It's the best time of the year! It's bowl week with some of the most intriguing matchups of the college football season. The interesting December bowl games include Oregon State and Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl, TCU and Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and LSU-Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. As we make our way into the New Year, we have a few interesting matchups on New Year's Day. The Outback Bowl between Michigan and South Carolina could be interesting with strong defensive play and the Rose Bowl will be fun with Stanford and Wisconsin, who are mirror images of one another because of their strong running game and physical defenses. We continue with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Oregon and Kansas State, who both had their chance of making the BCS National Championship. The season finishes up with Texas A&M, led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, against old Big 12 opponent Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. The season then finishes up with the BCS National Championship game between the historic programs of Notre Dame and Alabama.
I will be attending the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl pits two teams that rely heavily on their defense. Both TCU and Michigan State underachieved this season and lost close games that could have turned their season's around. We will see which offense decides to show up and put more points on the board. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is probably the second best bowl game this season. Both Oregon and Kansas State had a chance to punch their ticket to Miami for the BCS National Championship, but choked it away in the third to last week of the season and found themselves playing each other in the desert instead.
1. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, AZ) 12/29 10:15 PM ET ESPN
TCU vs Michigan State
2. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ) 01/03 8:30 PM ET ESPN
#4 Oregon vs #5 Kansas State
3. Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta, GA) 7:30 PM ET ESPN
Prediction: LSU 34, Clemson 27
4. Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL) 1:00 PM ET ESPN
The Michigan Wolverines lost a key game at Nebraska that would have put them in a position to go to the Rose Bowl, but quarterback Denard Robinson went down with an elbow injury. With Robinson injured, the Wolverines brought back converted wide receiver Devin Gardner to the quarterback position. Gardner proved to be the right fit as a dual threat quarterback for the Wolverine offense. The offense was shaky at times this season for the Wolverines, but the defense was able to be the catalyst for winning ball games. The Wolverine defense held their opponents to 18.8 points per game and 155.2 passing yards per game. The Michigan defense will need to be strong and keep their team in this game, because the offense may struggle. The Gamecock defense is so fast and physical, which means that the Michigan offensive line will need to protect Devin Gardner, as well as Denard Robinson, from big hits. Gardner will not be able to run the ball or scramble like he was able to in other games this season. The Wolverines are going to have to mix up their game plan with more passing plays. If Michigan cannot establish a passing game it is going to be tough for them to stay in this game.
Prediction: South Carolina 32, Michigan 21
The Nebraska Cornhuskers had high hopes of being in the Rose Bowl, but found themselves in a horrible nightmare when they were blown out against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. The Husker offense relies heavily on the running game consisting of quarterback Taylor Martinez and running backs Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead. The passing game has struggled, even though Taylor Martinez improved his accuracy. The Husker defense ranks first in the nation against the pass, but against the run it has been a different story. Wisconsin's rushing attack led by Montee Ball put up 539 rushing yards on the Husker defense. The Husker defense must try to contain yet another physical rushing attack led by Todd Gurley. For the Huskers to win this ball game, the offensive line has to protect Taylor Martinez and be able to run the ball. If the Huskers cannot establish a rushing attack and begin committing turnovers like they have this season it will be another long game for this Husker team. Most people are not giving the Huskers a chance in this game. I think this game is closer than most people might think.
Prediction: Georgia 37, Nebraska 27
The Wisconsin Badgers appeared to be out of a BCS game with an 7-5 record season, but with Ohio State and Penn State being ineligible in the Big Ten Leaders Division it gave the Badgers an opportunity to knock off Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship. The Badgers ran all over Nebraska and won in blow out fashion 70-31. So here are the Badgers again in Pasadena for the third straight year. The Badgers come into this game without their head coach Bret Bielema, after he bolted for the Arkansas job. This will give the most successful coach in Wisconsin history, Barry Alvarez, one last time to coach his school that he loves so dearly. The Badgers offense finally found a starting quarterback in Curt Phillips, but will still need to depend on running backs Montee Ball, James White, and Melvin Gordon to move the offense. The Badger defense is an important aspect to this team as well. The Badger defense is solid with a linebacking core consisting of Mike Taylor, Chris Borland, and Ethan Armstrong. This is going to be a hard-nosed football game with teams running it up the gut the whole game and being put in third and five passing situations. This is going to be a very close game with both teams leaning on their defenses to make key stops in the red zone. Most people are taking Stanford to win this game, but I'm going with Wisconsin. Third time's a charm, right?
Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Stanford 24
Prediction: Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 17