As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Monday, January 2nd
- Iowa vs. Florida (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ABC): This one o’clock timeslot doesn’t look terribly enticing, if I’m being honest. First, we have two offensively challenged teams, though one seems to act as though it has slightly shackles than the other. Somehow, that team is Iowa. But it’s about picking your poison, and the poison for this game is that there will probably be a lot of head-scratching, over-conservative playcalling.
Previous meetings: Three, and mostly in bowls of recent vintage. The first was a 14-6 Florida win in the 1983 Gator Bowl. The second was a 37-17 win in the 2003-04 Outback Bowl. The third was in the 2005-06 Outback Bowl, a 31-24 Florida win.
Last bowl game: This is Iowa’s fourth straight bowl, going back to the 2013-14 Outback Bowl, where they lost to LSU 21-14. Last season they got pasted 45-16 by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. As for the Gators, this will be their third straight post-season appearance. They defeated East Carolina 28-20 in the 2013-14 Birmingham Bowl, and last season they lost 41-7 to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham
- Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): Whereas the problem with this game is that, well, if it’s anywhere close I’ll be absolutely stunned. Yes, Western Michigan is 2-0 against the Big Ten, but that was against an undersized Northwestern and an awful Illinois team. Wisconsin is one of the biggest teams around, and their defense is elite. If the Badgers treat this game seriously (potentially a big if), I don’t think it’ll be close.
Previous meetings: As one might guess, this Big Ten vs. MAC matchup has been played a few times, but not many more, with meetings in 1963, 1981, 1988, and 2000. Wisconsin has won all of them, except for a 24-14 win for Broncos in 1988. Otherwise, it’s been all Badgers
Last bowl game: This is Wisconsin’s 15th straight bowl appearance, tied with Boise State for the sixth longest streak. Correspondingly, you need to go back to a 31-28 win over Colorado in the 2002 Alamo Bowl to find the beginning of this run. They edged Southern Cal 23-21 in last season’s Holiday Bowl. For the Broncos, this is their third straight appearance. They lost 38-24 to Air Force in the 2014 Potato Bowl and beat Middle Tennessee State 45-31 in last season’s Bahamas Bowl.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard
5:00: Pennsylvania State vs. Southern California (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): Don’t look, but it’s entirely possible the best team in the second half of the season was the University of Southern California Trojans. They rolled off eight wins to close the season, including a close win over a resurgent Colorado and a score-makes-it-look-closer-than-it-was 26-13 win over Washington in Seattle. Even if you’re as skeptical of “momentum” as I am, it’s hard to deny this team is hot. Yet, if we apply the same metrics to Penn State, we see they won nine in a row to close the season, including wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin. The main difference would seem to the manner in which these teams earned their best wins, but that’s ultimately beside the point. Both these teams are young and have all the reasons in the world to go into this game and make a statement, and I expect a contest that’s the opposite of those at the 1:00 slot. I have USC, but not by much.
Previous meetings: Nine! The first was all the back in the 1922-23 Rose Bowl, which Southern Cal won 14-3. Fast forward to the 1981-82 season for their next meeting, a 26-10 Penn State win in the Fiesta Bowl. A regular season series was played six times from 1990-2000, and then their last meeting was in the 2008-09 Rose Bowl, a 38-24 USC win. The Trojans hold a narrow 5-4 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is Penn State’s third straight bowl game. They beat Boston College 31-30 in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl and lost to Georgia in last season’s Taxslayer Bowl. USC, meanwhile, probably doesn’t like to reflect much on the 2012 Sun Bowl, what with the 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech and all. Nonetheless, that was the start of their current five game bowl streak, with the most recent entry being a 23-21 loss to Wisconsin in last season’s Holiday Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit
8:30: Auburn vs. Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Oklahoma is here because the Sooners won 10 games and had losses to Houston and Ohio State, which are both legitimate losses. They then Boomer Soonered their way through the Big 12, emerging unscathed with an undisputed conference title. Auburn is here because the Sugar Bowl is designated for the highest ranked available SEC team, and, well, every SEC team other than Alabama had at least four losses. Auburn’s four losses wound up being the most respectable compared to Tennessee and Florida, so here they are. Suffice it to say, I have Oklahoma all the way here.
Previous meetings: Just one, and in this 1971-72 edition of this game. The Sooners won 40-22.
Last bowl game: This is Auburn’s fourth straight postseason game, going back to the 2013-14 BCS Championship Game, where they lost 34-31 to Florida State. Last season they pasted Memphis 31-10 in the Birmingham Bowl. The Sooners own the country’s fourth longest streak of postseason appearances, with this being their 18th consecutive one. Their streak began with the 1999 Independence Bowl, which they lost to Ole Miss 27-25. Last season, they were defeated 37-17 by Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musberger and Jesse Palmer