Bourbonstreet’s 2006 Bowl Outlook, Part 4

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Outback
Bowl, Penn State vs. Tennessee
: (01.01, Monday 11am, ESPN)

The Penn State Nittany Lions closed the year on a very imposing defensive high note, shutting out two teams in their
final five games, and holding every other team they faced to 13 points or less to close out the 2006 regular season. PSU
enjoys a 61 spot edge in rushing defense, thanks in part to several Tennessee Volunteer defensive line injuries and one
major MLB injury (Vol MLB Marvin Mitchell appears to be returning for the bowl however). To further complicate Volunteer
health woes, star QB Eric Ainge went down in week number nine with a nasty high-ankle sprain, and the Vol’s SEC
championship hopes never recovered, though reports do suggest that Ainge will be healthy for the Outback Bowl. Penn
State only allowed 2.80 yards per rush on the year and lowered that to 2.21 per in the month of November. Also recall
that PSU has had an extra week off as the BIG Ten does not schedule bye weeks. Tennessee has measurable special teams and
turnover margin edges, though The Nittany Lions do look a bit stronger at the point of attack. The key here is that Penn
State QB Tony Morelli must to do better than his 10:8 and 53% passing in order to beat the Vols. I’m gonna go with the
superior QB who has had enough R&R to get his bum ankle back in working order.
UT by 1 point.

Cotton
Bowl, Nebraska vs. Auburn
: (01.01, Monday 11:30am, FOX)

The last time these two played the year was 1964 and the Nebraska Cornhuskers beat the Auburn Tigers 13-7 to win part
of the national championship. Auburn was beaten twice in 2006, surprisingly both
times at home, as slight of build,
but flashy, soon to be Pro RB Kenny Irons was limited by a gluttony of injuries. Among them were shoulder, toe, and foot
hurts, and injuries to both ankles on both legs. Irons has not been fully healthy since September 16th
and will surely benefit from the down time before the Cotton Bowl. Sans the services of Irons, Auburn got by with a very
limited offense (think VT without Branden Ore), a good but not quite great defense, and very good special teams play.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have a much more dynamic offense, as the Cornhuskers now press the pedal past the 55 mph speed
limit, passing with a far greater frequency than their Lincoln Tom Osborne-coached ancestors did. QB Zac Taylor has
had an all-Big-12 quality year, hitting on 60% of his passes, for a very attractive 25:7 ratio. But the fabled
black-shirt defense is not been the hardcore stop unit of years past; only raking 70th overall, and 89th
vs. the pass. The Big Red rushing yards per carry declined all year, but so did the passing of Auburn QB Brandon Cox,
who threw 7 INT’s in his last three games. I’m gonna call for a low-scoring game that
Auburn comes from behind to
win, as I look for Nebraska to still have a bit of an Oklahoma hang-over.

Gator
Bowl, West Virginia vs. Georgia Tech
: (01.01, Monday 1pm, CBS)

Tough to find a QB more slumped than the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets’d very own Reggie Ball. In fact it’s tough to
find Reggie Ball at all, as he is now a GT academic causality, but the loss of this starting QB might actually help.
Seriously…Reggie has been bad, badder, baddest. How does a freshman who passes for 51%, but who ends up a 44% senior
strike you? How ‘bout passing for 27% and 31% with a 0:4 TD/INT ratio and 1 fumble
in the last two games? Yikes! That’s
worse than bad, but the blitz crazy GT defense is still solid. Ranking 11th in America vs. the run, and 9th
in pass efficiency defense is quite impressive. wvu on the other hand was a very surprising 9th vs. the run,
but had difficulty defending the pass, only checking in at 100th in aerial security. So one can expect future
#1 NFL draft-pick Cal Johnson of GT to chalk up some loft numbers vs. wvu. To me this one is gonna be a major big-play
festival. Yes GT will stuff wvu on blitzes from time to time, quite possibly topping 15 tackles for a loss on the day.
But wvu’s dynamic duo of slaton and white will eventually hit multiple seams in the GT blitzy attack throughout the
game. My spynetwork reports that white will be recovered by game-time, and Ball won’t be around to nail wide open wvu
DB’s right between the numbers with laser like passes. Also be awares that no one has topped 31 points scored on GT
all year, no one till now that is. wvu 34 GT 17.

Capital
One Bowl, Wisconsin vs. Arkansas
: (01.01, Monday 1pm, ABC)

The quietest 11 win team you’ve not heard enough of this year, the Wisconsin
Badgers meet one of f-o-u-r
different 10-win SEC teams, the Arkansas Razorbacks. During 2006 three different 10 win teams beat Arkansas (So.Cal,
LSU, & Florida), and in my book that describes the Razorbacks to the proverbial “T”, as they were a very
good but not quite great football team. A 1,558 yard rushing RB however is great, and that is exactly what sophomore
Darren McFadden was during 2006. But QBs who only connect on 51% of their passes quickly reduced the Razorbacks to a
one dimensional very good football team. Wisconsin’s defense on the other hand was great and nothing but great, this
is borne out in the fact that no Whisky stop unit was ranked lower than 3rd in all of D-1, and when you play
up in Big-10 country, that’s saying something. The Badgers also field their own 1,500+ RB in freshman sensation P.J.
Hill. So this game is gonna be won by one side up front in the trenches. Only LSU held opponents to a lower
completion percentage than Wisconsin did. The Badgers also enjoy noticeable turnover margin, net punting, and a significant quarterbacking
edge, provided senior signal caller John Stocco has sufficiently recovered from a separated shoulder sustained in week
number 10. My spies report that John is good to go, and that gives Whisky the edge in my book. The
Badgers by 10+.

Rose
Bowl, Michigan vs. USC
: (01.01, Monday 5pm, ABC)

As Keith Jackson himself would say: “The granddaddy of them all” hosts two MNC near-miss football teams in
the Michigan Wolverines and the Southern Cal Trojans. Most have this game pegged as one of the best possible bowl
matchups. But I’m not so sure. Yes, there is major top-flight D-1 talent there, but both teams are coming
off of very disappointing season ending L’s to their #1 rivals, so it’s my hunch that at least one team will not
be able to pull its self back together emotionally. In accessing this Rose Bowl, several things jump out at me right
away. Among them are Michigan’s considerable health edge and Wolverine advantages in rushing offense (130 yards
better over these two teams last three games), and in run defense on the year (MU was 1st best). Michigan is
also 41 spots better in turnover margin and holds a large and in charge special-teams edge. Now, all of that typed…it
should be noted that USC was only out-gained twice on the year, once by 13 yards, once by 14 yards, and the Trojans won
both games by a combined 31 points. So you can make a very strong case with me that So.Cal is clearly the best 2 L team
out there. So.Cal’s undersized defensive line matches up well with all-Big-10 RB’s Mike Hart’s zone-blocking
schemes. But I like the Wolverine defense that switches from a 4-3 to 3-4 look in-game even better, and I also really
like the RB edge that Hart will provide Big-Blue. Michigan by 7.

Fiesta
Bowl, Boise State vs. Oklahoma
: (01.01 Monday 8pm FOX)

The only D-1 unbeaten football team not from the Buckeye State, AKA the Boise State Broncos,s will play the Oklahoma
Sooners in one of the five BCS hosting bowls down in Tempe Arizona to close out the traditional end day to
most previous college football seasons, otherwise know as January the 1st. Boise State did all they could do
in winning all 12 of their regular season football games this year. But can the Broncs beat the best team they will
play all year, and more importantly, can they beat Oklahoma with the return of all-everything Sooner RB Adrian Peterson
(broken clavicle), in what will likely be Adrian’s last colligate game? Overall Boise fields the more dynamic offense,
the better turnover margin, and surprisingly the statistically better defense in terms of D-1 rankings. But as we saw
last year when Boise State visited Georgia and got blown out 13-48 for their troubles…even the tip-top WAC
team
still can not match the tip-top conferences in team speed when playing out of conference. In particular the Sooner
defensive speed edge will give the Boise State offense fits all night long. On top of this Oklahoma has major special
teams and offensive line health advantages. To top all of this off, I find myself in league (for one of the few times),
with the Strength of Schedule Theorists, as the Sooners have played the far tougher 2006 regular season schedule (the
Broncs played six teams with 4 wins or less during 2006), and Oklahoma will only benefit from such this Monday night.

Oklahoma
by 20 or more.

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