It’s an exciting week as we ring in New Year’s, celebrate with family friends plus the endless college football bowls. All of this is a tune-up for the Jan. 8 Oklahoma-Florida showdown for all the marbles.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Wed., Dec. 31): LSU (7-5 SU, 2-9 ATS) has been weak defensively and a money-burner. Part of the problem has been a young offense behind freshman QB Jarrett Lee (14 TDs, 16 INTs) and Jordan Jefferson (3 TDs, 1 pick). They prefer the power running game behind junior RB Charles Scott (1,109 yds, 5.5 ypc), but the defense allows 26 ppg.
After years of battling mediocrity, first-year coach Paul Johnson did wonders for Georgia Tech (9-3 SU, 8-2 ATS). Johnson recruited speed for his option-attack as sophomore QB Josh Nesbitt has been impressive running (631 yards) along with sophomore RB Jonathan Dwyer (1,328 yds). Georgia Tech ran for a staggering 472 yards against Miami!
Rose Bowl (Thurs., Jan. 1): While USC has been lauded for its top-ranked defense all season, don’t forget Penn State is No. 5 in total ‘D’. Penn State (11-1 SU, 9-2 ATS) has a balanced offense and a fierce defense (12 ppg allowed). Senior QB Daryll Clark (17 TDs, 4 INTs) has played well, leading an offense that averages 40 points, 211 yards rushing, 240 passing. Penn State is 3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS the last three years in bowls.
USC (11-1 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) has won eight straight by an average of 30 points. The Trojans average 206 yards rushing, 240 passing behind junior QB Mark Sanchez (30 TDs, 10 INTs), while the deep backfield has soph RB Joe McKnight (646 yds, 7.7 ypc) and junior RB Stafon Johnson (642 yds, 5.2 ypc). Pete Carroll is 5-1 SU/ATS the last six years in bowls.
Cotton Bowl (Fri., Jan. 2): Ole Miss (8-4 SU/9-2 ATS) goes to a bowl for the first time since the 2003 season. The Rebels average 30.8 points and 183 yards rushing behind All-SEC offensive tackle Mike Oher. Sophomore QB Jevan Snead has 23 TDs, 12 picks and 2,470 yards. Ole Miss is the only team to beat Florida, 31-30.
Texas Tech (11-1) averages 44.6 points and 417 yards passing behind senior QB Graham Harrell (41 TDs, 7 picks, 4,447 yards, 71.5 percent completions) and soph WR Michael Crabtree (1,135 yds, 18 TDs).
Fiesta Bowl (Mon., Jan. 5): Ohio State has the No. 8 defense, Texas No. 50. The Longhorns are No. 9 in offense, the Buckeyes 78th. Ohio State (10-2 SU, 5-5 ATS) has a strong defense and a retooled offense under freshman QB Terrelle Pryor (12 TDs, 4 picks). They are a run-oriented attack, with 191 yards rushing per game behind Pryor and junior RB Chris "Beanie" Wells.
Texas (11-1 SU, 8-4 ATS) feels they should be playing Florida for the national title. The defense improved (18.6 ppg allowed) under first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (from Auburn), and this offense is strong behind junior QB Colt McCoy (3,445 yards, 32 TDs and 7 picks), averaging 44 points, 177 yards rushing, 299 passing. Texas is 44-7 SU, 34-16 ATS and 35-15 over the total the last three-plus seasons.