ONE MONTH AND ONE DAY UNTIL KICKOFF!
Cotton Bowl: The Cotton Bowl took the southernmost region, which contains the highest-seeded SEC team (Florida) and the only Big 12 team in the playoff (Oklahoma), although Oklahoma would have to pull off a road upset over Wisconsin to even advance to Dallas, of course.
Capital One Bowl: The Capital One Bowl could have taken either the second region to get LSU, or the third region to get Michigan, but they worked out a deal with the Holiday Bowl which allowed the latter to take LSU (and, by extension, hometown team USC), while the Capital One Bowl settled for either a Louisville-Michigan or a Michigan-Wake Forest matchup, since no Florida team was left available to host.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium - Gainesville, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006 - 11 AM EST
Wind: E 3 MPH
Final Score: Florida 27, BYU 19
Player of the Game
Florida WR Percy Harvin
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - In its last playoff game, Florida won a national championship, but that was five long years ago.
The Gators are back.
Florida (13-1) celebrated a long-overdue return to the playoffs with a 27-19 home victory over BYU (10-3).
Percy Harvin led the Gators with an all-purpose performance that included eight carries for 126 yards and three TDs, as well as three catches for 36 yards. He provided most of Florida's offensive spark, as Chris Leak was just 9 of 17 for 127 yards, a TD and two interceptions.
John Beck turned in a solid effort for the Cougars (29-39, 299 yards, TD, INT), but it proved not to be enough in an 8-point loss.
Harvin got Florida off to a fast start with a 57-yard TD run late in the first quarter, and a Leak-to-Jemalle Cornelius TD pass early in the second made it 13-0 Florida. With 1:24 left in the first half, though, Curtis Brown scored BYU's first points and began what would become a 16-0 BYU run by the time 10 minutes had elapsed in the second half.
That actually put the Cougars ahead 16-13 with 5:28 remaining in the third quarter, but Florida was not interested in handing BYU an upset win. Harvin scored two quick TDs to close out the third period and regain the lead, and the Florida defense allowed only a BYU FG in the final quarter to seal the victory.
Florida will now advance to the Cotton Bowl and await the winner of Oklahoma at Wisconsin, while BYU will probably receive a bid to the Las Vegas Bowl as the Mountain West champion.
Michigan Stadium - Ann Arbor, Mich.
Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006 - 1 PM EST
Wind: E 5 MPH
Final Score: Michigan 17, Troy 14
Player of the Game
Michigan RB Mike Hart
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Michigan narrowly avoided a first-round upset loss to upstart Troy, eking out a slim 17-14 victory at home to advance to the Elite Eight.
The win was only Lloyd Carr's second in the playoffs, and the first since 1999.
The Wolverines (12-1) were led by their Doak Walker candidate, Mike Hart, who produced 184 yards on 38 carries, and by their solid quarterback, Chad Henne, who completed 10 of his 17 passes for 114 yards and an interception. Kicker Garrett Rivas was a perfect 5-of-5 on FGs, accounting for virtually all of his team's scoring, and the Michigan defense collected five sacks.
The Trojans (7-6) were less successful offensively. Although Kenny Cattouse did rush 17 times for 123 yards and a TD, Omar Haugabook turned in one of his worst games of the season, completing just 10 of 21 passes for 92 yards and an interception. Kicker Greg Whibbs was the goat of the game, as either of his missed FG attempts could have at least tied the game for Troy and forced overtime.
The difference in the game may have come less than eight minutes after kickoff, when Michigan collected a safety for an early 2-0 lead (and two-thirds of the final margin of victory). Rivas added two FGs to stretch the lead to eight, but the Wolverines only led 8-7 at halftime after they gave up a quick TD just before the break.
Rivas added two more FGs to make it 14-7, but Cattouse tied it at 14 after a 5-yard TD run with 9:49 left in the game. The score remained deadlocked until Rivas' final FG broke the tie with less than two minutes to go, and the Michigan defense was able to protect the narrow margin one last time.
Now Michigan will advance to its first Elite Eight in seven years, while Troy continues the winless futility of the Sun Belt Conference in the playoffs, and the accompanying tradition of a meager New Orleans Bowl appearance.
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium - Louisville, Ky.
Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006 - 4:30 PM EST
Final Score: Wake Forest 55, Louisville 31
Player of the Game
Wake Forest RB Micah Andrews
LOUISVILLE (AP) - Maybe the selection committee should just start swapping 6 seeds and 11 seeds when they draw up their S-curve.
Wake Forest (12-2) continued a curious playoff trend with a 55-31 shootout win over Louisville (11-2): No. 11 seeds currently enjoy a 4-game road winning streak in the first round, and a No. 6 seed has not successfully protected its home field advantage since 2002.
The only surprise in this game was which team got its running game going. Louisville's normally unstoppable backfield of Kolby Smith, George Stripling and Anthony Allen was held to less than 115 total yards, while Wake Forest got career performances out of starter Micah Andrews (24 carries, 173 yards, TD) and backup Kevin Harris (12 carries, 109 yards).
Both quarterbacks were exceptional; Riley Skinner was 8 of 12 for 188 yards and three TDs for the Demon Deacons, while Brian Brohm was 16 of 32 for 277 yards and three TDs for the Cardinals. His favorite target, Harry Douglas, also turned in a huge day with five catches for 101 yards.
Wake Forest scored three TDs on the ground and in the air to turn a 7-7 first-quarter tie into a commanding 28-17 halftime lead, but went scoreless in the third period and allowed Louisville to trim that deficit to just four points.
However, an absolutely explosive final quarter ensued as the Deacons piled up three TDs and two FGs to hold off Louisville, outscoring the Cardinals in the last 15 minutes 27-7.
Wake Forest will advance to play Michigan in the Capital One Bowl, while Louisville's bowl destination was not yet known as of press time.
Camp Randall Stadium - Madison, Wis.
Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006 - 8 PM EST
Wind: SE 7 MPH
Final Score: Wisconsin 29, Oklahoma 7
Player of the Game
Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Bob Stoops will have to wait another year to tie his mentor in all-time playoff wins.
That is, if Pete Carroll doesn't beat him to it first.
Stoops lost his first ever first-round game to remain at 12 playoff wins, trailing Bill Snyder by one, and the loss came at the hands of another Snyder disciple, Bret Bielema, who is a winner in his first playoff try, as Wisconsin (12-1) solidly beat Oklahoma (11-3) 29-7 to advance to its first Elite Eight since 1999.
This will be the first time in playoff history that there is no Big 12 team in the Elite Eight.
P.J. Hill rumbled for 181 yards and a TD on 32 carries, John Stocco was 8 of 17 for 135 yards and a TD and Taylor Mehlhaff was a perfect 5-for-5 on FGs to secure the win for the Badgers.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin defense stifled any semblance of Oklahoma offense. Star running back Adrian Peterson rushed for just 88 yards on 28 carries, Paul Thompson was an awful 3 of 18 for 57 yards passing and Garrett Hartley missed both FG attempts.
Oklahoma led 7-3 early in the second quarter after Chris Brown's 55-yard TD run (the Sooners' longest play from scrimmage all day, as it turned out), but Hill scored TD runs of 47 and 66 yards in the last 4 1/2 minutes to put the Badgers ahead 17-7 at halftime.
The only scores in the second half came off Mehlhaff's foot, making for a long and arduous loss for the Sooner faithful. Now Wisconsin will take on an even tougher challenge in Florida, while Oklahoma will land in one of the Big 12's less-heralded bowls - unfamiliar December territory for the usually dominant program that is still attempting to recover from a mediocre 2005 season.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
Capital One Bowl
#3 Michigan vs. #11 Wake Forest
Florida Citrus Bowl
AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic
#2 Florida vs. #7 Wisconsin
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
#4 LSU vs. #5 USC
San Diego, Calif.
The Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi
#1 Ohio State vs. #8 Boise State