Bowl Predictions: Part One
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The postseason has arrived. Saturday there will be three bowl games, followed by four more bowls over the course of the week. All in all, there are 35 bowls in this year's slate between now and January 10th, and 30 of those bowl games are a part of our Bowl Pick'em Contest on Fans25.com. This article features my predictions on the first 15 of those matchups...
(all rankings BCS, all times EST)
New Mexico Bowl - BYU vs UTEP - 2:00 - ESPN - The Cougars of BYU (6-6) enter this game coming off of a heartbreaking one-point loss to rival Utah. BYU is not the BYU of usual where they throw it all over the field. This team averages just 190 ypg passing - 84th nationwide. Luckily for them, their D ranks 24th nationally in points against and is a decent unit. The Miners of UTEP (6-6) are led by quarterback Trevor Vittatoe who has thrown for over 2,500 yards. However, Vittatoe has a hurt ankle and he is a questionmark going in. Not having much of a clue who to take in this bowl, I will go with the Miners. UTEP, 28-23.
Humanitarian Bowl - Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State - 5:30 - ESPN - Between these two teams, there are 18 wins. That to me, is a bowl worth having - but maybe not in the snow in Idaho. Ten of those wins come from NIU (10-3), who won the MAC West. The other eight come from a Fresno State team (8-4) who had a decent season, but were scalded 51-0 on national TV to Boise State late in the year. While I dig Pat Hill's mustache, I'm afraid his Bulldogs will go down to the Huskies. NIU ranks high in the major offensive and defensive categories, including a rank of seventh nationally in rushing yards per game at 264.8. Northern Illinois, 31-21.
Beef O' Brady's Bowl- Southern Miss vs Louisville - 8:00 - ESPN - Coming to us from the rocking town of St. Petersburg, Florida, the Golden Eagles (8-4) and the Cardinals (6-6) are set to bang helmets. Southern Miss is a dice-roll. These guys can score big, averaging 37.6 points per game. But they also give up a lot of points at 29.4 per game. Louisville is the opposite with a better defense than offense, statistically speaking. This should be a fun game to watch. Louisville managed to go sub-500 in a down Big East, so I'm picking them to find a way to lose again. Southern Miss, 38-29.
MAACO Bowl - #19 Utah vs. #10 Boise State - 8:00 - ESPN - Thanks to two missed chip shot field goals against Nevada, the Broncos (11-1) find themselves in a "normal" bowl rather than one with the nice little "BCS" letters attached to it. And a few million bucks. Some teams would let that bother them and then the next thing you know they lose the bowl. I think Head Coach Chris Petersen will not allow that to happen, and Boise comes out and wins big. Utah (10-2) has not shown me much in 2010, losing by a combined 75-10 against the two quality teams on their schedule. Boise State, 42-27.
Hawaii Bowl #24 Hawaii vs. Tulsa - 8:00 - ESPN - Since 1989, the Warriors have played in a bowl in Hawaii seven times, owning a 4-3 record in those games (played under the names Aloha, Oahu and Hawaii Bowl). This year, Hawaii (10-3) will defend home turf in a bowl for the eighth time since '89, and with a good team. They are first in the whole country in passing yards, slinging it to the tune of 387.8 yards per game behind Bryant Moniz at quarterback (over 4,600 yards and 36 tds in 2010!). Tulsa (9-3) is also having a good year, and can also score, but I think Hawaii is going to score early and often. The Golden Hurricanes are 84th nationally in points surrendered. Hawaii, 40-28.
Monday, Dec. 27th
Independence Bowl - Air Force vs. Georgia Tech - 5:00 - ESPN2 - The first shot of the postseason for the ACC to start gaining back some love, and it comes against a very tricky opponent. This game features two teams that hang their hats on odd, tricky, misdirection run-based offenses. It will be fun to watch and see which offense will get it rolling, and which will not. Chances are, both will get it rolling and we will be in for a ground-based shootout. The Yellow Jackets (6-6) average 327 yards a game rushing - first in the nation in that department. Air Force checks in second nationally in the same category at over 317 yards per game. Folks, this should be a doozy and is a toss-up. Being a toss-up, I will pick the team I'm cheering for. Georgia Tech, 35-31.
Tuesday, Dec. 28th
Champs Sports Bowl - #22 West Virginia vs. North Carolina State - 6:30 - ESPN - This game features two teams that just missed a shot at the big time, but in different ways. WVU (9-3) started slow, but dang near made the BCS at the end, losing out to UConn because of the head-to-head loss. NC State (8-4) started hot, and appeared to be heading to the ACCCG. But a late season string of losses prevented that from coming to fruition. When Russell Wilson is on, the Wolfpack can be tough. But you never quite know with that guy. The 'Neers, too, have some question marks - mainly the coaching circus that is going on as Bill Stewart announced recently he has just one year left. Many storylines in this game, but on the field, I think WVU is just a hair better. West Virginia, 30-28.
Insight Bowl - #12 Missouri vs. Iowa - 10:00 - ESPN - This is going to be my upset special - if you really want to call it that. Iowa (7-5) has a strong team, but has the bug of losing games close - five losses all of just one score. Mizzou (10-2) has the much better record, and knocked off #1 Oklahoma midseason, but outside of that kind of weasled through an unspectacular season. I think Iowa has everything it needs to win this game, it just has to come in with a good attitude and get it done. This pick scares me for sure, but I think Iowa gets the win in Stanzi's last game. Iowa, 28-24.
Wednesday, Dec. 29th
Military Bowl - East Carolina vs. Maryland - 2:30 - ESPN - ECU (6-6) alone is a big reason the ACC is hurting in the national eye. The Pirates have defeated NC State, UNC and Virginia Tech in the last several seasons in OOC games (this year they were 1-2 vs those teams, with the win being NCSU). Now, they face a Maryland team with a chance to pour more salt in the wound. The Pirates are pass oriented, ranking 7th nationally compared to 91st nationally rushing. Maryland (8-4) is very unpredictable and will use the balance of Danny O'Brien at QB and Davin Meggett at running back on offense. The Terps - on paper - should win this game. We'll see. Maryland, 30-20.
Texas Bowl - Illinois vs. Baylor - 6:00 - ESPN - Here is a game featuring two big, large, sports-crazy universities, neither of which has done anything of signifigance on the football field in my lifetime. In 2010, I am not sure again if either has done anything to deserve a bowl appearance. The combined record between them is 13-11, not too much to get excited about. The biggest win between them was (I guess) Baylor's win over Texas in Austin. The Illini (7-5) passing game couldn't throw it in a Great Lake, ranking nearly dead last in passing yards. I will go with Baylor (6-6) in this one as they appear to be the lesser of two evils. Baylor, 31-25.
Alamo Bowl - #14 Oklahoma State vs. Arizona - 9:15 - ESPN - All year long I have been big on this Oklahoma State team (10-2), while all year long I have been skeptical of this Arizona squad (7-5). That adds up to me picking OSU in this game. In so many games of this Pick'em Contest that I am unsure of, this game I feel pretty good about. The Cowboys can flat out score (averaging 45 points per game and 354.7 yards per game passing behind All-American WR Justin Blackmon), and if the D shows up in any form whatsoever, OSU should get a nice bowl win. Oklahoma State, 48-28.
Thurdsay, Dec. 30th
Pinstripe Bowl - Kansas State vs Syracuse - 3:20 - ESPN - Yankee Stadium is home to a bowl game now. Sheesh. Syracuse (7-5) has been an absloute joke the last six years or so. But in 2010, they found a spark and turned it around. Kansas State (7-5) has never really had much impact on the college football world. That doesn't have anything to do with this current team, I'm just saying. This Wildcat team doesnt play much D (74th nationally), but somehow limited Oklahoma State to their lowest total all season in points. This will be an interesting game to watch. I will go with the Orange who will have more fans and are having a revival of sorts. Syracuse, 30-24.
Music City Bowl - North Carolina vs Tennessee - 6:40 - ESPN - Throughout the year, I have thought that UT (6-6) showed a very positive attitude under Derek Dooley. But with that said, they still haven't been able to get over the hump and win the games they used to yet. I know that the Vols have won four straight, but as I look at those four wins, none are convincing me they are "back." Memphis, Ole Miss, Vandy and Kentucky are four average-at-best teams, and two of those were at home. UNC (7-5), meanwhile, has had a season of headaches, but I think is very dangerous. I watched every single play of the Heels win at FSU, and quarterback TJ Yates can be a serious threat when he is on. UNC should have done more with the talent on this team (most of the D will play on Sunday, and Yates is NFL caliber, as well), but Butch Davis' squad took some blows. I think they will have just enough to get by Tennessee, though. North Carolina, 28-21.
Holiday Bowl - #18 Nebraska vs. Washington - 10:00 - ESPN - Annually one of my favorite bowls to watch, here is the Holiday Bowl from San Diego. This game features two teams that met in the third week of the season in Seattle, where visiting Nebraska (10-3) won, 56-21. At the time, it looked like UW (6-6) would miss a bowl again. But the Huskies bounced back and won five of their last nine to go bowling....This game should be a Husker blowout, but you never know. Nebraska's defense should be able to contain a team that ranks 93rd in the nation in scoring points. UW is also 93rd in giving up points. This, again, should be a big Nebraska win. Nebraska, 46-21.
Friday, Dec. 31st
Meinike Car Care Bowl - South Florida vs. Clemson - 12:00 - ESPN - I will be the first to admit that Clemson (6-6) is not what I consider a "bowl team" - especially with the ACC having a mediocre year. South Florida (7-5) isn't exactly setting the world on fire, either, after going 3-4 in a bad Big East. But despite the fact that this game isn't a bowl game to be excited about, the game will be played. CU is a mystery to me, but has a defense that should keep USF scoring to a minimum. I am counting on the Tiger offense to muster up around 20 points, and pull out an ugly win. Clemson, 21-17.
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