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December 27, 2005

Minnesota vs Virginia

SCS.comThis could be another high-scoring contest brought to you by a Big Ten team, where the defenses took a big hit this season but still came out on top. Virginia held their own in a tough ACC this season, so both teams are battle tested going into this game. Minnesota has been in Nashville two of the past three seasons, so Glen Mason will have to do some serious work to get Golden Gopher fans to the game and to get the team fired up to play. Another interesting development is how Virginia has lost two coordinators and will be short on coaches for this game, so the players will have to rally around the temporary coordinators.

Minnesota is a much better team when they have the ball, and the powerful running game should make all the difference. RBs Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell bring a lot of heat behind All-American center Greg Eslinger, and neither back seems to tire through a long game due to the split workload. QB Bryan Cupito has quite a passing game as well to complement the second best rushing attack in the nation. Virginia is mediocre at best against the run, and their heralded linebackers will add to their high tackle total for the season when Maroney and Russell break through the D-Line. Look for Minnesota to score a lot of points and control the tempo with their run game.

Virginia has quite a task to keep up with Minnesota, but they can take heart in the fact that the Gophers give up a lot of points too. QB Marcus Hagans had a good season this year, but he also had 11 interceptions to go with a dozen touchdowns. Junior wideout Deyon Williams is his favorite target, and he should find openings all day against Minnesota. The key to this game will be establishing their own running game, which the Cavaliers have not done well at all so far. If the Cavs get behind and have to rely on the passing game only, Minnesota might win in a blowout.

Staff Predictions:
Jonathan David Reed Cortney Jeff
Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota

Northwestern vs UCLA

SCS.comThese teams took very different paths to get here, but both bring huge offenses in what is hailed as the high-scoring thriller of the bowl season. This game is what all college football fans love to watch: two teams with no defense rocking each other and making the scoreboard change every minute. Northwestern went 5-3 in a tough Big Ten this year, while UCLA dropped here after losing only to USC and Arizona in the Pac-10 (they missed out on league #2 Oregon). Both teams are motivated to be in this game, and both have something to prove. Let the fireworks begin!

When Northwestern has the ball, they will score at will. The Wildcats eighth ranked offense goes against UCLA's 108th ranked defense, and Brett Basanez, who leads the unit, is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Tyrone Sutton leads the strong rushing attack for the Wildcats, and Basanez has many good receivers to throw to. UCLA will have to bring pressure from the linebackers, just as Ohio State used that type of defensive attack to hold the Wildcats to one touchdown in November. If UCLA stops Northwestern twice in this game, they have a good chance to win.

When UCLA has the ball, they will also score at will. The battle in this case is the nation's worst defense against a solid Pac-10 offense. Drew Olson was even better than Basanez this season, and he will continue his successful season in this game. Maurice Drew should have a field day running, but Northwestern has been battle tested against very good Big Ten rushing attacks all year. Just like UCLA's defense, if Northwestern gets two or more stops in this game, they have a great chance to win.

Staff Predictions:
Jonathan David Reed Cortney Jeff
Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern UCLA UCLA

South Carolina vs Missouri

SCS.comAnybody in the SEC who missed Steve Spurrier, please speak up. The return of the ol' ball coach was very publicized, and Spurrier did not disappoint with a great season, and nearly a division title. Missouri played poorly against weak Big XII North competition, and they really do not look like a bowl eligible team. This could be motivation though, as USC gives Missouri a chance to win a little respect.

South Carolina did not put up many points this season, and part of the problem was the lack of a running game. QB Blake Mitchell has a great talent to throw to in freshman WR Sidney Rice, and they hooked up for 12 touchdowns this season. Spurrier may be better at drawing up plays to make quarterbacks famous, but he says he is committed to the run at USC. If running backs Mike Davis and Daccus Turman have any kind of good day rushing, it will take pressure off the passing game and the defense. The Gamecocks will not have to score a lot, but they will need to put up a few points and have long, effective possesions to help the defense in this one.

Missouri is led by QB Brad Smith again this season, and he was mentioned on the outside of many early season Heisman ballots. Unlike USC, Missouri has been very good running the ball, mostly with Smith. The Gamecocks have not seen any quarterback dual threats like this in the SEC, so their defense will have to stay as good as they were towards the end of the season. If Smith can get into open rushing lanes whenever the Gamecocks bring any kind of pressure, Missouri will have a great day offensively. We shall see if Smith has one more great game left in him in this one, and USC better not be caught lacking in preparation.

Staff Predictions:
Jonathan David Reed Cortney Jeff
South Carolina South Carolina South Carolina South Carolina South Carolina

(#7) Miami vs (#12) LSU

SCS.comThe only matchup of two top ten nationally ranked teams outside of the BCS this year is in the Peach Bowl, and both of these squads are the cream of the crop. Miami looked great in every game except a costly loss to Georgia Tech at the end of the season, and they should probably be representing the ACC in the BCS. LSU recovered from Hurricane Katrina and an early season choke to Tennessee to become a national title contender before a disappointing shellacking at the hands of Georgia in the SEC title game. A battle of defenses, this one will be good to watch.

When Miami has the ball, LSU's defense, the fifth best in the country, will try to put pressure up front on Kyle Wright and his passing game. Wright has been erratic this season, so the key to Miami's game plan will be establishing the running game behind RB Charlie Jones. LSU has a great front seven, so UM might be able to pass over the defense in the middle of the field all day. Special teams returner Devin Hester will have to give the Hurricanes good field position if Miami hopes to be effective on offense.

LSU has a similar daunting task in facing the third best defense in the country. JaMarcus Russell is a talented quarterback, but he can be rattled just like Wright on the other side of the ball. The speedy secondary of Miami will challenge Russell to try and throw all game, and so I expect LSU to try and run the ball with Joseph Addai and Justin Vincent more than usual. LSU also has a quality kick and punt returner in Skyler Green, so this game could be a battle of special teams and defense. Though it isn't the BCS, the winner of this game cannot be too disappointed, as winning the Peach Bowl this year is quite an accomplishment considering the championship-caliber teams participating.

Staff Predictions:
Jonathan David Reed Cortney Jeff
Miami Miami Miami LSU Miami

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