Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bowl Season Predictions, Part 8

Saturday is a busy, busy day in the Silly Season of college football bowls. There are five games on tap with all but one airing on ESPN. (The other is on ESPN2.)

 At 11:45 AM the Armed Forces Bowl kicks off in Fort Worth, Texas. The Rice Owls (6-6) will face the Falcons of Air Force (6-6).
This will be the first appearance in a bowl game for the Rice Owls since 2008. They may be only a .500 team at 6-6 but they got there with lots of momentum. The Owls lost five of their first six games but turned things around to win five of their last six. During their four game win streak in that stretch, the Owls averaged 40.5 points and 432.0 yards offense per game. For the season, Rice’s rushing offense is ranked 30th in the nation with 201.3 ypg.

Air Force has an even better rushing attack. Ranked #2 in the nation with 328.8 ypg, Rice is going to have a tough time stopping the run. Fortunately—and ironically—Air Force is terrible in the air. This season, the Falcons gained an average of just 107.2 ypg passing. That put them at 116th in the nation. Air Frce does have the better pass defense (28th in the nation giving up 204.1 ypg), but their rush defense is pretty poor (96th in the nation yielding 198 ypg).

So we’ve got two teams that can run the ball pretty well but have difficulty stopping the run. The game may be played in Rice’s backyard, but Air Force is a 3 point favorite. My pick: Air Force.


The Pin Stripe Bowl will be played in the Bronx (NYC for those who don’t know) at 3:15 PM. The West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5) square off against the Orange of Syracuse (7-5). The game will be played outside at Yankee Stadium. And the forecast is for snow. Weather could be a factor in this one.

West Virginia started the year 5-0 and averaging 52 points a game. They reached #5 in the rankings before crashing as they entered play in the Big 12. One thing that didn’t change was the throwing of Geno Smith. Smith threw for just over 4000 yards and completed 40 TD passes this year.  The Mountaineers passing offense is ranked 6th in the nation (340.9 ypg) and they’re not bad running the ball either (47th in the nation with 177.6 ypg). Stedman bailey is Smith’s favorite target (106 catches for 1501 yards and 23 TDs). No, West Virginia’s problems are not on the offensive side of the ball. Defense—particularly pass defense—is their Achilles’ heel. The Mountaineers are 117th in the nation on pass defense yielding 327.1 ypg.

Syracuse was a team of mystery this year. Perhaps the most appropriate descriptive would be “inconsistent.” At times, the combination of QB Ryan Nassib (3619 yards and 24 TDs) and WR Alec Lemon (1-63 yards and 7 TDs receiving) have looked unstoppable. Jerome Smith rushed for over 1000 yards added balance. Then, things would fall apart. Nassib tossed 9 INTs many of which seemed to come at the worst possible time. Luckily, the Orange are on a roll. They finished the season with three consecutive wins.

Under ideal conditions, this could be a high scoring game. As mentioned, however, snow is in the forecast so things won’t be ideal. WVU is favored by 3.5 points but I believe the Syracuse Orange will pull off the upset.


ESPN2 will air the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at 4:00 PM in San Francisco with the Midshipmen of Navy (7-4) face the Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5).

Navy has the nation’s #6 rushing offense (275.6 ypg) and the 34th passing defense. Yet, the Midshipmen do not have a 1000 yard rusher. They started the season with losses to Notre Dame and Penn State before getting their legs under them and going 8-2 the rest of the way.

The Sun Devils are 44th in the nation rushing (258.5 ypg) and 39th in rushing (190.8 ypg). Their passing defense is 12th in the nation (178.8 ypg) but only 75th against the rush (172.0 ypg).  Arizona State started the season 5-1 before dropping four consecutive games (to Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, and USC). They finished with wins over Washington State and Arizona.

Arizona is favored by 14. It’s in San Francisco in the winter. Some rain (naturally) is forecast early. Will it make things a bit slick? Maybe.  I still see ASU stopping Navy just often enough.


At 6:45 PM, the Texas Longhorns (8-4) will face the Oregon State Beavers (9-3) in the Alamo bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
The Longhorns are 38th in the nation in pass offense, 49th in rushing offense, and 37th in pass defense. BUT they are 98th in rushing defense. That might turn out pretty good for Texas. Oregon State is 15th in passing offense but just 100th in rushing offense.  The Beavers are 44th against the pass and 29th against the run. WR Mike Davis has 54 catches for 909 yards and 7 TDs. Running Back Joe Bergeron has scored 16 rushing touchdowns.

Texas enjoyed two four-game win streaks this season and suffered two two-game losing streaks. They played like Jekyll and Hyde. Unfortunately, they ended the season with one of those losing streaks.  The Beavers started the season 6-0 before going just 3-3 to end the season. However, their losses were to Washington, Stanford, and Oregon.

Sean Mannion started the season as QB for the Beavers and completed 64.7 % of his passes for 2446 yards and 15 TDs but also tossed 13 INTs. He suffered an injury mid season and played in just nine games before and after his injury. Mannion was replaced by junior Cody Vaz who has thrown for 1286 yards, 11 TDs and just one INT in six games. Vaz will be at the helm in the Alamo Bowl. No matter who the QB is, you can expect WR Markus Wheaton will play a big part. He has 88 receptions for 1207 yards and 11 touchdowns. (He also scored two on the ground.)

Even though this game is being played in the state of Texas, Oregon State is favored by 3-1/2 points and should more than cover.


The final game of the day, starting around 10:15 PM is the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. The Horned Frogs of TCU (7-5) play the Spartans of Michigan State (6-6).

TCU started the season 4-0 with junior Casey Pachall as quarterback. Pachall was arrest for a DUI on October 4th and dropped out of school and into an inpatient program. His replacement was freshman Trevone Boykin who looked shaky at times but finished the year with 15 TD passes and nine INTs. He also rushed for 380 yards. The extra practices will certainly help.

Michigan State has yielded just five rushing touchdowns (tied for second in the nation).  Their defense is ranked 4th in the nation overall. Their weakness has been their offense. They are 72nd in passing and 73rd rushing. They’ve lost a lot of close games and won a few by stopping some high powered offenses.  As a result, the Spartans are 2-1/2 point favorites. My pick: The Horned Frogs of TCU will pull off the upset.

No comments: