So, how has your holiday shopping gone? Did you find that last minute gift that you’re sure will make the recipient somewhat content? No? Well, that’s OK. You always have the the college bowl season to turn to! And, this segment’s games are book-ended with contests dedicated to the men and women serving overseas and around the world. Yes, we are going from the Military Bowl to the Armed Forces Bowl (though I wonder why they couldn’t just condense the two).
Let’s march headlong into this analysis.
The only service academy in this bowl season will play here: the Air Force Falcons from the Mountain West. They will take on the Toldeo Rockets out of the MAC. Toledo (8-4, 7-1 MAC) was in the hunt all season for the MAC West title, when a shootout loss to Northern Illinois prevented them from making the MAC title game. But, when you can put up 40 points per game, it’s no wonder how the Rockets were able to stay close to the top of the conference. The Rockets love to run a dual quarterback offense, instituting Austin Dantin as the primary player with Terrance Owens as the backup. Combined they have thrown for 3200 yards and 30 TDs over the season, throwing mainly to Eric Page, who caught 1100 of those yards.
There also wasn’t any shortage of play-makers on the ground, as both Adonis Thomas and Morgan Williams had 11 rushing TDs each. They’d better have this high powered offense up and running, because their defense was none too spectacular. Routinely giving up 3-4 touchdowns a game should make a team lose 9 times out of 10, and with Air Force’s penchant for running the ball, the defense better buckle down. Losing head coach Tim Beckman to Illinois doesn’t help the team’s psyche much either.
For Air Force (7-5, 3-4 MWC), the ground has been their friend. Asher Clark is the leading Falcons rusher with 1100 yards on the season but, with the triple option formations the team runs, both running back Mike DeWitt and quarterback Tim Jefferson have rushed for the same amount of yards; all three totaled for 26 TDs on the ground. While Jefferson has been known to pass to keep the pressure off of the run, everyone knows that’s not how the Falcons play. Defensively, Air Force are in the same boat as Toledo, having a schizophrenic defense. While giving up more than 40 points to the likes of Notre Dame or San Diego State, the Falcons have also recorded a shutout victory on the year.
I don’t know which defense will show up, but this match will prove to be a high scoring affair. My choice is with Toledo, as they have more options to go to rather than just run the ball.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
We’re back in mild-weathered San Diego for this bowl game, which pits the California Golden Bears and the #24 Texas Longhorns. Cal (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) stumbled out of their conference blocks early, losing their first three games, and never fully recovered. Anchoring the offense is quarterback Zach Maynard, who amassed 2800 yards in the air and 17 TDs. Behind him is leading rusher Isi Sefole, whose almost 1300 yards and 9 TDs on the ground helped divert some pressure off of Maynard. The defense has shown some flashes of brilliance against the bottom of the Pac-12, but they just don’t have the consistency to keep up with high-level teams.
The Longhorns (7-5,4-5 Big 12) started off the season strong, but back-to-back losses to both Oklahoma schools set the tone for the remainder of the season. The Longhorns added more losses to their record thanks to Kansas State and Baylor, helping them get to where they are now. Both sophomore Case McCoy and freshman David Ash split time as the signal-callers, each having moderate success. There were also two freshman running backs duking it out for what seems to be next year’s starting spot: Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. They combined for 1150 yards and 10 TDs for the year. Not a very productive season, especially for a Texas team that is so used to big offensive numbers and hard hitting defenses. Speaking of, the defense has stayed at the same level all season, minus two 50 point hiccups.
The Longhorns could potentially shut down the California offense, but if they do, they need to move the ball very well on their own to win, which I don’t see them doing. My vote goes to Cal.
Champs Sports Bowl
For the second time in consecutive years, one of Notre Dame’s old rivals comes up to face them in a bowl game. Last year, it was Miami. This year, the Florida State Seminoles get the call. The Noles (8-4, 5-3 ACC) come into this game having won six of their last seven, much of it thanks to quarterback E.J. Manuel. Manuel has thrown for 2400 yards and 16 TDs on the season, but has had very little back-up by his running backs. The Seminoles’ leading rusher, Devonta Freeman, only ran for 500 yards and 8 TDs, leaving Manuel to shoulder the offensive load for most of the games. Defensively, though, the Seminoles are like a brick wall, surrendering only 15 points a game on average. With their recent form, Notre Dame has a lot to prepare for.
The Fighting Irish (8-4) pretty much lost to who they were expected to lose to (Michigan, USC, Stanford), but all within 14 points. Quarterback Tommy Rees led the Irish down the field, throwing for 2700 yards and 19 TDs this the season. With Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray in the backfield rushing for 1800 yards of their own, Notre Dame had little opportunity not to score points. Though, on the defensive side, the Irish had a good year, only surrendering more than 25 points four times.
While not able to compare to Florida State’s stout shutdown style of play, the Irish are certainly more well-rounded offensively. Therefore, I think Notre Dame will scrap together a win over Florida State.
Valero Alamo Bowl
The duel in the ‘Dome down in Texas’ will feature the home state team Baylor Bears against the Washington Huskies. Washington (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) did well against any team that didn’t have a rank in front of their name. The Huskies were also hampered down the stretch by losing 4 of their last 6 games, taking away any motivation and momentum they would have wanted going into the bowl game. The Huskies are led by Keith Price at quarterback, who threw for 2600 yards and 29 TDs, helping the Huskies score more than 40 points 4 times this year. Giving Washington more offensive options was the hard running Chris Polk, whose team leading 1300 rushing yards and 11 TDs complimented the throwing ability of Price. Defensively though, playing in the Pac-12, you are bound to see high-scoring offenses. Giving up on less than 17 points a game, the Washington defense is ranked near the bottom in total points and total yards given up. That’s not good going up against a Heisman winner.
Twelfth-ranked Baylor (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) has had one of their best seasons in recent memory, and they have only one man to thank: quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose 4000 passing yards and 36 TDs netting him the Heisman Trophy, the first ever in Baylor history. While Griffin was more or less a one man show, helping him along the way in the backfield was leading rusher Terrance Ganaway, who gained 1350 yards and 16 TDs on the ground to maintain a 43 points per game pace all season. Defensively, the Bears let in almost as many points as they were putting up. While they did record a shutout, the rest of the games saw them give up at least 24 points.
While Baylor’s defense hasn’t shined all year, the sheer awesome that is Robert Griffin should be enough to take down a weakened Washington team in front of their home fans.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
The last game in this set will feature the independent Brigham Young Cougars squaring off against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane from Conference-USA. BYU (9-3) completed their first year as a football independent to some disappointment. Reason being is the fact that they could have easily gone 11-1 if not for the late game loss to Texas, or the many defensive mishaps against TCU. But the Cougars have trudged on, led by their quarterback Jake Heaps. That was until Riley Nelson stepped up and took the role. In fact, Heaps was peeved enough that he wishes to transfer out of BYU for next football season if he can’t have a starting role there.
In the backfield, the Cougars have switched in multiple backs, presumably to take the heat off of the quarterbacks, with JJ DiLuigi and Michael Alisa getting the majority of the carries. On defense, BYU has had a good season. At least they made sure the opponents didn’t score more than them most of the time. The side as a whole feels underwhelming against higher level opponents, and Tulsa is on the verge of becoming higher level.
For the Golden Hurrican (8-4, 7-1 C-USA), starting off with three straight losses to ranked opponents is never a good way to begin a season. Led by G.J. Kinne, Tulsa has rattled off 7 straight wins, giving them great momentum coming into this bowl match. Kinne threw for almost 2900 yards and 25 TDs in a considerably down Conference-USA this year. In the backfield, Ja’Terian Douglas and Trey Watts traded off rushing duties, accumulating 1700 yards and 7 TDs together. Tulsa is the kind of team that either wins or loses really big, and part of that lays with the defense. In conference competition, Tulsa average 20 points given up a game. Out of conference however, this team is a whole different beast. Against the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Boise State, the Golden Hurricane gave up 49 points on average.While BYU isn’t quite up to that level, they still aren’t pushovers.
I’m going to pick the upset and say Tulsa gets the victory.
Fifteen bowl games in the books. Do you agree/disagree with what I’ve been talking about? Let me know in the comments section below.