With the first portion of the college football bowl season in the books, we have just 12 bowl games remaining including all five BCS games and 16 of the Top 25 teams. Let’s get right to it!
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl – New Year’s Day at Noon ET/9 AM PT on ESPN2 (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) vs. 22 Georgia Bulldogs (8-4, 5-3 SEC) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL
What you need to know: Two teams with disappointing seasons and identical records will be tasked with “getting up” for a New Year’s Day game that is not a BCS contest. This matchup is a rematch of last season’s Capital One Bowl which featured Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez, leading to a 45-31 Bulldogs win. Neither team will have the aforementioned quarterbacks in this one, though, as both have been plagued with injuries. The Cornhuskers won 5 of their first 6 contests to start the season but finished the year with losses in 2 of 3 including home against Michigan State and Iowa. Nebraska prides themselves on a two-pronged rushing attack that averages 221.7 yards per game, 19th in the NCAA. 5’9″ junior running back Ameer Abdullah and 6’1″ sophomore Imani Cross have combined for over 2,000 rushing yards and 18 TDs on the ground, with Third-team All-American Abdullah’s 1,568 rushing yards rank 10th in NCAA and lead the Big Ten. Georgia dropped their season opener at Clemson but won their following four games and four of their last five as the Bulldogs season saw its demise with two midseason losses against Missouri and at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs will be without their star quarterback Aaron Murray and will instead turn the reins over to 6’3″ junior Hutson Mason out of Henrietta, GA.
Dylan’s pick: Georgia
Heart of Dallas Bowl – Saturday at Noon ET/9 AM PT on ESPNU (Clay Matvick, Matt Stinchcomb, Dawn Davenport)
UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (7-5, 5-3 MWC) vs. North Texas Mean Green 8-4, 6-2 C-USA) at Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX
What you need to know: UNLV started the year 0-2 before rattling off four straight wins and finishing the season with wins at Air Force and home against San Diego State. Three players to mention for the Runnin’ Rebels:
– 6’3″ senior quarterback Caleb Herring (2,522, 64.3% completion pct, 22 TDs, 4 INTs)
– 6’0″ senior running back Tim Cornett (1,251 rushing yards, 15 TDs this season; 3,700 yards and 35 TDs in career)
– 6’3″ junior wide receiver Devante Davis (1,194 receiving yards and 14 TDs this season; 2,038 yards and 18 TDs receiving over the last two seasons)
That said, UNLV ranks 93rd in the nation in points allowed per game at 31.5. They’ll be up against a North Texas squad who have won six of their last seven and rank ninth in the NCAA in points allowed per game at 18.1. This is North Texas’ first bowl game since 2004 and marks a solid turnaround for a team that went 4-8 in 2012.
Dylan’s pick: UNLV
Outback Bowl – New Year’s Day at 1 PM ET/10 AM PT on ESPN (Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)
Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) vs. LSU Tigers (9-3, 5-3 SEC) at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL
What you need to know: LSU and their balanced offense certainly would’ve liked to be playing in a BCS game, but with a win they’ll hit No. 10 for the fourth straight season. Losses away to Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama were the Tigers’ only downfall, and their success was fueled by a plethora of talented offensive players led by these men:
-6’5″ senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger (3,082 passing yards, 64.9 completion pct, 22 TDs, 8 INT) NOTE: Mettenberger suffered a left knee injury against Arkansas and is OUT
-6’2″ sophomore running back Jeremy Hill (1,185 rushing yards, 14 TDs)
-6’0″ junior wide receiver Odell Beckham (1,117 receiving yards, 8 TDs)
-6’1″ junior wide receiver Jarvis Landry (1,172 receiving yards, 10 TDs)
On the other side, the Hawkeyes both started and ended the season winning 4 of 5 games, their season’s downfall being early October losses to Michigan State and at Ohio State. Iowa ranks among the nation’s top 20 squads in both stopping the run and the pass, led by linebackers Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey (all Top 10 in the Big Ten in tackles).
Dylan’s pick: LSU
Capital One Bowl – New Year’s Day at 1 PM ET/10 AM PT on ABC (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)
19 Wisconsin Badgers (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2 SEC) at Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL
What you need to know: The Capital One Bowl brings us another contest between sides who had BCS aspirations and who will now try and prove they deserved to be there, both utilizing their talented ground games. For South Carolina, it’s 5’9″ sophomore Mike Davis, who has amassed 1,134 yards and 11 TDs. And for the Badgers, it is the dual-threat power run game of Melvin Gordon and James White who have combined for 2,803 yards and 25 TDs on the ground. South Carolina has two other stars; 6’1″ senior quarterback Connor Shaw (2,135 passing yards, 21 TDs, 1 INT & 511 rushing yards and 5 TDs this season) and junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, he of the epic hit against Michigan in last year’s Outback Bowl, he of the multiple speeding tickets in the last three weeks. Will he even care about this game?
Dylan’s pick: Wisconsin
Rose Bowl – New Year’s Day at 5 PM ET/2 PM PT on ESPN (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)
5 Stanford Cardinal (11-2, 7-2 Pac-12) vs. 4 Michigan State Spartans (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA
What you need to know: The 100th incarnation of the Grandaddy of ’em all brings us to physical, hard-nosed teams – or so every pundit seems to say. For Michigan State, the only blemish on their record is an early season loss in South Bend, and this is their first trip to Pasadena since 1988. The Spartans are coming off a huge upset of Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game and are led on defense by senior defensive back Darqueze Denard, a first-team All-American who won the Thorpe Award, and sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun who was honored as the Big Ten’s top defensive lineman. Key to the Stanford attack will be All-American senior guard David Yankey and the man he’ll be blocking for. Gaffney – a 6’1″ 221 pound senior from San Diego, CA – ran for 1,618 yards (8th in NCAA) and 20 rushing TDs (5th in NCAA)
Dylan’s pick: Stanford
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – New Year’s Day at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT on ESPN (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake)
15 Central Florida Knights (11-1, 8-0 American) vs. 6 Baylor Bears (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ
What you need to know: This rendition of the Fiesta Bowl is a battle of one-loss teams, neither of which have ever been to a BCS game. UCF won the inaugural American Athletic Conference title, rank 13th in FBS in fewest points allowed per game at 19.6, and feature a couple of studs on offense; 6’4″ junior QB Blake Bortles (3,280 yards, 68.1 completion pct, 22 TDs, 7 INT – his second straight season with 3,000+ yards and 20+ TDs) and 6’0″ junior RB Storm Johnson (1,015 yards and 11 TDs on the ground, 261 yards and 3 TDs as a receiver). The big allure to this game though is the Baylor offense – ranked 1st in the nation in points per game at 53.3 – led by quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty, a 6’3″ 230 pound junior out of Midlothian, TX, amassed 3,844 yards (7th in NCAA), 30 TDs (10th in NCAA) and only 2 INTs this season. Petty is joined in the Baylor offensive attack by a whole host of weapons that include receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese who have combined for 2,443 yards and 21 TD receiving.
Dylan’s pick: Baylor
Allstate Sugar Bowl – Thursday, Jan. 2 at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT on ESPN (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
11 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) vs. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1 SEC) at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA
What you need to know: Remember Alabama? The Crimson Tide who we all presumed would be in the BCS National Championship game AGAIN? That is until they got buzzsawed by Chris Davis, Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers, and here they are in New Orleans, trying to salvage a BCS bowl win out of their season. 6’4″ senior QB AJ McCarron – the 2013 Maxwell Award winner who put up 2,726 yards, a 67.6 completion pct, 26 TDs and 5 INTs this season – will lead the Alabama offense along with 6’2″ sophomore RB T.J. Yeldon (1,163 yards and 13 TDs), an All-SEC performer. Bama’s defense has also been stellar, ranking 2nd in the NCAA in fewest points allowed per game at 11.3. Also in play: this is the Crimson Tide’s first game since the drama of Nick Saban possibly departing for Texas as Saban eventually signed a large contract extension to stay in Tuscaloosa. It’s far less rosy of an outlook for the Sooners, though they did win 11 games this season, falling only to rival Texas and to the high-powered Baylor offense. Oklahoma is coming off a big win over in-state rival Oklahoma State and are led by a couple of stellar blockers on offense; Second-Team All-American Center Gabe Ikard, and 6’2″ senior Trey Millard, a First-Team All-Big 12 selection. Oklahoma is aiming for their first bowl victory over a ranked opponent since 2009 when they defeated the Stanford Cardinal 31-27 in the Brut Sun Bowl.
Dylan’s pick: Alabama
AT&T Cotton Bowl – Friday, Jan. 3 at 7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT on FOX (Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Kristina Pink)
13 Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) vs. 8 Missouri Tigers (11-2, 7-1 SEC) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX
What you need to know: The Cotton Bowl gives us our final matchup of two teams who had BCS aspirations heading into the final week, fell short, and now seek a final victory against a top opponent on the national stage. Despite missing four games due to injury, Missouri’s senior QB James Franklin amassed 2,255 yards, 19 TDs and 5 INTs this season, giving him 6,788 career passing yards and 51 TDs. The Tigers also feature a talented running back in 5’10” junior Henry Josey (1,074 yards, 13 TDs) and a dual threat receiving attack of 6’6″ sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham (830 yards, 12 TDs) and 6’4″ senior L’Damian Washington (853 yards, 10 TDs). Oklahoma State had lost only once – 30-21 at West Virginia in September – prior to their battle against Oklahoma and were poised to win the Big 12 before the loss against the Sooners. The Cowboys rank 14th in the nation in points scored per game (39.8) and fewest points allowed per game (20.0) and their defense has not gotten enough credit from the college football punditry. The defensive unit features three First-Team All-Big 12 performers – 6’2″ senior lineman Calvin Barrett, 5’11” senior linebacker Shaun Lewis and 6’0″ senior cornerback Justin Gilbert (also a Second-Team All-American selection) – and ranks 4th in FBS with 20 interceptions.
Dylan’s pick: Missouri
Discover Orange Bowl – Friday, Jan. 3 at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT on ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Matt Millen, Maria Taylor)
12 Clemson Tigers (10-2, 7-1 ACC) vs. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL
What you need to know: The Ohio State Buckeyes have won 24 of their last 25 games. Last season, they were under a postseason ban and thus did not play in December or January. This season, their 12-0 run had them poised for the BCS Championship game until they were cut down by Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game. As deflating as the MSU loss was, Ohio State is still seeking their first BCS bowl win since 2010. The Buckeyes have put up at least 40 points in all but three games, contributing to a 46.3 points per game mark, good for 4th in FBS. That offense is fueled by a 3rd ranked running game (317.5 yards per game) that features 6’2″ junior QB Braxton Miller (1,860 yards passing, 22 TDs, 5 INTs, 1,033 yards rushing, 10 TDs) and 6’0″ senior RB Carlos Hyde (1,408 yards, 14 TDs). On the other side of the field are the Clemson Tigers, who were 10-1 heading into the final week with their only loss coming against Florida State. The Tigers’ regular season also ended in deflating fashion however, as they fell 31-17 at South Carolina, and will look to bounce back behind the 11th best passing offense in FBS (329.3 yards per game), 10th highest scoring offense in FBS (40.2 points per game) and 17th toughest defense in FBS (21.1 points allowed per game). Two offensive weapons to watch for Clemson: 6’1″ senior QB Tajh Boyd (3,000+ passing yards each of the last three seasons, 3,473 passing yards and 38 total touchdowns this season) and 6’1″ junior WR Sammy Watkins (1,237 yards and 10 TDs this season; second season in career with 1,200+ yards and 10+ TDs).
Dylan’s pick: Clemson
BBVA Compass Bowl – Saturday, Jan. 4 at 1 PM ET/10 AM PT on ESPN (Dave Neal, Andrew Ware, Dawn Davenport)
Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs. Houston Cougars (8-4, 5-3 American) at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL
What you need to know: Vanderbilt has won 5 of 6 to finish the season after starting out 1-2 and return to a bowl game for the third consecutive season. Vandy is led on offense by a pair of seniors, both All-SEC First Team selections; 6’5″ lineman Wesley Johnson and 6’3″ WR Jordan Matthews (second consecutive season with 1,300+ receiving yards and 5 TDs). It’s a bit of a different story for the Houston Cougars who won their first five games of the season and 7 of 8 before dropping three straight to UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati, all three bowl teams. Under center for Houston is true freshman John O’Korn of Fort Lauderdale, FL, the inaugural AAC Rookie of the Year. O’Korn stepped in as the starter in the 3rd game of the season and finished with 2,889 passing yards, 26 TDs and 8 INTs. Two of O’Korn’s receivers – Deontay Greenberry and Daniel Spencer – combined for 1,870 receiving yards and 16 TDs this season.
Dylan’s pick: Vanderbilt
GoDaddy Bowl – Sunday, Jan. 5 at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT on ESPN (Carter Blackburn, Danny Kanell, Allison Williams)
Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5, 5-2 Sun Belt) vs. Ball State Cardinals (10-2, 7-1 MAC) at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL
What you need to know: This battle between mid-major conferences Sun Belt and the MAC serves as the final appetizer before the national championship game as the 7-5 Red Wolves will be without their head coach as they take on the 10-2 Cardinals. Bryan Harsin, who led Arkansas State to wins in 4 of their final 5 contests, has left to accept the head coaching job at Boise State making this the third straight season that the coach to lead Arkansas State to the postseason would not be coaching them in that bowl game. Ball State and their high powered offense – 9th in passing yards (333.3) and 13th in points per game (40.1) in FBS – saw their only defeats at North Texas and at Northern Illinois, both bowl teams. The Cardinals are led by 6’3″ senior QB Keith Wenning whose 34 passing TDs rank 5th in FBS and 3,933 passing yards rank 6th in FBS. Wenning has two main receiving threats; 5’11” junior Willie Snead (1,429 receiving yards and 14 TDs) and 6’2″ sophomore Jordan Williams (1,016 receiving yards and 10 TDs).
Dylan’s pick: Ball State
BCS National Championship – Monday, Jan. 6 at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT on ESPN (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox, Tom Rinaldi)
1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0, 8-0 ACC) vs. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1, 7-1 SEC) at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA
What you need to know: For More on this game, check out our upcoming preview of the 2013 BCS National Championship