Bowl Projections 2012: Predictions for Most Underrated Matchups
College football fans are looking forward to the national title game between Notre Dame and Alabama. There are plenty of intriguing bowl matchups before those two teams face off, though, including some that aren't getting enough attention.
Since there are 35 bowl games, it's no surprise that a lot of them get lost in the shuffle, with most of the national focus placed on the BCS matchups. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the hidden gems fans should watch over the next month.
Baylor vs. UCLA (Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl)
Baylor's high-powered passing game is fun to watch, and the team's dreadful defense ensures the scoreboard operator will be a busy man when the Bears takes on UCLA. The Bruins were unable to capture a BCS spot after consecutive losses to Stanford.
The combination of Nick Florence and Terrance Williams has been terrific for Baylor. The senior quarterback and his favorite target have connected 95 times for nearly 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns. They were downright unstoppable at times.
UCLA features a more balanced approach. Johnathan Franklin rushed for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns while Brett Hundley added over 3,400 yards and 26 TDs through the air. The duo should be able to keep pace with Baylor. Whichever team has the ball last likely wins.
Prediction: Baylor 41, UCLA 35
Which of these games will be the best to watch?
West Virginia vs. Syracuse (New Era Pinstripe Bowl)
Getting to play a football game at Yankee Stadium is a unique experience. It's definitely more memorable than playing in one of the numerous bowls sponsored by car companies or hotel chains. The big stage gets players excited for the game.
The player everybody will be tuning in to watch is Geno Smith. The West Virginia quarterback looked like an extremely strong Heisman candidate through five weeks. He had 25 total touchdowns and no interceptions, but wasn't able to maintain the gaudy pace.
Smith and company go up against a Syracuse squad that has found its stride over the final three weeks. The Orange knocked off undefeated Louisville and followed it up with victories over Missouri and Temple. They should put up a good fight, but expect the Mountaineers to come out on top.
Prediction: West Virginia 34, Syracuse 27
USC vs. Georgia Tech (Hyundai Sun Bowl)
USC entered the season as a popular pick to make a national title game appearance. The Trojans fell well short of that goal, of course. They lost five games, including four of their final five, mostly due to untimely turnovers and a porous defense.
The good news for USC is that star quarterback Matt Barkley should be ready to return from a shoulder injury in time for the bowl, according to Johnny Curren of ESPN Los Angeles. He will be looking to show NFL scouts he's ready for the next level.
Georgia Tech brings its fourth-ranked rushing attack to the table. The Yellow Jackets had six players rush for at least 400 yards this season. They should be able to move the ball and control the clock, but it won't be enough to get the bowl win.
Prediction: USC 28, Georgia Tech 21
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