Bold Predictions for College Football Bowl Season
It's a pretty great time of the year to be a college football fan. The much-anticipated bowl season is just around the corner. That means that fans will soon have the chance to sit down and soak in 35 different bowl games over a three-week period.
Because 6-6 teams are allowed bowl eligibility, admittedly, there are some truly terrible matchups this year that nobody really cares about. Fortunately, though, there are also some great potential games to balance things out.
The championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame is obviously going to get most of the attention and coverage over the next month. But there's plenty of other postseason action to get excited about as well.
Here's a look at a few bold predictions for the upcoming college football bowl season.
Nevada and Arizona Will Combine to Total over 1,000 Yards of Offense
The first bowl game on the schedule is a matchup between Arizona and Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday Dec. 15.
The Wildcats and the Wolf Pack both enter the game with identical mediocre 7-5 records. But they also both have explosive offenses, which are packed full of playmakers.
The two teams combined to average 74 points and 1,023 yards of total offense per game in the regular season, which means this one obviously has the makings of an offensive shootout.
Both teams feature great quarterback-running back tandems. Arizona has QB Matt Scott and RB Ka'Deem Carey, while Nevada has QB Cody Fajardo and RB Stefphon Jefferson.
If you're a big fan of offensive football, then you should tune into this game, because it should feature plenty of action and plenty of scoring.
Chuckie Keeton Will Throw for over 300 Yards and Rush for over 100 Yards
There are plenty of great dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, including Johnny Manziel, Collin Klein, Jordan Lynch and Braxton Miller. Utah State's Chuckie Keeton is an extremely talented dual-threat signal-caller who doesn't usually get mentioned with those high-profile players, even though he clearly deserves the recognition.
Keeton put together a tremendous campaign in 2012, leading the Aggies to a 10-2 record and a WAC championship. The 6'1'', 200-pound sophomore signal-caller threw for over 3,100 yards and 27 touchdowns, adding 527 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground as well.
The explosive dual-threat quarterback should be able to do plenty of damage to a Toledo defense that ranks 108th in the nation in total defense when the two teams meet in the Potato Bowl on Dec. 15.
Gavin Escobar and Kaneakua Friel Will Each Catch a Touchdown
The Poinsettia Bowl will feature two of the most underrated tight ends in the country: San Diego State's Gavin Escobar and BYU's Kaneakua Friel.
This season, Escobar and Friel combined to catch 71 passes for 827 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The two junior tight ends should each play key roles for their respective teams when they square off in San Diego on Dec. 20. Both players will have a great chance to make an appearance in the end zone.
Ezekiel Ansah and Kyle Van Noy Will Each Notch a Sack
The two top NFL prospects to watch in the Poinsettia Bowl can both be found on BYU's defense. DE Ezekiel Ansah and LB Kyle Van Noy have been the Cougars' two most valuable defenders this season.
Both Ansah and Van Noy have terrorized opposing quarterbacks, totaling a combined 16 sacks in 2012.
The two prominent pass-rushers will be looking to hunt down San Diego State QB Adam Dingwell every chance they get, and they should each be able to get to him at least once.
Kemal Ishmael Will Cause 2 Turnovers Against Ball State
UCF safety Kemal Ishmael is the true definition of a ball hawk.
Ishmael earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year honors this season after leading the Knights with 116 tackles and totaling three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
The star senior safety will be looking to finish off his college career in strong fashion against Ball State in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl on Dec. 21. Ishmael should continue to make key impact plays for UCF's defense against the Cardinals. And there's a good chance that he'll force a couple key turnovers, as he always seems to be around the ball.
The New Orleans Bowl Will Come Down to a Field Goal Again
Last year, Louisiana-Lafayette won the New Orleans Bowl 32-30 on a last-second 50-yard field goal by kicker Brett Baer.
The Ragin 'Cajuns will once again return to the SuperDome to try to pick up another victory, this time against East Carolina out of Conference USA.
Both teams are 8-4 and pretty evenly matched, which means this game could very well come right down to a late decisive field-goal attempt—just like last year's contest.
D.J. Harper Will Carve Up Washington's Defense
Boise State RB D.J. Harper has done a terrific job this season of stepping into the starting role and replacing Doug Martin.
Harper has eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark and scored 16 touchdowns in 2012. Now, the senior back will be looking to finish off his career in style with a big performance against Washington in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas.
The Huskies' run defense certainly isn't all that great, as it's allowed 4.5 yards per carry this year. The team is likely going to have some major problems trying to slow Harper down on Dec. 22.
Fresno State Will Score over 50 Points on SMU
First-year Fresno State head coach Tim Deruyter has really done an outstanding job molding the team's offense into one of the most potent and balanced attacks in all of college football in 2012.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season ranked 12th nationally in scoring offense and 14th in total offense, averaging 40 points and 488 yards per game.
Luckily for Deruyter, he's had plenty of talent to work with this year. QB Derek Carr and RB Robbie Rouse form one of the best quarterback-running back tandems in college football, and WR Davante Adams has turned out to be the most productive freshman receiver in the country.
Fresno State should be able to take advantage of SMU's shaky secondary and put up a ton of points on the Mustangs when the two teams meet in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Will Actually Be Worth Watching
On the surface, a matchup between a 7-5 Western Kentucky team out of the Sun Belt and a 6-6 Central Michigan team out of the MAC certainly doesn't appear to be the most appealing game on the bowl schedule. However, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl could actually turn out to be pretty entertaining.
The Hilltoppers will be without their best player, DE Quanterus Smith, who tore his ACL a few weeks ago. However, they will still have plenty of solid offensive talent on display, such as QB Kawaun Jakes, RB Antonio Andrews and TE Jack Doyle.
The Chippewas also have some solid players at the offensive skill positions, including QB Ryan Radcliff, RB Zurlon Tipton and WR Titus Davis.
This game may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it could turn out to be worth tuning in for, especially since it will be the only bowl game on Dec. 26.
David Fales Will Continue to Impress NFL Scouts
Many of the eligible underclassmen quarterbacks for the 2013 NFL draft have failed to live up to preseason expectations this season. However, one young signal-caller who has really made a name for himself in 2012 is San Jose State's David Fales.
After leaving Nevada after just one year, Fales spent the last two seasons at Monterey Peninsula College before joining the Spartans this offseason.
In his first year as a starter, the highly skilled junior quarterback has managed to guide San Jose State to a 10-win season and just its second bowl game since 1990. Fales has been one of the top passers in the country this season, completing 72 percent of his passes for over 3,700 yards and throwing 31 touchdowns compared to just nine interceptions.
If he can put together a strong showing against Bowling Green in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27, Fales may have to seriously consider leaving school early for the 2013 NFL draft.
Duke Will Win Its First Bowl Game Since 1961
Duke hasn't won a bowl game since beating Arkansas 7-6 in the 1961 Cotton Bowl, and the Blue Devils haven't even played in a bowl since their appearance in the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl.
This year, however, the team has ended its postseason drought with an invitation to play in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati in Charlotte.
The Bearcats are 9-3, and they have the better overall team in terms of talent. However, they probably won't be anywhere near as motivated for this game as Duke will be.
Louisiana-Monroe Will Win Its First Bowl Game Ever
Duke hasn't played in a bowl game in 18 years, but Louisiana-Monroe hasn't played in a bowl game ever.
Since officially making the move up to college football's top level of play in 1994, the Warhawks have been unable to make it to the postseason. However, that changed this year when they received an invite to play Ohio in the Independence Bowl.
Louisiana-Monroe has one of the most underrated offenses in the country, led by dual-threat quarterback Kolton Browning, who totaled over 3,200 yards of offense and accounted for 34 touchdowns in 2012.
Browning should cause fits for the Bobcats defense, and he should be able to lead the Warhawks to their first-ever bowl game victory down in Shreveport on Dec. 28.
UCLA Will Have a Letdown Performance
UCLA is a team that definitely looks like it could be in store for a huge letdown performance in the postseason.
The Bruins will likely spend the weeks leading up to their Holiday Bowl matchup against Baylor wondering what could have been had they managed to beat Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.
Jim Mora's squad would obviously much rather be playing in the Rose Bowl than in a second-tier bowl game. The team's lack of motivation could really bite the Bruins, especially considering how dangerous Baylor's offense can be.
...And so Will Rutgers
Rutgers is another team that could be in store for a big letdown loss in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Virginia Tech.
Just like UCLA, the Scarlet Knights had the perfect opportunity to win their conference and earn a BCS bowl berth.
But just like the Bruins, they failed to capitalize on the chance, as they ended up losing to Louisville at home in the season finale.
Now, the boys from New Jersey will have to try to regroup against a Hokies team that will likely be very motivated to salvage an otherwise massively disappointing 6-6 season.
Seth Doege Will Throw 3 Interceptions
Texas Tech QB Seth Doege has been one of the most productive passers in college football this season. Doege has thrown for over 3,900 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2012. However, he could be in store for a rough performance in his final collegiate game in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers will enter the game as heavy underdogs, but they do have a few very talented veteran defensive backs, such as cornerbacks Troy Stoudermire and Michael Carter, who possess outstanding ball skills.
If Doege isn't careful with the ball, he could easily toss a few costly picks.
Minnesota Will Shock Texas Tech
Texas Tech may enter the Meineke Car Care Bowl as one of the biggest favorites of the bowl season, but be careful putting too much faith in Tommy Tuberville's team.
The Red Raiders don't exactly have an impressive history in postseason play. They're just 12-21-1 all-time in bowl games.
If Minnesota can create some big key breaks early in the game and take the pro-Texas Tech crowd out of the equation, the Golden Gophers will definitely have the chance to pull off a big upset on Dec. 28.
Cody Getz Will Rush for over 200 Yards
Unless you're an absolutely die-hard fan or alumni of either Air Force or Rice, there's probably not much of a reason to tune into the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 29, as it will feature two 6-6 non-AQ teams that aren't exactly must-watch squads.
Still, if you're looking for a reason to watch this matchup, then look no further than Air Force RB Cody Getz, who has rushed for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Getz certainly isn't the most physically gifted back in college football, but he's a perfect fit for the Falcons' flexbone option offense.
The 5'7'', 175-pound senior had three games this season in which he rushed for over 200 yards. Getz has a good chance to put up a huge rushing total once again against a Rice defense that gives up an average of over five yards per carry.
There Will Be 10 Passing Touchdowns in the Pinstripe Bowl
The Pinstripe Bowl will feature a matchup of two of the best passing offenses in the country: West Virginia and Syracuse.
The Mountaineers and the Orange each average over 300 passing yards per game, and both teams are led by senior signal-callers who can really sling it.
Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib should put on a true aerial show in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 29, and there should be plenty of passing fireworks to enjoy.
Arizona State Will Shut Down Navy’s Rushing Attack
Navy will go into the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl with the No. 6-ranked rushing offense in the country.
The Midshipmen average 286 yards on the ground per game. However, they'll have trouble coming anywhere close to that total against Arizona State.
The Sun Devils' defensive front seven features two of the most most underrated players in the country: DT Will Sutton and LB Brandon Magee.
Sutton, Magee and the rest of the defense will just be too much to handle for the less athletic Navy offense.
Texas Will Overwhelm Oregon State
Texas and Oregon State may go into their Alamo Bowl matchup separated by just one win. However, the teams had two very different seasons in 2012.
The Longhorns did not make the turnaround many were expecting this season. For the third straight year, they turned out to be just another also-ran in the Big 12.
Oregon State, on the other hand, went from nine losses in 2011 to nine wins this season.
Still, even though the Beavers were the more impressive team in the regular season, it's Texas that has the clear talent advantage for this game.
If coach Mack Brown can get his team motivated and if he can get quality play from the quarterback position, the Longhorns should win this game rather easily.
Le’Veon Bell Will Score 4 Touchdowns on TCU
Michigan State may have been one of the most disappointing teams of 2012, but one player who certainly didn't disappoint is RB Le'Veon Bell.
Bell was the team's undisputed offensive MVP this season, rushing for over 1,600 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU will likely be the junior back's final game in a Spartans uniform, and he'll certainly be looking to make a statement.
If Michigan State feeds the ball to Bell early and often, he has the chance to have one of the best games of his career on Dec. 29.
Mike Glennon Will Have an Impressive Final Performance
NC State's Mike Glennon started off the season as one of the must-watch senior quarterback prospects for the 2013 NFL draft. However, Glennon ended up turning in an inconsistent campaign this season.
Now, he'll have one final chance to show scouts what type of skills he's really got when the Wolfpack battle Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31.
The Commodores have a strong secondary, but if Glennon plays the way he's truly capable of playing, he should be able to pick it apart with his powerful arm.
...And so Will Matt Barkley
Another top senior quarterback prospect for the 2013 NFL draft who didn't have as good of a season as many were expecting is USC's Matt Barkley.
Barkley started off the year as the front-runner to be the No. 1 overall pick and the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. However, he was unable to capitalize on his hype.
Ultimately, the Trojans ended up becoming one of the biggest bombs of the season, finishing with just a 7-5 record after starting off the year ranked in the Top 3.
Although he missed his final home game against Notre Dame due to a shoulder injury, the senior signal-caller has said that he hopes to play in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech on Dec. 31.
If he does play, Barkley should be able to put together a big day through the air against a Yellow Jackets secondary that gives up an average of 7.6 yards per pass attempt.
Robert Woods Will Be USC’s Most Productive Receiver
Robert Woods had to take a backseat to fellow wide receiver Marqise Lee this season. But it's likely that Woods will get plenty of balls thrown his way in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech, since the coaching staff knows this will likely be his final game as a Trojan.
Many considered the junior pass-catcher to be the No. 1 receiver prospect for the 2013 NFL draft at the start of the season, but his dip in production has definitely had an effect on his stock.
Still, if Woods can put together one final big performance in his first ever postseason game, it should really help endear him to NFL scouts once again.
Trey Watts Will Be the Star of the Liberty Bowl
Tulsa won 10 games and a Conference USA championship this season due in large part to the fact that its offense was overflowing with offensive skill-position talent.
The Golden Hurricane has three quality running backs—Trey Watts, Alex Singleton and Ja'Terian Douglas—who are all capable of doing serious damage to an opposing defense. However, Watts will be the real player to keep an eye on in the Liberty Bowl against Iowa State.
The 5'11'', 190-pound junior is a versatile and explosive playmaker who can beat an opponent in a variety of different ways. This season, Watts has rushed for 959 yards, caught 30 passes for 360 yards and averaged 29 yards on kickoff returns.
LSU Will Sack Tajh Boyd 5 Times
If there's one thing that we found out in Clemson's 27-17 loss to South Carolina in Week 13, it's that the team's offensive line is not equipped to handle speedy SEC defensive fronts. The Tigers gave up six sacks and allowed constant pressure on QB Tajh Boyd.
The bad news is that Clemson will now have to face an LSU defensive line that is arguably the most talented front four in college football in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan should all be licking their chops.
Zach Mettenberger Will Rise to the Occasion
Before the season started, many LSU fans were talking about Zach Mettenberger as the type of quarterback who would come in and add a big boost to the team's offense in 2012. However, Mettenberger did not look like the quarterback that he was built up to be in his first year as a starter.
The junior signal-caller completed just 58 percent of his passes and tossed just 11 touchdowns this season.
Still, even after such a mediocre campaign, Mettenberger now has the opportunity to build some early momentum for the 2013 season with a big performance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
If the same quarterback that we saw torch Alabama's secondary shows up in Atlanta on New Year's Eve, Clemson is going to be in a lot of trouble.
Oklahoma State Will Cover the 17-Point Spread Easily
The biggest favorite of the college football bowl season is Oklahoma State.
Most major Las Vegas sportsbooks have installed the Cowboys as a 17-point favorite over Purdue for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
If you've seen both of these teams play this year, then you know it's hard to argue with the linesmakers, and you might even say that spread is actually even too low.
Oklahoma State has one of the most high-powered offensive attacks in college football, while the Boilermakers are just 6-6 and really not even worthy of being in a bowl this year.
If the Cowboys offense gets into a rhythm early on, this game could get ugly in a hurry.
Joseph Randle Will Total over 250 Yards of Offense
The real player to watch in the Heart of Dallas Bowl is Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle, who led the Big 12 with 1,351 rushing yards and scored 14 touchdowns this season.
The speedy 6'1'', 200-pound junior is the type of versatile offensive weapon that can burn a defense as either a runner or a receiver out of the backfield.
Randle has a great chance to put up some huge offensive numbers against a Purdue defense that ranks 82nd in the nation against the run.
Mississippi State Will Ride LaDarius Perkins to a Gator Bowl Victory
Mississippi State is back in the Gator Bowl for the second time in the last three years, this time against a 9-3 Northwestern team.
The Bulldogs' strategy for success will likely include giving RB LaDarius Perkins plenty of carries to soften up the Wildcats defense.
Perkins had a true breakout campaign in 2012, totaling 1,100 yards of offense and scoring 10 touchdowns.
The 5'10'', 190-pound junior will surely be looking to make his presence felt against Northwestern as he looks to prove that he's indeed one of the SEC's premier offensive threats.
Ace Sanders Will Account for 3 Touchdowns in 3 Different Ways
South Carolina WR Ace Sanders has been a very versatile and valuable playmaker for the Gamecocks this season.
Sanders has caught 36 passes for 439 yards and seven touchdowns, averaged 14 yards on punt returns and brought one back to the house. And he's even thrown a touchdown pass this season.
Whether he's catching the ball, running the ball, returning it or throwing it, Sanders has shown that he's a threat to score anytime he gets the pigskin in his hands.
Steve Spurrier will likely break out a few trick plays in the Outback Bowl against Michigan, which means we could see the speedy junior get the chance to either run for a touchdown or throw a pass for a score.
When you add in the opportunities he'll have catching passes and returning punts, it's not out of the realm of possibilities to think that Sanders could account for three touchdowns in three different ways against the Wolverines.
South Carolina Will Make Denard Robinson a Non-Factor
Denard Robinson certainly didn't have the senior season that many were expecting. But he'll now be looking to end his college career on a positive note with a big performance in his final bowl game.
It's too bad that the athletic dual-threat quarterback will have to face one of the toughest and most athletic defenses in the country in the Outback Bowl.
We saw what Alabama's defense did to Robinson in the season opener at Cowboys Stadium, and it definitely wasn't pretty. Shoelace may run into the same type of trouble against South Carolina's defense on New Year's Day.
The Capital One Bowl Will Be a Defensive Battle
Last week, Georgia and Nebraska were hoping to win a conference championship and make it into a big BCS bowl game. Now, both teams are having to deal with the sting of defeat and the disappointment of missing out on the chance to be in one of college football's upper-echelon bowl games.
The two teams will be looking to pick up a bounce-back win when they meet in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day.
We've seen plenty of low-scoring defensive battles down in Orlando in years past (Penn State 19, LSU 17 in 2010, Georgia 24, Michigan State 12 in 2009 and Wisconsin 17, Arkansas 14 in 2007). This game could follow that trend.
Georgia has one of the top defenses in the country, and the Cornhuskers defense will be looking to gain back some respect after a terrible performance in a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
It's tough to gauge just how motivated both teams will be after experiencing such tough losses to end the season. But if both teams come to play, this game should be a physical and hard-fought defensive battle.
The BBVA Compass Bowl Will Be an Offensive Shootout
One game that definitely doesn't look like it will be a defensive showdown is the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Sure, Pittsburgh and Ole Miss may only have six wins each, but they're also two teams that are loaded with some intriguing offensive playmakers.
Pittsburgh's quartet of QB Tino Sunseri, RB Ray Graham and receivers Mike Shanahan and Devin Street will try to outproduce Mississippi's talented trio of QB Bo Wallace, RB Jeff Scott and WR Donte Moncrief.
If both Sunseri and Wallace get hot, we could see a lot of points scored down in Birmingham on Jan. 5.
Arkansas State Will Blow out Kent State
The GoDaddy.com Bowl will be a battle of two teams that both just lost their head coach to a bigger school.
Arkansas State lost Gus Malzahn to Auburn, while Kent State lost Darrell Hazell to Purdue.
Even though that will likely be a bit of a distraction for both squads, though, the key factor in this game could very well be what the teams did in the final week of the season.
The Red Wolves went out and hammered Middle Tennessee State 45-0 to win the Sun Belt conference championship. Meanwhile, the Golden Flashes experienced a devastating loss in double-overtime of the MAC championship game, which likely cost them a shot at a BCS bowl berth.
Not only will Arkansas State have the best player on the field, QB Ryan Aplin, the Red Wolves will also have the momentum, which they should be able to ride to a big blowout victory.
Landry Jones Will Outplay Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel may be the one who takes home the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. But the quarterback who will actually have the best game when Texas A&M and Oklahoma meet in the Cotton Bowl is the Sooners' senior signal-caller, Landry Jones.
Jones may not be the same type of charismatic, highlight-reel player that Manziel is, but he's still had a fantastic collegiate career, and he'll be looking to go out with a bang.
Texas A&M's defense hasn't faced many passing attacks this season that can compare to Oklahoma's. Jones should be able to really expose the Aggies' secondary and put up some big passing numbers down in Arlington on Jan. 4.
Oklahoma Will Win the Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma will be playing with something to prove this postseason after failing to get a BCS bowl at-large bid. The Sooners will be looking to take out their anger on a Texas A&M team that might not be as good as its 10-2 record would lead you to believe.
Sure, the Aggies have been a great story in their first season in the SEC. But outside of their big upset victory over Alabama, the rest of their resume, which includes just three wins over bowl teams, isn't exactly stellar.
Unlike Kevin Sumlin, Bob Stoops has had plenty of chances to prepare his team for big postseason atmospheres during his time at Oklahoma. Stoops should have the Sooners ready to prove a point in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4.
Stepfan Taylor and Montee Ball Will Each Rush for over 150 Yards
The Rose Bowl will feature two of the best running backs in all of college football: Stanford's Stepfan Taylor and Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
Taylor and Ball combined to rush for over 3,100 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2012.
The two senior backs will be looking to send a message to NFL scouts with one more big performance, so don't be surprised if we end up seeing a rushing duel in Pasadena on New Year's Day.
Wisconsin Will Beat Stanford
Wisconsin has definitely its share of ups and downs in 2012.
Judging from the Badgers' absolutely dominant 70-31 victory over Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game, this seems to be a team that's finally hit its stride after a 7-5 regular season, which included four losses by just a field goal.
The Badgers are a much better and much more talented team than their record would indicate, and they match up very well with Stanford.
The one big unknown in this game is how Wisconsin will handle the loss of head coach Bret Bielema, who accepted the Arkansas job this week. However, having the best head coach in school history, Barry Alvarez, on the sideline instead of a coach who had a reputation for routinely coming up short in big games away from home may not be such a bad thing.
Jordan Lynch Will Throw 3 Touchdowns and Rush for Another 2 Scores
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel and Kansas State QB Collin Klein may be the ones who got the invitation to New York City for the Heisman ceremony, but the most productive quarterback in the country this year was Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch.
Lynch leads the nation with 4,733 total yards of offense, and he's accounted for 43 total touchdowns—the same amount as Manziel and five more than Klein.
The junior dual-threat signal-caller is the type of player who could cause fits for any opposing defense, including Florida State's.
Don't be surprised if Lynch thrives on the big stage and turns in a stellar performance against the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl.
Northern Illinois Will Beat Florida State
It doesn't seem like many people outside of DeKalb, Illinois, think that Northern Illinois actually belongs in the Orange Bowl, even though the Huskies won more games this year than any other team in the country not named Alabama, Notre Dame or Ohio State.
The outrage is obviously understandable, considering the team's schedule isn't loaded with marquee opponents. But the point the critics seem to miss is that it's not about who the Huskies played in 2012, but instead it's about how they played.
This is a team that won its games by an average score of 40-19 in a conference that was a lot stronger than many are giving it credit for.
Does Florida State have more talent, better athletes across the board and more future NFL players than Northern Illinois? Yes, absolutely. There's no disputing that. But it's not as if the Seminoles played like some supremely polished juggernaut week in and week out this season.
Florida State is the type of flaky team that always keeps you guessing about what type of effort to expect for any given game.
If the Seminoles think that just because everyone's bashing Northern Illinois they're going to have an easy time disposing of the MAC squad, they better be careful. The Huskies are not a team to be taken lightly.
De’Anthony Thomas Will Be the Star of the Fiesta Bowl
After a sensational freshman campaign in 2011, RB De'Anthony Thomas was the third wheel of the Oregon offense this year, as QB Marcus Mariota and RB Kenjon Barner both stepped into the spotlight.
Even though he didn't become the truly elite Heisman candidate that many were expecting him to be, Thomas still put together a very solid sophomore season in 2012. The explosive 5'9'', 176-pound speedster rushed for 686 yards, caught 41 passes for 385 yards, averaged 17 yards per punt return and scored 16 total touchdowns.
Thomas had a huge game in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin last season, and it wouldn't be surprising if the "Black Mamba" has a similar type of effort against Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3.
Oregon Will Blow out Kansas State
Kansas State was one of the best stories of the 2012 season. But the fact is, Bill Snyder's squad just isn't properly equipped to contain Oregon's offense in the Fiesta Bowl.
Yes, the Wildcats have some quality defensive players, such as LB Arthur Brown, DE Meshak Williams and CB Nigel Malone. But as we saw against Baylor, they just don't match up well with fast-paced offenses that are loaded with athleticism.
If QB Collin Klein can control the ball, establish the run and eat up some clock, Kansas State could make this game interesting into the second half. But eventually, the Ducks will break away and make enough plays down the stretch to win comfortably.
The Sugar Bowl Will Be Closer Than Expected
The last time Florida played a Big East team in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators trounced Cincinnati 54-21 in Tim Tebow's final collegiate game.
It seems that many are expecting Florida to once again put together another blowout win against Louisville in this year's Sugar Bowl.
Don't be surprised, however, if this game actually turns out to be closer than expected.
The Cardinals have one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in college football, Teddy Bridgewater, leading their offense. Plus, they have enough athleticism and strength on defense to contain a Gators offense that certainly isn't all that explosive.
Florida Will Beat Louisville
Louisville may be able to make the Sugar Bowl interesting, but in the end, it's likely that Florida will emerge as the victor.
The Gators not only have an overall athletic advantage, they also have a huge advantage in the trenches, as they have some of the toughest and strongest lines in the country.
Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and the rest of Florida's defensive front will eventually wear down Louisville's offensive line and create too much pressure for Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater to handle.
AJ McCarron Will Throw 2 Interceptions
Alabama QB AJ McCarron has really taken some great strides in 2012 and developed into one of the most consistent and dependable offensive leaders in the country.
McCarron has the highest passer rating in college football, one of the highest completion percentages and one of the best touchdown-interception ratios.
The junior signal-caller has only tossed three picks this entire season. But there's a good chance that we could see him add to that total against Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS Championship Game.
The Irish have one of the best overall defenses in the country, and it's a unit that is filled with opportunistic playmakers who can create game-changing turnovers.
Notre Dame Will Beat Alabama
SEC teams have won six straight BCS championships. But that streak will finally come to an end this season.
Notre Dame is the type of team that is perfectly built to beat Alabama.
The Irish can match Alabama's dominant defense with a great defense of their own, and they have enough athletic playmakers on offense to create the plays needed to win the game.
We already know that this game has a great shot to be the highest-rated college football game of all time given the prestige and national notoriety of both programs. The question is, will the game live up to the hype, or will it be a big disappointment like last year's snoozefest in New Orleans?
Personally, I think this game will end up being an instant classic, and it will be the type of game that we talk about in the same fashion as the 2006 Rose Bowl.
This is shaping up to be a hard-fought, physical slugfest that will likely come down to which team can limit its mistakes and do all the little things right to win the game.
Ultimately, Notre Dame will be the team that gets the job done and takes home college football's ultimate prize.
Cierre Wood Will Be the Offensive MVP of the BCS Championship
Cierre Wood sat out the first two games of the season due to a suspension. But since he's returned, he's proven that he is truly one of the most dangerous runners in all of college football.
Wood has averaged 6.7 yards per carry, and he's provided some huge plays when called upon in 2012.
The 6'0'', 215-pound junior has the combination of size, speed and strength to really cause trouble for Alabama's defense.
If Notre Dame's offensive line can control the line of scrimmage, Wood should be able to find room to create the type of explosive plays that Notre Dame will need to win the game.
Stephon Tuitt Will Be the Defensive MVP of the BCS Championship
LB Manti Te'o has been the best defensive player in the country this season. But don't be surprised if Te'o takes a backseat to DE Stephon Tuitt in the BCS championship game.
Tuitt has been overshadowed by his more heralded teammate this year, but he's quietly been one of the most terrifying pass-rushers in college football.
The 6'6'', 303-pound sophomore has racked up 11 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and 11 tackles for loss in 2012, and he's displayed unbelievable explosiveness and athleticism for his size.
Alabama may have arguably the two top interior offensive linemen in the country—Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack—but Tuitt could definitely expose the team's tackles, D.J. Fluker and Cyrus Kouandjio, when he squares off with them.
Final Predictions for Every Bowl
The 2012 college football regular season certainly had plenty of surprises and shakeups. It's likely that bowl season will feature a good amount of unexpected twists and turns as well.
Here's a look at the definitive predictions for how all 35 bowl games will play out this year.
New Mexico Bowl: Arizona 44, Nevada 38
Potato Bowl: Utah State 51, Toledo 30
Poinsettia Bowl: BYU 28, San Diego State 24
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: UCF 27, Ball State 17
New Orleans Bowl: East Carolina 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 31
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Boise State 42, Washington 30
Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State 56, SMU 35
Little Caesars Bowl: Western Kentucky 30, Central Michigan 21
Military Bowl: San Jose State 45, Bowling Green 24
Belk Bowl: Duke 27, Cincinnati 20
Holiday Bowl: Baylor 41, UCLA 31
Independence Bowl: Louisiana-Monroe 24, Ohio 23
Russell Athletic Bowl: Virginia Tech 27, Rutgers 14
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Minnesota 32, Texas Tech 26
Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force 44, Rice 27
Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia 50, Syracuse 45
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Arizona State 35, Navy 17
Alamo Bowl: Texas 38, Oregon State 21
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan State 34, TCU 23
Music City Bowl: NC State 40, Vanderbilt 27
Sun Bowl: USC 49, Georgia Tech 29
Liberty Bowl: Tulsa 28, Iowa State 19
Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU 43, Clemson 31
Gator Bowl: Mississippi State 33, Northwestern 23
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Oklahoma State 51, Purdue 20
Outback Bowl: South Carolina 28, Michigan 22
Capital One Bowl: Georgia 17, Nebraska 13
BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh 45, Ole Miss 43
GoDaddy.com Bowl: Arkansas State 38, Kent State 23
Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma 41, Texas A&M 31
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 35, Stanford 31
Orange Bowl: Northern Illinois 38, Florida State 33
Sugar Bowl: Florida 29, Louisville 20
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon 47, Kansas State 28
2013 BCS National Championship: Notre Dame 30, Alabama 24