Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for the Pac-12 Bowl Games After Christmas
Holiday season is no time for the Pac-12's bowl participants to take a breather—their work is just beginning.
Six of the conference's record nine bowl teams play between Christmas and New Year's Day, including Pac-12 champion Stanford in the 100th installment of the Rose Bowl.
The Cardinal's date with Big Ten champion Michigan State is one five matchups against BCS conference competition. The Pac-12 faces the ACC twice (Arizona vs. Boston College, UCLA vs. Virginia Tech), the Big 12 twice (Arizona State vs. Texas Tech, Oregon vs. Texas) and the Big Ten once.
All lines courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Bowl Record (as of Dec. 23): 1-1 (0-2 against the spread)
Record This Season: 76-17 (52-41 against the spread)
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington (-3) vs. Brigham Young
Friday, Dec. 27, 9:30 p.m. ET
The eight wins Washington notched this season were the program's most since 2001. With interim head coach Marques Tuiasosopo taking over for Steve Sarkisian, the Huskies are in pursuit of their best season since 2000, when they won the Rose Bowl.
A ninth win against a quality opponent would set the right foundation for a Washington team that could make noise in the 2014 Pac-12 North race.
An underrated Washington defense must contain the two-headed running attack of quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams, the most productive combination in Cougars history, as detailed via The Deseret News.
Washington's front seven is loaded with talent, including linebackers John Timu and Shaq Thompson, but the most noteworthy linebacker in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is BYU All-American Kyle Van Noy. Last year, Van Noy's performance in the Poinsettia Bowl was as close to a one-man victory as there can be in college football.
In his final collegiate outing, Huskies quarterback Keith Price must evade Van Noy and establish the Huskies' passing game to open the field for workhorse running back Bishop Sankey.
Prediction: Washington 28, BYU 20
Alamo Bowl: Oregon (-13) vs. Texas
Monday, Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET
Motivation is an oft-cited factor in games this time of year, and Texas seemingly has more for which to play. The Longhorns are playing just 80 miles from home, with the opportunity to carry off outgoing head coach Mack Brown with a marquee win.
Conversely, Oregon limped to the finish line with losses at Stanford and Arizona and a near-miss against sputtering rival Oregon State. Moreover, the Alamo Bowl is not quite of the same prestige as the Rose Bowl—and Ducks Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas garnered criticism for dismissive comments about the Rose Bowl last month.
Eliminate the motivational angle, however, and all indicators point to an Oregon win. Quarterback Marcus Mariota announced his return for a third season captaining the Ducks offense earlier this month and can launch his Heisman candidacy in earnest with a big performance against a Texas defense that's struggled with spread offenses.
Brigham Young, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State and Baylor accounted for the Longhorns' four losses and combined to average 38 points per game.
The common theme in Oregon's two losses are running backs Tyler Gaffney and Ka'Deem Carey, grinders who pounded the Ducks defense with more than 40 carries. Texas has no one back capable of a similar workload, but offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has to go deep into the stable to try to replicate that production.
Prediction: Oregon 42, Texas 21
Holiday Bowl: Arizona State (-13) vs. Texas Tech
Monday, Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. ET
There may not be a more mismatched bowl matchup, at least on paper, than the Holiday Bowl. That's nothing out of the ordinary. The last Holiday Bowl decided by single digits was in 2005.
The Big 12 was top-heavy this season, producing three 10-game winners. As a result, the conference landed two BCS bids, and that elevated the conference's other more middling teams to prominent bowl games.
Texas Tech comes into San Diego on a five-game losing streak. Of the seven opponents the Red Raiders beat, none finished above .500 and only Texas State reached .500.
Conversely, Arizona State carried a seven-game win streak into the Pac-12 Championship Game, with wins over UCLA (9-3), Washington (8-4) and Arizona (7-5). Before its Oct. 5 loss to Notre Dame, the Sun Devils beat USC (10-4) and Wisconsin (9-3).
There couldn't be two more different resumes, and that should become plainly apparent immediately. Don't expect a letdown for Arizona State, which fell short of its Rose Bowl dream. With a number of outgoing seniors donning the maroon-and-gold for the last time, expect the Sun Devils to close 2013 emphatically.
Prediction: Arizona State 52, Texas Tech 14
AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona (-6.5) vs. Boston College
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. ET
Ka'Deem Carey vs. Andre Williams. More than any other postseason pairing, two players define the AdvoCare V100 Bowl matchup.
Of course, Williams and Carey won't line up opposite one another, rendering the more accurately described faceoffs as Carey vs. Steele Divitto, or Williams vs. Marquis Flowers. And the running back who can win on his end against the opposing defense will obviously set the tone for his offense.
With so much attention paid to Carey and Williams, however, don't be surprised to see the quarterbacks make the difference. Seniors B.J. Denker and Chase Rettig have gone through their ups and downs but can write a happy ending to their college careers.
A low score favors Boston College. In four of the Eagles' five losses, they gave up at least 34 points. Conversely, Arizona is undefeated when scoring 33 or more. Arizona needs to establish a fast tempo and sustain drives early.
Prediction: Arizona 35, Boston College 27
Sun Bowl: UCLA (-7) vs. Virginia Tech
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET
Solving Virginia Tech coordinator Bud Foster's stingy defense might take every experiment in UCLA offensive coordiantor Noel Mazzone's laboratory. The assistant Jim Mora described as "a mad scientist" has notably incorporated defensive players into his game plan, which resulted in touchdowns for defensive linemen Cassius Marsh and Eddie Vanderdoes.
The incorporation of Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and linebacker Myles Jack at running back was a stroke of genius that garnered Jack Offensive Freshman of the Year, as well.
The unpredictability of UCLA's offense gives Foster plenty to study in his preparation, but the focal point is quarterback Brett Hundley. The redshirt sophomore is coming off arguably his best individual performance of 2013 in a 35-14 win over rival USC.
Hundley countered USC's aggressive front seven with decisive rushes. Expect a similar effort against Virginia Tech's own aggressive defensive front.
The Bruins may struggle to score initially, but points will come at a particular premium for the Hokies' oftentimes anemic offense. Virginia Tech's offensive line has allowed 30 sacks this season. Don't be surprised if UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr tees off one last time before beginning the process of becoming a top-five overall NFL draft pick.
Prediction: UCLA 27, Virginia Tech 14
100th Rose Bowl Game: Stanford (-1.5) vs. Michigan State
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
There's no telling what a college football landscape that includes a playoff holds for the Rose Bowl. For the present, the original postseason contest ends one era with an outstanding pairing.
Similarly constructed Stanford and Michigan State match up well in all phases. For a complete breakdown, read the full preview.
Expect a hard-fought, old-school contest that comes down to the wire.
Prediction: Stanford 17, Michigan State 14