We are more than halfway through the bowl season, as 19 of the 35 games have been completed. This is the point where I start to get sort of depressed, not just because my winter break is quickly coming to an end, but because college football is rapidly approaching its final days of the season as well.
In Bowl Mania I currently sit at 10-9 with a total of 126 points lost. I’m in first place in my group, but I’m probably not going to stay there for much longer. I think it may be best that I stop worrying so much about who I’ve picked in every game, because I’ve worried enough already to give myself ulcers.
As the year comes to a close, here are the previews for the games taking place on New Year’s Eve. Hopefully I receive a nice birthday present and go 4-0.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Monday, 12 PM ET)
North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt
Perhaps the second time is a charm for Vanderbilt, which will be making its second consecutive appearance in the Music City Bowl. North Carolina State let go of head coach Tom O’Brien at the end of the regular season, so it will be interesting to see if the seniors on this team will be able to motivate some of the younger players to get up for this game.
The Commodores have been completely turned around thanks to head coach James Franklin, who has taken Vanderbilt to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history. Since Franklin recently signed a contract extension to continue coaching in Nashville, speculation from players as to whether he will stick around shouldn’t be an issue which should keep this team motivated. Vanderbilt should like its chances in this game, as North Carolina State will want to try to move the ball through the air and the Commodores have the SEC’s best pass defense. On offense, a steady ground game led by Zac Stacy gives Vanderbilt the ability to control the clock.
North Carolina State will be coached by Dave Doeren next season, but will be led by offensive coordinator Dana Bible in the bowl game. The Wolfpack will are led by senior quarterback Mike Glennon, an NFL prospect who actually was named the starter over Russell Wilson in 2011 which resulted in Russell transferring to Wisconsin. Glennon has thrown for over 3600 yards and 30 touchdowns, but will be facing a solid Vanderbilt secondary. However, Glennon played pretty well in an upset victory over Florida State in early October, and the Seminoles also have a top-ranked pass defense. If Glennon plays well, it will be up to the Wolfpack defense to stop Vanderbilt’s run game, which could keep the ball out of Glennon’s hands for long periods of time.
Vanderbilt nearly won this bowl game last season, and based on ticket sales the fans are returning again to cheer on the home squad. Glennon could be a thorn in Vanderbilt’s side, but I think the Commodores are good enough in the ground game to chew up clock and win a close one. I have Vanderbilt for 20 points in Bowl Mania.
My Pick: 31-27 Vanderbilt
Hyundai Sun Bowl (Monday, 2 PM ET)
Southern California vs. Georgia Tech
At the beginning of the year, it would have been hard to imagine USC playing in the Sun Bowl to close out its 2012 campaign. But here we are, with the Men of Troy having to get excited to play a Georgia Tech team that is currently under .500 after losing in the ACC title game and having to petition to play in a bowl. Disappointment at its finest could result in an upset in this one.
The Trojans will be without quarterback Matt Barkley in this game, as the senior was not cleared to play after suffering a separated shoulder in the UCLA game. Instead, we will see the future of USC, redshirt freshman Max Wittek, make his second start for Lane Kiffin’s team. Wittek didn’t play badly in his first start against Notre Dame, and showed the ability to throw downfield. It would not be surprising if he scorches a Georgia Tech defense that gave up 239.2 yards per game through the air during the regular season. With two future NFL receivers at his expense in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, Wittek could head into the offseason with some confidence after this game.
As the only non-service academy to run the triple option offense, Georgia Tech is unique. The Yellow Jackets are second in the nation in rushing and could take advantage of a Southern Cal defense that might not care much about this game. But in order to win, quarterback Tevin Washington will be forced to make some throws as well. Washington has responded well in passing situations, and Georgia Tech ranked fourth in the ACC in passing efficiency. The Yellow Jackets may need a long pass or two to keep the Trojans defense from guessing run every time.
I question Lane Kiffin’s ability to get his team excited for this game, as he didn’t seem to care much himself during the regular season. Georgia Tech wants to be in El Paso, and played well against a good Florida State defense in the ACC title game. Wittek may be solid, but USC’s defense won’t be. I have the Yellow Jackets in the upset for 12 points in Bowl Mania.
My Pick: 35-28 Georgia Tech
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Monday, 3:30 PM ET)
Iowa State vs. Tulsa
The Big 12′s second worst team takes on Conference USA’s best in Memphis when the Cyclones and Golden Hurricane square off. This game is unique in the fact that this is a rematch between the two teams. It should be interesting to see who gets the final laugh as we close out the year.
Iowa State won the first meeting between these teams 38-23, but did so with a different face at quarterback. While Steele Jantz led the team to victory on September 1st, Sam Richardson will attempt to do the same in this game. Richardson is about as accurate in three games as Jantz was in 10, but he doesn’t make as many mistakes as the former starter. Richardson has thrown for 7 touchdowns and no interceptions this season. However, the offense has been wildly inconsistent this season, scoring less than 14 points four times while scoring at least 35 points five times. The Cyclones offense has to produce points to stay in this game.
Tulsa’s motivation in this game is simply to avenge a loss earlier this season. The Golden Hurricane defense looked helpless in that game, allowing 38 points en route to a two touchdown defeat. Since that time Tulsa has improved defensively, allowing a respectable 353.9 yards per game. But the offense is coach Bill Blankenship’s best weapon, and he knows it. Tulsa is led by dual-threat quarterback Cody Green, a transfer from Nebraska, who will not be afraid of Iowa State’s defense. Green needs to realize when the right time to run is instead of taking sacks as he did the last time he faced the Cyclones. If Green can do this, the offense will be difficult to stop.
Iowa State’s record doesn’t indicate the fact that the Cyclones are pretty decent. But Tulsa played much better down the stretch, including a victory over a very good Central Florida team in the Conference USA title game. I think that coach Blankenship’s team has improved enough to avenge its season opening loss. I have the Golden Hurricane for 21 points in Bowl Mania.
My Pick: 34-30 Tulsa
Chick-fil-A Bowl (Monday, 7:30 PM ET)
#8 LSU vs. #14 Clemson
This is one of the most interesting matchups of the entire bowl season. LSU’s stout defense will try to contain Clemson’s prolific offense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The final football game of 2012 should be a great one.
LSU boasts one of the nation’s top defenses, and the SEC’s reputation will definitely be on the line Monday night against the ACC’s best offense. Lately though, the Tigers have been getting things done on the other side of the ball, scoring 98 points in their final three games. While the offense has to be serviceable to win, LSU’s defense will ultimately be the deciding factor in this game. The Tigers will not be intimidated by the speed of guys like DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, but will still get burned if the pass rush doesn’t get to quarterback Tajh Boyd. When Boyd isn’t on, Clemson struggles mightily.
Clemson has gone up against great defenses before, and hasn’t come away with much to show. Dabo Swinney’s team was held to two of its lowest scoring outputs of the season in games against Florida State and South Carolina, both which ended up being losses. Tajh Boyd has to be great in order for Clemson to move the ball against LSU, but the defense will have to step up in this game as well. Zach Mettenberger has played much better near the end of the year for LSU and takes what the defense gives him. The way Clemson’s defense has played, there’s a lot that he can take.
LSU can win this game whether it is low scoring or high scoring, but obviously Les Miles would like to control the tempo of the game and take Clemson out of its comfort zone. I think that the SEC’s Tigers have seen enough big playmakers in conference play to know how to handle the ACC’s Tigers, as I have LSU for 30 points. I’m really looking forward to this one.
My Pick: 28-27 LSU
Remember, if you’d like to share your opinion on Around The Corn for any of the upcoming bowls, shoot me an email with your thoughts and prediction to email@example.com. Or you can like Around The Corn’s Facebook page or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. As long as you send your thoughts at least two games before the game is to be played, I can assure you that your thoughts will show up in an article.
- K. Becks