The Cavaliers won four of their last five games with the only loss to a hot Virginia Tech team at the end of the season. Catching hot teams is something that Auburn knows about because the Tigers played a bunch of them.
Auburn still has yet to put everything together offensively or defensively this season. The only part of the 2011 team that has been consistently good from game to game has been the special teams play.
The Tigers have an opportunity, with plenty of time to get ready for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, to go to work on the practice field and find a way to arrive in Atlanta as a better football team than the one that closed the regular season.
I?think the Tigers and Cavaliers are going to be evenly matched when they meet in Atlanta, and Virginia may even prove to be the better team. Auburn plays in a fast league, but there are some of those types of teams in the ACC, too, like Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Georgia Tech. All of those teams are legitimate.
Auburn needs to be serious about this game and excited about it, too, and the Tigers should be excited about playing in a good bowl game this year. There are going to be a lot of guys on this team who will be playing in a bowl for the first time and it should be a great experience for them.
It should be an interesting looking crowd on New Year's Eve at the Georgia Dome. There is going to be a lot of orange and blue. Many people probably don't realize it, but Auburn's colors are orange and blue because Auburn's first football coach, Dr. George Petrie, was a Virginia graduate and picked those colors. Auburn copied Virginia's colors. Auburn people going up to the game don't need to think it was the other way around.
There are some good bowl matchups this year, but when the teams were selected for the games I was a little disappointed, too. Baylor had an excellent season led by its great quarterback, Robert Griffin III. In my opinion the Bears need to be in a better game than the Alamo Bowl vs. a 7-5 University of Washington team. It won't surprise me a bit if the Baylor quarterback is playing in that game as the Heisman Trophy winner.
TCU needs to be in a better bowl, too. That 10-2 team is playing 8-4 Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl in san Diego. Boise State should have also gotten into a better game than the matchup with a 6-6 Arizona State team at the Las Vegas Bowl.
There are some matchups I like. One of the more interesting games will be the Fiesta Bowl featuring Oklahoma State vs. Stanford. We will find out the real deal about Oklahoma State's defense because Stanford is going to pound the rock and Andrew Luck is the kind of quarterback who will hit his tight ends if they get open. He is as good as everybody says he is and Stanford is pretty good on defense, too.
Whether or not Stanford has the speed to stay with Oklahoma State is a good question. Oklahoma State's quarterback has also done a great job this year. I am looking forward to it.
The Rose Bowl game might surprise some people this year because I think there is the assumption that Oregon has a chance to win big vs. the Badgers. However, I think Wisconsin is going to come out on top because the Badgers are a big, strong and powerful team. I think that is going to cause Oregon a lot of problems unless the Ducks run Wisconsin off the field with all of that speed on offense. One thing is for sure--Oregon is going to have some bruises before that game is over with so it will be interesting.
The Capital One Bowl matches an SEC team vs. an opponent from the Big 10. I think this should be a good game and I like South Carolina's chances of beating Nebraska in Orlando because Connor Shaw has come on at quarterback for the Gamecocks and helped stabilize that football team.
South Carolina has been good on defense all year and has made a lot of big defensive plays. I think Nebraska may be a little too one-dimensional on offense to beat South Carolina, but it should be a challenging game for the Gamecocks like most of the matchups are for the nine SEC teams that received bowl bids.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.