Saturday, December 22

Hawaii / Hawai'i Bowl Preview

The Hawai'i Bowl marks the final pre-Christmas bowl and the only bowl where the promotions insist on saying the bowl's name with a terrible forced accent (Ha-wahh-ee Bowl). I don't care if it's "ethnic" or not, you sound like a jackass saying it that way. Unless you're actually Hawaiian and actually learned to speak the local dialect, which clearly is not the case here.

East Carolina (by Coach Pendley)

The good news is that ECU beat North Carolina for a half-decent out of conference victory. The bad news is that was their only OOC victory all season - including a loss to NC State. They also own a 52=38 win over UCF - and lost 26-7 to Marshall. So yeah, it was a good but not great season for East Carolina. That's what 7-5 (6-2) will get you - that and a date clear across the country with a team that's ...well, probably a lot better than you. At least it's warm.

Chris Johnson is a legitimate rushing threat; you'd have heard more about him had it not been for the Kevin Smith / Matt Forte combo in the same league. As it is, CJ finished 3rd in the conference in rushing TDs and 5th in overall yardage. That's good, because there aren't any receivers from ECU in the top 15 in-conference and QBs Rob Kass and Patrick Pinkney are in a platoon, which: yikes. At least they force turnovers (+14 on the season).

Keys to Victory:
1: Ball control. I know I key on this a lot, but for teams looking to pull an upset, the easiest way to ensure you'll be in a position to win late is to make sure their offense doesn't see the field. This is doubly important for a team like ECU, who sports a deficit on the season. They'll need at least 35 minutes and maybe a dagger drive (12+ plays), too.

2: Kill the turnover margin. ECU is averaging a little over +1 a game, but they're going to need +2 at least here. Boise State doesn't normally turn the ball over, so the Pirates will have to get them out of their comfort zone.

3: 30+ for CJ. Chris Johnson hasn't really been a workhorse back, but you know what? Suck it up. He's the best offensive player the Pirates have, and he's going to have 9 months to recover. At the least 30+ carries will keep the ball out of Boise State's hands, even if they're not too effective.

Boise State Broncos (by Coach Lawrence)

From 2002-04, Boise State only lost one game each season and went unbeaten at home, losing at Arkansas, at Oregon State, and in the 2004 Liberty Bowl against Louisville. (passed over by the BCS despite being 11-0!) In 2005, the Broncos perhaps bit off a bit more than they could chew by scheduling road trips to Georgia, Oregon State, and Hawaii for three of their first four games... losing the opening two and casting the shadow of doubt that they were just another midmajor over the program. Of course, that was before last season when they beat Oregon State and Hawaii en route to a BCS berth, in which they beat Oklahoma in one of the greatest games ever played.

With Zebransky graduating, Boise struggled just enough in the passing game early on to drop a game to Washington before winning their next nine. In the season finale, they lost a tough road game at Hawaii, who qualified for a Sugar Bowl selection.

Game Plan:
1. Pound away with Ian Johnson. The RB who scored on the famous Statue of Liberty 2-point conversion is now the centerpiece of a more physical offense.

2. Put the game away early. There's no need to let an inferior team hang around, and Boise's first vs second half stats are telling that they've been able to do this in most games this season.
Pound Johnson, then get some playaction deep bombs or WR reverses.

3. Tell the ECU players that there's buried treasure hidden along the shore. Come on it's a freaking tropical island and they're pirates. They can't concentrate on football under these more pressing circumstances!

4. Afterwards, go find the treasure with the pirates. After all, it's just a game... win or lose, they can all share the glory of island booty! Arrrrr!