Fearless bowl predictions

December 20, 2008
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

While I have a lot of reservations about the fact that we can have 34 bowls that feature teams that barely made it to a .500 record, it is still a fairly remarkable feat that five college teams from Florida made it to the postseason. It’s another reminder that Florida remains a state rich in football talent, a fact which helped all these programs succeed this season.

But getting to a bowl game isn’t the same as winning. Here’s my fearless bowl predictions for the next three weeks of college football madness.

BCS National Championship Game (Florida vs. Oklahoma): The worst thing about the college post-season is the long layoff. There’s always a small concern that a team that has been playing with such forceful momentum will get out of sync. But since October I said time and time again that the Gators have been playing some of the best college football I have ever seen. The Gators offense can keep pace with the Sooners offense in what could be a high-scoring game. But I continue to think that people have overlooked the UF defense. I think it is good enough to put the brakes on the Oklahoma high-wire act and I bet Coach Urban Meyer will put in a game plan that will emphasize long, time-consuming drives to keep the Sooners off the field. Florida 35, Oklahoma 24

Emerald Bowl (Miami vs. California): So is having your inconsistent starting quarterback suspended for the game a blessing or a curse? Well, we’ll soon find out as the Canes have to play the Golden Bears without QB Robert Marve. But even though this is close to a home game for California, the Canes have enough talent to win this game provided the defense shows up. This could be the game that sets the stage for Miami’s return next year as a national contender. Miami 34, California 27

Champs Sports Bowl (Florida State vs. Wisconsin): There are so many reasons I should pick against FSU. Inconsistent quarterback play. The collapse of the defense in the final weeks of the regular season. The weekly reconfiguration of the playbook by FSU head coach in waiting Jimbo Fisher. But here’s what I will say about Fisher and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. I think both of them have had enough time before this game to probably come up with a game plan that will work. The Badgers themselves have had loads of problems with their quarterbacks and the team had to go into overtime to beat a Division 1-AA team. (Sorry, I can’t go along with that nonsense that changed their classification to Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision.) Florida State 24, Wisconsin 14.

Motor City Bowl (Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan):I know that Coach Howard Schnellenberger has never lost a bowl game in his storied career. But then again, I’m not sure he ever took a 6-6 team into a bowl game that is essentially played in the opponent’s back yard. I just don’t think FAU even belongs in a bowl. Central Michigan 28, FAU 10.

magicjack St. Petersburg Bowl (University of South Florida vs. Memphis):This is of course not where the Bulls wanted to end up but that’ s what happens when you lose five out of your last seven games.  I’m also trying to figure out who thought it was a great idea to play a football game at Tropicana Field. Memphis does have a solid running attack. But I don’t think USF is going to play poorly in what is essentially a home game against a team that just made it to .500. USF 28, Memphis 17 

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Gator QB losing grip on Heisman to USF rising star

September 16, 2008

Move over Tim Tebow. There’s another quarterback in Florida who may steal the Heisman Trophy away from you.

With his outstanding performance last Friday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, University of South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe has exploded into the national limelight as a bona fide Heisman Trophy contender. Even Sports Illustrated is now taking notice after Grothe threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 30 yards and another touchdown. While it was freshman kicker Maikon Bonani who got the winning field goal against the 13th ranked Kansas Jayhawks, the win would not have been possible without Grothe’s efforts.

What was even more impressive was that Grothe led the Bulls back to the victory even though USF trailed 20-3 at one point. That’s the largest comeback win in school history.

Amazingly SI’s Gene Menez has Tebow ranked higher in his Heisman Watch list than Grothe. (He’s got Missouri QB Chase Daniel in the lead right now.) Maybe this is what we call in politics the advantage of being the incumbent.

While Tebow has been solid, he hasn’t put in the kind of performance that should elevate him ahead of Grothe. By the numbers, Tebow has put up nearly 500 yards of offense in two games. But it’s reasonable to argue that the Gators would have probably beaten the Canes and Hawaii with or without Tebow. I don’t think the same can be said for USF. Grothe has been a difference maker, helping the team with two tight back-to-back close victories over the University of Central Florida and Kansas. And Grothe will get a chance to enhance his reputation in the next few weeks as USF is scheduled to be on national television at least three or four more times.

Tebow gets his chance to prove that he deserves a second Heisman Trophy when he takes on Tennessee this weekend. But right now the top quarterback in the Sunshine State doesn’t wear orange and blue, he wears gold and green.