Two weeks ago we previewed the first 11 bowl games to include the four bowl games that are being played today and tomorrow. Arizona got things started with a wild comeback in the New Mexico Bowl and a few of the other games have also been a good time. Other than BYU we haven't seen much defense yet but I suspect we will see some come January 7th!
The overall quality of this middle group of bowl games is definitely a step up from the first group of minor bowls and should serve as a good lead in to the final 12 bowl games that will be played in January. We will discuss those January bowl games early next week. I hope that you all enjoy this lead into the big finish and have an outstanding New Year!
Rankings are per the BCS Standings.
*All times listed below are EST.
Friday 28 December
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana Monroe (8-4)
Both of these teams feature pretty solid rushing attacks but that's about it. Ohio was 0-5 in bowl games until they edged Utah State in the Idaho Potato Bowl last year. Louisiana Monroe has never played in a bowl game but they do have the benefit of making their bowl game debut in their home state. I'll give the Warhawks a nod due to playing the game in their back yard and having a couple of athletes. Check me out picking my 3rd Sun Belt team to win. I remember when the Sun Belt used to sneak a single team into a bowl game. This year they have four. Oh the fringe benefits of 35 bowl games.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Rutgers (9-4) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
I really struggled with this pick. Rutgers has a terrible offense and a defense that is great statistically. Virginia Tech's defense hasn't been up to usual Bud Foster standards but is still pretty decent. On offense the Hokies have struggled and still appear to be a bit of a mess. This season has definitely been an anomaly in Blacksburg as the Hokies clawed their way to 6-6 with overtime wins against Georgia Tech, and Boston College prior to eeking out a 3 point win against Virginia. The Hokie resume' isn't pretty especially when you consider that Virginia Tech last had a losing season in 1992. I have to think that a little pride kicks in here for VT and they get it together to pull out the victory to avoid going 6-7.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Tejas Tech has been back in the news for yet another coaching change in the last couple of weeks as Tommy Tuberville bolted out of Lubbock for Cincinnati of all places. Interestingly former Leach Air Raid QB and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury landed the job as the Raider front man and is headed back to the Hub City to try and re-charge the program. I heard they even printed up a bunch of "The swagger is back" T-shirts. Does that mean that they are going to start throwing tortillas again? As for this game Minnesota is just plain bad and the Raiders should be able to run up and down the field no matter who is on the sidelines wearing a headset. Tech rolls.
Saturday 29 December
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Rice (6-6) vs. Air Force (6-6)
Both of these teams boast solid rushing attacks and terrible defenses. I think Air Force just has a slightly better ground game that will be the difference. You also just can't pick against Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. Right? Right?
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5)
In September Holgo and Geno Smith were the talk of the town. Then after a 5-0 start they dropped 5 straight games to Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma and disappeared off of the national radar. Both of these teams throw the ball well but Holgo and the Mountaineers tend to score a lot more points. West Virginia is a true shootout team and I expect them to win a shootout in this one.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Navy (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
Arizona State should be able to come out and throw it all over the yard against the Mids who will counter by shortening the game and eating clock with their rushing attack. I like Arizona State in a game that I expect will be closer than the experts think.
Valero Alamo Bowl
#13 Oregon State (9-3) vs. #23 Texas (8-4)
This game has a lot of potential. Mike Riley and the Beavers have a really good football team while Mack Brown and Texas turned in another disappointing season in Austin. I was on the fence in this game until Brian Harsin left Austin to take the head job at Arkansas State. Former co-coordinator Major Applewhite now has the controls as the full blown offensive coordinator. I have long been a closet fan of the Major and I expect him to give the Horns a spark heading into this game. Toss in the fact that it will be played in front of a Texas heavy crowd in San Antonio and I think the Horns will actually pull out a victory.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Finally some defense! As for the game flip a coin. Seriously. At a glance, one would think that TCU should be able to handle a 6-6 Sparty squad but I have thought all season that this Michigan State team is significantly better than their 6-6 record indicates. After losing
17-3 20-3 to Notre Dame in week 3 Sparty proceeded to lose 5 more games by a grand total of 13 points. That's a lot of close losses. Both teams have relatively pedestrian offenses and good defenses but I think Michigan State's defense is better than TCU's this year. I like Sparty in a close and low scoring slugfest.
Monday 31 December
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
NC State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)
NC State QB Sean Glennon leads a strong Wolfpack passing attack but the Commodore pass defense is surprisingly good. This just isn't a good matchup for NC State and when you toss in the fact that they recently fired Head Coach Tom O'Brien and are bringing in Dave Doeren from Northern Illinois. Bad matchup + coaching change = Commodore victory.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7)
Georgia Tech is the only team in the country on a waiver to play in a bowl game with a losing record. It's ugly. Real ugly. Georgia Tech has also dropped 7 straight bowl games and Paul Johnson has a reputation for treating bowl games like a vacation vice a business trip. I don't expect this one to be any different. If USC half way shows up they should win this one by a wide margin. Strange things happen in the Sun Bowl but so long as Kiffykins doesn't turn the Trojans loose on Juarez the night prior this one should result in a comfortable Trojan victory.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)
Everybody and their brother seem to think that Tulsa is going to run away with this one but I can't ignore the fact that Iowa State actually beat Tulsa 38-23 in a head to head matchup in the first week of the season. Re-matches tend to go to the team that lost the first time around but I like the Cyclones to get to 2-0 against the Golden Hurricane this year.
#8 LSU (10-2) vs. #14 Clemson (10-2)
I have to think that Dabo and Clemson are still smarting from that beat down that they took from Holgo in the Orange Bowl last year. Will that embarrassment be enough motivation for Clemson to prep well enough to give LSU a run for their money? Will Leslie Miles make a series of bonehead decisions that keep Clemson in the game? There is no telling how this one is going to go but whatever happens it should be a good time. I'll take LSU in a nail biter.
Which of these games are you most looking forward to watching?