Mike Nicastro answers some burning, self-proposed questions surrounding this years MUST WATCH College Football bowl games.
Why answer my own questions you say? Well I won’t answer this because once again, you didn’t ask.
Let’s kick things off with the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl, as 8-4 Southern Miss takes on the Red Birds of Louisville in Tampa.
Just kidding. If you stopped reading there, I can’t blame you, because as did I. I’m sure all of my readers are just hootin’ and hollerin’ . . “Mike, bowl season started 3 days ago, a little late on the article aren’t you? Well no, Scrooge, actually I’m still a fragment premature.
(With the exception being the fighting Kyle Brotzman’s)
Wake me up on January 1st when the teams that earned themselves a chance at postseason play will surrender their New Years Eve celebrations with Snookie to compete in a tradition going strong for over 8 decades.
2. TICKET CITY BOWL – Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
Rise and shine college football faithful. I know you had a ridiculously fun night last night, but New Years Day is here. And this matchup which pits Big Ten vs. Big 12 middle of the pack squads kickoffs the start of significant Bowl games. Not many would be buying a ticket to this city bowl, if it wasn’t located in Texas where red and black should be in full force. But who are we kidding; this bowl is all about Northwestern. This game would not be as amusing or appealing if the Wildcats had won a bowl in the last 61 years. If my math is correct, the Wildcat fans and students have been wearing brown paper bags over their heads since 1949. Detroit Lions fans can stand up and take a bow. Although Northwestern’s program is being restored under former standout linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, the beat goes on, and the Christmas monkey stays on the wildcats back. Does anyone hear 62?
3. OUTBACK BOWL – Penn State vs. Florida
How many times can I use the word tradition in one paragraph? Well find out. If I would have told you 4 years ago that Urban Meyer would be out of the Coaching game before Joe Paterno, you would have made it a priority to send me coal for Christmas. Let me kill one rumor right now while I’m ahead . . Joe Paterno is not Santa Claus. He may be immortal, jolly, and love chocolate chip cookies, but he hasn’t given much to Penn State this year. The Nittany Lions two strongest wins, Temple and Michigan, not all that much to ride home about. On the other side of the coin, the Gators are in a rebuilding state as well, finishing 7-5 and losing the aforementioned Urban Meyer after the season. But regardless, much like Bowl season, this game is about tradition (once) and these are two of the winningest programs in College Football history. There may not be a Tim Tebow vs. Larry Johnson matchup, but two tenacious, underrated defenses will be on display. For your average fan of football, the Gators and Nittany Lions will certainly be the right of way on new years day.
4. GATOR BOWL – 21. Mississippi St. vs. Michigan
Chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp. I absolutely love this pairing, and think it is one of the more underappreciated bowls of the season, featuring two underappreciated teams. On Dasher, on Dancer, on Denard, running by Blitzens. Anytime Denard Robinson comes out of the house I’m tuning in, whether he’s playing football, going to the disco, or just walking to class, because he’s that suave. If you ask me, the real controversy wasn’t should or should not Cam Newton’s eligibility questions cost him the Heisman, it was how did the do it all quarterback from Michigan get snubbed of an opportunity to visit New York. The sophomore helped guide an offense that ranked sixth in the FBS with an average of 500.9 yards, and he set the NCAA record for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,643. The big ten offensive player of the year gets an opportunity to play his first game ever in his home state, Florida where he takes on a considerably improved Bulldogs team that finished fifth in the competitive SEC West. The Bulldogs led by RB Vick Ballard nearly beat Cam Newton before he became Cam Newton, losing 17-14 in week two, and it took Arkansas two overtimes to tame the dogs.
5. CAPITAL ONE BOWL – 16. Alabama vs. 9. Michigan St.
Green vs. Red (sorta), an after Christmas special. But more importantly the best non-BCS bowl since the last best non-BCS bowl. Seriously, any other year Michigan St. might be playing for a national championship. Sparty lost one game this year, @ Iowa, but are ten point underdogs to preseason front-runner and defending champ, Alabama. The Tide certainly failed to live up to expectations, but could also picture themselves playing in a BCS bowl if not for the second half meltdown against Auburn. What im getting at, is these two teams are VERY good, and competed with the teams who are today being debated on which is playing best, Auburn or Wisconsin. The age old question regarding bowl games, who has more to play for, and who wants to be there more. My answer, Michigan state. The Spartans will play with a chip on their shoulder after feeling as if they were spurned in the grand scheme of things.
6. ROSE BOWL – 5. Wisconsin vs. 3. TCU
“In the grand daddy of them all. . . “ That title used to provide me with a chuckle because to be quite frank, it’s not anymore. Used to. This year’s Pasadena Parade is going to be special, showcasing two teams that you could make a legitimate argument as to being the finest team in the country right now. TCU finally gets their chance to prove they can play with the big boys, as they get their first REAL shot at a BCS game (I could talk about the poor decision the committee made by placing Boise-TCU together in last year’s Fiesta Bowl for days). The third-ranked Horned Frogs, owners of the nation's top defense, face a No. 4 Badgers team that reached the 70-point mark three times this season. If that doesn’t get you intrigued, I really don’t know what else to say. Unlike the national championship, there isn’t a ton of star power in this game. . just guys their wear their heart on their sleeves, and play tough hardnosed football. To make an Olympic reference, the winner of this game receives the Bronze Medal. John Clay, Monty Ball, and James White, the three wise men, pace this Badger offensive, combining for almost a total of 3,000 yds on the ground, while TCU’s Andy Dalton is one of the great players you’ve never heard of, tossing for 26 TD’s and only giving the ball away 6 times. But if there’s an X factor in this one, its Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien who quietly had one of the most efficient seasons in college football history, completing 75 percent of his passes en route to winning the Unitas Golden Arm Award.
7. FIESTA BOWL – Connecticut vs. 7. Oklahoma
Hear me out here. This Connecticut team may surprise a few people . . I’ll preface this by saying that I do have Oklahoma winning by multiple touchdowns, but i’ll give you a few reasons it may be closer then you think
1. Oklahoma has lost 5 straight BCS Bowl games
2. The sooners defense yielded two 100 yd games to Big 12 runners, and UConn’s Jordan Todman may be the best player on either side of the ball, ranking 2nd in the nation with 143 rushing yards per game.
And . . that’s all I have for you. To a point, im trying to convince myself that this game will be competitive. Although Demarco Murray, Ryan Broyles and the rest of Oklahoma’s overwhelming speed (13th in total offense 478.1 ypg and 17th in scoring 36.4 points per game) will most likely run Connecticut out of the building, you’ve got to root for Uconn in this one. Cinderella has received an invite to the ball, and they’re out to try and earn some respect for their conference. Could there be a Christmas Miracle in the works?
8. ORANGE BOWL – 4. Stanford vs. 13. Virginia Tech –
Two conferences in the ACC and Pac-10 that didn’t receive all that much attention this year. The Pac-10 Cardinal will have talent, tradition, and a little bit of luck on their side. Make that a whole lot of Luck. Stanfords signal caller and future number top 5 NFL draft pick in April will have a tough task facing Bud Adams hard hitting blitz first defense. From the something you probably didn’t know department, Virginia Tech became the only team to record 10 wins in 7 consecutive seasons after they beat Florida St in the ACC Championship, completing quite a turnaround after starting the season 0-2 in the non-conference with losses to the fighting Kyle Brotzmans’ and James Madison. In my valued opinion, this is the best matchup of coaches in the BCS bowls. Stanfords Jim Harbaugh one of the most promising understudy’s in the game, vs the Wily veteran Frank Beamer who is more consistent then peanut butter. When somebody finally explains to me what a Hokie is i'll pick this game . . for now, flip a coin.
9. COTTON BOWL – 9. LSU vs. 17. Texas A&M
A non BCS bowl right in the thick of things. The Tigers are most definitely not an offense-first team, but when they do have the ball they win games with their running game more often than they do with the arms of their quarterback (no names cough cough sneeze Jordan Jefferson). Who's ready to be drowned out in figures? LSU ranks 107th in the country in passing yards, averaging just 155.4 yards per game through the air. Their ground game is much better, but still not elite. Led by Stevan Ridley, the running game ranks 32nd in the country, averaging 179.2 yards per game. As for points scored, LSU puts up 28.8 per game, placing them 50th in the country. Texas A&M has been a pretty balanced team all year. They rely on both their defense and their offense. When they have the ball, they also employ quite the balanced attack. The Aggies' quarterbacks have averaged 281.8 yards per game through the air, placing them 18th in the country. Their ground attack has put up 165.8 yards per game, the 37th best total in the nation. As for points scored, Texas A&M has averaged 31.8 points per game, the 37th best total in the country. But who am I tuning in for? Les Miles, aka the mad hatter. . what shenanigans will he have up his sleeve? Based on statistics this thing seems pretty even. So we move on to the next factor, conferences. The SEC is always the trump card, and the Tigers should win even if Ian Hanford is under center.
10. SUGAR BOWL – 6. Ohio St. vs 8. Arkansas
If you enjoy watching sensational quarterbacks, I have a game for you. The orange bowl. But this one isn’t bad either. Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Mallet, two finalists for the Manning Award presented to the top QB in the nation. The players present a contrast in styles. While Mallett is a classic drop-back passer who helped Arkansas rack up 338.4 yards per game through the air -- third in the nation -- Pryor is a scrambler who gained 639 yards on the ground in addition to throwing for 2,551. These are two teams who looked to be getting stronger towards the end of the year, Arkansas winning their last 4, and Ohio State their last 6. Although the Razorbacks offense is playing out of their minds, if there is one defense from another conference with comparable team speed, it may just be the buckeyes. Look for Cameron Heyward to keep Mallett dancing in the pocket resulting in a few crucial turnovers, which Mallett had been ridiculed for early in the season. Should be a close one throughout, but I like Pryor to make the big play down the stretch. He’s 2-0 in BCS bowl games, including a rose bowl win victory last year vs. Oregon.
11. KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL – 15. Nevada vs. Boston College
This is not a misprint. Sure this is only on here because 1. It’s one of the cooler names of this bowl season, and 2. Because I needed to fill up twelve slots and realized I only had eleven. The most important reason it’s on here, it is the last meaningless yawn bowl of the season, a day before the real grand daddy of them all takes place, January 10th in Glendale. And on a somewhat related note, I must give Nevada some love, they did after all defeat my National Championship pick Boise St. If you want to see a versatile, intelligent quarterback not named Newton or Pryor tune in and watch the wolfpacks' Colin Kaepernick.
12. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP – 1. Auburn vs 2. Oregon
And a partridge in a pear tree. Pick a story line, any story line . . you really can’t go wrong. Two of the fastest, most explosive, most well coached teams that we’ve seen in the decade. Cam Newton will run your grandma over like a reindeer. He is simply the best college football player I’ve ever seen, and absolutely deserved the Heisman trophy. Lamichael James put up video game like statistics, averaging 6 yards per carry and scampering for 21 touchdowns. The Tigers will attempt to give the SEC its 5th consecutive National Championship. The Ducks, will look to become a sports trivia question for the next 100 years, who took down the mighty Cam Newton in the national championship. Moreover, pitting the best of the Pac-10 versus the best of the SEC offers a very attractive and compelling matchup. SEC gets the most respect nationally for being dominant year in and year out, so why not see how the SEC does against the Pac-10 after beating up on the Big Ten and Big 12 in recent years? Oregon and Auburn represent a flashy, high-flying offensive showdown that the world is salivating to see. An x-factor in this matchup, Oregon QB Darron Thomas who was overshadowed this season because he obviously didn’t have to do all that much, will have to make some big plays down the stretch for his team. I don’t know if he is capable of doing it on this big of a stage, against a fast SEC defense that Thomas sees in his nightmares. On the other side of the rock . . Lights, Cameron, Action.
Merry Christmas to all, it’s Orange Blue and White.