BCS Hysteria: No. 1 vs. 2!

December 31, 2007 6:12 AM
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Happy New Year! After recovering from the weekend’s New Year festivities, we are hit with the cream of the bowl games.

Wednesday offers some terrific tussles with West Virginia/Oklahoma battling and the Kansas offense against Virginia Tech’s defense in the Orange Bowl. That is a tune-up for the Jan. 7 Ohio State/LSU showdown for all the marbles.

Rose Bowl: Illinois (9-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) has speed with mobile sophomore QB Juice Williams (13 TDs, 10 INTs) and RB Rashard Mendenhall. Williams ran for 774 yards, 5.2 yards per carry. Mendenhall has run for 1,526 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and ranks eighth nationally in rushing yards per game (127). Illinois features a run-oriented offense that rates fifth nationally in rushing offense (266 yds pg). The Illini have allowed 240 yards passing per game, something USC will attack.

USC (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS) is making its third consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. You wonder what the Trojans are thinking, knowing if they hadn’t blown that 24-23 game to Stanford as a 41-point favorite they’d be facing Ohio State for the national title. USC is 4-1 SU/ATS the last five bowls and 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS since losing at Oregon. The defense is allowing 15.9 points, 79 yards rushing (2.4 ypc) and 179 passing per game. USC is 10-2 UNDER the total.

Fiesta Bowl: Two teams that came close to playing for the national title. West Virginia (10-2 SU/8-4 ATS) has been in shock the last month since a stunning 13-9 loss as a 28-point home favorite to Pitt. Then coach Rich Rodriguez announced he is leaving to take the job at Michigan. Bill Stewart is interim head coach. West Virginia is loaded on offense, led by junior QB Pat White (12 TDs, 4 INTs, 1,185 rushing yards, 6.7 ypc) and speedy junior RB Steve Slaton (1,053 yards, 5.0 ypc) averaging 293 yards rushing and 39 points per game.

Oklahoma (11-2 SU/7-6 ATS) hasn’t faced this deadly a running attack, but the Sooners did play well against some strong running teams. OU beat Texas (28-21), Oklahoma State (49-17) and blasted Missouri twice (41-31 and 38-17). The defense allows 18 points and 92 yards rushing, a mere 2.8 yards per carry. Junior LB Curtis Lofton is the team leader with 142 tackles and three interceptions. DE Auston English leads the Big 12 with 9½ sacks. The Sooners have a powerful offense behind redshirt freshman QB Sam Bradford (34 TDs, 7 picks, 70 percent completions) and tailback Allen Patrick. OU averages 43 points, 191 yards rushing and 259 passing.

Orange Bowl: Kansas (11-1 SU, 10-1 ATS) has had a great season for coach Mark Mangino, but lost the last game 36-28 to Missouri. The setback prevented KU from playing for the national title. The Jayhawks gained their first BCS Bowl berth in school history. This offense is balanced, averaging 44 points, 197 yards rushing and 293 passing per game behind electric 5-foot-11 sophomore QB Todd Reesing (32 TDs, 6 picks, 3,259 yards). The defensive front is dominant, allowing 91 yards rushing per game, just 3.1 yards per carry. However, Missouri torched them for 368 pass yards and 151 rushing.

Virginia Tech (11-2 SU, 7-5 ATS) boasts the nation’s second best scoring defense, allowing 15.5 ppg and just 2.8 yards per rush. The Hokies offense is balanced with workhorse sophomore RB Branden Ore (876 yards, 3.6 ypc). QB Sean Glennon (11 TDs, 3 INTs) shares time with freshman Tyrod Taylor (5 TDs, 2 INTs). Virginia Tech is 5-0 SU/ATS the last five games and 13-2 SU/ATS its last 15 games away from home.

BCS Title: By the time the Tigers and Buckeyes collide in the Superdome, 51 days will have passed for Ohio State between its Nov. 17 regular-season finale against Michigan. For LSU, it’s been 36 days since the SEC title game. Ohio State (11-1 SU, 7-4 ATS) has a conservative offense under junior QB Todd Boeckman (23 TDs, 12 INTs), averaging 203 yards rushing per game behind workhorse sophomore RB Chris Wells (1,463 yards, 5.8 ypc). Ohio State led the nation in total and scoring defense, allowing 222.5 yards per contest and just 10.7 points per game. Jim Tressel is 7-3 SU/ATS as a dog and 4-1 SU/ATS in his last five bowl games. The lone defeat was 41-14 to Florida a year ago in the title game.

Another SEC team will try and duplicate that as LSU (11-2 SU/4-8 ATS) looks to become No. 1 for the third time this season. Les Miles likes an up-tempo offense to keep opponents off balance. The Tigers average 38 points, 220 yards rushing (5.1 ypc) and 229 passing behind QB Matt Flynn (17 TDs, 10 INTs). Outland Trophy-winning defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and senior LB Ali Highsmith anchor a unit that allows 19 points, 105 yards rushing per game, just 3.1 ypc, and 180 yards passing. Miles has never had the reputation of a big game coach and his team lost twice in triple OT this season. LSU is 8-2 SU, 2-8 ATS as a favorite and this is his biggest game as a coach.