Saturday, January 2, 2010
12 pm ET
South Florida (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (7-5) (+7)
I know he wasn’t that great, but it’s a shame Matt Grothe doesn’t get to start for USF Saturday. A season-ending injury for a senior is never a good thing, but even more so for the quarterback who almost singlehandedly played South Florida out of the unknowns. Grothe was the heart and soul of that team for three reasonably successful seasons, even if the offense (and his game in particular) was a little limited.
Otherwise, USF should be able to handle NIU’s straightforward offense, though the Huskies don’t suck at running the ball. I’ve never totally understood what it is the Bulls do on offense, but I know their defense is fast and tackles fairly well, but runs into trouble against other dynamic offenses. NIU isn’t that, so I expect USF to handle this one fairly easily.
Pick: South Florida
2 pm ET
South Carolina (7-5) vs. Connecticut (7-5) (+5)
I might be the only one, but I feel bad for Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. He hasn’t had one offense worth a damn in his time here and he’s only one of the most successful offensive minds of all time. Stephen Garcia is the best quarterback he’s had at the other USC, which is insane. I think Spurrier underestimated what it meant to recruit there because he’s in a talent-rich area, but it is routinely raided by other schools. There’s no state allegiance to South Carolina like there is to the Florida schools in that state or the Texas schools in Texas.
Also, Garcia’s 2,733 passing yard total was second in the SEC. That’s Big Ten-esque and not in a good way.
USC is also in the unenviable position of having to beat a team that is a sentimental favorite every time the step on the field. UConn has been through a ton this season and if there was a way they could win this game and feel just a little better about the season, I’d give it to them. But they’ve got to actually play the game, and though USC sucks pretty much exactly the same way as the other USC, they’re still the better team.
Pick: South Carolina wins but doesn’t cover
AT&T Cotton Bowl
(19) Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Mississippi (8-4) (-3)
I’m done with Oklahoma State after that debacle versus a bad Oklahoma team. I’m done. That was a truly pathetic loss against a vulnerable rival. If they couldn’t get up for that game and play well, what are they going to do against Mississippi?
The Cowboys even have advantages in this game. The Rebels are a run-oriented team, and OSU is good against the run. If Ole Miss decides to go to the air, it’s Jevan Snead throwing the ball, so that’s not exactly a major threat to anyone. Snead is the biggest individual disappointment of the 2009 season, though some of that is because he was overhyped to begin with. Thus, OSU could easily win this game because they produce points on offense and their defense matches up fantastically with Ole Miss.
Not so fast, my friend.
If Snead is the major disappointment at quarterback this year, then Zac Robinson is right behind him. Without his weapons, it turns out Robinson can’t throw the ball and isn’t a threat to run if the defense keys on him. It might have been smoke and mirrors the whole time. Dez Bryant can make most quarterbacks look pretty great.
I have absolutely no faith in this team, which is weird because trusting Ole Miss to play well is a really stupid thing to do.
Pick: Ole Miss
5:30 pm ET
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Arkansas (7-5) vs. East Carolina (9-4) (+8)
ECU is going to try to Holtzball Arkansas right off the field. Arkansas’ defense absolutely sucks, so Skip Holtz is going to throw the “everything offense” popularized by his dad at the Razorbacks. ECU will gain a ton of yards, and they even have an advantage because the Arkansas secondary is so bad, but you know they’ll never take exclusively to the air. It’s a Holtz running this team. They can’t resist trying to run the ball and throwing a few trick plays in there, especially with so much time to prepare.
And that’s how Arkansas is going to win. They don’t need balance. Ryan Mallett is all the offense they need. If the Razorback D even makes a couple of stops, Arkansas is going to be able to pull away. This is my sleeper in the SEC next year. With a full year to develop, Mallett is going to come back and light the world on fire. You’ll get a preview Saturday night.
9 pm ET
Valero Alamo Bowl
Michigan State (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (8-4) (-8)
Texas Tech is playing without the head coach who is the only reason anyone knows or cares about Texas Tech football. Michigan State is playing without a ton of players following some possibly Fulmer Cup winning activities.
All of this makes this game virtually impossible to pick. There’s no way Texas Tech responds well to their coach being fired, whether the players were for it or not. There’s also no way Michigan State still has enough manpower on defense to be able to handle Tech’s offense.
This is a mess. I give up.
Pick: Texas Tech wins but doesn’t cover