As mentioned in Part I of the bowl preview, I am breaking the bowl season into two parts. The funny thing is, if I'd started writing the second part Friday, Dec. 30, my tone would have been much more optimistic. As it is, however, I'm putting together part II of the preview after a horrendous day.
I'll spare you the details here, you can see those below, but let's just say a promising bowl season came crashing down during one day where nothing went right, including an Oklahoma score on what was going to be its final attempt to gain yards.
My mind remains clear, however, and I won't let one bad day throw me off my game. After all, I'm still at the .500 mark overall for the bowl season, it's just that a golden opportunity slipped through my hands.
The final slate of games starts on Jan. 2, and there are some good options out there.
Bowl games are listed in order of schedule, but I will keep the same format in that I will still indicate which handicap group each game falls into with the following notation: Cream of the Crop = CC, Best of the Rest = BR and PASSing thoughts = PT.
BOWL PREVIEW PART II
Penn State vs. Houston: In a normal year, this game would be fairly easy to predict. A team like Houston rarely has success against a stout defense like Penn State, especially when that defense has a month to prepare, but considering all that has taken place over the past couple months in Happy Valley, that advantage has been nullified. Add in the drama over PSU's QB getting into a brawl with a teammate and you have one completely dysfunctional squad. Houston on the other hand comes into this game with complete focus after getting handled in its conference championship game. Expect Keenum and crew to make up for that putrid effort a month ago against Southern Mississippi.
Side: Houston -6.5 (PT)
Michigan State vs. Georgia: It's hard to get a good read on the Georgia Bulldogs. They beat every team that they should have throughout the season, but they lost every time they were dogs. They are slight favorites here, but I am not sure they should be. The line in this game is based solely on the conferences involved, but I am not sure Georgia should be given that consideration here. Michigan State had a nice season and the Spartans nearly beat a very good Wisconsin team twice. I'll admit that I underestimated the Spartans prior to the Big 10 Championship game, but I'm not about to do that again. The Spartans are determined to put their embarrassing bowl performance from last year behind them and they'll do so with a win here.
Side: Michigan State +3.5 (CC)
Capital One Bowl
Nebraska vs. South Carolina: Much like I did with Michigan State, I've underestimated Nebraska all year. I guess I can't seem to get that throwing motion of Taylor Martinez out of my head. I wonder why teams don't sell-out to stop the run against the Cornhuskers and make T-Mart beat them through the air. South Carolina is actually well-equipped to stop the run without adding the extra man in the box, so this will finally be the game where T-Mart has to get something done through the air and my prediction is that he'll fail to do so.
Side: South Carolina -2.5 (CC)
Ohio State vs. Florida: A few years ago, this was an interesting match-up because of the players on the field. This time around, it's interesting because of OSU's new head coach, the same guy who happened to be coaching Florida the last time these two met-up. There won't be much to get excited about on the field this year though as neither side is fielding a very strong team, but it will be interesting to see how OSU responds with Meyer now on its side. There isn't much separating these teams, they both play well on defense and struggle to move the ball on offense, but OSU does have a big advantage in turnover margin and that will be the difference. Expect a low-scoring game where one big turnover dooms Florida's chances.
Side: Ohio State +2 (PT)
Wisconsin vs. Oregon: I'm really torn on this game because I like both of these teams. Wisconsin has been solid for most of the season and Oregon might be the second-best team in the country. Heck, Wisconsin could be the second-best team in the country. Oregon proved itself legit last season when they took Auburn down to the wire. This year the test isn't as tough, but it's still a big test. Wisconsin is a different team that it was last year and it has Russell Wilson to thank. With Wilson, the Badgers have a more dynamic offense, on which Oregon will have trouble slowing down. Speaking of slowing down, does Wisconsin have a shot at slowing down Oregon? I don't think so. The Big 10 championship game spoke volumes about the Wisconsin defense. These teams will go up and down the field all day, but it will be Oregon that puts more scores on the board in the end.
Side: Oregon -5.5 (BR)
Total: Over 71.5 (CC)
Oklahoma State vs. Stanford: The BCS Championship game may not be what most wanted to see, but one of the by-products of that match-up is this one, and this one looks to be a doosy. Oklahoma State comes into this game with a chip on its shoulder after missing out on the national championship game. That's not always a good thing however as it can also serve as a distraction leading up to the game. Stanford on the other hand was eliminated from consideration about a month before the end of the season when Oregon steam-rolled it at home. Stanford failed its major test this season, while OSU passed theirs. OSU however failed a test that it should have easily passed when they visited Ames prior to its match against Oklahoma. I was impressed how OSU rebounded after that loss, but after watching Oklahoma finish-out the season, I am starting to wonder just how impressive OSU's win over them was. I think Stanford is a good buy-low candidate in this situation. After all, they've got Andrew Luck and you know he's determined to put the memory of that Oregon behind him.
Side: Stanford +3.5 (PT)
Michigan vs. Virginia Tech: When we last saw Virginia Tech, it was getting hammered by a schizophrenic Clemson team. For some reason, the Hokies just couldn't figure out Clemson this season, but they had little problem with anyone else. The problem for Virginia Tech however is that Michigan can do a lot of what gave the Hokies difficulties this season. Virginia Tech is likely thrilled to be in a BCS bowl game, but it's not exactly anything new for the players. Michigan on the other hand hasn't been in this position in a long time. The Wolverines are a team on the rise and I look for them to make a statement heading into the nest season by picking up a win here.
Side: Michigan -2.5 (BR)
West Virginia vs. Clemson: Speaking of Clemson, the Tigers get one final shot to impress as they face the Mountaineers in the Orange Bowl. Clemson surprised many early in the season when they started 8-0, but then they went onto lose three of the next four before again surprising everyone by throttling the Hokies. Clemson strikes me as a team that does the opposite of what you expect, as soon as you start to believe in them, they let you down. Start to doubt them – they play well. After its last game, most people expect them to play well, which is why I'll go against them here.
Side: West Virginia +3.5 (PT)
Kansas State vs. Arkansas: Remember when Arkansas was rated third in the country? Well, that didn't last long as the Razorbacks promptly lost to LSU. The Razorbacks never really belonged in that spot, but a rash of upsets near the end of the season thrust them into that spot. Looking at this line, it appears as though they are still getting the respect of a top-ranked team. Don't get me wrong, they are good team, but so is Kansas State. KSU stayed with Oklahoma State until the very end and that was pretty much how the entire season went. The Wildcats made a habit out of playing close games and I see no reason why they can't hang with Arkansas here.
Side: Kansas State +8 (CC)
Pittsburgh vs. SMU: There's really not much to say about this game. Both teams are fairly evenly matched and coincidently, both lost their leading rushers late in the season. Pittsburgh was able to adjust somewhat by winning three of its last five, but that was against some weak competition in the Big East. I'll take the points here as I just don't see much separating these two teams.
Side: Rice +3 (PT)
Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois: Northern Illinois nearly slipped up in the MAC Championship game for the second consecutive year, but a furious rally saved it from that fate. The reward? A trip to the GoDaddy bowl. Okay, so it's not much of a reward, but anytime a team from a lower-tier conference plays in a bowl game, it's always about respect for the conference. Unfortunately for the Huskies, the team they are facing is in a similar position. With that said, Northern Illinois is the better team here and it is actually getting some points here.
Side: Northern Illinois +1.5 (BR)
BCS National Championship Game
Alabama vs. LSU: It's not for all the Tostitos this year, but it is for the national championship. All everyone is aware, these two met up a couple months back in what can only be described as a defensive struggle. LSU has met every challenge this season including its trip to Tuscaloosa. The question is, can the Tigers meet their final challenge and do something they've yet to do this year, beat the same team twice? Alabama was favored going into its previous match-up with LSU, but the roles are reversed now. I am not sure if that will play into the rematch as LSU seems to be fine in either role. What we don't know is how Alabama will respond in the underdog role. Something tells me that the ‘Tide will excel in this role. There's nothing separating these two teams. They both play well in all phases, so just like the first game; it will come down to mistakes and execution. Alabama made more mistakes the first time around, but it won't repeat that feat. LSU has no holes, but this is the best team its faced all season and it's a little too much to ask to beat Alabama twice in one season.
Side: Alabama pick (BR)