Doan Final Thoughts Rose, Orange, Sugar

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2012


The Final Thoughts before the Rose, Orange and Sugar Bowls.

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn

ROSE

For the first time in Rose Bowl history, a five loss football team will participate in the game. Sad enough yet? Good. Write a movie script. Anything so I can stop hearing about The Notebook every time a friend of mine meets a guy to date. If it helps, losses are fairly neutralized when it comes to bowl games, so take heart in the reality that if nothing else, this game will probably be close.

Last we saw Wisconsin, Bret Bielema was the coach, and they were hanging nearly 600 rushing yards on Nebraska, a team they’d previously lost to. No group has changed more in a shorter period of time since the two week gap between the Teen Mom finale and the reunion show.

If you look at Wisconsin’s losses, there is no real pattern. They lost to defensively challenged Nebraska in Lincoln (obviously avenged that) in a second half melt down. To offensively challenged Michigan State at home. Were stonewalled out in Corvallis, scoring only seven. Fired and offensive line coach. The problem for them is that against better front sevens, they’ve been worked over. Ohio State, Michigan State, and Penn State are all top 25 national run defenses. Wisconsin couldn’t snare over 14 points against any of them.

Which brings us to Stanford. The Cardinal boast one of the top five front sevens in football, and that’s not an opinion, sorry. Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas, and Trent Murphy make up part of arguably the best LB corps in the nation. There will be no rushing for 500 yards against this troop.

So what’s the rub against Stanford? It’s hard to find one. Since inserting Kevin Hogan at QB their final five games of the season, they’ve gone over 30 points per game in average. It’s rather forgivable to suggest at least one of their losses (Washington) was due in part to bad quarterback play.

All in all, this is just a bad mismatch for Wisconsin. The saving grace is that they should be sky high in confidence and themselves, boast a great run defense, but Stanford has some of the best tight end play in the country, which would force Wisconsin’s linebackers to think twice about committing all the time to that Stanford run game. On the reverse side, Curt Phillips shows promise, but isn’t near the offensive threat that Hogan is under center, and Stanford’s secondary is considerably better, led by Ed Reynolds, a top 10 national leader in interceptions.

Look for the Cardinal to win this one by 10-15 because the Wisconsin offense will need to pass and create turnovers to beat them. The idea that one class could go to three straight Rose Bowls is something for the Badgers to celebrate, still. With a controversial loss in South Bend to the nation’s currently best team and one in the hornet’s nest of Husky Stadium, Stanford, however, is better than advertised, and a bit too much to snap the streak.

ORANGE

Well, Northern Illinois star quarterback Jordan Lynch did it. He said, in so many words, that Florida State is good, but they haven’t seen an offense like the NIU variety. What was he thinking? The outrage was immediate. How could he? Didn’t someone hand him the card that said “repeat after me: I know we had a good year, but this is a BCS conference team, so if we stay within 30, I consider it a win.”

Give me a break. This is one of the most compelling games bowl season will see, and NIU rightly thinks they will win. Good teams never walk into a game thinking otherwise. Consider, the MAC has seen NIU, Ohio, and Kent State ranked at times. Not that far of a cry from the ACC, to be entirely honest. Florida State and Clemson have been mainstays, but mostly because of preseason rankings. Aside from them, the conference doesn’t look all that much deeper.

SUGAR

Never one to throw gasoline and a match on an obtuse, meaningless statistic, if Louisville were to beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl, they’d hold victories in the most recent matchups with every single FBS team from the state of Florida, including three this year.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way.

Though the excitement level of this game isn’t what it should be for a Sugar Bowl, at least it feels like (Florida still hasn’t sold their allotment of tickets, surprising for such a rabid fan base), the game should be awfully close.

Consider, in three of Louisville’s most atrocious offensive performances, weather played a real difference. Pass happy Louisville must at least keep Florida guessing by running the ball.

On the flip side, the oft scuffling Florida offense seemed to pick up steam later in the season, perhaps more comfortable, perhaps just because they got tired of hearing about how the defense was carrying them. Still, in spite of their veteran offensive line, they were 110th in the nation in sacks allowed...a sure issue in a game where the opponent has so much time to prepare exotic defenses. On defense, Florida played what you would call two dynamic quarterbacks. They saw and beat Johnny Manziel in TAMU’s first game of the season, and handled him. Their loss was to the sturdy, savvy Aaron Murray of Georgia. Teddy Bridgewater will arguably be a hybrid between the two. He has a strong arm and veteran ability like Murray, and he has a little mobility like Manziel, though not at that level. Being able to convert broken plays will be crucial against a defense so good at taking away the first option.

Special teams will be the key. Florida isn’t a team of huge plays along the edges. Their leading receiver had just over 300 yards, though Jeff Driskel finds Jordan Reed, his tight end, often, and well. Louisville will need to make Florida hit those shots down field to prove they can, taking away Reed even if it exposes them to man coverage. Which is where special teams come in. Florida is absurdly good at all phases of them, and when you have an offense that struggles sometimes, that is a huge key, getting short fields and getting field goals at worst out of those possessions.

So the key for the Ville is loading the box, taking away the runs of Mike Gillislee and Driskel, who make up nearly 70 percent of Florida’s runs, then using chips off the line to throw off the timing of Reed, then staying with him. Force action on big plays.

And for the Gators, it will be the same formula as playing any savvy quarterback. Force him to become one dimensional by taking away whatever run game the Cards try, then get pressure. Manziel, for his part, said the Florida secondary really bothered him by taking away those first two reads in the secondary and forcing more patience against their vacuum tight coverage. Bridgewater will need to be mobile, but stay in the pocket, like Murray was, enough to hit those third and fourth reads with his eyes and then his arm. It should be a close game, emphasis on defense on both ends. The smart money is on Florida. The real winner in this game will come from turnovers. I hate being cliche, but thems the breaks in this game. Florida State is 90+ in turnover margin, 108 in fumbles. The fact that they’ve been on the business end of the turnover game so much and are so good is some sort of football anomaly.

But, and this is the high school basketball coach in me talking, you look at Florida State’s losses and close games, all of them were contests the Noles probably had to read ad nauseum about how it was a walk in the park. NC State. Allegedly offensively challenged Florida. Georgia Tech. Folks, like so much of sports is, it’s upstairs.

And whoever chooses to walk up those stairs, well, they will win.