NEW YEAR'S EVE
Peach Bowl – Maryland vs. Tennessee
The big name here is E.J. Henderson, the Maryland middle linebacker. Word is
he's a good player, but not elite. A little stiff. Tennessee sophomore Kelley
Washington, a big-time wide receiver with an attitude to match, recently
underwent neck surgery similar to that performed on Rocket Ismail and is
expected to be able to leave early and get on with his plans of a pro career.
Maryland catches our attention because of its outstanding coach, Ralph
Friedgen, who should be in the NFL. He's better than his counterpart tonight,
Phil Fulmer, but it's difficult to pass on an SEC underdog, particularly when
it plays great defense and is looking to regain respect after a poor season.
Air Force, as a service academy, lacks for pro talent but never heart.
Virginia Tech has a very good running back, Lee Suggs, who appears to have
overcome his knee injury from last year. Just can't see Steelers interested,
though, in a running back who's not much bigger than their own Verron Haynes.
Kiper and other draft guides list Tech free safety Willie Pile (6-2 ¼, 202) as
a prospect. As for the pick, just a guess that the underdog will run on the
porous-of-late Hokie defense. Virginia
NEW YEAR'S DAY
Texas quarterback Chris Simms (6-3 ½, 212) has all the tools but struggles
in big games. Another strike against him is that he's left-handed. A great
supporting cast doesn't help in making an accurate assessment, either. But
Simms does have the pro tools and that was enough to make one-year wonder Josh
McCown a third-round pick out of Sam Houston State last year. Imagine what pure
tools will mean for Texas' Simms, the son of Phil Simms.
LSU's pass defense will provide a good gauge for us scouts on the couch.
LSU outright, 27-24.
Florida lost four games this season but it may not have been Ron Zook's
fault. The first-year coach didn't have as much talent as most suspected.
Steve Spurrier left at the right time, but he did leave quarterback Rex Grossman
(6-1, 218). Some feel Grossman should stay in school another year. As for the
prediction, we're going to stay with Big Ten underdogs this bowl season –
thank you Wisconsin and Minnesota – and take Michigan, 23-13.
Someone asked me last August for a pick on opening weekend. When I said New
Mexico plus the points against N.C. State, he gave a response I haven't
forgotten: "North Carolina State has been pretty good ever since they started
cheating." And – voila! – the team goes 10-3 with a New Year's Day
kickoff against Notre Dame. N.C. State relies on forcing mistakes; Notre Dame on
not making them. I'll take Notre Dame coming off an embarrassing loss to USC,
We've become accustomed to Joe Paterno coming up with great bowl-game
plans, but, really, Joe's getting old. Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville is
outstanding, so we'll go with the hard-hitting, well-coached SEC dog. Auburn,
As for Penn State's many and interesting prospects, massive defensive
tackle Jimmy Kennedy (6-4 ¼, 335) has only done it one year and picking him in
the top five will be a risk; running back Larry Johnson (6-1, 219 – again,
Kiper numbers throughout) has proven his toughness running behind what's
considered a weak, senior-laden offensive line and it's suspected he'll have
first-round combine times; wide receiver Bryant Johnson and defensive tackle
Michael Haynes are second, third-round material.
It's ridiculous for Washington State to allow Mike Price to coach this game
after accepting the Alabama job. Saying that, Price got that job, the best in
college football, because of his ability to coach quarterbacks. Wash St. QB
Jason Gesser (6-0 ½, 194) is his latest. Gesser's small, but interesting. He
wins. Watch him here against a great defense that includes future first-round
corner Andre Woolfolk (5-11 ¾, 190). Speaking of corners, after learning that
Washington State senior Marcus Trufant (5-11, 183) was NOT a first-rounder, I
stumbled across a top NFL talent evaluators top 10 list and Trufant is on it. Oklahoma also
has an interesting tight end prospect in Trent Smith (6-5, 235). As for the
game, the guess is Gesser will find a way to score on this great defense,
Washington State, 27-24.
Didn't like the first two FSU quarterbacks this season anyway, so bring on
the kid. Fabian Walker is only a sophomore, but any QB recruit at this school is
worth watching. Georgia is busting with talent, as Steelers fans know after
watching Hines Ward, Kendrell Bell, and a little bit of Haynes. Nothing here
now, though, that might interest the club, unless they think LB/S Boss Bailey,
brother of Champ, will fall to them. Otherwise, turn out the lights and give
your family a break. Georgia, 23-10.
Orange Bowl – Iowa vs. Southern Cal
Check out Huggy Bear's kid. Yes, USC tailback Justin Fargas is the son of
the "Starsky & Hutch" character. He was the most highly recruited prep
senior a few years back and went to Michigan. After a seeming dud of a career,
Fargas has resurfaced as a blue-chipper down the stretch this season for USC.
The senior has the size. Does he have the speed? Carson Palmer, of course, is
the top QB prospect in the nation. He's rated ahead of Byron Leftwich because
he's taken snaps under center, let alone read defenses, out of a pro set.
He's also more mobile than Leftwich.
The Steelers won't get a shot at Palmer, but his counterpart, Iowa's Brad
Banks, could become a mid-round prospect with a good performance against a great
USC defense that's led by senior safety Troy Polamalu (5-10, 209), one of the
best defensive players in the nation. Should be a very interesting game for
serious Steelers fans. As for the winner, let's stick with those Big Ten pups.
By now you can probably guess which way I'm leaning. I'll take the Big
Ten dog with the very solid running game and the very solid defense. And Ohio
State has pro talent, too. Not that Miami doesn't have any. Wow! But are they
enamored of themselves? This isn't the team last year's was and Ken Dorsey
is not my kind of quarterback. Scouts have to see this guy at the combine
because of the brilliant cast with which he's playing. The sophomore tailback
- Willis McGahee - is a potential No. 1 pick overall and two of Miami's front
defensive four are top 10 guys. The secondary is young, so Steelers fans
shouldn't look for much help there. But Ohio State has an interesting safety.
Mike Doss (5-10, 199) is small in the Thomas Everett mold, but is considered an
As for the game, Ohio State's coach, defense, and QB are very underrated.
Sure, if Dorsey's on and the Miami defensive coaches finally bring one of
their safeties up, Miami will win easily. But I like hungry Ohio State for the