Bowl Season Week One Predictions


Nov 26, 2013; DeKalb, IL, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) rushes for a touchdown against Western Michigan Broncos cornerback Ronald Zamort (7) during the second quarter at Huskie Stadium.  Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Bowl season is upon us, and so it’s time to look at the matchups and project how things will shake out. I’ll go game by game, starting with the December 21-December 27 slate of games looking at each match up.

*All game times are central time.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, NM)

Washington State Cougars (6-6) vs. Colorado State Rams (7-6)
December 21, 2013 (1:00 PM, ESPN)

The first bowl game on the slate this year features former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain’s first bowl appearance with Colorado State as they match up with Washington State. This matchup pits two extremely potent, high flying offenses against one other. CSU’s Garrett Grayson has completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 3,327 yards and 21 TDs with 10 picks this season, while Washington State’s Connor Halliday has completed 62.8 percent of his passes, along with a staggering 4,187 yards (4th in the nation) and 28 TDs. Halliday’s Achilles heel, however, has been his 21 interceptions on the season.

Both teams passing defense has been terrible, which could lead to both talented quarterbacks putting up some staggering numbers. CSU’s defense is 109th in the country in passing defense, allowing over 250 yards passing a game, while WSU’s is 107th in the country, also allowing over 250 yards per game. The difference in the game may be Colorado State’s balance. Along with the huge passing yardage CSU running back Kapri Bibbs has run for 1,572 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and a nation best 28 TDs while Washington State’s entire team has run for just 704 yards (3.1 yards per carry) and 10 TDs.

The best defense for a high flying offense is a slow, methodical, balanced offense and CSU has the weapons to pull that off.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas, NV)

No. 20 Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1) vs. No. 25 USC Trojans (9-4)
December 21, 2013 (2:30 PM, ABC)

The rejuvenated USC Trojans will have to do battle with Derek Carr and the high-flying Fresno State Bulldogs with their third coach of the season. Interim coach Ed Orgeron left the program after USC hired Washington coach Steve Sarkisian to replace Lane Kiffin, so offensive coordinator Clay Helton will handle the interim head coach responsibilities for the bowl game.

This will be the first matchup between ranked teams of the bowl season, and USC’s defense will have their hands full. They face the nation’s leading passer in Derek Carr, who threw for 4,866 yards and an incredible 48 touchdowns. His favorite target is Davante Adams, who caught a nation-high 122 passes for 1,645 yards and 23 scores. USC’s Marquise Lee is one of the best receivers in the country when healthy, and quarterback Cody Kessler is emerging as a top QB in the Pac-12. USC’s pass defense is first in the Pac-12, but stopping Carr all game is a tall task that not many defenses can accomplish.
PREDICTION: Fresno State – 28, USC – 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, ID)

Buffalo Bulls (8-4) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (7-5)

December 21, 2013 (4:30 PM, ESPN)

The biggest star on the field in this matchup will be on defense. Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is one of the best defenders in the entire country. Mack has 94 tackles, an insane 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles, and 2 recoveries. Mack is a surefire first round draft pick, and San Diego State has turned the ball over 28 times this season; the fourth worst stat line in the country. Offensively Buffalo is led by running back Brandon Oliver’s 1,421 yards and 15 TDs.
PREDICTION: Buffalo – 30, San Diego State – 17

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, LA)

Tulane Green Wave (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4)

December 21, 2013 (8:00 PM, ESPN)

Tulane plays at home in the New Orleans Bowl in the Superdome for the last time, as the Green Wave finally moves to an on-campus stadium next year.

Tulane lost three of its last four games in 2013 and Tulane QB Nick Montana, son of the legendary Joe Montana, struggled to get the Green Wave’s offense going most of the year. Lafayette, on the other hand, led the Sun Belt in offense with athletic quarterback Terrance Broadway under center, throwing for 2,276 yards and 19 TDs along with 421 yards rushing and 8 TDs. The problem there is that Broadway broke his wrist late in the game, and his backup Brooks Haack struggled terrible in Lafayette’s final game in a blowout loss to South Alabama. Haack must now go up against Tulane’s ball hawking defense, which forced 33 turnovers in 2013 led by cornerback Lorenzo Doss who intercepted 7 passes.
PREDICTION: Tulane – 17, Lafayette – 10

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl (St. Petersburg, FL)

East Carolina Pirates (9-3) vs. Ohio Bobcats (7-5)

December 23, 2013 (1:00 PM, ESPN)

This is one of those “good on good” matchups as East Carolina’s high powered, balanced offense goes up against Ohio’s Top 30 passing defense. East Carolina’s Shane Carden threw for 3,866 yards and 32 TDs, while Ohio only allowed just over 200 yards passing a game in 2013. The difference in this matchup may be the running game, as Ohio’s run defense was 79th in the country and allowed just under 200 yards rushing per game. ECU running back Vintavious Cooper ran for 995 yards and 11 TDs. ECU will look to the ground game to set up some big plays in the passing game against Ohio’s defense.
PREDICTION: ECU – 35, Ohio – 17

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu, HI)

Boise State Broncos (8-4) vs. Oregon State Beavers (6-6)

December 24, 2013 (7:00 PM, ESPN)

Boise State lost more than two games in a season for the first time in years in 2013, and now they must play the Hawaii Bowl without head coach Chris Peterson, who left for the Washington job.

Oregon State is coming off of a weird season itself, losing the opener to Eastern Washington, then going on a six-game winning streak before losing five straight to close the season. The deciding factor in this game will be how many times Boise State’s defense can stop Oregon State’s explosive offense. OSU scores on everyone, a lot, but they can’t stop anyone defensively, so Boise State should be able to keep up with the scoring if they can also make a few stops on defense.

OSU’s Sean Mannion has thrown for 4,403 yards and 36 TDs while Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence has recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks which also had a lot to do with Boise State’s 15 interceptions in 2013.
PREDICTION: Boise State – 38, Oregon State – 35

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Detroit, MI)

Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (10-3)

December 26, 2013 (7:00 PM, ESPN)

Pittsburgh’s dominant defensive tackle Aaron Dobson is coming off a huge awards season, being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and picking up the Lombardi Award, Bednarick Award, Outland Trophy and Bronko Nagurski Awards. Dobson’s 54 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 16 quarterback hurries led the 42nd ranked Pitt defense.

Pitt QB Tom Savage was very efficient on offense, completing 61 percent of his passes for 2,834 yards and 21 TDs to just 9 INTs. Receivers Tyler Boyd (77 catches, 1,001 yards, 7 TD) and Devin Street (51 catches, 854 yards, 7 TD) have been a dynamic duo, but at times the Pitt offense has struggled to move the ball, coming in at 102nd in total offense. Savage was also sacked a staggering 41 times this season.

On the other side, Bowling Green’s defense was fifth in scoring defense, No. 2 in red zone defense, fifth in scoring defense, fourth in passing defense, and 12th in rush defense nationally. Bowling Green’s defense harassed Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch and forced him into uncharacteristic mistakes.

Offensively QB Matt Johnson has been explosive for the MAC Champion Bowling Green Falcons throwing for 3,195 yards and 23 TDs with just 5 picks all year. Tailback Travis Greene added 1,555 yards and 13 TDs on the ground to give Bowling Green much needed balance. Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson bailed on the Falcons to take the Wake Forest job, so that might bring some unwanted distraction to the team, but I don’t think Pitt has the firepower to keep up with Bowling Green’s offense especially considering how good the Bowling Green defense is as well.
PREDICTION: Bowling Green – 24, Pittsburgh – 14

S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego, CA)

Utah State Aggies (8-5) vs. #23 Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)

December 26, 2013 (8:30 PM, ESPN)

Northern Illinois had a shot at being in a BCS Bowl in January, but fell to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship and now falls to the Poinsettia Bowl. Despite that, Huskies QB Jordan Lynch still made it to New York City as a Heisman Finalist after a magnificent season, in which he completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards and 23 TDs compared to just 7 picks. He also added 1,881 yards and 22 TDs rushing, proving himself to be the true definition of a dual threat.

Utah State had its own dual threat in Chuckie Keeton, but midway through the season he was lost to a severe knee injury. Replacement Dare Garretson managed to lead Utah State to the Mountain West Title game, where they lost to Fresno State, but he was knocked out of that game with a concussion. If he is unable to suit up then third stringer Craig Harrison, who has thrown just 74 passes this season will have to take the snaps.

Whoever is under center for Utah State could very well have life made easier by the stingy Utah State defense, which is No. 12 in total defense and is No. 13 in rushing defense in the country. That could make things interesting, as the only way to stop Northern Illinois’ offense is to limit Lynch on the ground and force him into some bad mistakes in the air. The problem is that Utah State just doesn’t have enough firepower on offense while eventually Lynch and tailback Camer Stingily (1,081 yards, 9 TD rushing) will be able to find some holes in the ground which will open the passing game as well.
PREDICTION: Northern Illinois – 42, Utah State – 17

Northrop Grumman Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD)

Marshall Thundering Herd (9-4) vs. Maryland Terrapins (7-5)

December 27, 2013 (1:30 PM, ESPN)

Taking place just 30 miles away from Maryland campus, the Military Bowl should be pretty much a home game for the Terrapins. This game should be a matchup of two exciting quarterbacks in Maryland’s CJ Brown and Marshall’s Raheem Cato. Brown, a dual threat, threw for 2,045 yards and 11 TDs while rushing for 538 yards and 12 scores. Cato on the other hand threw for 3,579 yards and 36 TD through the air, but did add 279 yards and 6 TD on the ground as well. Marshall has struggled to stop the run this season which could spell trouble going against the Terps ground game.
PREDICTION: Maryland – 30, Marshall – 28

Texas Bowl (Houston, TX)

Syracuse Orange (6-6) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4)

December 27, 2013 (5:00 PM, ESPN)

The Texas Bowl will likely feature an old school defensive matchup between two solid defenses and running games. Both defenses are top 50 and both offenses lean on the running game.

Minnesota’s powerful David Cobb ran for 1,111 yards and 7 scores, while Syracuse uses more of a running back by committee style with three backs that went over 400 yards on the season. In the end it may come down to which QB can make a play at a big moment. Neither Minnesota’s Philip Nelson or Syracuse’s Terrell Hunt have made a habit of making too many big plays in the passing game in 2013.
PREDICTION: Minnesota – 13, Syracuse – 10

Fight Hunger Bowl (San Francisco, CA)

BYU Cougars (8-4) vs. Washington Huskies (8-4)

December 27, 2013 (8:30 PM, ESPN)

Washington will go into the Fight Hunger Bowl without head coach Steve Sarkisian, as he heads to USC, but what they will have is an impressive high powered offense.

Quarterback Keith Price threw for 2,843 yards and 20 TDs and has a bevy of targets to choose from, including Mackey Award-winning tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (33 catches, 413 yards, 7 TD), Jaydon Mickens (62 catches, 681 yards, 5 TD), and Kevin Smith (45 catches, 722 yards, 4 TD) along with Doak Walker finalist Bishop Sankey who ran for 1,775 yards and 18 TD in 2013.

BYU’s offense is nothing to scoff at either, as quarterback Taysom Hill accumulated 2,645 yards and 19 TDs through the air and 1,211 yards and 9 TDs on the ground, though he did throw 13 picks. BYU tailback Jamal Williams also had 1,202 yards and 7 TD on the ground, and this is the team that ran for over 500 yards against Texas this season.

One of the most intriguing matchups in this game will be Washington’s physical offensive line going up against BYU’s stingy defensive line, which allowed a little over 3 yards per carry on the ground and just 8 TDs all year.

Anchoring that defensive line is future NFL star Kyle Van Noy who recorded 63 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 2 INT, 7 pass breakups, and 14 quarterback hurries this year. Whichever team wins that matchup in the trenches will likely win the game.
PREDICTION: Washington – 28, BYU – 14

Next time, we’ll look at the rest of the December match ups before moving onto the January slate of games and closing with the BCS showdowns.