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BoBA 2007 Bowl Preview: Week 4

BoBA 2007 Bowl Preview: Week 4

As the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl gets ready to begin at the time this post goes to blog, I am going to go ahead and take a preview of the five big-money games that make up the Bowl Championship Series. All of the games save one will be on FOX. The main exception is the 2008 Rose Bowl, which will be covered by ABC (via ESPN).

And speaking of which, that is where I will start the final part of this 2007 Bowl Preview

Presented by Citi

USC vs. Illinois
Pasadena, California
Tuesday, January 1, 4:30 PM EST (ABC)

In a season where USC turned into a national title also-ran, the Trojans salvaged their campaign by winning the Pac-10 title with a victory over UCLA in the Coliseum. Meanwhile, thanks to the BCS Selection Committee picking Big Ten Champion Ohio State to go to New Orleans to battle for the crystal football of legend, Illinois got the nod to represent the Big Ten in the Granddaddy Of Them All.

This might not be as sexy as the USC-Georgia matchup many hoped would occur, but don't sleep on this traditional Big Ten/Pac-10 matchup. I really like the twist we get with this Rose Bowl. This time, the Big Ten brings in the more exciting and explosive offense. Illinois' spread offense, led by QB Juice Williams, will be a great matchup with USC's great defense. The Trojans have the best set of linebackers in college football (Brian Cushing, Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga), and they're all finally healthy for the first time this season. The last time USC faced a spread offense like this was against Oregon (with a healthy QB Dennis Dixon), and the Trojans lost 24-17 to the Ducks. I can't wait to see this defense against Illinois' top-ranked Big Ten rushing attack and the Big Ten's second-leading rusher, RB Rashard Mendenhall. In addition, WR Arrelious Benn gives the Illini balance in the passing game.
Illinois will have its hands full with the USC offense. The offensive line is finally healthy and the Illini haven't faced a tight end as big and as fast as Fred Davis (6-foot-4, 250 pounds). With the Trojans having just average wide receivers, Davis is the offensive MVP of USC (55 catches, 7 TDs) because he bails out QB John David Booty. Freshman RB Joe McKnight has come on lately and gives USC the fast, big-play guy it has lacked most of the season. The key to handling the Trojans is stopping Davis and McKnight -- not an easy thing to do. But the Illini already have pulled off one big upset this year (Ohio State). -- Rod Gilmore

The Tournament of Roses chose tradition (sorry, Georgia) over a better matchup. The Trojans won their third consecutive Jan. 1 trip up the 110 Freeway by getting healthy, especially thanks to quarterback John David Booty. USC should have the speed to contain Illinois junior quarterback Juice Williams, whose elusiveness confounded Ohio State.
-- Ivan Maisel

BoBA call for those darn Men of Troy taking care of something that is familiar to them.

BoBA predicts: USC 49, Illinois 28


Hawaii vs. Georgia
New Orleans, Louisiana
Tuesday, January 1, 8:30 PM EST (FOX)

For Colt Brennan, June Jones, and Hawaii, this is a great opportunity for the Warriors to show that Boise State's breakthrough victory in last year's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl wasn't a fluke. Georgia will feel that they were shafted by the system, but this will be a great chance to show the committee why they deserved to be in the big show.

Hawaii should feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment: The Warriors completed their first 12-0 season, won the WAC championship and finished the season ranked No. 10 in the BCS standings. That said, Hawaii can't just be glad to make it to the Sugar Bowl. The Warriors are going to need to do some serious prep work to stop Georgia. The Dawgs aren't afraid of teams from the non-automatic BCS conferences; they ran up the score on Boise State 48-13 in their 2005 opener. That said, I think every team learned an important lesson from the Broncos' stunning win over Oklahoma last season.

Hawaii's best bet against Georgia will be to keep the Dawgs' offense off the field. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno will give Hawaii's defense fits. The Warriors haven't faced as physically dominant an opponent all season. Hawaii's prolific quarterback, Colt Brennan, will be able to take advantage of Georgia's struggling pass defense. These teams match up really well, and this game should be a lot of fun to watch. There is certainly a David vs. Goliath aspect to this game, and it would be the perfect ending to an already perfect season if Hawaii pulled off the upset.

One thing all coaches worry about in bowl games is attention to detail, particularly on special teams. When Hawaii and Georgia meet, neither will have played a game in weeks. Watch to see whether the teams are rusty making open-field tackles and making mistakes in the kicking game.

-- Jim Donnan

There's no truth to the rumor that Georgia's players and coaches voted to play this game in Honolulu. The Bulldogs are one of the hottest teams in the country. They're also probably pretty hot under the collar that LSU passed them in the final BCS standings. The unbeaten Warriors and Colt Brennan get a chance to prove they're for real in only their second postseason game ever on the mainland.
-- Chris Low

I think Hawaii is going to fling the pigskin and brandish the Run-&-Shoot to near-perfection, while the defense give Knowshon Moreno no chance, and Matthew Stafford hosts an unexpected pick party. Warriors finish the season right.

BoBA predicts: Hawaii 38, Georgia 28


Kansas vs. Virginia Tech
Miami, Florida
Thursday, January 3, 8:00 PM EST (FOX)

Can it be sweet redemption for Todd Reesing? No matter what happens, for Kansas, this is the breakthrough season that has placed the Rock Chalk Jayhawks back on the college footbal map. Meanwhile, Senan Glennon, Tyrod Taylor, and the Virginia Tech Hokies are looking to put closure to a season that went off on the wrong foot long before it even started with the massacre of many a month ago.

This certainly isn't one of the strongest matchups of the BCS bowls -- in fact, there are non-BCS games that are more compelling than this game (the Holiday Bowl's Arizona State-Texas matchup comes to mind). Kansas will struggle to score against the fastest defense the Jayhawks will face this season. Virginia Tech's starting cornerbacks, Victor "Macho" Harris and Brandon Flowers, are arguably the best set of corners in the country and have the ability to control Kansas wide receivers Dexton Fields and Marcus Henry. I can't see how Kansas will run the ball against Virginia Tech.

Hokies LB Xavier Adibi has the speed to shadow QB Todd Reesing and keep him in the pocket, but he won't be safe there against the Virginia Tech pass rush. Kansas' best bet is to get stud cornerback/wide receiver Aqib Talib more offensive touches to create matchup problems for Virginia Tech. Otherwise, I don't see the Jayhawks moving the football consistently.

Offensively, the Hokies are playing much better now that they've settled into a comfortable two-quarterback system with Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor.

The bottom line is that Virginia Tech is too fast on both sides of the ball for Kansas.

-- Rod Gilmore

It might take more than two quarterbacks to match the balanced offense of this speedy Kansas team, which leads the Big 12 in scoring offense at 44.3 points per game. After an embarrassing loss to LSU in the second game of the season, this is a chance for the ACC champs to redeem themselves on the national stage.
-- Heather Dinich

I look for Mark Mangino and Todd Reesing to send the Jayhakws out with a win.

BoBA predicts: Kansas 42, Virginia Tech 31


West Virginia vs. Oklahoma
Glendale, Arizona
Wednesday, January 2, 8:00 PM EST (FOX)

Well, the Sooners can take solace that they won't be facing Hawaii or Boise State. This will be a great chance to redeem themselves for their futility last year on the Statue of Liberty handoff play of death. Meanwhile, West Virginia is in a state of flux, with Patrick White injured, and Rich Rodriguez vamoosing off to Ann Arbor to take over for Lloyd Carr.

Now, Oklahoma can exhale. You just know the Sooners and their fans were praying, "Please, any team other than Hawaii." After playing the wicked stepsisters in last year's Cinderella Fiesta Bowl story with Boise State, Oklahoma didn't need to face another WAC team. Instead, the Sooners draw a West Virginia team that is reeling from blowing a chance to play in the BCS Championship Game.

This is a good matchup for Oklahoma. Although the Sooners have given up big plays in the passing game (ranked No. 68 in pass defense), they are very strong against the run (No. 8, 92 yards per game). Oklahoma isn't afraid to commit eight men to stop the run and has the speed to match West Virginia's triplets (QB Pat White, RB Steve Slaton and WR Darius Reynaud). West Virginia will have to make big plays in the passing game to beat Oklahoma.

Offensively, Oklahoma's offensive line will have a size and strength advantage over West Virginia's smaller 3-3-5 stack defense. The Mountaineers have played solid run defense (108 yds/game), but they haven't faced a rushing attack like Oklahoma's that is complemented by a solid passing attack. WVU handled a good Rutgers team by keying on Ray Rice, but Oklahoma has many more weapons: tailback Allen Patrick, QB Sam Bradford, RB Chris Brown, and receivers Juaquin Iglesias and Malcolm Kelly.

The wild card in this deal is West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. He has pulled off big upsets before (including beating Georgia in the 2005 Sugar Bowl) and usually comes up with a tweak to his run-oriented spread option that throws the opposition for a loop. Maybe he'll open the game with a trick play a la Boise State just to give Oklahoma a flashback to last year.
-- Rod Gilmore

The Sooners are coming off a 38-17 rout of then-No. 1 Missouri and are playing as well as any team in the country. The Mountaineers must recover from a 13-9 loss to unranked Pittsburgh that knocked West Virginia out of the BCS Championship Game. The Mountaineers will have to slow down tailbacks Allen Patrick and Chris Brown, and must get more from tailback Steve Slaton on offense.
-- Mark Schlabach

The Sooners will finish off the Moutaineers in convincing fashion.

BoBA predicts: Oklahoma 40, West Virginia 14


#1 Ohio State vs. #2 LSU
New Orleans, Louisiana
Tuesday, January 7, 8:00 PM EST (FOX)

For both the Buckeyes and the Tigers, it's been there, won that. Enough said. Set your VCRs, bring your friends, and have plenty of food to go around, this will be a classic to remember.

The BCS Championship Game is as close to a home game for LSU as it gets. The crowd definitely will be an advantage for the Tigers, but Ohio State is no stranger to big games. The Buckeyes will need a quick start to take the crowd out of the game. Ohio State's is extremely physical up front and should test the Tigers. Look for running back Chris "Beanie" Wells to establish his power game early and open up the passing game for quarterback Todd Boeckman.

As LSU proved in the SEC championship game, the Tigers have two talented quarterbacks to choose from. Senior Matt Flynn, who was held out of the game with an injury, gives LSU more of a traditional passing attack and a veteran leader under center. Sophomore Ryan Perrilloux is more of a scrambling quarterback. Although Flynn most likely will start, the Buckeyes' defense will have to prepare for both.

For Ohio State, this is a chance to avenge its title game rout by Florida in 2006. Getting back to the game so quickly is really a credit to Jim Tressel and his team. There is no doubt the Buckeyes will be ready to go on Jan. 7. For Les Miles, nothing less than a trip to the championship game will do for hungry Tigers fans, and to accomplish that lofty goal in just his third year is impressive.

-- Jim Donnan

If you like defense, you like Ohio State, which allowed only two rushing touchdowns all season. The Tigers' quarterbacks -- Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux -- can move around, the kind of a player that has been a problem for the Buckeyes. Both teams have a penchant for winning close games, which bodes well for a game that might have trouble generating excitement over the next month.
-- Ivan Maisel

Most people are looking for LSU to take this one. Poppycock. The Ohio State Buckeyes can play Carmen loud and proud, for Jim Tressel will be adding another crystal football of legend to his collection down in Columbus.

BoBA Predicts: Ohio State 42, LSU 35