Wednesday, December 11, 2013
First impressions: Pac-12's bowl slate
By Kevin Gemmell
Now that the Pac-12’s bowl schedule is official and we’ve had a couple of days to let it sink in, it’s time to share our first impressions. We’ll be discussion each bowl game throughout the coming 12 days -- in chats, in mailbags and through stories. And we’ve already started it with the bowl primer series.
Here’s bowl lineup followed by the the gut reactions from your Pac-12 bloggers.
Rose Bowl game presented by VIZIO: Stanford vs. Michigan State
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Texas
National University Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl: UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: USC vs. Fresno State
Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington vs. BYU
Gildan New Mexico: Washington State vs. Colorado State
Sheraton Hawaii: Oregon State vs. Boise State
AdvoCare V100: Arizona vs. Boston College
Ted Miller’s first impressions
Stanford's OL is physical, but it'll get a huge test from a rugged Michigan State defense led by DE Shilique Calhoun (center) and LB Max Bullough (right).
Best game: The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio pitting Stanford against Michigan State -- two top-five teams -- is the second best bowl game behind the national title matchup. It features two of the nation's best defenses, and it will be interesting to see what the nation's best offensive line -- Stanford -- does against a rugged Spartans front seven. Further, this is a traditional matchup of the Pac-12 and Big Ten with both conferences send their champion to the game. Very old school.
Worst game: It's great that Washington State is playing in its first bowl game since 2003, but Colorado State is a lackluster foe. The Rams, who lost to Colorado by two touchdowns, have no quality wins. Washington State beat USC, Utah and Arizona. Mike Leach and the Cougars should roll, and it will be pretty embarrassing for the Cougs and Pac-12 if they don't.
Sneaky good game: It will be interesting to see how USC reacts in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against Fresno State and QB Derek Carr. It's obvious the players were unhappy interim coach Ed Orgeron didn't get the full-time job. Will the Trojans turn in an uninterested performance, as they did in last year's Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech? Or will they play inspired football? The Bulldogs are a good football team, particularly on offense. If the Trojans don't show up, they could get embarrassed. If they do, this could be a good game.
The bowl season will be a success if: The Pac-12 is now favored in all nine games -- Oregon State started out as an underdog to Boise State but is now favored. That means 9-0 is a reasonable expectation. The only ranked foes are Michigan State and Fresno State. Anything less than 6-3 would be embarrassing for the conference. Gloating would only start at 7-2, and only then if Stanford wins the Rose Bowl.
Kevin Gemmell’s first impressions
Best game: Everything Ted says is spot-on. Outside of the national championship game -- which is the must-watch game simply by default -- I think the Rose Bowl offers some of the best storylines of the bowl season. This is the sort of matchup the Rose Bowl committee wanted for its 100th game. It’s going to be smash-mouth through and through -- may the toughest line win. Rumor has it extra ice packs are already being shipped into Pasadena.
Worst game: Like Ted, I agree Washington State should roll in that game. But I’m also intrigued by the WSU defense front against Kapri Bibbs and his 28 rushing touchdowns. But in terms of actual quality of opponent, I’d be shocked if this year’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl is anything like last year’s (yes, Arizona fans, that was still my favorite bowl game).
Sneaky good game: I see a lot of intrigue in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and Oregon State’s showdown with the now Chris Petersen-less Boise State Broncos. The Pac-12 has owned the Mountain West this year. The Beavers have the capability to be an extremely explosive offense. But in the middle of a five-game losing streak, you never know what to expect. By the way, the Pac-12 blog isn’t always right, but at least one of us saw this coming back in May. Motivation is always a huge factor in bowl games. What is Boise State’s? What can they do with a skeleton coaching staff? If both teams come to play, this could be one of the most thrilling games of the postseason.
The bowl season will be a success if: I think 6-3 is the tipping point also. One must recall the Pac-12 was favored in seven of eight games last year. Then Alex Okafor met Cody Vaz 4.5 times, UCLA’s offensive line succumbed to injury, Boise State got a phantom first down and Georgia Tech provided the final scoop on USC’s manure sundae of a season. Despite having just one team in a BCS bowl game, the Pac-12 has a ton of momentum right now after posting impressive nonconference numbers in 2013. That has to continue to keep the national perception of the league lofty. Stanford also has to win, plain and simple. If Oregon State loses to Boise State, it won’t be viewed as a national coup. But, without question, you have to win your BCS bowl game.