Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Day Bowl Bash: PHSports Preview

January 1st used to be home to more than a few bowls; however, with the (relatively) new BCS-format, it's changed up a bit.

Several bowls (Outback, Capital One, Gator) get their due; yet, several marquee names (Cotton, Sugar, & Fiesta) get their own days/nights.

Nevertheless, let's tackle the 5 games you'll have the opportunity to watch tomorrow, in order of course.

11:00 am - Outback Bowl [South Carolina vs. Iowa]
Ever since November 15th's 56-6 beatdown from his former Gators, I've had the odd feeling that the Gamecocks may be tired of waiting for Steve Spurrier to inspire/coach/prepare/transform them to the next level. While his team is playing on New Year's, that's hardly a compliment when you consider their 7-5 mark and yearly "fade to bowl season". Meanwhile, Iowa can hang it's hat on costing Penn State a BCS Title Game appearance and that the majority of its skill position players (primarily QB Ricky Stanzi and RB Shonn Greene) are all returning next season. I see no reason to believe the Gamecocks will "get up" for the Ole Ball Coach and deliver an inspired win. I'm taking Iowa to continue building towards next year, even if it's entertaingly-close.

Impact Players: Sophomore Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi may walk into next season challenging the far more well known Big Ten QBs for top honors. No better place to lay your claim than here.

Prediction: Iowa wins 27-23

1:00 pm - Gator Bowl [Nebraska vs. Clemson]
The two coaches on the sideline may command more media attention than the talent on the field. Bo Pelini would love 9-wins and a New Year's Day bowl game victory for his first season; meanwhile, Dabo Sweeney still has a lot of detractors-in-waiting after securing the job after being brought on in an interim basis for fired Tommy Bowden. While the game will ultimately come down to the talent on the field, I can't help but wonder how the major stories in each region's newspapers will be impacted by a win/loss due to the performance of these coaches (and not necessarily their teams).

Impact Players: Clemson RB tandem James David and CJ Spiller may have combined for 1300+ yards and 18 rushing TDs; nevertheless, they were both cataclysmic dissapointments - alongside their team - the majority of the season. Draft stock matters in bowl games, big time.

Prediction: Clemson wins 30-28

1:00 pm - Capital One Bowl [Georgia vs. Michigan State]
Most people expect this one to be a laugher in favor of the Bulldogs, yet I'm not so sure. In a season in which they started #1, this team isn't making a statement similar to that against Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl last season. Both teams are loaded with upperclassmen, which means the game will come down to execution and who can avoid giving up the big play late.

Players to Watch: Matthew Stafford has one last major chance to show why he's #1-overall talent; yet, it's Michigan State senior RB Javon Ringer that might be the most talented player on the field.

Prediction: Georgia wins 38-28

5:00 pm - Rose Bowl [Penn State vs. USC]
I could talk for days and days trying to break down this game, but I won't. Why? Because this game will come down to one simple question: can Penn State keep up with the athletes at USC? Well, can they?

Players to Watch: The three skill position players at Penn State better be ready to run-run-run. QB Daryll Clark must realize that ball security and long, time-consuming drives are his best friends. RB Evan Royster better be ready to bruise people up the middle, as well as along the edges. WR Deon Butler has got to open up lanes - perhaps through making an early catch or two downfield - in order to spread out a speedy (and underrated) Trojan defense.

Prediction: USC wins 41-17

8:00 pm - Orange Bowl [Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech]

The BCS game most people don't claim to "care about", just might end up being one of the best, seriously. Tech has a lot of talent and much of it isn't juniors and seniors. Meanwhile, Cincinnati was an 11-2 team and outside of an embarassing loss in Stoors (not in basketball, mind you) they dominated Big East play. While I can honestly admit I didn't watch a single snap of the Bearcast season, Hokie fans know not to underestimate opponents; especially after Tech lost to Kansas last season - in absolutely horrid Miami weather - in the Orange Bowl.

Players to Watch: Any legit Hokie fan will tell you that Jason "All" Worlds is one of the reasons they're most excited about next season. His playmaking ability is astounding due to his size and speed around the corner. He'll pose more than a few problems for Cincy's backfield.

Prediction: Virginia Tech wins 21-20

While bowl games - especially with the writer's on this staff - might take priority #1; it'd be a mistake to miss out on 5 potentially entertaining New Year's Day bowl games.

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