Sunday, December 31, 2006

BOWL PREVIEW: Capital One Bowl

The Capital One cranks up Jan. 1, and you know what that means.
Beware the Vikings.
Yes, it's time for another high-profile clash between the Big Ten and the SEC, this one taking place in Orlando. And a mascot contest. So which do you suppose gets the most space on the Capital One Bowl Web site?
Because this is so much more important.
So while you're waiting for the end of the epic struggle between Butch and Testudo, the Maryland turtle who doesn't look the least bit fearable -- at halftime -- there's some rugby or something you can watch. Oh, football.
Bowl: Capital One Bowl
Location: Orlando
When: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
Purported reason for existence: To match the Big Ten runner-up with the SEC runner-up.
Real reason for existence: To host the mascot competition, of course.
Teams: Wisconsin vs. Arkansas
Interest level: The mascot challenge or the football game? Oh, the football game. In that case, Capital One commercials -- not the main event, but still entertaining.
Key player for Wisconsin (on offense): RB P.J. Hill, who has more than 1,700 yards and 16 TDs in all-purpose offense. That includes an average of almost 128 YPG on the ground.
Key player for Wisconsin (on defense): Nobody really cries out statistically on this team, but that doesn't meant they aren't impressive. Opponents are averaging 11.9 points on them, and the team has 13 INTs. So give the whole unit a checkmark.
Key player for Arkansas (on offense): RB/QB/WR/OC/DC/HC Darren McFadden, who pretty much runs things for the Razorbacks. He has 1,558 yards and 14 TDs on the ground, 149 yards and an additional TD receiving, and is 6-8 for 72 yards, 3 TDs and one INT as a quarterback.
Key player for Arkansas (on defense): LB Sam Olajubutu. In addition to having the best name perhaps in any New Year's Day bowl, Olajubutu leads the team with 112 tackles. Ten of those, btw, are for a loss and Olajubutu has 2.5 sacks. But again, a stout unit that has allowed only 18.4 PPG -- and that's counting a 50-point embarassment against USC in the first game of the year.
Coaching matchup: Brett "I'm new here" Bielema, who led the Badgers to an 11-1 season in his first year on the sidelines and could put together one of the nicest seasons the casual fan is unaware of, against Houston "Is the Alabama job still open?" Nutt, who has trouble controlling his players' parents.
Winner: Arkansas. It's tough to pick this game. Wisconsin has played no one all year, except Michigan, to whom they lost. Arkansas is on a two-game losing streak, dropping matchups with LSU and Florida. But I think this is the game for the Hogs to turn it around, being much fresher than the rusty Badgers. Close game, but Arkansas wins.

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