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by Jim Feist - 12/29/2009
As 2008 draws to a close, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the bowls. You shouldn't be bowled-out, either, as they build to the crescendo that is the Texas/Alabama showdown for the national title.
Humanitarian Bowl (Wed., Dec. 30): Check the weather for this game, as it is frigid and can get windy in this outdoor game from Boise, Idaho. Out from the MAC come the Bowling Green Falcons (7-5 SU/ATS), a scrappy, pass happy team under new head coach in Dave Clawson. Senior QB Tyler Sheehan (23 TDs, 6 picks, 3,665 yds) is a terrific talent and leads a team that can’t run (81 yds rushing pg), but averages 310 yards passing and 27 points.
He has an excellent target in senior WR Freddie Barnes (1,551 yards, 16 TDs). Barnes leads the country in receptions with 138. Barnes needs only four catches to match the single-season record of 142 catches in a season set by Manny Hazard of Houston in 1980. Idaho (7-5 SU/ATS) has a strong offense led by senior RB DeMaundray Woolridge (854 yards, 5.8 ypc) and a big offensive line, averaging 31.8 points, 160 yards rushing and 290 yards passing. However, senior QB Nathan Enderle (18 TDs, 9 INTs) battled a shoulder injury (rotator cuff) and didn’t play much the last three games. This defense allows 35.5 ppg, on a 7-2 run over the total.
Armed Forces Bowl (Thurs., Dec. 31): Air Force (8-4 SU, 7-4 ATS) has a ton of speed for Coach Troy Calhoun, with speedy sophomore Tim Jefferson (5 TDs, 2 picks) at quarterback and tailback Asher Clark (736 yds, 5.5 ypc). The defense is outstanding allowing 15 ppg, with only three teams scoring more than 17 points, and that was mighty TCU (20-17), Utah (23-16) and BYU (38-21) – and Utah needed OT to score 23.
Houston (10-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) is a powerhouse offensive team under second-year head coach Kevin Sumlin. Junior QB Case Keenum (43 TDs, 9 picks) leads an offense averaging 44 points, 141 yards rushing and 450 yards passing with junior WR James Cleveland (1,182 yds) and soph WR Tyron Carrier (998 yds). The defense is allowing 28.8 ppg on a 7-0 run over the total.
Gator Bowl (Fri., Jan. 1): A lot of nostalgia will be flowing, the final game for Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden. FSU fans face just a 164-mile drive on Interstate 10 from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and are expected to show up in droves to see his final game. West Virginia (9-3 SU, 5-6 ATS) is a run-oriented offense averaging 26.6 points and 183 yards rushing behind senior QB Jarrett Brown (11 TDs, 8 INTs, 423 yards rushing) and senior RB Noel Devine (1,297 yds, 5.8 ypc).
West Virginia's defense has allowed some quarterbacks to pile up passing yards, including 378 passing yards to UConn, and FSU has a good air attack. However, Seminoles’ junior QB Christian Ponder (14 TDs, 7 picks) is out with a separated right throwing shoulder and won’t play, so they have gone with redshirt freshman QB E.J. Manuel (2 TDs, 6 INTs) the last three games. West Virginia is 4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS the last four years in bowls, and all 4 went over the total.
Rose Bowl (Fri., Jan. 1): Contrast in styles, as Ohio State is a plodding offense, while Oregon is a wide-open 21st century spread attack. Ohio State (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) is mostly a running offense (29 points, 199 yds rushing pg) under sophomore QB Terrelle Pryor (16 TD, 10 picks), who also leads the Buckeyes in rushing with 707 yards. The new-look defense has been great, allowing 12 ppg.
Oregon (10-2 SU/7-5 ATS) runs a wide-open attack under first-year HC Chip Kelly, averaging 37.7 points and 236 yards rushing and 188 passing behind junior QB Jeremiah Masoli (15 TDs, 5 picks) and junior QB Nate Costa. Masoli (659 yards rushing) teams with redshirt freshman RB LaMichael James (1,476 yds, 6.9 ypc) in this deadly ground attack out of the spread formation. Oregon is 2-0 SU/ATS the last two years in bowls, both sailing over the total.
Cotton Bowl (Sat., Jan. 2): This should be a fun offensive show. Mississippi (8-4 SU/4-6 ATS) has a talented team for Houston Nutt. He is 16-8 SU, 13-9 ATS here. Junior QB Jevan Snead (20 TDs, 17 picks) and senior WR Shay Hodge (1,023 yards) lead a balanced offense averaging 30 points and 182 yards rushing. The ground game is loaded behind sophomore RB Brandon Bolden and 5-foot-8 senior RB/WR Dexter McCluster (985 yards, 6.7 ypc), who also has 475 yards receiving.
Oklahoma State (9-3 SU/5-5-1 ATS) has battled injuries but had a fine season. The offense goes no-huddle at times, averaging 30 points, 191 yards rushing and 184 passing behind senior QB Zac Robinson (15 TDs, 8 picks), though he missed a game late in the season with a concussion. The Cowboys are on a 15-9 ATS run.
Fiesta Bowl (Mon., Jan. 4): Boise State (13-0 SU/8-4 ATS) has been a juggernaut, beating No. 16 Oregon in the opener, 19-8, and not stopping since. They average 44 points, 194 yards rushing and 266 passing behind sophomore QB Kellen Moore (39 TDs, 3 INTs, 3,325 yards), while junior RBs Jeremy Avery (1,130 yds, 5.7 ypc) and Doug Martin (723, 6.4 ypc) average over 5.6 yards per carry.
TCU (12-0 SU, 9-2 ATS) also has a powerful ground game (256 yds rushing pg) on an offense averaging 40 points and 212 yards passing. Coach Gary Patterson has junior QB Andy Dalton (22 TDs, 5 picks), senior RB Joseph Turner (732 yards) and freshman RB Matt Tucker (667 yds, 6.4 ypc). The bone-jarring defense (No. 3 in the country) gives up just 12 ppg. These teams met in the Poinsettia Bowl one year ago, with TCU winning 17-16 as 3-point favorites handing the Broncos their only loss the past two seasons.