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