Mark Green Picks The SEC

Columnist Mark Green takes a look at the first two bowl games involving Southeastern Conference football teams.

Independence Bowl:

ALABAMA vs Iowa State

The used car lot in Tuscaloosa made do with one less Bentley a couple of weeks back against Southern Miss when RB Santonio Beard was suspended for driving under the influence in his hometown Nashville during Thanksgiving.

Scandal-plagued Alabama (6-5) made do, however, posting a 28-15 victory over the Golden Eagles in the Tide's last regular season game, thus becoming bowl eligible for the first time in two years.

And while there is no place like home for the holidays, there is also no place like Shreveport, La., to spend Christmas week practicing for a football game that means so little to Alabama fans that most of them don't plan on attending the game. It's questionable as to whether many will watch on television either, especially since suspended players like WR Antonio Carter and FB Marvin Brown don't plan on making the trip even in the role of spectator.

The Tide opponent Thursday night, the Iowa State Cyclones (7-4) of the Big 12, has managed to conjure up a two-bowl streak out of the depths of relative college football non-existence. Coach Dan McCarney finally came through last season with a 9-3 record, including a win over Pittsburgh in the Bowl. The real miracle, however, is that Iowa State accomplished a second consecutive winning season in 2001. The Cyclones returned only three starters on defense this year and had to replace record-setting QB Sage Rosenfels from last season's breakthrough team.

This season, junior QB Seneca Wallace has led the 'Clones to 202 passing yards per game and has added 43 yards rushing per contest. He's a big-play creator, and has had some huge games against good opponents. Senior RB Ennis Haywood has punished defenses for 1,169 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and has had several monster performances throughout his illustrious career. But, how will the ISU offense stack up opposite Alabama's 5.28 yard-per-carry rushing average and senior QB Andrew Zow's red-hot late-season resurrection? Not too well. Unless, of course they move the game back in time a few weeks. Back then, Coach Fran was going to Kansas, and the Bentley was in the joint undergoing legal repairs. Georgia Tech Coach George O'Leary was busy making up facts on his resume and checking them twice. He has since been called down for claiming an unearned master's degree, but the biggest lie he told was the one about having been a coach at Georgia Tech since 1996.

But that was then, and this is now. Fran is back on the couch. O'Leary is out of a job. Bentley's back in the garage. And Bear Bryant is back on CBS this Saturday night. The NCAA? Why rumor is, they don't want anything more to do with the Tide now that Logan Young has lost touch with the institution--and his doctors. Back to normal we go. And the truth, as it always has been in so many of these cases, is once again a hard thing to "pen" down. Pardon the pun. ALABAMA 38, IOWA STATE 20.

Music City Bowl:

GEORGIA vs Boston College

The SEC continues its college bowl action in the Music City contest in Nashville Friday evening when Georgia takes on Big East comer Boston College at Adelphia Coliseum.

The Dogs finished the regular season with some momentum, clobbering Ole Miss, Georgia Tech and Houston down the stretch to finish the season at 8-3. Perhaps the biggest Bulldog win came early when Georgia knocked off eventual SEC East champion Tennessee in Knoxville in September. That hobnail boot-stomping of the Vols helped the Dawgs get past a home loss to South Carolina, but Georgia was unable to capitalize, falling to Florida and Auburn in back-to back late-season games and settling for fourth in the SEC East race.

What emerged for first year Head Coach Mark Richt in the late-season surge was big-hoss senior RB Verron Haynes, who was unstoppable in the last three games. Richt said the idea to move Haynes from fullback was the result of some good advice he once received from mentor Bobby Bowden when Richt was offensive coordinator at Florida State. Bowden's advice? "Go with your most dependable players."

Also dependable for Georgia are redshirt freshman QB David Greene and WRs Terrence Edwards and Fred Gibson. Damien Gary is yet another threat on punt returns as well as at wide receiver. Sophomore RB Musa Smith will be as healthy as he has been all season and TE Randy McMichael is an NFL talent in the making.

The Dawg defense has a superb secondary with star CB Tim Wansley cashing in against Georgia Tech on a pick six three weeks ago, and safeties Terreal Bierria and Jermaine Phillips playing solid football all year. The linebacking is equally excellent with Tony Gilbert, William Witherspoon and Boss Bailey controlling the running lanes.

The most dependable player for Coach Tom O'Brien's 7-4 Eagles is RB William Green who was arguably the best back in the country this season. QB Brian St. Pierre is also capable, but the BC running game is where it's at, averaging more than five yards per carry and 208 yards per game. The banged up UGA defensive line tragically lost the services of DT David Jacobs after the Auburn game to a stroke, and that could matter on the field Friday.

The Big East has won this game against its SEC opponent all three times since the bowl's inception in 1998. Virginia Tech, Syracuse and West Virginia all came away with cold-weather wins, and BC, which prefers cold to warm playing conditions, could make it four in a row. However, in Haynes, Georgia has the required running game to keep pace with a hard-nosed BC ground attack. Should be a good one--for the SEC. Georgia 33, Boston College 30.

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