College Football Pick'em: New Year's Day Games

Dumont WalkerSenior Analyst IDecember 31, 2008

New Year's Day means hangovers and while you were probably up too late the night before and you may already be regretful for how you brought in 2009, there is a slight measure of redemption.

New Year's Day is a time to sit at home on your sofa and watch all the great bowl games. That’s right; college football can heal all wounds. So let’s take a look at our College Football Pick’em for New Years Day.

Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Iowa:

The Iowa Hawkeyes had their breakout moment of 2008 when they knocked off then-undefeated Penn State.

While that win gave the Hawkeyes national accolades, their best player still went widely unnoticed on the national scene. That is, until he won the Doak Walker award for the nation’s top tailback.

All Shonn Greene did this season was rack up over 1,700 yards on the ground. Greene is the only back in the country to rush for over 100 yards in every game this season.

He also scored a touchdown in all but one game on the year. Not bad for a guy who was moving furniture and attending community college last season.

The Iowa defense is one of the strongest defenses in the country. The Hawkeyes were able to hold opponents to nine points or less in five games this season.

In addition, they forced 20 interceptions this season, that’s good enough to lead the Big 10 in that category. This could prove to be very important for the Hawkeyes, considering that South Carolina has had a mess at the quarterback position all season.

Chris Smelley tossed 15 interceptions this season, and while Stephen Garcia got the nod to be the starter for the Outback Bowl, you can bet that it won’t take much for Steve Spurrier to pull the plug on him.

The Gamecocks have been an up-and-down team all season, but then again what else would you expect from a Steve Spurrier coached team, controversy goes with the territory.

South Carolina crumbled down the stretch, losing their last two games by a combined score of 87-20. Needless to say, the Gamecocks need to have a good outing in the Outback Bowl.

Despite being coached by Steve Spurrier, South Carolina has struggled on offense. They currently rank eighth in the SEC in scoring averaging just 21.9 points a game.

Part of the reason for the Gamecocks' inability to perform on offense is their complete lack of a running game. South Carolina only averaged 98 yards a game on the ground.

That is not enough of a threat to scare any opposing defense. It also means that teams can attack the South Carolina quarterbacks. It doesn’t matter if it is Garcia or Smelley in the pocket, neither one can pass the ball effectively when they are on their back.

The Iowa Hawkeyes are a four-point favorite entering the Outback Bowl. Considering the fact that South Carolina has played poorly in their last two outings, I expect that trend to continue.

If the Gamecocks go down early and begin to struggle, look for Spurrier to press the panic button, and that will spell the end of their chances of finishing the season on a high note.

Capital One Bowl Georgia vs. Michigan State:

Michigan State had a surprising season. Surprising because with one game left in the season, they had an opportunity to win the Big 10 title and play in the Rose Bowl.

Obviously that did not happen. Michigan State fell short of the Rose Bowl because the Spartans were unable to compete with any of the big boys in their conference (OSU, PSU).

For the most part, the Spartans are a one trick pony. That one trick is tailback Javon Ringer. When Penn State and Ohio State bottled up Ringer they were able to dominate Michigan State.

However, the Spartans are playing the Georgia Bulldogs. The same team that blew a double digit led and gave up over 400 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs have had a rough season.

They began the year as the king of the mountain, and before they even lost a game, they were ousted from the No. 1 ranking. To add to insult to injury, Georgia did absolutely nothing to earn back their No. 1 ranking all season.

The Georgia Bulldogs are not a very good team. However, when it comes to bowl games, sometimes you can fall into the perfect situation. This is one of those situations.

Georgia is a heavily flawed team, but they are playing a Michigan State team that plays right into their strengths.

The spread favors Georgia by eight and a half points, I expect the Georgia defense to bottle up Ringer and hold on to cover the spread and win the Outback Bowl.

Gator Bowl Nebraska vs. Clemson:

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are excited about the opportunity to play against an ACC opponent in the Gator Bowl.

The Cornhuskers are excited because playing an ACC team means their defense will not be stretched to the limit, chasing players all over the field trying to keep up with their spread offenses.

ACC teams don’t run the spread (at least not yet). There is one problem with this, however, last time Nebraska played an ACC team; they were unable to stop their power running attack.

Virginia Tech ran for 206 yards when they played Nebraska earlier in the season. What Nebraska does do well is eat up time on the clock.

Gone are the attempts of running a West Coast Offense. Nowadays the Cornhuskers run just about the most balanced attack in the country, and they are pretty good at it.

The Clemson Tigers changed coaches in October and it actually helped them out, as they finished the season on a high note, winning four of their last five games.

All the weapons that were supposed to make the Tigers a national powerhouse this season are still in place, and once Tommy Bowden was gone, they seemed to be able to live up to at least a portion of that pre-season hype.

Clemson is a three-point favorite entering the Gator Bowl. While this may not be the bowl game that Tiger fans envisioned when the season began, they are happy to be in a bowl game when things looked very bleak at the beginning of the season.

Look for Clemson to utilize their running game to control the clock and win the game thus covering the three-point spread.

Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. USC:

Despite being an East Coast guy I have had the opportunity to watch USC play in person this season, and they looked damn good on that occasion. Granted they were playing UVA.

The Trojans have been an interesting team to watch this year. They may have the best defense I have ever seen in college football history.

However, this year’s USC team lacks the high-powered offense we have become accustomed to see from the Trojans over the past few seasons. This means USC often finds themselves in tight contest with inferior teams.

This was the case when they played rival UCLA. Despite winning that game, UCLA was never out of reach. Playing in a tight game like that against Penn State could prove to be dangerous.

UCLA has not faced a team of Penn State’s caliber all season. The PSU defense posses the ability to bottle up the Trojans struggling offense. Penn State’s spread formation will not experience the level of success they are accustomed to in the Big 10 but it should at least put them in some good scoring positions.

The spread favors USC by 10 points, but I have a feeling this game will most likely resemble an old school Rose Bowl.

This means it will be a grind it out type of game, with defense leading the way. USC will win the game, but Penn State will keep things close and cover the 10-point spread.

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati:

This is without a doubt the least appealing of all the BCS Bowl games. Not sure how it worked out that the once-great Orange Bowl, has turned into such a stinker of a bowl game. The Poinsettia Bowl actually showcased two higher ranked teams.

Despite the lack of sex appeal involved with this year’s Orange Bowl, the Cincinnati Bearcats should be proud of how far their program has come in a relatively short amount of time.

The New Year’s Day game with Virginia Tech also gives the Bearcats a chance to exact revenge on the Hokies for their come-from-behind victory against Cincinnati back in 2006.

Cincinnati’s Tony Pike has transformed into a solid quarterback, and he has the stats to back up that claim passing for 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns.

However, putting up yards or points will be difficult against a Virginia Tech team that always showcases a strong defense. On defense, the Bearcats will have their hands full.

Virginia Tech seems to throw the kitchen sink at opponents nowadays. Not because the run a gimmicky offense, but rather they are looking for some form of stability.

In their season finale against instate rival Virginia, the Hokies used three quarterbacks in a variety of formations.

Each QB brings their own unique set of tools to the field. The spread favors the Bearcats by two and a half points. Virginia Tech has a history of blowing big bowl games, but this is Cincinnati’s first experience in the big game.

They will not be ready for the intensity of the moment. Virginia Tech wins the game and covers the two-and-a-half point spread.


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