Bowl Predictions Part Two

ncaa football logoThe truly bold (or crazy) now dig into a second helping of bowl mania thoughts as we check out the other 19 bowl games in the season.
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Clemson
This might be titled the Moderately Underachieving Bowl, or more apt the Overrated by the Media Early in the Season Bowl.  It should be an interesting game, though.  Trevor Knight returns for OU after a sub-par start to the season and might look for some mojo from his “out of this world” performance against Bama last bowl season.  Clemson is without their starting QB and newly departed offensive guru.  Each team could lay a stinker down, but I think the Sooners will have some motivation and best a deficient Tiger squad.
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas
SWAC fans unite, and all 14 are in attendance for this game, which has some intrigue as two new coaches (and very good coaches, though overlooked when the big boys’ names are mentioned) try to take their programs to the next step.  A bowl win always helps that process.  Both teams likely will try to sneak 13 guys into the box and stop the run.  Both teams are willing to bet that they are more man-like and can beat those 13 guys running the football.  Arkansas can do that but Texas cannot.  Neither QB is likely to do much, which surely means one of them will have a huge play or three to determine this game.  More entertaining is the hunt for Arkansas AD Jeff Long by infuriated Bear and Horned Frog fans who have yet to leave for Arlington or Atlanta.  I will take the Hogs.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU
In line for one of the longest bowl game titles is this year’s Music City Bowl.  Not in discussion for an actual good game is the contest itself.  Everett Golson seems to manage to keep Notre Dame in most games, and I think Brian Kelly is a great coach, but the team is not really very good.  LSU is young and this could be a big builder as they look for a bounce back next year.  I like the Tigers in a blowout.
Belk Bowl: Louisville vs. Georgia
This might be my pick for most under-rated bowl of the season.  I drank the Kool-Aid early that this was Mark Richt’s year for the Bulldog Bounceback and chase for the title.  Not so much with those rascally autograph seekers, brutal SEC play, and Jekyll and Hyde-ian performance.  But the team is solid with a great back in Gurley and a soon to be great in Chubb.  Louisville will play motivated, but will Georgia?  They seem to disappear late in the season sometimes.  I’ll suggest they want to finish strong and beat a good opponent that they are favored to win against (rather than the finish to South Carolina, Florida, or Ga Tech).  I take the Bulldogs in a great game.
Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland vs. Stanford
Travel has to be an issue for Maryland rather than nearly up the road for the Cardinal.  The defense of the tree is stout and Maryland is not exactly a scoring juggernaut.  Neither is Stanford but they should have enough to win this game.  Low scoring, but not necessarily close.  I’ll take the Cardinal in a ho-hum win.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU
The story that was football in the state of Mississippi was really fun for a couple months, but now the Rebels and Bulldogs (more from them later) have to settle for good bowl games against tough opponents.  TCU feels snubbed and has been playing awesome lately.  They also have the best player on the field in QB Trevone Boykin, and many feel they still have a “chip on their shoulder” smaller tier mentality despite the move to the Big 12.  I’ve never been overly impressed with the play of Bo Wallace, and though Ole Miss can keep it close, the Horned Frogs should win and then give angry glances towards the selection committee.
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. Arizona
Intriguing match for a near home game for the Cats and a perennially strong Bronco squad.  This team is good, but not as good.  Arizona is hungry, mad they got blasted by Oregon in the rematch, and have a dominant force in Scooby on defense.  He snacks all day  long on the Broncos.  Many pundits are calling this one close for Arizona.  I think the Cats win by at least three TD’s.
Capital One Orange Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech
Prime time bowl game.  So-so in actual contest.  The Jackets run the option and really confound many opponents with it.  Mississippi State has Dak Prescott who was the Heisman and media darling until the Crimson Tide played a holiday trick on the Bulldog faithful.  The Jackets could not shut down Jameis and Crew and will find similar outcomes against Dak and the Boys.  I’ll take MSU.
Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin
Talk about great match-up in discussion.  The Badgers run the ball non-stop, even when they are on defense.  Auburn is lobbying for a rule change to a 12 second offensive play clock and making circled-up huddles illegal.  Who can actually hold the ball longer and cash in drives?  That answer will dictate the winner.  Wisconsin is in lame duck purgatory after a surprise departure from head coach Gary Anderson.  Tigers win.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Michigan State vs. Baylor
WOW.  I think this game is a great concept.  Awesome defense versus awesome offense.  Michigan State hoped for more this year, but probably played right at its’ level.  Baylor thought a Final Four invite was awaiting, and would have been were it not for an epic collapse against TCU mid-season.  MSU’s defensive coordinator is yearly hot topic guy for open jobs, which would significantly weaken Spartan chances.  While typing this, Baylor scored 10 points.  I love Sparty’s attitude and I would never put them out of a game, but I think Baylor can score on Oakland, Jacksonville, and Minnesota.  They would likely beat Tampa Bay.  Bears win, more convincingly than expected.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri vs. Minnesota
Talk about two over-achievers this year, and the conversation has to include these two.  Interesting side notes as Jerry Kill used to coach high school ball in Missouri.  Tigers defense is outstanding, and Shane Ray likely wants a huge bounce back game after a couple tight (and questionable, in my mind) penalties from his last two games.  Minnesota wants to be physical and run the ball on all occasions, but Missouri is equipped to handle that.  The MU offense has been far worse than anticipated, but could score some against the Gophers.  Good early, but the Tigers should handle this one, perhaps via the turnover.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: Oregon (#2) vs. Florida State (#3)
FSU has dodged bullets all season long and continually finds a way to win.  You have to keep the game close to be able to do that, and while that says something significant about this team, I cannot envision how they can keep it close early unless they get some early turnovers and score TD’s every single time.  Their best chance is long and sustained drives scoring pay dirt every time and keeping Mariota off the field.  Their defense cannot begin to stop him.  Oregon is hungry for a title, and I think they blast the Seminoles in this one.  A late comeback makes it close, but the Ducks control kick to gun.  And if you like the idea of shootout between Winston and Mariota, consider 17-2.  Those are the interception numbers for each slinger.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama (#1) vs. Ohio State (#4)
Ohio State is as deserving as anybody else to be in this position, however, they are not a top 4 team in my opinion.  Alabama will expose that.  Bama cannot play deep pass defense, however, and the Buckeyes will expose that.  Because of that major deficiency, the Buckeyes can make some big plays and stay in this game, always tantalizing within a big play or turnover from really making this one tight.  But it won’t happen.  Saban remains the only coach in history to win titles at two separate schools.  Bama rolls.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh
After semi-final thoughts, college football fans will tune this on simply because it features an oblong leather ball.  They will not be disappointed because they are playing football.  They will be disappointed because this game will not feature good football.  Remember the whole coach leaving for another school and how brutal that is on a team in a bowl game?  Both teams will have new coaches next year.  Interim coaches are not in good positions.  Pitt RB James Conner should be too much for the Cougars to handle.  Close game that weather conditions, turnovers, etc. could strongly influence.  I’ll take Pitt in a very close game.
TaxSlayer Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee
As absurd as it sounds, the Big 10 could be poised to not win a single bowl game.  That sounds insane, but look at the individual match-ups and none really favor the Big 10 teams.  Best chances are probably Rutgers or Wisconsin, or Tennessee.  Iowa is not great, but neither is Tennessee.  Read thoughts about middling power conference teams from earlier bowl games.  In the end, you have to favor the FAR tougher schedule Tennessee faces in the SEC than the Cupcake Rotation known as the Big 10.  Go with the Vols.
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA
One of the best games of the bowl season, especially outside the playoff four.  This should be dynamite and lots of fun, perhaps the “must see” game in my mind.  K-State never wins pretty but they scheme well and are always seemingly in the game.  Thoughts on Arizona State apply here to UCLA (final four ideas, Pac 12 possibilities, lesser bowl game than hoped, though good game and venue).  UCLA has great talent and multiple NFL’ers.  K-State has sound fundamentals and awesome coaching.  They consistently work harder than nearly everybody else.  I’ll take that combination most of the time.  Purple Warriors win.
TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington vs. Oklahoma State
Shaq Thompson is fun to watch.  Mike Gundy defending his players, sort of, to regional OK reporters is fun to watch.  OSU seems to stumble in games with expectations.  They got the big play to upset the Sooners to close the regular season and become bowl eligible.  This game should be competitive and it should be a good game.  OSU won’t show up for the full tilt and the Huskies take the victory. 

Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina vs. Florida
East Carolina is a solid team.  Florida is not.  Florida has good athletes with pedigrees and can often act entitled.  East Carolina is under-rated on all accounts and has kids that want to make names for themselves, in regards to beating pedigree name (even if team is not that good) and get some NFL potential tape out there.  Pirates have good offense and Florida has an interim coach, and likely are wondering more about new coach from Colorado State after the thumping taken on bowl game day one by the Rams.  ECU wins in hammer fashion.
GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo vs. Arkansas State
Most people watch this game with piqued interest in hopes of Danica Patrick commercials.  This match-up always brings you Sunday college football to wrap it up (except with the title game now looming in playoff format).  It features the MAC and the Sun Belt, which both sound like food options, and are.  The Sun Belt traditionally produces some OK teams, while the MAC occasionally has a really solid top of the line lower tier team.  Neither is in play here.  Both teams are OK, and neither team has played a banger schedule.  Somehow the Red Wolves beat Utah State early in the year, though I doubt that could be duplicated now.  Toledo managed to lose against every good team they played.  Both teams have decent running games.  I call this a toss-up, and while many pundits take Toledo, I’ll roll with the Red Wolves, I suppose because their name is unique, and they kept their coach again this year (only happened once the last four years).

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