Saturday is ACC day, as four different ACC teams are all on the schedule. So Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami, and Boston College, consider yourselves on notice.
Also starting today, in addition to my score predictions (the scores are pretty much guesses, but the margins are usually indicative of how confident I am), I’ll also throw in the confidence ranking I have for each game in my ESPN pick’em group. The pick’em includes the national championship game, so each game is ranked 1-39, with the latter being the most confident. For the record, I’m currently 10-3 straight-up and sitting on 172 points on ESPN.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Saturday, December 27
1:00: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): Well, Cincy hasn’t lost since their 55-34 loss at Miami back in October. If the transitive property meant anything in college football, then this one would be easy: VPI beat Ohio State which beat Cincinnati. As we all should know by now, though, it doesn’t, and the Hokies’s impotent offense looks almost certain to doom them against a robust Cincinnati attack.
Previous meetings: The series record is tied at 5-5, with several meetings in the Big East. The first, though, was the 1947 Sun Bowl, which Cincy won 18-6. After that, they met regularly from 1985 to 1991, and then again in 1995. VPI prevailed in the 2008-9 Orange Bowl 20-7, and the last meeting was a regular season contest in 2012. Cincinnati won 27-24.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth straight bowl appearance for the Bearcats, who kicked things off with a 31-24 victory over Vandy in the 2011 Liberty Bowl. They lost to UNC last year in the Belk Bowl 39-17. By going 6-6, VPI preserved the second longest bowl streak in college football. This is their 22nd consecutive bowl appearance, going all the way back to the 1993 Independence Bowl, where they beat Indiana 45-20. They lost 42-12 to UCLA in last year’s Sun Bowl.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Joey Galloway
2:00: Duke vs. Arizona State (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): Two 9-3 teams will go at it in this game, but this is a pretty good demonstration that not all 9-game winners are created equal. Arizona State’s best wins include USC, Stanford, and Utah. Duke’s best win, singular, is over Georgia Tech. Either way, it’s hard to see how Duke will keep up, but hey, that’s what we said about them last year, too.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Thanks to the dark magicks of David Cutcliffe, Duke has made three straight bowl games now. It started with a 48-34 loss to Cincinnati back in the 2012 Belk Bowl, but last New Year’s Eve they gave Texas A&M everything they wanted in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. They came up short, though, losing 52-48. This is the fourth straight bowl appearance for the Sun Devils,
Verne Lundquist Carter Blackburn and Gary Danielson
Fun facts: We have the Blue Devils and the Sun Devils here. The latter is pretty easy to explain, but where did “Blue Devils” come from? According to Wikipedia, the name was one of several the-then Trinity College officials were considering after World War I. In 1922, the student papers started referring to the college’s athletic teams as the Blue Devils for lack of an official decision. The name itself originates with the Chasseurs Alpins, a French military unit nicknamed les diables bleus.
3:30: Miami vs. South Carolina (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ABC): From 9-3 and 9-3 to 6-6 and 6-6. The four-point margin and confidence rank both indicate the same thing: I have no idea who will win this game. Steve Spurrier is generally more amusing if he wins (in contrast to, say, the Jim Moras of the world), so we’re pulling for that.
Previous meetings: Fifteen, but none since 1987. Miami leads the all-time series 8-5-2. South Carolina won the first four meetings, all between 1936 and 1940. Miami turned it around since 1941, and the schools met intermittently through the 1960. After that were just two regular season contests in 1986 and 1987. Miami won them both, by margins of 34-14 and 20-16.
Last bowl game: This is Miami’s second bowl game since their self-imposed bowl ban sanction. Last year they showed they might’ve wished it’d lasted another year, as they lost 36-9 to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. South Carolina has now made seven straight bowl games going back to the 2008 Outback Bowl, wherein they lost 31-10 to Iowa. Last year they defeated Wisconsin 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Andre Ware
4:30: Boston College vs. Pennsylvania State (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): In a matchup of two solid defenses, the tiebreaker is generally the offense. Neither offense is great, but Penn State’s is downright anemic, while Boston College has the ability to run all over people when the mood strikes. Either way, I just don’t think Penn State will be able to score enough points.
Previous meetings: Twenty-three, count, twenty-three of ’em! Penn State, suffice it to say, has dominated the series with a 19-4 record. From 1949 through 1992, Penn State went 19-2. However, in regular season contests in 2003 and 2004, Boston College won 27-14 and 21-7.
Last bowl game: Boston College lost last year’s Independence Bowl (well, technically the AdvoCare V100 Bowl but whatever) 42-19 to Arizona. This is Penn State’s first bowl bid since their NCAA-imposed sanctions took effect after the 2011-12 Ticket City Bowl, where they lost 30-14 to Houston.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Matt Millen
8:00: Nebraska vs. Southern California (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): It’s always really hard to tell how a team will react to a coach being fired, but here I feel pretty okay with saying that the Cornhusker players aren’t particularly thrilled about the situation. Meanwhile, USC is coming off a thorough route of their second biggest rival, and things are generally looking up again in Los Angeles.
Previous meetings: Four, and somewhat surprisingly, none in bowl games between these two historic programs. They met in 1969 and 1970, where USC won 31-21 and tied 21-21. They met again in 2006 and 2007, and USC won 28-10 and 49-31.
Last bowl game: Nebraska’s seven game bowl streak dates to the 2008-9 Gator Bowl, where they beat Clemson 26-21. They played Georgia in last year’s Gator Bowl and won that one as well, 24-19. This is USC’s third straight bowl game. They lost (still not tired of saying this) 21-7 to Georgia Tech in the 2012 Sun Bowl, and then beat Fresno State 45-20 in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack