BCS hysteria

Jan 4, 2011 7:03 AM

After recovering from the weekend’s New Year festivities, we glide through the end of the bowl season. A few more bowls are appetizers for the Jan. 10 Auburn/Oregon showdown for all the marbles.

Tuesday, Jan 4

Sugar Bowl: The SEC and Big Ten met just once this past season, with Alabama trouncing Penn State 24-3 in September at home. Arkansas (10-2 SU, 8-2 ATS) Coach Bobby Petrino’s pass-happy attack has senior QB Ryan Mallett (30 TDs, 11 INTs, 3,592 yards), third in the nation in passing (338 yds per game) and 37.3 points per contest. While this remains a pass-first attack, soph RB Knile Davis impressed with 1,182 yards, 6.6 yards per carry. Arkansas has had the same five starters on the offensive line all season. Hogs on a 6-1 run over the total and 6-0 SU/ATS its last 6.

Ohio State (11-1 SU/9-2-1 ATS) plays great defense (13.3 ppg allowed, No. 3 in the country) and prefers the ground game. They average 39.4 points, 219 yards rushing and 229 passing. Junior QB Terrelle Pryor (25 TDs, 11 INTs, 2,551 yards) is second on the team with 639 yards rushing. The Buckeyes have made dramatic changes, particularly in the secondary, due to costly injuries to Tyler Moeller, C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. Moeller and Bryant are out. Ohio State is 8-4 over the total. Only Wisconsin works a traditional pro-style offense in the Big 10, and that was the Buckeyes only loss, 31-18.

Thursday, Jan. 6

GoDaddy.com Bowl: Middle Tennessee (6-6 SU/4-7 ATS) worked hard to get here (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS run). MTSU had a roller-coaster season. The projected Sun Belt power had to start the season with QB Dwight Dasher (6 TDs, 14 INTs, 1,388 yards) suspended the first four games for accepting a $1,500 loan in violation of NCAA amateurism legislation. MTSU is 33rd in the nation in rushing (178 yards rushing pg) and 26.9 points. The defense is below average, allowing 27.5 ppg.

Miami of Ohio (9-4 SU/7-6 ATS) is the biggest bowl surprise of all, off a 1-11 season in 2009. The RedHawks were terrific under second-year Coach Michael Haywood because of experience (10 starters back on offense, nine on defense), but Haywood accepted the head coaching position at Pittsburgh and DB coach Lance Guidry takes over. Soph QB Zac Dysert (13 TDs, 12 picks) is battling a ruptured spleen and won’t play. Redshirt freshman Austin Boucher (4 TDs, 1 INT, 831 yards) has started the last three games. Miami is 11-2 under the total.

Friday, Jan. 7

Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M (9-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) has a fast, talented offense for Coach Mike Sherman. The Aggies average 31.8 points and 281.8 yards passing with WR Jeff Fuller (983 yards, 12 TDs) and RB Cyrus Gray (1,033 yards, 5.7 ypc), both juniors. The defense (20.5 ppg allowed) started off weak but got a lot better down the stretch. The offense had been turnover prone, so senior QB Jerrod Johnson was benched in favor of junior QB Ryan Tannehill. Sherman lost 44-20 to Georgia a year ago.

LSU (10-2 SU, 5-6 ATS) still has trouble throwing the football (155 yards passing per game), but the defense (17.8 ppg, 9th in the nation) and ground attack (179 yds rushing pg) led the way. The offense averaged 28.8 ppg with Jordan Jefferson (4 TDs, 9 INTs) and junior QB Jarrett Lee (2 TDs, 1 INT) dividing the duties for Coach Les Miles. Junior power RB Stevan Ridley (1,042 yards, 4.6 ypc) is the backfield workhorse. LSU is on a 6-3-1 under the total run.

Monday, Jan. 10

BCS Championship: Auburn (13-0 SU/9-3 ATS) has brilliant offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the architect of wide-open spread attacks. The offense (42.7 ppg) is potent under new Heisman-winning 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior QB Cameron Newton (28 TDs, 6 INTs), with 2,589 yards passing, 1,409 yards rushing (5.8 ypc).

The Tigers ground game averages 287.2 yards, No. 6 in the country, with the help of 5-9 freshman RB Michael Dyer (950 yds, 5.9 ypc) and sophomore RB Onterio McCalebb (763, 8.6 ypc). Auburn is on a 6-2 run over the total. The defense gave up 35 points in last year’s bowl, a 38-35 win over Northwestern as 7-point chalk.

Oregon (12-0 SU/7-4 ATS) is No. 1 in the nation in points (49.3 ppg), with 233.7 yards passing and 303.5 yards rushing per contest. The Ducks run the no-huddle and burn up defenses behind sophomore QB Darron Thomas (28 TDs, 7 INTs, 2,518 yards) and soph RB LaMichael James (1,682 yards, 6.0 ypc).

The Ducks are actually very good defensively, 14th in scoring defense (18.4 points per game). Oregon is on a 13-4 run over the total. Can an SEC team win the title for the 5th straight year?