2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl Previews

December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hopefully you all had a wonderful holiday with friends and family. But as any college football junkie will tell you, there is only room for one Christmas Day during the holiday season. Unfortunately, it is the only day between December 23 and January 6 without live football on television.

I’m ready for football to resume.

The bowl season begins to pick up a bit after Christmas Day, with three straight days of action with more than one game on the slate starting the 26th.

Let’s take a look at those games now with previews for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Thursday, 6 PM ET – ESPN)

Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green

One of my favorite bowl games of the season (and the only one I’ve ever attended in person) takes place in Motown on Boxing Day. Bowling Green will be looking to make it two in a row in Detroit, having waxed previously undefeated Northern Illinois in the MAC title game a few weeks ago. Pittsburgh gets things started for the ACC’s bowl slate and will look to shut down an underrated Falcons offense.

The 10-3 Falcons come into this game on a roll, having shut down five straight MAC offenses including Northern Illinois led by Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch. Bowling Green may have the best overall defense in the conference by a large margin, but that isn’t what makes this team underrated. The presence of Travis Greene in the backfield, who has rushed for over 1,500 yards this season and has nine games over 100 yards rushing, makes Bowling Green an offensive power as well. The key in this game will be to give Greene some room to run, as Pittsburgh has Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy winner Aaron Donald at defensive tackle ready to help stop Bowling Green’s rushing attack.

Although Pitt can’t rely on Donald for everything, the Panthers are going to need a huge performance from its entire defense in order to win this game. The Panthers are one of the worst teams in the ACC offensively, averaging just over 351 yards per contest. This does not bode well considering that Bowling Green’s strength is its defense. Despite the fact that Pitt is from the bigger conference, the team is definitely the underdog in this one and will need senior quarterback Tom Savage to have a career day. Otherwise, the Panthers could find it very difficult to move the ball in this game. They’ll need to score, as Bowling Green will find a way to put points on the board.

I didn’t put very many points on this game the last time I attended in person, simply so that I wouldn’t be upset while I was there. But 2013 is a different story. I think that Bowling Green will bring a lot of fans to this game, which will give Ford Field sort of a home field atmosphere in favor of the Falcons. I also really liked the way the team played in the MAC Championship Game, and think Bowling Green can indeed make it two in a row in the dome even without its original head coach. I have the Falcons for 24 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 31-23 Bowling Green

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Thursday, 9:30 PM ET – ESPN)

No. 23 Northern Illinois vs. Utah State

The Huskies lost out on a bid to a BCS bowl with a loss in the MAC title game, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds to a much different environment in bowl season. If there is any hangover effect, watch out, because Utah State is not a team to underestimate. The Aggies nearly knocked off Fresno State in the inaugural Mountain West Conference Championship Game. This one should be close for four quarters.

Fans who follow college football even moderately closely know who Jordan Lynch is by now. But for the majority of fans that only watch games on Saturdays during the regular season, this is one of the first opportunities to see Lynch live. The senior will be trying to lead his team to victory one final time over a difficult Mountain West squad that gets things done on defense. Lynch is deceptive, quick and accurate with the football, but struggled against Bowling Green’s defense, which was the best the Huskies had faced up to that point. Utah State is similar in that regard, allowing just 332.2 points per game en route to becoming the No. 12 defense nationally in terms of yards allowed. Another thing that could doom Northern Illinois is its pass defense, which gave up a conference worst 273.8 yards per game.

Despite all of the factors seemingly in Utah State’s favor, it still feels like the Aggies are a slight underdog in this one. Utah State doesn’t exactly move the ball at will on offense ever since losing starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury against BYU on October 4. Since Keeton’s injury, the Aggies try to get things done on the ground instead of the air, which is where the team could really hurt Northern Illinois. As bad as the Huskies are against the pass, the run defense sort of makes up for it by only allowing 150 yards per game on the ground. If Utah State is to send Lynch home without some added hardware, quarterback Darell Garretson needs to step up and take advantage of an obvious weakness for Northern Illinois.

I know Lynch will be determined to win this game, but I’m not sure about the rest of the Huskies. That may come into play in San Diego, because Utah State is likely very excited to play in this one. However, it would surprise me if a freshman quarterback playing in his first bowl game will be able to take full advantage of Northern Illinois’ weak secondary like he needs to in order for the Aggies to win this game. I’m going to stick with Northern Illinois in this one for 14 points, but it will be extremely close and I wouldn’t be shocked to see it go the other way.

My Pick: 28-24 Northern Illinois

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. 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

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