New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, NY)
Rutgers Scarlett Knights (6-6) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4)
December 28, 2013 (11:00 AM, ESPN)
One year removed from a BCS National Championship berth in 2012, Notre Dame had a very inconsistent year but will attempt to close the season out with a win inside of Yankee Stadium. The “Pinstripe Bowl” has always been one of the more intriguing games for me, primarily because it’s the only game you’ll see all year in the Bronx.
This will likely be the last game without former quarterback Everett Golson. Golson was suspended in the spring due to “poor academic judgment” and this will be senior QB Tommy Rees’ final shot at leaving a positive lasting impression on Irish fans. Rees completed 53% of his passes for 2,938 yards and 27 TD in 2013, but he also threw 13 INT on the season. Receiver TJ Jones is easily the most dangerous receiving threat on Notre Dame’s team catching 65 passes for 1,042 yards and 9 TD but DaVaris Daniels also caught 46 passes for 720 yards and 7 TD.
Rutgers QB position has been a bit rocky this year as well, especially when the Knights benched starter Gary Nova after he pension for throwing interceptions started to get worse as the season progressed. Chas Dodd replaced him with two games left and led Rutgers to its bowl clinching win over South Florida in the final week of the season. He too has made mistakes throwing interceptions as well however. The biggest obstacle for Notre Dame could be the loss of dominant nose tackle Louis Nix in the middle of their defensive line as he went down with a knee injury late in November. When Notre Dame plays well they can compete with most anyone in the country, as their win over Michigan State this year describes, but consistency has been their biggest problem all year. Regardless they just have too much talent for Rutgers.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame – 24, Rutgers – 13
Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC)
Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) vs. North Carolina Tarheels (6-6)
December 28, 2013 (2:30 PM, ESPN)
Despite a horrible 1-5 start to the season North Carolina went 5-1 in its final six games of the season. NC is led by athletic dual threat QB Marquise Williams who threw for 1,527 yards and 14 TD along with 490 yards rushing and 6 TD. His most dynamic weapon to throw to is future NFL tight end Eric Ebron who caught 55 passes for 895 yards and 3 TD. Receiver Quinshad Davis added 47 catches for 724 yards and 10 TD.
Cincinnati boasts a Top 10 defense in the country, though their opponents this season leave a lot to be desired and an explosive offense even without starting QB Munchie Legaux who broke his leg early in the season. His replacement Brendon Kay threw for 3,121 yards nearly completing 70% of his passes with 22 TD. Linebackers Greg Blair (96 TKL, 6.5 TFL, 1.0 sack) and Nick Temple (73 TKL, 13.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) will be the players defensively to keep an eye on with Cincinnati while North Carolina’s Kareem Martin reeks absolute havoc in opposing teams backfields recording 20 tackles for loss and 11 sacks this year.
PREDICTION: North Carolina – 21, Cincinnati – 20
Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Miami (FL) Hurricanes (9-3) vs. #18 Louisville Cardinals (11-1)
December 28, 2013 (5:45 PM, ESPN)
Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville Cardinals went from Heisman and national title contenders to the Russell Athletic Bowl after just one loss primarily because their extremely weak schedule. This is Miami’s first bowl game since the NCAA sanctions and they will face their future ACC opponents in Louisville here. Cardinals QB Bridgewater is obviously the superstar in this game completing 70% of his passes for 3,523 yards and 28 TD compared to just 4 INT.
On the other side of the field Miami’s Stephen Morris threw for 2,868 yards and 21 TD but only competed 58% of his passes and threw 12 picks. As of late Morris has found young receiver Stacy Coley as a huge deep threat and Coley has caught 7 TD passes this year. Allen Hurns has caught 60 passes for 1,138 yards and 6 TD as well. Bridgewater’s favorite target is DeVante Parker who caught 46 passes for 743 yards and 11 TD but 4 different receivers for Louisville had at least 400 receiving yards this season. The best matchup in this game will be Miami’s massive offensive line against Louisville’s physical defensive line. Louisville linemen Marcus Smith (40 TKL, 16.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks), Roy Philon (38 TKL, 12.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks), and Lorenzo Mauldin (37 TKL, 12.0 TFL, 9.5 sacks) have been dominant all year long.
PREDICTION: Louisville – 35, Miami – 14
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, AZ)
Michigan Wolverines (7-5) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (7-5)
December 28, 2013 (9:15 PM, ESPN)
Despite a horrific start to the season Kansas State was able to win 5 of its last 6 games of the season to become bowl eligible and Michigan had a very inconsistent year as well. After a solid start to the year Michigan lost five of its final seven games despite playing Ohio State extremely close in the final week of the regular season. In that game Michigan managed to absolutely torch the Ohio State offense for 600 yards including 451 yards and 4 TD through the air from Wolverine QB Devin Gardner. Gardner finished the year with 2,960 yards passing and 21 TD along with 483 yards and 11 TD rushing. His favorite target through the air is receiver Jeremy Gallon who caught 80 balls for 1,284 yards and 9 TD. On the other side Kansas State’s most electric player is receiver Tyler Lockett who caught 71 passes for 1,146 yards and 8 TD.
While Gardner is Michigan’s dual threat, Kansas State boasts their own dual threat at QB with starting QB Jake Waters, who is more of a pocket passer throwing for 2,198 yards and 15 TD, while his backup Daniel Sams has run for 784 yards and 11 TD as well. Though Waters has legs too and will scramble when need be, Sams has also competed 73% of his passes though he’s thrown 4 INT to go along with his 4 TD through the air. Trying to stop the dual threats from each team will obviously be the biggest obstacle for each defense and that may be much harder for Michigan. Though both teams defenses are in the top 50 in rushing and total defense, they’ve also both allowed a ton of passing yards and points. Michigan has the unquestioned advantage in having the better passer but to take advantage of that their inconsistent offensive line must be able to slow down Kansas State’s beast on the defensive line Ryan Mueller who recorded 61 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 6 pass breakups, and 4 forced fumbles in 2013. If Michigan is able to keep Gardner upright and form any sense of a running game they should get the advantage.
PREDICTION: Michigan – 27, Kansas State – 23
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (Ft. Worth, TX)
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4) vs. Navy Midshipmen (8-4)
December 30, 2013 (10:45 AM, ESPN)
Fresh off the heels of yet another dominant win over Army, Navy leads the second ranked rushing offense in the country to the Armed Forces Bowl against the 85th ranked rushing defense in the country spelling bad news for the Blue Raiders. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds amassed 1,038 yards and 8 TD with just 2 picks passing while also running for 1,260 yards and a staggering 29 TD rushing. After Reynolds the Midshipmen use an array of backs in their option attack including Chris Swain (398 yards, 4 TD0, Darius Staten (375 yards, 3 TD), Quinton Singleton (334 yards, 2 TD), and Geoffrey Whiteside (319 yards, 3 TD).
Middle Tennessee has been able to put up points of their own with QB Logan Kilmore throwing for 2,289 yards and 16 TD and a combination of running backs carrying the football. Jordan Parker ran for 741 yards and 6 TD while Reggie Whatley had 631 yards and 3 TD. Both backs average over 5 yards per carry. One of the more intriguing aspects of this game is that despite giving up points and struggling to stop the run this year the Middle Tennessee defense has managed to force 31 turnovers, but Navy has turned the ball over only 8 times all year which is the best number in the country. Turnovers will be a huge stat in this game. Navy’s methodical running attack will be backbreaking for Middle Tennessee’s pour run defense and Navy just doesn’t turn the ball over.
PREDICTION: Navy – 28, Middle Tennessee – 13
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN)
Ole Miss Rebels (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-5)
December 30, 2013 (2:15 PM, ESPN)
Both Georgia Tech and Ole Miss are coming off of heartbreaking losses to in-state rivals at the end of the season and it pits yet another option offense (Georgia Tech) against a spread team (Ole Miss). The obvious matchup to watch in this game will be Georgia Tech’s triple option attack against the talented yet inconsistent defensive line of Ole Miss. Georgia Tech has actually added the passing game to its fifth ranked rushing attack this season with QB Vad Lee throwing for 1,414 yards and 10 TD though he’s completed just 47.2% of his passes and threw 9 INT.
He will need to complete passes to keep Robert Nkemdiche and the rest of that young defense of Ole Miss honest. In the end Georgia Tech’s defense really hasn’t been able to stop anyone and Ole Miss has plenty of weapons to choose from for QB Bo Wallace (3,090 yards, 17 TD) like receivers LeQuon Treadwell (67 catches, 557 yards, 5 TD) or Donte Moncrief (53 catches, 825 yards, 5 TD).
PREDICTION: Ole Miss – 38, Georgia Tech – 17
Valero Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX)
#10 Oregon Ducks (10-2) vs. Texas Longhorns (8-4)
December 30, 2013 (5:45 PM, ESPN)
The Alamo Bowl will be the last stand for Texas head coach Mack Brown as he resigns after this game, but Oregon has also had a very disappointed 2013. Regardless with the 80th ranked rush defense this probably wasn’t the matchup Texas wanted for Mack’s final game. Texas just can’t seem to tackle anyone and after giving up almost 600 yards rushing to BYU earlier in this year things could get ugly here. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota has been deadly this year through the air with 3,412 yards and 30 TD while throwing just 4 INT all year. He’s also dangerous on the ground running for 582 yards and 9 TD this year. The rest of the Oregon ground game is equally as deadly.
Bryon Marshall has run for 995 yard and 14 TD, Thomas Tyner has run for 689 yards, 9 TD, and DeAnthony Thomas has run for 581 yards and 8 TD. DeAnthony Thomas is one of the most exciting players in all of college football but his small size has kept him injured much of the year and keeps him from carrying the ball as much as other top backs. He’s also added 222 yards and 1 TD receiving this year as well as 488 yards and 1 TD on kickoff returns. I just don’t think Texas can either keep up scoring with Oregon or stop Oregon’s offense enough to give struggling QB Case McCoy much of a shot.
PREDICTION: Oregon – 49, Texas – 21
National University Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA)
#14 Arizona State Sun Devils (10-3) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5)
December 30, 2013 (9:15 PM, ESPN)
If you love offense then the Holiday Bowl is your bowl. Arizona State is #9 in scoring offense and Texas Tech is #9 in total offense in 2013 while Texas Tech is #2 in passing offense while Texas Tech is #82 in total defense. Arizona State fairs a lot better defensively ending up #31 in the country in total defense but 50th in pass defense which could spell trouble for the Sun Devils secondary going against Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive attack.
Arizona State was an incredibly hot team down the stretch but Stanford’s physical defense was able to smother the ASU offense twice in 2013. In the Pac-12 Championship loss to Stanford the Sun Devils were without their top offensive weapon in tailback Marion Grice due to injury who will surely be geared up to make up for that fact if he’s able to make it back for this game. He ran for 996 yards and 14 TD this year to go along with 50 catches, 438 yards, and 6 TD receiving making him a true all purpose weapon. He also led the team in kickoff return yards with 507 yards (averaging 24 yards per return). Quarterback Taylor Kelly is deadly as well completing 62.9% of his passes for 3,510 yards and 28 TD with 11 interceptions, and his favorite target has been Jaelen Strong with 71 catches for 1,094 yards and 7 TD. DJ Foster also added 58 catches for 630 yards and 4 TD.
On the other side Texas Tech’s Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb both threw for 2,315 yards each exactly, an odd fact, and both threw 9 interceptions as well. Mayfield threw 12 TD while Webb had 16. The QB position has been a bit odd at Texas Tech as walk-on freshman Mayfield started the season and was extremely effective until he hurt his knee against Kansas. Webb then replaced him and remained the starter until late in the season when he was benched in favor of the returning Mayfield. Mayfield started the final game against Texas but did not play well in the loss and then just a few days ago it was revealed that Mayfield will not be traveling with the team to the Holiday Bowl. Rumors have been swirling that Mayfield is transferring and he is likely gone from the program. So Webb and sophomore Michael Brewer will compete with each other from now and until the bowl game to find out who will start against ASU. Brewer only threw 10 passes all season long. Whoever the Tech QB is he will have some weapons to play with like Jace Amaro (98 catches, 1,240 yards, 7 TD), Eric Ward (80 catches, 904 yards, 8 TD), Jakeem Grant (59 catches, 707 yards, 5 TD), and Bard Marquez (46 catches, 566 yards, 5 TD).
Those QBs may have weapons to choose from but they will also have to deal with ASU’s harassing defense which recorded 40 sacks on the season which helped to cause 21 interceptions. They have been susceptible to big plays at times this year but they have also made their own big plays. Chris Young (103 TKL, 16.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks), Davon Coleman (58 TKL, 15.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks), Carld Bradford (55 TKL, 18.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks), and All American Will Sutton (44 TKL, 11.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) each had double digit tackles for loss. DB Robert Nelson also had six interceptions to lead the ball hawking Sun Devil defense. If Brewer gets the start expect ASU to come after him with their ears pinned back all night long.
PREDICTION: Arizona State – 45, Texas Tech – 28
AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Shreveport, LA)
Arizona Wildcats (7-5) vs. Boston College Eagles (7-5)
December 31, 2013 (11:30 AM, ESPN)
Heisman finalist Andre Williams leads the Eagles of Boston College into Shreveport to the site of the former Independence Bowl against the 2012 V100 Bowl Champion Arizona Wildcats. I could throw all the stats in the world at you but the headliners in this matchup are the nations two top rushers in the entire country in Boston College’s Andre Williams and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey who both had extraordinary years.
Williams, a Heisman finalist and Doak Walker Award winner, ran for an incredible 2,158 yards and 17 TD on the season while Carey ran for 1,716 yards and 17 TD himself. The dark horse in this battle of rushing titans may be Arizona’s dual threat QB BJ Denker who ran for 898 yards and 12 TD himself. Neither defense has proven themselves able to stop the run much both teams allowing over 150 yards on the ground per game. At some point one of the QBs will have to make a big play in the passing game to help out the running back as both defenses will likely sell out to try and stop the run. One thing is for sure this game should be a fun matchup.
PREDICTION: Boston College – 31, Arizona – 24
Hyundai Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)
Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4) vs. #17 UCLA Bruins (9-3)
December 31, 2013 (1:00 PM, CBS)
Though both Virginia Tech and UCLA proved to be good teams in 2013 they were also both inconsistent at times, but they also each have superstars on both sides of the ball. For Virginia Tech it’s QB Logan Thomas despite being inconsistent much of his career he did throw for 2,861 yards and 16 TD along with 13 picks. He has three exceptional receivers to choose from as well in Willie Byrn (49 catches, 635 yards, 2 TD), Demitri Knowles (43 catches, 619 yards, 3 TD), and Joshua Stanford (37 catches, 606 yards, 1 TD). Defensively Virginia Tech is led by a physical, dominating front seven led by Jack Tyler (93 TKL, 10.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 11 QBH), Luther Maddy (52 TKL, 11.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 14 QBH), Derrick Hopkins (49 TKL, 7.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 11 QBH), and JR Collins (47 TKL, 10 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 23 QBH).
For UCLA quarterback Brent Hundley is their go to man at all times leading the team in passing with 2,845 yards, 22 TD, 9 INT along with leading them in rushing with 587 yards and 9 TD on the ground. Shaq Evans is his favorite target catching 43 passes for 617 yards and 8 TD, but either way Hundley will have his hands full with the physical Virginia Tech defense which is the 4th ranked defense in the country. VT unquestionably has the better team defense but the best defender on the field plays for UCLA. Linebacker Anthony Barr was a finalist for pretty much every defensive award in the country and he was dominant all year long registering 62 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries. The most versatile player on the field will also be suiting up for UCLA in linebacker/running back Myles Jack who was named both the Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12. Myles carried the ball 37 times for 267 yards (an average of over 7 yards per carry) and 7 TD as the bruising back in the UCLA backfield while also recording 70 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups, and 1 INT.
Virginia Tech’s defense will keep them in the game but at some point Hundley and company will make some big plays and the question, as it seems to have been all year, will be can Logan Thomas get anything going with the Tech offense?
PREDICTION: UCLA – 21, Virginia Tech – 14
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN)
Rice Owls (10-3) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6)
December 31, 2013 (3:00 PM, ESPN)
The Conference USA Champion Rice is an outright conference champion for the first time since the 1950’s and Mississippi State is headed to its fourth consecutive bowl game, a school record. So with all that history it’s only fitting that these two face off in one of the oldest bowl games still being played today.
All eyes will be on Mississippi State’s tough QB Dak Prescott (1,657 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT; 120 carries, 751 yards, 11 TD) has drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow from his coach Dan Mullen but some of those eyes may be distracted by Rice running back Charles Ross (201 carries, 1,252 yards, 14 TD) during the game. Rice already played against an SEC defense in Texas A&M and ran for over 300 yards against them, but A&M’s defense was horrendous and MSU’s is certainly much better. If Mississippi State’s front seven is able to hold Ross in check they could potentially force Rice QB Taylor McHargue (2,261 yards, 17 TD, 8 INT, 52% completion percentage) into some mistakes.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State – 20, Rice – 14
Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Atlanta, GA)
#24 Duke Blue Devils (10-3) vs. #21 Texas A&M Aggies (8-4)
December 31, 2013 (7:00 PM, ESPN)
Until the ACC Championship drubbing Duke looked to be having a magical season but even despite that blowout loss it’s still the best season in Duke football history and they have a shot to close it out with a big win over an SEC opponent, but standing in their way is 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and the explosive Texas A&M Aggies in one of the few December bowl matchups between ranked opponents.
Duke is led by a two headed monster at both quarterback and running back with Anthony Boone (1,833 yards, 10 TD, 11 INT) and Brandon Connette (1,212 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT) sharing the job under center. Boone is more of the passer while Connette adds another dimension with his feet to the tune of 333 yards and 13 TD on the ground. Running backs Jela Duncan (5762 yards, 3 TD) and Josh Snead 547 yards, 1 TD) share the duties in the backfield. Their unquestioned leader at receiver is Jamison Crowder who amassed 96 catches for 1,197 yards and 7 TD. Texas A&M’s defense is awful and was ranked 108th in the country allowing over 220 yards rushing per game. That also led to big plays being allowed in the secondary as well and expect Duke to try to exploit that with their rushing attack.
On the other side Johnny Manziel is the superstar in this game and this may be his final collegiate football game before jumping to the NFL. Manziel finished the year completing nearly 70% of his passes for 3,732 yards and 33 TD though he did throw 13 interceptions and some very costly ones in A&M’s losses this year. Manziel also amassed 686 yards and 8 TD to lead the Aggies in rushing again. Manziel’s favorite target is the massive Mike Evans who had 65 catches for 1,322 yards and 12 TD but Malcome Kennedy (55 catches, 606 yards, 7 TD), Derel Walker (45 catches, 705 yards, 4 TD), and Travis Labhart (44 catches, 550 yards, 5 TD) are also deadly through the air. Duke will be able to score on A&M, everyone does, but they just simply won’t be able to keep up with A&M’s explosive offense.