2014 Peach Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl Previews

December 31, 2014
By K. Becks

The final day of the year is upon us – and to close out 2014 are three very interesting college football matchups.

This is only the second day of the bowl season where I’m actually rooting for a team to win for reasons other than Bowl Mania points. We’ll see how it goes…

Let’s take a look at the games on the slate for New Year’s Eve.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

#9 Mississippi vs. #6 TCU (Wednesday, 12:30 PM ET – ESPN)

One of the most anticipated bowl matchups of the season, if only to see whether TCU can prove that it deserved a spot in the College Football Playoff. But things will be tough for the Horned Frogs facing a motivated Ole Miss squad. Perhaps more alarming is the overall performance of the three Big 12 schools that played on Monday. Gary Patterson’s team will absolutely need to prove to the country that people just don’t understand Texas football.

The Land Shark defense has been eating guys like Trevon Boykin up all season, but if LSU’s loss to Notre Dame tells us anything, it’s that even the best pass defenses can be broken down. Boykin has improved incredibly over last season, but he may benefit from taking a page out of his own book and using his athleticism to make the Ole Miss secondary think twice about laying back in coverage. Not only is TCU one of the most potent offenses in the Big 12, but it’s also one of the most balanced. If Boykin decides to join the running game to keep the Rebels from cheating, I think that the Horned Frogs can have a lot of success offensively in this one. As for the Rebels, good Bo needs to show up in a big way. TCU’s defense gives up a lot of points to teams who play a clean game, so taking care of the ball will be the biggest challenge for Ole Miss.

The Big 12 has looked terrible this bowl season, but the SEC hasn’t looked unbeatable in its own right. Being that this is one of the most anticipated postseason contests, I fully expect this one to come down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter. If Boykin is the best player on the field, TCU wins. If not, then the Rebels have enough talent on the field to take care of business in the Georgia Dome. I have Ole Miss for 21 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 31-28 Mississippi

Vizio Fiesta Bowl

#10 Arizona vs. #20 Boise State (Wednesday, 4 PM ET – ESPN)

At first glance it appears to be another David vs. Goliath matchup for Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. But the Broncos are undefeated in two previous trips to the desert and return with a high flying offense, so it is understandable that Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is actually playing the underdog card for his team. Expect a lot of offense in this one when the Wildcats and Broncos go to battle.

This year’s Boise State squad is reminiscent of the Broncos of old; powerful offense, good enough defense. The difference is that on the Mountain West leading offense is a true NFL prospect at the running back position in Jay Ajayi. The junior ranked sixth in the country in total rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns, so he is not exactly a hidden gem. But he will be going up against a Power 5 defense for the first time since the Ole Miss game at the beginning of the season, so it will be interesting to see how the Broncos can move the football on the ground. The Wildcats are next to last in the Pac-12 allowing over 170 yards per game on the ground, so statistically it looks promising for Boise State. But points need to be scored. Arizona averages nearly 35 points per contest and should be able to move the ball in this one.

It’s hard to consider Boise State the little guy these days, with all the success that the program has experienced since 2006. But with a new head coach in Bryan Harsin, the Broncos have a slightly different philosophy than the last time they played in University of Phoenix Stadium. Arizona has had a terrific season, so this will not be an easy game. Part of me just wants the Broncos to win as a fan, part of me wants to gain some valuable points in Bowl Mania that others won’t get and part of me actually thinks they can win. I’ve got Boise State for 10 points in the minor upset.

My Pick: 41-35 Boise State

Capital One Orange Bowl

#12 Georgia Tech vs. #7 Mississippi State (Wednesday, 8 PM ET)

Neither one of these teams is a conference champion, but the Orange Bowl still got a great matchup in the first year of the playoff. Mississippi State must prepare for the difficult triple option offense of Georgia Tech, but luckily for the Bulldogs they’ve had three weeks to prepare. This is the second ACC/SEC matchup between ranked teams.

In order for Mississippi State to be competitive in this game, Dak Prescott needs to return to his first half of the season form. The Bulldogs have struggled as he has struggled, dropping two of three games to end the season. Twice in the second half of the year, Prescott threw more interceptions than touchdown passes. In this game, Prescott can get away with using his physicality in the run game to set the defense up for the pass. Georgia Tech has struggled against the run and will need to find a way to contain Prescott in the pocket, perhaps by applying pressure from the linebackers. Offensively, Georgia Tech will do exactly what it has done all year. Fans need to understand, however, that preparing for the triple option for three weeks is an advantage for Mississippi State that few teams enjoyed this season.

The Yellow Jackets are capable of turning this one into a competitive game, but it’s going to be tough. I’m not sure I am sold on the strength of the ACC as a whole and Mississippi State is led by a confident signal caller that should be looking for some sort of redemption after laying an egg in the Egg Bowl. If the Bulldogs aren’t overly confused by the Georgia Tech offense, Mississippi State should be able to control the pace of this game and earn a victory. I have the Bulldogs for 32 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 34-24 Mississippi State

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 kbecks@aroundthecorn.com. You can also like Around The Corn’s Facebook page or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. As long as you send your thoughts at least two days before the game is to be played, I can assure you that your thoughts will show up in an article.

- K. Becks


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