Silver Chips Online

Bowl Championship Series handbook

A preview of college football's final week

By Abe Schwadron, Online Managing Editor and Josh Zipin, Online Managing Sports Editor
December 22, 2005
It's the Super Bowl of NCAA Football. It's a college pigskin fan's favorite time of year. It's a time for chips, dip and a comfy chair. It's Bowl season, baby!

With a dynasty hanging in the balance, the Trojans of USC go after the Longhorns of Texas in the Rose Bowl matchup of two unbeatens that college football fans been waiting for all year. The Fiesta, Sugar and Orange Bowls round out the rest of the Bowl Championship Series and promise holiday excitement even for the casual fan. Whether you're looking to impress your friends with some cool stats, cash in on a friendly wager or just pad your sports knowledge, Silver Chips Online's guide to the BCS is here to help.

Fiesta Bowl

January 2, Tempe, Arizona
Notre Dame (9-2) vs. Ohio State (9-2)

The Word: Two underrated top-5 teams face off in a battle of explosive offense versus stingy defense.

Offense: Brady Quinn, who has transformed into a new quarterback under the tutelage of offensive guru and Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, looks to continue his string of strong performances in the Fighting Irish's biggest game of the season. Quinn's golden arm tossed for 3,633 yards, 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in the regular season. Darius Walker, who ran for over 1,000 yards this season, along with Jeff Samardzija, who caught 15 touchdowns, will look to take some pressure off Quinn and balance out the Notre Dame offense. On the other sideline, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, a big, hard throwing quarterback whose skills draw comparisons to Dante Culpepper, has lead the Buckeyes with 14 passing and 11 rushing touchdowns. But even with talented receivers Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. out wide, the Buckeyes may not be able to match the star power of the Irish.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Defense: Notre Dame's defense is a risk-taking unit that had 13 interceptions in eleven games, including three that were returned for touchdowns. But the Irish are no match for the stout defense of the Buckeyes, who are led by All-American linebacker A.J. Hawk, winner of the Lombardi trophy as the best player in the nation at his position. Hawk and his teammates allow just under 75 rush yards per game, and have held their opponents to just 17 touchdowns on the year.

Advantage: Ohio State

Player to Watch: Ted Ginn, Jr., WR, Ohio State A big-play receiver with top-notch speed is coupled with a quarterback who knows where to find him in tight spots.

Bottom Line: The Irish and mastermind Weis outsmart Ohio State, despite the efforts of Hawk, Smith and Ginn.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Ohio State 24

Sugar Bowl

January 2, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia (10-2) vs. West Virginia (10-1)

The Word: Speed versus speed in this contest, which is being played in the Georgia Dome. Does anyone else see a bit of home field advantage?

Offense: The D.J. Shockley-led Bulldogs don't have many other big play weapons on offense. Shockley carried the load this year with 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions. No other Bulldog had more than five touchdowns on the year. West Virginia is led by running back Steve Slaton who only played in eight games but racked up almost 1,000 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. But with mediocre quarterback Pat White leading the Mountaineers, West Virginia could struggle to fill the stat sheet.

Advantage: Georgia

Defense: West Virginia's defense holds opponents to just under a hundred rushing yards per game, and their playmakers in the secondary have racked up 17 interceptions so far this season. But Georgia's defense has been equally explosive, snatching sixteen interceptions and holding opponents to a total of just 20 touchdowns in the regular season. The Bulldogs will hurry the quarterback and jam the Mountaineer receivers, making life hard for the West Virginia offense.

Advantage: Georgia

Key Player: Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia If he runs the ball well for the Mountaineers, they could upset the Bulldogs. If not, their offense will struggle.

Bottom Line: Georgia is playing too solid, too tough and too close to home to drop this one to the Mountaineers.

Prediction: Georgia 30, West Virginia 21

Orange Bowl

January 3, Miami, Florida
Penn State (10-1) vs. Florida State (8-4)

The Word: Florida State somehow backed into a BCS bowl berth, and looks to play the role of spoiler once again versus Joe Pa's young Nittany Lions.

Offense: Drew Weatherford has been inconsistent at quarterback for the Seminoles all season, finishing with 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Lorenzo Booker leads the 'Noles in rushing, averaging a mere 45 yards a game. Penn State is lead by Michael Robinson at quarterback who averages a whopping 71 rushing yards a game; not to mention his 2097 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air. Freshman Jordan Norwood anchors Penn State's stellar receiving corps.

Advantage: Penn State

Defense: The Nittany Lions have intercepted 15 passes on the year and hold opponents to under 100 yards rushing per game, led by the run-stuffing ability and sideline-to-sideline tackling of 6-foot-2 linebacker Paul Posluszny. The Seminoles, on the other hand, give up nearly 125 yards on the ground per game and take risks without covering their tracks. Overall, Penn State's defense is much more disciplined than Florida State's, which has been sloppy and inconsistent, allowing more than 14 points in each of their last eight games.

Advantage: Penn State

Key Player: Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State A dynamic defender and a leader on coach Joe Paterno's solid defense.

Bottom Line: Florida State's lame defense is too soft for Penn State's young and energetic offense.

Prediction: Penn State 33, Florida State 17

Rose Bowl

January 4, Pasadena, California
USC (12-0) vs. Texas (12-0)

The Word: One team is untouchable, but they're both unbeaten. USC remains king, but Texas looks to unseat the reigning champs.

Offense: Wow. USC is absolutely loaded. Quarterback: Matt Leinart, 3,450 yards passing, 27 touchdowns. Running backs: Reggie Bush, 1,658 yards, 15 touchdowns. LenDale White, 1,178 yards, 21 touchdowns. Receiver: Dwayne Jarrett, 1153 yards, 15 touchdowns. You can't spell score without the SC. Texas is led by Heisman trophy finalist Vince Young, who finished with 2,769 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. What's sad is that Vince Young also led the Longhorns in rushing, averaging 70 yards a game. Without help on offense, the Longhorns could struggle.

Advantage: USC

Defense: The Trojans' defense specializes in the linebacking corps, while their defensive line is just mediocre, but defensive end Lawrence Jackson leads the team with ten sacks, so look out Vince Young. USC's secondary is their weak link, but corner Josh Pinkard is a playmaker and ballhawk on the outside. USC's defense is adequate, but not special. As for Texas, the Longhorns love defense. Defensive tackle Rodrique Wright and safety Michael Huff (2 interceptions) lead the D, which will hope to contain the Trojans' dynamic offense. The Longhorns are also the best in the nation on special teams, and punt-block specialist Michael Griffin has blocked a school-record six punts in three seasons, and Texas as a team has blocked 42 kicks since the 2000 season. Texas' defense is a solid, confident unit, while USC's is not used to being tested.

Advantage: Texas

Key Player: LenDale White, RB, USC Bush is the Trojans' feature back, but White gives the offense versatility and a Jerome Bettis-like rusher who can run between the tackles.

Bottom Line: USC makes it a shootout, and the Longhorns just can't keep up. Reggie Bush's presence is the X-factor.

Prediction: USC 42, Texas 28

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