Mandel: Ranking the Bowls 1-34

SI.com’s Stewart Mandel recently ranked all 34 bowl games.

Here are his top 5:

1) BCS National Championship Game (Jan. 7): Alabama (13-0) vs. Texas (13-0). It’s the first-ever matchup of two 13-0 teams. Colt McCoy. Mark Ingram. Rolando McClain. Sergio Kindle. Yeah, I’m thinking you might want to tune in.

2) Sugar (Jan. 1): Cincinnati (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1). It’s spread vs. spread, Tim Tebow vs. Tony Pike, Mardy Gilyard vs. Joe Haden. It may be a letdown game for the Gators, but it should still be entertaining.

3) Fiesta (Jan. 4): TCU (12-0) vs. Boise State (13-0). Enough with the outrage, people: You know you’re going to watch. The nation’s No. 1 passer, Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore, goes up against the nation’s top-ranked defense.

4) Rose (Jan. 1): Ohio State (10-2) vs. Oregon (10-2). Dangerous dual-threat star Jeremiah Masoli is what Terrelle Pryor was supposed to be. But the Buckeyes present the toughest defense the Ducks have faced since Boise.

5) Orange (Jan. 5): Georgia Tech (11-2) vs. Iowa (10-2). You remember the Hawkeyes. They love low scores and dramatic finishes. With a month to prepare, can Pat Angerer, Tyler Sash and Co. stifle Josh Nesbitt and the triple-option?

That’s how I would have my top 5, although the Fiesta and Sugar bowls might be interchangeable. I love watching TCU’s defense play and I’m intrigued about how Gary Patterson will game plan to stop Boise’s offense. That said, I’m interested to see how Cincinnati responds after Brian Kelly ditched them for Notre Dame.

I know Georgia Tech’s triple-option is exciting to watch and Iowa does have a solid front seven, but that matchup just doesn’t have the same appeal as the other four. Maybe it’ll wind up being the best BCS game of the season, but the matchup offers little sizzle compared to the other top bowls.


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2009 BCS Bowl Projections Version 1.0

SI.com’s Stewart Mandel compiled his projections for all 34 bowl matchups and this is how things shook out in the BCS Bowls:

BCS Championship: Alabama vs. Texas
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. TCU
Fiesta: Iowa vs. Boise State
Sugar: Florida vs. Pittsburgh
Rose: Ohio State vs. Oregon

Is it just me or are those some pretty lousy matchups outside of the BCS title game (Colt McCoy vs. ‘Bama’s defense is intriguing, I don’t care what anyone says)? I’m not saying that those teams aren’t deserving of those bowls, but I’m not entirely sure I’d like to see Iowa play Boise in one of the “big” bowls.

That said, a Georgia Tech-TCU matchup would be intriguing because I would love to see the Horned Frogs try and defense the Jackets’ potent triple-option. TCU has one of the fastest and most aggressive defenses in the nation and it would be a thrill to watch them try and contain Jonathan Dwyer for four quarters.

Something tells me an Ohio State-Oregon matchup wouldn’t be that bad either outside of the fact that the Buckeyes always lay duds in bowl games. OSU has a solid defense, although Jeremiah Masoli and company might tear them to pieces.

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from Mandel’s projections (outside of the fact that he has ‘Bama beating Florida in the SEC Championship Game, that is) is that he predicts Pittsburgh to beat Cincinnati in two weeks. The Bearcats can light up a scoreboard, but teams that can run straight at their defense have had success and the Panthers might be able to do that when the two teams square off next Saturday for the top spot in the Big East.’

For those of you who are like me that would rather see a playoff system determine the champion in college football, check out John Paulsen’s breakdown of how a postseason would look like this season.


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Georgia Tech’s backfield looks unstoppable

Besides earning a victory to move into first place in the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech’s goal this week was to make sure that their upset over Virginia Tech last Saturday counted for something.

With their impressive 34-9 win over the Cavaliers in Week 8, the Yellow Jackets accomplished their goal.

With all due respect to Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams, the combination of Jonathan Dwyer, Anthony Allen and Josh Nesbitt gives Georgia Tech the best backfield in the ACC. The trio rushed for 310 yards on 56 carries against Virginia on Saturday as the Yellow Jackets’ triple option once again took over the game. The Cavilers were very much in control in the first half, but Georgia Tech ran away (excuse the pun) with the game in the third and forth quarters.

Virginia also blew plenty of opportunities offensively in the red zone. But give credit to Georgia Tech’s defense for producing a couple of big plays, perhaps none bigger than Rashaad Reid’s hit on Kris Burd in the end zone to break up what could have gotten the Cavaliers back in the game in the second half.

If the Yellow Jackets’ defense continues to match the production of the offense, then they’ll stay atop the Coastal Division standings. It’s time to stop calling Georgia Tech a one-dimensional team and start giving Paul Johnson’s program credit for being a sound football team.

VA Tech’s title dreams evaporate in loss to Georgia Tech

Only once in the history of the BCS has a two-loss team every played for the national title (LSU in 2007). So forgive the Virginia Tech Hokies if they’re not feeling too good about their title hopes after they were upset 28-23 by Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Hokies became yet another victim of the Yellow Jackets’ option attack as quarterback Josh Nesbitt passed for only 51 yards, but gained 122 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Running back Jonathan Dwyer added 82 yards on 20 carries in the victory.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when VA Tech played like a team with something on the line. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor rushed for a 22-yard touchdown to cut Georgia Tech’s lead to 21-16, but Nesbitt scored on a 39-yard touchdown with three minutes remaining to put the Jackets back up 28-16. Ryan Williams scored on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Taylor with just under two minutes remaining, but it was too little too late. Despite making strides as a passer the past couple weeks, Taylor struggled outside of the fourth quarter.

What a win for Georgia Tech. They quieted many pundits that deemed them overrated and one-dimensional by turning in a solid defensive effort to go along with their potent option attack. The Jackets turned some heads tonight.

With the Hokies’ loss, the Coastal Division is now wide up. Between VA Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia, the division is completely up for grabs.

2009 CFB Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Check out our other 2009 college football previews.

Preseason Ranking: No. 15 in AP Top 25; No. 15 in USA Today Poll.

Key Returning Players: Jonathan Dwyer (RB); Josh Nesbitt (QB); Demaryius Thomas (WR); Lucas Cox (RB); Anthony Allen (RB); Roddy Jones (RB); Cord Howard (G); Dan Voss (C) Tyler Melton (WR); Scott Blair (K/P); Anthony Barnes (LB); Morgan Burnett (S); Derrick Morgan (DE); Mario Butler (CB); Sedric Griffin (LB), Kyle Jackson (LB), Dominique Reese (S); Rashaad Reid (CB).

Key Losses: Michael Johnson (DE); Vance Walker (DT); David Brown (OT); Andrew Gardner (OT); Darryl Richard (DT); Jabi Word-Daniels (CB).

Player to Watch: Jonathan Dwyer, RB.
In Anthony Allen, Roddy Jones and Lucas Cox, the Jackets boast a slew of talented backs, although Dwyer is the cream of the crop. Running backs coach Brian Bohannon worked all spring on trying to find ways to get his best players on the field more, including lining his backs up in both the A-back and B-back positions in Tech’s offense. A legitimate Heisman candidate, Dwyer is often the most exciting player on the field and thanks to Bohannon’s new schemes, the back should get even more opportunities to shine in ‘09. As long as a recent hip flexor injury doesn’t slow him down, Dwyer should be in for another great season.

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