The ultimate bowl breakdown

Floyd
Floyd
Posted: December 29, 2011

WHILE the Rose and Fiesta bowls offer a terrific tandem on Monday, feel free to skip Tuesday's game. You won't be alone. Steve Spurrier gets a chance to exorcise a Big Red demon and what in the world does Case Keenum have in common with Bart Starr?

Call in another order of 50 wings and belly up to the tube. There are 19 bowl games over the next 7 days and the Daily News has you covered.

CHAMPS SPORTS

Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Florida St. (8-4)

When: Tonight, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Orlando

Bowl bits: Notre Dame will try to win its third consecutive bowl for the first time since Lou Holtz did it from 1991-93 . . . That 1993 Irish team beat FSU in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 regular-season classic, then turned around the following week and lost to unranked Boston College. Florida State went on to win the national title . . . Star Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd needs five catches to become the first player in ND history with 100 in a single season. When Tim Brown won his Heisman in 1987, he had 39 catches . . . Florida State was ranked sixth by the AP in the preseason, but a three-game losing streak that started with a loss to then-No. 1 Oklahoma sank BCS hopes . . . The Seminoles have the fourth-best scoring defense in the country, allowing just 15.2 points per game.

The pick: Notre Dame, 31-24

ALAMO

Baylor (9-3) vs. Washington (7-5)

When: Tonight, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: San Antonio

Bowl bits: Heisman winner Robert Griffin III tries to get Baylor to 10 wins for the second time in program history and first since Mike Singletary's squad went 10-2 in 1980 . . . Heisman-winning quarterbacks haven't been great in bowl games recently, going 1-3 in their last four . . . Griffin has a year of eligibility remaining, but he already has his degree in political science and the Heisman. Hard to imagine him passing on the NFL . . . Washington's pass defense is 116th out of 120. The Huskies held Stanford's Andrew Luck to 169 yards, but gave up 446 on the ground and were rolled, 65-21 . . . Washington quarterback Keith Price's 29 TD passes are a single-season school record.

The pick: Washington, 37-34

ARMED FORCES

BYU (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4)

When: Tomorrow, Noon (ESPN)

Where: Dallas

Bowl bits: The low point for BYU was a 54-10 loss at home to Utah. Since, however, the Cougars are 8-1, and a bowl victory would give BYU its fifth 10-win campaign in coach Bronco Mendenhall's 10 seasons . . . Junior Riley Nelson came on 2 weeks later and solidified the starting quarterback job for BYU . . . Tulsa's losses - at Oklahoma and Boise State, and at home to Oklahoma State and Houston - were against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time . . . Linebacker Curnelius Arnick averages 11.8 tackles per game, most of any player whose team was invited to a bowl . . . Take the overs. Tulsa is 24th in the nation in scoring (34.1 points per game), BYU is 42nd (30.6)

The pick: BYU, 34-30

PINSTRIPE

Iowa State (6-6) vs. Rutgers (8-4)

When: Tomorrow, 3:20 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: New York

Bowl bits: Iowa State's signature win rallying from a 17-point deficit to beat Oklahoma State and deny the Cowboys a shot at the national title game . . . Iowa State played seven games against Top-25 opponents. Rutgers' only Top 25 opponent was a loss to West Virginia . . . Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu set the Big East record with 109 receptions this season . . . This game will be played at Yankee Stadium. Now that Temple is a perennial winner, how about a bowl game at Citizens Bank Park?

The pick: Iowa State, 17-13

MUSIC CITY

Miss. St. (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)

When: Tomorrow, 6:40 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Nashville

Bowl bits: This is the first of four bowl games where neither team has a winning record . . . Four of Mississippi State's six wins came against Memphis, Louisiana Tech, UAB and Tennessee-Martin . . . Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was named to the AP All-America third team, the first MSU player to make an APAA team in 11 years . . . MSU fans will be allowed to ring their customary cowbells, but only during deadball stoppages . . . Wake Forest is eager for another shot at an SEC team after getting its doors blown off by Vanderbilt in the season finale, 41-7.

The pick: Mississippi State, 41-17

INSIGHT

Iowa (7-5) vs. Oklahoma (9-3)

When: Tomorrow, 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Tempe, Ariz.

Bowl bits: The 14.5 points Oklahoma is laying is the largest point spread of any of the post-Christmas bowls . . . OU began the season ranked No. 1, but lost two of its final three. The 44-10 defeat to Oklahoma State was the worst . . . OU lost top running back Dominique Whaley to a broken ankle on Oct. 29. The following week Ryan Broyles, the NCAA's all-time leader with 349 career receptions, went down with a season-ending knee injury . . . Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is an Iowa alum . . . Iowa won this game last year when it surprised Missouri, also of the Big 12, 27-24. Mizzou was favored by a field goal . . . Hawkeyes wide receiver Marvin McNutt is a terrific athlete and someone OU better keep an eye on.

The pick: Oklahoma, 28-17

MEINEKE

Northwestern (6-6)

vs. Texas A&M (6-6)

When: Saturday, Noon (ESPN)

Where: Houston

Bowl bits: This is not the way Texas A&M envisioned transitioning from the Big 12 into the SEC. The Aggies, ranked eighth in the preseason, couldn't win a close game and fired coach Mike Sherman after the season. Kevin Sumlin was hired from Houston, but defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will guide A&M for the bowl game. Afterward, DeRuyter will head to Fresno State where he was hired as head coach . . . Northwestern, which is the only BCS school never to appear in the men's basketball NCAA Tournament, hasn't won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose. They're 0-8 since, including 0-3 under current coach Pat Fitzgerald.

The pick: Texas A&M, 31-30

SUN

Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5)

When: Saturday, 2 p.m. (CBS)

Where: El Paso, Texas

Bowl bits: Georgia Tech started the season 6-0, but limped home when the schedule toughened up . . . The Yellow Jackets' six-game bowl losing streak started with a loss to Utah in the 2005 Emerald Bowl . . . GT loves to run the ball using the triple option, but also has difficulty stopping the run. Utah's John White is ninth in the nation in rushing with 1,404 yards. He hurt his ankle early in a dismal loss to 3-10 Colorado to end the season, but will play . . . The Utes are 6-1 in bowls under coach Kyle Whittingham, a run that began in 2005 when Urban Meyer left for Florida prior to the Fiesta Bowl.

The pick: Utah, 27-20

FIGHT HUNGER

Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7)

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: San Francisco

Bowl bits: The Bruins needed a special waiver from the NCAA in order to get a bowl bid with a losing record. At the heart of the request was a loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, which was not a regular-season game. USC, which won the Pac-12 North, was ineligible to play in the conference championship because of NCAA sanctions . . . The Bruins are the first bowl team with a losing record since North Texas (5-7) won the 2001 Sun Belt crown and played in the New Orleans Bowl . . . Both teams fired their head coaches prior to the bowl.

The pick: Illinois, 3-2

LIBERTY

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Where: Memphis

Bowl bits: This is the fifth bowl game in Vanderbilt's history and Monnie Lusky (class of '42) has been to them all. The first was a win over Auburn in the 1955 Gator Bowl. "I've got to the age now where you reminisce a lot and when it was announced that Vanderbilt had made the Liberty Bowl, I said, 'Wow, I've seen every game so far, I don't want to break my perfect record," Lusky, 90, told the school's athletic website. "I want to keep it intact. I'm probably one of very few people that have been to every bowl Vanderbilt has been to."

The pick: Vanderbilt, 24-10

CHICK-FIL-A

Auburn (7-5) vs. Virginia (8-4)

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Atlanta

Bowl bits: Auburn's five losses were by an average of 27.8 points per game . . . All-SEC running back Michael Dyer, the MVP of last year's BCS Championship game, is suspended for the ever-popular and ever-vague violation of team rules . . . Virginia started the same offensive line all 12 games. Left guard Austin Pasztor, from Langton, Ontario, is a second-team All-America . . . Virginia's sports information department points out that 1887 alumnus Dr. George Petrie started Auburn's football program in 1892, which helps explains the schools having similar colors . . . UVa coach Mike London's name has been floated for the Penn State job. London, in his second season, is the ACC's coach of the year.

The pick: Virginia, 26-23

TICKETCITY

Houston (12-1) vs. Penn State (9-3)

When: Monday, Noon (ESPNU)

Where: Dallas

Bowl bits: The first game of the 2012 calendar year is among the most compelling of the 35 bowl games. Houston averages a nation's best 50.8 points per game while Penn State's scoring defense (15.7) is ranked fifth . . . Houston quarterback Case Keenum holds just about every NCAA passing record including yards (18,685) and 300-yard games. Keenum also has 152 touchdown passes, the same number Bart Starr had in his 16-year NFL career . . . Houston's first postseason game was a win over Dayton in the final Salad Bowl in 1952. The game was played in Phoenix every New Year's Day from 1948-52 . . . Both schools are being directed by interim coaches . . . This is Penn State's first bowl since 1962 without Joe Paterno as the head coach.

The pick: Penn State, 17-16

OUTBACK

Georgia (10-3) vs. Michigan St. (10-3)

When: Monday, 1 p.m. (ABC)

Where: Tampa

Bowl bits: Both teams lost their conference championship games, so there are considerable bragging rights at stake . . . Georgia sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones has 13 1/2 sacks, third nationally, and a half-sack shy of the school record of 14 set by current ESPN analyst David Pollack in 2002 . . . The Bulldogs have openly talked about wanting to atone for last year's 10-6 loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, which put coach Mark Richt squarely on the hot seat for 2011 . . . Michigan State has lost its last five bowl games, including a 49-7 disaster to Alabama in last year's Capital One Bowl . . . The Big 10 was 0-3 in bowl games last year.

The pick: Georgia, 31-21

CAPITAL ONE

Nebraska (9-3) vs. S. Carolina (10-2)

When: Monday, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Orlando

Bowl bits: Nebraska has played in 48 bowl games. Thanks in large part to their conference's affiliation with the Orange Bowl, 19 of their games have taken place in Florida . . . 'Huskers senior Lavonte David was the Big 10 linebacker of the year . . . Steve Spurrier is 1-3 in bowl games with South Carolina. The only other time one of his clubs played Nebraska was in the national title game following the 1995 season. Spurrier's Florida Gators were 12-0 before getting drilled by the Cornhuskers, 62-24, in the Fiesta Bowl . . . Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw is 6-1 as a starter since replacing Stephen Garcia.

The pick: South Carolina, 20-16

GATOR

Florida (6-6) vs. Ohio State (6-6)

When: Monday, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)

Where: Jacksonville

Bowl bits: Given all the subplots involving a certain prominent head coach, wouldn't Urban Outfitters be a perfect sponsor? . . . Florida was 0-5 against ranked opponents and closed the season 2-6. One of those wins was against Furman . . . Defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd (George Washington High) chose Florida over Ohio State. Floyd, who was moved to end during the season, had 44 tackles in 10 games this season as a sophomore . . . This is Ohio State's first Gator Bowl appearance since coach Woody Hayes slugged Clemson's Charlie Bauman at the end of a loss in 1978. The punch ended Hayes' legendary career.

The pick: Florida, 27-21

ROSE

Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2)

When: Monday, 5 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Pasadena, Calif.

Bowl bits: This is the best matchup of opposing running backs of this year's bowls. Oregon's LaMichael James had 1,646 yards and could have made a run at 2,000 (and a Heisman) if not for missing two games with an elbow injury . . . James also ran for 17 touchdowns, which is almost half as many as the 32 Wisconsin's Montee Ball had running. Ball's 38 total touchdowns are four shy of Barry Sanders' 1988 single-season record . . . Oregon's only Rose Bowl win came over Penn in the 1917 game. The Ducks have lost their last four . . . Wisky lost last year's Rose Bowl to TCU.

The pick: Wisconsin, 47-41

FIESTA

Oklahoma St. (11-1) vs. Stanford (11-1)

When: Monday, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Glendale, Ariz.

Bowl bits: Here's the best game of opposing quarterbacks. Okie State's Brandon Weeden had a record-setting year in leading OSU to its highest BCS ranking ever (No. 3) . . . In fact, the Cowboys came into the game complaining that they were the best one-loss team and should have been playing LSU for the BCS title. OSU's loss was in double-overtime at Iowa State (6-6). Stanford's loss was a 23-point thumping by Oregon . . . The Cardinal, of course, are lead by Andrew Luck. A junior and two-time Heisman runner-up, Luck is likely headed to the NFL next year where he is the consensus No. 1 overall pick . . . Oklahoma State averages 49.3 points per game and Stanford is at 43.6. The over/under for the game is a terrific 74 1/2.

The pick: Oklahoma State, 42-37

SUGAR

Va. Tech (11-2) vs. Michigan (10-2)

When: Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: New Orleans

Bowl bits: The Sugar Bowl's selection of the Hokies to play in this game is a disgrace. V-Tech's only win against a ranked team was against Georgia Tech and the Hokies were hammered by Clemson (38-10) in the ACC Championship . . . Michigan's resume is a little better (a convincing win over Nebraska), but Boise State and Kansas State each belong in this game over both these teams . . . "In the final analysis, we just felt the two teams we have chosen really give us in the long run the best opportunity to put together a matchup that will provide a very exciting football game," said Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan.

The pick: Abstaining in protest

ORANGE

Clemson (10-3) vs. W. Virginia (9-3)

When: Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Miami

Bowl bits: Playing this game in the middle of the week after the holiday season did no favors for fans wanting to head to Miami . . . Clemson has been one of the more puzzling teams of the year. They started 8-0, beat three ranked teams early in the season and then lost by three touchdowns to N.C. State and South Carolina in November . . . West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is from Miami and is a cousin of former Hurricanes star running back Melvin Bratton . . . Stedman Bailey, who is not Oprah's significant other, is the Mountaineers' leading receiver and also a Miami-area native.

The pick: West Virginia, 31-27

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