Continuing with our previews of the bowl festivities:
Friday, Dec. 29, has another four big match-ups. Two games pit 9-2 teams against each other, an ACC-SEC battle and a game between two early season Top 10 teams. The action ensures a fine day for the football and gaming fan.
The earliest game that day is the Liberty Bowl, where Louisville and Colorado State will go at it. This promises to be an offensive show. Both averaged over 30 points per game this season. Louisville doesnt play much defense, but they do force their opponents into turnovers. They were one of the top teams in the nation, with a +12 turnover ratio. This is Colorado States second straight trip to the Liberty Bowl, where they lost last season to Southern Mississippi, 23-17. Both teams love to throw the ball, and both are led by solid quarterbacks, with Matt Newton behind center for Colorado State and Dave Ragone for Louisville. Newton completed 59 percent of his 311 attempts, while Ragone completed 61 percent of his 354 attempts, including 27 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
Next up is the Sun Bowl. It features a match-up that, early in the season, many thought theyd be seeing in the Rose Bowl: Wisconsin against UCLA. Over the last few years of the Bob Toledo era at UCLA, the Bruins have scored plenty of points, but theyve had one of the worst defenses in the nation. This year was no different, as the Bruins defense undermined their BCS aspirations. UCLA averaged 30 points per game, but gave up 32 points per game. The defense allowed 29 points or more in seven of their last eight games, stumbling to a 3-5 finish after a 3-0 start. The offense was strong, headed by wide out Freddie Mitchell and tailback Deshaun Foster. Cory Paus had a quality season at quarterback, but he was injured a lot during the year and backup Ryan McCann was pretty ineffective when he played.
The Badgers won their first three games as well, before dropping three in a row, and four of five in the middle of the season. They rebounded to win their last four games, but the Rose Bowl or a BCS bid were out of the question for the Badgers. Wisconsin is led by running back Michael Bennett, who suffered through injuries this season. He still managed to produce 1598 yards rushing on a 5.4 yard per carry average. He scored 10 touchdowns as well. The Badgers were last in the Big 10 in passing offense, as Brooks Bollinger completed just over 52 percent of his passes, and just eight touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, the Badgers pass defense was weak, allowing 238 yards per game through the air, although Jamar Fletcher is one of the cornerbacks. Hes a Thorpe Award semi-finalist, and intercepted six passes this season.
Georgia Tech has been one of the surprise teams in the nation. Many thought theyd have a tough time after losing Joe Hamilton and Dez White from last years team, but the Yellow Jackets improved their defense, and found a good quarterback in George Godsey. The defense was great against the run, allowing just 94 yards per game, and 2.8 yards per carry. Even though they allowed 285 yards per game through the air, they allowed just 19 points per game, and were among the top teams in the country in terms of turnover ratio. Godsey completed 63 percent of his passes, for 2,906 yards and 23 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Kelly Campbell was Godseys top receiver, with 963 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving. Joe Burns is Georgia Techs top running back. He gained 908 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
LSU was able to come back from last years 3-8 record, with a 7-4 record this season. The Tigers did a good job offensively, averaging nearly 27 points per game though prone to turnovers. Quarterback Josh Booty started 10 games, completing exactly half of his passes for 2,121 yards, 17 touchdowns, but 15 interceptions. Booty is enormously talented, but he makes bad decisions almost every game. Defensively, the Tigers were respectable, allowing just 20 points per game, but near the bottom in the SEC in yards allowed, both rushing and passing.
The last game Dec. 29, the Holiday Bowl, may be one of the more interesting games of the bowl season, with two 9-2 teams: Texas and Oregon. Texas certainly has a quarterback controversy on their hands. Chris Simms has become one of the most productive signal callers in the nation over the last few weeks, in the absence of Major Applewhite. Applewhite should be healthy for this game, but its going to be hard to get Simms out of the lineup, especially after his performance against Texas A&M. The Longhorns averaged 39 points per game this season, while only allowing 18. They scored less than 24 points just once on the season, the 63-14 loss to Oklahoma. That was also the only game in which they allowed more than 27 points. With B.J. Johnson and Roy Williams at wideout, Texas obviously has weapons for whichever QB plays.
Oregon had a great season, but for the bettor they were a tough team to play. This was especially true in their last five games. They failed to cover the spread every time, even though they won four of those games, losing only their season ender to Oregon State. The Ducks have a solid offense. They averaged 29 points per game, led by quarterback Joey Harrington. His numbers arent great, but he has a knack for big plays. Marshaun Tucker and Keenan Howry were Harringtons top targets. Running back Maurice Morris contributed 1,106 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.