Has the cabin fever started to set in yet? Not yet? Good.
We’re halfway through the bowl season, so hunker down for the next week or so; they are going to come up rapid fire in the next few days. This article will cover the Pinstripe Bowl to the Sun Bowl – five bowls over the span of two days. So, let’s not waste time and get to analyzing the matchups.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
This match will pit the Rutgers Scarlet Knights against the Iowa State Cyclones. Rutgers (8-4, 4-3 Big East) comes in staggering after a loss against UConn broke a 3 game winning streak. With most of these bowl games relying somewhat on momentum, this had to hurt the team’s psyche. One thing that’s been good for the Knights all year is their passing attack. Chas Dodd, starting quarterback, threw for 1400 yards and 9 TDs, but went down injured in the middle of the season. Back-up Gary Nova not only filled in the role, but played extremely well too, putting up 1500 yards and 11 TDs on the season. Their defense has been playing especially well at the end of the season too, standing 12th in the nation at points allowed. The only flaw in Rutgers’ game is the rushing. Their leading rusher, Jawan Jamison, only ran for 766 yards and 7 TDS, with their runner-up totaling just 170 yards. Clearly, this issue needs to be addressed before the bowl game
Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) comes into this match having lost their last two games of the season, but not before upsetting Oklahoma State at home and dashing their hopes of a chance at the national title. The Cyclones have had their own quarterback issues. Steele Jantz was the opening day starter, and held that job down with 1300 yards and 10 TDs passing. However, from the Texas A&M game on, Jared Barnett took over the reins, amassing almost 1200 yards and 6 TDs of his own. Power does lie in their running game, though, with James White putting up a hard earned 700 yards and 8 TDs of his own. Their defense never really got going, and was consistently overpowered throughout the season. I don’t expect them to put up much of a fight against Rutgers based solely from their lack of a strong defense.
Rutgers to win.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
This next match will feature two teams with 6-6 records: the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Bulldogs have had a Jekyll and Hyde type of relationship at the quarterback position, with the position going back and forth between Chris Relf and Tyler Russell. Both players managed to throw just over 1000 yards each. Now, the ground game is a little better for the team, with Vick Ballard leading the team in rushing at 1000 yards and 8 TDs by himself. However, defense is the star of the Bulldogs’ show, albeit a very picky one. One game, it will only allow a field goal slip by; however, the next time out, it will let through a 40 point torrent. They need to find consistency if they want to win this game.
Wake Forest has had a pretty bad run going into the bowl game, losing 4 of their last 5 matches. Most of the blame can be placed on the defensive side for losing a lot of their contests, as they’ve given up at least 20 points in most of their matches. The lone star for the Deacons is Tanner Price, the team’s starting quarterback. He’s kept the team in their games by throwing for 2800 yards and 20 TDs, with a majority of those passes to the talented wide receiver Chris Givens. The ground game is mostly forgettable, as Brandon Pendergrass ran for just 750 yards and 8 TDs, taking very little pressure off of Price. While the excellent passing ability of Wake Forest should place them as the winners, I’m going to go with the underdogs, literally.
I pick Mississippi State to win.
A battle in the desert that will see the Iowa Hawkeyes take on the Oklahoma Sooners. Iowa (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) had a very underachieving season as far as who they played and lost to. They were taken down by their rivals, Iowa State, were defeated by one point to lowly Minnesota. Plus, after the year Penn State had, this team should have scored more than 3 points against them. But through it all, Iowa has had a remarkable offense, led by James Vanderberg. He threw for 2800 yards and 23 TDs for the year. Combined with running back Marcus Coker and his 1400 yards on the ground, the Hawkeyes have a formidable offense to look out for. On defense, they have remained constant throughout the year, routinely surrendering 20 point games at most. But against challenging teams, like Michigan State, they dropped a few more. That certainly isn’t good when you’re going up against a club like Oklahoma.
The Sooners (9-3, 6-3) were the pre-season favorites, ranked #1 in many polls around the country and slated as the team to beat. They rattled off 6 straight wins to open the season, but hit a roadblock named Texas Tech, then Baylor, and finally were thrashed by rivals Oklahoma State to get to where they are today. Led by Heisman finalist Landry Jones and his 4300 yards and 28 TDs, the Sooners’ offense can be summed up as no less than thrilling through the air. Ground-wise, however, is another story. Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch had trouble getting anywhere running the ball, and accumulating 1200 yards between them wasn’t enough to garner attention. Fortunately, for everyone looking at Landry on offense, the defense gets overlooked all due to those three losses. The rest of the season, the Sooners looked in tip-top shape.
Facing a middle of the road Hawkeye team, I see no reason why Oklahoma will lose.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Formerly the Texas Bowl (and the former sponsor of the now named Belk Bowl), this match-up will have the Texas A&M Aggies square off against the Northwestern Wildcats – both teams with 6-6 records. The Aggies are coming into this match-up on a down slope, having lost 4 out of their last 5 games, all very high scoring affairs, too. With Ryan Tannehill as your quarterback, anything can happen. A wide receiver just two years ago, Ryan threw for 3400 yards and 28 TDs this season. Keeping the pressure off of him (and giving him more offensive options), running backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael ran pretty well, combining for 2000 yards and 20 TDs. Defensively, though, the Aggies need to start locking down their opponents; surrendering 25 or more points a game is just not going to cut it if Northwestern can mount a substantial offense.
On the Wildcats’ side, they are led by Dan Persa, a senior quarterback. He led the Wildcats with his 2100 yards and 17 passing TDs, which astounded more defenses than their running game did. While the Wildcats did spread the ball around to different backs, their leader, Kain Colter, only gained 600 yards. However, the main reason why the ‘Cats have won 4 out of their last 5 game coming into this match, is because of their defense. Previously, they surrendered over 35 points each game in a 5 game losing streak. But, in the team’s next 4 wins, it only gave up an average of 20 points. Their defense has its extreme ups and downs, not enough to balance out their mediocre offense. That’s why I pick Texas A&M to come out of this game with a win.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
New Year’s Eve spent on the Texas-Mexico border. What could be better? Well, watching the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets take on the Utah Utes for one. Georgia Tech (8-4, 5-3 ACC) has had great success with their its option running scheme in recent history, which is one of the reasons it was just about leading the nation in rushing yards on average. And they’ve kept close in all of their games, not losing by more than 14 points in each of their losses.
Georgia Tech is led at quarterback by Tevin Washington: signal caller, leading passer and rusher. He gained 1500 yards and 10 TDs through the air, and with his feet totaled another 900 yards and 14 TDs. The proper backs on the team, David Sims and Orwin Smith, gained a combined 1300 yards and 18 TDs. That is all fine and dandy, but you need to have the defense to back you up. Georgia Tech didn’t have an outstanding defense this year; just enough to keep them ahead of the opponent, which may be what they need against Utah.
The Utes (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) had a very slow start in their first Pac-12 season, at one point losing three straight to conference opponents. But they did manage to turn it around and scrap 4 straight wins in the end, all in conference, to reach this point. Utah was led by their quarterback Jordan Wynn to start the season, until an injured shoulder put him on the sidelines. Taking over for him was junior Jon Hays, who gave the Utes a mediocre outing, throwing for 1250 yards and 9 TDs. Though, with all the news surrounding their passing attack, the Utes did manage to put together a great rushing offense with John White. White rushed for 1400 yards and 14 TDs to help give life back to the Utes offense. Defensively, more could have been done to it. They have had problems on the line and in the secondary, which has caused a lot of games, especially loses to be so high scoring. So, while the rushing attack is good, Georgia Tech’s is tremendously better, and I’m giving them the edge.
We’re getting there, so hang on! Do you agree/disagree with what I’ve been talking about? Let me know in the comments section below.