Meineke Car Care Bowl, Sun Bowl, Liberty Bowl, and Chick-fil-A Bowl Previews

December 31, 2010

I don’t usually make statements like this, but thanks to what I have seen over the past few days, I have to say it. The Big 12 conference is bad. Missouri and Baylor? The Big 10 thanks you for your kindness. Kansas State? Syracuse wants you to know that you’re always welcome to come up to New York to play a bowl game. Nebraska? Jake Locker would like to remind you that he can in fact step out of the pocket and run for a first down, even though he’s trying to make a good last impression on the NFL scouts.

I really had more faith in the Big 12 than I should have. So far, I have lost 12 points (Baylor), 19 points (Kansas State), 31 points (Missouri), and 35 points (Nebraska) on Big 12 teams. Now, I can’t completely blame it on the Big 12 that I am almost surely not going to win my College Bowl Mania group, as I am 7-11 overall. However, I can say that the Big 12 is definitely out of the running for the best conference in the nation award, and also that I am feeling a little less confident that mighty Oklahoma will roll over UConn.

Here are my picks for the December 31st bowl games.

Meineke Car Care Bowl

South Florida vs. Clemson

Statistically, these teams match up very well. However, as many of the bowls this season have proven, games are not played on paper.

South Florida does not have an outstanding offense or defense, and instead relies on keeping games close in order to give them a chance to win. The Bulls will need a big game from quarterback B.J. Daniels if they want to win this one. Daniels is dangerous because he can run about as well (if not better) than he can throw the ball, but has been inconsistent this season. Also, Daniels suffered a leg injury late in the season, and that could potentially affect his performance as well.

Clemson was very close to knocking off Auburn early on in the season. If it hadn’t been for quarterback Kyle Parker injuring his back and being limited because of it in the second half of that game, we may have had a different national championship scenario.

Like the Bulls, Clemson is not overly dominant on either offense or defense. However, the Tigers have been able to score more easily than the Bulls this season. Like South Florida, Clemson will need a big game from their quarterback Parker. He has had his share of heartbreak this year, even being benched during the Tiger’s rivalry game against South Carolina, but is a senior who will be looking to end his career on a high note. Decision making will be key; in South Florida’s upset over ACC member Miami, two interceptions proved to be the difference.

I don’t feel confident about this pick, but my confidence in a team really hasn’t seemed to matter much this bowl season (thanks Nebraska). I have South Florida for 3 points in the College Bowl Mania game.

Final Score: 23-14 South Florida

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Notre Dame vs. Miami (FL)

Those who think that this is a marquee bowl matchup are falling right into the trap that CBS wants you to fall into.

This is nothing more than a couple of mediocre teams that used to be national powers playing against each other in a pre-January 1st bowl game. Miami is going through a coaching change, and lost to South Florida. Notre Dame, while looking like a team that is on the right track, really just watered down their schedule.

Notre Dame is a team that will look to air it out. Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees is 3-0 since taking over the starting job from Dayne Crist after Crist’s injury. An undefeated record as a starter when you’re a freshman is nothing to scoff at, regardless of what teams you beat. However, Rees will have his toughest test yet in Miami, as the Hurricanes give up an ACC best 146.3 yards per game through the air.

Miami has been, quite simply, a disappointment. Jacory Harris has almost as many interceptions as he does touchdowns (14 TDs to 12 INTs), and since Stephen Morris is hurt, Harris will be the field general for the Hurricanes in this game. However, if Harris doesn’t try to do too much by himself, this game will likely come down to how well the Miami defense can contain Notre Dame’s pass offense.

This game will probably be pretty close. I have Miami for 14 points in this one.

Final Score: 27-17 Miami

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Georgia vs. Central Florida

Normally, you might think that a team like Georgia wouldn’t be too thrilled to be playing in a pre New Year’s Day bowl game. However, after the rollercoaster ride the Bulldogs have been on this season, they’re probably glad just to be playing during the holidays.

Georgia started off the season 1-4, and there were even some rumors that Georgia was thinking about getting rid of head coach Mark Richt. During that stretch they had to play two ranked teams in Arkansas and South Carolina, and were without All-American wideout A.J. Green for the first four games. When Green came back, they lost a close one to Colorado, but then ripped off three straight conference wins. At this point in the season the offense finally got going, with quarterback Aaron Murray becoming more comfortable in the pocket. In the bowl game, expect for Murray to look Green’s way often, as UCF has yet to face as good a talent as the 6’4, 207 pound receiver.

It would be unwise to underestimate UCF in this game. The Knights have a very good defense for a C-USA team. They have the best overall defense, best run defense, and the second best pass defense in the conference. Defensive end Bruce Miller will look to disrupt Georgia’s offense by coming after Aaron Murray the entire night. Central Florida isn’t just talented defensively, either. Quarterback Jeff Godfrey is a true freshman, yet has the composure of an upper classman. It will be interesting to see how well he does against an SEC defense.

I am very excited about this game. I think that it will be closer than many people expect, and I picked the upset in this one. I have UCF for 7 points.

Final Score: 16-13 UCF

Chick-fil-A Bowl

South Carolina vs. Florida State

Neither team played particularly well in their conference championship game. South Carolina was blasted by Auburn 56-17, while Florida State lost to Virginia Tech 44-33, the most points they’ve given up since they got pounded by Oklahoma back in September. Both will be looking to end the year (or start the new one, depending on how long the game lasts) on a high note by winning in Atlanta.

South Carolina will need a big game from quarterback Stephen Garcia if they want to win this one. Garcia has been inconsistent this season, but is going up against a Florida State defense that has been suspect against the pass. Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore will get his yards, but it will really come down to whether or not Garcia hits his receivers when they’re open.

Florida State had a good season in Jimbo Fisher’s first as the head man. They will be looking for their 10th win tonight, which would give the Seminoles their first 10 win season since 2003. Like South Carolina, Florida State will need a big game from whoever is calling the plays at quarterback (it is unknown whether Christian Ponder or E.J. Manuel will play in tonight’s game). South Carolina has the worst pass defense in the SEC, and struggled mightily against teams with good quarterback play.

There will be plenty of fireworks in this one to celebrate the New Year. This should be a high scoring game, and could come down to a final possession. I have South Carolina for 22 points, but it should be close.

Final Score: 38-34 South Carolina

– K. Becks

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