Bowl Games 2015: Happy New Year!

2016 is here, but we’ve still got 9+1 games to go! I can’t update the main page right now, but the textual descriptions are still below.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, January 1
Noon: Northwestern vs. Tennessee (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): These are both teams coming in having won five in a row, yet I like the Vols a lot more. For starters, even though they have two more losses, none are inexcusable and all are close. By contrast, the Wildcats have only two losses, but they were by 38 and 30 points, respectively. While Northwestern has a better best win, the opening weekend victory over Stanford probably ranks as the season’s most inexplicable win behind Texas upsetting Oklahoma. Also, the most Northwestern has scored against a FBS team this season was in their 30-28 win over Nebraska. I don’t think they’re going to be able to score enough to keep up.
Confidence: 37
Previous Meetings: Just once, in the 1996-1997 Citrus Bowl. Tennessee won 48-28.
Last bowl game: After a couple 5-7 finishes, this is Northwestern’s first bowl since the 2012-2013 Gator Bowl, in which they beat Mississippi State 34-20. Tennessee beat Iowa 45-28 in last season’s Taxslayer Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore

1:00:

  • Florida vs. Michigan (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): Speaking of not being able to score enough, Florida’s Will Grier-less offense has been nothing less than a tire fire. They don’t stand a chance here.
    Confidence: 36
    Previous Meetings: Twice, both in bowl games. In the 2002-2003 Outback Bowl, Michigan won 38-30. In the 2007-2008 edition of this game, Michigan won 41-35.
    Last bowl game: Florida beat East Carolina 28-20 in last season’s Birmingham Bowl. Michigan’s last bowl appearance was in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which they lost 34-14 to Kansas State.
    Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham
  • Ohio State vs. Notre Dame (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Boy howdy, in retrospect it sure would’ve been nice to see the Buckeyes against Alabama last night, right? That said, this should be a pretty fun game. Both teams sport capable offenses and above-average defenses, though Ohio State holds a decided advantage in that regard. In the end, I think that will up allowing Ohio State to do a better job of holding serve. This one could get up there in terms of points, though.
    Confidence: 21
    Previous Meetings: Just five, for these Midwestern titans of the sport. Notre Dame won the first in 1935 and 1936, the latter by a electric 7-2 score. The Buckeyes won the next two regular season meetings in 1995 and 1996. The most recent was the 2005-2006 edition of this game, which Ohio State won 34-20.
    Last bowl game: This is Ohio State’s third straight postseason appearance. Last season, of course, they beat Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl and then defeated Oregon 42-20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship. This is Notre Dame’s sixth straight bowl appearance, dating to the 2008 Hawaii Bowl where they beat Hawaii 49-21. Last season, they beat Louisiana State 31-28 in the Music City Bowl.
    Announcers: Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman

5:00: Iowa vs. Stanford (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): I like Stanford here more than my confidence below might indicate. I’ve never been particularly high on Iowa all season, and after the season has ended I’ve soured on the Hawkeyes even more. They were overrated: their schedule was extremely soft and their best win is probably their win over Wisconsin (they did not play Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State in the regular season). I think they caught a break by getting Michigan State instead of Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. At any rate, it’s probably for the best they wound up here. They’ll face a conventional attack in Stanford, but yeah, Stanford doesn’t really care that you think they’re conventional. They will keep handing the ball off until you get tired, at which point they’ll beat you over the top. I expect this formula to play out here.
Confidence: 17
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Iowa’s third straight bowl game. They lost 48-28 to Tennessee in last season’s Taxslayer Bowl. This is Stanford’s seventh straight bowl game, dating to the 2009 Sun Bowl, which they lost 31-27 to Oklahoma. Last season, they ventured down 101 and cut-over on 237 to beat Maryland 45-21 in the Foster Farms Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer

8:30: Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Both these teams can score, so this nightcap will be pretty even on the offensive side of the ball. The question is the defense. Mississippi might seem better at first glance, but consider their performances against good offensive teams. They gave up 53 to Arkansas, 27 to Mississippi State, 37 to Alabama, and 37 to Memphis. The Rebels stayed in these games by keeping pace, but the Cowboys are capable of matching them blow-for-blow.
Confidence: 31
Previous Meetings: Just two, in the 2003-2004 Cotton Bowl and the 2009-2010 edition of the same. Ole Miss won both, the latter by a 21-7 score.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma State’s tenth straight bowl game, dating to the 2002 Houston Bowl, where they beat Southern Mississippi 33-23. Last season, they defeated Washington in the Cactus Bowl 30-22. This is Mississippi’s fourth straight bowl game. They were walloped by TCU 42-3 in last season’s Peach Bowl.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

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