Bones’s Bowl Preview: Orange and Sugar

As I said in my previous post, New Year’s Day used to be the day that mattered in college football. Now, it’s just a day to enjoy lots of football. In 2011, New Year’s Day also provided an opportunity for one of the major conferences in college football to get egg all over its face. But that day has passed, and we’re on the downhill slide when it comes to bowl games. 28 bowls have been played thus far, meaning we only have 6 left, and 2 of those feature unranked teams. This post will run you through two of the 3 remaining BCS Bowls. Let’s get started…

January 3, 2011

Discover Orange Bowl

#4 Stanford vs. #13 Virginia Tech

How they got here: Stanford got here by having an excellent season–the best in school history, in fact. The Cardinal come in with only one blemish on their record: a loss to National Championship contender Oregon. In that game, they led 21-3 early in the game, proving that Stanford is a very, very good football team. Their wins over Southern Cal and Arizona State were close, but every other victory under Stanford’s belt was by at least 10 points. The lone question mark for Stanford is this: they have not beaten a single team in the current Top 25.

Virginia Tech got off to one of the worst starts in school history, then snagged a bit of redemption by winning 11 straight, with only their win over Georgia Tech coming in at under 11 points. The loss to Boise State was rough, but the James Madison loss is what hangs over the Hokies’ heads in the national consciousness, right or wrong. Much like Stanford, serious questions must be raised about the overall strength of Virginia Tech’s wins, as they’ve beaten just one currently ranked team: #23 Florida State. Oh, and Tech “got here” by winning the ACC, thus guaranteeing their spot in the Orange Bowl.

Should I watch this game: Yes. ESPN’s been touting the quarterback matchup, but it will be more interesting to see how well Andrew Luck throws the ball against Virginia Tech’s secondary. Both teams run the ball well (Stanford: 17th, Virginia Tech 18th), but Virginia Tech’s normally three-headed attack will be down to one for the first quarter: Ryan Williams is questionable for the game, and David Wilson has been suspended for the first quarter because he missed bed check. If Virginia Tech can get through the first quarter OK, we’ll be in for a good game.

Blogger’s pick: Stanford. Understand that I pick games based on who I think will win. This isn’t what I hope happens, but it’s what I think will happen. Stanford’s offensive line is amazing, and Virginia Tech’s relatively young linebacking corps may have trouble stopping the run, which will open up Stanford’s list of options to include running, play-action, and straight pass plays. Look for a fairly close game, but Stanford will likely take this one.

January 4, 2010

Allstate Sugar Bowl

#6 Ohio State vs. #8 Arkansas

How they got here: Ohio State finished in a 3-way tie atop the Big 10, dropping only their road game against Wisconsin. Mind you, that means they dropped 1/4th of their road games, but I digress. Because Ohio State was ranked higher than Wisconsin and Michigan State, they were guaranteed a spot in the BCS, and they very nearly wound up as conference “champs” by sneaking past Wisconsin in the BCS rankings. Fortunately, common sense narrowly prevailed, and the Buckeyes were not sent to Pasadena. Instead, they drew an Arkansas team that had a fairly quiet year for a 10-2 SEC team. Seriously, without looking can you name me an Arkansas player other than QB Ryan Mallett? It’s not that the Razorbacks deserve to be ignored, they just have the misfortune of playing in a season with the Oregon blur offense, the Cam Newton affair, the Carolina scandal, the Ohio State mess, Boise State’s rise and fall, the decline of Texas football, and a host of other stories. There just hasn’t been time for Arkansas in the spotlight. All that aside, Arkansas has had an impressive season, with wins over 4 currently ranked schools, which is impressive compared to the 0 that Ohio State’s beaten.

Should I watch this game: Yes, if only for the crushing Big 10/SEC subplot that will be rammed down your throat whether YOU like it or not! Seriously, we get it, ESPN. Ohio State hasn’t beaten an SEC team in a really long time. The Big 10’s having a down bowl season (well, at least a down January thus far). You think at this point anyone who follows college football won’t know that? Do you think anyone who doesn’t follow college football will care? Oh, and this game will feature a good quarterback battle, with the “traditional” Ryan Mallett playing against the scrambling Terrelle Pryor. And though I mocked it above, it will be interesting to see if the Big 10 can salvage a 3-5 bowl record. If they finish 2-6 with wins over only Baylor and Missouri, then Jim Delaney and Gordon Gee and their toadies will really be exposed as cowards, ducking a playoff so other teams won’t have all the fun after the Big 10 gets knocked out. Just one last stat to provide you with a reason to watch this game: the Big 10 is currently 0-3 against the SEC. The much-maligned ACC is 2-0 (counting the questionable Music City Bowl…).

Blogger’s pick: It’s hard to do this, but I’ll go with Ohio State. My confidence in this pick might have been high at one point, but not after the New Year’s Day disaster. OSU’s defense is the 3rd best scoring defense in the country, and they should at least give Mallett a few problems. Arkansas’s D has been porous at times (that 65-43 game against Auburn comes to mind), and Terrelle Pryor can hang up points quite consistently. The hyper-conservative OSU offense will give Arkansas little opportunity for takeaways, and I think the Big 10 salvages a 3-5 bowl record in a narrow Buckeye victory.

That’s all for right now. As of New Year’s Day, I’m 19-9. Woo?