BCS hysteria: No. 1 vs. No. 2!

Jan 1, 2007 6:18 AM

Happy New Year! After recovering from the weekend’s New Year festivities, we are hit with the cream of the bowl games.

Wednesday offers a magnificent battle in the Sugar Bowl, followed by the Jan. 8 showdown for all the marbles.



A great offense (Notre Dame) against an outstanding defense (LSU). The Irish are looking for their first bowl win since defeating Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl to cap the 1993 season, a streak of eight straight losses. Notre Dame (10-2 SU, 4-7 ATS) runs a wide-open attack under coach Charlie Weis. The offense is led by senior QB Brady Quinn (3,278 yards, 35 TDs, 5 INTs), junior RB Darius Walker (1,139 yds), along with tall receiving targets in seniors Jeff Samardzija (958 yds, 11 TDs) and Rhema McKnight (885 yds, 15 TDs).

Notre Dame is 4-2 ATS as a dog under Weis. The Irish have faced tough defenses in Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, UCLA, and USC. The Tigers (10-2 SU, 5-5 ATS) have a ferocious defense that is allowing 12.5 points, 95 yards rushing and 145 passing per game. Junior QB JaMarcus Russell (26 TDs, 7 INTs) leads an offense that averages 33 points, 159 yards rushing and 244 passing. They haven’t lost since Oct. 7, a 23-10 defeat at Florida.



The Jan. 6 inaugural bowl takes place at the SkyDome in Toronto, Canada. Western Michigan has the nation’s fifth-ranked rushing defense and is No. 11 in total defense. Cincinnati (7-5 SU, 7-3 ATS) is No. 31 in total defense and comes into this game in an unusual situation: Despite making a bowl, the Bearcats have a new head coach. Brian Kelly replaces Mark Dantonio, who left to run Michigan State.

Oddly, Kelly guided Central Michigan of the MAC to a 9-4 record and played against Western Michigan back on Nov. 10. Central won, 31-7. Now he faces them again...with a different team! Cincy QB sophomore Dustin Grutza (9 TDs, 13 picks) is young and mistake prone, so they rely on a solid defense that allows 19 points and 3.7 yards rushing. Cincy led Virginia Tech 13-12 in the fourth before covering in a 16-point loss, had a 23-17 loss to Louisville and upset Rutgers.

Western is 4-3 SU, 5-2 ATS as a dog for second-year head coach Bill Cubit. The offense has 6th-year QB Ryan Cubit (15 TDs, 11 INTs), while the defense leads the nation in interceptions (22). WMU upset Virginia 17-10 and lost 28-20 at Florida State, outgaining the Seminoles 263-248.



Jan. 8 at Glendale, Ariz. Second-ranked Florida has had to scratch and claw its way to this game, winning several close ones and even losing at Auburn. Top rated Ohio State rolled through most of its schedule, before holding off a Michigan comeback in a 42-39 thriller. Hard to believe, but this will be the first ever meeting between the two college powers.

Both teams are loaded with defense, veteran QBs, display plenty of balance and possess skill position speed on offense. Florida (12-1 SU, 5-7 ATS) has a deadly option offense that averages 28.8 points, 160 yards rushing, 237 passing behind QB Chris Leak (22 TDs, 13 picks). Senior RB DeShawn Wynn leads the Gators ground game, along with RB/QB freshman Tim Tebow. There are good wide outs in Dallas Baker and Andre Caldwell.

The Florida defensive line is strong against the run, allowing 74 rush yards and just 2.8 per carry. The defense ranks tenth nationally in yards allowed, sixth in scoring. The pass defense will be tested by Ohio State. The Gators allow just 194 yards by air and just 13½ points per contest. Florida faced some very potent passing attacks and allowed 20 points at Tennessee (231 pass yards), 10 to LSU (228). Kentucky’s strong air attack was limited to 210 yards and seven points.

Ohio State has been waiting 51 days since beating then No. 2 Michigan, 42-39. The Buckeyes (12-0 SU, 10-2 ATS) are loaded on offense, averaging 36 points, 180 yards rushing and 229 passing. Heisman Trophy winning senior QB Troy Smith (2,507 yards, 30 TDs, 5 INTs, 233 rushing yards) heads an offensive that also features wide outs Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr. The Buckeyes outscore teams by a 36-10 average!

The Buckeyes are 19-0 SU, 16-3 ATS the last 19 games. The defense allows just 10 ppg and 3.3 yards per rush. They’ve already beaten Iowa, Texas, Michigan and Penn State. Only Michigan and Illinois have stayed within 17 points. The Buckeyes are 9-3 ”˜under’ the total, the Gators 8-4 and 16-8 overall below the posted total since Urban Meyer became coach.