Sugar Bowl: The Sugar Bowl, host of next season's title game, had first pick. It chose the south side of the bracket, in order to claim Georgia should the Bulldogs move on. The presence of football powers like Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC was simply an added bonus.
Orange Bowl: That left the Orange Bowl with the "upset" side of the bracket, and teams like Boise State, Cincinnati, Kansas State and Washington State, none of which are remotely close to Florida and none of which would draw as many fans as the schools the Sugar Bowl will receive. 2002 was a bad year to have the second pick among Final Four bowls.
Which of these eight teams will actually advance? Those answers, after the jump...
Well, this is an interesting development. It's a Final Four that is actually the second four, i.e. seeds 5-8. All four teams are at least 12-2 now. USC's losses came to Kansas State and Washington State, both on the road and both Final Four teams. Not too shabby, Pete. And then there's Oklahoma, who will probably be a perennial power in this thing.
Also, it's cool that we have two de facto semifinals of Big 12 vs. Pac-10. This is why planning where I seed teams is so important. For the sake of fairness, USC could not have played either K-State or Wazzu again, but I set it up in such a way that things worked out well. Also, give it up for the Pac-10, which has quintupled its playoff win total in 2002.
Finally, I think this is further evidence of what I was arguing earlier, which is that undefeated teams like Ohio State and Miami haven't faced the adversity that these four teams have in their respective conferences. Hence, the highest seeds have all fallen out and it's the next tier below them that will produce a national champion, as in so many seasons before. That's quite interesting, I think.
So, tomorrow it's Carroll vs. Stoops and Price vs. Snyder. Should be epic. Also, the Big 12 has a 50-50 chance to get a team in the national championship for the fifth consecutive season. Hells yeah.
P.S. Yes, I reversed Washington State's helmet out of necessity. Although the "cat head" is made up loosely of the letters W, S and U, I felt it falls under my category of "vaguely amorphous shapes" and would work fine. Most people aren't even aware that there are letters in it. Also, that is the Rose Bowl variant that the Cougars actually wore against Oklahoma in 2002. I figured it would be appropriate, because for a team like WSU that doesn't get to Rose Bowls very often, they would make a pretty big deal of it, just like they did in real life.
Game 1: No. 8 Kansas State Wildcats (11-2) VS. No. 16 Cincinnati Bearcats (8-6)
Capital One Florida Citrus Bowl
Florida Citrus Bowl - Orlando, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 21, 2002 - 11 AM EST
Wind: S 14 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 41, Cincinnati 6
Player of the Game
Kansas State RB Darren Sproles
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Bill Snyder has cemented himself as the greatest playoff coach of all time.
With Kansas State's 41-6 win over upstart Cincinnati in the Citrus Bowl, he won his 11th playoff game and will advance to his third Final Four in five seasons.
The Wildcats (12-2) dispatched the Bearcats (8-7) with relative ease, never allowing them to get their running game going like they did last week when they became the first-ever No. 16 seed to win a 1st round game.
Kansas State out-rushed Cincinnati 245-101, thanks largely to the electric Darren Sproles, who rushed 27 times for 167 yards and 2 TDs. Aiding their efforts was Joe Rheem, who kicked a K-State-record seven FGs in the game and was 2-3 on PATs for 23 total points.
Kansas State QB Ell Roberson complemented that production with a solid 7-14 passing day for 108 yards and an additional 58 yards on the ground. Bryan Hickman, Terence Newman and Bobby Walker each had an interception for the Wildcats.
Because of those INTs, it can be said that Cincinnati QB Gino Guidugli did not have a very good day, although he was 11-22 for 106 yards otherwise. Star RB DeMarco McCleskey had a similarly disappointing performance, as the Wildcats limited him to just 72 yards on 26 carries and no touchdowns.
Cincinnati K Jonathan Ruffin, who accounted for all six Bearcat points, and Rheem exchanged FGs in the 1st quarter, and Rheem added two more kicks for a 9-3 Wildcat lead at halftime. After the break, the K-State offense kicked into high gear and blew the game wide open as Sproles and Roberson each rushed for a TD in the 3rd quarter to put their team up 23-3.
After Ruffin kicked a 46-yarder late in the 3rd period, Rheem booted kicks of 46, 33, 23 and 48 yards and Sproles added another 49-yard TD run as the Wildcats outscored Cincinnati 18-0 in the final quarter to wrap a bow on this one.
K-State will advance to the Orange Bowl to face the winner of tonight's game between Boise State and Washington State.
Game 2: No. 6 USC Trojans (11-2) VS. No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (13-1)
SBC Communications Cotton Bowl Classic
Cotton Bowl - Dallas, Texas
Saturday, Dec. 21, 2002 - 12 PM CST
Wind: Vrbl 3 MPH
Final Score: USC 44, Georgia 10
Player of the Game
USC QB Carson Palmer
DALLAS (AP) - Since being hired as USC's coach two seasons ago, Pete Carroll has done much to reinvigorate the once-proud progam. His latest feat? How about a Final Four berth in his first-ever playoff appearance?
USC (12-2) beat Georgia (13-2) 44-10 in the Cotton Bowl, as Heisman winner Carson Palmer backed up that award with a stellar 24-34 performance for 340 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. Meanwhile, the Trojan defense sacked Georgia QB David Greene (12-26, 168 yards) seven times and intercepted him twice, while limiting the Bulldogs to just 59 total yards on the ground in a dominating effort.
Palmer had a great supporting cast, too. RB Sultan McCullough carried the ball 23 times for 155 yards and a touchdown. Receivers Keary Colbert (6 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD) and Mike Williams (7 catches, 101 yards) were equally spectacular.
Colbert caught the first TD pass of the game to put the Trojans ahead 7-0, and after Georgia K Billy Bennett made a 33-yard FG, Kelly added another TD catch and USC K Ryan Killeen answered Bennett with a 36-yarder, and USC led 17-3 after just 20 minutes of play. However, Greene narrowed the halftime deficit to just 10-17 after a 14-yard TD run.
It was all USC in the 2nd half, however, as they shut Georgia out while Killeen made two more kicks, McCullough rushed for a touchdown and Justin Fargas put the game away late with two rushing touchdowns of his own.
Now USC will advance to the Sugar Bowl to face the winner of Ohio State-Oklahoma.
Game 3: No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (14-0) VS. No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners (12-2)
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 21, 2002 - 1:30 PM PST
Final Score: Oklahoma 14, Ohio State 3
Player of the Game
Oklahoma TE Trent Smith
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Oklahoma has made a habit of winning close, defensive playoff games.
The Holiday Bowl was no different, as the Sooners (13-2) outlasted the Ohio State Buckeyes (14-1) 14-3 to advance to their second Final Four in three seasons and help claim half of the Final Four spots for the Big 12 Conference.
Oklahoma QB Nate Hybl was 13-22 for 207 yards and 1 TD, which he threw to his most reliable target, TE Trent Smith (3 catches, 92 yards). Ohio State QB Craig Krenzel had a rougher go of it, completing just 7-20 passes for 62 yards and 1 INT.
As a result, the Buckeyes were able to muster very little offense, even though RB Maurice Clarett rushed 25 times for 108 yards. Ohio State's pride came on defense, as they sacked Hybl three times and held the Sooners to just 14 points, but even that was not enough to secure victory.
Oklahoma gained its edge on two broken plays, which provided the few offensive highlights in a game that featured a lot of punts. In the 1st quarter, Oklahoma RB Quentin Griffin broke loose for a 54-yard TD run to put the Sooners up 7-0 less than five minutes after kickoff. Then, in the 2nd quarter, Hybl completed a 76-yard TD bomb to Smith for a 14-0 lead.
Although Ohio State shut out Oklahoma in the 2nd half, that lead would prove to be decisive as they could only muster a 42-yard Mike Nugent FG in the final 30 minutes themselves. Thus, it will be Oklahoma who advances to the Sugar Bowl to face USC next week.
Game 4: No. 5 Washington State Cougars (11-2) VS. No. 13 Boise State Broncos (12-1)
The Rose Bowl Game presented by AT&T
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 21, 2002 - 5 PM PST
Wind: WSW 3 MPH
Final Score: Washington State 39, Boise State 35
Player of the Game
Boise State RB Brock Forsey
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Washington State overcame a couple of inspired rushing performances and a major halftime deficit to advance to the Final Four and continue the Pac-10's sudden playoff resurgence.
The Cougars (12-2) came from behind to beat the scrappy Boise State Broncos (12-2) 39-35 in a thrilling Rose Bowl Saturday night. In the process, the Pac-10, which entered this playoff with a 1-8 record, has improved to 5-8 behind the dual Final Four runs of USC and WSU.
Boise State built an early lead behind the powerful running of Brock Forsey (37 carries, 172 yards, 2 TDs) and David Mikell (16 carries, 112 yards, 1 TD), reinforced by the game management of QB Ryan Dinwiddie (12-19, 233 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs). Also, the Bronco defense posted four sacks of Cougar QB Jason Gesser.
However, Gesser remained poised, completing 12-23 passes for 243 yards and 3 TDs to lead his team back from a deficit that grew as large as 10-35 to win the game outright.
Boise State built a 21-0 lead to start the game, thanks to TDs by Forsey, Billy Wingfield (from Dinwiddie) and Mikell. With 2:03 left in the 1st half, Gesser threw a 77-yard TD pass to John Tippins, and 1 1/2 minutes later Drew Dunning kicked a 41-yard FG to make the score 21-10 Broncos, but any momentum Washington State might have salvaged into halftime disappeared when Dinwiddie ended the half by throwing a 69-yard TD pass to Jay Swillie for a 28-10 halftime lead.
Things looked even bleaker for the Cougars when Forsey ran in for an 11-yard TD four minutes after halftime, but Gesser refused to let his team give up. With 5:45 left in the 3rd quarter, he cut the lead to 35-17 on a 25-yard TD pass to Devard Darling, and then to 35-24 with a 1-yard TD pass to Jerome Riley with 1:12 left in the period.
Less then 30 seconds into the final period, Jermaine Green rushed for an 18-yard TD run and Mike Bush was successful on the 2-point conversion, making the score 32-35 and completing an improbable 10-minute stretch in which the Cougars outscored the Broncos 22-0.
With all the momentum on the side of Washington State, Dinwiddie was unable to kick-start the Boise State offense again, and the game turned for good with 7:46 remaining when Tippins ran in from five yards out to take Washington State's first lead of the game at 39-35.
On the ensuing drive, the Broncos began at their own 31-yard line, but Dinwiddie drove them down to the Washington State 23 before the Cougars held firm on 4th and 11 and were able to get the ball back in order to run out most of the clock.
Washington State advances to play Kansas State in the Orange Bowl. It should be an interesting game between the only two teams to beat fellow Final Four member USC this season.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
All bowl logos are courtesy of sportslogos.net.
FedEx Orange Bowl
#6 USC vs. #7 Oklahoma
Pro Player Stadium
Miami Gardens, Fla.
Nokia Sugar Bowl
#5 Washington State vs. #8 Kansas State
New Orleans, La.
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