Yes… It’s been a long time. Too long a time… But now I’m back, with a set of bowl predictions that everyone should keep their eye on…
By Peter LeGrand
*Bowls are listed from least intriguing to most
Little Caesars: Marshall (6-6) vs Ohio (9-4)- Ohio: While Marshall has a great talent in running back Darius Marshall (who rushed for over 1,000 yards), the Herd has given up more yards and points per game then their offense is averaging, and the Bobcats of Ohio are good at winning the tight games. Especially with former Nebraska coach Frank Solich leading the team. This game could easily go either way, but Ohio has a huge coaching advantage.
New Mexico: Fresno State (8-4) vs Wyoming (6-6)- Fresno State: Yes, last season I was burned by the Bulldogs, who gave up over 250 yards rushing to Colorado State’s Gartrell Anderson in this same bowl… still, I have to go back to Fresno, who is just too talented to let up such big plays to Wyoming- a young team who was extremely fortunate to make a bowl game. I cannot see Pat Hill not getting his troops ready for this one, but expect a close game.
Eaglebank: Temple (9-3) vs UCLA (6-6) or Army (will make this bowl with a victory against Navy that was not yet played at the time article was written… if they win, they will be 6-6)- Temple: I’m going with the Owls whoever plays in this game. If Army gets in, it’ll be a massacre, and if it’s UCLA, then Temple will have gotten the upset, but they’ve been one of the better offensive teams all year while playing surprisingly sound defense. UCLA has struggled a little at quarterback again this year, and I think Temple can take advantage. Not to mention it’s their first bowl game in 30 years.
New Orleans: Middle Tennessee (9-3) vs Southern Mississippi (7-5)- S.Miss: The Golden Eagles are 3-0 in their last three New Orleans bowl trips (all in the last five seasons) and I do not think as talented team as they are can lose this time either. They have one of the best offenses around and that’ll be enough to overwhelm Middle Tennessee, who quietly is posed to possibly get it’s first ten win season in… well, a long long long time.
Armed Forces: Houston (10-3) vs Air Force (7-5)- Houston: I learned my lesson last year… which makes me wonder yet again? Why have a bowl game rematch? The contrasting styles of offense will be interesting, but Houston’s high powered offense will be huge again. Although there is definitely a chance that they will not be up to their full potential in this game A) because they beat Air Force twice last year and will underestimate them and B) because they will not be satisfied with such a crappy bowl berth. If either of these two things effect them, don’t be too shocked if the AFA takes home their first bowl win since 2000.
Humanitarian: Idaho (7-5) vs Bowling Green (7-5)- Bowling Green: If you’ve never heard of Freddie Barnes, watch this game and observe one of the top three wide receivers in the college game. I’m quite excited that Idaho FINALLY made a bowl game (in middle school, they were my dynasty team in NCAA football for a while, so I’m attached), but Bowling Green has far too much firepower. Expect lots of points.
International: USF (7-5) vs Northern Illinois (7-5)- USF: As much as I’d like to pick the local Huskies, the fact is that USF has way too much talent on both sides of the ball. And the Bulls never seem to lay an egg in a bowl game against a non BCS school, beating East Carolina by 17 in 2006 and Memphis by 27 last year.
St. Petersburg: Rutgers (8-4) vs UCF (8-4)- UCF: The Knights are close to home, have the top ranked scoring and yardage defense in the CUSA and Rutgers have a freshman quarterback who’s struggled against good defenses. This will probably be a fairly low scoring affair, and I expect the home crowd to push UCF to victory.
Insight: Minnesota (6-6) vs Iowa State (6-6)- Iowa State: Paul Rhodes has done one of the best jobs in college football by getting ISU to a bowl game. Though his coaching excellence isn’t enough to support giving them the nod over the more talented Gophers. A)Austin Arnaud- if he’s healthy- is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and B) Minnesota always seems to find a way to lose their bowl games. Not to mention teams coming off a large bowl drought seem to play a tad better than the one’s that consistently get there and lose. Iowa State in an upset.
Alamo: Michigan State (6-6) vs Texas Tech (8-4)- Texas Tech: Not only is Michigan State ill-equipped in the secondary to deal with the Red Raiders pass attack, but they have nine key players suspended for the game as well. Could be one of the uglier bowl games.
Texas: Missouri (8-4) vs Navy (8-4)- Missouri: Mizzou tends to struggle against lesser opponents in bowl games, and Navy always seems to play up. And Navy has the oh-so difficult to defend triple option offense. However, Mizzou’s Danario Alexander is a top notch receiver, and Navy has no one who’ll be able to cover him. Expect a high scoring, high excitement game that comes down to the finish- I’m betting on talent to triumph in this one.
Hawaii: SMU (7-5) vs Nevada (8-4)- SMU- This is the first bowl game for SMU since the “Death Penalty” was handed down to them in 1984. This will also mark the return to Hawaii for former head coach June Jones, who led the Warriors for nine seasons. I think all the excitement, energy, and pure emotion can get the Mustangs (and their high flying pass attack) past the most lethal running game ever witnessed in college football. Nevada is the first team EVER to have three 1,000 runners in the same season, but I don’t think it’ll be enough in this game, especially with their history of falling flat in bowl games. (0 for their last 3)
Independence: Georgia (7-5) vs Texas A&M (6-6)- Texas A&M: Georgia is more talented, but they are in disarray. Coach Richt just fired their entire defensive staff, they lost to Kentucky, and the quarterback play has been shaky all season. Meanwhile, A&M has one of the better quarterbacks you’ll find in Jerrod Johnson, and I have a feeling they’ll be much more motivated to win Mike Sherman’s first bowl game than the Bulldogs, who expected to be in a New Year’s Bowl at the beginning of the year.
GMAC: Central Michigan (11-2) vs Troy (9-3)- Central Michigan: The Chippewas are coming off yet another MAC championship (3rd in 4 years), and this will be program defining superstar quarterback Dan LeFevour’s last game as a college quarterback. Troy will be a tough test, but the emotion for a proper LeFevour send-off will catapult the Chippewas to victory.
Poinsettia: Utah (9-3) vs Cal (8-4)- Utah: The Utes are a very balanced team that traditionally does well in bowl games and is coming off a very tough overtime loss to their arch rival. Meanwhile Cal is coming off a blow-out loss to a non-bowl team and is may not have their stud running back Jahvid Best. However, the Golden Bears are 4-0 in their past four bowls… But I just think the Utes superior offensive balance and a stronger motivation for some vengeance will push them to victory.
Papajohns.com: South Carolina (7-5) vs UCONN (7-5)- UCONN: The ole ball coach has lost both bowl games at South Carolina against BCS conference opponents- I don’t expect that to change. UCONN has a punishing running game, but more than that is their drive to win. Cornerback Jasper Howard was stabbed to death early in the season, and that should be more than enough to motivate the already scrappy Huskies past a team that tends not to show up in bowl games.
Emerald: USC (8-4) vs Boston College (8-4)- USC: Pete Carroll is angry. USC had it’s worst season in eight years… their first non-BCS season in eight years. They are embarrassed, and I do not think they are going to hold anything back against the Eagles, who are one of the greatest surprises of the year, but just do not match up to the Trojans. This could be very, very, very ugly.
Liberty: Arkansas (7-5) vs East Carolina (9-4)- Arkansas: The ECU Pirates are a very scrappy bunch who’ll compete, but they never seem to really keep their streaks going against the good teams. They survived against the cannon arm of Case Keenum in the CUSA championship game, but I don’t think they’ll be able to withstand future first round draft pick Ryan Mallett and an SEC defense. Will be a close game score wise however.
Meineke: Pittsburgh (9-3) vs North Carolina (8-4)- Pitt: The Panthers were one point, one missed extra point in fact, from a trip from going to a BCS bowl. Actually, if they could’ve held onto a 31-10 lead, they would’ve gone to a BCS bowl. But they blew it against Cincinnati in one of the most entertaining games of the year, and I expect superstar freshman running back Dion Lewis and extremely productive and consistent senior quarterback Bill Stull to extract a small amount of revenge against a North Carolina team that’s played excellent defense all year. However, they were exposed by NC State in their last game, and their offense just is not quite what the Pitt defense is… or maybe what they were after their embarrassing collapse. Should be a high flying game that’s very exciting. But NC doesn’t have Hakeem Nicks at WR anymore (he had over 200 yards in last year’s Meineke bowl), and therefore I’m giving it to Pitt.
Outback: Northwestern (8-4) vs Auburn (7-5)- Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald is the best coach in the Big 10, making the Wildcats a scrappy bunch of bowl qualifiers constantly on a yearly basis, and giving him a month to prepare is dangerous. He almost led the ‘Cats to a win against high powered Mizzou last season, and I believe this year he gets the job done against an Auburn team that is highly successful running the football.
Music City: Clemson (8-5) vs Kentucky (7-5)- Clemson: CJ Spiller is the most dynamic player in college football, and I believe he will be all over the field in every way in this re-match of the 2006 Music City Bowl. Kentucky has a great defense, but I think that they skill position talent and sheer will of Spiller will drive Clemson to a victory.
Gator: West Virginia (8-4) vs Florida State (6-6)- West Virginia: In absolutely no way did Florida State deserve the #2 ACC bowl berth, but with it being Bobby Bowden’s last game, I suppose it makes sense they would honor the greatest coach in ACC history. However, I do not think this will be a pleasant exit for the great coach, because West Virginia simply has too much speed for this Florida State team. They were torn apart by the Florida Gators rushing game, and they did not have Noel Devine, one of the top backs in the game. WVU despite the FSU players wanting to make Bowden’s exit special
Las Vegas: BYU (10-2) vs Oregon State (8-4)- Oregon State: This’ll be a shoot-out between two of the highest powered attacks in the game. However, BYU has struggled in this bowl the past two seasons, both times they were lead by senior QB Max Hall. I don’t know if the blame can really be placed on him, but until I see a change- I’m going with the Rodgers brothers and an Oregon State team that nearly played in the Rose Bowl.
Capitol One: Penn State (10-2) vs LSU (9-3)- Penn State- Yes, LSU is a SEC team. Yes, they are ranked high. And they have been so vastly overrated all season! They had an atrocious offense with star running back Charles Scott- and he’s hurt. Penn State has a team that could’ve won the Big 10, and nearly made a BCS game. If the Big 10 wants to prove that they are closer to the SEC than people give them credit for, then they had better win this game… BECAUSE THEY SHOULD WIN!!!
Cotton: Oklahoma State (9-3) vs Ole Miss (8-4)- Ole Miss: This is definetly the game for disappointments of the year, compared to last year’s surprise team bowl game. Last year, Texas Tech just missed out on a BCS berth and then got blown out by Ole Miss. This season, Oklahoma State lost their final game and missed a BCS berth… I smell a little of the same coming their way. Especially with the Cowboys lacking uber wide receiver Dez Bryant and superstar running back Kendall Hunter so banged up.
Sun: Stanford (8-4) vs Oklahoma (7-5)- Oklahoma: Tony Gerhart is my favorite player in college football, and I have really loved the way Stanford’s been playing all season. Especially when they massacred USC. However, the reported injury to Andrew Luck, the stud freshman quarterback, concerns me. As does Bob Stoops outstanding record for getting the Sooners to beat up on higher ranked opposition in non-BCS bowl games. And Landry Jones has really started hitting his stride recently at quarterback for the Sooners. This should be an excellent game to watch though.
Holiday: Nebraska (9-4) vs Arizona (8-4)- Nebraska: Yes, Arizona has a great spread offense, a coach who instills a good defense all the time, and Arizona has beaten Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl before. But Nebraska has Ndamukong Suh- the defensive tackle who should win the Heisman.
Champs Sports: Wisconsin (9-3) vs Miami FL (9-3)- Wisconsin: This is going to be one of the most entertaining bowl games, and the different styles between the two teams on offense will be fun to watch. Wisconsin brings in the Big 10 OPOY, sophomore running back John Clay, while Miami FL brings to the table a star sophomore as well in quarterback Jacory Harris. Both of these players will be looking to launch off their Heisman campaigns for 2010; but I think this game will be decided on defense. And Wisconsin always plays great D in the bowl game… except for last year.
Orange: Iowa (10-2) vs Georgia Tech (11-2) – Iowa: With the return of Ricky Stanzi, the fourth quarter magic will return for the Hawkeye offense, which will score with 15 seconds or less remaining to win the game in a low scoring affair, because the Tech option attack will be well contained by Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who’s one of the best in the business. Expect this to be a blue-collar slugfest.
Sugar: Cincinnati (12-0) vs Florida (12-1)- Florida: Say what you want about Cincinnati running the table, being the undefeated team, and proving it’s resiliency against Pitt in the second half of that game. It won’t matter. This is Tim Tebow’s final game. That loss to Alabama was embarrassing to the Gators, who had their eye’s set on the national title game all season. If they had any other quarterback besides Tebow, I would say that their focus would be off and the disappointment of that Alabama loss would linger. But with Tebow in command, this will not be so. Expect them to lay the hammer down and not stop pounding. May be an utter annihilation.
Rose: Ohio State (10-2) vs Oregon (10-2)- Oregon: The Ducks are a great story- overcoming such early season drama with running back LeGarrette Blount’s punch of a Boise State lineman after a humiliating loss to the Broncos in the opening game, all with a new coach as well. Their new school uniforms and offense against the traditional (although now they have a form of the spread offense) Ohio State Buckeyes. This will be the Rose Bowl at it’s best. In the end, OSU’s Terrelle Pryor is the most overrated player in the country and will probably have to throw the football at the end of the game. I think that will be the difference in the end, and the Duck’s will get their first Rose Bowl win since 1917.
Fiesta: TCU (12-0) vs Boise State (13-0)- Boise State: Yes, I also wanted both of these “BCS busters” to get a shot against a BCS school. But hey, this was a great bowl game last season, and I feel it will be again; just on a much bigger scale. TCU won last year in a great game, and this year they’ll be favored again. There’s a lot of talk that TCU is actually the second best team in the nation as well, along with being the most balanced on both sides of the ball of all the undefeated teams. They also have the #2 yardage and #6 scoring defense in the country. But I’m going with Boise State. Crazy? I have three reasons… 1) Kellen Moore is the most efficient quarterback in the country and is possibly the best equipped quarterback in the nation to do damage to TCU’s defense. 2) When two teams play the year before in a bowl, the team that wins usually stays with what they have, while the loser makes radical adjustments, not to mention wants revenge. TCU ruined Boise’s quest to be undefeated last year… Boise will be better prepared in this game. And 3) The Broncos have Fiesta Bowl magic. How couldn’t they after that comeback in 2006 in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma?
National Championship: Alabama (13-0) vs Texas (13-0)- Alabama: I’ve picked against the SEC participant in the National Championship game for three straight years now. The SEC team has won all three of those games. This year, I’m taking the SEC squad, which means Alabama. Besides being from the SEC, the Tide has the best running back in college football in Mark Ingram, a stud at wide receiver in Julio Jones, and an offensive line that has allowed quarterback Greg McElroy to develop into a terrific distributer. But Alabama is the favorite here because of it’s defense. Colt McCoy and the Longhorn’s nearly lost to Nebraska, which while having a stingy D, is no Alabama. The Tide have the #3 yardage and #2 scoring defense- giving up just over 10 points a game. McCoy has struggled against the elite defense’s (Nebraska and Oklahoma), and I see the Tide forcing him into some turnovers.
However- the past four Heisman winners (and past 7 out of 9) have lost their bowl games. Including 6 of the 7 who played for the national championship losing. So if either Mark Ingram of Alabama or Colt McCoy of Texas win the award (both received invites to NYC and are the two favorites), my vote will lean towards the other team.