All right. Are you sitting in comfortably? You have your drink in one hand, chips in the other, and ready to continue watching the bowl season? Well, if not, set your DVRs, as you don’t want to miss a thing! This is part two of the college bowl season analysis, where we talk about the Las Vegas Bowl to the Belk Bowl. And I promise you; you won’t have to tell your relatives you won’t make it to the Christmas party this year because of this.
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
In perhaps one of the most lop-sided bowl games on paper this season, we have the Arizona State Sun Devils facing off against the Boise State Broncos. The Sun Devils (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) were coasting in the beginning of the season, winning 5 of their first six games. With the arm of Brock Osweiler, throwing for 3600 yards and 24 TDs, one could assume that not only would he have been a Heisman candidate, but that Arizona State would make a run at a Pac-12 title. Then they hit Oregon, and proceeded to drop 4 straight games to end the season, killing any momentum they wanted going into the bowl game. Most of the blame can be placed on the defense, as they given up at least 14 points every game this year. If Arizona State wants to have a chance, their defense need to buckle down and stop the Broncos passing game.
Boise State (11-1, 6-1 MWC) is currently ranked 7th in the nation, and by all rights should have headed to a bowl game this year. But the kicker seemed to be their downfall yet again, as a last second missed field gave the Broncos their only loss this year to TCU. The Broncos have been solid all year apart from that, led by senior quarterback Kellen Moore. Throwing for 3500 yards and 41 TDs, Moore is easily the target for the Arizona state defense, but that doesn’t mean the Broncos are truly one-dimensional. Running backs Doug Martin and DJ Harper have taken pressure off of Moore when the time called for it, rushing for a combined 1700 yards and 23 TDs. The stats may seem bloated due to playing against Mountain West competition, but you need only to look at the Georgia game at the beginning of the year to see that the Broncos are still the real deal. Boise State should win this one.
Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl
What a way to spend Christmas Eve, with relatives and football. The Hawai’i Bowl will feature the Nevada Wolfpack from the WAC, and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles from Conference-USA. Nevada (7-5, 5-2 WAC) comes into this match having thrown away its chances at a WAC title in two close loses to Louisiana Tech and Utah State. Looking at how they line up, you would think the coach doesn’t know what he’s doing: a dual-quarterback, tri-running back system would make many people assume the offense needs all of these players to function normally. That’s not the case, as each of these players can and will do well on their own. Quarterbacks Cody Fajardo and Tyler Lantrip have done equally well both throwing and running, passing for 3100 yards & 16 TDs and rushing for 900 yards and 11 TDs total. But, don’t count out the starting rushers either: Lampford Mark, Mike Ball, and Stefphon Jefferson are just as deadly with their legs as the quarterbacks, rushing for a combined 1850 yards and 16 TDs. Southern Miss needs to play some great all-around defense to stop this attack.
The Golden Eagles (11-2, 6-2 C-USA) were ranked as high as 20th, but a shocking loss to UAB dashed any hopes of an outside shot at a BCS bowl. So, they retaliated by defeating #6 Houston in their title game to become C-USA champions. Southern Miss is led by Austin Davis, a quarterback who has drawn comparisons to Brett Favre, who used to play for the Golden Eagles. He has thrown for a respectable 3300 yards and 28 TDs over the year, mostly due to the rushing game not being very effective. The leading rusher, starter Jamal Woodyard, has only amassed 700 yards and 3 TDs all season. Seemingly one-dimensional, the Golden Eagles can surprise you with their efficiency, which is something that Nevada should watch out for.
Close game to call, but if Nevada can should down Davis, which they are fully capable of doing, they shut down the Golden Eagle offense. Nevada wins, but barely.
Advocare V100 Independence Bowl
This bowl match-up will feature the Missouri Tigers out of the Big 12 conference going up against the North Carolina Tar Heels out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The Tigers (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) are lead by their dual-thread quarterback James Franklin, who had a good year in both aspects. He threw for a modest 2700 yards and 20 TDs while rushing for another 800 yards and 13 TDs. Missouri’s leading rusher, Henry Josey, was no slouch this year either, amassing almost 1200 yards and 9 TDs of his own. While scoring points is certainly not a problem for the Tigers, the defense has been spotty at times, gaining a shutout one game while giving up 45 at another. The Tigers can lock down their flaws on that side of the ball if they want to win this, as they have momentum on their side winning their last three games of the season.
The Tar Heels (7-5, 3-5 ACC) had their season go slightly downhill after starting 5-1. Nonetheless, Bryn Renner is determined to right the ship and give NC a bowl victory. And he hasn’t done it all by himself, as leading rusher Giovani Bernard and his favorite target Dwight Jones have helped get the team to where they are right now. Between them and Missouri, the two teams have similar defenses, and just like Missouri, North Carolina needs to keep control of their temperamental defending to stop the Tigers. Another close game, but I favor Missouri as they have slightly better options to move the ball with.
Little Caesars Bowl
Pizza? In a bowl? Well, you’ll have it in this game, where the Western Michigan Broncos battle the Purdue Boilermakers. Western Michigan (7-5, 5-3 MAC) is coming off a season of letdown, as they were supposed to be in the chase for the MAC West title, but losses to Northern Illinois and Toledo hindered that outcome. The Broncos are led by Alex Carder, who threw for 3400 yards and 28 TDs over the course of the season, with Jordan White his number 1 target. However, the passing attack was not bolstered by a good ground games at all, as the leading rusher Tevin Drake only ran for 570 yards and 4 TDs. Their defense was also shoddy, giving up 28 points a game on average in a conference where points are sprinkled around like candy.
For Purdue (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten), there was not a lot to talk about during this mediocre season, with the low point easily being the loss to Rice University, 24-22. Leading this team through turmoil was Caleb TerBush, passing for only 1800 yards and 12 TDs. Their ground game wasn’t any better, with leading rusher Ralph Bolden gaining just 674 yards and 6 TDs. Add to the fact that wide receiver O.J. Ross has been suspended from the team gives the offense one less option to get the ball to. Defensively, though, the Boilermakers haven’t had a total meltdown. Sure they’ve had some bad games against Wisconsin and Notre Dame, but the rest of the season they’ve kept their opponents in check and some wins within reach. Both teams look pretty equal, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Western Michigan wins, simply because they have the better quarterback.
This bowl used to be known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl (now moved to Texas), so what in the world is a “Belk”? No matter, it’s the name of this game which features the Louisville Cardinals and the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Lousiville (7-5, 5-2 Big East) hasn’t had the greatest of seasons, but they do momentum on their side, winning 5 of their final 6 games. And, aside from their defense, not much else can be said about Louisville that can be considered “good”. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has passed for a meager 1800 yards and 12 TDs, while Dominique Brown and Victor Anderson fought for the leading rusher spot, averaging 480 yards and 4 TDs between them. Like I said before, their defense has been keeping them in games, with the exception being West Virginia. Expect the Cardinals to tough it out in the trenches to try and win.
NC State (7-5, 4-4 ACC) has had better luck on the offensive side of the ball, including a comfortable win over then-ranked 7th Clemson. Led by Mike Glennon, who threw for 2800 yards and 28 TDs, the Wolfpack have scored an average of 28 points per game. Leading rusher James Washington helped alleviate some of the pressure on Glennon by rushing for 850 yards and 7 TDs of his own. Defensively, the Wolfpack have played worse than Louisville on average, but the offense has more than made up for their counterpart’s shortcomings. If Lousiville’s offense somehow scores more than 25 points, they’ll win, but I just don’t that happening. I give my vote to NC State to win.
Another five bowl games covered. Think I got it right? Do you agree/disagree with the predicted outcomes? Let’s us know in the comments section below.