Predictions for Every Pac-12 Team's Bowl
Among the BCS' bon voyage and the 34 superfluous and ridiculously named games that precede it, this bowl season's biggest subplot is the centennial Rose Bowl presented by Vizio. Battling ticket sales aside, it is a victory Stanford must secure in order to guide the Pac-12's sleigh through 2014.
Although no holiday arrangements are made with the SEC itself, if the Pac-12 aspires to be mentioned in the same breath, collective success in December is imperative. If it doesn't, then I'm sure Dez Bryant has a few minutes to spare for some motivational speaking.
From preseason until the middle of November, Stanford and Oregon were the class of the conference yearning to represent in Pasadena and dethrone Alabama or any SEC counterpart in the national championship. Upsets at the mercy of USC and Arizona, respectively, in consecutive weeks rapidly unravelled the unbiased West Coast's bid for a BCS at-large berth.
The silver-polluted lining, of course, is the parity that arose from the ashes. Nine of the conference's 12 schools reached the postseason, a percentage only outdone by the ACC (11 of 14).
Arizona State posted 10 wins. USC and UCLA hope to do the same for the rejuvenated city of Los Angeles. Oregon State features the runner-up in passing yards, while Arizona boasts the fifth-leading rusher. The collective state of Washington is wearing bowling shoes for the first time since 2002.
That's nice by Hallmark's standards, but if we're going to start caring about Mariah Carey being in every single Christmas special, she has to sing a new song. Upon adding Utah and Colorado two years ago, commissioner Larry Scott indirectly went 2-5 and 4-4 in bowl games. The SEC, meanwhile, achieved 6-3 marks in each of those seasons as it prolonged its manipulation of the country.
A notorious era is ending, and the negative winter ethos of the Pac-12 is invited to the Flush It Down the Toilet Bowl. Which programs are motivated to conclude 2013 on a sugar-cookie high, and who will be shoveling snow in the offseason?
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Washington State vs. Colorado State
The Cougars have not played this late into the season for a decade, putting the Rams' four-year drought in perspective. While Colorado State's bowl absence isn't as dramatic, it is the experience of second-year head coach Mike Leach that will provide composure for resurrected Washington State.
Leach has already turned the conference's perennial cellar-dwellers into a bowl-eligible, upset-driven squad in two short years. The nation's most anemic running game is compensated by the fourth-highest aerial attack, which is lethal enough to carve the 109th overall passing defense without the threat of a draw or dive.
So long as Connor Halliday (62.8 completion percentage, 4,187 YDS, 28 TD, 21 INT) can limit turnovers, his vast improvement will be exciting to watch as Washington State kicks off festivities on Saturday.
Prediction: Washington State 40, Colorado State 34
Bold Prediction: Halliday will lead the Pac-12 in passing yards this postseason.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
No. 25 USC vs. No. 20 Fresno State
Silas Redd intended to lead a four-pronged ground attack in his senior sendoff, but much like the entirety of this USC campaign, injuries are standing in the way.
Now Steve Sarkisian cannot show up soon enough, because the heartbeat Ed Orgeron left behind is diminishing rapidly.
As B/R's Trenise Ferreira reported, the Trojans are less enthusiastic about non-BCS contests. Players and coaches alike should fear job security, but the larger picture suggests they'd rather heal, look forward and prepare for next season's bout with the Bulldogs instead.
If Clay Helton's infused punctuality suggests otherwise, then an early strike from a hungry Derek Carr could still defuse momentum and effort early.
Prediction: Fresno State 41, USC 30
Bold Prediction: Freshman Ty Isaac will top 100 yards rushing for the first time in his career.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Oregon State vs. Boise State
Conversely, Oregon State benefits from a coaching change on the opposite sideline. Long-tenured blue Bronco Chris Peterson finally bids his farewell, so assistant and linebackers coach Bob Gregory assumes the role of stopgap before Bryan Harsin moves in.
B/R's Adam Kramer reminds us that "in the last 18 bowl games, interim coaches have a record of 7-11." It's not exactly the death sentence fans anticipate, but it certainly serves as a distraction.
In a contest destined to be a shootout between Boise State's 38.8 points per game and Oregon State's third-ranked passing offense, Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks and company are more equipped to sustain profuse scoring due to that intangible stability.
Prediction: Oregon State 38, Boise State 25
Bold Prediction: The Beavers defense is tied for fifth with 19 interceptions. It will support quarterback Sean Mannion with three more, while special teams blocks a field goal.
Fight Hunger Bowl
Washington vs. BYU
Regardless of whether the conference finishes the 2013 bowl season at 6-3 or 3-6, blame the Huskies.
They initiated Ed Orgeron's departure by sicking Sark on the Trojans. They fetched Petersen away from Boise, providing an emotional factor that will seal Oregon State's fate one way or the other. Marques Tuiasosopo edged out unrelated Ronaiah in a fake hoax of an interim race and never returned his emails. Blame the coaching carousel on the Huskies.
Now the investigation of assistant coach Tosh Lupoi and his alleged recruiting infractions deem Washington the next Pac-12 program on the NCAA's sanctions radar. Without the bonus hoopla, it appeared more capable of successfully maintaining its identity than USC, but these extracurriculars exceed the healthy limits of collegiate athletes' responsibilities.
Suddenly, BYU's versatility (led by dual-threat quarterback Tayson Hill), consistency (four consecutive bowl victories and 6-2 record against bowl-bound teams this season) and No. 23 scoring defense pose the pedigree of a ranked opponent too impenetrable for the Huskies.
Prediction: BYU 23, Washington 21
Bold Prediction: Keith Price threw precisely 181 yards in each of the last two games he started. Make that three.
Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 10 Oregon vs. Texas
If there is one "Mr. Football" (as Steve Spurrier and Grantland's Bryan Curtis branded him) inspired to exit gracefully and on top, it's Mack Brown as Texas plays close to home. Unfortunately, the Longhorns broke off the shorter end of the wishbone.
Back when the Ducks were dropping close to 60 points weekly and through their escalation toward the No. 2 team in the country, Oregon was the most appraised and intriguing savior in the ultimate fight against the SEC. However, lack of focus and poor execution at Arizona derailed titular aspirations.
With Marcus Mariota plummeting out of Heisman contention, and after being surpassed by Oklahoma and Clemson in the BCS, this collection of ugly sweaters feels as spurned as anyone during these holiday festivities. There are plenty of chipped shoulders to go around, which is ironic because Chip Kelly left for Philadelphia ages ago...
Oregon struts the third-highest scoring offense, and Case McCoy will hardly keep up—heck, even Colt McCoy would struggle.
Prediction: Oregon 51, Texas 29
Bold Prediction: Waldo, Nemo and Neverland were all found with greater ease, but De'Anthony Thomas resurges back onto the scene with 300 all-purpose yards.
National University Holiday Bowl
No. 14 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Admittedly, this is the Pac-12 school I keep forgetting about in regard to this bowl season. California, Oregon and Washington hog the media's attention, and yet Arizona State is conference runner-up. Acquire an ocean, ASU, and maybe people will start caring.
Were it not for Stanford, the Sun Devils would have flirted with Pasadena before succumbing to Florida State and Auburn. Their steady offensive balance suffered a blow with senior running back Marion Grice (996 rushing yards) on crutches since Nov. 30, but Taylor Kelly can create opportunities with both his arm and legs.
The trap is treating Texas Tech like the Red Raiders that lost five straight rather than the Jace Amaro-led group that reeled off seven in a row to open 2013. Nonetheless, Arizona State persevere with championship-caliber poise.
Prediction: Arizona State 38, Texas Tech 31
Bold Prediction: Grice is rewarded for his career with a courtesy carry for a three-yard gain, but the draft prospect is saved from further injury before eclipsing 1,000 yards.
AdvoCare V100 Bowl
Arizona vs. Boston College
Stock up on Pepto-Bismol, because this matchup is diagnosed with bountiful runs.
Two of the nation's top-five rushers in Boston College's Andre Williams and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey are pinned together, and every gift-wrapped box will be relentlessly stuffed with eight-plus defenders. The pair will accumulate their respective stats, but two more defensive coordinator positions will be readily available if containment isn't prioritized.
Should the ground games cancel each other out, that leaves the quarterbacks to determine the outcome. Interceptions are nearly identical: Chase Rettig of the Eagles only surrendered six; the Wildcats' B.J. Denker recorded seven, although three of them derived from Arizona's season-finale clunker at Arizona State.
Boston College's aerial attack is a touch more conservative (150.5 YPG compared to Arizona's 186.8 YPG), but at this point Rettig has the hotter and more trustworthy hand when it comes to protecting the football. Boston College rises to 8-2 whenever Williams achieves triple-digit rushing yards, while Arizona treads cactus water at 6-6.
Prediction: Boston College 24, Arizona 19
Bold Prediction: Even though it won't translate to triumph, Carey will avenge his Heisman snub and at least double the output of Williams.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
No. 17 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
After Stanford, it's the Bruins who finished the Pac-12 regular season on the highest of highs. Anthony Barr and UCLA stifled crosstown rival USC for the second consecutive Victory Bell and are seeking their first 10-win campaign since 2005, capturing the hearts of Hollywood for happily ever after.
Better keep the Sun Bowl out of your eyes, superstars. Remember what happened to the Trojans here last year versus a seemingly inferior ACC foe.
Minus the national prominence, these are still Frank Beamer's Hokies. According to NCAA.com statistics, Virginia Tech ranks third overall in passing defense (165.8 YPG), eighth in rushing defense (103.8 YPG), fifth in interceptions (19) and eighth in scoring defense (17.4 PPG).
With losses to the Big Three (Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State), Brett Hundley and the Bruins endure stage fright once again, leaving the encore for distant top-10 NFL hopeful Logan Thomas. What's a Christmas movie marathon without its inevitable heartbreak, right?
Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, UCLA 9
Bold Prediction: Linebacker-tailback hybrid Myles Jack tallies his first career sack, and Jim Mora sneaks Barr into a goal-line package.
No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 4 Michigan State
Yesterday, The Program questioned offensive ineptitude in the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl:
"The Spartan defense might be the best in the country, but the Cardinal defense is not too far behind. Will either offense get the best of the opposing defense?"
Based purely on box scores? No. Incorporeal experience and household notoriety? Yes.
For every Jim Thorpe award recipient Darqueze Dennard, there's a game-winning interception from Usua Amanam. Michigan State's leading tackler Denicos Allen (15 TFL) is outshone by Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov. Tyler Gaffney and Ty Montgomery offer more firepower than Jeremy Langford and Bennie Fowler, and although Connor Cook performed brilliantly as a freshman, junior Kevin Hogan has done this before and is better for it.
David Shaw doesn't plan on leaving Stanford, and the yearly winter wonderland he's established in Pasadena will not be relinquished, either.
Prediction: Stanford score 24, Michigan State 14
Bold Prediction: The Stanford Tree, brightened by holiday garb, rushes the field and is brushed away by changing winds into the BCS' sunset.
2013 Pac-12 Bowl Record: 5-4. With the College Football Playoff looming around the corner, perhaps Larry Scott should just SECede to next year and "pac" it in.