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Let the bowls begin


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Let the bowls begin


At least I had my fix of college football over the weekend. I had the privilege of calling the Division II national championship game in Florence, Ala., as Grand Valley State beat Northwest Missouri State 17-14.


But I'm sure a lot of you were feeling a little empty without some big-time Division I games to watch on Saturday. It's been a heck of a season, full of big games, big stories, big surprises and big upsets.


Here's my review of the biggest, followed by a preview of the best of the bowl season, which starts Tuesday:


Biggest game: Ohio State at Texas

It wasn't the best game, but it was the biggest. It shaped the remainder of the season.


This game solidified Ohio State's dominance and place at the top of all the polls. There wasn't any question about the Buckeyes after this win in Week 2.


This was a tough decision, but I still think it was the biggest game of the year. The Michigan-OSU game was the best game of the year.


Biggest story: Florida International-Miami brawl

Maybe it's because I live in Florida, but I think this story did have the most legs of any during the entire season. Larry Coker lost his job over it (a 6-6 record didn't help), Don Strock lost his job over it (a winless record didn't help), Miami broadcaster Lamar Thomas lost his job over it, and Miami's season never recovered from it.


Biggest surprise: The Big East

With five out of its eight teams playing in postseason bowls – and three unbeaten teams at the start of November – the Big East had a huge year. Rutgers' great season had Miami calling on Greg Schiano. Louisville and West Virginia were in the top echelon all year. And South Florida finished the season strong, beating West Virginia and finishing 8-4.


The second biggest surprise was Rich Rodriguez turning down Alabama to stay in West Virginia – I do think it was the right choice, however. And Wake Forest's ACC title has to be mentioned as well.


Biggest upset: UCLA over USC

Almost a no-brainer here. I thought UCLA had a chance. Lee Corso thought the Bruins had a chance. But I don't think anybody actually believed it would happen. The Trojans had looked invincible in November. And this one really shook up the rankings and put Florida in the title game.





Bowl season begins

The 2006 regular season is over, and the bowl season begins Tuesday I think it starts a little too early and ends a little too late, but the schedule does give us diehard college football fans more time and more opportunity to enjoy the matchups. With 32 bowls, there are going to be some exciting games for sure.


These are my "must see, don't miss" bowl games just in case you can't watch all 32.


Poinsettia Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. TCU

Dec. 19, 8 ET (ESPN2). The first bowl of the season. That's reason enough.


Emerald Bowl: Florida State vs. UCLA

Dec. 27, 8 ET (ESPN). It will be interesting to see if UCLA still will be riding the high from its amazing win over USC. Florida State's season was very disappointing, but the 'Noles have a chance to end it on a high note. Both programs will have a lot to prove. Was the USC win a fluke? Does Florida State have enough heart, talent and the game plan to beat UCLA?


What else do you have to do on a Wednesday night?


Meineke Car Care Bowl: Navy vs. Boston College

Dec. 30, 1 ET (ESPN). Both teams are 9-3. Boston College was hoping for an ACC title and an Orange Bowl bid. Instead the Eagles lost their coach. Navy lost its starting quarterback in the seventh game but has the No. 1 rushing offense in the country. Sit back and enjoy this one.


Chick-fil-A Bowl: Georgia vs. Virginia Tech

Dec. 30, 8 ET (ESPN). Besides the fact that my kids love Chick-fil-A, this should be a really good game. Georgia ended the season strong, with wins over Auburn and Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs basically are playing at home in this one. Virginia Tech has been playing some serious Beamer-ball, finishing the season with six wins in a row. This should be a big-time defensive battle.


Gator Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. West Virginia

Jan. 1, 1 ET (CBS). Besides the stomping the Yellow Jackets got from what looked like an invincible Clemson team (at the time), Georgia Tech lost to Notre Dame, Georgia and Wake Forest by a total of 10 points. Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson have to have a big day against West Virginia's lackluster passing defense.


But the Mountaineer offense, led by running back Steve Slaton, ranks second in the country in rushing and fourth in scoring. Georgia Tech will be relying heavily on its 11th-ranked rush defense. This is an interesting matchup and should kick off New Year's Day with a bang.


Rose Bowl: USC vs. Michigan

Jan. 1, 5 ET (ABC). Forgive the pun or cliché or whatever the heck you want to call it, but this really should be "the granddaddy of them all." The Rose Bowl should be the most exciting and closest of all the big games. If you didn't know the Bowl Championship Series championship game was a week later, you'd think the Rose Bowl was it.


USC looked shaky at times during the season but rolled through November and dismantled Notre Dame. But now the Trojans have tons to prove after losing the game that would have put them in the national championship. Does anybody think that if Lloyd Carr had lobbied publicly for the Michigan-Ohio State rematch that he might have gotten it? That's the problem with the dadgum BCS, emotion and subjectivity can decide this thing. I do believe that Michigan is playing where it belongs under the current system. This one will be an instant classic.


Orange Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Louisville

Jan. 2, 8 ET (Fox). It's the only bowl game of the day, and these two teams have had great seasons beyond most people's expectations. Neither team dominates in any category, but they are well-rounded and well-matched. Wake Forest seems to take advantage of every scoring opportunity, and its defense comes up with interceptions.


Louisville's offense is on a roll with quarterback Brian Brohm, and its kicker, Art Carmody, set a school record with 46 career field goals, including 20 in 23 attempts this year. Could this one come down to the kicking game like last year's Orange Bowl (when Penn State edged Florida State)?


Sugar Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU

Jan. 3, 8 ET (Fox). Again, even if it weren't the only game on this day, I'd still tell you to watch it. LSU's offense is 10th in the nation in scoring; Notre Dame's is 12th. LSU's total defense is second; Notre Dame's is 45th. But there always are the intangibles – like Brady Quinn. This is his last game as a collegiate athlete after a spectacular career. His NFL draft position probably is solidified no matter what he does in the Sugar Bowl. However, Quinn has shown his heart this year, and I just wonder if he might have one of those special, spectacular, magical performances. Don't miss this one.


BCS championship: Florida vs. Ohio State

Jan. 8, 8 ET (Fox). If you are a college football fan, casual or rabid, you will watch this game. I have tons of Gator fans listening to my radio show every day, so I have to be real careful here.


The Gators have a chance to beat Ohio State. Do you think two Gator quarterbacks (Chris Leak and Tim Tebow) added together can equal one Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (Troy Smith)? I don't. If the Gator defense comes up with a score, and Percy Harvin breaks one for 60 or 70 yards, the Gators can win. Barring those types of events, Ohio State should dominate the game.


Florida deserves to be playing in the game (the Gators played one heck of a tough SEC schedule), but I still think Michigan is just a little bit better football team. Smith should add a national championship trophy to go with his Heisman.





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