Going Bowling: Predictions for All 35 Bowl Games

With Gus Malzahn running the show on the Plains now, many Auburn fans are looking forward to what the 2013 football season holds. I am among these people.

However, before we can reach that point, there are 35 more FBS games to be played. Obviously, none of them include Auburn (which is why Gus Malzahn is the new coach in the first place). Still, there are plenty of great games on tap over the next month. Nine SEC teams are in bowls, and they are all favored to win.

Here are my predictions for every game of bowl season:

New Mexico Bowl: Arizona vs. Nevada

Rich Rodriguez has had a successful first season with the Arizona Wildcats, guiding them from a losing record to multiple appearances in the BCS rankings. Nevada has, as usual, put together a successful season, including a season-opening win at California. This game will be close, but potential 2013 Heisman contender Ka’Deem Carey will run for multiple touchdowns and lead the Wildcats to a win. Arizona 35, Nevada 28

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: #22 Utah State vs. Toledo

Utah State has quickly shown that their near-upset of Auburn one game removed from a national title was no fluke. That Aggie team went to a bowl, and this Aggie team has had one of the best seasons in school history. The Aggies are 10-2 and ranked 22nd in the BCS standings. Their two losses were at Big Ten champion Wisconsin and at BYU by a combined score of 22-17. Toledo, meanwhile, is one of the best teams in the MAC. MACtion has been in full throttle this year, but Utah State will win this game in a wild thriller that will make Twitter explode. Utah State 44, Toledo 39

Poinsettia Bowl: BYU vs. San Diego State

BYU’s defense is one of the best in the country, so even matched up against a consistent San Diego State team, BYU will win a close, defensive game. BYU 17, San Diego State 13

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: Ball State vs. Central Florida

Conventional wisdom to the average college football fan would say to take UCF, but Ball State has quietly had one of the most surprisingly good seasons in college football. With a win in Tampa, the Cardinals will up their record to 10-3. Impressive. Ball State 31, UCF 24

New Orleans Bowl: East Carolina vs. UL-Lafayette

With the Texas Tech job opening up, ECU fans are nervous that head coach and former TTU offensive coordinator Ruffin McNeal will bolt to Lubbock before the game comes around. ECU is greatly improved from a year ago. UL-Lafeyette, meanwhile, has had a 2nd straight successful season. The Ragin’ Cajuns outplayed Florida in the Swamp but lost to the #3 Gators on a touchdown with 2 seconds left. UL-Lafeyette is in their second straight New Orleans Bowl, and once again, home-field will propel them to a win. UL-Lafayette 37, East Carolina 34

Las Vegas Bowl: Washington vs. #19 Boise State

Boise State has put together another great year, going 10-2. The Broncos lost very close games against Michigan State and San Diego State. The Broncos’ defense has been fantastic this season. Washington has been a disappointment. The schedule was tough, but the offense sputtered and a disappointing Apple Cup loss to Washington State has left a sour taste in the Huskies’ mouth. Boise State’s defense puts on a show in Vegas. Boise State 16, Washington 3

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. SMU

SMU returns to the site of their glorious 45-10 bowl win a few years ago, but this time, a tough Fresno State team stands in their way. The Mustangs have rallied from a disappointing start, while the Bulldogs have had a lot of success this season. SMU’s defense will struggle against the Bulldogs’ offense. Fresno State 45, SMU 27

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan

WKU made a splash in CFB when they replaced USF-bound Willie Taggert with Bobby Petrino, who many thought would be a top candidate at Auburn. WKU has been solid all year, and Central Michigan has no wins against a team with a winning record. This one will get ugly quickly. Western Kentucky 41, Central Michigan 17

Military Bowl: #24 San Jose State vs. Bowling Green

The Spartans of SJSU have had a great 2012 campaign, going 10-2, cracking the BCS Top 25, beating Louisiana Tech and barely falling to Pac-12 champion Stanford, one of the nation’s best teams. Bowling Green, like a lot of the MAC, has had an under-the-radar successful season. SJSU just lost their head coach to Colorado, however, so I think this game features an upset. MACtion, baby. Bowling Green 42, San Jose State 38

Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Duke

For the first time in well over a decade, the Blue Devils are in a bowl game! They’ll face one of the better teams of the Big East, the Cincinnati Bearcats, who just lost their head coach to Tennessee. I like the Blue Devils in this one. Duke 38, Cincinnati 34

Holiday Bowl: #17 UCLA vs. Baylor

The UCLA Bruins have been one of the nation’s biggest surprises, rising from a 6-win season in 2011 to the Pac-12 title game this year. Baylor started the post-RGIII era just 4-5, but wins over #1 Kansas State, Texas Tech and #23 Oklahoma State have given Baylor tons of momentum headed into bowl season. However, UCLA has a home-field edge and their offense shouldn’t face too much resistance from the Baylor defense (even though their defense has been playing well the past few games). UCLA 49, Baylor 38

Independence Bowl: Ohio vs. UL-Monroe

Both of these programs achieved big upsets early in the season. The Ohio Bobcats took down Penn State in the season opener, while UL-Monroe upset #8 Arkansas in week two. The Warhawks and Bobcats should make for an entertaining game, but I give the edge to the team with home-field advantage. UL-Monroe 35, Ohio 27

Russell Athletic Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Rutgers

Rutgers is still stinging from their loss to Louisville that could have sent them to the Sugar Bowl. Instead, they get Frank Beamer’s worst team in years, the 6-6 Virginia Tech Hokies. Despite the fact Rutgers has three more wins than VT does, I like the Hokies to win. Virginia Tech 20, Rutgers 17

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Minnesota vs. Texas Tech

Texas Tech may not have a coach right now. Sure, Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati. But Minnesota isn’t exactly the New England Patriots. The only way Texas Tech doesn’t win is if they drastically play below their capablities. Texas Tech 56, Minnesota 14

Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. Rice

Rice has rebounded nicely since their early loss to UCLA, going 6-5 since. But they don’t have the horses to match up with an Air Force squad that’s always good. Air Force 31, Rice 16

Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia vs. Syracuse

The fact that the Pinstripe Bowl turned down the prospect of “West Virginia vs. Pitt at Yankee Stadium” is maddening. But anyways, oth of these offenses are explosive and neither team is fond of defense, so first team to 50 wins. West Virginia 54, Syracuse 49

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Navy vs. Arizona State

Navy’s had a surprisingly good season, but stopping the Sun Devils is a tough task. Todd Graham has this team playing really well in his first year on the job. Arizona State 41, Navy 24

GoDaddy.com Bowl: #25 Kent State vs. Arkansas State 

The Golden Flashes have soared this season, going 11-2 and falling short of the Orange Bowl in OT in the MAC title game. Arkansas State will be without new Auburn head man Gus Malzahn and other staff members, but the talent is there, and the home-field advantage pretty much belongs to the Red Wolves. Arkansas State 30, Kent State 27

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU vs. Michigan State

Michigan State was considered the best team in the conference in the pre-season, but have slipped to 6-6 on the season. TCU’s had some trouble in their first Big 12 season, going 7-5. Both teams play good defense, so expect scoring to be at a premium in the desert. TCU 13, Michigan State 10

Liberty Bowl: Tulsa vs. Iowa State

These two teams played in week one in Ames, the the Cyclones won. Tulsa has had an impressive run since then, while Iowa State has had a rough go-around in the Big 12. I like the Golden Hurricane in the rematch. Tulsa 27, Iowa State 21

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Purdue

Oklahoma State has an explosive offense. Purdue struggled and fired their head coach. Doesn’t take deep analysis to predict a winner here. Oklahoma State 55, Purdue 14

Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. USC

I tried to tell people in the preseason USC was drastically overrated, but even I couldn’t see them falling this far. Lane Kiffin proved how bad he is at coaching, and he will prove it again in El Paso. This Trojan team won’t even want to be in this game, while Georgia Tech will be happy to be in a bowl after some of their struggles this year. Barkley has a huge day, but so does the Yellow Jacket ground game. Georgia Tech 45, USC 42

Alamo Bowl: #13 Oregon State vs. #23 Texas

Oregon State gave their fans a show this year, going from 3-9 to 9-3. They’re solid across the board. Texas has underperformed Texas standards yet again. I have no clue how they’re in the top 25. Oregon State 24, Texas 17

BBVA Compass Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Pitt

The Rebels and Panthers have both found success under first-year head coaches, but I think Ole Miss is a far superior team to the Panthers. Hugh Freeze has this program headed in the right direction. Ole Miss 24, Pitt 7

Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. NC State

Vanderbilt was one of the better surprises of 2012, building on 2011 success by going 8-4 and earning a bowl bid. NC State fired head coach Tom O’Brien, and James Franklin is a great coach. Give me the ‘Dores in this game. Vanderbilt 34, NC State 17

Gator Bowl: #20 Northwestern vs. Mississippi State

Remember when Mississippi State was 7-0 and ranked #11? That fell by the wayside when they got blown out by Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss. Northwestern, meanwhile, has continued to improve under Pat Fitzgerald, one of the most underappreciated coaches in the nation. I say the Wildcats snap their long bowl losing streak and finish 10-3. Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 27

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: #8 LSU vs. #14 Clemson

This is one of the most exciting games of the bowl season. The battle of the Death Vallies. LSU is a big favorite due to SEC appeal, recent success and the tendency of Clemson to struggle in big games. The Bayou Bengals play great defense and the offense has been playing well in the last month. However, Clemson has the ACC’s best offense and a defense that can force turnovers. In an upset, I like the Clemson Tigers to get one of the biggest wins of the Dabo Swinney era. This is going to be a fantastic game with a great finish. Clemson 28, LSU 24

Outback Bowl: #10 South Carolina vs. #18 Michigan

South Carolina, while happy with a 10-2 season, has to be disappointed about missing out on the BCS. The Gamecocks had the game won in Baton Rouge but got sloppy and made mental mistakes. The same mistakes cost the Gamecocks against Florida. However, the Gamecocks are still a great team with the SEC’s most dominant defensive line. Michigan is just 8-4, but their losses are to Alabama (who is playing for the title), Notre Dame (Alabama’s opponent for the title), Nebraska and Ohio State (who finished the year 12-0). However, South Carolina is just as good as some of those teams, if not better. South Carolina 17, Michigan 9

Capital One Bowl: #7 Georgia vs. #16 Nebraska

The BCS system once again had its flaws exposed, as Georgia wasn’t allowed to go to a BCS bowl. Instead, they’ll get to roll over a Nebraska team that got embarrassed by Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. Nebraska will actually put up a fight, but Georgia’s too tough. Georgia 38, Nebraska 20

Cotton Bowl: #9 Texas A&M vs. #11 Oklahoma

Two old Big 12 rivals will face of in Cowboys Stadium. Oklahoma claimed a share of the Big 12 title this season. Texas A&M burst onto the SEC scene, going 10-2. The Aggies are led by Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. While I think this game will actually be much more low-scoring than many expect, I think A&M will be too much. The Aggies might be preseason #1 next year. Texas A&M 24, Oklahoma 17

Rose Bowl: #6 Stanford vs. Wisconsin

The Badgers were disappointing in the regular season, going just 7-5, and lost their coach to Arkansas, but they still won the Big Ten title game by a final score of 70-31 and will be led by Barry Alvarez in this game. However, Stanford is one of the nation’s best teams. Wisconsin won’t be able to hang around with the Cardinal for four quarters. This will be Wisconsin’s 3rd straight Rose Bowl loss. Stanford 38, Wisconsin 24

Orange Bowl: #12 Florida State vs. #15 Northern Illinois

Jimbo Fisher leads the underachieving ACC champs against a MAC team that many think don’t deserve a spot in Miami. However, several things work in NIU’s favor. 1: FSU plays down to the level of competition. 2: NIU has one of the nation’s best QBs. 3: MACtion in the BCS can’t possibly fail. Northern Illinois wins in multiple OTs, just because they want to watch the internet burn. Northern Illinois 38, Florida State 36

Sugar Bowl: #3 Florida vs. #21 Louisville

This game is a huge trap for the Gators. The Cardinals have a great offense, a turnover-happy defense and Florida has struggled against seemingly inferior competition this year. Louisville will put up a huge fight against Florida, but Will Muschamp’s team is just too good. Florida 24, Louisville 17

 Fiesta Bowl: #4 Oregon vs. #5 Kansas State

Many thought in mid-November that these teams would meet in Miami for the national title, but these teams were bitten by the upset bug on the same night, so now the Fiesta Bowl will host the best bowl game not between the Crimson Tide and the Fighting Irish. These two teams are among the best in the nation. Bill Snyder is a coaching legend and Chip Kelly has built a powerhouse in Eugene. In the end, I think Oregon will be too much for Kansas State. This one will be a thriller. Oregon 41, Kansas State 38

BCS National Championship: #1 Notre Dame vs. #2 Alabama

The two best teams in the country meet for the crystal ball in Miami. If the Tide wins, they’d claim the program’s 10th national title and the 7th straight title for the SEC. If the Irish win, they’ll claim the program’s 9th national title, the first for the program since 1988. Notre Dame has the nation’s top defense, as they’ve allowed just nine touchdowns all season. However, they haven’t seen any offense like Alabama’s. Notre Dame can win, but they can’t settle for field goals like that did against USC. I think that will do Notre Dame in. Alabama wins the national title. Alabama 27, Notre Dame 16

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