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Brennan's entire career will be defined by Sugar Bowl


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NEW ORLEANS -- He's broken or tied 29 NCAA records. He finished third in this season's Heisman voting. Yet for all he's accomplished in 34 starts as a college quarterback, Colt Brennan's career is almost certain to be defined by how he performs in his final game.

Rarely has an individual player had so much riding on a bowl game as Hawaii's quarterback will in Monday night's Sugar Bowl against fifth-ranked Georgia (10-2). This is about more than just proving he's for real. How Brennan performs against a highly respected SEC defense could have a huge impact on both his legacy as a college quarterback and his stock as future pro.

"It's crazy how much success I've had," said the former walk-on transfer from Colorado. "Yet I realize you are only as good as your last game. My last game happens to be in the Sugar Bowl against one of the best teams in the country."

For the past two years, as the nation watched him put up such ridiculous numbers as 5,549 yards and 58 touchdowns in a season and completion rates north of 70 percent, the jury has remained split among believers and cynics. Some chalk up his production to Hawaii's pass-happy offense and/or the Warriors' lightly regarded schedule. Others -- including numerous opposing coaches -- contend he's one of the most accurate passers they've ever seen at any level.

Lately, it seems, the believers have gained the majority, most notably the Heisman voters who tabbed him higher than all but Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, despite Brennan missing all or most of two games and facing the nation's lowest-rated schedule. Those opinions could change in a hurry, however, if the senior falls flat in the biggest game of his career.

Or, Brennan could go out and throw for 420 yards and five touchdowns against the Bulldogs' 19th-ranked defense -- one that Heisman winner Tebow said was the toughest he faced all season -- and his star power will suddenly rise to a whole other stratosphere.

"This game has a huge impact on how I will be remembered and how my career will be looked at," he acknowledged.

Brennan last faced a nationally ranked non-conference foe in his very first game for Hawaii, a 63-17 loss to No. 1 USC in the 2005 season opener in which he rotated with Tyler Graunke and threw for 250 yards on 21-of-32 passing. (He took over as starter the following week.)

He's faced seven BCS-conference opponents since and put up some of his most memorable performances, including a 559-yard, five-touchdown performance in last year's Hawaii Bowl rout over Arizona State and perhaps his finest career performance (42-of-50, 442 yards, five TDs, no interceptions) in the undefeated Warriors' BCS-clinching win against Washington.

In his only previous performance against an SEC foe (Hawaii's 2006 season opener at Alabama), Brennan went 30-of-44 for 350 yards, two TDs and one pick in a 25-17 defeat.

"I've faced Alabama, I've faced USC," said Brennan. "It's not like I haven't faced this before."

He and his teammates concede, however, that Georgia poses the fastest, most athletic defense they've faced to date. "There's no doubt -- Georgia is extremely fast," said Brennan. "We really won't know what it's like until we're out on the field."

In particular, the Bulldogs' front four -- ends Roderick Battle and Marcus Howard and tackles Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins -- figures to bring more constant pressure than Brennan normally sees. Georgia's defense has notched 34 sacks, seven more than Hawaii has allowed all season, despite the fact the Warriors attempted 234 more passes than Georgia's opponents.

"He's been under pressure ever since the season started," said Hawaii All-America left guard Hercules Satele. "He's been handling it perfectly."

Among those who will be watching closely how Brennan handles that pressure will be scouts and general managers across the NFL.

A year ago, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell turned the Sugar Bowl into his own personal launching pad toward the No. 1 pick in last spring's draft thanks to a huge performance against Notre Dame.

Current projections have Brennan going significantly lower, from the mid-second round to the end of the third round (ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. lists him fourth among senior quarterbacks, behind BC's Matt Ryan, Louisville's Brian Brohm and Delaware's Joe Flacco), but the stock of a quarterback fluctuates considerably based on performances in bowl games, all-star games and subsequent workouts.

Brennan, outspoken on most things, has remained largely quiet about NFL talk, letting his coach -- former Falcons and Chargers head man June Jones -- make the pitches for him.

"He is the best passer in college history. There is no question about it," said Jones. "Colt Brennan plays in an NFL passing game. You can dial it up and see that it is not a system."

The biggest argument in both Brennan's and Jones' defense is that while previous Hawaii quarterbacks (most notably NCAA career passing yards record-holder Timmy Chang) have thrown for similar yardage, none have come close to approaching Brennan's high completion percentages and pass efficiency ratings.

His 186.0 passer rating in 2006 set an NCAA record. He also ranked No. 1 nationally in completion percentage (72.6) last year and No. 2 this season (71.4).

"The most amazing thing about Colt is his accuracy," said Hawaii quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison. "To throw as much as we do and still have a high completion percentage is extreme."

Critics would undoubtedly counter that a big part of those high percentages is the preponderance of screen passes and dump-offs in Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense. Those critics are likely to be either validated or silenced come Monday night at the Superdome.

"Everyone has come up with an excuse as to why we are not a great football team," said Brennan. "There shouldn't be any more excuses after this game. This is the national stage, this is the Sugar Bowl, as we are playing one of the best teams in the country.

"I'm excited to go out and show people what they missed out on this year."

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writ.../brennan.sugar/

Well that's pretty **** harsh to say an entire career will come down to one game, bug I guess there is some truth to it.

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