The 2008 bowl matchup prognostications have begun. Publications, websites, television networks and diehard college football fans all around the country have come up with their picks for which schools will match up in the nation’s 34 bowl games. So who will play in San Diego’s Pacific Life Holiday Bowl?
From the Pac-10, which provides the bowl with its conference runner-up, USC, Oregon, Arizona State and Cal have seen predictions placing them in the December 30th game. On the Big 12 side, from which the game receives the third selection, there have been forecasts of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas and Texas A&M heading west to “America’s Finest City.”
The most popular choice to win the Pac-10 yet again is USC. Despite losing 11 starters from last year’s squad, most feel junior QB Mark Sanchez and senior LB Rey Maualuga will lead the team to their sixth straight BCS birth. Of the remaining conference favorites, many envision California making the trip south to play in San Diego for the third time in the last five years. Though the Golden Bears lost 12 starters expect Head Coach Jeff Tedford to have his boys back in the national picture in 2008. QB Rudy Carpenter could lead Arizona State back to San Diego for the second consecutive year. If they do, expect a much better performance than last year’s disappointing 52-34 loss to Texas. Longtime powerhouse Oregon was on track for a BCS birth last year until an injury to star QB Dennis Dixon led to an upset loss to Arizona in their ninth game. Head Coach Mike Bellotti will have the Ducks ready for the season opener against Washington in Eugene.
Expectations for the Big 12 to place two teams in BCS games are high. Many select conference perennial stalwart Oklahoma as the favorite to win the conference title. Several pre-season All-America candidates, including junior TE Jermaine Gresham, could even bring Head Coach Bob Stoops his first national title since 2000. A favorable non-conference schedule and ten returning starters on offense, including senior QB Graham Harrell, may lead to Texas Tech being the nation’s surprise team. Texas, always a power in the Big 12, could spend the holidays in San Diego for the fourth time this decade. Head Coach Mack Brown returns Pacific Life Holiday Bowl MVP QB Colt McCoy and DE Brian Orakpo to a team that has sights sets on a trip to Miami for the BCS championship. But if they don’t, don’t be surprised to see them heading west to San Diego. Oklahoma State plays in the Big 12’s tougher South Division, but Head Coach Mike Gundy has his Cowboys poised to improve on their 7-6 record in 2007. A trip to San Diego would mark the school’s first appearance since 1988 when Barry Sanders rushed for 222 yards against Wyoming. There’s an air of excitement in College Station as first year Head Coach Mike Sherman readies his Texas A&M squad. QB Stephen McGee, a threat through the air and on the ground, will join the 6-0, 280-pound senior FB Jorvorskie Lane for what they hope is a return to national prominence.
However, funny things happen through the course of a season. So don’t be taken by surprise if other teams from these two stellar conferences show up ready to go December 30th at Qualcomm Stadium.