Thursday, December 21

A lengthy dissertation on the New Mexico Bowl

Really. This game kicks off at 4:30 and it involves two teams you're probably not going to watch. One team hasn't beaten a 1-A team with a winning record all year. The other team lost to Portland State.

Go spend some time with your family, come back at night. I'm not even going to waste my time on this game - and given some of the other dreck I've already spent time on, that should warn you. Stay away.

Don't get up early for the Papa John's Bowl

South Florida @ East Carolina - Papa John's Bowl, 12/23

How South Florida Got Here
Someone's gotta finish 4th in the Big East. This year had the trio of WVU, Louisville, and Rutgers - but right below them was an 8-4 USF team. Aside from that, it was a pretty typical season for a second-tier team in a major conference. You pull off an upset (@ West Virginia), you lose a couple of question marks (@ Kansas, @ Cincy) and lose to the guys you should lose to. Beat everyone else and that's good enough for a 1/1 bowl in some leagues. Not so much here. Blame the Big East tie-ins if you want to.
Best Win: 24-19 @ West Virginia, 11//25
Worst Loss: 6-23 @ Cincinnati, 10/22

How South Florida Operates
Offensively, this team will go as far as QB Matt Goethe will carry them. He's their leading passer - and their leading rusher. Aside from that, they don't do any one thing particularly well; their scoring D is only allowing about 18 points per game and their pass D is good enough for second in the conference (behind only Rutgers). However, in this league average is good enough for 8-4.

How East Carolina Got Here
Who knew C-USA had at least 4 bowl tie-ins? That's really the long and short of it in a lot of ways. They sucked coming out of the gate (2-4), although they did have a win over Virginia, who beat Miami. After that, they did well, only losing a close game to Rice - and beating NC State (which probably sealed Amato's departure). This is good enough to qualify for a banner year at ECU, and going 2-2 in games against schools from major conferences is a pretty impressive feat, even if both of those wins were against subpar ACC schools.
Best Win: 20-17 @ Southern Miss, 10/28
Worst Loss: 12-17 @ UAB, 9/9

How East Carolina Operates
ECU is predictated on the strength of their defense (3rd in the conference). Calling their offense average for C-USA is a bit of an overstatement, as they're not very good at moving the ball. However, they have a solid pass D and their rushing D isn't terrible - remember that they kept Steve Slaton in check when they played the Mountaineers. In addition, they're also +5 on the season in turnover margin, which isn't too impressive - but USF is also -5 on the season, so there could be something there.

5 Things to Watch When USF Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Matt Goethe's dual-threat capability. Obviously. He's the Bulls leading rusher and their leading passer pretty much any way you slice it. He's got to play well for the Bulls to have any shot of winning.
2: Ricky Ponton. Who's he? He's a SO RB that came on strong in the second half of the season after not playing in the first half of the season - he's also the only guy that might run for more than Goethe will; if he doesn't, then the load will fall to Benjamin Williams to pick up the pace as the second rushing threat.
3: Taurus Johnson and Earl Randolph. I'm normally fond of noting at least the first two receivers, and these guys pretty much define the "deep threat/possession" guys I'm looking for in an offense. Randolph is the possession guy, Johnson's the deep threat - if that really counts with the Bulls.
4: Amarri Jackson's playmaking ability. The Bulls will line him up under center a few times a game at least, have him run, maybe have him pass, put him in the slot; basically they'll try and get the ball in his hands a few times and hope he can do something exciting. It's a useful type of player to have.
5: No special teams. Simply put, they suck - USF is the worst punting and FG kicking team in the Big East. Maybe it has something to do with Florida. This doesn't bode well for the Bulls if it's close late.

5 Things to Watch When ECU Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: James Pinkney's ability to force the action. ECU's offense has been stagnant all year, so if there's going to be any major offensive movement, it's going to begin and end with Pinkney.
2: Brandon Fractious and Chris Johnson. It's tough to say which one of these guys is the change of pace back - I don't think either one of them is, really. If you think of them as a two-headed monster then they're good for about 75 yards a game, which isn't much. They need to combine for over 100 yards, which has happened only 4 times all year - and 3 of those were when one of them went over 100 yards on his own.
3: Aundrae Allison's ability to make the passing game go. There's not much without him (more on them in a minute), but Allison makes the passing game go. He's got the most receptions, most yards, most yards per game (a natural extension), and the most TDs. If he's shut down, it's over.
4: Who steps up to #2? There's a bunch of candidates - Phillip Henry, Steven Rogers, Kevin Roach, Davon Drew - but nobody has emerged as a credible threat. Drew is a short-yardage TE, Henry is a largely unimpressive #2 by default, and Rogers and Roach are very similar players (Rogers is more of a deep threat). Force me to pick a guy that'll step up and I'll say Henry, but realistically two of these guys need to have a good game - at least - for ECU to have a shot.
5: Hidden yardage. Remember how I said that USF punting sucks? ECU is the opposite; they're nearly tied for best in C-USA at just over 42 yards a punt which will net well if they're lucky enough to find themselves in a defensive battle late.

What to Expect in the Game
Well, if you looked at the game and said, "Hey, it's Big East against C-USA, I'm going Big East" - you're totally right. I don't see much reason why ECU should stay in the game as they haven't faced a dual-threat capability like Goethe since Pat White, who killed them through the air. Goethe's a better passer. Now, if ECU can luck out and keep it close, they have more of a chance than you'd expect; they'll win the hidden yardage game and they're at least decent kicking FGs. However, unless it's 0-0 in the 4th, I don't think that'll be a factor.

Tuesday, December 19

If you go to New Orleans for the New Orleans Bowl, don't leave the French Quarter

Rice @ Troy - New Orleans Bowl, 12/22

How Rice Got Here
Talk about a rebounding doormat. After starting off the season 1-5 - with the only win being over perennial doormat Army - Rice was, well, looking like Rice. However, nobody told Rice they were actually Rice and they've won 6 straight since then, all against conference competition. It's tough to fault them for most of their losses, too; 3 of their losses were to BCS teams (including Florida State back when we thought they were still decent) and a fourth was to C-USA champ Houston. Plus they're Rice - you think they care that they're only 7-5? They're in a bowl!
Best Win: 41-38 @ Tulsa, 11/11
Worst Loss: 24-38 @ Tulane, 10/7

How Rice Operates
They're greater than the sum of their parts, that's for sure. They'll play close, but neither their D nor their O is much to call home about (they're about average across the board yard-wise). However, they're 3rd in C-USA in scoring average and lead the conference in turnover margin. Maybe sometime it's better to be lucky than good.

How Troy Got Here
Someone's gotta win the Sun Belt - why shouldn't it be the team that's turned into the Fresno State of the Sun Belt? Troy's made a name for themselves playing most everywhere at any given time, and this year was no different. Heck, they should've beaten Florida State early in the year - that being said, they didn't; they fell off the national radar after getting blown out by Nebraska 56-0. Since then, they've very quietly whipped up on the dregs of Division 1-A, going 6-1 in-conference and beating MTSU to win the Sun Belt conference title.
Best Win: 21-20 @ Middle Tennessee, 11/25
Worst Loss: 0-56 @ Nebraska, 9/23

How Troy Operates
Kind of like Rice, there's no one thing they do well. However, unlike Rice they're also above conference average in most categories (instead of defining the average like Rice does). In the Sun Belt, that's good enough for 6-1.

5 Things to Watch When Rice Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Chase Clement vs. 60% completion percentage. Clement only has a 57.7% completion percentage on the season, and the Rice offense is basically a watered-down version of the Texas Tech offense (witness his 21-5 TD-INT ratio). He should have success against the Troy pass D (which is below average for the Sun Belt), but he also needs to hit his targets.
2: Quentin Smith. Smith is both a rushing and receiving threat - he's good for around 120 yards of non-return offense, and with any kind of gimmick massive-receiver offense it's critical to have a running back that can cause chaos catching the ball.
3: Clement's two-way ability. Clement doubles as Rice's second-leading rusher, and Troy hasn't seen someone as successful as a combo QB since - arguably - Reggie Ball. Of course, Clement is probably a better QB than Ball, too - certainly a better passer.
4: Jarett Dillard. Dillard has about as many receiving yards as everyone else on the Owls ... combined. He's one of the most explosive receivers in C-USA - and because he's such a critical part of the offense, Troy has to make sure he's shut down. Going back to the Troy-GT game, he's probably the Calvin Johnson comparable - but Troy shut down Johnson in the passing game.
5: Joel Armstrong. Armstrong is an interesting character; he's got some obvious talent and Rice will look to use him in any way they can. This includes as a receiver, a running back - and as a QB. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few Clement / Armstrong packages.

5 Things to Watch When Troy Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Turnovers. Troy is -9 on the year and Rice is +10. Since both of these teams are tested-but-flawed, Troy should be able to rebound from losing the turnover battle if it's -1 in their favor, but if it's -2 or -3 .... I'm not so sure. FWIW, Rice is better at forcing fumbles than forcing picks.
2: Kenny Cattouse. He's Troy's primary rusher, and since the Rice rush D is horrid (114th in the nation), he should be primed for a 100+ yard game. Now if he can actually rush for over 100 yards, that'll be something.
3: Will Gary Banks actually pass? He's played in all 12 games for Troy (one of 6 players that's had a passing attempt), but only has 4 attempts. Chances are they'll use Banks for a drive or two to spell their primary QB - more on him in a sec - and just rely on Cattouse and Anthony Jones.
4: Omar Haugabook. Like Clement, he's a two-way threat. Unlike Clement, Haugabook isn't really effective running the ball (1.7 ypc). However, he should be able to get positive yardage against this rush D.
5: Gary Banks' other side. Think of Banks as a mix between Armstrong and Dillard and that's about his use. He doesn't have a lot of rushes - and we've already talked about his passing ability, or lack thereof - but Troy will at least use him as a diversion when he's not lined up at WR. When he is, he'll act like a possession receiver - albeit a possession receiver that scores.

What to Expect in the Game
You'll fall asleep. Honestly, my recommendation here is watch when Rice has the ball and go make dinner when Troy has the ball. Don't get me wrong - good on both teams to make it to a bowl game - but this game isn't exactly a shining beacon of great play. Clement should perform better than Haugabook and Rice should win.

The Las Vegas Bowl (or why the wheels fell off Oregon's bandwagon and the bandwagon promptly plowed into a tree)

(19) BYU @ Oregon - Las Vegas Bowl, 12/21

How BYU Got Here
It's tough to fault a team that goes undefeated in conference play, as that should be a sign you're at least better than your competition. That's what BYU did. After losing two of their first threee games (@ Arizona, @ BC - while BC was in their Luckiest Team in the Nation phase), they reboudned to go undefeated from then until then end of the year. All of their conference games were played after the first two games, which has quietly given BYU a pretty impressive run.
Best Win: 31-17 @ TCU, 9/28
Worst Loss: 13-16 @ Arizona, 9/2

How BYU Operates
BYU is known for their great passing game - and this year isn't any different. John Beck leads the MWC in passing (and is comfortably 4th in the nation) at just under 320 yards per game. However, it's not all about the passing game; BYU has 2 of the top 12 conference rushers - Curtis Brown (2nd, 74.2 ypg) and Fui Vakapuna (12th, 40.2 ypg) - as well. As a result, BYU is also 1st in the MWC, scoring 36.7 ppg.

Amazingly, BYU's defense isn't nearly as bad as you'd think given the high-octane offense they have. They're only allowing just under 16 ppg and they're about average in the MWC in both rushing and passing D. In addition, they're one of the few teams where turnover margin makes for an appreciable difference; they're +14 on the year, 4th in the nation.

How Oregon Got Here
Sometimes you're on top of the world. And sometimes you fall off the top of the world, land on a tree, fall off the tree, and hit every branch on the way down. That describes Oregon's season pretty well. They started off 4-0, including a 34-33 win over Oklahoma that you might've heard about (at great length, depending on where you were). Cal killed that streak pretty dead and Washington State killed any shot Oregon had of winning the Pac-10. However, they were still 7-2 going into the USC game with a good shot of going 9-3 at worst. Of course, this is when the wheels fell off; the Ducks lost to USC, Arizona, and Oregon State to close out the year. Now they're playing before Christmas - ouch. Is it a coincedence Brady Leaf had a ton of playing time in those three games? That's an exercise left to the reader.
Best Win: 34-33 v. Oklahoma, 9/16 - and if you don't think that's an actual victory, we'll go with 48-13 @ Arizona St., 9/30
Worst Loss: 10-37 v. Arizona, 11/18

How Oregon Operates
Good luck trying to find fault in the offense when it's performing well. It's pretty much the Dennis Dixon and Johnathan Stewart Show - but you could do worse than that; Stewart is 5th in the Pac-10 in rushing (80 ypg) and Dixon is 6th in passing (183.7 ypg). Dixon's a two-way threat as well, rushing for 35.6 ypg. However, there's going to be a weak point in their game, and it's a pretty glaring weak point: they're allowing 25.6 points per game and allowing nearly 150 yards on the ground. However, their pass D is still great - 1st in the Pac-10, 8th in the nation. Another weak point: they're -10 in turnover margin on the season. Of course, this also isn't even remotely mentioning the fact that both Dixon and his backup (Brady Leaf) have spent the last three games sucking.

5 Things to Watch When BYU Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: John Beck's effectiveness against the Oregon secondary. This will be the key matchup for BYU; if they win this, they'll probably win. Otherwise, who knows - it's certainly possible for BYU to win, but it's a lot harder. Food for thought: John David Booty - the leading passer in the Pac-10 - only passed for 176 yards against Oregon. John Beck passed for 313 yards against Wyoming (best pass D in the MWC).
2: Curtis Brown @ Fui Vakapuna vs. the record books. Well, by "record books" I mean "Oregon's front 7", but you get the idea. They haven't been able to stop most teams anyway, and the teams they did stop - Washington and Oregon State - don't have great running games. If Arizona (whose offense sucks) can run up 37 on you, what does that mean when you're facing an offense that can actually normally score that much?
3: Curtis Brown and the two-way effect. Brown is also their leading receiver (in terms of receptions, not yards), which should mean that he'll get his yards. Oregon will probably put a LB on him at all times to limit the damage he can do taking screens out of the backfield (based on his receptions, that'll be 4-5 times over the course of a game), and it'll be up to Brown to shake him and pop a big run.
4: Jonny Harline and the Oregon secondary. Harline is BYU's leading receiver, and it's not even close; he's also their leading TD man. Harline has to make a couple of big plays against the Oregon D in order to have a shot to win; McKay Jacobson is a good secondary receiver, but he's not the possession threat (with deep potential) that Harline is.
5: Kickoffs and punts. Although BYU hasn't run either a punt or a kickoff back for a TD, they've done well in the field position game (not quite the top of the MWC, but close), and if they can do that again here, that'll be another 20-30 yards that their offense won't have to cover.

5 Things to Watch When Oregon Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Dennis Dixon vs. Brady Leaf. I'll be honest - I haven't been following Oregon much this year. However, it's kind of hard to miss the issues there; Dixon fell off the table against Washington State and hasn't gotten better. Of course, Leaf hasn't been great either. One of them has to step it up.
2: Jonathan Stewart vs. BYU's 8th man. I've got to think that BYU will just shove 8 in the box until either Dixon or Leaf can prove to be a credible passing threat, so it's up to Stewart to consistently make guys miss in the open field in order for Oregon's offense to do anything.
3: Jaison Williams' ability to get open. BYU's pass D isn't great, but since there's some QB troubles, it's up to Williams to force separation. He's Oregon's leading receiver - and it *really* isn't close with him. He's going for nearly 90 yards per game and about 6 catches as well. He needs to do that against BYU as well - and he should be able to.
4: Kent, Rosario, and Paysinger: who steps up? Those three receivers are largely interchangeable for the guy who lines up opposite Williams. Kent has had the biggest games - but both were in losses, Rosario has been the most consistent, and Paysinger had two big games in a row - but those were in the middle of the season. The signs would point to Kent being the most likely to have a true breakout game, but as long as at least one of them emerges as a credible threat, Williams should have a good shot. If two of them can draw BYU defenders, then Stewart should play well as a result (since three recievers will probably draw 4 defenders, leaving Stewart only needing to beat 7 in the box ... you can figure out the rest).
5: The turnover battle. I talked about this briefly earlier, but we'll revisit it here. BYU isn't the best at forcing fumbles, but they're normally good for at least 1 INT a game. Meanwhile, Oregon both coughs it up and lets it rip. Teams that are good at forcing turnovers perform well above their norms against Oregon. As a result, I wouldn't be surprised if Oregon throws a couple of picks and coughs the ball up once over the course of the game. That may be significant.

What to Expect in the Game
When I first looked at this game, I figured Oregon would walk. However, looking a little deeper at the stats and team performances, I'm not so sure of that. If Dixon can return to his early-season form then all bets are off, but I'm not sure that can happen. If that doesn't happen, BYU should carry this; their defense will at least force a couple of turnovers and their running game should at least be decent enough to pull off the win.

Monday, December 18

It's the most you'll ever read about the Poinsettia Bowl

Northern Illinois @ (25) TCU - Poinsettia Bowl, 12/19

How Northern Illinois Got Here
Aside from the obvious (on the legs of Garrett Wolfe), it was a relatively up-and-down season for the Huskies. The MAC doesn't get a ton of credit for being an even conference, but it is; the talent level obviously isn't that of the major conferences, but they've also had 5 different champions in the last 5 years. (But that's another post in itself.) NIU opened with two losses against Ohio teams (Ohio State and Ohio), but after that they rolled off 4 consecutive wins. Of course, the team performs only as well as Wolfe does, and he struggled though the middle of the season - and the Huskies lost 3 of 4, which pretty much killed any chances they had of going to a decent bowl. Still, they rebounded well by winning their last two, handing Central Michigan their only MAC loss of the season.
Best Win: 31-10 v. Central Michigan, 11/17
Worst Loss: 13-17 v. Toledo, 11/7

How NIU Operates
When you have the leading rusher in the country in Garrett Wolfe, you're probably going to do everything you can to make sure he gets a lot of carries. That's about the long and short of the offensive gameplan. QB Phil Horvath isn't terrible; he doesn't pass a whole lot (predictable), but he's at least decently effective when he does. Defensively, they ... don't do much, really. They have a good rush D (2nd in the MAC), but they're only in the top third nationally. Their pass defense is horrid, though - next to last in the MAC and 104th nationally.

How TCU Got Here
It's amazing what happens to your national perception when you beat Texas Tech. It's more impressive watching your national perception deflate after losing consecutive games to BYU and Utah. This is an interesting team - those two losses were the only losses they had all year, and they've very quietly re-entered the Top 25. However, it could easily be argued that most of those wins weren't over good teams; Wyoming was their best win during the 8-game winning streak - and it's not like there's a ton of teams clamoring to be ranked at this point in the season anyway.

How TCU Operates
TCU is pretty much the embodiment of the idea that good rushing offense plus good rush defense wins games. They'll rely on Aaron Brown and Lonta Hobbs (who is quickly approaching 27, from what I remember of him - he's been around a while) on the ground and Jeff Ballard through the air. Ballard isn't terrible - he's better than Horvath, which isn't exactly a huge endorsement, but there you go. Their pass D is good but unspectacular - they're solidly a top third team. However, their rush D is 4th in the nation.
Best Win: 12-3 v. Texas Tech, 9/16
Worst Loss: 7-20 @ Utah, 10/5

5 Things to Watch When NIU Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Garrett Wolfe's effectiveness against the TCU front seven. Actually, their front eight. Wolfe will see a lot of 8-man plus fronts in this game, and he has to be effective in making that extra defender miss in order to consistently pile up yardage.
2: Phil Horvath's ability to get pressure off of Wolfe. It's likely that NIU will rely on play-action passing to freeze the TCU defenders if/when Wolfe establishes himself; in the meantime, Horvath will have to make plays to keep the corners and safeties honest.
3: TCU's ability to contain Wolfe. They haven't seen a rusher like him all season; Air Force has the best rushing *attack* they've seen all year, but in this case rushing attack is not the same as rusher. What's of note is that the two best MWC rushing teams that weren't Air Force and TCU were BYU and Utah - the two teams to beat TCU. (Of course, both teams also have good passing games.)
4: Britt Davis and Marcus Perez's ability to get separation against the TCU defense. Perez is the TD threat while Davis is the possession receiver, but neither is used that often - Perez gets about 3 catches a game while Davis gets about 5. NIU uses a ton of receivers, so any of them can step up - but one of them has to.
5: The "defensive struggle performance" stats. While NIU's punting isn't that great, if the game gets into a field position battle, NIU might not be entirely toast - they have a good return game and a good FG kicker in Chris Nendick.

5 Things to Watch When TCU Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: NIU's ability to shut down either Brown or Hobbs. If both of them are able to get their normal yardage, then NIU is going to be in for a long day.
2: Jeff Ballard's dual-threat ability. While Ballard isn't much of a runner (only about 34 ypg), he does have 5 rushing TDs on the year and a long of 23 yards. That's just enough running ability to be able to keep the Huskies honest - provided he's able to get the time to run.
3: Aaron Brown's catch-and-run ability. Brown's the quick-strike rusher - and as a result, look for TCU to get him the ball on a few screens and hope for the best. TCU doesn't run many screens, but if their line can occupy NIU's front seven, Brown can probably take one to the house.
4: Harmon, Massey, and Reagan. Harmon's the primary, Reagan's the deep threat, and Massey's the third option. But remember that the NIU pass defense isn't anything to write home about. Look for one of these guys to have a big game - and if more than one has a big game, look for TCU to win.
5: Ball control. It's not a guarantee of victory, but TCU does control the ball nearly 32 minutes per game, which may be important - but they do need to have some measure of ball control, since it's not like they're designed for quick strikes.

What to Expect in the Game
I'm not sold that NIU can shut down either Brown or Hobbs and two of the three receivers. Either they'll shut down the receivers and Hobbs / Brown will run over them or Hobbs will get shut down and Harmon will have 6 catches for 100 yards (and Reagan 5/110, etc.) - you get the point. Meanwhile, I think that Wolfe will tear up the TCU defense. However, Horvath won't be able to provide a truly effective compliment to Wolfe and TCU will walk away with a win.

Sunday, December 3

The Great Question of the next 24 hours: Florida or Michigan

Obviously, the question on the minds of every college football fan is - will Ohio State play against Michigan or Florida in the Fiesta Bowl? We'll be getting an anwswer in about 24 hours.

I believe it should be Florida, and here's why:

One of the (yes, very biased) announcers in the SEC championship game was talking about comparing schedules between UF and USC. Basically - compare the teams' loss, and then compare their wins in ranked order. USC lost so that is irrelevent, but what about UM/UF comparisons:

Michigan (11-1, Big Ten runner-up)
loss: #1 Ohio State
W1: #6 Wisconsin (11-1)
W2: #12 Notre Dame (10-2)
W3: Penn State (8-4)
W4: Minnesota (6-6)
W5: Iowa (6-6)
W6: Indiana (5-7)
W7: Central Michigan (9-4)
W8: Vanderbilt (4-8)
W9: Northwestern (4-8)
W10: Michigan State (4-8)
W11: Ball State (5-7)

Florida (12-1, SEC champion)
loss: #11 Auburn (10-2)
W1: #5 LSU (10-2)
W2: #8 Arkansas (10-3)
W3: #13 Tennessee (9-3)
W4: Georgia (8-4)
W5: Florida State (6-6)
W6: South Carolina (7-5)
W7: Kentucky (7-5)
W8: Alabama (6-6)
W9: Vanderbilt (4-8)
W10: Southern Miss (8-5)
W11: UCF (4-8)
W12: Western Carolina (joke)

Florida played one more game than Michigan, but against a non-div IA opponent. So perhaps considering them both 11-1 against div IA is more appropriate.

Obviously, Michigan's loss is a better loss than Florida's.

However, to be quite honest, going down that list you could say that each and every one of Florida's wins is more impressive.
* Wisconsin is 11-1, but they've played only one ranked opponent all season (Michigan). LSU is 10-2 despite facing 4 ranked teams.
* As Georgia Tech lost in the ACC Championship, that means they will likely fall out of the top 25 and Notre Dame will be 0-2 vs ranked opposition, while Arkansas defeated both Auburn and Tennessee.
* Penn State's a 4-loss team, 0-4 vs ranked teams by a combined 99-36. Tennessee not only has fewer losses, but they put a hurting on Cal who is currently #21 and won today.
* And then... Georgia or Minnesota? Florida State or Iowa? The disparities continue.

I think Michigan has actually gone the whole season without beating a team who has beaten a single ranked opponent, though UCLA's upset of USC may bring them into the top 25 (and thus Notre Dame would be 1-2 vs ranked). There is no question in my mind that UF deserves their first shot at beating Ohio State.

That's just the schedule argument. There's still the fact that Michigan already had a shot at Ohio State and lost. It may not be "fair" to Michigan to judge them on that, but then again it's hardly fair to Florida at all for Michigan to get two chances to beat Ohio State while they don't even get one.

The common wisdom is that while Florida played against the tougher schedule, Michigan is the better team as they have won their games more comfortably or with better "style points." But I'm not sure if that's really true. Statistically, Michigan is putting up 30.2 ppg while Florida averaged 28.9 ppg. That's very similar offensive production against what's regarded as the best defensive conference in the nation by far, as well as the best overall conference. Defensively, Florida gives up 14.6 ppg as does Michigan. So their average margins of victory - 15.6 and 14.3 - are close indeed. Then it goes back to the fact that Florida did this against more difficult opposition.

Lastly, there's also the fact that, if I want the Fiesta Bowl to be a good game, I want a team capable of beating Ohio State. On the surface, Michigan's three-point loss in Columbus makes it seem like that team is them. But let's look a little deeper at that game. Ohio State did everything Michigan could have asked for to pull the upset. They turned the ball over three times to Michigan's zero. Troy Smith's interception gave Michigan the ball on the OSU 25 which led to a Michigan field goal. Smith's first fumble gave UM the ball at the OSU 9 yard line to set up a TD, and his second killed a drive that had Ohio State in position for a field goal at least. If the teams rematch, I guarantee that Smith won't have three turnovers and that UM won't win the turnover battle by such a margin. Those turnovers gave Michigan a net of anywhere from +10 to +17 points, and they still lost. The game was all but over at halftime and Michigan caught Ohio State napping, but it wasn't enough. By the end of the third quarter it was still an 11 point game and when Michigan scored their final TD and 2-pt conversion to cut an 11 point deficit to 3, there were just over 2 minutes to go in the game. Ohio State was also penalized for more yards than Michigan. Their punter, one of the tops in the nation, had an abysmal (by his standards) 38 yard average. All this, and Michigan still lost. So I have to ask, what else could go right for the Wolverines in Tempe? I'm not sure that this Ohio State team will play a worse half than the second half they played in Columbus that Saturday, but it wasn't bad enough. And as they showed all first half and whenever they needed to in the second, Michigan's defense, good as it is overall, does not have the personnel to stop OSU's four-receiver packages. Smith shredded the defense to complete 70% of his passes, and when the defense was spread too thin each of their two RBs added a 50+ yard TD scamper.

Could Florida beat Ohio State? Truthfully I doubt they will. Ohio State is, and I really believe this, the best team in the nation. But other "best teams in the nation" have lost BCS championships. 2002 Miami lost to Ohio State. That OSU team, like UF this year, was criticized for winning too many close games. That battle-hardenedness proved useful in a double-OT game for the title, while that was basically Miami's first real test of the season. Florida is more battle-hardened team than Michigan, both in terms of the opposition they faced as well as having to pull out several close victories. Then 2005 USC lost to Texas. Despite USC having a Heisman-winning QB, Heisman-winning RB, and superior receiving corps, Texas had college football's ultimate weapon - the dual-threat QB. College defenses can't handle em. Florida has TWO dual-threat QBs - the more experienced, faster Leak and the battering ram changeup, Tebow. Henne, while a good QB, does not present the same type of defensive problem that Leak and Tebow do. Furthermore, Urban Meyer's offensive schemes are more difficult to defend against than the standard offense Michigan runs. On top of that, Florida has more big-play potential on offense and a better punting, return, and block team than Michigan. So they have the potential to simply play Ohio State close and win off a big play or two. Michigan's only chance would be to actually outplay Ohio State, as the big play potential completely favors the Buckeyes in that matchup.

If there is anything just and right about college football, and many would argue that there isn't, Florida should face Ohio State for the national championship.