The new year is almost upon us, and college football fans will be rewarded with a better New Year’s Eve bowl slate than ever before. That’s because now that the playoff has been instituted, some games that were not played until days later will be played prior to the year’s end. Those games include the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl, each which took place on New Year’s or later. Now, they will take place right after the Peach Bowl, which used to be the final game of each calendar year.
As far as my picks go, they were better than my futile attempt to create a pre-New Year’s bowl article. The article went in flames, but here were my picks for the past few days:
Autozone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M 34, West Virginia 28. Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma 35, #17 Clemson 20. Advocare V100 Bowl: Arkansas 27, Texas 17. Music City Bowl (sponsor name too big to mention wholeheartedly) Notre Dame 24, LSU 28. Belk Bowl: Georgia 27, Louisville 21. Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland 20, Stanford 28.
I went 4-2 in those picks, which, following my 3-2 mark for Saturday, made my 2014 bowl record 17-7. That’s not great, but I’ll take it. Hopefully, things get better, now that the big games are finally on the horizon.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (12:30/11:30c, ESPN)
(9) Ole Miss Rebels (9-3) vs. (6) TCU Horned Frogs (13-0)
Line: TCU by 3. O/U: 56.
The first game of the day pits two teams that were pretty damn good all season long. Heck, Ole Miss destroyed rival Mississippi State’s hopes of making it into the playoff, while TCU was expected to get in! Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, their lone loss came to the team that cancelled them out, and Ohio State’s dominant victory over Wisconsin propelled the Buckeyes into the playoff, catapulting the Frogs out.
Not only that, but TCU’s dual threat quarterback Trevon Boykin (3,714 passing yards, 642 rush yards, 38 total touchdowns) was snubbed of a Heisman invite. He has not thrown more than a single interception in any game, and leads a truly potent offense. They are second in the nation in scoring offense (46.8 scored per game), and despite allowing 61 against Baylor in their 61-58 loss, are in the top 20 in scoring defense (20.3 allowed per game).
Take in the amount of points TCU scores, compared to how many they allow, and that’s how I see this game going. While Ole Miss has won some big games (beat #1 Alabama 23-17, then #4 Mississippi State 31-17), they have not faced a team as potent as this. This is a team that has occasionally sputtered on offense, is without top receiver Laquon Treadwell, and, despite boasting the best scoring defense in the FBS (13.8 points allowed per game), will be facing one of college football’s finest. I believe Bo Wallace will do his best to keep up, but his team will flounder sooner than later. Prediction: Ole Miss 17, TCU 38.
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl (3/2c, ESPN)
(21) Boise State Broncos (11-2) vs. (12) Arizona Wildcats (10-3)
Line: Arizona by 3. O/U: 67.5.
For the first time in 19 years, the Fiesta Bowl will have a new sponsor. And if the game live up to the power of these two offenses, the first bowl ever sponsored by VIZIO could be quite an epic one. The game has featured some blowouts over the years, but lately, it’s been a high-scoring bonanza. Since 2003, three of teh games have gone to overtime, and only three have been decided by more than ten points. I expect this game to be just as good.
Arizona comes into the game with by far its biggest deflation of the season. After defeating teams like (2) Oregon and then (6) Arizona State, the team made its way to the PAC-12 Championship game. They may have beaten Oregon the first time, but on that December 12th evening, they were in over their head, losing 51-13 in the end.
Still, the team is loaded with talent. Offensively, freshman quarterback Anu Solomon (3,458 yards, 27 touchdowns, seven interceptions) and running back Nick Wilson (1,289 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns) have been great, and are loaded with potential.
Defensively, Scooby Wright III might just be the best defensive player in all of college football. He won the Nagurski, Bednarik and Lombardi awards, as well as SB Nation and CBS Sports Defensive Player of the Year honors. For the season, he amassed 153 tackles, 14 sacks, and six forced fumbles. Were he not a sophomore, he’d be going pro after this game.
As for the Broncos, the reigning MOuntain West Champions earned their spot in the game by being the highest-ranked team from a non-power conference. They can thank Western Kentucky for beating Marshall, but they paved their way to this point. Led by Jay Ajayi (1,689 rushing yards, 25 touchdowns) and dual threat quarterback Grant Hedrick (3,387 passing yards, 563 rushing yards, 30 total touchdown), the team has beaten every opponent besides Ole Miss and Air Force.
As good as the Broncos have been, that final line bothers me. The Broncos have not beaten any notable teams, and while they are potent, they mustered up just 27 combined points in those two losses. However, unlike Arizona, they have been in this game before. On each of those three occasions, they won the game. So, against my better judgement, I’m going with them for the upset. Prediction: Boise State 31, Arizona 27.
Capital One Orange Bowl (8/7c, ESPN)
(7) Mississippi State Bulldogs (10-2) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-3)
Line: Mississippi by 6. O/U: 61
Anyone out there a fan of running games? If so, this game is a must watch.
Mississippi State possesses one of the best running quarterbacks in college football in Dak Prescott (2,996 passing yards, 939 rushing yards, 37 total touchdowns), and has a good running back to boot, in Josh Robinson (1,128 yards, 11 touchdowns). They match up for the 20th ranked rushing attack in the nation.
However, Georgia Tech scoffs at such tepid rushing totals. Best known for arguably the top rushing attack every year, the Yellow Jackets have run for over 4,300 yards this season, three runners that have surpassed 750 rushing yards on the year, and ten players who have scored at least one of the team’s 41 rushing touchdowns on the year. They also have a major deep threat in receiver Deandre Smelter (35 catches, 715 yards, seven touchdowns).
In the end, it will come down to what Dak Prescott can do for the Bulldogs. If he and Robinson can control the clock and put up points, they will win this game. If not, the Yellow Jackets will consume as much time as they possibly can, and will pull away with the victory. I see the former happening, in a close, tight game. Prescott will show up, play hard, and lead his team in a thriller. Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Georgia Tech 27.