On the last day of 2010, the NCAA still has some big-time bowl match-ups left. Below are the games on television New Year’s Eve.
Meineke Car Care Bowl
Who: Clemson Tigers (6-6 overall, 4-4 ACC) vs. South Florida Bulls (7-5 overall, 3-4 Big East)
Time/channel: 10 a.m. ESPN
Line: Clemson +6, Over/Under 41
Key players: Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner for the nation’s top defensive player; South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels, who threw for nearly 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns.
What’s at stake: Clemson is trying to avoid its first losing record since 1998 and looking for redemption after a 29-7 loss to South Carolina in the regular season finale. South Florida has won its previous two bowl games in 2009 and 2008, and looks to make it three straight against the Tigers.
My take: Clemson continually seems to underperform year in and year out. The Tigers put up good games, like their overtime loss against No. 1 Auburn, or their narrow defeat to North Carolina State. But, with the good comes the bad. They lost to a fraud in then-ranked No. 16 Miami (Fla.) by nine and to a Boston College team that lost five straight at the time of their meeting.
South Florida has no star power. Daniels had a solid year, but his nine touchdowns to 12 interceptions isn’t a good ratio. Their defense is ranked 19th overall, allowing only 19.5 points per game, but their offense is taking on the ninth overall defense in Clemson, allowing only 17.8 points per game.
In the end, I believe Bowers and the Clemson defense will be able to get enough pressure on Daniels to force a key turnover late in the game to secure a victory.
My pick: Clemson by 3
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Who: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5 overall) vs. Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes (7-5 overall, 5-3 ACC)
Time/channel: Noon CBS
Line: Miami (Fla.) +3, Over/Under 47
Key players: Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, who had 916 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns; Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, who was a pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate before being sidelined for three games with an injury.
What’s at stake: Two teams that have faced off against each other many times in the past look to renew their rivalry in a match-up of two underperforming teams. Miami (Fla.) looks to head into a new season with a new head coach with a win over the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame wants to solidify their hiring of first-year coach Brian Kelly.
My take: Both teams came into the season with high expectations and neither fulfilled them. The Hurricanes were ranked in the top 15 at the beginning of the season and, though losing to three ranked teams, also lost to a bad Virginia team. Jacory Harris came into the season with hopes that he had shed his mistake prone ways, but he proved that wasn’t so.
Notre Dame is riding a three-game win streak on the play of freshman quarterback Tommy Rees. However, the Irish are without starting quarterback Dayne Crist, running back Armando Allen and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Their five losses came against four solid teams and a Michigan team with a dual-threat quarterback.
Momentum plays a factor in college football, and that advantage goes to Notre Dame. Rees has played well and their young team is playing for the future.
My pick: Notre Dame by 10
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Who: No. 25 University of Central Florida Knights (10-3 overall, 7-1 C-USA) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (6-6 overall, 3-5 SEC)
Time/channel: 1:30 p.m. ESPN
Line: Georgia +7, Over/Under 55
Key Players: UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey, who, as a freshman, passed for 2,042 yards and 13 touchdowns to earn Conference USA freshman of the year honors; Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, who had 771 receiving yards and nine touchdown despite being suspended for the first four games.
What’s at stake: After winning the conference, UCF is looking to win its first bowl game. Georgia started the season with a 1-4 record before finishing 5-2, and hopes to keep a four-game bowl streak alive.
My take: UCF finished with double digit wins this year, but they lost two games that were against teams from automatic qualifying conferences, North Carolina State (ACC) and Kansas State (Big 12).
They also lost by 10 to conference foe Southern Miss. Still, their freshman quarterback has had an excellent year and is a good sign for the team’s future.
Georgia rebounded mid-season to become bowl eligible. After the 1-4 start, the Bulldogs’ only losses came against Florida in OT and Auburn. Georgia was in the Auburn game early, but couldn’t hang with the eventual conference champs and national title contenders. Aaron Murray has had an excellent year with 2,841 passing yards and 25 touchdowns.
The combination of Murray and Green will prove too much for UCF, whose defense is allowing more than 23 points per game.
My pick: Georgia by 14
Who: No. 20 South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4 overall, 5-3 SEC) vs. No. 23 Florida State Seminoles (9-4 overall, 6-2 ACC)
Time/channel: 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Line: South Carolina +3, Over/Under 55
Key Players: South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who was the second-leading rusher in the SEC behind Hesiman-winning Auburn quarterback Cam Newton; Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, who may or my not start because of an elbow injury.
What’s at stake: South Carolina looks to end some streaks, as they have lost six straight games to Florida State and lost three of four bowl games under current head coach Steve Spurrier. Florida State looks to bounce back from a defeat to Virigina Tech in the ACC championship game, which didn’t include star quarterback Ponder.
My take: Besides a three-point loss to Kentucky in October, South Carolina has only lost to Alabama and Auburn (twice).
The Gamecocks played in the SEC championship game, but didn’t fair well, falling 56-17, to Auburn. Lattimore was stopped in that game, rushing for under 100 yards and zero touchdowns. That should change against Florida State, which is allowing 127.9 yards per game on the ground.
Florida State has some concerns that Ponder may not be ready to go tonight. Ponder had a good season before his injury, throwing for more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Florida State may not have a star running back, but the Seminoles are averaging almost 168 yards on the ground per game.
Ponder’s elbow causes concern, and if he can go, who knows how effective he will be. Lattimore could have a career day after being shut down in the SEC championship game.
My pick: South Carolina by 3
Note: Look for New Year’s Day bowl previews in the Saturday Morning Press.
Joshua Gordon can be reached at 875-1795 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, if anyone has reason to believe his picks are off the mark and wish to dispute.