The bowl season is almost halfway over and now the real bowls can begin. The SEC has sent 8 teams to bowls for the 2008-2009 season (the only guys missing out are Mississippi State, Auburn, Arkansas, and Tennessee). Below are my picks for all of the SEC games, including Georgia's match up with Michigan State, leading up to the BCS Championship. I will preview that game in a later post.
Music City Bowl - Boston College vs. Vanderbilt
Vandy finally qualified for a bowl game for the first time in 26 years and they get to travel to... Nashville. That's right, they get to stay home and play Boston College in their home town. Vanderbilt was everyones early season darling, jumping out to a 5-0 start and a top 15 ranking. But, the Commodores soon returned to Earth and lost 6 of their final 7 games (including an embarrassing loss to Duke). Boston College was not expected to compete for the ACC Championship in their first year PMR (Post Matt Ryan). The Eagles ended the regular season strong, winning their final 4 games before falling to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship. Boston College improved during the season while Vandy seemed to get worse.
Boston College 37, Vanderbilt 13
Chick-Fil-A Bowl - LSU vs. Georgia Tech
As much as the Georgia defense was a disappointment this season, LSU's defense was worse. LSU allowed 31 points in each of its final 3 games to the likes of Troy, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. Lesticles does not have a solid option at QB with Jarrett Lee continuing to throw touchdowns to the wrong team and Jordan Jefferson still a year away from being ready to take the reins. Receiver Brandon LeFell and RB Charles Scott are big time players, but the lack of a QB hurts the Bayou Bengals. Georgia Tech has become a media darling this season with Paul Johnson's triple option attack working better than most thought it would. ACC player of the year Jonathan Dwyer, Roddy Jones, and Josh Nesbitt will be a tough task for the LSU defense. most people are picking Tech to win this one, but I think there will be an upset.
LSU 31, Georgia Tech 27
Outback Bowl - South Carolina vs. Iowa
Steve Spurrier's Palmetto State chickens finished an up and down 2008 season with a loss to rival Clemson and a 7-5 record. Outside of WR Kenny McKinley (who missed part of the season with injury) Carolina never found a true identity on offense. The strength of the SC team is their defense led by linebackers Eric Noorwood and Jasper Brinkley. The 'Cocks will be without leading tackler Emanuel Cook, who has been suspended by Coach Steve Spurrier. The Carolina defense ranked 11th in the nation, one spot ahead of the Iowa Hawkeyes. For Iowa, the game plan is all about defense and running back Shonn Greene. Greene beat out Knowshon Moreno and Javon Ringer for the Doak Walker Award by putting up big time numbers for the 8-4 Hawkeyes. The edge in this game goes to Iowa because of their ability to pull a major upset (of then #2 Penn State).
Iowa 20, South Carolina 14
Cotton Bowl - Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech
Houston Nutt surprised a lot of people in his first season in Oxford by winning eight games. I was not one of those people. With Texas transfer Jevan Snead under center and a new attitude on the sideline, I expected the Ole Miss program to have a strong 2008. Jevan Snead and WR/HB Dexter McCluster lead an explosive Mississippi offense. The question is, will they be able to keep up with Mike Leach's Red Raiders? Graham Harrel and Michael Crabtree lead the Texas Tech offense that scored 535 points this season. This team reached as high as #2 in the rankings and also gave one of the most memorable moments of 2008:
Texas Tech 45, Ole Miss 38
Liberty Bowl - Kentucky vs. East Carolina
Kentucky gave Georgia a scare this season when it finally found its QB of the future in Randall Cobb. The 'Cats were riddled with injuries this year, and after a 4-0 start lost 6 of their last 8 games. East Carolina also started the the season with some big wins, dropping Virginia Tech and West Virginia in consecutive weeks. But, disappointing losses to NC State, Houston, and Virginia derailed their BCS dreams. The Pirates recovered and won the Conference USA Championship by beating Tulsa. Even with ECU's impressive wins, I think Kentucky has a chance to pull the upset.
Kentucky 27, East Carolina 21
Sugar Bowl - Utah vs. Alabama
Another non-BCS school gets to take on the SEC in the Sugar Bowl. This sucks and I expect to see a similar story to play out as the one that happened last year. Nick Saban will have the Crimson Tide ready for the Utes and I expect the defense to have a field day. The Tide offense, while not explosive, will do enough between the running of Glenn Coffee, the passing of JPW, and the receiving of Julio Jones to put up 40 points. Without consensus All-America OL Andre Smith, suspended for violation of team rules, Alabama will need to get the ball out of the backfield a little quicker than usual. Don't look for that to cause Saban too many headaches in the game planning. Utah still runs a variation of the offense left by Urban Meyer, so look for them to use a similar scheme to that which was used by Florida in the SEC Championship. This game won't be as ugly as Georgia's destruction of Hawaii was, but another easy win for 'Bama none the less.
Alabama 45, Utah 24
Capital One Bowl - Georgia vs. Michigan State
At this point, we all know the big story line of this game is the match up between Knowshon Moreno and Javon Ringer. Both backs had great seasons and were finalists for the Doak Walker Award. The Dawgs were a preseason #1 team that underachieved and lost big games while the Spartans were a middle of the pack Big 10 team who is hoping to get to 10 wins for the first time since Nick Saban left for LSU. Rather than carry on about statistics, I'm just going to give my opinion on this game: Georgia should win rather easily. Georgia's offense boasts several top-tier college players: in addition to Knowshon Moreno, consider the fact that Matt Stafford and the combination of AJ Green and Mohammed Massaquoi have become one of the best QB/WR combos in the country. While Georgia may have struggled on D over the last few games, the offense has not. We are the better team and we should win. Ringer is a good back, but he averages only 4.2 yards a carry vs. 5.9 for Knowshon. If we step up and make tackles (yes, that is a big IF), we should stop Ringer in his tracks. And despite our struggles on D, we still ranked 28th in the country on total defense while Michigan State was 61st. I'm picking the Dawgs to pick up their 10th win of the season.
Georgia's 2009 New Year's Resolution: TACKLE BETTER!
Georgia 45, Michigan State 28I'm headed to Orlando in the morning to cheer on the Dawgs. I'll be back next week with my National Championship Game preview as well as a season wrap up for Georgia.