2014 Gator Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl Previews

December 31, 2013

I will make this article short and sweet, because it’s my birthday and I want to go celebrate.

I hope that everyone has a safe and happy New Year’s Eve. Thank you for making 2013 yet another year that I decided not to stop writing on this blog.

Here are the previews for the New Year’s Day bowl games.

Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl (Wednesday, 12 PM ET – ESPN2)

No. 22 Georgia vs. Nebraska

Georgia, which had arguably the most disappointing season in college football’s FBS division at very little fault of its own due to injuries, still wound up in a New Year’s Day bowl. Mark Richt’s squad will take on Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers, which didn’t exactly live up to expectations in 2013, either.

My dad and I like to joke that there are a few teams in college football that you should never bet on. California and Maryland are a couple of those teams, and for the past few years Nebraska has joined the ranks of the “do not bet” list. The Cornhuskers have an intriguing run game with Ameer Abdullah, and he should give them a chance to score some points in this one. But on the other side of the ball, Nebraska could have a lot of trouble stopping Todd Gurley and the Georgia rushing attack.

Because both teams will be employing the help of backup quarterbacks, I feel safe going with the SEC over the Big Ten in this one. I have Georgia for 15 points in this one, but really wish I could see Aaron Murray suit up for the Bulldogs one final time.

My Pick: 28-21 Georgia

Heart of Dallas Bowl presented by PlainsCapital Bank (Wednesday, 12 PM ET – ESPNU)

UNLV vs. North Texas

Two 7-5 teams from non-BCS conferences will square off in the one New Year’s Day bowl that nearly no one outside of the actual fanbases of each school cares about. This one should be special.

I wish I could tell you that after spending the last four months of my life analyzing, watching and commenting on college football that I had a good idea of what might happen in this game. But if I told you that, I’d be lying just like everyone else. What I can tell you via statistics is that North Texas is mediocre offensively and cannot stop the pass, but that UNLV doesn’t rely on the pass much and is very good at stopping it on defense. Frankly, this game is up in the air because not very many people have had the chance to watch either team in person.

ESPN’s Bowl Mania Insider analysis tells me that nearly 70 percent of entries have chosen the Mean Green, and I’d prefer to stick with the majority in this one. Also, the fact that North Texas doesn’t have to travel very far to play in this game means that a decent crowd could be on hand in favor of the C-USA participant. I have the Mean Green for 10 points, and trust me, I’ve learned my lesson about mid-major teams enough this bowl season to move them down several pegs from where I originally had them.

My Pick: 31-20 North Texas

Capital One Bowl (Wednesday, 1 PM ET – ABC)

No. 19 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 South Carolina

A heavyweight matchup between the Big Ten and SEC takes place in Orlando when the Badgers take on the Gamecocks. Offensive points could come at a premium price in this one, as it is expected that defensive play will set the tone.

I’ve never been a huge supporter of Steve Spurrier, but must admit that he’s done a pretty good job with this South Carolina team. The Gamecocks don’t have overly talented offensive weapons, but get the job done to the tune of 34.1 points per game. Defensively, all we’ve heard about this season is Jadeveon Clowney, but the Gamecocks are much more than No. 7 on defense. The third best SEC squad in terms of yards allowed should be up to the task of stopping Wisconsin’s powerful run game.

As much as the Big Ten could use a victory like this to boost the reputation of the conference, I don’t think South Carolina will come out flat. The Gamecocks are simply better offensively and good enough defensively to shut down the Badgers. I have the ‘ole ball coach’s team for 29 points.

My Pick: 30-23 South Carolina

Outback Bowl (Wednesday, 1 PM ET – ESPN)

No. 16 LSU vs. Iowa

The final of three Big Ten/SEC matchups to be played on New Year’s Day kicks off at 1 p.m. ET, which is about when you’ll have an idea of whether or not the Big Ten has a chance to win this game.

Iowa surpassed expectations for 2013 by earning a January 1 bowl game and getting at least eight victories for the first time since 2010. At first glance the Hawkeyes appear to be severely overmatched against an LSU team that, while not having the type of season that would make fans in Baton Rouge jump up and down, is still capable of beating almost any team in the country. Both teams will try to win this game using a gritty, run first style, especially now that LSU will be without quarterback Zach Mettenberger. But that is going to be the issue for the Tigers; without Mettenberger, it’s unknown whether LSU is still a top 20 squad or simply a mediocre team.

I have LSU for 31 points, so I believe that Les Miles will still be able to avoid the upset sans Mettenberger. But it will be close. Don’t be totally surprised if the unranked Hawkeyes pull out a victory in a thriller.

My Pick: 23-20 LSU

The 100th Rose Bowl (Wednesday, 5 PM ET – ESPN)

No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 4 Michigan State

You’ve undoubtedly seen the commercial for “the granddaddy of them all” hundreds of times, and you’re probably thinking that it’s about damn time for this one to be played. I couldn’t agree more. Despite the fact that I think some of those commercials are a bit cheesy, I’m very excited to see what happens in this one. Hard hitting, smash mouth football at its finest.

Stanford and Michigan State are pretty similar football teams, but there is one key difference separating the Cardinal and Spartans: David Shaw’s team has been in this position before. With very little to separate the two squads, one of the things that I’m curious to see is how Michigan State responds to the big stage and the fact that the defense will be without senior linebacker Max Bullough. The loss of Bullough could open up a hole in the defense that Stanford will definitely take advantage of if given the chance. Tyler Gaffney is the best running back in a contest that should be dominated by the ground game, and he will find the weak spots in Michigan State’s defense if there are any.

The fact that I have Stanford for 16 points isn’t all that consistent with my opinion that this will be a close game decided in the final quarter. But I’m running out of places to hide in Bowl Mania, and I need to bet the points I have left somewhere.

My Pick: 23-17 Stanford

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Wednesday, 8:30 PM ET – ESPN)

No. 15 Central Florida vs. No. 6 Baylor

Everyone is expecting this game to a blowout. I don’t agree, and I’ll tell you why in the next paragraph.

If I had published a College Football All-Love Affair Team before this season, UCF quarterback Blake Bortles would have been the backup to Georgia’s Aaron Murray. Bortles is not just an athletic player with a strong arm. The junior is also extremely smart and keeps his team in games it has no business being in because he rarely makes mistakes. With a decent cast around him including running back Storm Johnson and wide receiver J.J. Worton, I think that Bortles will be able to have some success against Baylor’s defense. The real question is whether UCF’s defense can keep up with the Baylor offense, which might be a very difficult task for the Knights. But to say this game should be a blowout is disrespectful to a team that nearly beat South Carolina early on in the season.

The AAC has proved to be a mixed bag this bowl season, so it’s difficult to predict how the Knights will look in this one. But they definitely have the talent to hang with the Bears; it’s just a matter of whether or not they bring their A-game. I admit that it would still be a major upset were UCF to win, which is why I have Baylor for 33 points.

My Pick: 45-28 Baylor

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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