The 10 Tastiest Cupcake Games of College Football Bowl Season
Throughout the 2012 college football season we have been highlighting the decidedly one-sided matchups each week.
Now that bowl season is upon us, programs will have one last chance to add some extra calories to their diets and add a few holiday pounds with these extra tasty bowl cupcakes.
While there are certainly a number of sure-to-be-thrilling bowl games this season, there are some decidedly lopsided affairs mixed in. So which teams will be the dessert come bowl time?
Here are the 10 tastiest cupcake games of the 2012-13 college football bowl season.
Fresno State vs. Southern Methodist
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Hawai'i Bowl, December 24, 8pm Eastern
Line: Fresno State, -11.5
Southern Methodist is keeping its recent string of bowl appearances alive—barely—with a 6-6 finish this season (5-3 in Conference USA), and the Mustangs are being rewarded with a trip to O'ahu for the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl on Christmas Eve.
Unfortunately, the opponent for SMU is Fresno State.
The Bulldogs were an impressive 9-3 this season thanks in large part to an opportunistic defense led by FBS interceptions leader Phillip Thomas (eight interceptions) and his partner in crime, Derron Smith (six interceptions).
All that thievery resulted in Fresno State giving up the nation's fourth-fewest passing yards per game (163.4, tied with Boise State). On the other hand, SMU fielded the No. 95 total offense this season (368.2 yards per game). Not a good mix.
SMU should be able to hang around in this game, but if Mustangs junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert starts throwing interceptions, it could get very ugly very fast.
Cincinnati vs. Duke
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Belk Bowl, December 27, 6:30pm Eastern
Line: Cincinnati, -11
Here's something we haven't said in nearly two decades: Duke is going bowling.
The 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl was the last time the Blue Devils made it to the postseason, and this year it was a close shave with a 6-6 record (3-5 in the ACC).
Still, making a bowl game is a major accomplishment for the Devils, and the Belk Bowl's location in Charlotte, North Carolina should provide Duke fans ample opportunity to support their team.
The Blue Devils will certainly need that support as they have drawn Cincinnati as a bowl opponent.
The Bearcats are no strangers to bowl appearances, earning a postseason berth in five of the last six seasons. Cincy is also looking for its second consecutive 10-win season. Lucky for the Bearcats, the task shouldn't be all that difficult against Duke.
While Cincinnati hasn't been the same program since Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame, we're still talking about a team that was one conference win away from playing in a BCS game this season. Duke was decidedly not close to a BCS bowl.
Is it any wonder this game sports a double-digit spread?
Purdue vs. Oklahoma State
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Heart of Dallas Bowl, January 1, Noon Eastern
Line: Oklahoma State, -17.5
The Heart of Dallas Bowl is the new name for the TicketCity Bowl, which replaced the Cotton Bowl Classic when it moved to Cowboys Stadium. The game is still played on New Year's Day, and it is generally considered a mid- to top-tier bowl with its $1.2 million payout.
Unfortunately, the sanction-laden Big Ten was only able to come up with a lowly 6-6 team to fill its tie-in slot with the Purdue Boilermakers.
The Boilers will have to face off against 7-5 Oklahoma State, a team that won five games in the dangerous Big 12 this season.
The Cowboys were as lethal as expected on offense this season, averaging 548.9 yards per game (fifth in the FBS). And while the Pokes' defense isn't really up to snuff (84th in the FBS), when this game devolves into a shootout, it will be one team doing the shooting and the other team taking the hits; with Purdue not having much of an arsenal, it's no secret which team is which.
Finally, there's also the little matter of the coaching situation at Purdue.
The university fired head coach Danny Hope after his fourth season despite earning a bowl berth. Hope has already been replaced with Kent State's Darrell Hazell—just not for the Heart of Dallas Bowl. For this game, the Boilermakers will be coached by wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins.
In a rare sign of coaching loyalty these days, Hazell insisted he finish out the season—including the bowl season—on Kent State's sideline, leading the Golden Flashes in their first bowl game since the 1972 Tangerine Bowl (a 21-18 loss to the University of Tampa).
While that kind of dedication will likely serve Purdue well in the future, it won't save the Purdue Special from being derailed by the Cowboys.
Texas Tech vs. Minnesota
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Meineke Care Care Bowl of Texas, December 28, 9:00pm Eastern
Line: Texas Tech, -13
The Golden Gophers have crawled their way back into a bowl game with a 6-6 finish this season. Like so many other Big Ten teams this bowl season, expect Minnesota to be thoroughly over-matched.
The Gophers get a nice bump to the Meineke Car Care Bowl this season thanks to the absence of sanctioned teams from the conference, and the resulting matchup for Minnesota will be against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
While Minnesota was busy losing to teams like Iowa and Michigan State, Texas Tech was winning games against teams like then-No. 4 West Virginia and then-No. 21 Texas Christian.
There were no wins over ranked teams for Minnesota in 2012.
The Gophers were completely unremarkable in 2012 and sported one of the nation's lowliest offenses. The Gophers averaged just 317.5 yards and 21.3 points per game (114th and 99th in the nation, respectively). While Texas Tech certainly wasn't spectacular on either side of the ball this year, the Raiders still sport the Big 12's fourth-leading passer in Seth Doege.
With 38 passing touchdowns already this season, it's safe to assume Doege will be putting up a fair number of points on the Gophers in front of a very friendly Texas crowd.
Southern California vs. Georgia Tech
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Sun Bowl, December 31, 2:00pm Eastern
Line: USC, -10.5
When the 2012 season began, the USC Trojans hoped to still have over a week left before their bowl game when New Year's Eve rolled around.
The clearly overrated Trojans didn't even come close to living up to their preseason No. 1 rankings, and stumbled to a 7-5 finish that included a woeful 5-4 Pac-12 record. Now, instead of a national championship quest, the Trojans will simply have to settle for the Sun Bowl trip to El Paso.
Luckily, the opponent for USC shouldn't pose too much of a problem. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets had their own problems this season, including needing a waiver from the NCAA to even play in a bowl.
Georgia Tech finished the regular season with a losing 6-7 record despite “winning” the ACC Coastal Division title (UNC and Miami also finished 5-3 in conference, but were ineligible for the ACC Championship Game).
In all honesty, this game should have a wider spread than just 10.5 points, but the intangibles might be having an effect on where Vegas thinks this game is headed.
Georgia Tech is lucky to be in a bowl this season, and the Yellow Jackets might just seize the opportunity. Meanwhile, the Trojans have to be seriously disappointing in the way 2012 turned out. USC fans all over the country were envisioning a long-awaited return to glory after the sanction-induced lull of the past few years. Instead of a trip to South Beach, the Trojan faithful will be headed to beach-less El Paso.
Will the Rambling Wreck take advantage? Maybe. Will it be enough? No.
Georgia vs. Nebraska
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Capital One Bowl, January 1, 1:00pm Eastern
Line: Georgia, -8.5
The Capital One Bowl has earned its place as one of the top non-BCS bowls each and every season. The Capital One Bowl along with the Outback Bowl seem to flip-flop turns hosting the two conference championship game losers, and it usually results in a very entertaining game.
Not so much this season.
After a narrow defeat in the SEC Championship Game to Alabama, Georgia is going to be very hungry for a big win. In fact, one of the biggest things bugging head coach Mark Richt these days is the perception by some that his Bulldogs can't win the big games. A win over Nebraska would be a good first step to prove the naysayers wrong.
As for Nebraska, it's been a bit of a rough go for the Cornhuskers in their first two Big Ten seasons.
Last year, Nebraska didn't really come close to a conference title. In 2012, just when everything seems to be breaking the Huskers' way, Wisconsin decides to have one of those rare performances than utterly humiliates the opposition.
And Nebraska was certainly humiliated.
The Badgers—a team far inferior to Georgia—managed to put up 70 points on the seemingly hapless Cornhuskers (including 42 in the first half alone). Nebraska seemed to have absolutely no answer for the Wisconsin onslaught, and once again the Huskers are left to lick their wounds after a tussle with the Badgers.
The Bulldogs, for their part, are still one of the best teams in the nation (as was proven yet again last Saturday in the SEC Championship Game).
The spread on this game may only be eight-and-a-half points, but that seems pretty generous towards the Huskers, considering. If you're a Big Ten homer looking for a conference team to pick up a win against the evil SEC, this probably won't be a game you'll want to watch. The stout Georgia defense will have its way with Taylor Martinez, and every mistake the junior quarterback makes will be magnified by the athleticism and skill of the Bulldogs.
What's more, Nebraska's defense was absolutely dismantled by the Wisconsin ground game. The Badgers rushed for 539 yards last Saturday.
And if there's one team capable of duplicating that feat, it has to be Georgia with its dynamic tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Florida vs. Louisville
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Sugar Bowl, January 2, 8:30pm Eastern
Line: Florida, -15
Unfortunately, we're still stuck with the Big East in the BCS for the time being.
This won't be Florida's first Sugar Bowl against the Big East champion, having played Cincinnati after the 2009 season. That game wound up a 27-point beatdown of the Bearcats.
Will this version be any different? It might actually be worse.
Much like 2009, we saw a Florida team fall just short of the SEC championship. The difference this time around is that the opponent clearly isn't as good (Cincy was 12-0 in 2009 while Louisville is 9-3 in a conference that no longer includes West Virginia).
The oddsmakers in Vegas have currently placed a 15-point spread on this game; if this game ends up 15-0 in favor of Florida, we wouldn't be surprised.
Neither Florida nor Louisville have quality offenses this season. While Louisville ranks 47th in total offense, Florida is an anemic 104th. So where do the Gators get those 15 points? On defense.
Florida is giving up 62 fewer yards and nearly 11 fewer points per game this season than Louisville.
Add to that a SEC home crowd and what could very well be hailed as the Will Muschamp era's coming out party, and the Gators should have absolutely no problem handling Louisville in our first of several BCS cupcake matchups.
Florida State vs. Northern Illinois
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Orange Bowl, January 1, 8:30pm Eastern
Line: Florida State, -14
Now we come to everyone's favorite cupcake of the 2012 bowl season: Northern Illinois.
By any measure, Northern Illinois had one heckuva season. The Huskies are MAC champions yet again, and they posted an impressive 12-1 record.
Now comes the other side of that coin. NIU lost to a pretty bad Iowa team in Week 1, and the “signature win” of the regular season came against Kansas. No, not Kansas State, Kansas.
The Huskies' overtime win over Kent State in the MAC Championship Game was impressive standing by itself, unless you consider than Northern Illinois was leading 27-13 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter before allowing Kent State to tie. NIU was up again, 34-27 with two minutes left, but again, allowed the Golden Flashes to tie it up with under a minute remaining.
Sure, the Huskies emerged victorious, but Kent State is still a team that lost by 33 points to Kentucky. You can like MAC football all you want, but teams like Northern Illinois have no business playing in the BCS this season.
Jordan Lynch, NIU's junior quarterback, is a stud of a football player. He can run, he can throw, he can block, he can pretty much do it all. But Florida State is Florida State.
The Seminoles weren't the national championship contender we were all led to believe they were. Still, there's little doubt the Seminoles were the class of the ACC this season after beating Clemson in the regular season and capturing the conference title. The Seminoles have earned their way in and belong in the Orange Bowl.
As a final note, we want to clarify we're not blaming NIU for anything. The Huskies, too, earned their way into the Orange Bowl via the current set of BCS rules. But this is one of the clearest cut examples of why we can't wait for that new format to come rolling around in 2014.
Stanford vs. Wisconsin
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Rose Bowl Game, January 1, 5:00pm Eastern
Line: Sanford, -6.5
We'd really like to talk to the oddsmakers that have put the 2013 Rose Bowl game at just six-and-a-half points.
Wisconsin finished third in the Big Ten Leaders Division this season, and only found itself in the conference championship game because Ohio State cheated and Penn State, well, did what it did.
For the first time ever, the Rose Bowl game will feature an unranked team with five losses. That's right, Wisconsin is 8-5, folks.
Maybe the oddsmakers were blinded by the Badgers' performance in the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin put up 640 yards and 70 points on Nebraska, and it had three players with 100-or-more rushing yards on the day and two with more than 200 apiece.
But can we honestly expect a repeat performance against Stanford?
Keep in mind this is the same Stanford team that held offensive juggernaut Oregon to just 198 rushing yards and 14 points in an overtime win in Eugene on November 17. Stanford also gave No. 1 Notre Dame all it could handle before falling just a nanometer short in overtime in South Bend.
Montee Ball, the all-time FBS leader in rushing touchdowns, is going to do what Montee Ball does. But Stanford isn't without weapons on offense. Stepfan Taylor averages over 110 yards per game on the ground, and he's a threat to score every time he touches the football.
Wisconsin will also have to play without head coach Bret Bielema, who hours after winning the Big Ten bolted for a ridiculously overpaid SEC gig. Instead, Wisconsin had to dig up a fossil like Barry Alvarez to take over for this lone game.
Sure, Alvarez is 3-0 in Pasadena as head coach of Wisconsin. But those games were almost two decades ago.
At the end of the day, we just don't see an 8-5 Wisconsin team beating Stanford. The Cardinal should be able to pull away in the second half, handing Wisconsin its third consecutive loss in Pasadena.
Oregon vs. Kansas State
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Fiesta Bowl, January 3, 8:30pm Eastern
Line: Oregon, -8.5
In what is widely expected to be the best BCS matchup outside of the BCS National Championship Game, once No. 1 Kansas State will take on once No. 2 Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
Both K-State and Oregon appeared to be on a path to Miami before the Week 12 tidal wave sucked under both unsuspecting teams.
Oregon lost in overtime at home to a very good Stanford team while Kansas State was upset by massive underdog Baylor. And that loss to the Bears is exactly what leads us to believe the Ducks will be having the Wildcats for dessert this bowl season.
Collin Klein has been one of the best players in the nation this season, and he is being justly rewarded with a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. But even he was helpless to stop the onslaught of the Baylor Bears this season. K-State gave up a whopping 52 points and 580 yards to a team that wasn't even bowl eligible at the time (in Week 12). And Klein still had over 300 yards of total offense himself that evening.
As good as Klein and the Wildcats have been on offense this season, defense has been another matter.
The Wildcats rank just 94th in the FBS in pass defense while the Ducks can score points like few other teams can. Oregon will be the top scoring offense playing in a bowl game this season after scoring leader Louisiana Tech (9-3) did not receive an invitation to play in the postseason.
There are also few coaches anywhere that prepares his team better than Chip Kelly. The Ducks will be ready to exploit each and every weakness in the Kansas State secondary, and the Wildcats just don't have the weapons to win this game.
Or even keep it within reach in the second half.