Russell Wilson can get it done
The Wolfpack fell short of making the ACC title game but this has still been a big year for Tom O’Brien’s men. NC State finally turned the corner to put together an 8-4 regular season. Much of their success can be laid at the feet of junior quarterback Russell Wilson. His efficient but exciting play will be crucial to deciding the Champ Sports Bowl later today.
West Virginia enjoyed a 9-3 season but could only earn a share of the Big East title, crucially missing out on a trip to the BCS. That finish meant Bill Stewart has been fired as coach of the Moutaineers, only he won’t actually lose his job until next year as Dana Holgorsen is going to run the offence for a season before taking over as head coach in 2012. This is not an ideal situation for West Virginia and will lead to some confusion and disharmony in the program, issues that will at best be resolved in the spring. With those kinds of circumstances, I have to look at the Wolfpack as having a big psychological advantage in this match-up. Couple that with the talent O’Brien has built up and they look well placed for the win.
Gabbert continues his ascension
The progress of Blaine Gabbert as Missouri’s quarterback has NFL scouts salivating. While extremely unlikely to declare for 2011, he has a great shot to move to the top of early 2012 draft boards with a strong performance against Iowa in the Insight Bowl. The Hawkeyes dropped their last three games in pitiful style, lacking the dominant D that had put them in the national title conversation at the start of the season. For all the talent at Kirk Ferentz’s disposal, his team hasn’t been able to close out games against disciplined opponents.
That’s bad news tonight as the Tigers with Gabbert under centre, unlike the Chase Daniel years, now have the defence to back up their high-powered attack. It was that extra oomph on D that proved the difference in significant victories over Oklahoma (then ranked #1), Texas A&M, and Kansas State. Tonight they face a much less powerful offence, one with major problems at tail back, than any of those opponents. I won’t go as far as calling this a rout but Missouri should win comfortably.
The Poinsettia Bowl was not just vindication for San Diego State, it was also a shining moment for the ground staff in Qualcomm Stadium. The level of flooding should have turned the pitch into a muddy mess, instead the crew managed to keep the surface in great condition and that was vital to the game turning out to be as entertaining and clean as it was.
My picks record dropped to a dire 3-5 thanks to Florida International’s late game-winning field goal in the Little Caesars Bowl. This post will be live before I see the result of the Independence Bowl, where I picked Georgia Tech, so I’ll either be 4-5 or 3-6 by the time this goes live.
We will have daily posts between today and 1 January to keep up with the string of bowl games. Tomorrow’s slate will see us preview the Military Bowl, Texas Bowl, and Alamo Bowl.