McD’s Bowl Picks Part Six: Sugar Bowl Edition

January 2, 2009 – 10:52 pm by McD

Updated through International Bowl

Record: 17-10, 13-14 ATS

The color guy on the Cotton Bowl broadcast just said Jevan Snead misses passes early in games “because he’s high.” Take from that what you will.

Alabama is in deep shit if John Parker Wilson has to throw his way to victory. Tide fan is praying for a miracle at this point. (10:52 pm ET)

Absolutely perfect night by Utah.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2pm ET

Cotton Bowl

(25) Mississippi (8-4) at (7) Texas Tech (11-1) (-3.5)

That rule about no conference having more than two teams in the BCS makes perfect sense, since Ohio State did so much to earn their berth this year. Just like Missouri getting screwed last year. Just one more facet of the BCS that makes absolutely no sense, but was agreed to anyway because the major conferences could give a shit about actual football. They just want the money.

The experts are pretty sold on Ole Miss in this game. Apparently, the Rebs do the things that can beat Texas Tech, such as rushing up the middle well and running the ball consistently. Hey, experts, those are the things that beat everyone, but somehow they only count against Texas Tech. They’re completely ignorning the fact that Houston Nutt teams are notorious for underachieving in games like this.

I’m happy for Ole Miss and the success they’ve enjoyed with Ed Orgeron’s players. I really am. But I just can’t believe they’re going to win this game. Especially with the amount of experts picking against them. Texas Tech must do something well since they beat Texas and everything. I don’t trust the experts on this one. This isn’t like Boise/TCU. Eat it, McShay.

Pick: Texas Tech

Update: Mississippi 47 Texas Tech 34.

Texas Tech spent most of 2008 playing virtually perfect football. Yet to those who watched closely, they also made many mistakes in their games, even in the ones they won. I’m pretending I saw it coming, but I didn’t. This cavalcade of errors they’ve been experiencing followed them to the Cotton Bowl and lost them the game against a team that couldn’t possibly outscore them if they played turnover-free football.

I had hoped they’d stick it to Ole Miss just to show the BCS how full of shit it is, but I guess that’s just a pipe dream. The BCS lucked out and now their representatives and the bought-and-paid-for press can say Texas Tech was never BCS material while somehow ignoring Ohio State’s presence there.

So, I will drink my next Strongbow Cider in honor of what could have been for Texas Tech in 2008 and what still might be for the Utah Utes, who are winning as I’m typing this. Cheers.

Record: 17-11, 13-15 ATS

5pm ET

Autozone Liberty Bowl

Kentucky (6-6) at East Carolina (9-4) (-3)

For some reason, this game screams “Holtz-ball” to me. ECU is going to play ugly and probably get away with it because that’s what you do in Holtz-ball. That said, an ECU defense that has a cornerback as its second-leading tackler makes me very nervous. Where are the linebackers? And if a corner is making a lot of tackles on one side, it means the linebackers aren’t fast enough to get to the edge and opposing offenses must see some weaknesses on Van Eskridge’s side of the field.

On the other hand, there really isn’t anything Kentucky does well, but this is the same team that played very close with Alabama. A close game with ECU will be almost entirely on the shoulders of the Kentucky defense. East Carolina’s offense isn’t exactly going to light the scoreboard up, so they can be stopped. But the UK defense has to stop them enough for their offense to score a couple of touchdowns. They may even need a special teams or defensive touchdown to get the win.

Basically, these two teams are going to try to out-ugly each other. Whoever manages to run the ball, stop the run, win the special teams battle, and not turn the ball over should be your winner. Holtz-ball at its “finest.”

Pick: East Carolina

Update: Kentucky 25 ECU 19.

I was dead wrong about East Carolina too. Awesome. I didn’t watch this game. I was catching up on the third season of Dexter instead. You know, important stuff. But apparently, ECU punted when they were down in the fourth quarter with very little time left. I’m all for assuming your defense can get a stop, but that decision makes me cringe a little bit. That’s about as mean as I’ll get about it, since I didn’t watch the game and am not particularly surprised a Holtz-ball team played close with a vulnerable, inferior opponent. It’s just what those types of teams do. This is why teams switched to the West Coast offense and then the spread offense. They wanted to be good enough offensively not to get stuck in games like this on a random basis. Bad news is, no one has really solved the problem yet. Better luck next year, guys.

Record: 17-12, 13-16 ATS

8pm ET

Allstate Sugar Bowl

(6) Utah (12-0) at (4) Alabama (12-1) (-9)

I hate how the Sugar Bowl officials considered whether Utah would be competitive enough in this game before they gave the Utes a bid to the Sugar Bowl. That shouldn’t even be in consideration. Utah earned this bid to the BCS and one of the bowls had better fucking give it to them. It’s absurd how grudgingly the BCS goes outside the biggest major-conference paydays. If the NCAA is going to complain about its athletes being more interested in going pro and getting money than academics and college athletics, then the NCAA can’t let its football teams play in the BCS. The only reason it works is because the NCAA is too weak to stop the major football conferences, who are bought and paid for by the BCS. It truly is a miracle of hypocrisy.

Yes, Utah’s offense is facing an uphill battle against Alabama. They’ll have a tough time finding individual matchups their spread offense can exploit and will have a hell of a time running the ball. But if Utah is going to win, it’s going to take a miraculous effort from their defense. Alabama does exactly what you do when you’re facing a smaller opponent: run the ball powerfully, dominate the line of scrimmage, and they keep the ball the hell out of John Parker Wilson’s hands. It’s going to take the effort of a lifetime over four quarters for Utah’s defense to stop Alabama from doing what it does best.

I think the Utah offense is built to re-enact the Florida game plan from the SEC title game. While the Utes might not have the defensive firepower or the offensive speed to do the exact same things Florida did, the template is there. Alabama can be beaten by a spread offense. But the only way that’s going to happen is through a perfect game by Brian Johnson. He’s going to have to keep the Tide defense on its heels by making sure the offense remains unpredictable in its playcalling, and he’s going to need to be extremely efficient throwing the ball. Any interceptions or fumbles and this thing can be over before it starts.

As long as Alabama isn’t completely broken by the Florida loss and hasn’t been too distracted by the Andre Smith saga, they should roll in this game. No, not because Utah is a small, undeserving squad. Because Alabama ran over teams like this all year. Any time the Tide faced a finesse team, they won. Florida is not a finesse team, despite their offensive style, which is why they’ve been so successful and maintained some defensive identity while still using the spread.

Utah’s weaknesses all play to Alabama’s strengths, but I think there will be more than a little fight in the Utah team that can run with the big boys. It’s not speed they lack, it’s size. That’s why they’ll lose.

Pick: Alabama wins, but Utah beats the spread.

Update: Utah 31 Alabama 17.

Utah’s perfect night happened. Brian Johnson was fantastic, amazing, and a whole bunch of other adjectives that mean good things. Especially because Utah couldn’t run the ball for shit, as was expected. But they got the passing game going and never looked back. Alabama was a turtle on its back because their offense can’t play from behind. Who the hell was going to lead them back, John Parker Wilson? The guy hasn’t been trusted to do that all year. Nothing was going to change in the last game of the season.

Real respect goes out to Utah’s defense. I had an inkling Brian Johnson might be perfect in this game since there was a game plan in place because of Florida. After all, they run the very same offense the Gators do. That said, the Ute defense was outstanding. Out-fucking-standing. Alabama’s power running game got nothing all night and Wilson was sacked eight times. I can’t say enough about the effort of this team. Great win and fuck the BCS for being so condescending. Well done, Utah.

Record: 17-13, 14-16 ATS

Saturday, January 3, 2009

12pm ET

International Bowl

Buffalo (8-5) at UConn (7-5) (-6)

Let’s face it, this is the only game in town until 4pm ET when the NFL playoffs start. You know you’ll watch some of it while you’re trying to recover from your hangover enough to get back to the bar to watch the NFL.

Yeah sure, this game features UConn’s Donald Brown, the nation’s leading rusher. But the far funnier story is yet another Buffalo football team playing a game in Toronto this winter. That’s gotta make the locals feel fantastic. Then again, it’s Buffalo. Only Chris Berman would be truly happy there.

While I respect what Turner Gill has built at Buffalo, this is UConn’s game to win or lose. Their offense is shit without Brown, but Brown has been dealing with defenses loading up to stop the run and he’s still the nation’s leading rusher. Yet I just can’t bring myself to trust UConn. I know they’ve done some very good things, but non-offensive teams like this have this habit of failing to show up in big games.

Turner Gill is going to fire the troops up, who I’m sure will be happy he was essentially forced to stay at Buffalo since no one else would hire him, and they could very well pull yet another big win out.

Pick: Buffalo

Update: UConn 38 Buffalo 20.

Donald Brown had 208 yards in the first half. Any time you can say that about a player, his team probably won. Other than that, I didn’t see any of this game at all. So…yeah.

Record: 17-14, 14-17 ATS

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