College football games of the week: New Year's bowl games to watch
I have, in fact, cooled off significantly, but that isn’t important. This week of bowl games is important. So let’s get to it.
Monday, December 31
MUSIC CITY BOWL
North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5/4-4) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4/5-3): 11 a.m. on ESPN
This is a pretty sick Vandy defense (ranked No. 17 nationally). Vanderbilt is on the rise and coach James Franklin is a much sought-after commodity that is turning bigger jobs down to stay in Nashville and build this program, which has won its last six games. NC State, on the other hand, has a pretty sickly offense (ranked No. 51 nationally) and fired head coach Tom O’Brien. New coach Dave Doeren (from Northern Illinois) has hired his staff and only one current NC State coach will be retained, meaning everyone else will be looking for work if they haven’t started already. This game is in Nashville, so the hometown Commodores will have a big, excited crowd while NC State, who went 2-3 down the stretch, will have players' parents in the stands. This sets up as a blowout for Vandy to me. Commodores 30, NC State 14.
USC Trojans (7-5/5-4) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7/5-3): 1 p.m. on CBS
Matty Trojan is out of this game… You think he’d like to go back to last January and re-think his decision to come back? He’s still going to be a high draft pick, but it is an understatement to say his senior year has been a disappointment. The Trojans clearly don’t care about this game, evidenced by Trojan player’s tweets, and they don’t care about their opponent, evidenced by being 90 minutes late to dinner with Georgia Tech. They say a football team is a reflection of the head coach. What does this say about you, Lane? I think this is one of those games where the team excited to be there (Georgia Tech) plays over their head, while the team who wants to be anywhere else (USC) doesn’t really care. I’m taking the Yellow Jackets. Ramblin’ Wreck 37, Trojans 31.
Iowa State Cyclones (6-6/3-6) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (10-3/7-1): 2:30 p.m. on ESPN
On my sports Christmas list is a 9-0 Big 12 bowl record. This game is one of the road blocks to that happening. Tulsa is a very good program, but Iowa State has BCS conference athletes. Let’s go to the Celebrity Alumni Fight Club to decide this. In this corner, reppin’ the Golden Hurricanes, we have Gailard Sartain of Hee Haw fame. In this corner, a proud Iowa State graduate, we have… like real people who work in government and invent things like pocket calculators and Lipitor. Boo, Iowa State! No one likes it when someone else takes themselves too seriously. Tulsa probably has some of those people, but they also have Hee Haw. Where is your Hee Haw, Iowa State? I think that’s the difference. TU 28, ISU 24.
No. 8 LSU Tigers (10-2/6-2) vs. No. 14 Clemson Tigers (10-2/7-1): 6:30 p.m. on ESPN
A super game to close out 2012. Both fan bases will fill up the Georgia Dome and then 30,000 LSU fans will be turned loose into downtown Atlanta. Good luck with that. Anyway, I think this game is going to be won or lost by the LSU offense. Clemson has a ton of playmakers on offense, but the LSU Tiger defense is very good, ranking No. 8 in total defense and No. 11 in scoring defense. Clemson has a top 10 offense and will score some points, so LSU is going to have to score some points as well. The problem is that their quarterback/passing game is awful. The good news for them is so is Clemson’s pass defense. So who stinks less? I think Clemson wins this by sacking Zach Mettenberger and forcing some turnovers. Tater Tiger 29, Cajun Tiger 24.
Tuesday, January 1
Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4/4-4) vs. No. 20 Northwestern Wildcats (9-3/5-3): 11 a.m. on ESPN2
I’ve seen Mississippi State play a few times and they just look like a paper tiger to me. I don’t think they have a lot of team speed and it shows when they play really good teams. The good news for them is that this Northwestern team isn’t really all that fast either, so the lack of team speed shouldn’t be a problem. Ordinarily I side with the SEC in these close matchups, but I just don’t think outside of the top three of four teams they are that strong, and MSU is outside of the top three of four teams. I’m taking the smart kids from Chicago in this one. Wildcats 30, Bulldogs 28.
HEART OF TEXAS BOWL
Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-5/5-4) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (6-6/3-5): 11 a.m. on ESPNU
Beat down. BEAT. DOWN. Oklahoma State lost their offensive coordinator to Southern Miss, but Mike Gundy has not forgotten how to call plays and with nearly a month to prepare for the 70th best defense in the country, this is going to get ugly fast. Very fast. The Cowboys are going to have their way with Purdue’s defense and the Boilermakers don’t have enough offense to counter. Pokes 48, Boilermakers 21.
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs 11-2/7-1) vs. No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers (20-3/7-1): Noon on ABC
Two teams coming off losses in their conference championship games with very different mindsets. The Bulldogs were this close to winning and playing for a national title, while Nebraska was literally stuffed in a locker by a bully. Nebraska is eager to get erase that 70-31 loss to Wisconsin off their minds, while Georgia is probably still wondering “what if” in the final few seconds against Alabama. I think UGA has more talent, but I think Nebraska will be more motivated. Going with the upset again. Big Red 34, Dawgs 30.
No. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2/6-2) vs. No. 18 Michigan Wolverines (8-4/6-2): Noon on ESPN
There is some question as to where Shoelace (Denard Robinson) will play in the bowl game. The pre-season Heisman hopeful quarterback hurt his elbow in late October and was never the same. Rumors persist he’s going to line up everywhere: tailback, wide out, return kicks… but nothing is certain. What is certain is the Wolverines don’t have the athletes or talent that South Carolina does. Remember when I said I wasn’t that impressed with the SEC outside of the top three of four? The Gamecocks are in that top three of four and I think they show that against Michigan on New Year’s morning. Cocks 31, Maize 13.
Wisconsin Badgers (8-5/4-4) vs. No. 6 Stanford Cardinal (11-2/8-1): 4 p.m. on ESPN
Barry Alvarez is back on the sideline for one game only to coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl. That’s weird. I’m sure being the former coach he’s around the program, but there have to be players that he doesn’t really know and who don’t know him. They whipped Nebraska to win the Big Ten, but this is still a four-loss team. Stanford, on the other hand, is a walking testimonial to what will be good about the four-team playoff that is coming soon. They are a sound, physical football team that will punch you in the face until you make them stop. Most teams can’t make them stop. One of those teams that will not be able to make them stop is Wisconsin. The Cardinal are probably not going to blow anyone out with their style of play, but I expect a dominant effort from Stanford. Tree 35, Whiskey 20.
No. 15 Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1/8-0) vs. No. 12 Florida State (11-2/7-1): 6:30 p.m. on ESPN
Northern Illinois is everything good about college football. They came out of nowhere to shock the nation and win their way into the BCS. It’s one of the better feel-good stories in college football history. I remember in 2009 when Brian Kelly left Cincinnati for Notre Dame, leaving the Bearcats before their Sugar Bowl game against Florida. The team talked the talk about moving forward, but it couldn’t back it up on the field and was overpowered by the Gators, 51-24. The same thing is going to happen this year. NIU coach Dave Doeren is now at NC State and while they are probably talking the talk, they don’t have the horses to back it up against the much more talented Seminoles. I’ll event take a similar score. Noles 49, Huskies 27.
Wednesday, January 2
No. 21 Louisville Cardinals (10-2/5-2) vs. No. 3 Florida Gators (11-1/7-1): 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
I don’t know how Louisville is going to move the ball. This is the No. 1 pass efficiency defense in the nation, meaning they get off the field when they have to, and they hold opponents to less than 13 points a game and are fifth nationally in turnover margin. I know the Lou is full of athletes from Florida, but Florida is full of athletes from Florida and, for the most, the ones playing for the Gators are of the top shelf variety. Former Florida DC Charlie Strong will have is Cardinals ready to play, but I see too much talent and too many offensive issues for Louisville to win this. If they can produce some turnovers against that wretched Gator pass offense, maybe, but I don’t think so. Muschamps win going away. Gators 36, Cardinals 14.
Thursday, January 3
No. 4 Oregon Ducks (11-1/8-1) vs. No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats (11-1/8-1): 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Think Texas fans are spoiled? Of course they are, but check out the Oregon Ducks. All Chip Kelly has done in his four years at Oregon is go 45-7, win the Pac-12/Pac-10 three times and play in four straight BCS games, including the National Championship in 2010. But that isn’t enough. Apparently there are boosters in Eugene that want him out because isn’t at their beck and call. I want the Big 12 to get a clean sweep in bowl season, but this a tall task. The good news is K-State should be used to this sort of tempo after playing Baylor, Oklahoma State and ou. The bad news is the one it closest resembles, Baylor, took Kansas State to the woodshed. On paper this looks like a huge Ducks win, but on paper K-State was picked fifth in the Big 12 this year. K-State seems to find a way to stay in games and it will be hard for Oregon to simulate a big, bruising QB like Collin Klein. Also, the K-State defense is a mauler, much like Stanford’s. My head says pick Oregon, but I told my head to shut up. I’m going with the purple, because why not? Wildcats 30, Oregon 21.
See you soon for more bowls! For more nonsense follow me on Twitter @TreyMcLean