Bowl Game Predictions 2013: Picking Winners for Top Post-New Year's Day Games
New Year's Day is still the biggest day in college football, but from January 2 through the BCS national championship on January 7, there is a steady diet of great action for fans as well.
The rest of the BCS bowl schedule will play out, and Johnny Manziel will make his first on-field appearance since winning the Heisman trophy. There is still a lot left to watch from the college gridiron this bowl season.
Here are predictions for the biggest post-New Year's day bowl games.
Allstate Sugar Bowl, January 2: No. 21 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 3 Florida Gators
I struggle to find a way that Louisville can keep this game within 20 points. Excellent quarterback play is required to handle top SEC defenses like the group the Gators will bring to New Orleans, and Teddy Bridgewater seems capable of fitting the bill.
However, the Gators' rushing attack is so dominant, there doesn't appear to be a scenario where the Cardinals can slow them down.
Lousiville's defense is 25th in the nation in yards allowed per game—which isn't horrible—but it gave up 45 points to Syracuse, 35 to Pittsburgh and 34 to North Carolina. None of those teams are on par with the Gators.
Florida has proven it can run the ball against any team. It went for 244 yards on the ground against Florida State and 176 against LSU.
There is no way the Gators won't rack up at least 250 yards on the ground against Louisville. That puts enormous pressure on Bridgewater and the offense to keep pace. As good as he's been this season, this is still the fifth-ranked defense in the nation the sophomore QB will be facing.
That's too tall an order for the Louisville offense. The Gators will win the Sugar Bowl, and my score prediction is 45-20.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, January 3: No. 4 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats
This has the potential to be the most exciting BCS bowl game on the schedule. With two of the top 10 scoring teams in the nation, the combined score could be huge.
The team that wins this game will be the one that takes the most care with the ball, and limits their opponents on third downs. Just looking at the numbers, these teams are incredibly even.
They have allowed nearly the same amount of yards per game to opponents (375.3 for Kansas St. and 381 for Oregon), almost identical points against for the season (21.1 for Kansas State and 22 for Oregon) and against ranked opponents (22.2 for Kansas State and 22.6 for Oregon).
Quite simply, the Wildcats' defense is a bit better than Oregon's. Though the Ducks beat USC, the 51 points they surrendered in that game really sticks out.
Overall, the Wildcats have been better against ranked opponents this season, and Collin Klein is the type of dynamic leader that can will his team to a close victory.
I'm picking the Wildcats and my score prediction is 53-46.
AT&T Cotton Bowl, January 4: No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies vs. No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners
All eyes will be on the Aggies' Heisman trophy-winning freshman Johnny Manziel at the Cotton Bowl, but the Sooners will be looking to dim his shine.
This is an intriguing QB matchup between Manziel and the Sooners' senior signal-caller, Landry Jones. Jones was once considered one of college football's best quarterbacks, but he has since fallen from that lofty perch.
A strong game in the Cotton Bowl could help him regain some of that status.
As important as Jones' play will be, the play of the Sooners' 45th-ranked defense is most pertinent. Can they find a way to slow Manziel's mobility and his connections with Ryan Swope and underrated freshman receiver, Mike Evans?
This has all the makings of a high-scoring affair as the Aggies haven't exactly shut opponents down themselves. They are ranked just 57th in the nation in yards allowed per game.
As will be the case in the Fiesta Bowl, key third-down stops and turnovers will dictate the result.
I trust Manziel's ability to protect the ball better than Jones. I'm not sure if that is a bigger compliment to the freshman or a slight to the senior, but in either case, I see another amazing performance on tap for the Heisman winner.
The Aggies will win a shootout, and my score prediction is 47-37.
BCS National Championship, January 7: No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
I have no doubt that the Irish's defense can keep the Tide from running roughshod over them, but I do have concerns about the secondary.
This game could be the official coming-out party for freshman Amari Cooper. Sure, he leads the Tide in receptions with 52, but when you think of the 2012 Crimson Tide, Cooper's name isn't one of the first that come to your mind.
That could change after this one is over.
The Irish don't have corners that can contain him without safety help. Even though the Irish's front seven can compete with Bama's running game, they will still benefit from safety support against the run.
This is going to create opportunities down the field in play action and deep shots down field. I predict an A.J. McCarron-to-Cooper strike will break open, or be the difference in this game.
Alabama will repeat as national champions, and my score prediction is 23-14.
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