Rose Bowl Preview
It’s year one of the College Football Playoff and this year’s first semifinal pits the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, against the 2013 winner, Florida State QB Jameis Winston. The Ducks offense is mighty and Oregon is on a roll. Since a 31-24 loss to Arizona on Oct. 2, the Ducks have won eight in a row by an average margin of 26 points.
The same cannot be said of the Seminoles, who will put their 29-game winning streak on the line for a chance to repeat as national champions. Florida State edged 11th-ranked Georgia Tech, 37-35, in the ACC championship game on Dec. 6. In its prior three games it won by four, three, and five against mediocre competition (Miami, Boston College, and Florida). Sure, the Seminoles command every opponent’s best, but head coach Jimbo Fisher’s squad has really only been in complete control of one game from start to finish all season – a 43-3 win over 3-9 Wake Forest.
The Seminoles defense will have its hands full with the nation’s third-best scoring offense. Besides Mariota, running back Royce Freeman has 1,299 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. Wide receiver Byron Marshall has 61 receptions for 814 yards and his receiving partner Devon Allen has seven TD catches. Florida State most likely will not stop the Ducks. The question is can they match them point for point?
Winston has not had the type of season he had a year ago, but he still has managed to throw for 3,559 yards and 24 touchdowns. His No. 1 target is Rashad Greene who has 93 receptions for 1,306 yards. Tight end Nick O’Leary adds another dimension to the Seminole offense and RB Dalvin Cook (905 yards) is the leading rusher.
Oregon also has a distinct advantage in playing on the West Coast, a little closer to home than the Seminoles. Mariota and company will get a chance to play for the title… Oregon 44, Florida State 33.
Sugar Bowl Preview
There are many that believe Ohio State should not even be part of the College Football Playoff. Don’t tell that to Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer or the rest of Buckeye nation. The Big Ten champions are coming off a 59-0 thrashing of a very good Wisconsin team in the conference championship game. Oh, and they did it with their third-string quarterback.
If it was not for a sloppy 35-21loss to Virginia Tech in week two, the Buckeyes might be the number one seed in the playoff. They have rattled off 11 straight victories since, the last one with sophomore Cardale Jones at quarterback.
Braxton Miller, one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the nation, went down with a shoulder injury in preseason camp paving the way for redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett. All Barrett did was throw for 2,834 yards, rush for 938 more, score 45 total touchdowns, and earn third-team All-America honors. He also injured a knee in the season finale against rival Michigan.
The 6-5, 250-pound Jones stepped in and went 12-of-17 for 257 yards and three TDs in the Big Ten title game. Running back Ezekiel Elliott stepped up with 220 yards on 20 carries, one of those an 81-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Those two will be a key for Ohio State as they face one of the nation’s best defenses in Alabama.
The Tide are right back where they belong playing for yet another championship. Head coach Nick Saban’s club has done it with outstanding defense (fourth in the nation in scoring defense) and a powerful running game. T.J Yeldon has 932 yards rushing and Derrick Henry has added another 895. Both backs have rushed for 10 touchdowns.
The big difference for Alabama this year has been the play of first-year QB Blake Sims. The senior has quietly thrown for 3,250 yards and 26 touchdowns. He has been helped by the best wide receiver in all of college football Amari Cooper. Cooper led the nation with 115 receptions for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The combination of Sims, Cooper, Yeldon, and Henry might be too much for the Buckeyes defense. While both teams play very good, physical defense, this may turn into an offensive slugfest. The advantage, of course, goes to the closer-to-home team… Alabama 38, Ohio State 37.
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8:17 PM ET, December 6, 2014
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
The big question in the Big Ten title game is can redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones lead the Buckeyes to a championship? Jones will replace J.T. Barrett who broke his ankle in last week’s win over Michigan. Barrett, a freshman, had taken over for three-year starter Braxton Miller when Miller was hurt during preseason training camp. All Barrett did was account for 3,772 and set a new school record with 35 touchdown passes. Now, Jones will have to go up against one of the nation’s best defenses. Add to that the Wisconsin running game led by RB Melvin Gordon (2,260 yards, 26 TDs) and defeating the Badgers will be a tall order. The Badgers beat two ranked opponents in the last three weeks of the season. Looks like they will make it a third… Wisconsin 34, Ohio State 31.
10:00 PM ET, December 6, 2014
Bronco Stadium, Boise, ID
Fresno State made it back to the Mountain West title game thanks to a late season surge and some help from the rest of the conference. A month ago, the Bulldogs were 3-6. Now at 6-6, they get a shot at a second consecutive league championship. Boise State, which lost to Fresno State in last year’s title game, can not only win another league championship, they can also secure a New Year’s Day bowl bid. In the new College Football Playoff, the highest ranked conference champ from one of the non-power conferences will play in one of three bowl games on Jan. 1. The Broncos are hot too. They have won seven straight, including last week’s 50-19 destruction of a very good Utah State team. No question here… Boise State 55, Fresno State 20.
12:00 PM ET, December 6, 2014
Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, WV
Marshall went unbeaten through 11 games and almost all of is 12th before it fell in overtime to Western Kentucky, 67-66, when the Hilltoppers decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win after their touchdown. The Thundering Herd will now take on 8-4 Louisiana Tech, a team that was 2-3 early in the season after a loss to Auburn. One thing is for sure – these two teams will score. While Marshall scored 66 last week, Louisiana Tech and QB Cody Sokol were busy scoring 76 in a win over Rice. Sokol threw for four TDs in the win to bring his season total to 29. The Bulldogs average 39 points a game. Marshall is second in the nation in scoring averaging 46.7 per contest. Who will score more? Marshall 47, Louisiana Tech 38.
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Below you will find our entire prediction scores for the past college football bowls.
Dec. 21, 2:00 PM
Colorado State 7-6 vs. Washington State (6-6)
It’s been awhile since either team has been bowling. Nick Saban disciple Jim McIlwain has Colorado State back to a bowl for the first time since 2009 and Mike Leach gets Wazzou back for its first bowl since 2003.
The Rams feature more of a power offense, while Leach loves to sling the ball around in his Air Raid offense. The caliber of play is a little tougher in the Pac-12 than in the Mountain West. Give the edge to Washington State…WSU 24, Colorado State 17.
Dec. 21, 3:30 PM
#20 Fresno State (11-1) vs. #25 USC (9-4)
A season full of drama for USC closes with their first bowl game since being placed on probation in 2010. Fresno State features one of the nation’s best QBs in David Carr, who has thrown for 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns this season. The Trojans hired their next coach, Steve Sarkisian, who won’t take over until January, but current offensive coordinator Clayton Helton will take the reins for the bowl game. The Bulldogs catch the Trojans in limbo…Fresno State 44, USC 28.
Dec. 21, 5:30 PM
Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
Buffalo started the year 7-2 before dropping two of their last four. They feature a tough defense led by future NFL draft pick LB Khalil Bell. Head coach Jeff Quinn has done a wonderful job turning the program back around. San Diego State started the year 0-3, but a 7-2 finish puts them into the Potato Bowl. The UB offense features QB Quinn Koehler (2,796 passing yards), RB Adam Muema (1,015 rushing yards), and WR Ezell Ruffin (1,061 receiving yards).…Buffalo 27, San Diego State 33.
Dec. 21, 9:00 PM
Tulane (7-5) vs. LA-Lafayette (8-4)
It’s a great draw for this bowl with both teams from the state of Louisiana. For Tulane, it’s been 11 years since they have been to a bowl. The problem for the Green Wave is their opponent - the Ragin’ Cajuns have won this game two years in a row. Junior QB Terrance Broadway leads a pretty explosive offense, LA-Lafayette averages 35 points per game, but they will face a much-improved Tulane defense that is 19th in the country in scoring defense. Three in a row will be tough to pull off against a Tulane program on the rise…Tulane 24, LA-Lafayette 20.
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Dec. 23, 2:00 PM
East Carolina (9-3) vs. Ohio (7-5)
Even though they didn’t enjoy the success they have the past two seasons, Ohio still winds up in a bowl game. QB Tyler Tettleton (2,623 yards passing, 20 TDs) will play his final game against a vastly improved East Carolina. The Pirates may have the best QB the nation has never heard of in Shane Carden. Carden finished the regular season with 3,866 yards and 32 touchdowns. A loss to Marshall in the regular season finale kept the Pirates out of the Conference USA title game. The offense averages over 40 points per game. The Bobcats just didn’t have the kind of year they were expecting…East Carolina 42, Ohio 28.
Dec. 24, 8:00 PM
Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6)
The Boise State football program has advanced so far that an 8-4 season is somewhat of a disappointment. No matter, the Broncos head to Hawaii with an offense that averages 39 points a game. The key for Boise State, which lost head coach Chris Petersen to Washington, will be their defense. Oregon State, led by QB Sean Mannion, features the nation’s third-best passing offense. Boise had more trouble with teams that had power running games like BYU and San Diego State…Boise State 38, Oregon State 28.
Dec. 26, 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3)
It’s an encore trip to Detroit for the Falcons who earlier this month defeated Northern Illinois for its first MAC title in 21 years. Surprisingly, Bowling Green is fifth in the country in scoring defense (14.8 points per game) while playing in the spread offense-happy MAC. ACC Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald led the nation in tackles for loss with 25 and also had 10 sacks. Still, the Panthers didn’t finish in the top 50 in scoring defense. They also didn’t run the ball very well. Look for the better defense to get the win…Bowling Green 51, Pittsburgh 42.
Our Pick Bovada Lines: Bowling Green -6pts
Dec. 26, 9:30 PM
Utah State (8-5) vs. #23 Northern Illinois (12-1)
An intriguing match-up in San Diego as the nation’s best dual-threat QB, Jordan Lynch, leads his Huskies against the top defensive unit in the Mountain West, Utah State. The Aggies are actually seventh in the entire nation in scoring defense, yielding just 17.3 points a game. Lynch is incredible, though. He threw for 2,676 yards and ran for 1,881 more while scoring 45 total touchdowns. Utah State just won’t be able to keep up…Northern Illinois 48, Utah State 28.
Our Pick Bovada Lines: Pick, no spread
Dec. 27, 2:30 PM
Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5)
Maryland head coach Randy Edsall saved his job by getting the Terrapins back to a bowl game for the first time since the Ralph Friedgen era. Maryland started the season 4-0, but battled injuries through the bulk of the ACC schedule. Marshall earned a berth in the Conference USA title game, but fell to Rice. Junior QB Rakeem Cato is one of the nation’s most exciting players with 3,579 yards passing and 36 TDs. Maryland won just two of their last six, but one of those was a 27-24 OT win over perennial ACC power Virginia Tech. A test for both teams, but Marshall has the more recent bowl success…Marshall 28, Maryland 17.
Dec. 27, 6:00 PM
Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4)
Minnesota enjoyed its best season since Glen Mason was around while Syracuse had to upset Boston College in the final seconds of the final game of the regular season in order to become bowl eligible. Minnesota has also overcome some adversity in dealing with head coach Jerry Kill’s ordeal with epilepsy. The Golden Gophers feature a pretty solid running game led by junior RB David Cobb who has 1,111yards rushing and seven touchdowns. The Orange is still trying to find itself both offensively and defensively. Minnesota may smack them around some… Minnesota 24, Syracuse 17.
Dec. 27, 9:30 PM
BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4)
The Huskies battled through a murderous Pac-12 schedule and then saw head coach Steve Sarkisian jump ship to USC prior to the bowl game. QB coach Marques Tuiasosopo will take over the head coach duties and his first order of business will be trying to stop the BYU running game. The Cougars rush for 275 yards per game, led by sophomore QB Taysom Hill, their leading passer and rusher (2,645 yards passing, 1,211 yards rushing). RB Jamaal Williams is also over 1,000 yards rushing (1,202) for the season. Washington was better on defense that some might think but still managed to give up 40 points three times during the season. They won’t do well in their lame duck period…BYU 45, Washington 38.
Dec. 28, 12:00 PM
Rutgers (6-6) vs. Notre Dame (8-4)
New York City will welcome neighbor Rutgers and fan favorite Notre Dame. The Scarlet Knights needed a win over USF in the final game of the season to reach the postseason. Notre Dame, which played for the national championship a year ago, is clearly not where they would like to be. The Irish running game has been average at best and senior QB Tommy Rees has done his best, but he just isn’t Everett Golson, who was lost prior to the season to academics. Rutgers isn’t much better. Give the edge to the athletes on Notre Dame’s defense…Notre Dame 19, Rutgers 15.
Dec. 28, 3:20 PM
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
Head coach Tommy Tuberville kept the Bearcats in the thick of the American Athletic Conference race in his first season. Larry Fedora started the season 1-5 before rallying to qualify for a bowl. It will be Cincinnati’s second consecutive Belk Bowl. Senior QB Brendon Kay took over early in the season and has thrown for 3,121 yards and 22 TDs while the Bearcat defense has been solid (12th nationally in scoring defense). The Tar Heels and their 5-1 finish get them back to a bowl game after a year off due to NCAA sanctions. Tight end Eric Ebron (55 rec., 895 yds.) is headed to the NFL after this one. Bearcats are just better…Cincinnati 28, North Carolina 23.
Dec. 28, 6:45 PM
Miami (9-3) vs. #18 Louisville (11-1)
If not for a loss to AAC champ Central Florida, Louisville would have been in the BCS title mix. Instead, the Cardinals will battle an improved Miami squad in the Russell Athletic Bowl. QB Teddy Bridgewater will likely be the first QB taken in next year’s NFL Draft and leads a Louisville offense that scores 35 points a game. The Cardinals’ defense is equally adept. They are third in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 12.4 points per game. Louisville faces old Big East foe Miami, which was ranked as high as No. 7 but then dropped three straight games at the beginning of November…Louisville 38, Miami 17.
Dec. 28, 10:15 PM
Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Two programs who have seen better days meet up in Tempe for their first-ever meeting. The Wolverines lost five of their last seven games raising questions about head coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges. Michigan does have some offensive weapons in QB Devin Gardner (2,960 yards, 21 Tds), WR Jeremy Gallon (80 rec., 1,284 yds.), and TE Devin Funchess (47 rec., 727 yds.). Kansas State has a few of their own led by WR Tyler Lockett who has 71 catches for 1,146 yards and eight touchdowns. If defenses win championships, then the Wolverines pull this one out…Michigan 42, Kansas State 38.
Dec. 30, 11:45 AM
Middle Tennessee State (8-4) vs. Navy (7-4)
One of the nation’s top rushing attacks meets up with a Middle Tennessee State defense that gives up 405 yards of offense per game. Navy’s triple-option running attack averages 320 yards per game led by their most dangerous player, sophomore QB Keenan Reynolds who has 1,028 yards passing and 1,124 yards rushing. He has accounted for 34 touchdowns and MTSU will be hard-pressed to stop him. The Blue Raiders offense is led by senior QB Logan Kilgore (2,289 yards passing) but is somewhat average when compared to the Midshipmen. Could be a long night for the MTSU defense…Navy 47, Middle Tennessee State 30.
Dec. 30, 3:15 PM
Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)
Rebel’s head coach Hugh Freeze has Ole Miss back in a second consecutive bowl game. Their defense will have to contend with a Georgia Tech offense that runs for 311.7 yards per game. But, Freeze’s Rebels are no slouches offensively, averaging 473 yards of total offense per game. Freeze has even used last year’s No. 1 high school prospect Robert Nkemdiche at RB to mix things up. QB Vad Lee makes the Yellow Jacket offense go. The scoreboard should light up in this one…Ole Miss 38, Georgia Tech 35.
Dec. 30, 6:45 PM
#10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4)
Texas may lose head coach Mack Brown, who is expected to resign soon. The Longhorns started slow, going 1-2, then reeled off six straight wins and had a chance to win the Big 12. They then dropped two out of their last three to finish out of the running again. Oregon fell out of a BCS bowl game for the first time in five years. Ducks QB Marcus Mariota (39 total touchdowns) has said he will return next year. This game will be a tune up for what could be a Heisman season… Oregon 44, Texas 14.
Dec. 30, 10:15 PM
#14 Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
With two high-flying offenses squaring off, this could be one of the more exciting games of the bowl season. ASU QB Taylor Kelly (3,510 passing yards, 28 TDs) leads a Sun Devil offense that is 10th in the nation in scoring (41 points per game). Head coach Todd Graham led ASU to seven straight wins to close the season prior to the loss in the Pac-12 title game to Stanford. Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury led Tech to a fabulous 7-0 start to the season. They haven’t won since… Arizona State 41, Texas Tech 31.
Dec. 31, 12:30 PM
Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)
Two of the nation’s best running backs will square off in this match up. The country’s leading rusher, Andre Williams (2,102 yards) is a Heisman finalist and the key to BC’s offense. Arizona features Ka’Deem Carey, who rushed for 1,716 yards for the Wildcats in coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread-to-run offense. The difference maker might be the quarterback. Both teams have seniors leading the way. Arizona’s B.J. Denker is a dual threat - 2,241 passing yards, 898 rushing yards - while BC’s Chase Rettig is an NFL-type drop back passer. The better running game and more experience QB win…Boston College 27, Arizona 24.
Dec. 31, 2:00 PM
Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. #17 UCLA (9-3)
While the Hokies may not have had the year they hoped, their defense is still ranked No. 4 in total defense. That defense will face one of the nation’s best dual-threat QBs in UCLA’s Brett Hundley. The 6-3 sophomore has 3,432 total yards and 31 touchdowns and Virginia Tech has struggled with QBs that can run. It will be the final game for Hokies’ QB Logan Thomas, who has underachieved his entire. Only fitting he do so in his final bowl appearance…UCLA 38, Virginia Tech 17.
Dec. 31, 4:00 PM
Rice (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (6-6)
Mississippi State won the Egg Bowl over rival Ole Miss in overtime to qualify for a bowl game. Rice had one of its better seasons in memory, capturing its first Conference USA title ever and first conference title since 1957. The Owls offense revolves around big (6-1, 235) back Charles Ross, who rushed for 1,252 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Bulldogs offense centers on sophomore QB Dak Prescott, who has been injured. It won’t matter if he plays or not. Rice hasn’t faced the level of competition Mississippi State has…Mississippi State 27, Rice 23.
Dec. 31, 8:00 PM
#24 Duke (10-3) vs. #21 Texas A&M (8-4)
This could be the final college game for Johnny Manziel, who has thrown for more yards this year than last. The A&M offense is still dangerous with Manziel and WR Mike Evans (65 rec., 1,322 yds., 12 TDs) and consider the Aggies losses were to a then No. 1 Alabama, a now No. 2 Auburn, No. 8 Missouri, and No. 16 LSU. Duke has had its finest season ever winning the ACC Coastal Division and 10 games. The Blue Devils will battle, but cannot hang on…Texas A&M 55, Duke 28.