Thursday, December 31, 2009
Gator Bowl preview
By Heather Dinich
Here's a quick preview of Friday's Konica Minolta Gator Bowl:
WHO TO WATCH: FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel. It’s only his fourth career start, and so far Manuel has been a bit unpredictable, which is to be expected. In his debut against Wake Forest, Manuel looked as if he made a seamless transition into the starting job in place of injured starter Christian Ponder. He has completed over 60 percent of his passes in each of the past three games, but has also thrown six interceptions and only two touchdowns. West Virginia leads the Big East and is No. 26 in the country in pass efficiency defense.
WHAT TO WATCH: Florida State’s run defense. It has to be better. Has to be. West Virginia is averaging 183.5 rushing yards per game, second best in the Big East and 32nd in the nation. FSU’s rushing defense is ranked 108th in the nation, allowing 203.3 yards per game. FSU’s defensive line will have some problems handling the Mountaineers up front, and they should be able to find some creases for Noel Devine.
WHY WATCH: If you don’t know, find a new hobby. Try knitting or something. It’s Bobby Bowden’s final game of his career, and it comes against his former team, as Bowden was the head coach at West Virginia from 1970-75, leading the Mountaineers to a 42-26 record (1-1 in bowls). Bowden (388-129-4) has won 388 games over 44 seasons, the second most among all FBS coaches behind Joe Paterno (393). As if that weren’t reason enough, it’s also the final game for longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.
PREDICTION: The Seminoles will start of strong, fueled by the emotion surrounding the game, but West Virginia will win the battle up front, and Florida State won’t be able to contain Devine or quarterback Jarrett Brown for four quarters. The Noles’ defense has been FSU's problem all season, and that’s not going to change just because it’s Bowden’s final game. Manuel will play well enough to keep Florida State in the game, but in the end he’ll make a few rookie mistakes and West Virginia will win the turnover battle leading to a 35-24 Mountaineers win.