Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pac Ten New Years Bowls

It is that time of year and once again we are headed into the stretch run of the bowl season with the gauntlet of games happening over the weekend with the big ones coming on Monday, followed by the BCS Championship the following weekend. So far the Pac Ten has been less than impressive in losses by Oregon to BYU in a less than expected thumping, and Arizona State's loss to Hawaii with a lame duck coach at the helm.

Oregon simply didn't show up, and the coaching on offense for the Duck's was clueless as they didn't utilize their biggest weapon Jon Stewart enough. Change is coming in Eugene, perhaps not this off season, but soon.

Coming up tonight is Florida State, and UCLA in San Francisco's Emerald Bowl. UCLA finished strong for once beating arch rival USC, and should be labeled as a team on the rise. I have to predict victory for the Bruins since this is probably the worst FSU team Bowden has fielded since he arrived in Tallahassee.

Tomorrow we have the Holiday Bowl which didn't make the weekend lineup. Ok, so it isn't a New Years game, but why can't it at least be played on the weekend especially since it is basically a three day weekend. The Pac Ten needs a stronger presence for it's #2 game. Cal didn't finish strong and is going to have a tough time even with improved health against an A&M team on the rise. I have to go with A&M.

The win over rival-Texas was the perfect ending to a successful 2006 regular season for Dennis Franchione's Aggies. Texas A&M's rushing attack, which ranks seventh in the country, can wear opponents down with a big offensive line paving the way. The Aggies are much improved defensively this year, especially versus the pass. The unit uses a 4-2-5 alignment and gets most of its pass rush pressure from junior DE Chris Harrington. The leader of the defense is 245-pound ILB Justin Warren, who has notched 90 tackles so far as a senior.

This is Cal's fastest team ever and one of the fastest in the country. The Golden Bears however have fizzled down the stretch. After reeling off eight consecutive wins, Cal lost two of its final three games of the 2006 regular season -- and nearly got upset by dismal archrival Stanford in the finale. But make no mistake, Jeff Tedford's team is loaded with talent and should benefit from extra time to regroup. The talented Defensive needs to stop making dumb mistakes for the Bear's to have a chance to win this one.

Oregon State and Missouri square off in the Sun Bowl on Saturday.

This Oregon State squad may be best known for its upset win over USC earlier this year and it appears that the momentum from that victory has carried over, as the Beavers won four of their last five. OSU frequently spreads the field with multiple-receiver sets, but he keeps opposing defenses off-balance by calling a good mix of runs and passes. On the defensive side of the ball, the front seven has been stout against the run and the Beavers have one of the most productive pass-rushes in the country.

Missouri's spread offense has shown great balance and is at its best when it can set up the running game with an efficient passing attack. Keep an eye on MLB Dedrick Harrington when the Tigers' defense takes the field. Harrington is a relentless run defender who makes plays all over the field and can get to the quarterback when asked to blitz.

Next on tap will be a classic in the Rose Bowl between USC, and Michigan. If both teams show up mentally prepared to play, this could be a classic Rose Bowl matchup and the best of all the BCS games. The position matchups are better than in any other BCS game. For example, Chad Henne and John David Booty are about even at the quarterback spot. Michigan's running game has an edge with Mike Hart, but USC has the advantage in the passing game with receivers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett.

It's remarkable what coach Pete Carroll and his staff have done considering the NFL departures from a year ago, including Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, LenDale White, Winston Justice, Dominique Byrd, Darnell Bing and Frostee Rucker. After sputtering during the first half of the season, the Trojans got hot down the stretch until choking against UCLA. Carroll and first-year defensive coordinator Nick Holt have molded one of the most improved defensive units in the nation from last season. This is a great young team on the rise.

Give Michigan the edge on defense with its eighth-rated total defense, which allows only 14.6 points per game. For this reason, give Michigan the edge in the game if the Wolverines get over the disappointment of not playing in the BCS Championship Game.

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