Armed Forces Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl, Music City Bowl, and Holiday Bowl Previews

December 29, 2010

Finally, we are getting to the point in the bowl season where there is college football on all day long. December 30th marks the first day where we get to watch four bowl games, a sign that the highly anticipated January 1st bowl games aren’t that far away. At 6-8 in the College Bowl Mania game, I think that Thursday could be a turning point for my entry. I feel confident in my picks, so hopefully I can make up some ground in my group, because I currently sit in 18th place (out of 23).

Here are my picks for the December 30th bowl games.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

Army vs. Southern Methodist

This is a game featuring two teams who are amidst program revivals. For Army, this is the first bowl appearance since 1996, and an opportunity for the Black Knights to win their first postseason game since 1985. SMU really experienced their program revival last season, after qualifying for their first bowl game in 25 years, but have built upon the success of last year. Thanks to head coach June Jones, the Mustangs are going bowling in consecutive seasons for the first time since they did it back in 1983 and 1984.

Like the other two service academies, Army runs the option offense. However, unlike many of it’s opponents, SMU should be ready for the array of formations that they are likely to see from the Black Knights. SMU has already played an option team in Navy, and although they lost by a touchdown, should have gained some valuable experience stopping that kind of offense.

This isn’t the typical Army team that we have come to know the last decade and a half. This year’s Army team was able to become bowl eligible thanks to a defense that was much improved from the 2009 campaign. They are surprisingly good against the pass, giving up only 190.5 yards per game. They will need to carry that over into the bowl game if they want a shot at winning this one.

SMU is a tough offense to stop. In addition to having a capable quarterback in Kyle Padron, they have the leading rusher in Conference USA in running back Zach Line. The Mustangs should be able to score; the real test for them will be whether or not they can stop the option, as they were unable to against Navy earlier this season.

Thanks to Army’s offensive style, this game should be pretty low scoring unless SMU gets a lot of offensive opportunities. However, I think that the Mustangs will make the most of those opportunities, and will come away with a win. I have SMU for 18 points in the College Bowl Mania game.

Final Score: 24-14 Southern Methodist

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Kansas State vs. Syracuse

The inaugural Pinstripe Bowl features a matchup between two pretty even teams. However, how each team got to seven wins is pretty different.

Kansas State comes in with an offense, similar to many of the other bowl eligible Big 12 teams, that is capable of scoring a lot of points. They average over 33 points per game, and seem to make the most of their offensive opportunities, as they average only 378 yards per game offensively. However, their defense is very suspect. They are 11th in the Big 12 in total yards given up, and have given up a lot of points in some of their wins and losses this season.

Syracuse on the other hand comes in with a defensive mindset. Thanks to their 18.1 points per game given up average on defense (good for 2nd best in the Big East), they have managed to stay in all but a few of their games this season. The Orange defense will have their hands full trying to stop Wildcats running back Daniel Thomas, though. Thomas is second in the Big 12 in rushing yards, and at 228 pounds, is extremely difficult to bring down on the first hit.

I haven’t been impressed with either team’s respective conference this bowl season, but I think that the Big 12 is still somewhat better than the Big East. Like a lot of bowl games so far, I think this game will come down to turnovers. Syracuse will have to take care of the ball extremely well, because they are usually in close games that can be decided by something like turnovers. I have Kansas State for 19 points in this one, but I’m not as confident in the Wildcats as my pick would suggest.

Final Score: 27-20 Kansas State

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

North Carolina vs. Tennessee

The Volunteers may be a little overmatched in this game.

This season, Tennessee has been a streaky team. In the month of October, they went 0-4, and it didn’t look like they would even become bowl eligible. Then in November, they turned it around, going 4-0 and became bowl eligible by the skin of their teeth (well, not really. They were in control in their final four games). However, their final four games came against teams with a combined record of 13-35. In fact, their six wins came against teams with a combined record of 23-48. The Volunteers are a young team though, and with the extra practice that true freshman Tyler Bray got, may surprise in this game.

The Tar Heels can be described in one word: resilient. The Tar Heels have lost 14 players for at least one game at some point this season due to injuries and an academic scandal. Head coach Butch Davis has done an excellent job of getting his players ready to play though, and should be commended for getting his team to 7-5 and .500 in the ACC this season. Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates may have his way with the young Tennessee defense, as the Volunteers rank in the bottom half of the SEC in total yards given up on defense.

While a win by the Tar Heels won’t garner much national attention, it should be noted that this was as good a job of any by a head coach keeping his team from collapsing after all the things they went through earlier this season. If anyone deserves a bowl win this season, it is Butch Davis. I have North Carolina for 13 points, but I’m really more confident than that.

Final Score: 34-17 North Carolina

Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl

Nebraska vs. Washington

You may be asking yourself, “Haven’t I seen this before?” The answer is yes. The Cornhuskers and Huskies have already played in 2010, and it wasn’t even close the first time around. If it weren’t for the suspicion that Nebraska doesn’t really want to be playing in the Holiday Bowl (again) against Washington (again) I’d tell you to count on something similar to what happened in the first game.

There isn’t much to say about this game. Nebraska has the better rushing game, the better rush defense, the better pass defense, scores more, and gives up less than Washington. The only statistical category in which Washington ranks higher than Nebraska is passing yards per game, and that may be a result of the fact that the Huskies throw the ball almost ten more times per game than the Cornhuskers (and also the fact that Washington has a senior quarterback who is NFL bound, and Nebraska has a redshirt freshman calling the plays).

Unless Nebraska really, really doesn’t want to be there, I don’t think this one will be all that close. But beware; last year, my highest confidence pick was Nevada over SMU in the Hawaii Bowl. Remember how that turned out? Anyway, I have Nebraska for 35 points in this one.

Final Score: 44-24 Nebraska

– K. Becks

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