BOWL PREVIEW: Toyota Gator Bowl
Because nothing says "fierce animal with powerful jaws" like a Corolla, it's time for the Toyota Gator Bowl.
This may be one of the most interesting games on New Year's Day. Not because it guarantees to be good football; it could quite easily turn into a rout. But because it has enough intrigue and pathos for an episode of Real World. And remember, that's exactly how old most of these kids are.
On one side is Rich Rodriguez, he of the spurning of Alabama, about to find out how his players will react to his near-departure for more Crimson pastures. One the other side is Chan Gailey, forced by the Lord's mercy to start Not Reggie Ball. You get the feeling Georgia Tech fans want anyone who is Not Reggie Ball to start, no matter who that might be. (Does JT3 have any eligibility left?)
And in the middle of it all? What the Gator Bowl calls "the Patch."
No, not him.
That's more like it.
So buckle your seat belts. This one could be wild. Or unbelievably lame.
Bowl: Toyota Gator Bowl
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
When: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Purported reason for existence: Another congealed salad bowl, this game matches someone from the ACC with someone from the Big East. Or the Big XII. Or Notre Dame.
Real reason for existence: Because there weren't enough New Year's bowls in Florida.
Teams: Georgia Tech vs. West Virginia
Interest level: Michael Richards routine. Even if it isn't entertaining on its own, somebody's going to do or say something inappropriate to spice it up.
Even when not funny, he's at least bizarre.
Key player for Georgia Tech (on offense): QB Taylor Bennett. He's not the most statistically impressive quarterback -- mostly because he hasn't gotten much playing time due to Reggie Ball's ... apparently incriminating information about Chan Gailey. How he reacts to being in the game could determine it's outcome. As Brian Cook at AOL wonders, how much worse could he be?
Key player for Georgia Tech (on defense): LB KaMichael Hall, who leads the team with 75 tacks, nine of those for loss and four of them sacks, is the heart of the defense. He might not have the most impressive line at the end, but he'll be a good barometer of how the Jackets do.
Key player for West Virginia (on offense): QB Pat White, who's thrown for more than 1,500 yards and run for almost 1,100, is the center of the offense. If he needs help, though, Steve Slaton is always there, he of the pedestrian 1,700 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
Key player for West Virginia (on defense): DB Eric Wicks, with 11 TFL and seven sacks, could make Bennett's day a nightmare if he can bring pressure and lower the boom once or twice. In all honesty, though, West Virginia's attitude towards defense can basically be boiled down to: "We have to do that, too? Oh, OK."
Coaching matchup: Chan "Sooper Genius" Gailey and Rich "Give me the facilities if you want to keep me" Rodriguez meet after seasons that came up just short of their goals. West Virginia, as it ends up, lost their chance at a Big East crown in an upset to South Florida. Georgia Tech lost the ACC championship when Reggie Ball enrolled in school. How these coaches pick up their disheartened and (after the last few weeks) discombobulated players will go a long way to determining who wins.
Winner: West Virginia. There's just too much for the Jackets to overcome. Calvin Johnson, while good, has not been as impressive as he was made out to be. Reggie Ball might not have been the best QB, but he has one thing Bennett doesn't: Experience. And teams from Georgia don't have the best record against the Moutaineers, who I think are just too fast even for the GT offense to contain.