Well here we are folks. We have arrived at the beginning of the BCS bowl games and we will be taking a look at the Rose and Fiesta bowls while also gandering at the Gator Bowl. The Gator Bowl has a Mississippi State team with an aggressive, fast defense versus one of the most dynamic gamebreakers in the nation. The Rose Bowl pits a Big Ten powerhouse against a team looking to bust the BCS wide open. The Fiesta has the Big XII champs facing off against the unlikely winner of the Big East. While it may look like a blowout on paper, keep in mind that the Sooners have had some problems in Tempe.
The Bowl: Gator
The Matchup: Mississippi State vs. Michigan
The Date: January 1st.
This game has coaches who, like Michigan's offense and defense, are heading in separate directions. On one sideline, you have Rich Rodriguez who might very well be coaching his last game for the Wolverines, and on the other side of the field you have Dan Mullen who has taken his team to a 8-4 record and their first bowl game in years. On the field, the story will be the offense and defense of the Wolverines. Offensively, their quarterback is the conference's top playmaker and the new record holder for rushing yards by a quarterback. Defensively, they cannot stop the run which will play into the strength of the Bulldogs as they come into this match averaging 215 yards per game on the ground.
MSU: Chris Relf, Vick Ballard, Chad Bumphis (not playing)
Michigan: Denard Robinson, Vincent Smith, Roy Roundtree, Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway
A Stat that Matters: Michigan has the 11th best rush offense while Mississippi State has the 20th ranked rush defense.
Robinson has shown he can score on most anyone and that should continue against the Bulldogs. On the year, he has accounted for nearly 4,000 yards of total offense and has 30 total touchdowns. D-Rob is a next level speedster but can also wing the ball around as he has completed 62% of his passes this season. While the spotlight will be on Robinson, the Mississippi State offense is no slouch. They are led by the bruising Ballard who has run for 892 yards and 16 touchdowns. Between Michigan's stellar offense and their measly defense, this could shake out to be a see-saw affair. The difference maker in this game will be whether or not Mississippi State can force the Wolverines to punt at least once or twice.
The Bowl: Rose
The Matchup: Wisconsin vs. TCU
The Date: January 1st.
TCU was hoping to break into the national title game but Oregon and Auburn firmly held their spots which leave the Horned Frogs in the Granddaddy of Them All against the Badgers.
Wisconsin: Scott Tolzien, John Clay, James White, Montee Ball, Lance Kendricks, Nick Toon
TCU: Andy Dalton, Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, Waymon James, Jeremy Kerley, Josh Boyce
A Stat that Matters: Wisconsin has the nation's 12th ranked rushing attack headlined by a three-headed monster of a backfield while TCU comes in giving up just 89 yards on the ground per game which is good for third nationally.
This has the makings of a grind-it-out affair with the game being decided right at the line of scrimmage. It is no mystery that Wisconsin likes to run the ball and they have certainly done that quite well this season. The Badgers have a three-pronged attack behind White, Clay, and Ball and will run right at an opposing defense. TCU has traditionally been very stout against the run but has not seen this sort of challenge all year. Both teams have good defenses but both their offenses are averaging 43.33 points per game. TCU likes to run the ball out of the spread formation but can also pass as witnessed by Dalton's 2,600 yards and 26 touchdowns through the air. Wisconsin has a more than capable quarterback in Tolzien but prefers to line up and push you off the line. This is a perfect opportunity for Wisconsin to return to Rose Bowl glory or for TCU to show that they are worthy of national title consideration.
The Bowl: Fiesta
The Matchup: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma
The Date: January 1st.
Oklahoma belongs here after winning the Big XII but does UConn?
Connecticut: Todman, Todman, and more Jordan Todman
Oklahoma: Landry Jones, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills
A Stat that Matters: Todman is second in the country with 143 yards rushing per game but his quarterback, Zach Frazer, is only averaging 120 yards passing per game to go with just five touchdowns to four picks.
Everyone thinks this is easily the most lopsided bowl game of the year, but we all thought that when the Sooners played Boise State and West Virginia in Tempe before. Oklahoma certainly looks the part with a high-flying offense averaging nearly 480 yards per game while fielding a good defense that is giving up under 22 points per game. UConn on the other hand looks like the odd man out. They started off the first half of their season with losses to Michigan, Temple, and Rutgers (of which only Michigan is in a bowl game) but bounced back in the latter half winning five out of their last six games to finish the season as the Big East champs. UConn has a star tailback in Todman and a defense that has been playing like the ones we are accustomed to seeing under head coach Randy Edsall but have no semblance of a passing attack with Frazer completing just under 53% of his passes. The biggest concern for the Sooners should not necessarily be the Huskies but rather the ghosts of Fiesta Bowls past.