael Huff (#7, 6-1
205, r-Sr.), and they will need to play an exceptional game to slow down the USC offense. Texas will need to contain the
Trojansï¿½ speed outside and minimize the big plays to stay in the game.
Here are the statistical averages for the season for the two teams:
|Rose Bowl||Southern Cal||Texas|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||40-264||34-117||47-274||35-125|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||24-37||20-34||16-25||16-33|
And here is the statistical projection for the game:
|Rose Bowl Projection||Southern Cal||Texas|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||36-226||45-244|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||21-37||16-25|
Statistically, the championship game looks very even with the projected total yardage almost equal. The key to the
game will be the ability of Texas to run the ball behind their physical offensive line. No team will stop the USC
offense, so the best strategy is to keep the ball out of the Trojansï¿½ hands. Vince Young will need to be extremely
efficient on third downs for Texas to control the ball. Texas also needs to limit the big plays from the USC offense,
which is very difficult considering the skill level of Reggie Bush and the talented receiving corps.
Southern Cal will need to attack the edge trying to get Reggie Bush and LenDale White out in space against the Texas
linebackers. USC has a lot of weapons and the Trojans will need to use all of the talented players to attack a solid
Texas defense. Defensively, Southern Cal needs to hold their ground at the line-of-scrimmage and the young linebackers
need to maintain their responsibilities to keep Vince Young from taking over the game. The Trojans need to pressure
Young at every chance and try to force some mistakes.
I am really looking forward to see how this game plays out. I believe Texas will have some success running the ball
and controlling the clock. The Longhorn defenders are the most talented group that USC has faced all year, so the
Trojansï¿½ offense wonï¿½t have as much success as usual, though they will surely put up quite a few points. If Vince
Young can minimize the mistakes, I see the Longhorns pulling off the upset and ending USCï¿½s winning streak ï¿½ Texas
by 2 (37-35).