Bourbonstreet’s 2006 Bowl Outlook, Part 2

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Not a bad week last week for BStreet, who went 6-1 in his bowl predictions,
correctly picking TCU, BYU, Troy, San Jose State, Tulsa and Hawaii (or Hawai’i,
as ESPN shows on their graphics). BStreet’s only miss was picking ECU to beat
South Florida. Part 2 of his bowl outlook brings us ten more games, starting
with tonight’s Motor City Bowl and taking us through Friday’s bowl games.

Note to reader: there are 119 D-1 football teams upon which rankings are
based

Motor
City Bowl, Middle Tennessee State vs. Central Michigan
: (12.26, Tuesday
7:30pm, ESPN)

I really liked this bowl in terms of the heretofore bowling chaste Middle
Tennessee State Blue Raiders being over-matched by the 2006 MAC champion Central
Michigan Chippewas. But CMU has a lame-duck coach who is fleeing the land of no
geographic relief for greener pastures. CMU is the better passing team; in fact
CMU is 19th in passing in all of D-1, whereas MTS is the 3rd worst passing team
to go bowling. But how will the Chippewas fare vs. the undersized but very high
risk blitzy Blue Raider defense? CMU’s pass protection is a very pedestrian
58th, while MTS is 16th in sacks and 3rd in tackles for a loss. CMU has mild
special teams and turnover margin advantages. But I don’t see CMU as unbeatable,
especially with head coach Brian Kelly leaving the building with Elvis. In the
end, I gave a much smaller edge than most to the Chippewas. CMU by about
one full play.

Emerald
Bowl, Florida State vs. UCLA
: (12.27, Wednesday 8pm, ESPN)

The ACC’s Florida State Seminoles will play out in San Fran vs. the PAC-10
upstart, upsetting, upending UCLA Bruins. This is the only bowl that features
back to back rankings in any of the 17 categories I track, as UCLA is 79th in
total offensive yardage, whereas FSU is 80th; so I’ll call that part of this
match-up even, though be aware that UCLA enjoys a noticeable edge in rushing
offense. That edge, along with clear-cut special teams and turnover margin
advantages (UCLA is 80 spots better in turnover margin alone), all suggest that
the Bruins will win a defensive struggle. The improved play of Bruin QB Patrick
Cowan, the shaky pivot play via the alternating of FSU QB’s Drew Weatherford and
Xavier Lee, and the dire fact that Tallahassee’s favorite message board
whipping-boy — one Jeff Bowden — will call ‘Nole offensive plays for four more
quarters seals the deal. UCLA by 6.

Independence
Bowl, Alabama vs. Oklahoma State
: (12.28, Thursday 4:30pm ESPN)

The Independence Bowl matches two .500 teams, as ‘Bama plays the Oklahoma
State Cowboys. rich rodriquez won’t be coaching Alabama, but who will? Interim ‘Bama
head football coach and current defensive coordinator Joe Kines will have his
hands full with the 8th ranked rushing offense, and 16th ranked total offense of
the OK. State Cowboys. On the flip side, the Cowboys have no defensive unit
ranked higher than 83rd. So this one is strength on strength, as the high octane
Cowboy offense goes against the powerful Crimson Tide defense. Each team closed
the year on a 1-3 skid, so this one is all about leadership, who has what it
takes internally to rally and put forth a valid level of effort. I gotta type
that ‘Bama must be feeling a bit left at the alter after rich rod spurred their
offer to stay in Mo-town. Also, OK.State has health, special-teams and a
noticeable offensive line advantages working in their favor. So I’ll call for
the Cowboys by 3, in a low scoring, ugly kinda football game.

Holiday
Bowl, California vs. Texas A&M
: (12.28, Thursday 8pm, ESPN)

The bowl game that once crowned the 1984 MNC (BYU) now hosts two 9-3 teams,
in the California Golden Bears and the Texas A&M Aggies. Both teams enter
off of 1-2 closings to the regular season that included beating hated rivals in
their final respective games. Both teams are extremely healthy by December 13th
game standards, and both teams are looking to set the tone for stellar 2007’s,
as neither team departs more than five starters. These two finished the year
within two yards of total defense, and 12 yards of total offense of one another
over their final three games. But rumors continue to swirl that this is
all-PAC-10 RB Marshawn Lynch’s final collegiate outing, and aTm has the look and
feel of a team with more to play for. I like the fact that the Aggies outgained
nine of their last ten opponents, and I like the better overall aTm defense in
this one, as CAL has gone 0-3 on the year when QB Nate Longshore passed for 51%
or less for a game. That’s your rule of thumb. aTm by 6.

Texas
Bowl, Rutgers vs. Kansas State
: (12.28, Thursday 8pm, NFL Network)

A 2006 B.S.C. wanna-be vs. a yesteryear B.C.S. wanna be, a.k.a. the Rutgers
Scarlet Knights vs. the Kansas State Wildcats. Rutgers was close, but yet so far
this year, and K. State is trying to return to their late 1990’s glory days. RU
was first in QB protection in all of D-1, whereas KSU was 5th in getting after
opposing QB’s. This game will feature starting QB’s who combined for a whopping
26 picks on the year. That’s an awful lot when you consider KSU QB Josh Freeman
did not take over the reins until week five, and RU QB Mike Teel only threw 268
passes on the year in the run heavy Scarlet Knight offense. So this one is gonna
turn on somebody’s quarterbacking miscues at some point, unless it turns on the
Wildcat run defense that allowed 205 rushing yards per game over their last 3
games. RU is 60 spots better in rushing offense and 45 spots better in rushing
defense. The Scarlet Knights will win this one at the point of attack. RU
by 10+ points.

Music
City Bowl, Kentucky vs. Clemson
: (12.29, Friday 1pm, ESPN)

If you like offense and the associated high-scoring bowl game, this Music
City Bowl is the one for you. As the Kentucky Wildcats and the Clemson Tigers
combined to allow 841 total yards on average over their collective final three
games of 2006. Kentucky runs the very same offense that MTV’s Hoover High (of
MTV’s Two A Days TV fame) copied, and this is one off the hook, highly electric
offense. Kentucky will start throwing the football even before they step off the
team bus. Clemson was actually 4th in passing efficiency defense, and 20th in
sacks registered, whereas Kentucky was 106th in sacks allowed, so that will help
the Tigers cause. Furthermore, CU was 5th in rushing offense, and UK was 111th
in stopping the run. On paper, CU is clearly the better team, but where are the
Tigers mentally after their 1-3 slide to end 2006? If little Bowden’s team is
locked and loaded, they should beat the next to last defense in all of D-1, but
if CU is still asleep at the wheel, the UK offense will No Doze them to death.
My prediction here is for the highest scoring bowl game of this post-season. Pick
pending.

Sun
Bowl, Oregon State vs. Missouri
: (12.20, Friday 2pm, CBS)

The Sun bowl features yet another pairing of two teams moving in opposite
directions, as the Oregon State Beavers closed the year riding a 7-1 wave, and
the Missouri Tigers finished unable to pull out of a 2-4 nosedive. The Tigers
run stop unit totally unraveled at the seams, allowing 180 yards per game during
their last three games. 5’9” mighty-mite Beaver RB Yvenson Bernard will only
add to his 1,200+ rushing total at the Tigers’ expense. Missouri QB Chase Daniel
has struggled in big games this year, and that’s bad news as he must face the
PAC-10’s leading INT unit in the Sun Bowl. Oregon State holds special teams,
turnover margin, and a very discernable front seven edge on defense in stopping
the run. I gotta go with the hot team here and call for an Oregon State
victory in what should be a fairly TV friendly high scoring contest.

Liberty
Bowl, South Carolina vs. Houston
: (12.29, Friday 4:30pm, ESPN)

This one should be another high-scoring, rocking and rolling bowl game, just
the kind the talking heads up in Bristol, Connecticut love. Steve Spurrier’s
South Carolina Gamecocks finished the year on an offensive tear, nearly adding
100 yards of offensive output to their seasonal average during their final three
games. Then there is the absolutely eye-popping passing ratio of Houston Cougar
Sr. QB Kevin Kolb. How does 27 passing TDs to only three INTs strike yah? I
thought so. That strikes me as a Pivot about to pick up a Sunday paycheck as
well. On top of that, the USC-East defensive front seven is not all that big,
Houston is the far healthier team, and enjoys a 63 spot advantage in the all
important turnover margin category. Still, the idea of giving the visor-boy five
weeks to drink a gallon of coffee a day and watch 15 hours of game film a night
strikes me as a bad idea. The Cougars have nearly a 50-50 play calling
split, so I’ll go with that much offensive balance and the Sr. QB by a
field-goal.

Insight
Bowl, Texas Tech vs. Minnesota
: (12.29, Friday 8pm, NFL Network)

36 passing TD’s and a 67% completion percentage is a helluva a good year for
a Sr. QB. But it is a fantastic year for a first time starting sophomore, in
particular when said sophomore QB is one of only three D-1 passers to top 4,000
passing yards for 2006. That is exactly the kinda year that soon to be Heisman
Trophy candidate Graham Harrell chalked up for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Texas
Tech could score in 2006, topping the 30-point plateau eight times, but the Red
Raiders could not defend very well, allowing opponents to score 21 or more
points a whopping nine times. The Minnesota Golden Gophers come into this one
allowing a user-friendly 463 yards in their last three games. Sota’s passing
defense finished 4th from last, and the Golden Gopher total defense finished 7th
from last. Even though Minnesota has the #1 turnover margin in the land, and the
special teams edge, I gotta go with Texas Tech to just plain ole
out-score Minnesota, as I’m still not sold on Golden Gopher Sr. QB Bryan Cupito,
who has demonstrated a knack for generating big plays in the wrong direction in
big games through out his career.

Champs
Sports Bowl, Maryland vs. Purdue
: (12.29, Friday 8pm, ESPN)

The final six wins the Maryland Terrapins did notch on 2006 were by: 4, 2, 6,
3, 1, and 1 point. For the year, Maryland was out-gained by every single D-1
opponent they played! Yet the Terps chalked up a nifty eight win season. How
totally stupefacient is that??? I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve never
seen a bowl team like this one. The Terps won 75% of their games thanks to lack
of penalties, a fight to the death attitude, C+ quality special teams and not
much else, as the Terps were 101st in turnover margin, and 102nd vs. the run.
The Purdue Boilermakers, on the other hand, also won eight games but did not
beat a single team with a winning record, and they did not have to play Michigan
or Ohio State. The Boilmakers have major OT and WR health issues entering the
Champs Sports Bowl, and the Terps do defend the pass reasonably well. Both QBs
have been very turnover prone of late, so I’ll side with the team with the fewer
miscues to ultimately win, which means siding against the team that allowed 250
rushing yards per game over their final three contests to close 2006. In other
words I’m going with the Big Boy and his very gutty Terps to win another
squeaker.

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