Bowl Bonanza: Part III

Daniel is taking a three-part look at previewing and predicting all 32 matchups of the 2006-07 college football bowl season. This edition breaks down the second half of the games not immediately near and dear to Stanford Football, though several still catch our fancy - including the BCS Championship game. Enjoy the insight, analysis and wit to help you finish the bowl season right!

Note on predictions:  The "Vegas" prediction is constructed by combining the over/under and the point spread currently listed by Las Vegas sports books.  My predictions went 24-15 straight up and against the spread over the regular season.  (Worry not, the regression to the mean starts now.)

(All times are Pacific)

Car Care Bowl (Charlotte, N.C.) Dec. 30 10 AM ESPN

So many teams of interest to Stanford play in a bowl (2007 foe TCU and all the 2006 opponents but Arizona and the Washingtons), I could not fit them all in one piece.  If for no other reason than this one, make the schedule easier!  I think preparing for Navy is too tall a task for a Boston College team that hoped for far better than the Car Care Bowl.  They play lackadaisically, and the Midshipmen hang in long enough to wear them down with the option late.  This looks to be one of the bowl season's closest games.

Vegas: Boston College 27, Navy 21
Daniel: Navy 27, Boston College 24 (OT)

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio) Dec. 30 1:30 PM ESPN

Last year's rendition came within one Tyler Ecker lateral to Steve Breaston of replacing the Big Game as the craziest ending in college football history.  Plus, it would have had the added bonus of actually being a legal play.  (No, not bitter at all, thanks for asking.)  This year, however, should be a much more lopsided affair.  Texas, probably the best team in the Big 12, is the best team in this game in years, while 6-6 Iowa the worst.  (See what happens when Bob Bowlsby leaves?)  I think the Hawkeyes are blown off both lines of scrimmage, as the Horns have incredibly strong lines and the Hawkeyes are a tad undersized.  Look out, this one could get ugly.

Vegas: Texas 32, Iowa 22
Daniel: Texas 41, Iowa 20

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta) Dec. 30 5 PM ESPN

Virginia Tech picked a really bad season to have an off-year.  With the weak state of the ACC, a squad no better than what they've fielded over the past five years would probably be undefeated and preparing for Ohio State.  But the Hokies got out of the gates slowly, and their dream season was over before it began.

On the other side of the ball, Georgia's offense never did appear to get out of the gates.  And against a stingy Hokie defense, that could spell trouble.  One of Georgia's nine punts on the day gets blocked and returned for a touchdown, and that will be all the offense the Hokies will need.

Vegas: Virginia Tech 24, Georgia 21
Daniel:
Virginia Tech 24, Georgia 6

MPC Computers Bowl (Boise, Idaho) Dec. 31 4:30 PM ESPN

Talk about a lame duck, right?  Miami is a team without a coach traveling across the country to play in some game they have never heard of.  The talent is there for the U to win by 20 if they try, but Nevada is good enough to win by 30 if the ‘Canes come out flat.  Vegas splits the difference, but I think we have an upset in the making here.  Miami's low-water mark is about to go lower yet.  Good luck recruiting.

Vegas: Miami 23, Nevada 20
Daniel: Nevada 27, Miami 17

Outback Bowl (Tampa, Fla.) Jan. 1 8 AM ESPN

Neither Joe Paterno nor whichever unfortunate soul takes the snaps under center for Penn State have had much luck staying on their feet this season.  Look for the trend to continue against a Tennessee team that has its holes but still sports a dominant defensive front.  Defensive lines win games more often than any other unit.

Vegas: Tennessee 23, Penn State 19
Daniel:
Tennessee 27, Penn State 21

Cotton Bowl (Dallas, Tex.) Jan. 1 8:30 AM FOX

A weak, weak, weak Big-12 North representative (champion would be too strong a word) is going to get killed by a stingy Auburn defense (see the LSU game or the Florida game).  The crowd may be largely pro-Auburn, too – they do not like Nebraska too much in Texas.  Nebraska seems (perpetually?) one or two years away from that monster season.

Vegas: Auburn 24, Nebraska 21
Daniel: Auburn 23, Nebraska 9

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Fla.) Jan. 1 10 AM CBS

Both teams lost their conference titles in heartbreaking fashion, and you have to wonder how motivated either squad will be for the also-ran bowl.  When West Virginia has the ball, you will be watching two top-10 units and will be excused for thinking the Rose Bowl or national title game moved to Jacksonville.  The other side of the ball is going to be plain ugly, though.  West Virginia's defense is putrid, but when all else fails, do not bet against Reggie Ball shooting his team in the foot with three interceptions and a fumble (see: Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Georgia for four straight years, about every other big game of his career).  Late-breaking news: Ball is academically ineligible for the game.  Helps or hurts the Jackets?

Vegas: West Virginia 28, Georgia Tech 20
Daniel: West Virginia 27, Georgia Tech 16

Capital One Bowl (Orlando, Fla.) Jan. 1 10 AM ABC

Meet Wisconsin, the weakest 11-1 team in the country.  They were beaten badly by Michigan, ducked Ohio State on the schedule, and got by the rest of a schedule lacking in Top-25 opponents.  They have P.J. Hill, a fat running back that brings back Ron Dayne memories, but their defensive front is questionable, as is their passing game.

Meet Arkansas, the nation's most one-dimensional team.  Darren McFadden is the nation's best tailback (this from a Michigan fan) and quite possibly nation's best player not named Troy Smith.  Arkansas cannot pass out of a paper bag, but they will not have to.  If Michigan could run through Wisconsin, so too can the Hogs.

Vegas: Arkansas 23, Wisconsin 22
Daniel: Arkansas 27, Wisconsin 13

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.) Jan. 1 5:30 PM FOX

Left for dead after the Texas loss, Oklahoma has quietly backed its way into the BCS.  No Adrian Peterson, no problem for the Sooners, who started off this season the same way they ended last year's – slowly – but have started to find their powerhouse form of old in recent games.  Boise State, meanwhile, is just happy to be on the big stage.  But unlike Utah, the only other mid-major to make the BCS, the Broncos' debut is going to be ugly.  Bob Stoops pulls out the bag of tricks – fake punts, quarterback throwbacks, you name it – and runs this one up.

Vegas: Oklahoma 30, Boise State 22
Daniel: Oklahoma 54, Boise State 13

Orange Bowl (Miami) Jan. 2 5 PM FOX

Louisville can score a mile-a-minute against the dregs of the Big East. Wake Forest's defense has locked down the entire ACC.  Both are dubious distinctions akin to being named the beauty queen… of the state penitentiary.  (Or some certain Stanford sororities, but judge for yourselves.)

Wake Forest, more than any other team, has given me fits in this season's prognostication.  But come on, raise your hand if you foresaw Wake Forest 30, Florida State 0.  (Personally, I thought someone laced my orange juice when I saw that score.)  So I realize I am playing with fire picking against the Deacons, but this broken watch will be right sooner or later, right?

Vegas: Louisville 34, Wake Forest 24
Daniel: Louisville 27, Wake Forest 13

International Bowl (Toronto) Jan. 6 9 AM ESPN2

I strongly disagree with the scheduling of these two nothing games between the BCS bowls.  The NFL's going on, we will have just concluded four BCS games and be on the verge of the national title game – who is going to get up this early to watch a game in Canada?

South Florida might be jealous because I also gave them this distinction in this series, but Cincinnati is another one of the best teams you have never heard of.  (Between calling their upset of Rutgers and putting Arkansas in my preseason Top 25, I can now die a happy man.)

By the way, I hate giving the Bearcats credit because a receiver on Cincinnati's roster went to my high school.  We were in 10th grade speech together and both had a crush on the same girl.  (For her but... bod… err... personality, I swear.)  He always teased me pretty hard in front of her, and though I knew better to take the bait from a 6-foot-5 man who benches 250 and actually got the girl [first for everything, right], the grudge lives on.  True story.

Western Michigan (or Waste-ern, as any true Michigander calls it) represents well in baseball (Derek Jeter is from Kalamazoo, as is Western) and basketball, but football is another matter all together.  My former classmate does better against the Broncos' defense than he did with that blonde, and the Bearcats roll.

Vegas: Cincinnati 25, Western Michigan 17
Daniel: Cincinnati 34, Western Michigan 20

GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.) Jan. 7 5 PM ESPN

Ohio and Frank Solich peaked in the right year in a down MAC, and I am strangely suspicious of their gaudy second-place finish.  Imagine them against the powerhouse Northern Illinois or Miami Ohio teams of years past – I see them getting killed by 30.

Southern Miss is kind of the GM vehicle, appropriately enough, of football programs.  It is never going to be flashy (no offense), but at the end of the day, it gets the job done (great defense, a knack for winning the tight games).  Southern Miss should have more fans at this game, too, and I think they pull out a close one in the fourth quarter.

Vegas: Southern Miss 24, Ohio 17
Daniel: Southern Miss 23, Ohio 20

BCS National Title (Glendale, Ariz.) Jan. 8 5 PM FOX

I am not going to write too much you have not seen before, so I will keep it brief.

The most underrated aspect of Ohio State's offense are their receivers not named Ted Ginn – those guys start at 100 Division I-A schools – and their pass-blocking.  Top receiver Anthony Gonzalez, in particular, made Michigan's top corner and future first-rounder Leon Hall his rag doll; no corner on Florida will be able to stop him.  The scary thing is that I think the number three through five receivers might be just as good.  Ohio State has demonstrated the skill possession depth that we all fear USC is acquiring with those monster recruiting classes.

How will this come into play?  Well, Michigan defensive linemen LaMarr Woodley and Alan Branch are both projected top-10 picks in the NFL Draft, and Troy Smith had all day to throw.  No exaggeration.  Suffice it to say, there is no way Florida pressures the quarterback without blitzing heavily.  Except Florida cannot blitz heavily because Ohio State will go to three- or four- or five-receiver sets, and the Gators need to play those guys honestly.  Michigan tried selling out against the run and blitzing the safety (a scary thought considering Florida's Reggie Nelson is light years better than anyone the Buckeyes have seen to date), but the Buckeyes simply shredded the nation's top-ranked rush defense for almost 200 yards.  The Gators will not be able to prevent this offense from operating at will.

Florida's offense, meanwhile, has been shaky all season, and Ohio State's defense, while young, is immensely talented and quick enough not to give up the big play.  I think Florida scores enough that the over is a pretty safe bet – but so too are the Buckeyes.

Vegas: Ohio State 27, Florida 20
Daniel:
Ohio State 38, Florida 21


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