NCF Nation: 2011-Bowl-predictions-2

Pac-12 predictions: Non-BCS bowls

December, 26, 2011
Time to predict the non-BCS Pac-12 bowl games after Christmas. The season record is 67-24.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday, Dec. 28

Texas 24, California 21: Cal finished strong, Texas did not, but we still worry about the Bears. You want to believe. This feels like a defensive struggle, but Texas should have enough offense to win this in the fourth quarter.

Valero Alamo, Dec. 29

Baylor 44, Washington 38: The Huskies' defense might surprise some folks early, and the offense should be able to keep up with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III for a while. Just not for four quarters.

Hyundai Sun, Dec. 31

Utah 20, Georgia Tech 17: The Utes have a good run defense anyway, but extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech's option is a big boost. And the Yellow Jackets aren't terribly strong against the run, which should give the Utes' mostly one-dimensional offense a chance.

Kraft Fight Hunger, Dec. 31

Illinois 20, UCLA 14: Both teams enter amid down circumstances — fired coaches, late-season embarrassment. Both teams have damaging player suspensions/ineligibility. The difference is that, despite everything, Illinois does something well — play defense — and UCLA does not.

SEC predictions: Non-BCS bowls

December, 26, 2011
We’ve picked nearly 100 football games this season, and we’re dead even.

I’m 83-14 for a .856 percentage, and so is my soccer-loving colleague, Edward Aschoff. You know him best as the ATL Kid.

There was a time, not long ago, that he held a three-game lead. Something says you’re already well aware of that given how much he crowed about it.

But that was then, and this is now.

It’s bowl season, meaning it’s time to separate the pretenders from the contenders … and the rookies from the veterans.

Edward has fought the good fight. He’s learned not to pick his alma mater, Florida, every week, and he’s not basing his picks solely on how his Xbox games turn out anymore.

Hey, he’s picked enough games now that he’s no longer a rookie. We don’t use youth as an excuse on the SEC blog like some coaches in this league have been known to do.

We’ll kick off our picks with the non-BCS bowls and will come back in a week or so with our prediction in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

Enough talking, though. It’s showtime:

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Dec. 30)

Mississippi State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)

Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs didn't exactly have the year they expected, as offensive-line injuries and offensive inefficiency doomed them. They also enter this one with quarterback issues. Wake Forest started hot, but lost four of its final five, including a 41-7 defeat to Vanderbilt. Mississippi State's defense surprised most this year and will be the difference. ... Mississippi State 20, Wake Forest 17

Chris Low: Both teams just did squeeze into the postseason, but Wake Forest was really wobbling there at the end. The Deacons' only victories since the second week of October came over Duke and Maryland. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, were playing their best defense when the regular season ended, and that will be the difference in Nashville. … Mississippi State 31, Wake Forest 17

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31)

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)

Edward Aschoff: Vandy enters its first bowl game since 2008 with some nice momentum. James Franklin has turned the Commodores into a pretty tough team with some attitude. It looks like the Bearcats will have starting quarterback Zach Collaros back from his broken ankle, but while Cincinnati won a share of the Big East championship, this Vandy defense will be too jacked up and aggressive for the Bearcats. ... Vanderbilt 27, Cincinnati 21

Chris Low: It looks like Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros will be back for the bowl game after breaking his ankle in November. The Commodores’ defense will be ready no matter who lines up under center, and an improved Vanderbilt offense will make enough big plays to carve out only the third bowl victory in school history. … Vanderbilt 28, Cincinnati 24

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31)

Virginia (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5)

Edward Aschoff: These teams mirrored each other at times this season. Both won close games and were loaded with youth. However, Auburn's youngsters hit the wall at the midpoint of the season, while Virginia almost made the ACC title game. Coach Gene Chizik is now coaching Auburn's very subpar defense and star running back Michael Dyer is suspended. Advantage Cavaliers. ... Virginia 31, Auburn 17

Chris Low: It’s been hectic around the Plains lately. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof left for the same job at UCF, meaning Gene Chizik is running the defense for the time being. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is leaving for the Arkansas State head job after the bowl, and the Tigers’ only consistent offensive threat during the season, sophomore running back Michael Dyer, is suspended. The Cavaliers smell blood in the water, but Chizik loses bowl games about as often as he loses close games. … Auburn 27, Virginia 21 Gator Bowl (Jan. 2)

Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6)

Edward Aschoff: All anyone will be talking about in this one is Urban Meyer ... and he isn't even coaching. His former team (Florida) takes on his future team (Ohio State). Both teams really struggled on offense this season, but the Gators' defense ranks ninth nationally. Florida should be motivated to play the Buckeyes, but even with a new man calling the offensive shots, nothing tells us the offense will look any different. ... Ohio State 20, Florida 13

Chris Low: There’s no truth to the rumor that Urban Meyer will conduct the coin toss. In fact, he’s not even supposed to be at the game. He will be in spirit, though. Both teams have had forgettable seasons, although the Gators’ defense deserved better. At the end of the day, it’s Ohio State vs. an SEC team in a bowl game, and we all know how that movie ends. … Florida 21, Ohio State 17

Outback Bowl (Jan. 2)

Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3)

Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs were one of the hottest teams in the country before getting blasted by LSU in the SEC championship game. Michigan State was also a victory away from the Rose Bowl. Both sport top-five defenses and fun offenses. This one could be one of the top bowl games of the year and should come down to the very end with Georgia squeaking by. ... Georgia 27, Michigan State 24

Chris Low: If you like rock-solid defense, this is your game. Georgia is ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense, Michigan State No. 5. The question is: Which offense can find a way to move the ball and score some points? The Spartans averaged 38.6 points over their final five games, and the Kirk Cousins-to-B.J. Cunningham connection was lethal. But Aaron Murray has an array of targets and will use them all in this game. … Georgia 30, Michigan State 21

Capital One Bowl (Jan. 2)

Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)

Edward Aschoff: The Gamecocks haven't been very good in bowl games, losing three straight. While Nebraska had its own bowl issues last year, barely showing up in the Holiday Bowl. Both teams really know how to run the ball, but South Carolina's defense has fed on offenses for most of the year. With all those athletes up front, the Gamecocks will end their postseason woes against the Huskers. ... South Carolina 27, Nebraska 20

Chris Low: It’s always risky to pick the Gamecocks in a bowl game, especially when you consider that they’ve lost their past three and didn’t come close to playing a decent game in any of the three. But the Head Ball Coach is doing things at South Carolina that have never been done before, and he has a defense that’s capable of dominating games. The Gamecocks will find a way to grind it out and accomplish another first – winning 11 games in a season. … South Carolina 24, Nebraska 20

AT&T Cotton Bowl (Jan. 6)

Kansas State (10-2) vs. Arkansas (10-2)

Edward Aschoff: Both of these squads looked BCS-worthy, but didn't make it to the party. Still, this game should have people glued to their TV sets. The Razorbacks and the Wildcats know how to move the ball, while their defenses had a lot of bend in them this year. There shouldn't be any shortage of points, but if this one turns into a shootout, Arkansas is better equipped when it comes to talent. ... Arkansas 34, Kansas State 28

Chris Low: Both of these teams feel like they should be playing in a BCS bowl game, although it doesn’t get much better than Cowboys Stadium and the Cotton Bowl. The Hogs’ big problem this season was that they happened to be in the same division as Alabama and LSU. Kansas State was one of the surprise stories of the college football season, but the Wildcats won’t be able to keep up with the Hogs. … Arkansas 38, Kansas State 24

Champs Sports Bowl prediction

December, 26, 2011
We'll break this down further in the Notre Dame blog as the game gets closer, but for now an Irish team close to full strength enters Florida under much more stability than the Sunshine State's inhabitants, Florida State.

The Seminoles hold the defensive and special-teams edges but are dealing with the likely loss of three players due to academic and legal issues. Expect both front sevens to make life difficult for the opposing offensive lines, but big plays from Tyler Eifert and Michael Floyd will prove to be the difference for an Irish team that makes fewer mistakes and notches a ninth win for the first time in five years. … Notre Dame 21, Florida State 13
Big Ten bowl season finally arrives this week, and that means it's time for us to make our predictions.

Today, we'll offer our picks in the eight non-BCS games involving Big Ten teams (our Rose Bowl and Allstate Sugar Bowl selections will arrive in the near future).

Brian Bennett holds a slim one-game lead over Adam Rittenberg from the regular-season and Big Ten championship game predictions. But as always, glory is won in the postseason. Who says bowls don't matter?

On to our picks ...

Little Caesars Bowl


Adam Rittenberg: Purdue should be geared up for its first bowl appearance since 2007, but I don't like the vibe around the Boilers, who have had several off-field incidents and will be without leading tackler Dwayne Beckford (suspended) and top rusher Ralph Bolden (injured). Western Michigan can put up a ton of points, and I don't think the Boilers will quite keep up. ... Western Michigan 31, Purdue 27.

Brian Bennett: If Purdue follows its win-loss pattern this season, then it must lose this game. But the Boilermakers simply have to be able to beat a MAC team if they want to build any kind of momentum in this program for Danny Hope. Even without Ralph Bolden, Purdue has a huge edge in the running game. The Boilers' season ends the only way it really could: with a blocked kick to seal a victory ... Purdue 34, Western Michigan 33.

Insight Bowl

No. 14 OKLAHOMA vs. IOWA (Dec. 30)

Brian Bennett: I don't know how motivated the injury-ravaged Sooners will be, and the Hawkeyes have been really good in bowl games under Kirk Ferentz. But the loss of Marcus Coker is too much to overcome in an already difficult matchup for Iowa. Oklahoma picks off James Vandenberg twice and holds on. ... Oklahoma 27, Iowa 20.

Adam Rittenberg: Without Coker, Iowa needs to hope Oklahoma has a letdown in Tempe. The Sooners have advantages at too many positions. While the Hawkeyes' defense will fight hard for retiring coordinator Norm Parker, Oklahoma has too much firepower for a unit that hasn't slowed down many teams. Vandenberg will play well at times, but the Sooners prevail. ... Oklahoma 31, Iowa 24.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas


Adam Rittenberg: Texas A&M is the better team here, but the Aggies have more than a few distractions following a very disappointing season. Dan Persa will have a huge game in his final performance for the Wildcats. But my lack of faith in Northwestern's defense prevents me from picking the upset. The unit hasn't developed much at all and never comes through in the clutch. A&M has too many weapons and pulls away before a partisan crowd. ... Texas A&M 42, Northwestern 31.

Brian Bennett: Tough call here between an Aggies team that collapsed all season long and a Northwestern program that hasn't won a bowl game since the Truman administration. I agree with Adam that the Wildcats' defense is going to have a tough time, especially without senior cornerback Jordan Mabin. Playing a virtual home game and perhaps motivated to perform after the tragic death of offensive lineman Joseph Villavisencio, A&M guts this one out. ... Texas A&M 35, Northwestern 31.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

UCLA vs. ILLINOIS (Dec. 31)

Brian Bennett: First one to 10 points wins. Or team that doesn't jump over the right-field wall at AT&T Park gets the trophy. There aren't two bowl teams with less momentum than the Bruins and the Illini. But one unit I know will show up is the Illinois defense, which has been strong all season and should be motivated to play for Vic Koenning in his final game as interim head coach. Whitney Mercilus cements his national sack title with two quarterback takedowns, and the Illinois offense figures out how to reach the end zone a couple of times. ... Illinois 17, UCLA 9.

Adam Rittenberg: Both of these teams are in various states of flux, and I'm leery picking Illinois to win for the first time since Oct. 8. But as you point out, the best single unit in this game is Illinois' defense, which has played well all season. Mercilus, Jonathan Brown and the Illini win one for Vic and Nathan Scheelhaase scores a late touchdown as the Illini win an ugly one. ... Illinois 14, UCLA 10.

TicketCity Bowl

No. 19 HOUSTON vs. No. 22 PENN STATE (Jan. 2)

Adam Rittenberg: This should be a fascinating game, if nothing else. I really think if Penn State shows up to play, the Lions will win. But it's more than fair to ask whether Penn State's entire squad will be motivated or not. The Lions' defense is better than what Houston has faced all season, and while Case Keenum will make plays, Devon Still will be in his face. Houston showed no interest in stopping the run in the C-USA title game, and a healthy Silas Redd goes for 200-plus as Penn State ends an odd season with a win. ... Penn State 28, Houston 24.

Brian Bennett: Hardest game on the board to call, because of Penn State's state of mind. And don't forget that Houston has a new coach, too. You've got the nation's No. 1 scoring offense vs. the No. 5 scoring defense. In a bubble, I'd usually choose the dominant defense over the high-scoring offense. But there are too many other factors at play here, and I think once Keenum throws a couple of early touchdowns, the Nittany Lions will deflate. ... Houston 31, Penn State 24.

Outback Bowl

No. 16 GEORGIA vs. No. 17 MICHIGAN STATE (Jan. 2)

Brian Bennett: Assuming both teams have shaken off their conference title-game defeats, this is an outstanding matchup. You've got two of the best defenses in the country and two terrific quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins and Aaron Murray. Michigan State was awful against an SEC team in Florida last year, but I think this year will be a different story. The Spartans have a more varied offense than Georgia, which benefited from a weak SEC East this year. It's a grinder, but a key special teams play from Keshawn Martin makes the difference. ... Michigan State 17, Georgia 14.

Adam Rittenberg: Michigan State's time has come, and while the Spartans must shake off the sting of the Big Ten title-game loss, they have no excuses not to be geared up by Jan. 2. Mark Dantonio's squad ended the season playing really, really good football, and I also envision a strong performance from Pat Narduzzi's defense. Georgia's D is formidable, too, but Michigan State will use the quick-passing game it showcased against Wisconsin as Martin and B.J. Cunningham find room to roam. Kirk Cousins hits Cunningham for the game-winning score in the final minute. ... Michigan State 21, Georgia 20.

Capital One Bowl

No. 9 SOUTH CAROLINA vs. No. 20 NEBRASKA (Jan. 2)

Adam Rittenberg: Another tough game to call. Nebraska's offensive line will face arguably its biggest challenge of the season with South Carolina's defensive ends. If Nebraska's defense performs as it did against Michigan State and Iowa, the Huskers have a great chance. Ultimately, South Carolina makes a few more plays and capitalizes on a second-half turnover to win. ... South Carolina 24, Nebraska 21.

Brian Bennett: Can Nebraska run the ball effectively against the Gamecocks? That's my biggest question here. If it comes down to the Huskers needing Taylor Martinez to pass the ball down the field, that could spell big trouble for Big Red. I think Nebraska will find some success with Rex Burkhead between the tackles, but not as much on the perimeter against a fast SEC defense. South Carolina's offense is nothing special, and Steve Spurrier's team has been pretty dismal in bowls. But the Head Ball Coach's defense is the best unit on the field and will make enough plays for the win. ... South Carolina 20, Nebraska 17. Gator Bowl


Brian Bennett: It's the World's Largest Outdoor Urban Mixer. It's also Ohio State's last chance to win a bowl game until at least Dec. 2013. So the Buckeyes had better give this one all they have. Some underclassmen might be bummed about the NCAA's bowl ban, but I see this as the perfect us-against-the-world rallying cry for Luke Fickell. Braxton Miller gives fans reason to daydream all offseason with another star turn, and Dan Herron and DeVier Posey try their best to make up for their contributions to the bowl ban by leading the charge to victory. ... Ohio State 24, Florida 23.

Adam Rittenberg: Even though Ohio State made a head-coaching change, the bowl practices should really benefit the players, especially the young guys on defense. Miller looked like a special player against Michigan, and if given the chance, he and Posey can make some big plays in this game. Florida is without offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, and the Gators' attack leaves much to be desired. I also agree Ohio State players will be motivated for their final taste of postseason play until 2013. ... Ohio State 21, Florida 17.


Brian Bennett: 73-25 (.745)

Adam Rittenberg: 72-26 (.735)