Bold College Football Predictions for Week 1 of the Bowl Season
If you’re wondering what to watch while trimming your tree, fear not, because the first bowl game of the season airs this Saturday, Dec. 15, at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Indeed, the 2012-13 bowl extravaganza begins when Nevada and Arizona square off in the New Mexico Bowl, and the season of giving serves up three more fascinating matchups before Dec. 22 even rolls around.
In the following slideshow, we pick apart the first four bowl offerings of 2012-13 and make 14 bold predictions in a college football postseason that oozes with untold potential.
To go along with the New Mexico Bowl, we’ll take a gander (or a goose, you pick) at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl featuring Toledo and Utah State on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 4:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Also included are the festive Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20, at 8 p.m. EST, where BYU and San Diego State will take center stage, and the Beef 'O’ Brady’s Bowl where UCF and Ball State will duke it out under the Friday night lights on Dec. 21.
Let the games begin!
There Will Be 600-Plus Yards Rushing In the New Mexico Bowl
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All the stars align magically for the New Mexico Bowl to be the rushing-palooza of the 2012 college football postseason.
The game will feature the No. 7 nationally ranked rushing offense (Nevada), the No. 15-ranked rushing offense (Arizona), the No. 1 back in the FBS in rushing yards (Ka’Deem Carey of Arizona) and the No. 3 RB (Stefphon Jefferson of Nevada).
If that weren’t enough, the clash will include two of the worst rush defenses in the nation with Arizona’s No. 89-ranked unit and Nevada’s No. 112-ranked rushing D.
Holy rushing yards!
Nevada’s Cody Fajardo Will Explode
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During the rushing fest that will no doubt go down in history during this Saturday’s New Mexico Bowl, don’t forget to check out Wolf Pack QB Cody Fajardo who may well make some yardage magic of his own.
Yes, Fajardo is in fine position to post season-high numbers as he takes his 66.7 completion percentage, 17 TDs and 2,530 yards and squares off with an Arizona passing D that has earned an unseemly No. 120 national ranking this season.
This means that the Wildcats, which have allowed, on average, 300 yards per game through the air this season, are in the bottom five in the nation against the pass.
Rich Rodriguez Will Get His First Bowl Win Since 2007
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An Arizona win over Nevada in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl will represent coach Rich Rodriguez’s first postseason win since he led West Virginia to victory in the 2006-07 Gator Bowl.
The only bowl appearance for “Rich Rod” since that triumph came in 2010 when he led 7-5 Michigan to the Gator Bowl only to fall to Mississippi State, 52-14.
That game would be Rodriguez’s last as the Wolverines' head coach.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Will Be the Most Penalized Bowl Game of 2012-13
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Featuring two of the most penalized teams in the FBS, the 2012 Potato Bowl will become famous for more than the super spud; it will also be memorable for yellow flags flying frequently and festively through the holiday air.
The Toledo Rockets finished the 2012 season ranked No. 117 in penalty yards per game with 69.6, and their opponent in the bowl season, Utah State, finished at No. 111 with 67.5 yards per game.
Officials have been advised to ice their arms, and their potatoes, at halftime in Boise, Idaho.
Toledo Will Pick Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton
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In a perfect marriage between an opportunistic approach and a generous heart, Toledo’s D is ranked No. 14 nationally in INTs while Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton is tied for No. 47 in picks thrown.
Yep, the Rockets have intercepted opposing QBs passes 17 times this season while Keeton has thrown nine picks in 2012, meaning there is a great chance to tune in and see an interception in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Utah State Will Hang Up Over 400 Yards of Passing on Toledo
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Regardless of who picks whom, look for QB Chuckie Keeton and the Aggies to rack up some serious yards through the air on the Rockets' D in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Toledo comes into the contest with the No. 121 ranked passing defense in the FBS and has allowed foes an average of 300 passing yards in 2012. Utah State’s No. 37-ranked attack should be able to pick apart such a suspect pass defense.
To illustrate, the Rockets gave up 387 passing yards to the No. 29-ranked passing attack of Arizona earlier this season and then got nailed for 407 yards through the air by Northern Illinois’ No. 61-ranked unit late in the season.
On the flip side, Utah State managed 426 passing yards on a UNLV passing D earlier this season that ranks a much more respectable No. 67.
Toledo Will Score Less Than 20 Points in the Potato Bowl
Douglas C. Pizac-USA TODAY Sports
Though the Rockets have averaged more than 32 points in offensive scoring this season, Utah State is the best defense they will have faced all season.
How good are the Aggies on defense?
Well, in terms of scoring D, there are only seven teams in the nation that have been more successful at stopping foes from earning points.
And the list is impressive, in a big way.
While Utah State has held its 2012 opponents to an average of 15.4 points per game, Notre Dame’s number is 10.3 (that’s No. 1); Alabama comes in at 10.7 (No. 2); No. 3 is Florida with 12.9; No. 4 is Rutgers with 14.3; No. 5 is BYU with 14.7; No. 6 is Boise State with 14.9; and No. 7 is Florida State at 15.1.
And let’s keep in mind that Toledo comes into the Famous Potato Bowl with the No. 39-ranked scoring offense, not an offense as explosive as Oklahoma State's or Oregon's.
Utah State Will Win Its First Bowl Game Since 1993
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The last time, and the only time, the Aggies have tasted from the chalice of bowl victory came in 1993 when Utah State knocked off Ball State in the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl.
The next bowl win in Utah State football history will come just two days short of the 19 year anniversary of that game and it will come 630 miles to the north in Boise, where the Aggies will best Toledo in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The Poinsettia Bowl Will Be the Anti-Holiday Bowl
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Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., is the venue for both the Poinsettia and Holiday bowls, but for 2012, it would be difficult to find two bowls that will be more inherently different in nature.
To illustrate, the Poinsettia Bowl (featuring BYU and San Diego State) could be featured on the History Channel, while the Holiday Bowl (pairing Baylor and UCLA) could be shown on the Sci-Fi channel.
Indeed, the former will be all about BYU’s smash-mouth No. 2 rush D trying to contain San Diego State’s thrilling No. 16 rushing offense while the later will be a wild ride with UCLA’s No. 93 pass D attempting to keep a thumb on Baylor’s No. 3 pass offense.
BYU has one of the best defenses in the land, and though it can move the ball better than, say, Florida, look for this to be all about whether San Diego State can score points with its one-dimensional attack.
It won’t be as exciting as the Holiday Bowl, but it may actually be a better football game.
If The Poinsettia Bowl Comes Down to a Field Goal the Aztecs Win
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If the festive flower bowl goes down to the wire and if a BYU field goal is necessary to send the game into overtime or seal the deal, San Diego State suddenly owns a real advantage.
From a team perspective, the Cougars finished 2012 ranked a dismal No. 119 nationally in field goals and were successful on only nine of 17 attempts. This nets out to an unfortunate 52.9 percent success rate, which is made worse by pointing out that only five FBS teams suffered a worse percentage in terms of three-point tries.
Breaking it down, junior Justin Sorensen is 5-of-11 on field-goal attempts this season while senior Riley Stephenson (listed as the punter) is 4-of-6.
San Diego State Will Beat BYU for the First Time Since 2005
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As members of the WAC and then Mountain West, San Diego State and BYU played one another on a yearly basis from 1978 until the Cougars declared their independence after the 2010 season.
One of the hidden benefits of the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl is that it reunites the two old foes and reignites a 32-year-old relationship that was forced into a two-year hiatus.
Overall, BYU leads the series 27-7-1, but in this year’s Poinsettia Bowl look for the Aztecs to grab their eighth win, their first since 2005 (also in Qualcomm Stadium) and their first ever against BYU in a bowl situation.
UCF’s Latavius Murray Will Rush For Over 200 Yards
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Senior Knight RB Latavius Murray hung up 192 yards and two TDS on Memphis’ No. 34 rushing D earlier this season, which makes the prospect of facing Ball State’s No. 108-ranked unit look delicious.
Indeed, it’s Murray and UCF taking it to a Ball State D that has bent and broken this season to the tune of being ranked No. 90 in average points allowed.
But, this is still a Cardinals team that has managed nine wins and a trip to the Beef 'O’ Brady’s Bowl.
Either way, Murray is in excellent position to be a statistical leader in the 2012-13 edition of the college football bowl extravaganza.
Quincy McDuffie Will Take it the House in the Beef’s Bowl
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Though Ball State’s special teams unit has done reasonably well containing opposing teams in kickoff returns (it finished the season ranked No. 56 nationally), the Cardinals did allow one TD in 2012 via a kickoff return.
If the Cardinals open the door for UCF’s Quincy McDuffie, who just so happens to be tied with Kent State’s Dri Archer for the most kickoff return TDs this season with three, he'll likely deliver.
McDuffie is also No. 1 nationally in average kickoff return yardage with 34.24, meaning that even if he doesn’t reach pay dirt he’s a dangerous dude.
Ball State Won’t Notch Its First Bowl Win Ever
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Though the fan in most of us might want to make a prediction otherwise, Ball State’s lack of defense will make it difficult for the Cardinals to break their 0-fer bowl record in 2012.
Coming into this season’s Beef 'O' Brady’s Bowl, the Cardinals are 0-5 in bowl play and last fell short in a 45-13 meltdown in the 2009 GMAC Bowl.
Ball State certainly looks to be a program moving in the right direction, but its first bowl win might have to wait another season, or unitl the team has a better defense.