The PiRates Look At The Bowls, part III

We're down to the big bowls in our three-part look to the post-season. So far, as of this writing, most of the bowl games have been bore games. Let's hope there are some exciting ones as the old year gives way to the new one.

Note: P6TR is the new experimental Pick 6 Technical Rating.  When 6 particular computer rankings agree on the winning team, these computers have been correct 94% of the time, 85% when the official spread is less than 10 points.  None of the six individually pick the winner more than 78% of the time.

 

The 2007 Bowl Games

 

                       

Outback Bowl (Tampa)

Monday, January 1 @ 11 AM EST

ESPN

Tennessee Volunteers (9-3) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-4)

PiRate Predicts: Tennessee 24  Penn State 23

P6TR: None (Tennessee picked in 4 of the 6)

 

These two schools have a history between them.  The first time they met back in 1971, Penn State was 10-0 and outscoring opponents by five touchdowns per game.  The Vols pulled off the 31-11 upset.  A year later in the first night game in Neyland Stadium history, Tennessee won again 28-21.  On January 1, 1992, The Nittany Lions trounced Tennessee 42-17 in the Fiesta Bowl.  Two years later at the Citrus Bowl, Penn State faced a Vols team that came into the game outscoring its opponents by 30 points per game.  The orange and white were strongly favored, but Joe Pa's troops clobbered the Vols 31-13.

 

Of course, none of this past history matters to anybody but the fans, as most of these players were less than 10 years old the last time these two faced off.  What does matter is whether Tennessee's rushing offense has found some answers in the December practices.  In the final half of the season, the Vols averaged just 90 yards rushing per game; throw out the anomaly where they blitzed Vanderbilt for 163 rushing yards, and the Vols averaged just 75 yards rushing in the other five down the stretch.  Penn State's defense will load up on the pass rush and drop an extra man in secondary coverage if Tennessee doesn't show up with a respectable ground game.  Given five weeks to prepare, I think that will happen.  Go with the Vols, but it should be very close.

 

Cotton Bowl (Dallas)

Monday, January 1 @ 11:30 AM EST

Fox

Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-4) vs. Auburn Tigers (10-2)

PiRate Predicts: Nebraska 27  Auburn 24

P6TR: None (Split 3 to 3)

 

This storied bowl game isn't what it used to be.  Several national championships were decided on this old field.  Now, it ranks on par with the Gator Bowl.

 

This game features Nebraska's excellent all-around offense against Auburn's spectacular defense.  Nebraska's defense was improving as the season concluded, while Auburn's offense was headed south.  I'm going with the ‘Huskers in this one, and I think it has a chance to get ugly if Nebraska's offense gets untracked early in this one.

 

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville)

Monday, January 1 @ 1 PM EST

CBS

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-4) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (10-2)

PiRate Predicts: West Virginia 20  Georgia Tech 16

P6TR: West Virginia

 

This is another huge contrast game.  West Virginia is the unstoppable force, while Georgia Tech is the immovable object.  This time, the force will move the object.  The Mountaineers have too many weapons and should bulldoze the Techsters with multiple sustained drives.  Georgia Tech will not have an offensive answer of their own, as WVU will shadow the great Calvin Johnson well enough to remove him as the deciding factor in this game.  The Mountaineers will cruise to victory.

 

Capital One Bowl (Orlando)

Monday, January 1 @ 1 PM EST

ABC

Arkansas Razorbacks (10-3) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (11-1)

PiRate Predicts: Wisconsin 19  Arkansas 17

P6TR: None (Wisconsin picked in 4 of 6)

 

This is one where I am going strongly against the computers.  Most of the computers, including my PiRates, pick this to be a close game with the Badgers as a slight favorite.  I think this could be a major blowout.  Arkansas has been in near-total disarray since the end of the season.  Player defections and near defections combined with dissension adds up to a team that may not relish having to play this game.

 

Wisconsin has something to prove.  The Badgers deserved to play in a BCS Bowl game, but no conference can send three teams to the BCS.  I have a suspicion that if the games go just right, the big three of the Big 10 could finish up 1-2-3 in the final polls.

 

The Badgers have the best defense in the nation, and Arkansas's gimmick offense should struggle in this game.  While the PiRates call for UW to win by 2, I personally think it will be a 15-25-point win for Bielema's boys.

 

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)

Monday, January 1 @ 5 PM EST

ABC

Southern California Trojans (10-2) vs. Michigan Wolverines (11-1)

PiRate Predicts: USC 28  Michigan 27

P6TR: None (Split 3-3)

 

Neither team wants to be here.  That's all you need to know to tell you that the current bowl system is for the birds.  The Rose Bowl deserves its nickname as the "Granddaddy of all Bowls," and it doesn't deserve to be reduced as an also-ran game (it also should never be played any other day than the January 1 unless that day is a Sunday).

 

I have previously stated that Michigan's losing at Ohio State by less than the number of points Ohio Stadium is worth means that technically the Wolverines are a point or two better than the Buckeyes.  USC may have the most talent of any team, but the Trojans fell twice in their own conference.

 

I think this game could be played 10 times, and both teams would win five games, two or three of which would go to overtime.  This could be one of those overtime games, but I'm going with the home town Trojans to win by a single point.

 

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ)

Monday, January 1 @ 8 PM EST

Fox

Oklahoma Sooners (11-2) vs. Boise State Broncos (12-0)

PiRate Predicts: Oklahoma 24  Boise State 22

P6TR: None (Oklahoma picked in 4 of 6)

 

This is a match between the team that is looking for more respect against the team that was disrespected.  Boise State deserves to be here; they are that good.  The whipping they gave Nevada at Reno proved it beyond a shadow of doubt.

 

Oklahoma had a win at Oregon taken away from them.  Had the proper call been made, the Sooners could very well be here a week later than they are now.

 

I think OU is one of the four best teams in the nation, and Boise State is in the second five.  This game should be interesting, but Oklahoma has too many weapons on both sides of the ball.  The Sooners will pull out a close one.

 

Orange Bowl (Miami)

Tuesday, January 2 @ 8 PM EST

Fox

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-2) vs. Louisville Cardinals (11-1)

PiRate Predicts: Louisville 31  Wake Forest 21

P6TR: Louisville

 

Nobody gave Wake Forest a chance of ever playing in a BCS Bowl game.  Jim Grobe not only deserves National Coach of the Year accolades, the trophy needs to be named for him from here on. 

 

That said, Louisville is going to make the Deacons trip end in heartbreak.  The Cardinals are going to score 28 or more points and pass for 300 or more yards in this game, and Wake Forest will have no response for that.  Look for UL to win its 12th game rather handily and push for the number two final ranking.

 

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans)

Wednesday, January 3 @ 8 PM EST

Fox

L  S U Tigers (10-2) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2)

PiRate Predicts: LSU 28  Notre Dame 24

P6TR: LSU

 

The best part of this game is it is back in the Superdome.  Remember, last year, the Sugar Bowl was played in Atlanta, and there was no guarantee the Superdome would ever be fixed.

 

The sexy pick in the bowl season has been LSU.  Expert analysts are jumping over each other trying to tell the public that LSU might be the best team in the nation and would win the title if a playoff were in effect.

 

It is true that, on paper, the Tigers are loaded on both sides of the ball.  It is also true that Notre Dame's defense is average at best.  However, they have one of the best passing attacks in football.  Quarterback Brady Quinn may be the next Joe Montana, and Montana led his Irish teams to surprise bowl victories more than once.

 

When all is said and done, I will be one of those analysts trying to sneak under the pile of LSU-worshippers and take the Tigers without all the fuss.  LSU should win by less than a touchdown in an exciting game.  If Quinn's last pass is for a touchdown, though…

 

International Bowl (Toronto)

Saturday, January 6 @ 12 PM EST

ESPN

Western Michigan Broncos (8-4) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (7-5)

PiRate Predicts: Cincinnati 35  WMU 24

P6TR: Cincinnati

 

This game is a novelty game at best.  First off, it is this bowl's inaugural game.  Second, it will be played in a foreign country.  Third, it will be the debut game for a coach who guided another team to a bowl game this year.  Bearcats' new head man Brian Kelly coached Central Michigan until four weeks ago.  He actually will coach in this game for Cinti.  Having already faced his opponent this year, that is a major boost.  He knows what the Broncos can and probably will do, while WMU cannot make the same inference back.  On top of that, the Bearcats are clearly the better team.

 

This game will be going against the NFL playoffs.  Will anybody know who won it before February?

 

G M A C Bowl (Mobile, AL)

Sunday, January 7 @ 8 PM EST

ESPN

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (8-5) vs. Ohio Bobcats (9-4)

PiRate Predicts: Sou. Miss. 24  Ohio 14

P6TR: Sou. Miss.

 

Why is this bowl being played on a Sunday night, after a day of NFL playoffs, and on the eve of the big Championship game?  It should have been played on December 16.

 

Aside from the fact that Southern Miss is two touchdowns better than Ohio on paper and Ohio has very little passing attack, the few diehard football fans left will be finished watching football for the day after the two pro games.

 

THE BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Glendale, AZ)

Monday, January 8 @ 8 PM EST

Fox

Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0) vs. Florida Gators (12-1)

PiRate Predicts: Ohio State 31  Florida 20

P6TR: None (Ohio State picked in 5 of 6)

 

As I stated in an editorial a few weeks ago, I do not recognize this as the National Championship Game.  It will have been 51 days between games for Ohio State when this game kicks off.  It will have been 37 days for Florida.  51 days past this date, many collegiate teams will be conducting Spring Practice for next year.

 

If this game had been played on December 9, Ohio State would have won it by 10-20 points.  This is now the first game of a new season, and you can throw most of the main comparison points out the window.  Both teams will be tight, and Ohio State will be quite rusty. 

 

The PiRates say Ohio State will win in a cakewalk, but I think the long layoff will work against them and make this game quite close.  I just cannot get excited about it, because this isn't the true match up of the top two teams.  We saw that November 19 in Columbus.

 

Epilogue

 

This article is dedicated to the memory of a recently lost loved one.  Her name was Australia—she was a cat.  Australia lived for just over 20 years; she should have died before she was four months old.  Back in the winter of 1987, Australia followed my wife on a night-time walk in the snow.  She weighed barely two pounds and struggled to move her paws above the three inches of white powder as my wife walked down Central, Craighead, and Richland Avenues.  There were numerous big dogs in that neighborhood.  There were a few large raccoons roaming around.  There were cars cruising where the driver could have never seen the tiny kitten.  Australia followed my wife for more than two miles until my wife picked her up and brought her home. 

 

As a four-year old, Australia almost died again.  She had an unknown virus that veterinarians could not diagnose.  She dropped to four pounds.  My wife left no stone unturned and nursed her back to health. 

 

Australia joined us as we moved 1,200 miles to Colorado for two years and moved 1,200 miles back to Nashville.  She was 17 years old and in perfect health.  A year later, at the age of 18, she suffered a stroke.  Her vet said there was a one in a thousand chance she would survive it, but once again, my wife nursed her back to health.  For the last two years (after losing her companion cat), she decided to become best buddy to our two dogs.  She wanted to eat with them, go outside in the dog pen with them, go for rides with them, and even snuggle with them for sunny naps.  Last week, without warning her kidneys and liver shut down, and she passed away.  For my wife, it was like losing her only child.  We buried her just as I started to work on this story.

 

This story is my final story for Vandymania.  Other excellent writers have taken over the basketball coverage and multiple excellent writers will be on hand for baseball and football season in 2007.  Writing for Vandymania and other Fox Sports outlets has been a true pleasure with never a dull moment.  It has been an excellent beginning to my second childhood or whatever they call it when we get old and wonder what might have been if different choices had been made 25 years ago. 

 

This article is equally dedicated to the readers of Vandymania.  As a group, you guys and gals are some of the most well-educated, well-thought groups of posters and most of you have senses of humor that the ensemble cast of Saturday Night Live wished they had.  I am going to miss you all and hope to find time to occasionally return to the board and post something beneficial.  Good luck to one and all in 2007, and I pray that this will be a happy and peaceful year for Vanderbilt,  The United States, and the world. 

 

 


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