College Football Bowl Picks 2012: Upsets Waiting to Happen

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVDecember 17, 2012

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Sean Renfree #19 of the Duke Blue Devils drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Stanford Cardinals at Stanford Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The college football bowl season is upon us, which means that exciting matchups and surprising upsets are right around the corner.

Each bowl committee aims to make their game an evenly-matched contest with no clear favorite, but that doesn't always happen. This sets us up for chances at upsets over the holidays as some teams will falter with the national exposure and distractions that often come with the bowl setting.

Without further delay, let's dive in and check out which games are just upsets waiting to happen.


Duke over Cincinnati – Belk Bowl

Heading into this game, many Cincinnati fans likely eyed an easy win over a Duke Blue Devils team that hasn't exactly been known for their football program in recent decades.

But after one of their most successful seasons ever, Duke is headed to a bowl game for the first time in 18 years and will be pumped up to pull the upset at the Belk Bowl.

Four straight losses to end the season doesn't translate to much hope for Duke, but playing Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami at the back end of their slate didn't help their case.

The Blue Devils will benefit from adversity on the other end. Former Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones bolted for Tennessee just weeks ago and is taking much of his staff with him. The Bearcats made a big hire with Tommy Tuberville, but he isn't taking over until after the bowl game.

The interesting decision to appoint Steve Stripling as the interim head coach for the game won't pay off, as Stripling is already on Jones' staff at Rocky Top and his mind will likely be in Knoxville. 

Duke will get back to their early-season form against a Cincinnati team that is in the midst of its third coaching change in the last decade. 


Syracuse over West Virginia – New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Just a couple of months ago, many experts had West Virginia in a BCS game to end the season. Now at 7-5, they face Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

The Orange are also at 7-5, but heading in a completely different direction than the Mountaineers. They've won five of their last six contests, and have averaged 38 points in their last three games. That will translate to huge success against a ghastly West Virginia defense.

Geno Smith's Mountaineers did finish the season with two straight victories after losing five in a row, but they were against the Big 12's two worst teams (Kansas and Iowa State). When they face a Syracuse team that has a passing attack ranking in the Top 25 with more than 300 yards per game, they'll be hopeless and points will be racked up against them.

Look for Syracuse's senior quarterback Ryan Nassib to have a huge day through the air and pull off the upset. 


Purdue over Oklahoma State – Heart of Dallas Bowl

Close to nobody is expecting Purdue to make a close game out of their Heart of Dallas Bowl showdown with Oklahoma State, but that's a shame as it has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the bowl season.

The Cowboys' offense is potent as usual, but the other side of the football leaves a lot to be desired. They've given up at least 40 points in five different instances this season, including 59 points to Arizona. 

Meanwhile, the Boilermakers don't have a strong defense, but have been able to contain opposing teams enough to nearly pull off huge upsets. They nearly ended Notre Dame's unbeaten campaign early on, losing 20-17 to the Irish. They also took undefeated Ohio State to overtime. 

Purdue struggled through five straight losses in the middle of the season, but finished it off with three consecutive victories. The way your season ends is as big of a deal as anything heading into a bowl game, and that combined with a new head coach hiring will motivate the Boilermakers to go into a road-like environment and pick up a huge upset victory.