Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Your Bowl Season Primer

Can Auburn make it eight in a row for the SEC?
By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

The college bowl season opens Saturday, beginning a bonanza of college football that will give us a game to watch nearly every night until the BCS Championship Game on January 6th (Minus Christmas and December 22nd/29th, so as not to compete with Jesus or the NFL).

If you're just a football fan, the bowl season is amazing. Finally, college football gives us some intriguing inter-conference match ups that will no doubt feature contrasting styles and unfamiliar foes battling after plenty of preparation.

If you're a rich booster for a team that had a successful season, you've probably already booked your flight to Florida/California/Arizona/Texas/Louisiana/Georgia and scored your "alumni section" tickets from the school for twice as much as you would pay on StubHub a week before the game.

But, if your team came up short of expectations, it's a depressing potential trip to Detroit or Birmingham that you probably decided wasn't worth the time or money. Or heck, if you're a Purdue fan like me, or a Gator fan like my wife, this entire month is a reminder that your team wasn't even good enough to face Arkansas State in Mobile, Alabama.

That's depressing, but bowl season is still an amazing all you can eat buffet of football, so I'm going to put my own personal disappointments aside and bring you everything to watch for in every 2013-2014 bowl game.

All times Eastern, by the way.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Dec. 21, 2 PM

Colorado State vs Washington State in Albuquerque, NM

Washington State has spent the last decade playing its "bowl game" against rival Washington in the Apple Bowl because, to put it bluntly, the program has been terrible lately. Second-year coach and occasional player abuser Mike Leach has changed that and gotten the Cougars to the postseason for the first time since 2003.

But seriously, if you didn't go to either of these schools, there's no reason to watch this game. Do yourself a favor and wait 90 minutes for the next one.

Royal Purples Las Vegas Bowl: Dec. 21 3:30 PM

No. 20 Fresno State vs No. 25 USC in Las Vegas, NV

That next game is a dandy after all, as high-powered Fresno State will face a talented, but in transition USC team. It will be a great offense vs defense match up as Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Davonte Adams try to find holes in the stellar USC secondary. Don't look now, but this is the only bowl match up between ranked teams until the night cap on New Year's Eve, so enjoy it.

Famous Idaho Potatoes Bowl: Dec 21, 5:30 PM

San Diego State vs Buffalo in Boise, ID

Just off of name alone, you know that this bowl is irrelevant. Still, San Diego State is one of the hottest teams in the country, and all their games seem to be exciting. The Aztecs are the only team in the country to play four overtime games this year, and went 3-1 in those contests, including an upset over Boise State.

Buffalo, meanwhile, may have the best defensive player in the country you've never heard of. Linebacker Khalil Mack has over 90 tackles and 10 sacks for the Bulls, and many are projecting him as a Top-10, if not Top-5 NFL Draft pick, depending on his Combine workout. He's helped lead a turnaround at Buffalo, and hopes it will end with the Bulls picking up their first bowl win in school history.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Dec. 21 9 PM

Louisiana-Lafayette vs Tulane in New Orleans, LA

Neither of these teams will have to travel far, as the SuperDome will host two in-state schools looking to build momentum toward next year. After going 41 years without a bowl, the Cajuns are making their third consecutive appearance in the New Orleans Bowl, having won the game the last two years.

Tulane, meanwhile, is back in the postseason for the first time since 2002,  and should feel right at home seeing as they play their home games in the SuperDome. The Green Wave's winning record in Conference USA vs the Cajuns' tittle in the Sun Belt make Tulane the slight favorite, but this is as close to a toss up as you can get.

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: Dec. 23, 2 PM

Ohio vs East Carolina in St. Petersburg, FL

This one has the makings of a shootout, and probably a Purple Pirate route. ECU comes in with one of the most explosive offenses in the country, as quarterback Shane Carden's nearly 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns certainly prove.

Still, Ohio has been remarkably stingy under coach Frank Solich, and the Bobcats have one of the better secondaries in mid-major college football. Add in a competent quarterback of their own in Tyler Tettleton, and Ohio has a puncher's chance of denying ECU its first 10-win season since 1991.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Dec. 24, 8 PM

Oregon State vs Boise State in Honolulu, HI

Another game where points won't be at a premium. Oregon State's Top-10 passing offense is led by strong armed Sean Mannion, but the Beavers are losers of five straight, mostly due to an inability to stop turning the ball over.

Boise State, meanwhile, comes in with four losses and without long-time coach Chris Pedersen. This is uncharted water for the Broncos, but look for Demarcus Lawrence and Co. to put pressure on Mannion, leading to a Boise bowl win.

Little Caesars Bowl: Dec. 26, 6 PM

Bowling Green vs Pittsburgh in Detroit, MI

This is, bar none, the worst bowl you can go to. It's in Detroit, for starters, and usually involves a 6-6 Big Ten team scared to death of being upset by an above average MAC team. This year we get an above average MAC team and a 6-6 ACC team.


San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Dec. 26, 9:30 PM

No. 23 Northern Illinois vs Utah State in San Diego, CA

Northern Illinois and fake Heisman candidate quarterback Jordan Lynch were one game away from making a repeat trip to the BCS. Thankfully, we've been spared having to watch the Huskies get blown out by another national power, but they're still a fun team to watch in games where they have comparable talent to their opponent.

Utah State came up just short against Fresno State in the Mountain West title game, but will have to deal with injuries to its top two quarterbacks in this one. The Aggies boast one of the best defenses in the country, so they should be able to slow Lynch down, but with injuries plaguing them under center, it's hard to see them putting up enough points to win.

Military Bowl-Presented by Northrop Grumman: Dec. 27, 2:30 PM

Maryland vs Marshall in Annapolis, MD

When Maryland lost receiver Stefon Diggs in late October, the Terps instantly became unwatchable again. But, the emergence of runnin' and gunnin' backup quarterback C.J. Brown, who rushed for over 100 yards in exciting late season wins over Virginia Tech and NC State to get Maryland into the postseason, made them sorta' fun again.

For Marshall, this season was a realization of potential. Star quarterback Rakeem Cato is one of the more fun dual-threat quarterbacks to watch in the entire country, and he took his game to another level this year. Finishing in the Top-10 nationally in passing TDs, yards and passer rating, Cato helped turn the Thundering Herd from a losing team into a Conference USA champ in just one season.

This is pretty much a home game for Maryland, but don't sleep on the high-powered Herd.

Texas Bowl: Dec. 27, 6 PM

Minnesota vs Syracuse in Houston, TX

Wait, Minnesota made a bowl game?

Seriously though, this may be the most boring game of the entire bowl slate. Minnesota is the worst passing team in a horrid passing league, and Syracuse is a run heavy team as well.

This game may drag football back 30 years.

Fight Hunger Bowl: Dec. 27, 9:30 PM

Washington vs BYU in San Francisco, CA

It will be interesting to see how the Huskies fare without coach Steve Sarkasian, who left to take the USC job a few weeks back. Washington may be the best four loss/unranked team in the country (Losses to Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA), and will look to get stud running back Bishop Sankey (1,775 yards, 18 TDs) going.

On the other side, BYU is one of the best rush defenses in the country, giving up less than four yards per carry, and Kyle Van Noy has proved all year long that he's one of the most complete defensive players in the country.

This game will feature two teams trying to run the ball and stop the other on the ground, but for some reason that doesn't depress me as much as the Minnesota-Syracuse game does.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Dec. 28, 12 PM

Notre Dame vs Rutgers in Bronx, NY

I love the idea of this bowl game being played in Yankee Stadium, and getting a local team (Rutgers) plus Notre Dame should make this year's installment a success.

Still, it will feature two teams coming off disappointing seasons. The Irish didn't plan on regressing four games from the BCS Championship to this mid-level bowl, and Rutgers certainly thought it was better than a six-win team coming into the year. The Irish open as big favorites, but injuries on defense, particularly to future NFL defensive lineman Louis Nix, could allow the Scarlett Knights to hang around.

Oh, what am I saying? Rutgers can't stop anybody this year. The only way they stay in this game is if Tommy Rees continually throws the ball to them.

On second thought…

Belk Bowl: Dec. 28, 3:20 PM

North Carolina vs Cincinnati in Charlotte, NC

Cincinnati came up one game short of the AAC title, despite losing starting quarterback, and owner of the nation's best name, Munchie Legaux. The Bearcats have found ways to win (Defense), but also lose (Turnovers) in Tommy Tuberville's first season, while North Carolina is quietly one of the hottest teams in the country.

Despite a late-season loss to surprising Duke, the Tar Heels rolled off six straight wins to become bowl eligible after a 1-5 start. Tight end Eric Ebron is an NFL caliber player, and dual threat quarterback Maquise Williams has been rolling lately. They'll have their hands full with a Top-10 Cincinnati defense, but UNC has the talent to win this essential home game and keep momentum going.

Russell Athletic Bowl: Dec. 28, 6:45 PM

No. 18 Louisville vs Miami in Orlando, FL

Though the U has fallen down after a 7-0 start, mostly due to injuries and the fact that they were the luckiest 7-0 team ever, this game will not be devoid of story lines. Namely, the fact that Teddy Bridgewater will face the program he was once committed to. Coming out of proverbial UM feeder school Miami Northwestern (Where he replaced Canes quarterback Jacory Harris under center), Bridgewater was considered a U lock after Florida accepted commitments from stud prospects Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett.

Bridgewater committed to the Canes, but chose to look elsewhere after the firing of coach Randy Shannon and his staff.

Now, Teddy returns to his home state for a chance to knock off another in-state power. He led Louisville to a shocking upset of Florida in last season's Sugar Bowl, and would like nothing more than to defeat the Hurricanes on his way to being a Top-5 NFL Draft pick.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Dec. 28, 10:15 PM

Kansas State vs Michigan in Tempe, AZ

Each of these teams thought they might be playing a bowl game in Arizona, but I think it's safe to say they both hoped it would be the Fiesta Bowl. Neither of them found consistency all year, with Michigan's struggles to run the ball, and KSU's struggles with that new-fangled forward pass.

When you hear the two teams you think, "oh, that could be fun," but trust me, it probably won't be.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Dec. 30, 11:45 AM

Navy vs Middle Tennessee in Fort Worth, TX

Who cares? Navy already beat Army.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Dec. 30, 3:15 PM

Georgia Tech vs Ole Miss in Nashville, TN

I like this game a lot better when it was the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.

Valero Alamo Bowl: Dec. 30, 6:45 PM

No. 10 Oregon vs Texas in San Antonio, TX

Neither of these teams wants to be here, but each has something going for it.

Oregon is the better team.

Yes, that would seem like a pretty big advantage, but Texas has as much talent as anybody, and the Longhorns are playing to send coach Mack Brown out on a winning note. I still don't think it will be enough, as the horrid Texas defense will probably be shredded by Oregon's explosive offense, but it should make for an interesting game nonetheless.

National University Holiday Bowl: Dec. 30, 10:15 PM

No. 14 Arizona State vs Texas Tech in San Diego, CA

The Sun Devils were a great story this season, but ultimately weren't tough enough to beat Stanford and punch a ticket to the Rose Bowl. The Holiday Bowl is a nice consolation prize, however, for this program on the rise, and they'll get a stiff challenge from the fightin' Kliff Kingsburys of Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders are still deciding on a quarterback for the game, but that's pretty much par the course for them this year. Whoever it is will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, but ASU's defense may be the best Texas Tech has faced all year.

AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Dec. 31, 12:30 PM

Boston College vs Arizona in Shreveport, LA

Don't look now, but Boston College is fun to watch again. With human bowling ball Andre Williams and his 2,000 yard rushing season leading the way, BC is back in the postseason for the first time since 2010, and first-year coach Steve Addazio is seizing the momentum on the recruiting trail.

Oh, and lest we forget, there's another pretty good back in this game by the name of Ka'Deem Carey. You may remember him, he led the nation in rushing last season, and has over 1,700 yards and 17 TDs this year in Rich Rodriguez' spread option run offense.

Will anybody be able to stop, or at least slow down the other team's ground game?

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Dec. 31, 2 PM

No. 17 UCLA vs Virginia Tech in El Paso, TX

UCLA's resurgence the past two seasons is evident, and the Bruins have let the Pac 12 know they will be a force in the coming seasons. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is taking steps backward from national title contender, to ACC title contender, to conference also-ran.

It's an unfamiliar place for Hokie coach Frank Beamer, but if there were ever a game to get back on track, it's this one against a UCLA team that has talent aplenty, but has struggled to keep star quarterback Brett Hundley upright against quality defenses. Virginia Tech has one of the best defenses in the country, but can they generate enough points and avoid turnovers on the other end?

That will be on VT quarterback Logan Thomas, a player with a world of talent, but also one that has struggled with consistency.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Dec. 31, 4 PM

Mississippi State vs Rice in Memphis, TN

Get in the zone… Ah-Tow-Zone! Seriously, I have zero interest in this game.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Dec. 31, 8 PM

No. 21 Texas A&M vs No. 24 Duke in Atlanta, GA

Finally, a battle of ranked opponents! So what if one of them is Duke and they're going to lose by four scores, this is primetime football!

Gator Bowl: Jan. 1, 12 PM

No. 22 Georgia vs Nebraska in Jacksonville, FL

These Big Ten vs SEC New Year's Day bowl games used to be must-see TV, but the Big Ten has been so bad lately that they've lost their luster. Still, Georgia is beaten up, and Nebraska can run the ball.

If the Huskers can shorten the game and avoid turnovers, this could be closer than people think.

Heart of Dallas Bowl Presented by Plainscapital Bank: Jan. 1, 12 PM

North Texas vs UNLV in Dallas, TX

Ok, has anyone heard of the bank sponsoring this game? Must be a Texas thing.

Outback Bowl: Jan. 1, 1 PM

No. 16 LSU vs Iowa in Tampa, FL

Iowa quietly went from a four-win team to an eight-win team, and they're starting to look like a vintage Kirk Ferentz bunch. Will that be enough against uber-talented LSU? Well, the Hawkeyes have been spectacular on defense, boasting one of the top linebacker trios in the country, and the Tigers will be without starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger…

So hey, it's possible. Plus, Iowa fans remember what happened the last time the Hawkeyes faced LSU in the Outback Bowl.

Capital One Bowl: Jan. 1, 1 PM

No. 9 South Carolina vs No. 19 Wisconsin in Orlando, FL

South Carolina: The most boringly effective team in the SEC.
Wisconsin: The most boringly effective team in the Big Ten.

Yeah, this one should be a barrel of monkeys.

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio: Jan. 1, 5 PM

No. 4 Michigan State vs No. 5 Stanford in Pasadena, CA

Two great defenses, two great running games, two no-nonsense coaches, two game-managing quarterbacks and the true champions of the Pac 12 and Big Ten facing off… Sounds like a fitting game for the 100th Rose Bowl.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Jan. 1, 8:30 PM

No. 6 Baylor vs No. 15 Central Florida in Glendale, AZ

Blake Bortles and the Knights of UCF have been quite the story this year, but Baylor is going to play this game at a pace nobody in Central Florida has seen yet. I don't doubt that the Knight offense has the weapons, primarily in the backfield, to keep up, but that speedy UCF defense will be tested like never before.

There's a reason Baylor comes in as a big favorite, but don't sleep on UCF. They've played everybody down to the wire and have far more talent than people realize.

AllState Sugar Bowl: Jan. 2, 8:30 PM

No. 3 Alabama vs No. 11 Oklahoma in New Orleans, LA

Oh come on BCS, you just couldn't give us Oregon here, could you? Well, despite the fact that I would rather see the Ducks try to score on Alabama's vaunted defense, Oklahoma has plenty of young weapons in its own right.

Beware of the Bama bowl letdown. It happened five years ago when The Tide, disappointed after being denied a shot at the national title by Florida in the SEC championship game, appeared totally disinterested against Utah in the Sugar Bowl. Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama program has come a long way since then, but if The Tide looks anything like it did in 2009, Bob Stoops and the Sooners will make them pay.

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Jan. 3, 7:30 PM

No. 8 Missouri vs No. 13 Oklahoma State in Arlington, TX

This would have been a semi-interesting Big 12 match up three years ago.

Discover Orange Bowl: Jan. 3, 8:30 PM

No. 7 Ohio State vs No. 12 Clemson in Miami, FL

Both these teams are upset. Ohio State lost the chance to play for a BCS Championship in the Big Ten title game, and Clemson's two biggest games (Florida State and South Carolina) led to its two biggest disappointments.

Still, this game should feature plenty of fireworks, as Clemson's Tajh Boyd looks to close his fantastic career with a big day, and Braxton Miller hopes to take advantage of a Tiger run defense that struggled to slow down Connor Shaw.

BBVA Compass Bowl: Jan. 4, 1 PM

Houston vs Vanderbilt in Birmingham, AL

James Franklin has Vanderbilt bowling for the third straight year, and you know what that means… Time to leave for a better job.

GoDaddy Bowl: Jan. 5, 9 PM

Ball State vs Arkansas State in Mobile, AL

Wait, there's an Arkansas STATE?

Vizio BCS National Championship Game: Jan. 6, 8:30 PM

No. 1 Florida State s No. 2 Auburn in Pasadena, CA

Say what you want, the BCS delivered us a great match up as Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the Noles take aim at SEC Champion Auburn. The Tigers have been on a magic carpet ride of luck, defeating Georgia on a Hail Mary, Alabama on a final play field goal return touchdown, and watching Ohio State fall in the Big Ten title game.

But it isn't all luck. Auburn has one of the most explosive offenses in the country, led by first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, who returned after being the offensive coordinator of Auburn's 2010 BCS championship team, and the backfield duo of quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason.

The Noles look like the more talented team throughout, and they've certainly been the dominant team in college football this season, but Auburn has the feel of a "team of destiny," and we all know the SEC's track record in these games. The conference has won seven straight BCS title games, but FSU would like nothing more than to end that streak as the BCS era fades away.


Unknown said...

"South Carolina: The most boringly effective team in the SEC.
Wisconsin: The most boringly effective team in the Big Ten."

...The OBC is a god amongst men, how dare you

Joe Parello said...

Oh come on Charlie, it's a compliment to the 'Ole Ball Coach.