2009 BCS Bowl Preview and Predictions

The 2009 BCS Bowl Season is quickly approaching – not that anyone should care.

I’m not trying to sound bitter, but if the BCS doesn’t care about any of its five bowl games outside of the national championship game, then why should we? All the BCS essentially cares about is figuring out who the top team teams are in college football – and they can’t even do that right.

But I digress. I’m not going to burn another 1,200 words on why college football needs a playoff because it’ll just fall upon deaf ears. Instead, I’ll get into the bowl season spirit and break down the five BCS bowls, as well as hand out predictions for each game.

Predictions are essentially meaningless, but they’re fun so make sure you throw out your picks in the comment section below.

Daryll ClarkRose Bowl: Penn State vs. USC
The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California, January 1, 4:30PM ET ABC
Some college football pundits believe that this one will be over with by halftime, but if Penn State uses Oregon State’s victory over USC as a blueprint for success, the Nittany Lions could make this a tighter game than most expect. PSU tailback Evan Royster has been a playmaker this year and if the Lions can employ him the same way the Beavers’ used Jacquizz Rodgers to beat the Trojans earlier this season, then maybe they can exploit USC’s quick defense. Then again, the Trojans’ D is one of the fastest and most talented units in the country and it won’t be easy for PSU to spread the field on them like they did against Big Ten opponents this season. USC has the most talented linebacker corps in the country and their secondary features two safeties in Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison that blanket the field in both coverage and run support. In order for the Lions to claim victory, quarterback Daryll Clark will have to play mistake free and not try to force action in the passing game. Offensively for USC, quarterback Mark Sanchez has been outstanding, but he will make mistakes. He threw at least one interception in seven games this year and if PSU’s defense can generate some pressure, they could force Sanchez into some turnovers and capitalize on some prime field position. But outside of getting pressure on Sanchez, Penn State needs to tackle well and limit the yards-after-catch opportunities that USC’s receivers thrive upon. Sounds basic enough, but the Trojans have one of the fastest offenses in the league and Sanchez has excelled at taking what defenses give him and in getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers. The Lions would be wise to get 11 defenders around the ball at all times, especially when USC tailback Stafon Johnson gets the opportunity to make plays.
Rose Bowl Prediction: USC 30, Penn State 17.

FedEx Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Dolphin Stadium, Miami, January 1, 8:30PM ET FOX
The job Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly has done this year has been remarkable. This is a team that was ransacked by injuries earlier this season (most notably at quarterback where they’ve used four different starters) and still found a way to win a Big East title. The Bearcats’ offense will revolve around whether or not they can strike a balance between their dynamic passing game, and a sound running game. Kelly’s offense excels at spreading a defense out and attacking the middle of the field with short, timely patterns that allow receivers to make the catch and get up field. While Cincy can strike quick, the offense is at its best when it methodically moves up the field by attacking the seams. Quarterback Tony Pike and his wideouts Dominick Goodman and Marty Gilyard will certainly have their hands full with Virginia Tech’s physical defense. Frank Beamer’s Hokies love to send multiple defenders at the quarterback and force him to get the ball out of his hands quickly and make mistakes. If Pike can’t read the defense at the line, than he’s going to have a long day. Still, the Bearcats have an experienced defense and match up well against an inexperienced Hokie offense. While Tyrod Taylor looked good in the ACC Championship Game against Boston College, he must prove that he can win moving the ball through the air. If the Bearcats contain him and not allow him to keep drives alive with his feet, Tech might struggle putting points on the board. But this game should come down to two things – defense and special teams, which happen to be two things Beamer’s team excels at. Cincinnati has had a hell of a year and this one is going to be tight, but Tech wins a nail bitter down the stretch.
Orange Bowl Prediction: Virginia Tech 21, Cincinnati 20.

Alabama Crimson TideAllstate Sugar Bowl: Utah vs. Alabama
Superdome, New Orleans, 8:00PM ET FOX
Will this be a repeat of the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl game two years ago where an undefeated “no name team” beats the program from the elite conference? Doubtful. The Utes have had a great year and you don’t win 12 games by accident. That said, Alabama has a major advantage up front on both sides of the ball and even though their offense has lacked explosiveness at times this season, the Tide will shove Glen Coffee down Utah’s throat for four quarters and wear them down. Outside of an impressive come-from-behind win over TCU, the Utes haven’t faced a superior opponent all season. ‘Bama has one of the best defensive lines in the nation and will certainly give quarterback Brian Johnson fits. Utah hasn’t faced a defense as fast as the one they’ll play in New Orleans come January 1 and while I hate to fall into the masses that believe that just because Alabama played in a better conference that they’ll roll in this game, I just don’t think Utah has the players up front to win.
Sugar Bowl Prediction: Alabama 34, Utah 14.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Texas
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona, January 5, 8:00PM ET FOX
Outside of the national championship game, this might be the best bowl matchup of the season. Ohio State lost each of their toughest games this season when they were defeated by USC and Penn State, but freshman quarterback Terrell Pryor brings an added dimension to the field and seems to be getting better each game. Of course, it helps having a running back in Chris “Beanie” Wells in the same backfield. An early season injury cost him the opportunity to possibly win the Heisman Trophy, but Wells has been otherwise dominant this season. His blend of speed and power make him one of the best backs in the nation and the Texas defense hasn’t seen a player like Wells all season. For Texas, everything revolves around quarterback Colt McCoy, who has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. McCoy excels at getting the ball out of his hands quickly and accurately, and allowing his receivers to make plays after the catch. And when his receivers are blanketed, McCoy is equally effective with his legs as evidence by his team-leading 576 rushing yards. While many pundits will be quick to assume that Texas will roll in this game because of the Buckeyes’ weak schedule, the fact of the matter is that the Longhorns haven’t faced a defense as good as OSU’s this season. The Buckeyes are experienced and physical on that side of the ball and will certainly focus on getting pressure on McCoy and not allowing receivers Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby to break free for big plays. And if the Buckeyes can control the tempo with Wells and keep McCoy on the sidelines, then an upset could be in the making. But I don’t have the marbles to predict an OSU victory – not after their last two bowl appearances, at least. Texas is still pissed at being snubbed by the BCS and they’ll use this game to prove that they deserved a shot to play in the national championship. In the end, I don’t think Pryor will make enough plays in the passing game for OSU to win.
Fiesta Bowl Prediciton: Texas 30, Ohio State 24.

Sam BradfordBCS National Championship Game: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Dolphin Stadium, Miami, Florida, January 8, 8:00PM ET FOX
With some fantastic storylines, this will be one of the most anticipated national championships ever. 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow faces 2008 winner Sam Bradford. Who will come out on top: Florida’s dynamic defense vs. Oklahoma’s explosive offense? Can Urban Meyer win two titles in three years? Will Bob Stoops lose yet another bowl game? The individual and team matchups are outstanding and it’s too bad a dynamic playmaker like DeMarco Murray will miss the game. Still, the Sooners’ offense is loaded with talent and this is a team that hasn’t scored less than 60 points in over a month. But they’ll face their toughest challenge of the season in the Gators, who have the fastest defenses in the country next to USC. It’ll be interesting to see how Meyer will game plan his defense to stop Bradford, who has seemingly been unstoppable this season. Even in OU’s loss to Texas, Bradford threw for 387 yards and five touchdowns. He’s simply outstanding and his numbers have been extraordinary this season, but as well as he’s played, Tebow has played equally as well. And Tebow didn’t have the luxury of facing weak defenses all year in the SEC like Bradford did playing in the Big 12. Tebow beat LSU, Georgia and Alabama, and did so in convincing fashion. If Percy Harvin is healthy (which he should be), Tebow won’t have any problems putting points on the board against an OU defense that was shredded by Texas and Oklahoma State this season. Both teams will score points, but Florida has the clear advantage on defense and I’ll always take a stout defense over an explosive offense, even if that offense is averaging well over 50 points a game. Bradford will face more pressure in one game than he faced all season.
BSC National Championship Prediction: Florida 44, Oklahoma 37.

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