Tangerine Bowl: Hang On!

<b>ORLANDO, FL.</b> -  Shoot-out.  Showdown.  Fireworks. Points, points and more points. 

That's the buzz around Orlando.  It's what the media expects, and what Tangerine Bowl officials have been hoping for.  Defense may indeed win championships, but the hope tomorrow is that a whole lot of offense will intrigue a national TV audience.  A scoring-fest with two senior gunslingers tossing touchdown after touchdown would fit the perfect script for Monday's game.  

So why the hype?  Two capable offenses will be matched with two defenses that have struggled throughout the year.  Sure, one "D" could step up, but the safe money is on a lot of scoring – just ask the folks in Vegas who set the over/under at 64. 

At the head of both scoring attacks are two outstanding senior signal callers:  Phillip Rivers of North Carolina State and Bill Whittemore of Kansas.  

For the past month we've heard about the shoot-out that everyone expects to happen tomorrow and we've debated which stud QB will win in the end.  A day before the big game the hype continues to be huge, but a humble Bill Whittemore isn't buying it. 

"I've seen a couple of his stats and that's why I think this is very over-hyped. He's double and tripled my stats so I don't know why we're in the same category.  He's a great quarterback who is up for all the awards and I guess I'm honored to be compared to him." 

Rivers' stats are, indeed, incredible.  The senior has thrown for over 13,000 yards in his Wolfpack career including 4,016 already this season.  His 29 touchdowns this year give him a whopping total of 90 for his career.  Those numbers are awesome, but what's perhaps even more impressive about Rivers is the kind of praise he's recently drawn. 

Wolfpack color-commentator Tony Haynes has run out of ways to describe Rivers' amazing abilities. 

"Well everything that can be said about Phillip Rivers around here in terms of praise, I think we've used up all the adjectives.  I've been doing this for 15 or 16 years and he's the best quarterback I've been around in person.  He makes incredible decisions, he always seems to throw to the right guy and he's extremely accurate as evidenced by his completion percentage (71%)." 

Offensive Coordinator, Noel Mazzone agrees that Rivers is simply the best. 

"I've been doing this for 22 years and he's the best I've ever been around.  Obviously, physically he's a very talented kid, but what really separates him from the other quarterbacks that I've coached is the intangibles.  He understands the game so well, he handles the huddle, he keeps us out of bad plays so often. In my estimation he's the best college football player in the country." 

Jason White, Eli Manning, and a couple others might want to debate that last point, but regardless of where Rivers stacks up among the nation's elite, there's no doubt he's KU #1 concern heading into tomorrow's game. 

Kansas head coach Mark Mangino has made that clear calling Rivers the toughest QB Kansas has faced all season and comparing his quick release to the likes of Dan Marino. Now that's some serious praise.  

From the stats to the compliments, the comparisons to the favorable matchup, everything seems to point to Rivers finishing his career the way he's played it throughout -- on one big high note.  That's just fine Whittemore and Kansas.  Rivers can go out throwing multiple TD's, so long as Bill and the Jayhawks go out on top.  And whose to say they can't?  Afterall, KU's been proving people wrong ever since week two of the season. 

Whittemore is right to think that his numbers don't compare to Rivers'. In fact, they're not even close.  But who cares how many touchdowns Rivers threw for against Florida State or how many yards he passed for as senior?  Whittemore is well aware that come 4:30 tomorrow none of those numbers or big games will matter.  Each quarterback has just one chance left to shine and I believe they both will.

Both will likely post big statistics and in the end it really could come down to who has the ball last.  If that turns out to be the case, everyone has to happy regardless of the outcome.  Kansas will get the good showing in the national spotlight that they so desire, two college quarterback greats will finish in style and the Tangerine brass will get a ton of points and one heck of an entertaining game.

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