CFB Bowls: 10 Teams That Will Use Bowl Game to Gain Momentum for 2012
Any college coach will confess that one of the greatest parts about qualifying for any bowl game is the extra practice allowed under NCAA rules. When a team qualifies for the postseason the young players on the squad are afforded extra weeks' worth of work that can be hugely beneficial before spring practice and the next season.
Young teams especially benefit and often create huge momentum for the following season. Successful bowls often lead to higher preseason rankings the next season and create buzz and confidence for a program.
Here are 10 teams that will use their 2011 bowl game to gain momentum for the 2012 season.
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The Florida Gators had an uncharacteristic up-and-down 2011 season. Plagued by poor play on both sides of the ball and a brutal schedule, Florida limped to a 6-6 finish.
The Gators are matched up against a similar team in 6-6 Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.
Florida will benefit greatly from another month of practice and teaching from head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. For example, a player like freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel will be a better-equipped player for next season due to his efforts during bowl practices and spring practice.
Expect this team to beat an Ohio State team in transition and carry the success into next season.
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State was predicted by most pundits to be a national title contender in 2011. The team severely underachieved, losing three games in the ACC and finishing 8-4 overall.
The Seminoles are matched up against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.
FSU could create similar buzz and expectations they had this preseason for next year if they play well and beat Notre Dame. With quarterback E.J. Manuel returning and several great recruiting classes over the last few years, FSU is poised to return to a BCS bowl level sooner rather than later.
The Champs Sports Bowl is a matchup between two nationally known programs, and is a game FSU will use to better position itself for 2012.
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Auburn probably overachieved in 2011, finishing 7-5 and 4-4 in the SEC. They lost tremendous players such as Cam Newton and Nick Fairley from their 2010 national championship squad.
The youth movement for Auburn played well at times this season and gained valuable experience. That combined with a great 2011 recruiting class should mean solid future results for the program.
Auburn will be back. It will probably be in 2012.
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Oregon won the inaugural Pac 12 championship and qualified for their second Rose Bowl in three seasons.
The scary part for the rest of the country is that Oregon is a very young team and has key people coming back next year.
Oregon's offense could be loaded once again in 2012 if running back LaMichael James returns. Combine that with quarterback Darron Thomas and the extremely talented running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas and you have a national title contender.
Expect Oregon to use the national stage of the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin to pave their way to a 2012 preseason top-five ranking.
TCU Horned Frogs
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TCU had a fantastic follow-up campaign to their memorable 2010 undefeated season. TCU finished the year 10-2, beat Boise State and won the Mountain West Conference in their final season as a member. TCU plays the WAC champion Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Next year the Horned Frogs join the renovated Big 12. TCU returns quarterback Casey Pachall and possibly defense standout Tanner Brock if he doesn't go pro.
TCU will be right in the thick of the Big 12 title chase alongside still-rebuilding Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State loses quarterback Brandon Weeden, and their stud receiver Justin Blackmon is going to the NFL.
TCU may be back in the BCS next season in part after a big time bowl effort this year.
West Virginia Mountaineers
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West Virginia won the mediocre Big East this season. Their reward is a matchup against Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Win or lose, West Virginia should be able to springboard their program ahead for next season. First-year head coach Dana Holgorsen has done a solid job of keeping the team focused despite off-field distractions and surprising losses.
With a 2012 Heisman candidate returning in quarterback Geno Smith, West Virginia should get valuable experience in the Orange Bowl this year before really gelling next season in the Big East of Big 12.
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Even with Missouri leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, the Tigers have a chance to build solid "energy" going into the offseason.
Sophomore quarterback James Franklin has been largely overshadowed by the other Big 12 quarterbacks such as RG III, Brandon Weeden and Collin Klein. That will not be the case next year.
The SEC lacks big-time quarterbacks. James Franklin will become one of the better players in the SEC at that position next season.
Missouri also returns several key players on both offense and defense. This year was simply a buildup to better things in the future.
The Tigers will compete in the down SEC East. Expect Mizzou to win the Independence Bowl over North Carolina and build towards a better 2012.
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Despite their 7-5 finish this season, Texas is headed in the right direction.
After missing a bowl in 2010, Texas hired new offensive and defensive coordinators. Texas was vastly improved on defense this year under coordinator Manny Diaz. Texas was physical again on defense and with their always great recruiting will be even better next year and beyond.
Combine that with the up-and-coming play of young quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy and Texas has a team to be reckoned with next year.
Texas will beat Cal in the Holiday Bowl and be a top-15 team next year.
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Georgia had a roller coaster season in 2011. After losing their two opening games, Georgia rolled off 10 straight wins until losing handily to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
Georgia may be even better next season with the return of many starters off a tremendous defense. They also will return possibly the best quarterback in the SEC in Aaron Murray. Young running back Isaiah Crowell will also be back to create one of the best returning backfields in college football.
Georgia plays Big Ten runner-up Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. It will be a tough contest but a nationally featured one on January 2nd.
If Georgia prevails it will carry high expectations for 2012. That will be a welcome sight for Murray, Crowell and head coach Mark Richt.
Brigham Young Cougars
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Brigham Young is a young team on the verge of becoming a bigger and better program. BYU finished 9-3 after losing two of their first three games.
BYU features a future NFL first-round pick at quarterback in Jake Heaps. Heaps should benefit from more practice leading up to the Armed Forces Bowl against Tulsa.
Heaps and BYU have marquee games next year against Notre Dame and Boise State, to name a couple. BYU will beat Tulsa in the bowl game and springboard themselves into the BCS discussion in 2012.