We find ourselves in the last week of the year and the bowl games after Christmas are the ones that really matter. Here are my takes on the remaining games that appeal to me, and I would love to hear your comments below:
Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando
West Virginia (-2.5) vs. NC State — I have never been sold on Bill Stewart at West Virginia, and Tom O’Brien has underachieved at State thus far. The Mountaineers probably have more talent, but the Pack clearly has the better quarterback. I like NC State to win straight up. NC State 23, West Virginia 17.
Insight Bowl, Tempe
Missouri (-1.5) vs. Iowa — Missouri has won consistently in the Big 12 and hasn’t missed a beat post-Chase Daniel. Iowa wasted opportunities to win the Big 10 by blowing late multiple leads. Kirk Ferentz is one of the guys who would be on my list if a coaching change were made in Athens. He takes 2-star and 3-star talent and turns them into NFL talent. Iowa has been strong in bowl games. Iowa 35, Missouri 31.
Alamo Bowl, San Antonio
Oklahoma St. (-6) vs. Arizona — If you haven’t forgotten, Mike Gundy is a man. He’s 40. He also has a high-powered offense that can score points and churn out yards. I don’t think Arizona is as good as their record, and the Pokes should expose them. If Oklahoma State loses, T. Boone Pickens may buy Gundy out himself. I don’t think that’s going to happen as the Cowboys cover. Oklahoma State 38, Arizona 20.
Music City Bowl, Nashville
North Carolina (-2) vs. Tennessee — Butch Davis did a pretty good coaching job this year in Chapel Hill after dealing with the loss of multiple players as a result of AgentGate. Derek Dooley seems to have found a quarterback for Tennessee in Tyler Bray. I like Tennessee in a virtual home game. Tennessee 24, North Carolina 21.
Holiday Bowl, San Diego
Nebraska (-14) vs. Washington — If the Huskers decide to show up, this game has all of the makings of a blowout. I get the feeling that Nebraska is looking ahead to its joining the Big 10. Steve Sarkisian is beginning to rebuild a good program in Seattle. I still think the Huskers win but closer than the experts think. Nebraska 35, Washington 27.
Meineke Car Care Bowl, Charlotte
Clemson (-4.5) vs. South Florida — If Kirk Ferentz does more with less, Clemson appears to do less with more. The Tigers have all of the advantages to be a consistent contender for the ACC championship. South Florida has built a solid program in a short amount of time. If Chris Petersen coached South Florida, they could win the Big East and possibly a national championship. I’m not sure that the Bulls can handle the Tigers. Clemson 24, South Florida 20.
Sun Bowl, El Paso
Miami (-3) vs. Notre Dame — These two powers played some great games in the 80’s and 90’s during the Catholics vs. Convicts series. Now they find themselves playing in a game where the players have to have to turn in their passports to make sure they don’t go across the border to one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Miami has fired Randy Shannon, and Brian Kelly has had the Irish playing good football late in the season. I hate Notre Dame but like them in this game. Notre Dame 28, Miami 23.
Liberty Bowl, Memphis
Georgia (-6.5) vs. UCF — I’ll try to have a more detailed preview up later this week. The Dawgs have more talent but have struggled mightily against mobile quarterbacks this season. UCF would love to beat an SEC team to prove their readiness to take the next step. Every time that has happened recently with Georgia (e.g., Boise State 2005, Oklahoma State 2007, Hawaii 2007), Georgia has shown up with attitude and played well. Georgia 38, UCF 24.
Chick-fil-a Bowl, Atlanta
South Carolina (-3) vs. Florida St. — I don’t know what to think of South Carolina after the egg the Chickens laid in this same building a month ago against Auburn. Jimbo Fisher is doing a good job replacing a legend this year by taking the Noles to the ACC Championship game. This game is usually close and loud. I think Florida St. is playing for pre-season ranking in 2011. Florida St. 27, South Carolina 20.
Outback Bowl, Tampa
Florida (-7.5) vs. Penn State — At the beginning of the season, who would have thought that Joe Paterno would still be coaching and Corch Meyers would be the one retiring after this game? I think the Gators will show up to send out Meyer with a win. Penn State appears to be headed in the wrong direction, but the school is not going to do an FSU on JoePa. Florida 24, Penn State 13.
Capital One Bowl, Orlando
Alabama (-10) vs. Michigan St. — If Alabama decides to show up, the Crimson Tide will run the Spartans off the field. Michigan State has not seen the amount of speed they will see from Alabama. I have a feeling Nick Saban is making this a business trip to prepare for 2011. If the Tide loses and Auburn wins the national championship, I can’t imagine what Finebaum’s radio show will be like for the next nine months. I don’t see it happening. Alabama 42, Michigan St. 17.
Gator Bowl, Jacksonville
Mississippi St. (-5.5) vs. Michigan — This game appears to be very intriguing with two spread option teams with very different personalities. Dan Mullen has done a great job with the Bizarro Dogs. RichRod may be on the way out in Ann Arbor. I like Manny Diaz’s defense to get enough stops for the SEC to beat the Big 10 again. Mississippi St. 24, Michigan 21.
Rose Bowl, Pasadena
TCU (-2.5) vs. Wisconsin — Gary Patterson has done a great job at TCU with a suffocating defense and a solid offense. He’s another guy that would be on my speed dial if I needed to make a coaching change in 2012. Wisconsin was the class of the Big 10 this year with a typically strong running game led by a mammoth offensive line. The key is whether the TCU defense can withstand the Wisconsin running game. I’ll be pulling for the Horned Frogs but think the Badgers will wear TCU down. Wisconsin 27, TCU 24.
Fiesta Bowl, Glendale
Oklahoma (-17) vs. Connecticut — This game is definitely the biggest mismatch of the bowl season. Connecticut won the Big East despite being outgained on the season. Oklahoma has been consistently good all season. If Bob Stoops can get the Sooners focused on the game, this will get ugly very quickly. If this were women’s basketball, the outcome would be very different. Oklahoma 52, Connecticut 10.
Orange Bowl, Miami
Stanford (-3) vs. Virginia Tech — Stanford has figured this football thing out at least until Jim Harbaugh takes the Michigan head coaching job. They play hard-nosed football in a conference based on finesse. Virginia Tech bounced back nicely after the disaster at home against James Madison to win the ACC. I’m not sure the Hokies will be able to stand up to the Cardinal. I think this game is going to be low scoring, and Andrew Luck makes a play late. Stanford 24, Virginia Tech 21.
Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
Ohio St. (-3.5) vs. Arkansas — The Buckeyes have never beaten an SEC team in a bowl game. The last time they played an SEC team in New Orleans, LSU boat-raced tOSU on the way to the national championship. The big question is whether TatGate has distracted the Bucks. Ohio State has not seen an offense with the weapons that Bobby Petrino has in Arkansas. I’m still not sold on the Arkansas defense, so the Razorbacks will have to outscore the Buckeyes to win. Ohio State goes to 0-10 vs. the SEC. Arkansas 45, Ohio St. 37.
Cotton Bowl, Arlington
LSU (-1) vs. Texas A&M — The Bayou Bengals come into Dallas with season-long questions at quarterback. That question is the reason LSU is playing here rather than for the national title. The Tiger Nation doesn’t know whether to promote the Mad Hatter for governor or run him out of Baton Rouge on a rail. Mike Sherman has turned it around in College Station, but he doesn’t have quite the talent necessary to keep up with the Tigers. LSU 28, Texas A&M 24.
BCS National Championship, Glendale
Auburn (-3) vs. Oregon — I’ll have a preview post up as we get closer to the game. The over/under of 74.5 is ridiculously high for a championship game. Vegas is saying that the game will be somewhere in the 38-35 range. Both teams will score points, but I think Auburn will probably try to control the tempo with ball control. Right now, I think Oregon may have a couple of more weapons in the passing game. Oregon 35, Auburn 31.