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BOWL PREVIEWS: New Year's Day

Another six bowl day. The previews for Jan. 1 and beyond are longer and I don't want the page to stretch downward infinitely, so I'll put the prime time BCS game at top and if you want to see the rest of the previews of some good games, follow the jump.

You can also check out the always-great hopscotch around the college football landscape at SB Nation colleague SMQ. Try as I might, I'm sure he will eclipse my ability.

Meanwhile, Monday was an abysmal day for your faithful scribe. I was 2-4 in picking the winners and 1-5 against the score (within 1 TD of each team). That makes the postseason record 13-8, 6-15 against the score.

Bowl: Allstate Sugar, 8:30 p.m., Fox

Teams: No. 13 Hawaii vs. No. 4 Georgia

Hawaii's season was... Still a matter of considerable debate. Does the 12-0 mark represent a weak WAC schedule that included two DIAAFCSETC teams and only three games (Fresno State, Nevada, Boise State) that could be considered challenging? Or was it the sign of a very good football team? Probably some mixture of the two, with each person having their own idea of which ingredient played the largest role.

Georgia's season was... Not as bad as it once looked nor as great as its fans argue. Yes, the spelling-challenged Dawgs were 10-2. Yes, they defeated Florida and Auburn in surprising fashion late in the season. But the fact remains that Georgia struggled to get by Vanderbilt, lost to South Carolina and got crushed by Tennessee.

Hawaii impact player: QB Colt Brennan's statistics were not as eye-popping this season as last year's numbers, but they were still pretty impressive. In 2007, Brennan was 337-of-472 for 4,174 yards and 38 TDs against 14 INTs. He had three 1,000-yard receivers and two 100-catch receivers.

Georgia impact players: RBs Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno. Brown will get the start, but a banged-up Moreno will play, Mark Richt announced Monday. Not that there's a huge difference between the two. Uberfreshman Moreno rushed for 1,273 yards on 239 carries (5.3 ypc) and 12 TDs, while Brown had 706 yards on 129 carries (5.5 ypc) and 9 TDs. Georgia is at its best when the running game is working, and grinding out the clock will keep Hawaii off the field.

Why Hawaii will win: Sugar Bowl 2005. No one thought West Virginia and its gimmicky offense belonged in the same stadium as Georgia, until the Mountaineers smacked Georgia out of the gate and built up a lead that ended up being just big enough for the win. Now few think that Hawaii and its gimmicky offense belong in the same stadium as Georgia...

Why Georgia will win: It's quite possible that Hawaii and its gimmicky offense don't belong in the same stadium as Georgia, and the Warriors struggle whenever they play on the mainland. Even if the defense has problems, QB Matt Stafford and the running backs give Georgia several ways to hurt an opponent. To win, Hawaii will have to play its best defensive game of the season.

Fun sponsor fact: Their main spokesman is the former president on "24" and a tough-as-nails commander on "The Unit."


Buy my health insurance or I'll kick your *ss.


Prediction: This will be a high-scoring game. Make no mistake: Weak opponents or not, Hawaii can move the football, and will give Georgia more problems than most people expect. But as much as I might like to see it, I can't imagine the Warriors having an answer for the spelling-challenged Dawgs' offense. Georgia pulls away at the end, and "Evil Richt" tacks on a run-up-the-score TD just for fun. Georgia 48, Hawaii 35

The rest of the Tuesday slate, after the jump

Bowl: Outback, 11 a.m., ESPN

Teams: No. 18 Wisconsin vs. No. 16 Tennessee

Wisconsin's season was... Up and down. The Badgers started 5-0 and beat Michigan late in the season. But Wisconsin couldn't get past Ohio State, Illinois or Penn State en route to a 9-3 season.

Tennessee's season was... Schizophrenic. The Vols looked sluggish out of the gate, with a 59-20 annihilation at the hands of Florida capping off a 1-2 opening. Over the course of the season, they were crushed by Alabama, blasted Georgia, manhandled Arkansas and escaped South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky with last-minute wins to finish a 9-3 regular season. Tennessee then came up short against LSU in the SEC championship game.

Wisconsin impact player: RB P.J. Hill might not start, but he will have to play a lot and play well for the Badgers to win. He rushed for 1,080 yards and 14 TDs on 217 carries in 10 games.

Tennessee impact player: QB Erik Ainge has revealed a secret, nagging injury, which is supposedly all better now. The senior completed 63.0 percent of his passes (300-of-467) for 3,157 yards and 29 TDs against 10 INTs.

Why Wisconsin will win: The Badgers are more consistent than the Vols, making it less likely that Wisconsin will make the kind of slip-ups that have plagued Tennessee this year. The Badgers were 36th in the nation and 3rd in the Big Ten in passing defense, allowing 210.7 ypg.

Why Tennessee will win: SEC SPEEEEEEEEEEEEED!!! In reality, a depleted Wisconsin secondary should give Erik Ainge the ability to have a big day in his final college game.

Fun sponsor fact: Hugo Chavez can eat there, if he gets past the whole "capitalism is of the devil" thing.

In addition to our restaurants in the United States, Outback Steakhouse also operates restaurants in 21 countries worldwide, including Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom and Venezuela.


Prediction This is a challenging game for me, mostly because there's no way to tell which Tennessee team will take the field. But the Vols, on average, do a better job of scoring. Tennessee 24, Wisconsin 10


Bowl: AT&T Cotton, 11:30 a.m., FOX

Teams: No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 24 Arkansas

Missouri's season was... The prototypical 2007 season. After Ohio State, Oklahoma and LSU imploded, the Tigers assumed the No. 1 spot in most of the polls. But they couldn't hold on, losing to Oklahoma and falling all the way out of the BCS. But 11-2 is still pretty good.

Arkansas' season was... Well, they parted ways with their head coach, so... Wait a minute. They were 8-4? Really? They qualified for a New Year’s Day bowl? Really? Then why'd they... Oh, yeah. It was him. And the entire state is nuts.

Missouri impact player: QB Chase Daniel was mentioned as a Heisman candidate in part because of numbers like this: 69.7 percent completion rate (372-of-534), 4,170 yards, 33 TDs, 10 INTs. Only twice during the season did Daniel throw more picks than TDs. Both games were against Oklahoma.

Arkansas impact player: RB Darren McFadden, or as he's known in Arkansas, "The Offense." McFadden has 1,725 yards and 15 TDs on the ground, four passing TDs and the nicest SUV in town. He changes anyone's defensive equation.

Why Missouri will win: First, because Arkansas is still a basket case. The incoming coach is a snake, the outgoing coach is a loon, the best player is headed for the NFL, and the fan base acts like a collection of extras from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Second, because Chase Daniel and the Missouri offense might just be too potent for the Razorbacks to stop. While Arkansas is the 48th-ranked scoring defense in the country, it has been punished by talented or semi-talented units like Alabama (41 points), Kentucky (42), South Carolina (36), Tennessee (34) and LSU (48, though in 3 OT).


We're glad to be rid of Houston, okay?


Why Arkansas will win: McFadden and Felix Jones. If there's a position on offense that needs to be played, McFadden can play it. Jones would start for any other team in the country. Yes, I said "any other team" with no qualifiers.

Fun sponsor fact: AT&T recently announced plans to get rid of its remaining payphones. So I wouldn't expect cheap ticket prices.

Prediction: Arkansas will likely have another one of those games where McFadden rushes for 180 yards and 3 TDs and the Hogs lose anyway. Missouri 42, Arkansas 24


Bowl: Capital One, 1 p.m., ABC

Teams: Michigan vs. No. 10 Florida

Michigan's season was... Painful. When your most prominent blogger takes his site down to run pictures of kittens, it was a bad loss. How bad? It was the No. 5 team in the country playing at home against a Division I-AA Football Championship Subdivision team. Michigan rebounded about as well as could be expected, though losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State finished off a disappointing season.

Florida's season was... Not a championship year, but not exactly a rebuilding season, either. The Gators went 9-3, ended up ranked in the Top 10 -- per usual, all rankings are BlogPoll -- and saw their quarterback win the Heisman Trophy. Not bad after the defense that sparked a national championship is gutted by graduation and the NFL Draft while the starting quarterback for that team graduates.

Michigan impact player: RB Mike Hart rushed for 1,232 yards and 12 TDs in nine games. With the exception of a 44-yard effort against Ohio State, Hart rushed for more than 100 yards in every game he played.

Florida impact player: QB Tim Tebow, the aforementioned Heisman Trophy winner, can do it all. And that means all. Tebow was 217-of-317 for 3,132 yards, 29 TDs and 6 INTs. He also rushed for 838 yards and 22 TDs on 194 carries (4.3 ypc), making Tebow the first 20/20 player on college football history. (20 rushing TDs/20 passing TDs)

Why Michigan will win: This is Lloyd Carr's final game, and the team will come out with an extra bit of motivation. It's also the last chance at some form of redemption for Chad Henne and the other seniors, who have fallen short of what they were projected to do back when they were freshmen dripping with "potential."

Why Florida will win: Without reverting to the juvenile SEC SPEEEEEEEEEED!!! argument, Michigan has struggled with teams like Florida: spread offenses with a heavy dose of the option and a QB that knows what he's doing exceptionally well. The only team Florida lost to by more than four points was Georgia. Michigan ain't Georgia.

Fun sponsor fact: Cocky is usually a favorite for the Capital One mascot award.


This is, of course, assuming that's a good thing.


Prediction It would be great to see Lloyd Carr win his last game, but I don't see how it happens. The emotion that drives a team can often just drive a team straight off the cliff, particularly if the game is a mismatch to begin with. Florida rolls. Florida 34, Michigan 17


Bowl: Konica Minolta Gator, 1 p.m., CBS

Teams: Texas Tech vs. No. 21 Virginia

Texas Tech's season was... A seemingly mediocre campaign headed for 7-5 until the Red Raiders stunned Oklahoma with a strong performance that locked up their eighth win. That was, however, about the only notable win for TT, which fell to Oklahoma State and Colorado, got clobbered by Missouri and was smoked by Texas.

Virginia's season was... Nothing short of stunning. Few gave Al Groh's team aprayer of being competitive in the ACC this year, but the Cavaliers won nine games and finished second in the Coastal Division.

Texas Tech impact player: WR Michael Crabtree would have been a Heisman finalist if he wasn't a "system receiver." He caught 125 balls for 1,861 yards and 21 TDs. He was held to fewer than 100 yards twice and caught fewer than eight passes once.

Virginia impact player: DE Chris Long had 19.0 TFL, dropping opponents a total of 132 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Of those tackles, 14.0 were sacks. Long also had a pick, seven pass break-ups and 22 quarterback hurries.

Why Texas Tech will win: Virginia is the 35th-ranked passing defense, allowing 210.4 ypg, which might not be good enough. The best way to beat the Raiders is to shut down the passing game, and whether Virginia can do that is a legitimate question.

Why Virginia will win: However, the Cavs won with defense this year, holding opponents to 18.8 ppg and fielding the 16th-ranked squad in terms of total defense. If Virginia can hold down the Red Raiders, they might have a chance to win.

Fun sponsor fact: A copier manufacturer, Konica Minolta was actually responsible for the cloning of Dolly the Sheep. I might have made that up because the company is utterly boring.

Prediction How does this game end up on New Year's Day? It's immaterial, really. Virginia's defense can't stop Texas Tech, which means this game should be over by halftime. Texas Tech 48, Virginia 20


Bowl: The Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, 4:30 p.m., ABC

Teams: No. 12 Illinois vs. No. 5 Southern Cal

Illinois' season was... A good year for Ron Zook's team. (Things I never thought I'd say.) The Illini went 9-3, were the only team in the country to beat Ohio State and generally shocked everyone who had come to assume that Ron Zook had the coaching aptitude of a conch shell.

Southern Cal's season was... Not what a lot of people expected. Some equated not ranking the Trojans No. 1 in the preseason to an act of idiocy or a gasp for attention. Others said NSFMF. Not that I'm the kind of person to say I told you so, or anything. But, while I'm always dubious of teams that are "playing the best football in the country right now," the other USC has been on a tear of late, winning its last four games by an average of nearly 16.3 points.

Illinois impact player: QB Juice Williams' passing numbers weren't impressive: 132-of-232 for 1,498 yards, 13 TDs and 10 INTs. But consider this: When Williams attempted 15 or fewer passes, the Illini were 1-3. When he threw more than 15 times, they were 8-0. His rushing numbers were strong, with 774 yards and 7 TDs coming off of 150 carries.

Southern Cal impact player: QB John David Booty has still not shown, to my satisfaction, that he is or ever will be a legitimate Heisman candidate. That said, Booty is a key cog in the Trojan offense, and the other USC's two losses came in his worst game and a game he didn't play. Booty was 190-of-303 for 2,106 yards, 20 TDs and 9 INTs this season.

Why Illinois will win: Listen to the ESPN talking heads, and the only chance the Illini have is a dysentery outbreak in Los Angeles. Which might be the best reason of all to pick them. In the season of the upset, this would be a perfect bookend.

Why Southern Cal will win: Stifling defense, a solid offense -- these might not be the 2004 Trojans, but they're still pretty good. And they still have one of the best big-game coaches in college football on their sideline.

Fun sponsor fact: Citi is the one sponsor that doesn't demand having its name slapped on the front of the bowl. There's something noble about that in my book.

Prediction: I want to pick Illinois in this game -- I really do. But I can't pull the trigger. I think Illinois will play Southern Cal a lot closer than most people think -- but not close enough. Southern Cal 22, Illinois 14