College Football Bowl Games: One Week to National Championship
After two weeks of play, the college football bowl season still has one more week to go. The remaining bowl games on the schedule, for the most part, are the “major” bowls that have been a part of the college game for decades. As such, they normally have the big schools taking part in them.
While some of these teams once held aspirations for playing in the National Championship game, they still have the honor of taking the field one last time this season to attempt to put a big “W” on their record. The games should be excellent overall and, in some of them, it may be the “swan song” for some players we will see next year in the NFL (pick in bold, lines from the Mirage in Las Vegas).
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl – Jacksonville, FL, January 1
#22 Georgia (-9) vs. Nebraska
Georgia was thought to be an SEC title contender (and for the national championship), but injuries ravaged the team throughout the season. Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray went down around the midpoint of the season, but the team seems to have been able to rebound nicely. Nebraska has had its own injury issues, but hasn’t rebounded quite as well. The Georgia offense, with its 16th ranked passing attack, should have a great day against a Cornhusker defense that isn’t the usual strength it has been in the past.
Heart of Dallas Bowl – Dallas, TX, January 1
North Texas vs. UNLV (+6.5)
The big question in this game will be who can impose their will. UNLV has a potent offensive attack behind QB Caleb Herring, while the North Texas defense is ranked 27th in the nation. Another potential swing point for this game could be that the Mean Green is playing in their home state, allowing their fans an excellent chance to see them one last time this season. I expect that the Mean Green will take this game down, but the Rebels will keep it within the spread.
Outback Bowl – Tampa, FL, January 1
#16 LSU (-7) vs. Iowa
LSU has been a very confounding team this year. The Tigers would have moments of brilliance in beating Auburn, but then would lose to someone like Ole Miss. Iowa, on the other hand, lost four games to teams that were a combined 45-6. I would have thought this would have moved the line a bit more (it started with LSU as an eight point fave), but it hasn’t. LSU just has too much offense to lose a game like this.
Capital One Bowl – Orlando, FL, January 1
#9 South Carolina (+1.5) vs. #19 Wisconsin
Our first matchup of two ranked teams on New Year’s Day gives us a battle that will be on the ground. Both teams have excellent running games (Wisconsin is ranked eighth in the nation), so it may be who has the better of the passing game that determines the champion. If it comes down to that, I’ve got to take the Gamecocks and quarterback Connor Shaw, playing his final game.
Vizio Rose Bowl Game – Pasadena, CA, January 1
#4 Michigan State vs. #5 Stanford (-7)
This game was basically a toss-up until the suspension of Spartans LB Max Bullough for unspecified violations of team rules. After he was suspended, the line immediately swung dominantly in favor of the Cardinal. Bullough is the linchpin of the Michigan State defense and, without him, I don’t see them mounting the same opposition to a potent Stanford offense.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – Glendale, AZ, January 1
#6 Baylor vs. #15 UCF (+17)
Expect the ball to be whizzing around University of Phoenix stadium as both teams have an aerial assault that should have the scoreboard turning like a pinball machine. Baylor has the highest scoring offense in college football, but UCF should be able to keep it within the spread.
Allstate Sugar Bowl – New Orleans, LA, January 2
#3 Alabama (-16) vs. #11 Oklahoma
After being denied their third consecutive trip to the National Championship game, Alabama isn’t going to go easy on anyone. Their victim for this game will be an Oklahoma squad that pulled off a couple of upsets to reach this BCS bowl game. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban will have his troops keyed up on both sides of the ball in what should be a decisive demolition of the Sooner team.
AT&T Cotton Bowl – Arlington, TX, January 3
#8 Missouri vs. #13 Oklahoma State (+1)
This game isn’t a BCS game technically, which is a disappointment for both teams. Formerly conference rivals in the Big 12, Missouri’s excellent season will come to a close here as the formidable Oklahoma State offense should carry the day.
Discover Orange Bowl – Miami, FL, January 3
#7 Ohio State (-3) vs. #12 Clemson
Both teams had their chances to play in the BCS National Championship game. The Buckeyes were cruising along until they lost to Michigan State in the Big 10 championship game, their first loss in two seasons. Clemson fought hard through a difficult schedule, but fell short of making the ACC title game. While both teams have good offenses, the Buckeye offense is a bit better and should allow them to take this contest.
BBVA Compass Bowl – Birmingham, AL, January 4
Houston vs. Vanderbilt (-3)
How did this game get into the post-New Year’s schedule? Sorry, thinking out loud there…Vanderbilt has shown steady improvement under the hands of head coach James Franklin to the point that Franklin is being considered for some high profile college and pro coaching jobs. Expect the Commodores to come out and, if Franklin is going, send him off with a bowl win over the Cougars.
GoDaddy Bowl – Mobile, AL, January 5
Ball State (-7) vs. Arkansas State
Another game that needs explanation as to why it is on after New Year’s Day. Arkansas State, the Sun Belt champion, has a bit of an advantage with the game’s proximity to its home state, but the Cardinals of Ball State are a strong offensive team. I would expect to see (OK, I’m not watching, but you know what I mean) Ball State take this game handily.
Vizio BCS National Championship Game – Pasadena, CA, January 6
#1 Florida State (-7.5) vs. #2 Auburn
Finally, the game we’ve waited three weeks for. Auburn wouldn’t be in this position, save for a couple of miracles, while Florida State has basically decimated every team they’ve faced this year. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston leads an excellent offense, but it’s their defense that should carry this game. Although Auburn has an excellent running back Tre Mason, it’s going to be tough for him to get anything going.
Last week: Better than the first time around, but nothing to crow about. Going 5-7 isn’t very good!
Bowl season: 8-15
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