NCAA Bowl Predictions: Meineke Car Care, Champs Sports, Emerald Bank

Dumont WalkerSenior Analyst IDecember 24, 2008

The second weekend of the 2008-09 Bowl season is here, and we have another full slate of action.

With New Year's just around the corner, that means the games we are watching will be picking up in terms of quality and intensity. That is good for us as the fans and the viewers. We are dubbing Saturday as ACC Saturday considering that three of the 10 ACC teams chosen to participate in bowl games will be in action.

Let’s take a look at the action.


Meineke Car Care Bowl: West Virginia vs. North Carolina

2008 was not the year that West Virginia envisioned. But, once you blow a game to East Carolina in the early portion of the season, it can be difficult to get your program back on track. Under new head coach Bill Stewart, the Mountaineers have transformed their spread option into a passing attack.

This has become a double edged sword for WVU. While Pat White has progressed as a passer, he is still adequate at best. However, when they revert to an option team, West Virginia still has plenty of speed to be a dangerous team on the edges.

The North Carolina Tar Heels have had an up and down season. Their eight wins and invitation to a bowl game have to considered as successes, but considering the fact that UNC had a legitimate chance to play for an ACC championship as late as November, and they fell short there will be some in Tar Heel country who are disappointed.

Luckily for Butch Davis, basketball season started up, and frankly no one paid any attention to the football program post Thanksgiving.

The current spread stands with North Carolina as a 1.5-point underdog these tight spreads are always difficult to predict. WVU is coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder.There is no question that finishing third in the Big East and watching Cincinnati take the title left a bitter taste in their mouth. In addition, Bill Stewart needs a marquee win to put beside his name.

However, the problem is, Butch Davis is a very good coach and he will have his Tar Heels up to the challenge. Combine the fact that the Meinke Car Care Bowl is essentially a home game for North Carolina, and I like their chances to take home the victory.


Champs Sports Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Florida State:

The Florida State Seminoles have not played great football this season, but that does not mean that they are a bad team. In all honesty this is one of the better FSU teams I have seen in recent years.

For one, the ‘Noles are running the ball well out of their new pro-style offense. An effective rushing attack is something Florida State has not seen since the late 1990’s. On defense the Seminoles are still a tough team. There were times this season that the aggression on their defensive line and from their linebackers reminded me of the old Florida State teams from the early 1990s.

It appears that the Seminoles and their fans are very fired up for this game. Perhaps they are worried that they may be getting their last glimpses of Bobby Bowden as a head coach.

There was a time when the Wisconsin Badgers were thought to be contenders for a Big Ten championship. Those days seem long forgotten as the Badgers limped their way down the stretch.

When you watch Wisconsin play football, you get a true dose of what the game used to look like. Wisconsin runs an old school set on offense. This means they will like up with a fullback and at least one tight end on every play. The Badgers enter the game ranked 12th in the country in rushing averaging right at 212 yards a game.

They have lacked consistency at the quarterback position all season that is what led to the switch and Dustin Sherer getting the starting job with six games left in the season. But even that change has not led to an explosion in the passing attack.

The Champs Bowl marks the first time that Florida State and Wisconsin have ever matched up in a game. Florida State typically avoids playing Big Ten teams, but if they were going to break that trend, Wisconsin is the team to do it against.

The Badgers lack of a passing game means they have to play right into the strengths of the Florida State defense. Combine that with the fact that the Wisconsin students were still in exams as late as the third week of December meaning that UW has not hit the practice field as hard as they should have recently, and you are looking at a troublesome situation.

The spread favors Florida State by six points, and I like their chances to cover that mark and chalk up a victory.



Emerald Bank Bowl: Cal vs. Miami

The Miami Hurricanes have to be considered one of the great turnaround stories in the ACC this season.

There is no doubt that what Randy Shannon has done with this program in a very short time is close phenomenal. And what is the thanks he gets for his great coaching effort?

A trip across country two play Cal who is playing in their back yard, just two days after Christmas.

The Hurricanes platooned their quarterbacks all season using both Jacory Harris and Robert Marve. Head coach Randy Shannon typically went with who ever had the hot hand at the moment. This could prove to be frustrating for opposing defenses because they were never sure who to prepare for and needed to be ready for anything.

The Cal Bears have the best kept secret in college football. His name is sophomore running back Jahvid Best who exploded onto the scene with his 311 yard rushing performance in the Cal season finale.

Best is already on the Heisman watch list for next season. The Cal offense really centers on what Jahvid Best can do with his legs. The Bears struggled to find consistency at the quarterback position all season and never developed much of a threatening aerial attack.

What Cal does do is well is create turnovers.They had 23 interceptions as a team this season that is good for third most in the NCAA. Cal runs an aggressive 3-4 scheme that creates pressure and confuses most quarterbacks.

Look for Cal to rely on a heavy dose of their defense to support them in the Emerald Bank Bowl. By bringing pressure and constantly changing coverage’s, they will be able to confuse the young quarterbacks of Miami. The spread has Cal favored by eight points. That’s a lot of points, and I am a little nervous about the amount, but I believe the Cal Bears have enough in the tank to pull out the victory and cover the spread.

In the end, the trip across the country, the young quarterbacks and playing essentially a road game will be too much for the Miami Hurricanes to overcome.