College football bowl predictions
College football’s bowl games were announced Sunday evening and some of the matchups are tremendous. I’m eager to breakdown this year’s best postseason games, and offer predictions. Let’s get to it.
No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 1 Auburn
5:30 p.m. PT, Jan. 10
The national title is on the line when the Oregon Ducks and Auburn Tigers clash in Glendale, Arizona. This game will have a unique look, and not just because Oregon will likely dawn another innovative uniform. While both teams have storied programs, this game will be the first championship in recent history that won’t include at least one perennial powerhouse. Auburn hasn’t won a national title in over fifty years and Oregon hasn’t won since the invention of football. This makes the matchup no less exciting. The two speedy teams run a similarly quick-paced, cutting-edge offense that dazzle fans and confuse, erode and dismantle opposing defenses. Did I mention this game will feature Tiger quarterback Cam Newton? He’s arguably the best college football player ever. And when the probable Heisman Trophy winner steps off the field, a probable Heisman runner-up will step on: Oregon running back LaMichael James is electrifying.
Prediction: The weakest unit on the field in January’s championship game might be Auburn’s secondary. The Tigers’ pass defense has been poor, but that’s not where the game will be won or lost. That distinction goes to the trenches, where the likes of Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba and Tiger defensive tackle Nick Fairley dwell. Auburn is one of the best in the country against the run, which is Oregon’s preferred choice of attack. Auburn wins in a “low-scoring” affair, 33-27.
Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO
No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 TCU
If you tried to prod Wisconsin with a scorching cast-iron rod, the rod would melt prior to the Badgers breaking a sweat. That’s how hot Wisconsin is right now. They’ve scored more than 70 points three times this year, twice in its last three games. That’s what makes this matchup against undefeated TCU so fascinating. The Horned Frogs once again have a shutdown defense under head coach Gary Patterson. TCU is ranked first nationally in fewest points allowed.
Prediction: The Horned Frogs are one of only three teams that went undefeated this year, but how good are they really? TCU dominated its completion this season, but the Mountain West Conference was dreadful. Can the Horned Frogs win on a grand stage? We know Wisconsin can. The Badgers put up 31 points midseason against Ohio State, who ranks third in the nation in points allowed, handing the Buckeyes their only loss. Last year, TCU got beat by Boise State in a BCS bowl game. This time, TCU will lose to Wisconsin 27-20.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Arkansas
I wonder how Ohio State coach Jim Tressel feels about playing another SEC opponent in a BCS bowl, seeing as the Buckeyes are an incredible 0-9 against the SEC in postseason play. What an intriguing game. Ohio State was picked by many at the start of the season to vie for the national championship, and Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor was atop the preseason Heisman Trophy list along with Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet. Not anymore. While Mallet continues to look impressive, Pryor has been inconsistent. Both quarterbacks are big and strong, but their style of play couldn’t be more different. Pryor is a great scrambler, Mallet a pocket passer. The last time Arkansas played a good scrambling quarterback was against Cam Newton and Auburn. The Razorback defense was thumped for 65 points in that game, which accounted for one of their two losses (the other coming against Alabama, the defending national champs). While Pryor is no Newton, he showed Oregon last year in the Rose Bowl Game that he can be explosive.
Prediction: The question isn’t which Pryor will show up against Arkansas, but rather, will it matter? Mallet, who once played for Ohio State’s arch nemesis Michigan before transferring, now plays for one of the greatest offensive geniuses in the game, head coach Bobby Petrino, and this quarterback-coach duo has quit a supporting cast when possessing the ball. Sorry, Tressel. Razorbacks win a thriller, 37-35.
Discover Orange Bowl
Imprinted on the collective conscious of football fans everywhere were Virginia Tech’s back-to-back losses to begin the season. They took one to the chin in a 33-30 fist fight against Boise State, who was ranked third at the time, and then turned around to take a foot in the groin against James Madison. No, not America’s fourth president. I’m talking about the school, and its football team isn’t even good for a Division I-AA team. Don’t look now, but the Hokies are 11-0 since that debacle and quarterback Tyrod Taylor has salvaged the season brilliantly for the ACC champs. But no one wants to play Stanford right now, either. The Cardinals have what is likely to be the NFL’s top draft pick in Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck. He’s completing 70 percent of his passes and coming off a 38-0 thrashing of Oregon State in which the quarterback threw for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Prediction: Like the title game, this is a matchup of East Coast vs. West Coast. It’s a perennial power in Virginia Tech against a rising program in Stanford. It’s the veteran head coach Frank Beamer vs. Stanford’s young, up-and-coming coach Jim Harbaugh. Both teams have a supreme amount of talent, so this one is hard to predict … I’m trying desperately to find a coin to flip … Ah, found one. Stanford wins 24-23.
Photos by John Martinez Pavliga, CrdHwk, Scott Stuart, and UserB via Flickr.