TMRZoo BCS Bowl Games Preview, Part I

tebowThe end of this year’s college football season has been anything but normal. In just the past week, we have had the head coach of one of the premier teams in the nation resign for health reasons, and then unresign then very next day, deciding to take a leave of absence instead, and then we had the head coach of another major school suspended, then fired for allegedly mishandling one of his players.

In this review, we will look at the BSC Bowl Games for January 1st. Check back with us next week for an exclusive TMRZoo review of the Fiesta Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the BCS Championship Game.

ROSE BOWL

ohio-state (8) OHIO STATE vs

oregon

(7) OREGON

4:30 PM ET, January 1, 2010

The Oregon Ducks started the 2009 campaign ranked #16 in the AP Pre-Season poll. By the end of the first game, a tough 19-8 loss against Boise State, they not only were out of the Top 25 and looking in, but they had lost their starting running back, senior LeGarrette Blount.

They didn’t lose him to injury, or anything noble like that. No, Blount, who couldn’t handle Boise’s game-long trash talking any longer, or the embarrassment of the loss, took matters in his own hands and sucker punched one of their defensive players after the game while the teams met mid-field to shake hands. If that wasn’t bad enough, Blount then went into the stands against some fans that were yelling at him and had to be restrained by his teammates.

Welcome to Oregon, new head coach, Chip Kelly. What Kelly has done since is nothing short of amazing. He has transformed the entire program in a very short time. Yes, they lost one other game this season, but only one other game. They finished the season 10-2.

In the process of putting one of the most embarrassing nights in the school’s history behind them, the Ducks had two of the best nights in their history. On Halloween night, they crushed conference rival, then ranked #5 USC, 47-20 while gaining over 600 offensive yards doing it. Then on the last night of the regular season, they beat in-state rival Oregon State 37-33 to earn the trip to the Rose Bowl.

The week after they gave the beat down to USC, they destroyed then #6 California 42-3. In fact, after the opening day loss to Boise State, the Ducks didn’t lose again until November 7th against Stanford.

QB Jeremiah Masoli leads the Ducks offense with 2066 yards and 15 TD (5 INT). He’ll be throwing the ball to leading receiver Jeff Maehl, who led the team with 686 yards and 6 TD. The Ducks rushing attack will be led by freshman LaMichael James, who as Blount’s replacement, ran for 1,476 yards and 14 touchdowns. Also contributing will be Blount, who after being suspended all season has been reinstated in Week 11 by Coach Kelly.

They will be going against the Buckeye’s highly touted defense. The Buckeyes have held opponents to 12.2 points and 262.5 total yards per game, and an average of 83.4 yards on the ground (5th in the nation).

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor also had a very good season. He finished the year with 1828 yards and 18 TD (5th in conference). However, according to ESPN, he did reveal on Monday that he has a slight tear in his PCL of one of his knees (although he wouldn’t say which one). This is not good news for Ohio State. Pryor is also their leading rusher this season (707 yards, 7 TD) for their 19th ranked rushing game. Right behind him is RB Brandon Saine with 694 yards and 4 TD.

The Buckeyes finished the season strong against two Top 11 teams. In Week 10 they beat #11 Penn State, 24-7, then the very next week they beat #10 Iowa 27-24 in an overtime thriller to get into the Rose Bowl. The season ender against Michigan wasn’t what it used to be, but it was still an exciting win as it capped off another 10-win season for Coach Tressel.

PREDICTION: Oregon is currently favored by 4 points. Although both teams finished great against tough opponents, the Ducks have a much better overall offense (ranked
25th in total yards vs OSU ranked 95th), and the injury to Pryor that we really don’t know its severity or when it happened, I’m going with Oregon giving the points.

SUGAR BOWL

bearcat1(3) CINCINNATI VS

gator(5) FLORIDA

8:30 PM ET, January 1, 2010

This game has more subplots in it than any other game in the entire Bowl Season. One barely even knows where to begin. Do you start with the players or the coaches? Which team? It’s almost a coin flip.

For the longest time this season, it appeared that the Gators were going to the BCS National Championship Game against Texas. That would have been a fitting end for QB Tim Tebow, arguably one of the greatest college football players of all time. It would have been his 3rd shot at a title in four years.

However, a pesky little team from Alabama, who just happened to have the best defense in the nation, intervened and absolutely slaughtered them at the SEC Championship Game, forcing the Gators to go to the Sugar Bowl against the Bearcats instead.

Now a January 1st BCS Bowl game against the 3rd ranked team in the nation is really not such a bad thing. In fact, it’s still something to be pretty proud of. It’s just not what Gator Nation envisioned or planned for throughout the season. Nor is it the ending the Nation had envisioned for Tebow’s swan song.

On the other side of the ball for the Gators, DE Carlos Dunlap will be returning after being suspended by Coach Urban Meyer for the SEC Championship Game. Dunlap, a team defensive leader, was suspended for receiving a DUI a few days before the game. In fact, he was caught asleep at the wheel of a running car, sitting at a green light at 3 AM. His return will make a world of difference.

And it’s not only the Gators who looked like they were going to the Title Game. For just a moment, at the end of the Big 12 Championship Game between Texas and Nebraska, it appeared that Cincinnati may have been going to the Dance as well. It initially appeared that time had run out on Texas, which would have given Nebraska the win and put the Bearcats in the #2 spot, but a replay review put one second back on the clock. Texas regrouped, kicked a field goal and won the game, reclaiming their spot that they lost for that brief moment in time.

But the real story of this game may be the coaching situation. On the Gator’s sideline, you have Urban Meyer who will be coaching his last game for the foreseeable future. On the Bearcat’s sideline, you have brand new head coach Quinn Jones, who hasn’t even coached a single down for Cincinnati yet.

In case you’ve been in a cave or under a rock for the past week, I’ll tell you that Florida coach Meyer suddenly and without any notice resigned last weekend due to health concerns. The very next day, he changed his mind and decided to take an indefinite leave of absence instead. Over the course of the past week, we have come to learn that Coach Meyer was far sicker than he ever let on, even to the point that he was rushed to the hospital the night of the SEC Championship Game with pains in his chest and tingling down his side.

Since that night, Meyer reportedly been to the hospital several times. After the Cotton Bowl, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will take the reins until Meyer feels ready to return.

The Bearcats’ situation is nearly as crazy. Just a few weeks ago, their head coach, Brian Kelly, who took them to their first undefeated season in school history (12-0), suddenly up and left for the vacant job at Notre Dame. That left the team with interim coach offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn to run the team and lead them against Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

Well, that lasted all of about five days until the school hired Jones from Central Michigan. But, according to all reports, Quinn is still the one preparing the team for the game. After all, it is his offense that was 2nd in the nation in yards per play (7.28).

And after the Sugar Bowl, Quinn is outta there too. He’s shufflin’ off to Buffalo to take over that job. Yeah, just a few distractions going on in this contest.

But, we still have one of the top offenses (Cin 5th in nation PPG – 39.8, 6th in YPG – 464.3) against one of the top defenses in the nation (FL 3rd in nation in PPG – 11.2, 4th in YPG – 252.8).

The Gators’ overall offense is ranked 13th (34.7 PPG), but the passing game is not what it used to be when Tebow had Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy to throw to. This season he had Riley Cooper (780 Yds, 8 TD) and Aaron Hernandez (739 Yds, 4 TD) to toss to.

Still, they should have no problems at all against the Bearcats’ defense (25th in points allowed, 20.8) or their pass attack (50th, 209.3 yards per game).

Cincinnati’s QB Tony Pike is no slouch either. He finished the season ranked 21st in the nation (261.1 YPG). He led the Bearcats’ 6th ranked passing offense in the nation (320.3 YPG), but they’ll be going against a pass defense that ranked 2nd in the nation (150.5 YPG).

Florida’s other main weapon is Tebow’s ability to run the ball. Again, he was the team’s leading rusher (859 yds, 13 TD). Cincinnati is 56th in the nation against the run (141.0 YPG) and they’ve allowed 16 rushing TD. That doesn’t bode well for the Bearcats.

PREDICTION: The Gators are favored by 13. The Bearcats can probably stop Tebow from getting to Cooper, but they may not keep him out of the end zone. Still, 13 is a lot for a team who has underperformed in many games this season. The Gators will not let Tebow lose his last game as a Gator, but they won’t win by 13. I’ll take the Bearcats with the points.

Don’t forget to check back with us next week to see our reviews of the Fiesta Bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the BCS Championship Game.