Bourbonstreet’s 2006 Bowl Outlook, Part 3

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BStreet brings us part 3 of his bowl week outlook, including three Saturday
bowl games and one Sunday bowl game. This part includes the VT/Georgia matchup
in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as well as a handful of fun bowl facts.

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

Meineke
Car Care Bowl, Boston College vs. Navy
: (12.30, Saturday 1pm, ESPN)

The ACC’s Boston College Flying Eagles find themselves in a classic letdown
trap, sans a head coach (Tom O’Brien, Navy class of 1971 no less), and with not
a whole heck of a lot to play for. That typed, I find this to be one of the most
compelling tactical football matchups of the 2006 bowl season. How will the
Naval Academy’s Midshipmen OLine –which is disciplined, quick, and all together
small (only one OLineman weighs more than 267 lbs.) — deal with the mammoth
B.C. DT’s, and surprisingly athletic OLB’s? B.C. has won six straight bowls, has
the 13th ranked run defense, and holds very sizeable special teams and turnover
margin advantages. In the three games the Middies dropped this year, they were
outpassed by 210 yards on average, and B.C. Jr. Pivot Matt Ryan can throw that
pigskin. On paper the Flying Eagles have a clear-cut matchup edge and then some,
but no one knows what the morale up on Chestnut Hill is, now that Coach O’Brien
is gone. Still, I’m gonna side with the team that appears to have all the X’s
and O’s advantages going for them. B.C. by 7.

Alamo
Bowl, Texas vs. Iowa
: (12.30, Saturday 4:30pm, ESPN)

In a rare bowling matchup that pits teams with two classical throwing QBs who
are both a bit banged up, the Texas Longhorns will play the Iowa Hawkeyes down
in San Antonio. Obviously enough, that means TX will have a major home field
advantage in this one. Iowa limps into this one a slumped football team, having
won only one football game since October the 8th. That typed, the Hawkeyes can
throw the football, led by former TX high school Mr. everything, Sr. Drew Tate
… and be aware that the Longhorns are a lowly 98th in pass efficiency defense.
Texas does hold nearly a 150 yard edge in total defense over these teams’
respective final three games, thanks mainly to a downright nasty defensive line
that could very well be six to eight deep in future NFL ballers, as TX finished
#2 in run defense for 2006. TX may have the largest special teams advantage of
any bowling matchup. Add on a 40-spot edge in turnover margin and you have to
say that the Longhorns should win this one, providing TX QB Colt McCoy
has recovered from a very noisome neck stinger suffered against Kansas State and
exacerbated vs. aTm. Though as of 12.22, reports now say that Colt has been
cleared to play.

Chick-fil-A
Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. Georgia
: (12.30, Saturday 8pm, ESPN)

Former VT WR coach Tony Ball is now a Georgia Bulldog staffer, so that will
obviously give the Bulldogs a little extra insight into what we do well, and
into the areas in which we struggle. Also, UGA enjoys the luxury of basically
not having to go anywhere in terms of bowl game traveling, so a mild preparation
edge must be awarded to the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs also enjoy a bit of a
home field advantage, having played 20 of their last 21 bowl games somewhere in
the deep South. But beyond those ancillary Peach State facts, these two Chick-fil-A
football teams are near mirror images of each other. Both possess adequate
offensive lines that have struggled at times this year, both have QB’s that are
indeed talented, but are still somewhat puerile in their signal-calling
development, both have very physical defenses that have speed to burn, and both
excel in special teams play. That’s a recipe for a very hard-hitting, rough,
tough, low-scoring kinda football game by me. But who will win?

Our Hokies have outscored their opponents by an average of 24-5 during our
six game win streak, but putting 24 points up on the 9th ranked total defense of
UGA may not prove to be all that easy. That typed, our offense will be boosted
by an infusion of health, as Ore and Shuman return, and Frye should be fully
good to go for the first time since UNC. On the other side of the ball, our
defense is ranked 1st in every single defensive category but one, ’nuff typed.
We do hold modest turnover margin, rushing offense and rushing defense
advantages (in particular we are 14th best in run defense, whereas UGA is a
solid, but clearly trailing 31st best). But watch for this little nugget …
Sean Glennon is a 62% passer in the first and third quarters, but falls to a
51.75% passing in the second and fourth quarters. Ergo, wearing UGA down early
on in this game so that Branden Ore can pick up rushing yardage to close both
halves is critical to our CFA chances, as Georgia’s run defense slipped by 0.86
yards per carry during the month of November. On the other hand, UGA’s much
maligned freshman QB Matt Stafford did improve a bit after Bulldog quarterback
coach Mike Bobo took over the play-calling duties against Auburn. In particular,
Bobo has helped eliminate Stafford’s penchant for making the big play in the
wrong direction, and Stafford’s QB rating rose by 19 points during the month of
November for it. Finally, be aware that UGA only yielded 129.8 yards rushing in
their four L’s this year, and even less in their wins, and that the Bulldogs
have a 57 spot edge in sacks allowed this year.

All in all, this one looks like a race to 13 points to me, first one there
wins. UGA will not be able to score much on us with a freshman QB, and a total
offense that has fallen almost 30 spots in national rakings from 2005 to 2006,
but we won’t exactly light the Bulldogs up either. The all-time series is 1-1,
and the last time these two played we won 7-6, way back in 1932. This one’s
gonna be tight all the way, but Brandon Pace deserves to nail, and I predict will
nail, the game winner, as we come from behind to win on a Bulldog fumble late in
the 4th quarter (as UGA was 105th in fumbles lost).

Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham and Dr. Jerry Punch will call the game for ESPN.

VT 13, Georgia 12

MPC
Computers Bowl, Miami vs. Nevada
: (12.31, Sunday 7:30pm, ESPN)

If you are an X’s and O’s guru, this is the offensive bowl game for you.
Don’t like any of the current offensive schemes on the table? Then why not
invent your very own? That is exactly what Nevada Wolfpack head coach Chris Ault
and O-coordinator Chris Klenakis have done. They call it the Pistol Offense, so
be sure and check out where the Wolfpack FB lines up. Physically speaking, Miami
has the superior talent, and in particular the superior team speed. But where
will the ‘Canes be mentally after an on-field slaughterhouse brawl, an off-field
shooting death, and having to field a lame-duck head coach coaching his final
game on, of all things, the Smurf-turf up in chilly Idaho? In short, Miami
should win by at least 10 points, as Nevada only beat one team with a winning
record, and beat seven meager teams with 4, 4, 2, 4, 4, 1, and 3 wins on 2006.
But I just don’t like the injury report for “The U,” nor do I like the
Nevada rushing, special teams, and 68 spot turnover margin advantages. This pick
is prolly a bit of a reach, but I’ll go good for the upset, Nevada by 3.

Fun Bowl Facts:

WAKE = lowest ranked TOTAL O going bowling!
FLA = 2nd most penalized team in D-1!
Hawaii = #1 in 3rd down conversions%
Michigan = #1 TOP of all bowl teams
Central Michigan = dead last in TOP of all bowl teams

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