in Tampa, Fla.
No. 12 MICHIGAN (9-3) vs. No. 22 FLORIDA (8-4)
Time: 11 a.m.
Coaches: Lloyd Carr (75-23 in 8th year at Michigan) and Ron Zook (8-4 in first year).
Bowl records: Michigan is 17-16. Florida is 14-15.
Last bowl appearance: Michigan lost to Tennessee, 45-17, in last year's Citrus Bowl. Florida beat Maryland, 56-23, in last year's Orange Bowl.
Series history: First meeting.
Last game: Michigan lost at Ohio State, 14-9, on Nov. 23. Florida lost at Florida State, 31-14, on Nov. 30.
Statistic that matters: In Gators' 4 losses, QB Rex Grossman threw 4 TDs vs. 11 ints. In Florida's 8 wins, Grossman threw 16 TDs vs. 6 ints.
Game facts: After looking bad in Citrus Bowl last year, Wolverines look for better effort here. QB-WR combo of John Navarre (2,586 yards passing, 20 TDs, 7 ints.)-Braylon Edwards (63 catches, 10 TDs) is impressive with RBs Chris Perry, B.J. Askew (combined 1,584 rushing, 17 TDs) getting tough yards inside. LB Carl Diggs (broken leg) is out, the fourth Wolverines LB to suffer season-ending injury. Kicking (3 kickers went combined 11-of-23 on FGs) is problem. Looking to avoid first 5-loss season since 1989, Gators enter bowl with fewest wins since 1992. Zook's critics know these numbers. Many think junior Grossman (3,079 passing) is headed for NFL draft.
COTTON BOWLin Dallas
LSU (8-4) vs. No. 9 TEXAS (10-2)
Time: 11 a.m.
TV/radio: WYFX (17/62), WBBW-AM (1240).
Coaches: Nick Saban (26-11 in third year at LSU) and Mack Brown (48-15 in 5th year).
Bowl records: LSU is 16-16-1. Texas is 19-20-2.
Last bowl appearance: LSU beat Illinois, 47-34, in last year's Sugar Bowl. Texas beat Washington, 47-43, in last year's Holiday Bowl.
Series history: Texas leads, 8-7-1.
Last meeting: LSU won, 13-0, in the 1962 Cotton Bowl.
Last game: LSU lost at Arkansas, 21-20, on Nov. 29. Texas beat Texas A & amp;M, 50-20, on Nov. 29.
Statistic that matters: Since 2000, Longhorns are 26-2 vs. unranked foes including 17 wins by 30 points or more.
Game facts: Late 2-3 slide, including loss to Arkansas on TD pass with 11 seconds left, cost Tigers chance to defend SEC title. Defense (gave up 127 points in last 5 games) seemed to wear out. RB LaBrandon Toefield (408 rushing, 2 TDs) will be full strength for first time since breaking arm Oct. 5 vs. La.-Lafayette. QB Marcus Randall (1,250 total offense, 6 TD passes, 4 ints., 2 TD runs) has strong but-not-too-accurate arm. Longhorns QB Chris Simms (2,938 passing, 24 TDs, 10 ints.) will take on solid Tigers' secondary (second in nation in pass defense, 143.0, 16 ints., 11 TDs allowed) with speedy WRs Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson (combined 99 catches, 15.9 per catch, 16 TDs). RB Cedric Benson (1,247 rushing, 11 TDs) has NFL talent.
in Jacksonville, Fla.
No. 11 NOTRE DAME (10-2) vs. No. 17 N.C. STATE (10-3)
Time: 12:30 p.m.
TV: WFMJ (21).
Coaches: Tyrone Willingham (10-2 in first year at Notre Dame) and Chuck Amato (25-12 in third year).
Bowl records: Notre Dame is 13-11. N.C. State is 9-10-1.
Last bowl appearance: Notre Dame lost to Oregon State, 41-9, in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl. N.C. State lost to Pittsburgh, 34-19, in last year's Tangerine Bowl.
Series history: First meeting.
Last game: Notre Dame lost at Southern Cal, 44-13, on Nov. 30. N.C. State beat Florida State, 17-7, on Nov. 23.
Statistic that matters: Fighting Irish were seventh in nation in scoring defense (15.8 points per game) while Wolfpack were 20th in scoring offense (32.2).
Game facts: Irish look to snap 6-game bowl losing streak. Ugly collapse vs. Southern Cal (Irish were outgained 610-109, most yards ND ever allowed) ruined chances for BCS bid. QB Carlyle Holliday (1,766 passing, 10 TDs, 5 ints., 3 TD runs) set ND record with 126 straight passes without int. before throwing 3 vs. USC. CBs Shane Walton (7 ints., 2 returned for TDs), Vontez Duff (7th in nation in kickoff returns, 27.9, 1 TD, 1 TD punt return), DE Ryan Roberts (8 sacks) lead tough defense (33 turnovers forced). Aiming for first ever 11-win season, Wolfpack are led by QB Phillip Rivers (led ACC with 3,125 passing, 18 TDs, 10 ints.), freshman RB T.A. McClendon (1,083 rushing, led ACC with 16 TDs), WRs Jerricho Cotchery, Bryan Peterson (combined 97 catches, 12 TDs).
CAPITOL ONE BOWL
in Orlando, Fla.
No. 10 PENN STATE (9-3) vs. No. 19 AUBURN (8-4)
Time: 1 p.m.
TV: WYTV (33).
Coaches: Joe Paterno (336-99-3 in 37th year at Penn State) and Tommy Tuberville (29-19 in fourth year).
Bowl records: Penn State is 23-11-2. Auburn is 14-12-2.
Last bowl appearance: Penn State beat Texas A & amp;M, 24-0, in 1999 Alamo Bowl. Auburn lost to North Carolina, 16-10, in last year's Peach Bowl.
Series history: Penn State leads, 1-0.
Last meeting: Penn State won, 43-14, in the 1996 Outback Bowl.
Last game: Penn State beat Michigan State, 61-7, on Nov. 23. Auburn won at Alabama, 17-7, on Nov. 23.
Statistic that matters: Paterno's 20 bowl victories are most in NCAA history.
Game facts: Nittany Lions are 6-1 in bowls since 1994. RB Larry Johnson (led nation with 2,015 rushing, 23 TDs, 3rd in nation) has point to prove after finishing distant 3rd in Heisman voting. He'll look for holes in tougher-than-they-look Tigers front seven (6th in SEC vs. run, 139.3). So QB Zack Mills (2,350 passing, 17 TDs, 9 ints., 3 TD runs) will need to get ball downfield, preferably to WR Bryant Johnson (48 catches, 19.1 per catch, 4 TDs). Tigers made their season with monumental upset at Alabama. Since taking back over as starter, QB Jason Campbell (41-of-72, 599 passing, 6 TDs, 3 ints. in last 4 games) led team to 3-1 mark while sophomore RB Ronnie Brown (824 rushing, 11 TDs) did superb job of filling in for injured star RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams (broken leg).
in Pasadena, Calif.
No. 7 WASHINGTON STATE (10-2) vs. No. 8 OKLAHOMA (11-2)
Time: 5 p.m.
TV/radio: WYTV (33), WBBW-AM (1240).
Coaches: Mike Price (83-77 in 14th year at Washington State) and Bob Stoops (41-7 in fourth year).
Bowl records: Washington State is 5-3. Oklahoma is 22-12-1.
Last bowl appearance: Washington State beat Purdue, 33-27, in last year's Sun Bowl. Oklahoma beat Arkansas, 10-3, in last year's Cotton Bowl.
Series history: Oklahoma leads, 2-0.
Last meeting: Oklahoma won, 21-0, in 1967.
Last game: Washington State beat UCLA, 48-27, on Dec. 7. Oklahoma beat Colorado, 29-7, in the Big 12 Championship Game Dec. 7.
Statistic that matters: Under Stoops, Sooners are 10-1 vs. top-10 ranked foes.
Game facts: Game is farewell for Price, who is headed for Alabama along with several WSU assistants. Defensive coordinator Bill Doba becomes head coach next year. Despite lingering ankle problem, QB Jason Gesser (3,169 passing, 27 TDs, 11 ints.) must take advantage of Sooners' man-to-man coverage with WRs Jerome Riley, Devard Darling, Mike Bush (combined 145 catches, 23 TDs) on downfield routes. In 11 wins, Sooners solid defense (6th in nation in scoring, 15.5, 33 turnovers forced) gave up 12.2 points per game. In 2 losses, the number was 34.0 points, including 8 TD passes. Terrific RB Quentin Griffin (1,740 rushing, 17 TDs, 33 catches), backup Kejuan Jones (607 rushing, 14 TDs) will look for holes in WSU front seven.
in New Orleans
No. 4 GEORGIA (12-1) vs. No. 16 FLORIDA STATE (9-4)
Time: 8:30 p.m.
TV: WYTV (33), WBBW-AM (1240).
Coaches: Mark Richt (20-5 in second year at Georgia) and Bobby Bowden (259-63-4 in 27th year).
Bowl records: Georgia is 19-15-3. Florida State is 18-9-2.
Last bowl appearance: Georgia lost to Boston College, 20-16, in last year's Music City Bowl. Florida State beat Virginia Tech, 30-17, in last year's Gator Bowl.
Series history: Georgia leads, 5-4-1.
Last meeting: Teams tied, 17-17, in 1984 Florida Citrus Bowl.
Last game: Georgia beat Arkansas, 30-3, in the SEC Championship Game, Dec. 7. Florida State beat Florida, 31-14, on Nov. 30.
Statistic that matters: In spite of 3-3 postseason mark since 1997, Bowden's 18-6-1 bowl record is best in NCAA history.
Game facts: Determined, resourceful Bulldogs rolled to first SEC title since 1982. Former offensive coordinator under Bowden, Richt somehow made 2-QB system of David Greene (SEC offensive player of year, 2,836 passing, 22 TDs, 8 ints.), sophomore D.J. Shockley work, thus getting 8-year, $12-million contract extension. WRs Terrence Edwards (56 catches, 10 TDs), Fred Gibson (41 catches, 18.2 per catch) are kind of fast, athletic targets that give FSU secondary (95th in nation, 243.6, 20 TDs given up) fits. DE David Pollack (led SEC with 12 sacks) leads mean defense (4th in nation in scoring, 15.3). Troubled Seminoles need win to avoid first 5-loss season since 1981. With QB Chris Rix suspended for missing religion final exam, sophomore Fabian Walker (5-of-8 for 74 yards passing, 0 TDs, 0 ints.) gets start, though WR Anquan Boldin (62 catches, 15.1 per catch, 12 TDs), a former star high school QB, could also take snaps.
Scripps Howard News Service