Today's bowl games

January 01, 2004|By Orlando Sentinel

Today's bowl games

Outback Bowl

No. 17 Florida (8-4) vs. No. 13 Iowa (9-3)

Time, TV: 11 a.m., ESPN.

Line: Florida by 3 1/2 .

Why you should watch: It's the first game of the day, which should count for something - assuming you actually can find the TV.

About Florida: Freshman QB Chris Leak doesn't have the best stats (180.1 ypg, 14 TDs, 10 interceptions), but he exhibits a calm beyond his years and played especially well the last half of the season. Florida uses a tailback-by-committee approach, but rushing yards could be tough to come by today. Senior TE Ben Troupe (39 catches, 16.4 ypc, five TDs) is the leading receiver. The Gators have been shaky against the run (151.9 ypg, 57th nationally), and that has to be a cause for concern today. An all-senior starting secondary has been solid all season, with CB Keiwan Ratliff (second in the nation with nine interceptions) and FS Daryl Dixon playing at the highest level.

About Iowa: Senior TB Fred Russell (100.4 ypg) makes the offense go. He's small (5 feet 8, 192 pounds), but tough enough to run between the tackles and speedy enough to take it the distance. He runs behind a big, physical line headed by T Robert Gallery, the Outland Trophy winner as the nation's best interior lineman. Senior QB Nathan Chandler (6-7, 259) is limited and immobile but can be dangerous if he has time to throw. Defense has carried Iowa, which is allowing 313.7 yards per game, 15th in the nation. A strong front seven has been especially good against the run (95.7 ypg, 10th nationally). LBs Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway have combined for 261 tackles, and DEs Matt Roth (11 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss) and Howard Hodges (10 sacks, 12 tackles for loss) are solid pass rushers.

The key: Iowa's running game. The Hawkeyes won't be able to score enough points if Russell is held in check.

The buzz: Florida lost to Michigan in this bowl last season.

The pick: Florida, 23-20.

Capital One Bowl

No. 11 Georgia (10-3) vs. No. 12 Purdue (9-3)

Time, TV: 1 p.m., chs. 2, 7.

Line: Georgia by 3 1/2 .

Why you should watch: Two evenly matched teams battle, with the winner likely to finish in the top 10.

About Georgia: The Bulldogs have been excellent on defense, giving up just 275.9 yards per game (fourth nationally). DE David Pollack is a force (85 tackles) despite facing a ton of double teams. LB Odell Thurman (130 tackles), FS Thomas Davis (111) and SS Sean Jones (111) are the leading tacklers. The Bulldogs will use three tailbacks today, but none really stands out. Junior QB David Greene gets a lot of publicity, but his production hasn't matched the hype this season: 229.2 ypg, 10 TDs and 11 interceptions.

About Purdue: The Boilermakers have won with defense; they've allowed 291.1 yards per game overall (11th nationally) and 95.6 on the ground (ninth nationally). DE Shaun Phillips (52 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks), LB Niko Koutouvides (90 tackles) and Gilbert Gardner (72 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss) and SS Stuart Schweigert (78 tackles, four interceptions) are the guys to watch. The offense is OK. TB Jerod Void is a tough between-the-tackles guy who lacks breakaway speed. QB Kyle Orton has been solid but has just 14 TD passes. WRs Taylor Stubblefield and John Standeford have combined for 148 catches, 1,784 yards and seven TDs.

The key: Neither team is going to have a lot of success moving the ball. One or two big plays in the passing game likely will determine the outcome.

The buzz: Of these teams' six combined losses, four came by a total of 14 points. Each also was blown out once (Georgia by LSU; Purdue by Michigan).

The pick: Purdue, 20-17.

Orange Bowl

No. 9 Florida State (10-2) vs. No. 10 Miami (10-2)

Time, TV: 8:30 p.m., chs. 2, 7.

Line: Florida State by 1 1/2 .

Why you should watch: This is one of the best rivalries in college football.

About Florida State: The Seminoles started 5-0 and looked like national title contenders. Then they lost to Miami and fell out of the picture. QB Chris Rix has all the physical tools but is prone to mistakes. The 'Noles use three players at tailback, with sophomore Leon Washington emerging as the most productive of late. Senior TB Greg Jones still is feeling the effects of knee surgery from late in 2002, but perhaps the past month off will have a positive effect. The 'Noles will be without their best deep threat, Craphonso Thorpe (51 catches, 11 TDs), so they need Chris Davis or Dominic Robinson to step up. The defense has been steady all season. DT Darnell Dockett (52 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, but just 1.5 sacks) has played at a high level. The linebacking corps of Kendyll Pope, Michael Boulware and Allen Augustin is experienced, but hasn't made many big plays (232 tackles, 14 tackles for loss). The secondary has played well, and if Florida State can get consistent pressure on QB Brock Berlin, there will be some interceptions in the offing.

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