Bowl season set to hit high gear

Posted: Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Bowl madness has arrived.

Over the next 10 days, from the Las Vegas Bowl through the Fiesta Bowl, 50 teams will play in 25 games with payouts ranging from $750,000 to $13 million per team.

While only one game will determine the national champion -- No. 1 Miami (12-0) vs. No. 2 Ohio State (13-0) in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 -- many more matchups are worth watching.

Tops on the list is the Orange Bowl with a Rose Bowl flavor -- No. 5 Southern California (10-2) vs. No. 3 Iowa (11-1) on Jan. 2. The game not only features co-champs of the Pac-10 and Big Ten (the Rose Bowl can't make that claim this year), but it's Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer of USC against runner-up Brad Banks of Iowa.

The real Rose Bowl, in Pasadena on Jan. 1, matches No. 7 Washington State (10-2) against No. 8 Oklahoma (11-2), the Big 12 champion. The game became a bit more intriguing with the news last week that Mike Price will coach the Cougars even though he's taken the coaching job at Alabama.

Players are still getting over the news, but there's hope a healthy Jason Gesser (3,169 yards, 27 TD passes) can pick apart Oklahoma's susceptible pass defense and send Price off with a big win.

Then there's the Gator Bowl matchup of No. 11 Notre Dame (10-2) against No. 17 North Carolina State (10-3) on Jan. 1. The Fighting Irish were 8-0 at one point; the Wolfpack 9-0. Notre Dame, under new coach Tyrone Willingham, believes it should be in a BCS game but could have trouble handling NC State quarterback Philip Rivers (3,125 yards and 18 TDs passing; 10 TDs rushing).

Check out the Holiday Bowl to see how many points are scored when Kansas State plays Arizona State. The Wildcats (10-2) outscored their last five opponents by a combined 253-30 and are averaging 45.7 points. The Sun Devils may be 8-5, but score 32.7 points per game thanks primarily to the pass-and-catch combination of Andrew Walter-to-Shaun McDonald.

Three bowls can produce teams with losing seasons -- the Independence, Seattle and Sun. Mississippi, Purdue, Wake Forest each have 6-6 records. The Rebels play Nebraska in the Independence on Friday; Wake Forest takes on Oregon in the Seattle on Dec. 30, and Purdue plays Washington in the Sun on Dec. 31.

And the Fiesta? The defending national champion Hurricanes aren't double-digit favorites for nothing. With a nearly unstoppable offense of quarterback Ken Dorsey (3,073 yards, 26 TDs), tailback Willis McGahee (1,686 yards, 27 TDs) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (1,038 yards, nine TDs), the 'Canes are poised for a repeat.

The picks:

UCLA (minus 10 1/2) vs. New Mexico (Las Vegas, Wednesday)

Even with a coaching change, Bruins are good enough to handle Lobos ... UCLA, 28-21.

Tulane (plus 12) vs. Hawaii (Hawaii, Wednesday)

Warriors' QB Chang threw for 4,350 yards and 25 TDs ... HAWAII, 45-38.

Toledo (plus 4) vs. Boston College (Motor City, Thursday)

Rockets' QB Jones among nation's top passers ... TOLEDO, 28-24.

Oregon State (minus 2 1/2) vs. Pittsburgh (Insight, Thursday)

Panthers have budding star in WR Fitzgerald ... PITTSBURGH, 27-24.

Southern Mississippi (plus 7) vs. Oklahoma State (Houston, Friday)

Cowboys still sky-high after upset of Sooners ... OKLAHOMA STATE, 35-21.

Nebraska (minus 5) vs. Mississippi (Independence, Friday)

Could be a rout -- for the Huskers ... NEBRASKA, 49-28.

Kansas State (minus 18) vs. Arizona State (Holiday, Friday)

Wildcats' D contains Sun Devils passing game ... KANSAS STATE, 48-24.

Colorado (minus 7) vs. Wisconsin (Alamo, Saturday)

Buffs' RB Brown (1,744 yards) set to return ... COLORADO, 31-28.

West Virginia (minus 5) vs. Virginia (Continental, Saturday)

WVU RB Cobourne/QB Marshall lead No. 2 rush offense ... WEST VIRGINIA, 31-21.

Minnesota (plus 8 1/2) vs. Arkansas (Music City, Dec. 30)

Hogs finished strong before SEC title game loss ... ARKANSAS, 24-20.

Wake Forest (plus 7) vs. Oregon (Seattle, Dec. 30)

Demon Deacons just happy to be here ... OREGON, 35-21.

Iowa State (plus 11 1/2) vs. Boise State (Humanitarian, Dec. 31)

Boise has home edge -- a blue field ... BOISE STATE, 41-31.

Washington (minus 3 1/2) vs. Purdue (Sun, Dec. 31)

Teams have a combined 11 losses ... WASHINGTON, 33-24.

Colorado State (minus 5) vs. TCU (Liberty, Dec. 31)

Horned Frogs' defense handles Rams' running game ... TCU, 24-21.

Fresno State (plus 3 1/2) vs. Georgia Tech (Silicon Valley, Dec. 31)

Bulldogs have home state edge ... FRESNO STATE, 31-24.

Maryland (minus 1) vs. Tennessee (Peach, Dec. 31)

Defense led by LB Henderson ready to shut down Vols ... MARYLAND, 24-20.

Air Force (plus 11 1/2) vs. Virginia Tech (San Francisco, Dec. 31)

Run, run, run ... VIRGINIA TECH, 35-21.

Michigan (plus 1 1/2) vs. Florida (Outback, Jan. 1)

Gators' Grossman looking for big finish ... FLORIDA, 28-27.

LSU (plus 10) vs. Texas (Cotton, Jan. 1)

Final game for 'Horns QB Chris Simms ... TEXAS, 45-21.

Notre Dame (pick 'em) vs. North Carolina State (Gator, Jan. 1)

Wolfpack QB Rivers is trouble for Irish ... N.C. STATE, 28-24.

Penn State (minus 6) vs. Auburn (Capital One, Jan. 1)

Lions' RB Johnson ready for another 200-yard game ... PENN STATE, 41-27.

Washington State (plus 6 1/2) vs. Oklahoma (Rose, Jan. 1)

Outgoing coach Price shouldn't be here for this one ... OKLAHOMA, 45-31.

Georgia (no line) vs. Florida State (Sugar, Jan. 1)

Seminoles in turmoil ... GEORGIA, 31-17.

USC (minus 6) vs. Iowa (Orange, Jan. 2)

Heisman winner Palmer (USC) vs. runner-up Banks (Iowa) ... IOWA, 28-24.

Miami (minus 12 1/2) vs. Ohio State (Jan. 3)

Hurricanes ready for repeat ... MIAMI, 34-17.

Games of Dec. 7: 3-3 (straight); 1-4 (vs. points)

Season: 191-71 (straight); 129-121 (vs. points)

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