2016 Birmingham Bowl, Belk Bowl and Alamo Bowl Preview

December 29, 2016

And the upsets keep coming!

The middle of the Big Ten has done a terrific job so far this postseason, doing their part to make the case that Jim Delany’s league is the best in college football this season. However, there are still several games left for the conference and ultimately they are the ones that the general public will use to make their final judgment.

Today we take a small step back, with just three games instead of four. However, we’re past the midway point in the bowl season, so for those that didn’t change their confidence points in ESPN’s Bowl Mania, every game left is worth a lot of points. This almost always results in significant shake ups in the Von Hugendong group standings, although as of today my dad still sits atop the group.

Let’s take a look at the games being played on December 29.

Birmingham Bowl

South Carolina vs. South Florida (Thursday, 2 PM ET – ESPN)

Oregon is getting what I believe to be one of the better young coaches in the game with Willie Taggart, who has made a habit of turning programs around in a matter of just a few seasons. Most recently Taggart did this with South Florida, who comes into this game with 10 victories and boasts one of the more potent offenses in the entire country. But as we have seen already in bowl games, teams that lose their head coach before the postseason often have trouble translating that success when he is gone. The Bulls won’t have any room to slack off against Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks in Birmingham.

For as good as South Florida has been, South Carolina has been equally surprising. The Gamecocks surpassed preseason expectations to make a bowl game via strong defense, which is anchored by a secondary that allowed just over 200 yards per contest. If Muschamp’s squad is going to win this game, the secondary will need to come up big slowing down quarterback Quinton Flowers, who may be the most athletic quarterback in the country. Flowers, along with running back Marlon Mack, can open up even the best secondaries due to their ability to gash on the ground. However, Flowers is also emotional and can get down on himself when things aren’t going right. I expect Muschamp to key in on this factor and use it to his advantage. If South Carolina wins this game, expect Flowers to have thrown at least one interception.

My Pick: 23-21 South Carolina

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 12

Belk Bowl

Arkansas vs. #22 Virginia Tech (Thursday, 5:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Virginia Tech showed the ability to hold its own in a shootout against Clemson in the ACC title game, although the Hokies would do better to play its own game and control the pace. Arkansas is hoping that it can bait Justin Fuente’s squad into doing that once again, but it won’t be an easy task. The Hokies have the ACC’s fourth overall defense and allow fewer than 200 yards per game through the air, key weapons against a Razorbacks attack that is highly predicated on the pass. Virginia Tech didn’t rack up a ton of sacks this season, but in two games tallied nearly half of its 2016 total. Austin Allen has been rattled this season by the rush, so expect the Hokies to dial up the pressure a bit more than usual in this game.

Bret Bielema has a tendency to keep bowl games very close, but Virginia Tech is a sleeping giant that may be ready to awaken in 2017. Fuente is an offensive mind that has been grooming his quarterback, junior Jerod Evans, to be the linchpin in what could be a very potent attack next season. Evans has already had a very good year and could add some momentum heading into next season with a good performance in this game. Against Arkansas’s defense, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Evans holding the MVP trophy for this bowl game. The entire Virginia Tech offense should have success in this one.

My Pick: 38-34 Virginia Tech

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 32

Valero Alamo Bowl

#10 Colorado vs. #12 Oklahoma State (Thursday, 9 PM ET – ESPN)

This is one of the premier games on the bowl schedule this season and the first between two ranked teams. Colorado has already impressed the entire country by getting to this point, but the players won’t be satisfied with just getting here. Oklahoma State presents another stiff challenge that the Buffaloes can be proud to say they beat this season, if it works out that way. This will be your classic battle between one team with a solid offense and another that prides itself on its defensive efforts. The Cowboys are the nation’s No. 15 offense, while Colorado checks in as the No. 17 defense.

Despite the comments above about an offense vs. defense storyline, Colorado’s offense is nothing to be taken lightly, either. Running back Phillip Lindsay will almost surely eclipse the 1,200 yard rushing mark by the time this game is over, and is also a great blocking back and threat in the passing game. He had been stifled by two great run defenses to end the regular season, but Oklahoma State does not fall into that category. Lindsay should be able to get his yards in this one. This is important, because although Colorado plays good defense, it isn’t afraid to engage in a shootout, either. The Buffaloes have scored at least 35 points seven times this season as compared with Oklahoma State’s eight. Assuming Mason Rudolph comes out ready to play for the Cowboys, this should be an exciting, back-and-forth game with plenty of scoring. I don’t have a lot of confidence points on this one because it’s difficult to predict, but I rode Oklahoma State in the regular season so it doesn’t make sense to change course now.

My Pick: 48-44 Oklahoma State

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 13

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *