Monday, January 06, 2014

Bowl Games 2013: The Last Part

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, January 6
8:30: Florida State vs. Auburn (BCS Championship Game @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): Both of these teams actually have pretty solid defenses (especially FSU), but it's really hard to see how offense won't prevail here. (Then again, FSU's defense did shut down Clemson, easily the best offense their defense faced all year.) I'm predicting a high-scoring shootout where the last team with the ball probably wins. In this scenario, a defensive stop or two will probably decide the game, so I guess I'm basically betting on FSU getting that stop. There's also a bit of a temptation to point out that FSU pretty much went out and won all their games, while Auburn is two fluke plays away from being in the Outback Bowl or something. But hey, there's always got be a lot of luck involved in the course of winning a championship based on one game.
Previous meetings: Likely thanks to FSU's history as an independent patsy (remember: football in the state of Florida basically didn't exist until 1980 or so), these teams have met 18 times. The first was in 1954, a 33-0 Auburn win. The two teams met regularly until 1963, with FSU earning their best result in that era with a 14-14 tie in 1962. The series resumed again in 1972, being played nearly every other year until 1990 (after which FSU joined the ACC). Florida State's first win in the series wasn't until 1977, when they won 24-3. They would only win three more times, in 1987 and 1989 twice due to a meeting in the Sugar Bowl. Auburn won the last meeting in 19980, 20-17. Overall, Auburn leads the series 13-4-1.
Last bowl game: Florida State owns the nation's longest bowl streak, and it really isn't even close. This is their 32nd straight bowl game (compared to Virginia Tech's 21st). The streak dates back roughly to FSU's ascendance as a national power, but they lost the first game in the streak 24-7 in the 1979/80 Orange bowl to Oklahoma. (FSU went 8-3 in 1978 but didn't get a bowl bid, if they had, the streak would actually be 34 games since they made a bowl in 1977. Of course, things were different back then and FSU didn't really beat anyone that year.) FSU beat Northern Illinois 31-10 in last season's Orange Bowl. Auburn, as you probably know by now, went 3-9 last year and didn't go to a bowl, so their last bowl game was the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl, a 43-24 win over Virginia.
Announcers: Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit. Don't forget, though, that ESPN is doing a "megacast" of the game, with alternate presentations available on the entire ESPN family of networks. I'm personally interested in the hopefully more tactically oriented broadcast on ESPN2.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Bowl Games 2013: Part VII

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Thursday, January 2
8:30: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Alabama has only the one, extremely flukely loss. (Sure, maybe they lose in overtime, but nonetheless a 108-yard field goal kick return at the end of regulation is pretty much a fluke.) Oklahoma, meanwhile, suffered an inexplicable Shootout loss to Texas and as though that wasn't bad enough, they got blown out by Baylor. Alabama is better in all phases of the game than the Sooners and knows who their quarterback is. The only thing that could be in OU's favor is that they did beat their hated in-state rival in their last game and could have a bit of a chip on their shoulder, but otherwise it would be madness to not pick Alabama.
Previous meetings: Four. Alabama's first and only win in the series was in the first meeting back in 1963, where they won 17-0 in the Orange Bowl. The next meeting was a 24-24 tie in the 1970 edition of something called the Astro-Blubonnet Bowl. The two teams played a regular season series in 2002 and 2003, and Oklahoma won both of those games, 37-27 and 20-13.
Last bowl game: This is the Tide's tenth straight bowl game, a streak that now dates back to the 2004 Music City Bowl, which they lost 20-16 to Minnesota. Last year, they won the BCS Championship game over Notre Dame 42-14. This is only the second time in the past five seasons they haven't been playing for the title. For the Sooners, this is their fifteenth straight bowl game. The streaks started with the 1999 Independence Bowl, where they lost to Mississippi 27-25. They got routed by Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl last year, 41-13.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge

Friday, January 3
7:30: Oklahoma State vs. Missouri (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; FOX): This is one of the games I'm least confident about. Both these teams are really solid. I have Mizzou as a slight favorite, but really, I consider this a toss-up.
Previous meetings: These former Big 8 foes have met 51 times. The first was a 13-6 Mizzou win way back in 1915. There was another meeting in 1921, but the two met regularly from 1949 through 1997. Meetings became more intermittent in the Big 12, but they still met semi-regularly from 2000 through 2011, where Oklahoma State won the last contest 45-24. Overall, Mizzou has a 28-23 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma State's eight straight bowl game, a streak that'd be longer if not for a 4-7 recod in 2005. The streak started with a 34-31 victory over Alabama in the 2006 Independence Bowl. Last year they beat Purdue 58-14 in the Zombie Cotton/Heart of Dallas Bowl. Mizzou had a seven bowl game streak snapped when they went 5-7 last year, so their last appearance was the 2001 Independence Bowl, where they beat North Carolina 41-24.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Charles Davis

8:30: Ohio State vs. Clemson (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): Boy howdy, talk about motivation, huh? Ohio State was basically in the national title game until being upset by Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. This was finally going to be the year Tajh Boyd and Clemson beat in-state nemesis South Carolina. Neither of those things happened. Both these teams have excellent offensive talents, and despite their lofty defensive rankings I still expect points to be scored. That said, I like the Buckeyes just a bit more.
Previous meetings: Just one, in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Clemson won 17-15. That game is more well known for something else, though.
Last bowl game: After a year of sanctions, Ohio State returns to the post-season. The sanctions interrupted as twelve game bowl streak. that last game was a 24-17 loss to Florida in the 2011/2012 Gator Bowl. This is Clemson's ninth straight bowl game, but if not for a few sub-par seasons they'd have a streak that dates to 1985. Instead, it starts with the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl win over Colorado by a 19-10 margin, and the latest game was a 25-24 win over LSU in the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Matt Millen

Saturday, January 4
1:00: Vanderbilt vs. Houston (BBVA Compass Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): I have Vanderbilt as the winners here but I don't really have a strong favorite here. The Commodores have four losses but none are inexplicable, and even a few solid wins. Houston's level of competition was just, well, lesser. Their best win is, uh, Rice? They lost to all three of the AAC frontrunners but they also did not suffer any bad losses. Houston looks better with basic statistics, but again, the level of competition was lesser. I'm definitely not an ESS-EEE-CEE guy but I'm still leaning Vandy.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Last year was the first time Vandy had ever been to two straight bowls, so suffice it to say this is the first time they've ever been to three straight. The streak started with the 2011 Liberty Bowl, where they lost to Cincinnati 31-24. They won the 2012 Music City Bowl 38-24 over NC State. This is Houston's first bowl since the 2011/2012 TicketCity Bowl (now the Heart of Dallas Bowl), which they won 30-14.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Andre Ware

Sunday, January 5
9:00: Arkansas State vs. Ball State ( Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): This doesn't appear to be a good matchup for Arkansas State. Ball State was one of the best teams from the MAC this year and in general I think it's okay to say that the MAC is a better conference than the Sun Belt. As noted below, this is also Arkansas State's third straight trip to Mobile (fourth, really, since they also played South Alabama at home), so there's a big question of whether they want to be there. I have Ball State in this one.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Arkansas State's third straight bowl game and third straight Bowl. They lost to Northern Illinois back in 2011/2012, 38-20, but won last season over Kent State, 17-13. Ball State lost to Central Florida in the Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl last season, 38-17.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Danny Kanell

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Bowl Games 2013: All Is (Not) Quiet on New Year's Day

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Wednesday, January 1
  • Nebraska vs. Georgia (Gator Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN2): Even with their backup quarterback, I still feel like Georgia is more competent on offense than Nebraska is.
    Previous meetings: Two. The first meeting was a 1969 Sun Bowl matchup that Nebraska won 45-6. The most recent was technically a year earlier in the Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31. Georgia's defense can be a bit of a liability, but Nebraska has looked so lost at times on offense this year that they should be able to hold them off.
    Last bowl game: This is Nebraska's sixth straight bowl game, and it'd be longer if not for two sub-.500 seasons in 2007 and 2004, because then the streak would stretch back to 1969. This streak is even more impressive when you consider the explosion of the bowls in the past ten years. As-is, the current run dates back to the 2008/9 Gator Bowl, a 26-21 win over Clemson. Last year, well, see above. Georgia is tied for the third-longest active streak with Georgia Tech, having made seventeen straight bowl games. Their streak dates back to the a 33-6 win over Wisconsin in the 1997/8 Outback Bowl. As for last year, well, see above.
    Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham
  • North Texas vs. Nevada-Las Vegas (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPNU): The Mean Green sport the country's ninth-ranked scoring defense. I don't think UNLV is going to test whether that is legitimate or not.
    Previous meetings: Four, and North Texas has lost all of them. The first was in 1986, a 27-26 UNLV win. The most recent was in 2000, a 38-0 UNLV win.
    Last bowl game: UNT went to four straight New Orleans Bowls from 2001 to 2004, but they haven't been to a bowl since. They lost 31-10 to Southern Mississippi in that 2004 New Orleans Bowl. UNLV had the longest drought of any team appearing in this year's post-season, last appearing in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl. They beat Arkansas 31-14 in that game.
    Announcers: Clay Matvick and Matt Stinchcomb
  • South Carolina vs. Wisconsin (Capital One Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): Both of these teams are pretty close, statistically. The key for Wisconsin may be for them to somehow forget their otherwise inexplicable loss to Penn State to close out the season. Overall, I like the Gamecocks here. Wisconsin arguably played two or three teams with functioning offenses and lost/should have won two of them (Arizona State and Ohio State).
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
    Last bowl game: This is the Gamecocks's sixth straight bowl game. The current run started with the 2008/9 Outback Bowl, a 31-10 loss to Iowa. Last year, they won the Outback Bowl 33-28. Wisconsin is appearing in their 12th straight game, dating back to the 2002 Alamo Bowl. They beat Colorado 31-28 in that game.
    Announcers: Dave Pasch and Brian Griese
  • Iowa vs. Louisiana State (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN): Speaking of non-functioning Big Ten offenses, Iowa comes in ranked 74th in the country in scoring offense. I'm also having a hard time figuring out how they can score against LSU's defense, even though that unit isn't as elite as it's been in the past. Conversely, at least according to the stats, Iowa's defense is really good and allows only 18.8 points per game. That said, once again, this was such a bad offensive year in the Big Ten (for teams that weren't Ohio State) that it's hard to figure out how meaningful that number is. In the end, I have to go with the team that might actually score three touchdowns, and that team figures to be LSU.
    Previous meetings: One, in the 2004/2005 Capital One Bowl. Iowa won 30-25.
    Last bowl game: Iowa's last bowl appearance was the 2011 Insight Bowl, where they lost 31-14 to Oklahoma. LSU is appearing in their fourteenth straight bowl game, dating back to a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the 2000 Peach Bowl. They lost last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl 25-24 to Clemson.
    Announcers: Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden
5:00: Michigan State vs. Stanford (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): This is being billed as an old-school, smash-mouth football game and honestly it's hard to figure that's wrong. I have Stanford here, but this game figures to be very tight, especially if both offenses disappear as they have at times during the season.
Previous meetings: Five. The first two were back to back Michigan State wins in 1955 and 1956 (38-14 and 21-7, respectively). Stanford split the 1961-1962 series, as well as the most recent win: a 38-0 Sun Bowl win in 1996.
Last bowl game: Back in 2007, Sparty began a run of seven straight bowl games with a 24-21 loss to Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl. Last season, Sparty prevailed in a 17-16 victory over TCU. Stanford's current five game streak began with a 31-27 loss to Oklahoma in the 2009 Sun Bowl. They beat Wisconsin 20-14 in last season's Rose Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musbuger and Kirk Herbstreit

8:30: Baylor vs. Central Florida (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): I actually don't have a very good read on this game. The easy way out would be to say sure, Baylor's going to struggle early and then drop 70 on them. But UCF did play South Carolina, and they gave the Gamecocks absolutely everything they wanted in what wound up being a 28-25 South Carolina win. Baylor also looked lackluster in their last three games, and with mounting injury issues they got blown out by Oklahoma State, barely beat TCU, and then solidly beat Texas, but they "only" scored 30 points. Nonetheless, it is difficult to see how UCF will be able to keep up with Baylor's offense, but if Baylor's offense gets off to a slow start this game could get interesting and stay interesting.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Baylor's four game bowl streak began with a 38-14 loss to Illinois in the Texas Bowl back in 2010. Last season, they smashed UCLA to the tune of a 49-26 win in the Holiday Bowl. UCF won the 2012 Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl over Ball State 38-17.
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman