Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl Previews: It’s Winning Time

January 2, 2008 – 1:52 am by McD

Well, I’m 11-16 with five bowl games left. These remaining games will determine whether I’m over .500 or not this season. No pressure. On to the picks for the next two BCS games.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ)
(9) West Virginia (10-2) at (4) Oklahoma (11-2) (-7)
One obvious bowl-betting rule comes into play here: always go against the team that has an interim coach. Bob Stoops isn’t going anywhere and he has a reasonably young team too that’s very talented. West Virginia is equally talented, but they just lost their head coach and all the assistants don’t know if they’ll have jobs or not next season. It’s a scary thing for everyone involved in situations like this. Were Rich Rodriguez still WVU’s head coach, things might be different, but he’s gone.

But the question isn’t whether West Virginia can win or not, it’s whether they can lose by less than seven points. And while I like Pat White and Steve Slaton a great deal, this isn’t even the first spread team Oklahoma has seen this season. They did lose a couple of close games to Colorado and Texas Tech, but they handled Texas, Missouri twice, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M, all of whom are spread offense teams. WVU is some amalgamation of all these teams, so OU’s defense should be properly prepared for what they throw at them, especially without WVU’s playcaller Rodriguez.

White and Slaton are both juniors, and depending upon who gets hired, may decide to come back based on how this season turned out. They’re both great college players and could be a real threat to go undefeated next season, as long as the coach doesn’t screw things up. This isn’t the end for them, hypothetically, so there may be even less motivation in this game, since they don’t know who they’ll be playing for next season.

The key matchup in this game isn’t OU’s defense and WVU’s offense, it’s the other way around. If the Mountaineers’ D can show up at all, then we might have a game on our hands. But if they can’t stop Allen Patrick, DeMarco Murray, and Sam Bradford, then this game could be a repeat of the Illinois/USC game. The D must show up, or OU will control the clock and keep the WVU offense on the sidelines.

Pick: Oklahoma

Update: West Virginia 48 Oklahoma 28. 11-17. I can’t say I’m totally disappointed by West Virginia’s win yesterday. They really played with a lot of heart and blew OU off the field. Still, interim coaches are 1-6, I believe, in bowl games this season. Which reminds me, another rule has been created for gambling in January: except in crazy circumstances, go against Oklahoma. Bob Stoops and his boys can’t seem to help getting run off the field when they get to BCS games. It’s getting a little embarrassing for everyone to watch, guys. Then again, making BCS bowls as often as they do speaks to how successful a program they have over there in Norman, Oklahoma. Anyway, respect to Pat White, the invisible Steve Slaton, and everyone else who contributed to the destruction of the Sooners. Let’s see how WVU does next year when they lose a bunch of their other assistants. As for OU, chances are we’ll see them lose again in January 2009.

FedEx Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
(8) Kansas (11-1) at (3) Virginia Tech (11-2) (-3)
I really do respect what Kansas has done this season. They took a mediocre to bad program and made a BCS game. But like Illinois, it’s debateable whether they actually belong in the BCS at all. Missouri beat KU, yet the Jayhawks are in Miami and Mizzou played in the Cotton Bowl. Go figure.

Virginia Tech, on the other hand, could even get some first place votes if they win this one, just like USC might. The Hokies played good football when it mattered and made it into the Orange Bowl. Beamer Ball seems to let them down at least once a season, but it still creates a lot of success for them. Obviously.

The key matchup in this game is Kansas’ offense vs. Virginia Tech’s defense. These two units are each teams’ strength. Va. Tech’s offense never does a ton and Kansas’ defense is just good enough to keep it close on that end. The question is whether Kansas will be able to score on Virginia Tech. Tech shut down a similar offense in Boston College twice this season. No matter how good an offense is, the Hokies usually find a way to disrupt it and keep things close. They also have the advantage of having film of the Missouri game, so there’s already a blueprint on how to stop the Jayhawks’ spread attack.

I tend to trust Virginia Tech’s defense in situations like this because they’ve done what they do for much longer than Kansas has had a good offense. It’s part of the culture of the program. Kansas will probably improve next season, but this season, everything is still new. I really do hate the Hokies’ offense, but they usually do just enough to keep things close. Kansas needs to jump out on the Hokies early or pray that Todd Reesing can make a Matt Ryan-esque play at the end.

Before I make this pick, I’d just like to say that I hate this thread because there’s every indication Virginia Tech will win by exactly three points. Stupid gambling.

Pick: Virginia Tech

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