Ouimet's Top 25 (week 17)

Here is where, going into the bowls, former Michigan staffer Mark Ouimet ranks the U-M football team in his Top 25. Included in his list -- Ouimet's preliminary quick look at the bowl match-ups.

Note: Did you know that Michigan is the fall leader for the NCAA All-Sports Director's Cup? The Wolverines have had strong fall seasons in the ‘non'revenue' sports as well as their great football season. The University of Michigan holds a lead on nine-time champion Stanford in the first Cup standings, which include fall sports. Stanford has been the leader in the Cup trophy race from wire to wire since 2001. For more, go to MgoBlue.com.

Note #2: while we're on the subject of awards, Michigan offensive coordinator Terry Malone has also been named one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, presented annually to the nation's outstanding assistant football coach. Jim Herrmann won the award following the 1997 season. For more, go to MgoBlue.com.

Ouimet's Top 25.

1. USC – The Trojans defeated the Beavers in fine fashion at home to climb into the top poll this week at home. QB Matt Leinart delivered a huge victory and had a very outstanding year. They destroyed the Beavers in all phases of the game this past weekend. Despite being number one in every poll the Trojans will now be headed a short distance to play the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl. This Rose Bowl Match-up will be a high scoring affair with both teams having solid offensive units, but only one team will be able to leave the Rose Bowl with a victory and a the Trophy. The next best question, would the Trojans also get an AP National Championship with a victory?

2. LSU – They got out to a great start in the SEC Championship and didn't have any problem with the Georgia Bulldogs. The Tigers have the best defense in the country and should be in the National Championship game, but unfortunately the Trojans will not be their match-up. The Tigers will get the Sooners and keep your eye on this Defensive Line as they will put a ton of pressure on the Sooners up front. If the Tigers show up with the defense to win this game than they will get at least some part of a National Championship.

3. Oklahoma – The Sooner were manhandled by Kansas State and RB Darren Sproles. The Sooner Defense disappeared in this game, while QB Jason White and the Offense did not help the cause in the Big 12 Championship. They still will get a chance to impact or win part of a National Championship against the Tigers in New Orleans. This team must improve before they show up for Kick-Off in the Superdome in New Orleans, because the will be match-up against one fired up team with a lot of fans making the trip from Baton Rouge.

4. Michigan – RB Chris Perry received an invitation to the Heisman, but don't forget this offensive line that has 4 NFL projected players up front. The Wolverines and Coach Carr need to find a way to stop QB Matt Leinart, but it will be tough on the Wolverines to mix up different coverage's or schemes for this top Quarterback. The Wolverine offense needs to get to that average of 37.2 points and 457 yards a game to win this Rose Bowl. Look for a high scoring Rose affair, and the Quarterback with the most interceptions in this game will end up leaving the stadium with their head down. Let's just hope the Michigan Quarterback is caring the Trophy on the plane ride home.

5. Texas – The Longhorns will be traveling to the Holiday Bowl to face Washington State. The Cougars will have QB Matt Kegel, but look for the Longhorns to walk away with an easy victory in this game as their offense will be too much for the Cougar defense. The Longhorns have too much talent for Washington State and will have no trouble in this match-up, why the Cougars turnover the ball too much and have way too many special teams mistakes. Look for an easy win for the Longhorns!

6. Tennessee – The Vols played some solid football to finish the year with QB Casey Clausen leading the way. They now will get Clemson in their Bowl game as Coach Fulmer will try to finish in the Top 5 for another year. Look for the Volunteer defense too show up with some new wrinkles to try and stop this spread offense of Coach Bowden's Tiger team. This will let us know how good Tennessee really was or just how bad Clemson can be at times!

7. Miami (Fl) – The rematch will take place in the Orange Bowl in Miami, so can the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles for the second time this year. QB Brock Berlin will try to deliver again, but look for the Hurricane defense to blitz the freshmen Quarterback a lot in this game. Look for this game to be like your watching a boxing match as these two teams will go the distance not only for the Orange Bowl, but for state bragging rights as well.

8. Florida State – The Seminoles will be happy to get this rematch to overcome the early loss to the Hurricanes, but this time it will feel like an away game for Florida State. QB Chris Rix is going to need a better performance the second time around, because if it isn't improved than the Seminoles will be looking in the locker room mirror at the same results from earlier in the year. Look for this Bowden to come up with one of his best coaching efforts and this game will go the distance!

9. Kansas State – They destroyed the Sooners with their duo of QB Ell Roberson and RB Darren Sproles as they were able to run wild on the Sooners defense. This Wildcat team is without a question the best three loss team in the country! They were very unfortunate not to have their Quarterback for two of their losses this year or they just might be in the Championship game. Now they will face a Buckeye team that's defense really is just simply average, which you all will see as this duo will have another outstanding day in Arizona. Remember they are the Big 12 Champs!

10. Ohio State – Well they lost the Big Ten Championship in Ann Arbor with a bad showing on defense. Now they will be traveling to the Fiesta Bowl for the second consecutive year, but this year it won't be for the National Championship! The Buckeye's need to find a way to stop the duo of QB Ell Roberson and RB Darren Sproles to win this game, but they also must find a way to score on this Kansas State defense that is lead by Coach Bob Elliot.

11. Georgia – The Bulldogs have had three tough losses on the year against Florida and LSU with the last one to the Tigers coming in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. They now will get to play the Boilermakers in Orlando for the Capital One Bowl. This Boilermaker offense will give Coach Richt's defense a test with the spread offense, but look for the Bulldog speed to make up for any mistakes in coverage's. The Bulldogs should be able to take care of the Boilermakers just like Michigan did earlier in the year.

12. Purdue – They are the third best team in the Big Ten, but really how good is the Big Ten this year? Well we are going to find out in hurry, because this Capital One Bowl game will be another fine test as the Boilermakers get to take on Georgia who plays football just like the Wolverines. Coach Tiller must come up with a great game plan against a solid defense that will be in the Boilermakers face all day. It won't take long did figure out if Coach Tiller can be a mastermind in a big game this year!

13. Iowa – The Hawkeye's are headed to the Outback Bowl game to face the Florida Gators. The most important part of this game will be if the Hawkeye's can get to QB Chris Leak and rattle him with some blitzes or surprised coverage's. For the Hawkeye's to win this game the defense has to play it's best game all year and the offense needs to not turn the ball over! One of the problems for the Hawkeye's is that Coach Ferentz is too busy looking for his next job!

14. Miami (Oh) – They Red Hawks manhandled Bowling Green again to win the MAC Championship in Bowling Green. They now are headed to the GMAC Bowl to face Louisville who will give the Red Hawks a better match-up than any other MAC team has given them this year, but look for QB Ben Roethlisberger to have a field day with this Cardinal defense. He is the real deal and probably will end up turning pro with his first round potential in the draft.

15. Boise State – RB Donny Heck rushed for 4 Touchdowns to go with QB Ryan Dinwiddie's 329 yards passing in the victory over Hawaii this past weekend. The Bronco's won the WAC Championship this year and will now face TCU in the Fort Worth Bowl game, so look for an explosive offense from the Bronco's that will test the Horned Frogs limits. This is a team that is out to prove they belong with the top names in college football and don't be surprised to see them beat TCU in their own backyard.

16. Mississippi – This Cotton Bowl game will be one fine football game as the Rebels will take on Oklahoma State. QB Eli Manning will be able to move the ball and score some points without a problem against the Cowboys, but the question is what Rebel defense will show up in the Cotton Bowl game. The defense did improve drastically as the year went on, but with WR Raushan Woods Coach Miles is capable of putting something together offensively. The biggest question is will QB Eli Manning be coming to this game as the Heisman winner?

17. Florida – Without a question this is the best four loss team in the country and they will be out to prove that to the Hawkeye's in the Outback Bowl game. It is there second in a row in Tampa, but with that tough loss to the Seminoles at home in the Swamp they will be out to prove themselves in their own backyard against Iowa. They are going to be hungry and look for Coach Zook to get QB Chris Leak in some great plays to move the ball down the field.

18. Washington State – Cougar QB Matt Kegel has no damage to his throwing shoulder and will be ready to play in the Holiday Bowl game against Texas. With that tough loss against Washington will Coach Doba be able to get this Cougar team ready to play a tough team in the Longhorns. Texas will posses some problems offensively for this Cougar defense and needs to find a way to stop the Longhorns. This team has been over ranked all year long and can't afford to have one turnover in this game or it will be a long flight home!

19. Nebraska – Six years ago Coach Osborne picked is successor in Coach Solich and now he is gone after a 9-3 season. How they can fire Coach Solich is beyond me, but Interim Head Coach Pelini better find a way to beat Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl game. They have taken a long time to name the next coach, which is a bit puzzling since it is one of the best jobs in the country. Stay tuned, because it won't be much longer to we see who is running this Cornhusker program.

20. Oklahoma State – Coach Miles needs to find a way to slow down the passing ability of Rebel QB Eli Manning or this good be a long day for the Cowboy defense. The passing attack of Ole Miss wills stretch the limits of this defensive unit, but the Cowboys need to force the Rebels into some turnovers. Look for an aggressive defense that will take some chances, especially with a blitz package to get to QB Eli Manning. Possessing the ball without any turnovers for the Cowboy offense will be its best asset for the Cowboy defense, because it will keep them off the field.

21. TCU – This will not be an easy task for a team that didn't even win their league Championship. The Horned Frogs will now get the challenge of playing the Bronco's of Boise State in the Fort Worth Bowl game. Coach Patterson needs to get this team regrouped after losing to Southern Mississippi and barely beating SMU the following week, but the Bronco's Quarterback will challenge this Horned Frog defense. For the Horned Frogs to win this game they are going to need a lot of points!

22. Minnesota – They finished the year on November 15, so the Gophers are getting a lot of rest before they take on Oregon in the Sun Bowl game. This is the same team that beat Michigan with good special teams and stopping RB Chris Perry by putting 8 or 9 men in the box all day. The Gophers and Coach Mason are going to need to move the ball in the air to win this game, but will be able to get some good screens or passes to the Tight End in the process. A good passing attack will bring home a win for the Gophers, but must control the line of scrimmage also to give the Quarterback time. This will be a great football game and should go down to the wire.

23. Maryland – They are headed to the Gator Bowl to take on the Mountaineers and look for the Terps offensively to try to run the ball with RB Bruce Perry. They will try to dominate up front and posses the ball to keep the Mountaineers off the field. The team that wins the time of possession in this game will win the game. It will be a tough battle for both teams and the Terps defense should be a little bit better than some of those Big East schools.

24. West Virginia – The Mountaineers are the second best four loss team in the country this year behind the Gators from Florida, while finishing second in the Big East. They now will get the task of playing a pretty good team in the Gator Bowl game in Maryland, which will give you all a great match-up for the Holidays. If the Mountaineers can continue the ground attack that they had throughout the Big East schedule they will be able to leave Florida with a win!

25. Utah – The MWC Championship team versus the Conference USA Championship team, it doesn't get much better than this game in the Liberty Bowl. In Coach Meyer's first year he wins the outright title in the Mountain West, but this conference wasn't the same as in the past. The Ute's played well all year while beating California, Colorado State, Air Force, and Oregon but had two bad losses against Texas A&M and New Mexico. They now get Southern Mississippi who is playing very well defensively and will mix it up on the Ute's offense. Look for a good fought bowl game with the winner ending up in the Top 25.

OTHERS: Southern Mississippi – It is pretty simple if they beat Utah they will be in the Top 25! Coach Bower will have this team excited to play in the Liberty Bowl after that solid season and C-USA Championship. They did with a solid defensive year and will put some pressure on Utah's offense all day long. This will be a great football game and don't be surprised to see Coach Bower's team going home with a Liberty Bowl victory.

Pittsburgh – It is no shock to see that WR Larry Fitzgerald got invited to New York for the Heisman, but what is a shock is that the Panthers are not in the Top 25. Too many tough losses to finish the year and in the last three weeks losses against West Virginia and Miami, but the Panthers are probably the third best team in the Big East. Now they will get the challenge of taking on Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl game, so look for Coach Harris to have this team focused and prepared to come home with a victory.

Virginia Tech – Four losses on the year with three of them coming in the Big East league play and that will drop you out of the Top 25. Also with two of them coming to close out the season to Boston College and Virginia, which puts the Hokies in a must situation for this Insight Bowl game. Coach Beamer needs to get this team back on track and be able to score enough points to win this game. They can't afford to fall behind and play catch up in this match up against the California Bears.

Bowling Green – If the Falcons can beat Northwestern in the Motor City Bowl game like Miami of Ohio did earlier in the year than the Falcons have a chance to make it back into the Top 25. They are going to need a good game from QB Josh Harris in this game and must play better defense to beat Northwestern, because the Wildcats are one game away from having a losing season.

North Texas – This Sun Belt team has won their Conference Championship and DL Brandon Kennedy was named Conference Player of the Year. The Mean Green will take on Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl game, so look for the Mean Green to play tough in their third straight bowl game. They are facing the same Memphis team that beat Mississippi earlier in the year, so this game will not be an easy task for the Mean Green defense and Coach Dickey. The Mean Green is for real and has three losses on the year to Oklahoma, Air Force, and Arkansas.

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