2013 New Mexico Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and New Orleans Bowl Previews

December 21, 2013

The most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived!

College bowl season begins today, and I could not be more excited to spend my last real winter break of my life sitting on the couch watching football. Seriously. I look forward to bowl season starting about Week 1 of the college football calendar, and although these 35 matchups signal the tail end of the season, this is what it is all about. ‘Tis the season to finish strong.

For those of you that have been following Around The Corn this season, you know that I’ve had the pleasure of inviting friends and family as guest prognosticators for the blog’s head-to-head college football prediction game. While that is over (and I will once again point out that I exacted revenge on the guests from last year by taking the title by five games), many of those guests have joined Around The Corn’s unofficial Bowl Mania group. Keep an eye out for updates on that group throughout the bowl season.

If you’d like to join the group, there is still time to do so until kickoff of the New Mexico Bowl. The password is “gigitty”.

Bowl season starts off with a bang on Saturday, with four matchups spread throughout the day. Here are the previews for the New Mexico Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and New Orleans Bowl.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Saturday, 2 PM ET – ESPN)

Washington State vs. Colorado State

Last year the New Mexico Bowl did not disappoint, with Arizona mounting a furious comeback in the waning minutes to spoil Chris Ault’s final game as coach of the Nevada Wolf Pack. If we’re lucky, similar excitement awaits in the 2013 edition. Both teams can score a lot of points, but the way they go about doing so could not be more different.

Second-year head coach Mike “the Pirate” Leach has Cougars fans genuinely excited about their football team for the first time since 2003, which is the last time Washington State went bowling. The Cougars are the nation’s No. 4 passing offense led by quarterback Connor Halliday and receiver Gabe Marks. Halliday could have a monster day through the air in Albuquerque, as Colorado State’s pass defense is porous, even by Mountain West Conference standards. Quick strikes and a quick pace will be the key for the Cougars, who can win high or low scoring contests but generally fare better when starting fast.

Colorado State actually averages more points per contest than Washington State, but has a more balanced offensive attack. Led by redshirt sophomore Kapri Bibbs, the Rams will look to get things going on the ground but can also score quickly with a stellar passing game. Pay close attention to Bibbs; he is grossly underrated and could end up being one of the breakout stars of this bowl season. If the Rams are to win this game, expect a big day from him (and probably regardless).

Despite the balance factor favoring Colorado State, I’m going to have to go with my man The Pirate to lead his team to victory in this one. High scoring affairs are the norm for this bowl game, and I’ll take the team that can throw the ball all over the place against a bad pass defense. I have the Cougars for 8 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 38-34 Washington State

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – ABC)

No. 20 Fresno State vs. No. 25 Southern California

There’s a reason that I included this game in my recent article highlighting five underrated matchups of the bowl season. It’s rare that you get a Top 25 battle so early in the schedule, and there is a lot of NFL talent on these two rosters. Also, there has to be an amount of pride on the line for these two teams, as both are traveling to Las Vegas from California and would love to have bragging rights heading home.

Many people lost track of Fresno State a few weeks ago after the Bulldogs lost to San Jose State in its regular season finale, thus ending any chance that the team would be a BCS darling. But Derek Carr and Coach Tim DeRuyter’s offense are still a threat to punish any team that doesn’t come in focused and ready to play. That might be the biggest issue for the Trojans in this one. USC clearly has the defense capable of stopping Carr & Co. (No. 1 pass defense in the Pac-12), but motivation could be a factor after former interim coach Ed Orgeron left the team after the end of the regular season.

If USC’s defense shows up, then this could be a fun day for Trojans fans. Junior wideout Marquise Lee could be playing his final game in a USC uniform, and he’d be doing so against a terrible MWC pass defense (which seems to be the trend of these Saturday matchups). Even if the defense is uninspired, expect Lee to have a solid day trying to impress NFL scouts that will undoubtedly be on hand. Without Silas Redd, the Trojans could rely on the passing game a bit more in this one. But as San Jose State proved back on November 29, the key to beating Fresno State is a strong passing attack and a running game that can eat up clock.

I like Fresno State, and had the opportunity to cover them for a bit when they were making their run towards perfection earlier this year. But I just don’t see how the Trojans lose this one if they have the motivation to play their best. I have USC for 20 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 34-28 Southern California

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Saturday, 5:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Buffalo vs. San Diego State

The final of three Mountain West Conference teams to play on opening day of the bowl season is the co-star of this thriller when San Diego State takes on Buffalo of the MAC on Boise State’s blue turf. Following five hours of football, it may be difficult at this point in the day to get enthused for this matchup, but take advantage if you can. After two games that will presumably be offensively dominated, this one will be all about the defense.

Thanks to outside linebacker Khalil Mack, Buffalo is No. 11 in the nation this season with 36 sacks. The senior leads the Bulls with 10.5 of those, and is like a shark that smells blood; he simply has a knack for getting to the quarterback quickly. Chances are he’ll have plenty of opportunities to make his mark in this game, because the Aztecs aren’t exactly the most protective of their quarterback. Ranking No. 10 in the MWC allowing 28 sacks on the season, San Diego State will need to find a way to keep Quinn Kaehler upright. If they don’t, points could be very hard to come by.

The Aztecs will also need to find a way to keep Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata from conducting a clinic in Boise. A few years ago, San Diego State had one of the best corner tandems in the country, but this season the Aztecs have been about as bad at defending the pass as the aforementioned Mountain West teams. Luckily, weather conditions could make this a game won on the ground, which helps the Aztecs tremendously. But despite having the advantage of playing on the blue turf every other year, San Diego State is not completely saved by the cold. Buffalo may actually consider the temperature in Boise a relief compared to what it deals with back home.

It’s hard to call this game anything but a toss up, with very little separating either team. Mack provides the star power in this one, but it will likely come down to which team takes better care of the football. I’ll go with the blue team on the blue turf, having Buffalo for 6 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 23-20 Buffalo

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Saturday, 9 PM ET – ESPN)

Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

This is the third time in as many years that the Ragin’ Cajuns are participating in this bowl game, giving fans some great memories in that time span. But don’t expect Mark Hudspeth’s team to come in uninspired. Louisiana-Lafayette will try to make it three bowl victories in a row over an in-state rival that it has never played in a postseason atmosphere. The Tulane Green Wave are back in the postseason for the first time since 2002 and are giving new meaning to “playing in their own backyard”. Quite literally, the Green Wave play in the Superdome for home games.

Tulane doesn’t have much of an offense to speak of (ranked outside the top 100 nationally in both passing and rushing yards per game), but stand tall on defense. Overall, the Green Wave are the No. 26 defense nationally in terms of yards allowed per contest, and have a particularly stingy run defense that gives up just fewer than 120 yards per game. However, despite not bringing much to the paper battle, Tulane finds ways to score points. Four times this season the Green Wave have scored at least 30 points, which is good news because this game could go either way depending on UL-Lafayette’s situation at quarterback.

The situation is as follows: Ragin’ Cajuns starter Terrance Broadway broke a bone in his throwing arm on November 30 and is still listed as uncertain to play in the game. Expect Broadway to do everything he can to be out on the field, but if he cannot go (or is not 100 percent), UL-Lafayette could be in trouble. The running game, led by Alonzo Harris and Elijah McGuire, is good but overusing it will be playing to the strength of Tulane’s defense. Broadway is likely the way the Ragin’ Cajuns maintain the upper hand in this game.

I know it’s a huge risk because Broadway will probably end up willing himself to play, but I’m going to take the upset in this one and go with the Green Wave. I loved the atmosphere that was present in 2011 when UL-Lafayette first played in this bowl, and I think we’ll see some of the same passion from the Tulane crowd. It’d be great if the team can use that to score an improbable victory. I have the Green Wave for just 2 points, so you know I’m uncertain.

My Pick: 30-28 Tulane

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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