Bowl Games 2014: 2015

Examining both playoff games, and the otherwise restored New Year’s Day slate. Apologies for grammar and spelling issues, I’m writing this way late.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Thursday, January 1
12:00: Wisconsin vs. Auburn (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): Obvious statement: this is not last year’s Auburn team. But goodness me, it sure seemed like Wisconsin got exposed by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, did it not? Auburn’s had a pretty up and down year this year, but Wisconsin sort of scraped by after that huge win over Nebraska and then everything came crashing down. I have Auburn here, but they’ve had their share of inconsistency as well, so this one could probably go either way.
Confidence: 19
Previous meetings: Three, two of which were in bowl games. The first meeting, in 1931, ended in a 7-7 tie. The second, in the 2003 Music City Bowl, was won by Auburn 28-14. The last, in the 2005-6 Capital One Bowl, was won by the Badgers 24-10.
Last bowl game: This is Wisconsin’s thirteenth straight bowl game, going back to the 2002 Alamo Bowl, which they won over Colorado 31-28. They lost last year’s Capital One Bowl to South Carolina, 34-24. This is Auburn’s second straight bowl game, but that was a doozy: it was last year’s National Championship Game, which they lost 34-31 to Florida Statee.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Matt Millen

12:30 Baylor vs. Michigan State (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): I have the advantage of writing this after witnessing TCU’s utter, savage beatdown of Mississippi last night, so I can tell you right now that if Baylor comes out as mad as TCU did, Michigan State stands basically no chance. Also, I don’t think at any point this season I thought Michigan State was as good as Ole Miss, but then again, did we overreate Ole Miss? At any rate, that’s not super-relevant to this contest, but what I do know is that the Bears are capable of wreaking havoc against any defense, and this Michigan State defense is not as good as it’s been. Also, their two losses have been to other offensive juggernauts, which does not bode well.
Confidence: 20
Previous meetings: Just one, a 28-10 win by the Spartans back in 1968.
Last bowl game: Probably unimaginable for most of their history, this is Baylor’s fifth straight bowl game. The current streak started with a 38-14 loss to Illinois in the 2010 Texas Bowl, and last year they lost 52-42 to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. This is Sparty’s eight straight bowl game, going back to a 24-21 loss to Boston College in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl. They won last year’s Rose Bowl over Stanford, 24-20.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Brian Griese

1:00: Missouri vs. Minnesota (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): I picked Missouri here, but I view this game as kind of a toss-up, but more in the sense that I don’t think either team is especially good. That said, Missouri did rack up some solid wins over Texas A&M and Arkansas, in addition probably getting Will Muschamp fired. Minnesota got Bo Pellini fired, so maybe it’s about even after all?
Confidence: 21
Previous meetings: Eight, all between 1943 and 1970. Minnesota won the first three, but Mizzou had won or tied the last five, including a 34-12 win in 1970.
Last bowl game: Missouri won last year’s Cotton Bowl 41-31 over Oklahoma State. This is Minnesota’s third straight bowl game, having suffered losses in the previous two. First was a 34-31 loss to Texas Tech in the Houston edition of the Car Care Bowl, and then in a 21-17 loss to Syracuse in the rechristened Texas Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham

5:00: Oregon vs. Florida State (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): Well, this is probably the most intriguing bowl in the land. When was the last time FSU was an underdog? Sure, there were games this year that some said they’d lose (versus Notre Dame and Georgia Tech), but I don’t think they were underdogs in either. I mean, they’re reigning national champions, have a Heisman winner, and they’ve won 17 straight. What more do you want? Oh, right, proof that they’re going to be able to keep up with Oregon at all. In case you haven’t been paying attention, after Oregon’s loss to Arizona (where they basically started backups along their entire offensive line), Oregon’s been doing to teams what FSU did to teams last year. After getting healthy, they got a rematch against those Wildcats and owned them to the tune of 51-13, and it wasn’t that close. Oregon is currently a nine point favorite, and personally I would probably pick them to cover that. They’re that good, I think.
Confidence: 29
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Oregon’s tenth straight bowl game, going back to a 17-14 loss to Oklahoma in the 2005 Holiday Bowl. They whipped Texas 30-7 in last year’s Alamo Bowl. Florida State owns the longest bowl streak in college football, with this being their thirty-third straight appearance. You have to go back to 1981 find a season where they didn’t make a bowl game. The following year, they beat West Virginia 31-12 in the Gator Bowl. Last year, they won the last ever BCS Championship Game over Auburn, 34-31.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

8:30: Alabama vs. Ohio State (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): ESPN has been covering this game like the Super Bowl, but this is basically a dream matchup for the networks. I’ll grant you that this Alabama defense isn’t as good as it’s been in the past under Saban, but they still rank third in the country in scoring defense and, oh yeah, they have an offense now. Ohio State is good, but a quarterback making his second career start against the Crimson Tide defense? Well, it’s really hard to like those odds, even if he did utterly obliterate Wisconsin.
Confidence: 22
Previous meetings: Three, with two in bowl games. Alabama is 3-0 all time. The first was a 35-6 win in the 1977-8 Sugar Bowl, then a 16-10 win in 1986, and finally a 24-17 win in the 1994-5 Citrus Bowl.
Last bowl game: Alabama’s current eleven game bowl streak goes back to a 20-16 loss to Minnesota in the Music City Bowl. Last year they shockingly lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, 45-31. If not for sanctions, Ohio State’s bowl streak would be a lot longer, but instead this is just their second game in a row. They lost last year’s Orange Bowl to Clemson, 40-35.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge