|Bowl Game Preview: Emerald Bowl|
|Written by TheSpread|
|Wednesday, 27 December 2006 06:00|
Bettors Predicting a Bruin Victory Over Seminoles Tonight in Emerald Bowl
A pair of teams that appear headed in different directions meet for the first time when the Bruins battle the Seminoles in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 27.
The game, which will be played at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, represents an opportunity for UCLA to finish with a four-game winning streak - all against teams making bowl appearances.
UCLA (7-5) pulled off a tremendous upset in its regular-season finale, beating crosstown rival Southern California 13-9 on Dec. 2 and denying the Trojans a spot in the BCS national championship game.
``I didn't believe it until the clock hit zero,'' UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. ``All we wanted to do was stay close and get a chance to win. I know how important this win is for the Bruin family. I know that it's been a long time.''
The Bruins also beat Oregon State and Arizona State to end the season. UCLA has made five straight bowl appearances, and rebounded from a 22-point deficit to beat Northwestern 50-38 in the Sun Bowl last season, the largest comeback in school history.
Florida State (6-6) is heading to a bowl for the 25th year in a row, but it's been a trying season for coach Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles.
A year after winning the ACC title and nearly upsetting Penn State in the Orange Bowl, the Seminoles have slipped to .500 and are in danger of posting their first losing record since going 5-6 in 1976, Bowden's first year in Tallahassee.
Bowden's son, Jeff, resigned as offensive coordinator during the year and Florida State lost four home games for the first time since 1975. Wake Forest beat the Seminoles 30-0 on Nov. 11, the first home shutout of the Hall of Fame coach's 31-year tenure.
``A very disappointing year,'' said Bowden, whose 365 wins are first in NCAA history. ``I think we'd get a very unanimous vote on that.''
Still, the Emerald Bowl offers a chance for Bowden to improve on his 19 bowl wins - the second-most in history - and to showcase Florida State to a different part of the country.
``Bowl games are extremely important in college football and making one is always one of our goals to start the season,'' said Bowden, who is 19-9-1 in bowl games. ``I know our players are looking forward to visiting a different part of the country.''
Florida State hasn't played on the West Coast since a 14-7 victory over USC in 1997.
Bowden has decided to start Drew Weatherford at quarterback for this game over Xavier Lee. Both struggled late in the season, but Bowden liked Weatherford's performance in practice leading up to the bowl.
``I am glad I have another opportunity,'' Weatherford said. ``I am looking forward to taking advantage of it. We have had great practices. It has been easy to concentrate and just play football. It is going to be important for me to have good pocket presence and to be decisive, know my reads, and to move the ball.''
Five of the Seminoles' losses came by a total of 26 points, but win or lose, they'll finish with their fewest victories since a 7-4-1 record in 1986.
``A 6-6 season is unacceptable at Florida State,'' receiver Greg Carr said.
Even though the Seminoles don't resemble the program that finished every season from 1987-2000 ranked in the top 5, they are still considered a marquee opponent by Dorrell, who is 1-2 in bowls.
``This matchup will be a great opportunity for our football program. Bobby Bowden has won more football games than anyone in Division I-A history and he has been especially successful in bowl games.
``Florida State has had great success over the last three decades. It has a tradition of dominating defenses and explosive offenses. I know that the young men in our program will be very excited to play the Seminoles in a great setting in San Francisco.''
UCLA is hoping to maintain the momentum gained from its victory over USC, the Bruins' first victory over the Trojans since 1998.
Unlike last year, when the Bruins tried to outscore their opponents, this year's team has played stifling defense.
UCLA was 113th out of 118 Division I-A teams in total defense in 2005, allowing 468 yards per game. The Bruins cut that number to 304 yards this season, ranking 33rd.
Eric McNeal deflected, then made a diving interception with 1:10 remaining to seal the Bruins' victory over the Trojans. Last year, USC won the rivalry game 66-19.
``Our defense was lights out, just awesome,'' UCLA quarterback Pat Cowan said. ``They just keep getting better and better. This season, there has been a whole new attitude on the defense.''
Dorrell will have an interesting decision to make at quarterback for the bowl game. Ben Olson started the first five games before tearing a knee ligament on Oct. 7. Dorrell said he would get the start against USC if he was ready to play, but it was Cowan - who started the final seven games - who led the Bruins to the upset.
Olson is considered the better passer while Cowan is more mobile. He had 55 yards rushing and the only Bruins' touchdown against USC.
UCLA is 13-13-1 all-time in bowls while Florida State is 20-13-2.
by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us
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