Big Bowl Preview VIII

Eight? Seriously, this is the eighth time I’ve done this? Why haven’t you stopped me? Why are you still reading this?



As always, this preview is meant for entertainment purposes only, but you should assume any and all predictions are 100% accurate and gamble your child’s college fund/inheritance based solely on the predictions made here.

(All rankings are BCS top-25. All times are EST.)

Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl XLI
Mount Union (14-0) vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater (14-0)
7:00 PM, December 20, Salem, VA

THEY’RE BAAAAAAAAAAACK! From 2005-2011 these two teams played in each Stagg Bowl with Whitewater winning four of the seven matchups. (PARITY!) Mount Union was victorious last year against St. Thomas while Whitewater sat out the playoffs after losing three games during the regular season.  Both are back with perfect records, but both were scared in their respective semifinal game.  Whitewater trailed 12-0 before coming back and winning 16-15 over Mary Hardin-Baylor.  Mount Union needed a game-winning two point conversion on a QB sweep with 67 seconds remaining to defeat North Central (IL) 41-40 in a snowstorm.  The QB, Kevin Burke, hasn’t lost a game he started since his junior year of high school.  And I know this because he attended my high school and… the internet has some information on it.  Burke is 29-0 as a starter at Mount Union and was 15-0 as a senior at St. Edward High School (Lakewood, OH) en route to my alma mater’s first, and still only, state title in football.  Here’s hoping he can make it 30-0 at Mount Union Friday night, but it will be a tough test against Whitewater.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Washington State (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-6)
2:00 PM, December 21, Albuquerque, NM

The bowl season gets kicked off with a quadruple-header on Saturday and I can’t think of a better way to start it! Washington State! Colorado State! (Both actual states!) Albuquerque!

Washington State’s passing attack is ranked 4th nationally.  They’re rushing attack?  Ranked 123.  I believe there are only 125 FBS teams, so that’s impressive.  Of course, this is the effect Mike Leach has on an offense.

I’m not sure why Colorado State got to play 13 games instead of the usual 12, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that I don’t care enough to figure it out.  Colorado State is well-balanced on offense and gives up many points on defense.  SHOOTOUT!

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
#20 Fresno State (11-1) vs #25 USC (9-4)
3:30 PM, December 21, Las Vegas, NV

Woah, woah, woah… Two ranked teams facing off on day one?  The game is on ABC?  Royal Purple?  Courtesy of Wikipedia:

Royal Purple is an American manufacturer which produces lubricants for automotive, industrial, marine, motorcycle and racing use. It is known primarily for its line of Royal Purple Motor Oil products for use in gasoline and diesel engines. However, the company produces many other fluids including automotive, motorcycle/ATV and marine gear oils, transmission fluids, power steering fluids; and industrial gear, bearing, engine, and hydraulic oils. Other products include multi-purpose chassis and bearing grease, a penetrating/multi-purpose lubricant aerosol, an aerosol chain lubricant, a firearm lubricant, and a radiator additive.

The Las Vegas Bowl is sponsored by a company that specializes in lubrication.  Fitting.

As an aside, Fresno State (note: not a state) QB, Derek Carr, is projected by many Mel Kiper-ish people to go high in next year’s NFL draft, which I believe now takes place 4th of July weekend.  He is the younger brother of David Carr, who spent his NFL career on his back for the expansion Houston Texans.  (Carr led the NFL in sacks three of his first four seasons and, yet, only missed 5 games in that timeframe.  DURABLE!)

USC’s season was highlighted by coaching changes (never good).  Lane Kiffin (remember him?) was canned at about 3AM after getting trounced by Arizona State 62-41.  Ed Orgeron took over from there and went 6-2, including a win over #4 Stanford.  Alas, that was not good enough for former NBC Notre Dame color analyst, Pat Haden, who determined Steve Sarkisian was the best fit to return to USC after having coached there over 5 years ago.  Sarkisian was the QB coach at USC in 2005-06 before taking over for a departed offensive coordinator named Lane Kiffin.  If soap operas adapted a coaching carousel theme, they might stay on the air.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
5:30 PM, December 21, Boise, ID

Ummm… hmmm…. San Diego State (note: not a state) played four games that went to overtime, winning three of them.  Buffalo played a game that went five overtimes before winning.  Unfortunately, their opponent was Stony Brook, who was a sub-.500 FCS school this year.  So, SD State wins?

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Tulane (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
9:00 PM, December 21, New Orleans, LA

Boy, this quadruple-header opener is really going out in style, huh?  Sun Belt vs. Conference USA… try to stay awake!  This looks like a bowl game that is just doomed to fail given its’ conference tie-ins.  Yet, last year, 48,828 attended the game between East Carolina and Louisiana-Lafayette, making it one of the highest attended non-BCS bowl games.  Given that Louisiana-Lafayette is playing Tulane this year, one would think attendance would rise simply based on geography.  I’m sure you’ll all be glued to your TV to see the attendance numbers.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl
East Carolina (9-3) vs. Ohio (7-5)
2:00 PM, December 23, Tampa, FL

Well, this is a little odd.  There’s a 2:00 PM kickoff for a game on a Monday that isn’t a holiday (or holiday eve).  Since ESPN has a Monday Night Football game (Falcons at 49ers – bowl game could be better!), they need to get this bowl game out of the way so they can get to the 4 hour-long pre-game show.  I don’t watch many pre-game shows, but when I do, I sure as shit do not watch ESPN pre-game shows.  I’m just assuming Ray Lewis yells incoherent crap on the set while everyone else realizes this man once murdered two people and could just snap at any second.  (COME ON, MAN!)

As for the bowl game, well, it’s terrible.  I have a lot of family that went to OU, but I also have family connections to East Carolina.  SO CONFLICTED!

Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl
Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6)
8:00 PM, December 24, Honolulu, HI

Boise State (note: not a state) is well-balanced on offense and has a pretty solid defense.  Oregon State (actual state) cannot/does not run the ball and is terrible on D.  Boise State lost their head coach (finally) to Washington.  Oregon State lost their last five games.  So, if Christmas Eve has you down, come watch two sad teams play football. #Marketing

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3)
6:00 PM, December 26, Detroit, MI

Bowling Green screwed shocked the MAC when they beat an undefeated Northern Illinois squad in the MAC Championship Game.  Northern Illinois was attempting to make its’ second straight BCS game before Bowling Green ruined the party.  Last year when Northern Illinois made a BCS game, each MAC school received about $1 million in BCS payouts.  Go ahead and read that article from Forbes to understand the depth of stupidity in the BCS and college football.  Of course, Bowling Green’s players aren’t getting paid from those payouts, so what do they care?

As for Pitt, they boast the best defensive linemen (and arguably best defensive player) in the country in Aaron Donald.  Donald has taken home four different trophies this month – Nagurski (best defensive player – Football Writers Association of America), Lombardi (top linemen/linebacker), Outland (top interior offensive/defensive lineman), and Bednarik (best defensive player – Maxwell Football Club).  Donald has amassed 26.5 tackles for loss, or a little over 2 per game.  To put that in perspective, the next lineman on the list has only 18 – Wake Forest’s “La Femme” Nikita Whitlock.  (BERMAN’D!)  Donald has four forced fumbles and 10 sacks to go along with the TFL number.  He’s projected as a 2nd round pick by  Apparently being only six feet tall and under 300 pounds is the “knock” on him, productivity be damned.

Bowling Green’s defense is 5th in the nation, allowing 14.8 points per game.  BG held opponents under 10 points in seven different games this year.  They went on a five-game winning streak to finish the year, including a victory in the MAC Championship.  That was good enough to get their coach a job at a BCS school.  Dave Clawson has already headed to Wake Forest (powerhouse!) and his special teams coach was elevated to interim head coach.  He will likely join Clawson at Wake Forest following the bowl game.  So, just like the MAC Championship Game, Bowling Green has no one to play for but themselves.  Winner.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Utah State (8-5) vs. #23 Northern Illinois (12-1)
9:30 PM, December 26, San Diego, CA

A double-header of #MACtion to start your post-Christmas bowl week!  Northern Illinois goes from playing the 5th-best scoring defense in D-I football to playing the 7th-best scoring defense in D-I football.  Utah State surrenders an average of 17.3 points per game.  The good news for Northern Illinois? Every time Utah State plays a decent team, they lose.

Northern Illinois’ QB, Jordan Lynch, was a Heisman finalist and invited to NYC for the ceremony.  Of course, I don’t know anyone who watches that ceremony, so you probably have no idea what he looks like.  Tune in to find out!

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman
Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5)
2:30 PM, December 27, Annapolis, MD

It appears this game will actually be played on the campus of the Naval Academy, which is pretty cool.  You know what would be even cooler?  If you filled the stadium with water and put both teams on armed destroyers.  FIRST TEAM TO NOT DIE WINS!

Texas Bowl
Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4)
6:00 PM, December 27, Houston, TX

Have a map handy?  Go find the following three cities: Syracuse, NY, Minneapolis, MN, and Houston, TX.  Think anyone will be at this game?

Well, actually, there might be a lot of kids from Houston at this game.  Thanks to the generosity of Syracuse fans (and the Houston Texans), hundreds, maybe even one thousand kids from Houston will get to go to this game for free.  It all started with a little blog post at Noon on Monday, December 16.  The Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician published a post asking fans to donate money so they could send 200 kids in the Houston area to the bowl game.  They figured it would cost about $60 per kid to get them a ticket, a voucher for a hot dog and a soda, and a Syracuse t-shirt.  Within a couple hours, the Texans (who run the bowl game) caught wind of this idea and cut the ticket prices in half for the cause.  That meant they could now send about 400 kids if they hit their goal of $12,000 by the end of the week.  They hit that goal at around 7PM Monday evening – 7 hours after the post was published.  So, now, they’re just trying to send as many kids as they can to the game.  Tune in to watch hundreds of underprivileged kids from Houston magically turn into Syracuse Orange fans.

(UPDATE: They’ve passed $40,000 and 1,000 kids.)

Fight Hunger Bowl
BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4)
9:30 PM, December 27, San Francisco, CA

These two teams are terrible.  They haven’t beaten anybody worth a damn, but I found out something interesting in trying to find something interesting for this game.  You know those defensive rankings I was giving earlier?  I think they’re complete garbage.  ESPN has BYU as the third-best scoring defense, allowing 14 points per game.  Here are the points scored by their opponents in each game this year:

19, 21, 20, 10, 14, 20, 46, 20, 27, 13, 23, 23

Now, I know return TDs by the defensive and special teams units don’t count against BYU’s defensive points allowed per game, but… They’d have to allow an obscene number of return TDs to get that average down to 14.  According to, BYU is actually 23rd in the nation, allowing 21.3 points per game.  That seems more reasonable.

I may go back and correct some of the rankings I gave earlier.  Or I might not because who cares…

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Rutgers (6-6) vs. Notre Dame (8-4)
Noon, December 28, Bronx, NY

OK, these ESPN stats are indeed garbage.  I think they’re from 2012.  They have ND as the 3rd-best scoring defense in D-I football.  No chance. has them at 32, allowing 22.9 points per game.  WAY TO GO, WORLDWIDE LEADER IN SPORTS!!!

Notre Dame’s resume is actually not as pathetic as usual.  They have some quality wins against USC, Arizona State, and Michigan State, and two of their losses are to BCS-bound teams in Oklahoma and Stanford.  At the same time, they struggle away from South Bend.  They lost three of five away from TD Jesus and needed a 21-point 4th quarter to get past Purdue in West Lafayette, 31-24.  Purdue went 1-11, with their sole win coming against Indiana State, 20-14.  Indiana State also went 1-11… in the FCS.

But wait… it get’s worse…

Indiana State’s lone victory game against Quincy University – a division II school in Illinois.  Quincy managed a whopping two wins this year.  One came against a Kentucky Wesleyan team that went 0-11 and only has associate member status in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (Quincy’s D-II conference) after their former conference folded.  The other win from Quincy came against Lindenwood University – Bellville in Illinois.  Lindenwood Bellville is an independent institution in the NAIA.  We skipped D-III and went straight to the NAIA.  (Fun fact: Lindenwood-Bellville is responsible for one of Kentucky Wesleyan’s 11 losses this year.)

So let’s recap:
~ Notre Dame needed a 21-point 4th quarter to beat a 1-11 Purdue team in West Lafayette
~ Purdue’s sole victory this year came against a 1-11 FCS Indiana State squad
~ Indians State’s sole victory came against D-II Quincy University (2-9)
~ Quincy’s two victories were against the lone associate (not full) member of its’ conference that went 0-11 and an NAIA school that beat the aforementioned associate (not full) member of its’ conference.

In conclusion, Notre Dame is barely better than an NAIA school.

Belk Bowl
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
3:20 PM, December 28, Charlotte, NC

I’m not sure how much I have left in the tank after that Picasso I created for the Pinstripe Bowl.

Cincy got smoked by Illinois, who barely beat Purdue for their lone Big Ten victory in the last decade (slight exaggeration).  Of course, they rebounded to go 8-2 the rest of the way, but one of those losses was to a 2-10 South Florida team.  So, who knows what Cincy team will show up in Charlotte?

North Carolina yin-yang’d their season by losing five of their first six before winning five of their last six.  They have achieved balance and are one with the universe.  They’re not bad at football.  They’re simultaneously not good at football.

Russell Athletic Bowl
Miami (9-3) vs. #18 Louisville (11-1)
6:45 PM, December 28, Orlando, FL

Teddy Bridgewater.  That’s really all you need to know about this game.  He was the consesus best NFL-ready QB in college football coming into this season.  Whenever the 2014 NFL draft is held, we’ll find out if NFL teams agree.  His completion percentage, yards per attempt, and TD:INT ratio have improved in each of his three seasons at Louisville.  Regardless of how good (or not) he is, there will be an incalcuable number of morons that will base his status as a prospect on this game alone, which, of course, is asinine and not how any NFL team operates, but overreacting is fun!  Bridgewater may decide to return for his senior year, which seems equally as asinine unless all these draft experts are wrong.

Louisville’s lone loss came by three points to eventual AAC champ Central Florida.  Miami lost three in a row to Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Duke late in the season, sending them falling well out of the top-10 and, eventually, the top-25.  All in all, this should be a fairly entertaining game, and probably the best since Fresno State/USC a week ago.  Let’s hope it goes 3+ overtimes because…

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
10:15 PM, December 28, Tempe, AZ

Did you know the BCS computers actually rank every team in D-I?  The list actually goes all the way through 125.  In the case of this bowl game, we’re pitting #41 against #45 – feel the excitement!

Kansas State (actual state!) began the year by losing to North Dakota State (another actual state!), 24-21.  ND State is an FCS school, but, in defense of K-State, ND State is the top seed in the FCS Championship bracket having gone 13-0 on the year.  Fueled by this upset, K-State went on to beat only one bowl-eligible team in its’ conference.

Michigan started hot, winning six of seven to begin the year.  Their lone loss came in four overtimes against Penn State.  Michigan went on to lose four of five, with their sole win coming in three overtimes against Northwestern.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, I imagine this game will work better than Ambien.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Middle Tennessee (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4)
11:45 AM, December 30, Fort Worth, TX

After taking a day off to let the NFL finish up their schedule (likely with the Cowboys losing a win-and-in game), the heart-pounding bowl game action returns with a vengance.

If you like running the football, here’s your game.  Middle TN averages a shade over 200 yards per game on the ground.  Navy?  Over 300 yards per game.  Just don’t expect either team to stop it, as Middle TN is ranked 85 against the run while Navy is right behind them at 86.  Could we see a shootout via the running game???!!! Is that interesting enough to get you to watch?  No?  Well, let’s see what we can cook up for you…

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)
3:15 PM, December 30, Nashville, TN

Son of a bitch.  NEXT!

Valero Alamo Bowl
#10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4)
6:45 PM, December 30, San Antonio, TX

Looking at this game, Oregon should be able to handle Texas easily and win.  But that would ignore the most important piece of information to remember about nearly all bowl games – they are completely and utterly meaningless.

As in 2012, Oregon was defeated by Stanford this year to (seemingly) end their hopes of winning a national title.  Two weeks later, the Ducks traveled to Tuscon to take on Arizona.  The Wildcats had lost back-to-back games and were 6-4 on the season.  Oregon should’ve won easily.  Instead, they got throttled 42-16 by Rich Rodriguez.  (I know!)  In the week between, Stanford lost to USC, re-opening the door to let Oregon into the PAC-12 title game and, perhaps, the BCS title game.  The Ducks went into Arizona and promptly slammed the door in their own face.  In their last game, they barely defeated in-state rival Oregon State 36-35.

Now, Marcus Mariota (QB for the Ducks) has been playing with a knee injury, but it’s not like he tore his ACL and is hopping around on one leg.  With over a month to prepare for Texas, Oregon should win even if Mariota is hobbled.  But, again, this game is meaningless.  So stop looking at what team is clearly better and start looking for… STORIES!  Mack Brown has resigned from Texas after 16 seasons.  This will be his last game as coach.  I think the fourth McCoy brother is playing QB for him.  STORIES!  When the game means nothing, look for STORIES!

National University Holiday Bowl
#14 Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
10:15 PM, December 30, San Diego, CA

Two of Arizona State’s three losses were to Stanford.  Their other loss was, unfortunately, to Notre Dame, who, as we now know, is barely better than an NAIA school.  Still, 8-1 in the PAC-12 is nothing to laugh at, even if it didn’t include a game against Oregon.

Texas Tech started the year 7-0 before losing their last five.  To be frank, they didn’t beat anyone all that good in those first seven games, so the five game slide wasn’t a total meltdown.  They just played better teams.  And, outside of the Oklahoma game, none of those five losses were close.  Tech also suffered from having to play two different freshman QBs this year after the incumbent starter was injured before the season and one of the freshman QBs was injured during the season.

Arizona State has the better offense and is the lesser of two evils on defense, so you’d have to give them the edge – especially given how Texas Tech finished the season.  More importantly, National University is one of only two new sponsors this year (Royal Purple being the other).  There’s nothing really juicy about National U.  It is the second largest private, nonprofit institution of higher education in California, and the 12th largest in the nation.  It was designed specifically for working adults when it opened in 1971 and continues in that capacity today.  Thus, it likely does not have any athletic programs, but if it did, I imagine Notre Dame could squeak by them as well.

AdvoCare V100 Bowl
Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)
12:30 PM, December 31, Shreveport, LA

This is the old Independence Bowl.  “Independence” was included in the title until this year.  AdvoCare will no longer sponsor the bowl after this year, so we have a new sponsor to look forward to next year!  (Unless, of course, the bowl is discontinued.)  Here’s hoping new sponsorships lead to better matchups because this game is terrible.  Yes, Arizona crushed Oregon at home late in the year.  They followed that up by losing to Arizona State, 58-21.  In fact, looking at their schedule, that Oregon game looks more and more amazing.  Arizona didn’t beat any other in-conference opponents with a winning record.  They beat Cal by five.  Cal finished the season 1-11 with their sole victory coming against an FCS school with a .500 record.  It’s easily the closest Cal came to beating an FBS school this year.  Every other one of their losses was at least a three score margin.  If I were the NCAA (and I’m glad I’m not), I would investigate Rich Rodriguez and the U of A for that victory over Oregon.  Granted, the NCAA would certainly botch the investigation, but it’s the thought that counts.

Boston College won four of five to end the season and qualify for this incredibly boring bowl game.  I’m sure New Year’s Eve in Shreveport will be a blast.

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. #17 UCLA (9-3)
2:00 PM, December 31, El Paso, TX

I imagine El Paso is also a wonderful place to spend New Year’s Eve.

NFL fans will want to pay attention to a couple players on UCLA.  Anthony Barr is widely considered the best linebacker prospect in the country, which is amazing when you consider he was a running back until last season.  Barr recorded 62 tackles (20 for loss), 10 sacks, and five forced fumbles this year.  QB Brett Hundley will get more attention because of his position, but he’s not as polished as Barr, and may end up returning to UCLA to improve at QB before entering the 2015 NFL draft, which will have five picks announced per day over the course of two months, probably.  Hundley was talked about at the beginning of the year as a potential 1st round pick in next year’s draft.  Now, most experts have a few QBs ahead of him, which may make his decision to stay easier.  (If history is any indicator, he likely won’t rise to be the best QB in the 2015 draft if he stays in college.  See Barkley, Matt.)

Virginia Tech lost three of five to end their season, and those three losses were to teams they should’ve beaten if they wanted to be considered good at football.  Still, Frank Beamer is probably a better coach than Jim Mora the Younger, so Tech should have a fighting chance in this one.  Win or lose, you get to ring in the New Year in El Paso!

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Rice (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (6-6)
4:00 PM, December 31, Memphis, TN

Really could use a new sponsor for this bowl.

Chick-fil-A Bowl
#24 Duke (10-3) vs. #21 Texas A&M (8-4)
8:00 PM, December 31, Atlanta, GA

You read that right – #24 Duke.  In basketball, that would be shockingly low.  In football, it’s shockingly high.  Duke won their last eight regular season games to earn a spot in the ACC Championship game against Florida State.  Granted, they got slaughtered in that game, but they certainly earned the right to compete for the conference championship.  Duke doesn’t do anything particularly well, but they found a way to win a lot of games this year.

On the other side of that coin is Texas A&M.  They were unable to win any big game they played in this year losing to Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Missouri.  Missouri did a great job keeping Johnny Manziel in the pocket where he struggled.  Johnny football loves making the electric play out of the pocket with his feet, but if he can’t throw from the pocket, NFL teams will shy away.  Manziel will get all the attention, but there are three other players on A&M’s offense that could easily go in the first round of next year’s NFL draft.  LT Jake Matthews (son of NFL hall of famer Bruce Matthews) moved from RT to LT to take over for Luke Joeckel who was the second overall pick in this past year’s draft.  Like Joeckel, Matthews will probably be taken early in round one.  The man who took over for Matthews on the right side, Cedric Ogbuehi (pronounced ah-BOO-hee), is another potential first round pick on the offensive line.  Finally, WR Mike Evans (6-5, 225) is another potential first round pick thanks in large part to his frame.  Like Manziel, Evans is a redshirt sophomore, meaning he is eligible for the draft, but still has two years of eligibility left in college.  If he loses both offensive tackles and his QB, I would advise Evans to walk.  Just a thought.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention any players on A&M’s defense.  That’s because they’re a dumpster fire, allowing over 30 points per game.  Yes, A&M’s offense averages over 40 points per game, but those numbers are always inflated when playing inferior opponents.  If Duke can figure out a way to slow down A&M’s offense, they should have enough opportunities to score.  This should be a good game to send out 2013 unless Duke just lays an egg. Gator Bowl
Nebraska (8-4) vs. #22 Georgia (8-4)
Noon, January 1, 2014, Jacksonville, FL

Georgia had a decent start to their year beating South Carolina and LSU after losing a tight one to Clemson 38-35 in their opener.  Mid-season losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt derailed their season.  Then, on November 16th, they played one of the more crazier games of the season at Auburn.  Down 37-17 early in the 4th quarter, Georgia scored 21 unanswered points to take a 38-37 lead with under two minutes to play.  With 36 seconds remaining, Auburn had the ball on their own 27 yard line staring a 4th and 18 (and certain doom) in the face.  Then this happened:

Play of the Year, Gary Danielson?  Well, until Auburn played Alabama, yes.

Nebraska finished the season 3-3.  Their average margin of victory in those three wins was 3.3 points.  The average margin of defeat in their three losses was 15 points.  It doesn’t look promising for Nebraska until you consider Georgia’s starting QB Aaron Murray will not play due to a torn ACL.  As a senior, his college career is over and his NFL draft stock took a major hit.  (Not that it was incredibly high to begin with.)  So, yes, this game could be exciting, but only because Georgia has to play their backup.

Heart of Dallas Bowl
UNLV (7-5) vs. North Texas (8-4)
Noon, January 1, Dallas, TX

Really?  This is a New Year’s Day bowl game?  I mean kudos for stuffing it on ESPNU, but this game should be played on December 23rd.  Or not at all.  There is literally nothing interesting about either team.

Capital One Bowl
#19 Wisconsin (9-3) vs. #9 South Carolina (10-2)
1:00 PM, January 1, Orlando, FL

South Carolina’s record is deceiving.  They did not play Alabama, Auburn, LSU, or Texas A&M – the top four teams in the SEC West division – this year.  Sure, there are good wins against Georgia, Missouri, and Clemson, but then there’s a loss to Tennessee.  That would qualify as terrible.  Tennessee’s other four wins: Kentucky (0-8 in the SEC; 2-10 overall), Austin Peay (0-12 and in the FCS), Western Kentucky, and South Alabama (both Sun Belt Conference schools).  It’s stunning South Carolina is a top-1o team with that loss, but I suppose someone has to be #9, and I’m sure playing in the SEC is helping even if they avoided some of the better teams in the conference.

You’re going to hear Jadeveon Clowney’s name a lot in this game.  Not necessarily because he’s going to make a lot of plays, but just because so many draft experts think he’s the best NFL prospect in college football.  He really didn’t produce this year, but apparently he has great measurables.  Red flags abound.

Wisconsin lost their last game at home to Penn State, which is concerning.  Otherwise, closes losses on the road against Arizona State (by 2) and Ohio State (by 7) are excusable.  Wisconsin is old school – they run the ball and play defense.  They’ve allowed 10 or fewer points seven different times this year, but surrendering 31 to Penn State (an, at best, mediocre offense) is not good.  They have two running backs with over 1,000 yards this year.  Hopefully they can rebound defensively to make this an enjoyable game to watch because I am not watch that Heart of Dallas Bowl and I need another game to watch opposite Nebraska/Georgia.

Oh wait, there’s another game…

Outback Bowl
Iowa (8-4) vs. #16 LSU (9-3)
1:00 PM, January 1, Tampa, FL

Yeeesh. Talk about an underwhelming matchup.  LSU holds some quality wins over Auburn and Texas A&M, but they needed a drive from their backup QB to beat lowly Arkansas (0-8 in SEC play) in their final game.  Their starting senior QB, Zach Mettenberger was injured and tore his ACL.  Freshman backup QB Anthony Jennings stepped in and drove the Tigers 99 yards for a game-winning TD.  LSU was losing 27-21 when Mettengberger got hurt, so it’s not as if the senior QB was playing well.

Similar to Nebraska, Iowa will face an SEC team missing their starting QB.  Otherwise, I’m not sure how close this game would be.  Iowa does play solid defense, but anytime they faced a decent team this year (Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois), they allowed about 30 points per game (and lost to all four of those teams).  LSU averages better than 35 points per game, but that was playing with Mettenberger at QB.

So, yes, this game could be good, but only because of what’s lacking rather than some sort of battle royale between two great teams.

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO
#4 Michigan State (12-1) vs. #5 Stanford (11-2)
5:oo PM, January 1, Pasadena, CA

This is a great matchup between two strong defensive teams that run pro-style offenses.  It should be a really good game considering how meaningless it is.  To think, if Michigan State could’ve beaten Notre Dame (who’s only slightly better than an NAIA school), they would be in the national championship game.  And Stanford’s two losses are Utah and USC – not exactly powerhouses this year either.  The good news?  Both teams seem to step it up against good competition.  Let’s hope it’s a good one.

You may be wondering what will happen to the Rose Bowl now that the BCS is going bye-bye and a playoff is coming into the picture.  Well, don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere.  Next year, the Rose Bowl will host one of two semifinal games, with that matchup to be determined by a selection committee.  The Big Ten and Pac-12 are irrelevant in this case.  In fact, let’s say Ohio State was #1 and UCLA was #4 at the end of next year.  In that case, the game would almost assuredly NOT be in Pasadena.  Why?  Similar to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the college playoff selection committee will protect the top two seeds from having to play a “road” game.  In that scenario, Ohio State would essentially be playing a road game in southern California.  Instead, that hypothetical Ohio State/UCLA game would be played at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans (the other bowl game hosting a semifinal next year).

In years where the Rose Bowl does not host a semifinal, the traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup will occur.  If either, or both, of the top Big Ten/Pac-12 teams are in the playoffs, they’ll simply go to the next highest ranked team in each conference.  I am not sure how it would be handled if the highest ranked non-playoff team is, say, 8-4 and ranked in the 20s.  I am hoping there is something in the new system that allows them to avoid scenarios like that, but I can’t find that information.

Either way, the Rose Bowl parade and game aren’t going away.  If anything, it may be getting closer to its’ roots with guaranteed Big Ten/Pac-12 matchups two out of every three years.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
#15 UCF (11-1) vs. #6 Baylor (11-1)
8:30 PM, January 1, Glendale, AZ

This will likely be the opposite of the Rose Bowl.  Expect many points, especially from Baylor, who averaged 53.3 per game this season.  Baylor put up 70 or more points in a game four times this year.  They put 59-69 points another three times.  So, you can see how the average can get to 53.3.  Their lone loss came against Oklahoma State – a 49-17 beatdown in Stillwater.  I guess anyone can have a bad game, but in college football, that will cost you a shot at the national title.  Don’t be fooled by the big offensive numbers, Baylor has a pretty good defense as well (although certainly not on that day in Stillwater).  They allow only 21 points a game, which is fantastic when you consider how many points their offense scores.

UCF went undefeated in the AAC (what’s left of the Big East) with their lone loss coming against South Carolina by three points.  They’re a solid team, but they also had a lot of close games to opponents that they probably should’ve crushed if they were a good team.  They allow less than 20 points a game, but I don’t think they’ve seen anything like Baylor’s offense.  QB Blake Bortles will need to play well to keep his team in it and give his defense a break.  Bortles is another NFL draft prospect that will need to make a decision about whether or not to return to college after the season is over.  Unfortunately, very few people have probably seen him play, so a bad showing against Baylor will send the armchair GMs rushing to Twitter to criticize him and declare him a bust before he’s even drafted.

The Fiesta Bowl will no longer have any conference tie-ins under the new playoff format.  In years where they do not host a semifinal game, the matchup will feature at-large schools and, possibly, the highest-ranked champion from the “Group of Five.”  These are the five mid-major conferences – AAC, Conference-USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.  They are now guaranteed at least one team in the so-called “New Year’s Six” bowl games.  That’s right there are now six “major” bowl games – not four (more on that later).  And, yes, they will try to play all of them on back-t0-back days around New Year’s.  I imagine the NFL will ruin things when December 31st and January 1st are Sundays, but we’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it.  Until then, kudos to college football for realizing the stupidity of the BCS TV schedule.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
#11 Oklahoma (10-2) vs. #3 Alabama (11-1)
8:30 PM, January 2, New Orleans, LA

I’ll give the BCS this much, they went out with some great matchups.  This game may not end up being all that close, as Alabama is probably still angry over that Auburn loss, and I can’t think of a time where Alabama lost back-to-back games.  Still, this matches up two storied college football programs in a meaningless exhibition game and that gets sportswriters excited.  The Sugar Bowl is only tied to the SEC, so they didn’t have to take Oklahoma, but, in the end, it creates an intriguing game if only because both teams wear some variation of red with white and OH MY GOD HOW AM I GOING TO KNOW WHICH TEAM IS WHICH??????????

Then again, maybe the Sugar Bowl was just preparing for the future.  Under the new playoff system, the Sugar Bowl will matchup the SEC and Big 12 when they aren’t hosting a semifinal game.  If you’re curious, the new playoff system will last through at least 2025 per the contract with ESPN, who will broadcast all six major bowl games as well as the championship game.

AT&T Cotton Bowl
#13 Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. #8 Missouri (11-2)
7:30 PM, January 3, Arlington, TX

Don’t look now, but there are actually two bowl games on this evening.  I can’t believe ESPN and the BCS allowed another game to be played opposite theirs.  Secretly, I hope Jerry Jones (the Cotton Bowl is at his palace) did some shady back-door dealing to get this game on the air and, in turn, pissed off some ESPN executive.  I also hope Jerry Jones fires Jason Garrett and decides to coach the team himself.  HE HAS ALL THE BEST IDEAS!!!

If you haven’t been paying attention, you may be wondering why the Big 12 has two teams in the Cotton Bowl.  Well, the Big 12 has only ten teams now (and the Big Ten has 12 teams – 14 next year) and Missouri is in the SEC.  They were, after all, in the SEC championship game against Auburn.  I imagine this is another offensively explosive game with minimal defense.  Enjoy!

Now, I mentioned earlier how there are going to be six major bowls in the new playoff system, instead of the four we have now.  The Cotton Bowl and Chick-fil-A Bowl will be added to the mix going forward.  (The Chick-fil-A Bowl may revert back to the Peach Bowl next year to fall in line with the other six bowls.)  Both of these games will feature at-large or “Group of Five” champion teams, just like the Fiesta Bowl.  This means these three bowls surrender their conference tie-ins and are subject to the decisions of the selection committee.  This will probably help to create intriguing, albeit meaningless, bowl games.  At the same time, with the Big 12 and SEC losing two tie-ins (although the SEC sort of gains one with the Orange Bowl) along with the ACC losing one tie-in, it may change some of the other bowl games.  Here’s hoping new tie-ins are created leading to massive changes in sponsors that will provide foder for future bowl previews.

This is the rotation of semifinal games, if you’re interested:

2014 season: Rose/Sugar Bowls
2015 season: Orange/Cotton
2016 season: Fiesta/Peach

Discover Orange Bowl
#12 Clemson (10-2) vs. #7 Ohio State (12-1)
8:30 PM, January 3, Miami, FL

Those points against numbers would tell you neither team’s defense is all that bad, but that’s not true.  Defense will be rather optional in this affair.  Ohio State attacks mainly on the ground while Clemson does it through the air.  So, if you like variety in scoring, this game is for you.

Under the new playoff system, the Orange Bowl is the most ridiculous bowl.  They’re still tied to the ACC, but the other team could be from the SEC, the Big Ten, or Notre Dame.  If the Big Ten or SEC champ is not in the playoffs (seems unlikely, especially in the case of the SEC) when the Rose and Sugar bowls are hosting the semifinal games, then they will NOT play in the Orange bowl in some sort of effort to increase the value of the other bowls.  Got that?  Neither do I.  By the way, it’s good to see the Notre Dame exception is still alive.  There’s no exception for any other independent schools, just Notre Dame, who, as we discussed, is barely better than an NAIA school.  That said, the Big Ten and SEC are guaranteed at least three appearances in the non-playoff Orange Bowl games during the length of the contract while Notre Dame may only appear a maximum of two times.  There is no minimum number of times Notre Dame has to appear in the Orange Bowl.  Maybe Notre Dame is starting to feel the squeeze of being an independent.  Get it?  Squeeze?  Orange Bowl?

One final note on the ridiculousness of the Orange Bowl under the new playoff system.  If the matchup with the ACC team would create a rematch of a regular season game, the Orange Bowl is permitted to “skip” that Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame team and create an original matchup.

(Hey, you just have to read it.  I had to research the whole thing.)

BBVA Compass Bowl
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. Houston (8-4)
1:00 PM, January 4, Birmingham, AL

I’m still upset that BBVA Compass is not a manufacturer of compasses.  Good news, though – they won’t be the sponsor after this game.  Another new sponsor next year!  (Provided the bowl isn’t shut down.)  I guess you could say they’re going in a different direction.  {rim shot}

GoDaddy Bowl
Arkansas State (7-5) vs. Ball State (10-2)
9:00 PM, January 5, Mobile, AL

It appears we lost the “.com” from the end of GoDaddy in the sponsorship.  I hope everyone can remember it’s a web site about making other web sites.

Arkansas State’s 7-5 record was good enough for 2nd place in the Sun Belt conference.  They actually tied Louisiana-Lafayette atop the standings with a 5-2 conference record, but lost to them during the regular season, which gave the conference title to the Ragin’ Cajuns.  Good luck to the Sun Belt on earning that “Group of Five” bid in the new playoff system.

These last two bowl games bookend NFL wild card weekend.  I’m sure you’ll stay up past midnight to see who can win this battle of mid-major teams.

VIZIO BCS National Championship
#1 Florida State (13-0) vs. #2 Auburn (12-1)
8:30 PM, January 6, Pasadena, CA

By now, you know how Auburn got here.  There was the aforementioned miracle play against Georgia on 4th and 18.  That was followed by the missed field goal return for a touchdown against Alabama with no time left on the clock.  If you haven’t seen that play then I don’t know how you made it this far in the bowl preview.  This could very easily by Florida State vs Alabama.  Auburn let out the usual SEC cry leading up to the last week of games stating that a one-loss SEC team was better than an undefeated team in any other conference (specifically, they were looking at Ohio State).  Luckily for them, Ohio State lost and the situation pretty much took care of itself.

Lost in all of this is Florida State, who, if they can maintain what they’ve been doing so far this season, would probably beat any team they came across in the title game.  They are second in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 53 points per game. They are first in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 10.7 points per contest.  They are also first in the nation in passing defense, which is insane when you consider they’re 13-0 and often had large leads in the games they played.  Normally that would force the opposition to throw and you would expect they would allow some garbage time passing yards that would add up over the course of a 13-0 season.  FSU is also well-balanced on offense averaging over 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing per game.  Oh, and they have the Heisman trophy winner at QB.

If FSU has one weakness, it may be their rush defense, which gives up over 115 yards per game.  Auburn averages over 330 yards rushing per game (tops in the nation) thanks to their fantastic triple option.  If FSU can slow this down, they should win easily.

Of course, if this were 2014, this game may not take place.  In that case, Florida State would play Michigan State in one semifinal (probably the Sugar Bowl since FSU is the top seed) while Auburn would play Alabama in the other semifinal (probably the Rose Bowl).  The winners would meet in the College Football Championship Game (no “national” in the title) and the champion would receive a new trophy instead of the BCS crystal football.  The site of the game will be bid upon each year a la the Final Four in men’s basketball and the Super Bowl in the NFL.  The first three sites are Jerry’s World in Arlington (2014 season), University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ (2015), and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL (2016).  A site cannot host both a semifinal game and the championship game in the same year.

The BCS lasted for 16 seasons and certainly had it’s fair share of controversy, but it did solve the one issue that plagued college football for decades – it got #1 and #2 to square off and determined a sole champion (at least most of the time).  And let’s not kid ourselves, this new playoff system will have plenty of controversy as well, especially with it only taking four teams.  I think Stanford, Baylor, and Ohio State can all make an argument that they at least deserve the opportunity to compete for a title this year.  Eventually, the playoffs will need to get to a state similar to that of the NCAA men’s tournament.  No, I don’t think 68 teams need to make the bracket.  You just need to get to the point where the argument over the last few teams in and the first few teams left out is moot because none of them have much of a chance to win the whole thing anyway.  In college football, that will probably take a 12- to 16-team playoff.

And I think we’ll get there eventually.  I’m willing to bet the three most-watched postseason college football games next year will be the two semifinal games and the championship game.  So, the business side will be taken care of.  Over the years, the cries over who was left out will grow ripe with words like “injustice” much like they have with the BCS.  Talking heads will eventually declare the playoff system “broken” or, at best, “archaic.”  Conference commissioners and athletics directors will get together in temperate climates to discuss the matter and determine that playoff expansion is what’s best for the sport and the schools.  And the cycle will begin again.

Whatever they decide is fine.  Just leave the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl alone, dammit.

Happy Bowling!

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