Bowl Games 2011: Lead Pipe Locks and Bold Predictions For All Bowl Games
It's that time of year again! 2011 Bowl match ups are set and teams are feverishly practicing to bring you the top of their game. There are 35 games to sort through, and we will predict them all!
Some interesting sponsors make for long Bowl names, but the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl and the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl are just the tip of the college football iceberg this season. From the long names to the BCS games everyone knows, it's sure to be yet another high-octane bowl season.
So sit back, relax on the Lazyboy, and don't spill your hot chocolate/beer on your computer while we work to bring you an in-depth look at all 35 post season games.
35. New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. UTEP
The New Mexico bowl will feature two squads on different paths looking to salvage whatever is left of the 2010 campaign.
These two former WAC rivals will face each other for the first time since the 1998 season. BYU had high expectations coming in to the year, but at 6-6, a win over UTEP would not be consolation enough.
Meanwhile UTEP will be making its first bowl appearance since 2005, and the Miners have lost their last four straight bowl chances.
Lead Pipe Lock
BYU will run away with this one. Their recent improvements in defense and play of QB Jake Heaps will be too much for the UTEP Miners, and their bowl losing streak doesn't snap here.
BYU 31, UTEP 17
34. UDrove Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State
While these two schools managing to avoid the majority of media coverage this season, don't count them out. Both schools have the sneaky ability to play spoiler and have some serious wins under their belt in the last few seasons.
Both schools feature a powerful running game, so expect the ball to stay close to the ground all day. NIU's Chad Spann and Fresno State's Robbie Rouse will be duking it out, attempting to further the up-and-coming of their respective institutes of higher learning.
Northern Illinois enters the matchup in their third consecutive bowl appearance for the first time in school history, while Fresno State makes it's fourth straight bowl appearance.
This one isn't exactly a lead pipe or bold prediction, as these teams seem evenly matched, but we'll go with...
NIU's sneaky offensive attack keeps Fresno State on their heels just long enough to pick up the close victory.
NIU 28, Fresno State 21
33. New Orleans Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy
The New Orleans Bowl pits Ohio State's forgotten brother Ohio against the men of Troy. In a state where Crimson and Silver reign supreme, Ohio has found their own identity, climbing to a 8-4 record and 6-2 MAC mark. The Bobcats will have their hands full with the Troy Trojans, and the Bobcats will be looking for their first ever bowl win; they are 0-4 all-time.
Troy comes into the game at 7-5, coming out of the Sun Belt Conference. They seem to be out matched in this one but may make the game competitive.
Lead Pipe Lock
Ohio takes this one, Troy is just not quite there yet as a program.
Ohio 27, Troy 10
32. Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Louisville
Since playing in the 2007 Orange Bowl, the Louisville Cardinals have gone through several changes and look like a much different squad than their former dominant selves. However, they still seem capable of overcoming what used to be a rival in Southern Miss.
Southern Miss's powerful offense will be up against the stingy Cardinal defense. While Louisville is 6-6, they are coming out of the Big East, a conference so difficult to predict with no major team stepping forward. Their unpredictable nature should be concerning for the Golden Eagles, as they may have a tough time figuring out this team.
The C-USA is no easy territory, but at only 8-4, Southern Miss seems small behind their record. However, if it is a high-scoring affair, it just may favor the Eagles.
This one seems difficult to gauge.
Southern Miss starts out slow, and it appears the Cardinals will run away with this one. However, the Golden Eagles have a strong second half, and beat the Cardinals late.
Southern Miss 35, Louisville 27
31. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Boise State
While it seemed their season had come crashing down following a loss to Nevada, the Boise State Broncos still have much to prove. Dropping out of the BCS and into the back-half Las Vegas Bowl is only fuel to the fire to the Barons of the Blue Turf.
Meanwhile, Utah was thoroughly embarrassed by a much stronger and faster TCU squad, only to dip out against Notre Dame the very next weekend.
Scraping off BYU 17-16, it appears Utah is in the middle of the toughest part of the season. Adding to the difficulties is the loss of starting QB Jordan Wynn.
Boise State's high-powered and versatile offense will be the aspect to watch in this game.
Leap Pipe Lock
Boise State is going to run, pass, and trick their way to an easy win in this one. Utah will put up a fight, with their back-up QB leading the offense well. It just won't be close to enough for the Utes, and they will fall easily in this one.
Boise State 42, Utah 21
30. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State
San Diego presents a solid matchup in this one, having a strong Navy presence near the city and San Diego State being the opponent.
San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman will be putting his talents to the test against Ricky Dobbs and Navy.
The Midshipmen will be running the ball frequently, but have plenty of weapons on offense, while San Diego State's attack will be through the air. The Naval Academy seems to high a slight edge in this one, but it will be close.
Navy 28, San Diego State 21
29. Hawaii Bowl: Tulsa vs. Hawaii
Hawaii is another team coming from the WAC conference, having successes but also puzzling defeats. After losing to USC to start the season, the Warriors chipped Army before getting downed by the eventual 5-7 Colorado Buffaloes.
After the loss, the Warriors went on a tear, compiling wins including Fresno State and Nevada, but again getting embarrassed but a much quicker Boise State squad.
Meanwhile, Tulsa has no victories deserving national attention, with the possible exception of a one-point win over Notre Dame.
Lead Pipe Lock
The Hawaii Bowl will go to the natives, while Tulsa is outmatched and ill-prepared to handle the Warriors and QB Bryant Moniz. This one goes to the Warriors easily.
Hawaii 49, Tulsa 31
28. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Florida International vs. Toledo
Perhaps the best Bowl name of the year, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl features two teams that are in the middle of the talent pool. This game's most attractive aspect is probably the title.
Toledo was dropped by Wyoming, while FIU split the Sun Belt Title.
Lead Pipe Lock
Once again it's difficult to call this one bold or a lock, but the nod has to go to Toledo in a low-scoring affair. Despite their loss to Wyoming, Toledo will squeak this one out in one of the more uneventful bowls.
Toledo 17, FIU 13
27. Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
Here comes some serious hits and huge plays. These two teams like to pass the ball, and feature offensive strategies that could be fraternal twins.
Three of Air Force's four losses were at the hands of ranked teams, and although Georgia Tech appears slightly faster, the prediction for this one is against the grain.
Air Force will have a successful end to a successful season and will stun the Yellow Jackets. While Georgia Tech seems slightly faster, they will falter just enough to give Air Force the edge.
Air Force 21, Georgia Tech 17
26. Champs Sports Bowl: West Virginia vs. NC State
The Champ Sports Bowl will be all about the quarterbacks this year. West Virginia is led by Geno Smith, an accurate passer with 23 TDs this season. NC State has their counterpart with Russell Wilson, who is a total offense machine having the ability to pass and run.
Leap Pipe Lock
NC State's Wilson has too many weapons in his own arsenal, and the Mountaineers will come up short on defense.
NC State 35, West Virginia 21
25. Insight Bowl: Missouri vs. Iowa
While Missouri finished the season with three consecutive wins, the Hawkeyes did exactly the opposite, losing their last three and dropping out of the Top 25.
Lead Pipe Lock
Missouri runs away with this one as Iowa struggles and scrambles to stop a strong offense led by QB Blaine Gabbert. Iowa's Ricky Stanzi will put up a good fight, but will come up short.
Missouri 35, Iowa 20
24. Military Bowl: East Carolina vs. Maryland
While the offenses of both schools are strong, East Carolina's defense is non-existent. How do you give up 76 points against Navy?
East Carolina is probably tired of hearing about it, but there's just no excuse for not showing up against the Midshipmen at all.
Lead Pipe Lock
Maryland seems fully capable of running up the score on the Pirates. East Carolina will score a few times, but they'll soon lose pace with the Terps.
Maryland 49, East Carolina 28
23. Texas Bowl: Illinois vs. Baylor
Where's the crazy sponsor name for this bowl? Anyway, Baylor will have the benefit of essential home-field, and will be taking on Ron Zook's Fighting Illini.
Zook appears to be close to the door, but his squad showed up when he needed them most. However, Baylor's Robert Griffen is very talented and features good downfield vision.
Baylor will continue their strong season down the road from home. Illinois will bring a strong ground game to the contest, but it will get lost in the fast-paced offense of the Bears.
Baylor 31, Illinois 21
22. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
Someone needs to tell these two schools how to finish a season. Arizona let their rival creep back in at the final moments of the game, losing in double OT to Arizona State on yet another botched place-kicking attempt and dropping from the Top 25 rankings.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State faced a tougher opponent than Arizona when they squared off with intrastate rival Oklahoma. It seemed like the Cowboys would had the Sooners second-guessing the whole game before finally bowing out, losing by just six points.
Lead Pipe Lock
If Ok State's defense plays the way they did against Oklahoma, it's going to be a long night. However, Arizona has been sputtering on offense as of late, evident by the inability to put the Sun Devils away in the final minutes of regulation.
OSU will be too strong in this one on offense, and they can control Arizona's inconsistent offense. Mike Stoops' boys take this one.
Oklahoma State 45, Arizona 28
21. Armed Forces Bowl: Army vs. SMU
This contest will feature very different offensive styles. Army, making its first bowl appearance since 1996, features a triple option format while the SMU Mustangs have more of a West Coast look, often putting it through the air.
Leap Pipe Lock
While Army is looking up, their program still needs some fine-tuning and a few more dimensions on offense. SMU will mix powerful running in with timely passing to methodically pull away from the Black Knights.
SMU 34, Army 21
20. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas State vs. Syracuse
These two schools have met in the post-season three time since 1997, but never at a place quite like this. New Yankee Stadium will host its first-ever bowl game, and it looks to be a packed house with hometown Syracuse in the mix.
While both schools started out with promising seasons (Kansas State 5-1, Syracuse 6-2), both finished with disappointing marks.
Leap Pipe Lock
While Syracuse is slowly returning possible dynasty form they haven't seen since Donovan McNabb, they won't hold up in a close game against Kansas State's running attack, led by Daniel Thomas.
Kansas State 28, Syracuse 17
19. Music City Bowl: North Carolina vs. Tennessee
North Carolina's Jared McAdoo isn't the only big man on the roster that can contain the running game while pressuring Tennessee's Tyler Bray.
While many of NC's players are gone to suspension, they will still salvage the season.
While Tennessee has some promise, they have struggled this year compared to where they expected to be, and North Carolina is once again becoming relevant. For that reason, the Tar Heels win this one, but you haven't heard the last of Derek Dooley.
North Carolina 31, Tennessee 14
18. Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. Washington
As everyone else covering this game has already pointed out, Nebraska outright humiliated the Huskies earlier this season, beating them through the turf in Seattle, 56-21. There was some doubt as to whether Taylor Martinez would appear in Nebraska's bowl having battled injuries, but he will be present and available against the Huskies.
For Washington, all the pre-season hype surrounding QB Jake Locker and his Heisman hopes have been replaced with anguish over his struggles and down-sloping draft stock. (By the way, for all my faithful followers reading this, I am breaking writer's code here to speak in first person and rub it in your faces! Called it! Locker choked as I CORRECTLY predicted before Week 1!) Ahem, back to the game.
Lead Pipe Lock
Nebraska, while stumbling recently, will again pull away from the only available Pac-10 team still afloat besides Stanford and Oregon. This one won't be close.
Nebraska 49, Washington 23
17. Meineke Car Care Bowl: South Florida vs. Clemson
This game features two notable coaches going head-to-head with two not-so-notable performances from their squads. Neither Skip Holtz nor Dabo Swinney would like to remember the kind of years they've had.
Leap Pipe Lock
While the Bulls show promise, they just can't get it done against Clemson and a more established football program. Clemson takes over early in this one, and rides it out to victory.
Clemson 35, South Florida 13
16. Sun Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Miami
Two major college football programs with solid prior successes will square off in this little-big stage at the Sun Bowl.
The game sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale, and both schools want to see what's left in the tank as they rebuild. The schools will be coming from too opposite landscapes. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are used to frozen tundra in South Bend, Indiana this time of year, while the Hurricanes are leaving sunny, 80 degree weather.
Miami has the advantage here in what should be a solid game. The Hurricanes offense will wear down Notre Dame's defense while the Fighting Irish will look more like the Kicking Sister in this one.
Miami 24, Notre Dame 14
15. Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. UCF
This one seems to be a "barn burner" from every angle. These two teams play different styles and see a much different view of the game on both sides. Georgia goes up against giant SEC schools with storied programs and plenty of recruits at their disposal.
Meanwhile, the UCF rolled through C-USA play but hasn't seen big-game action, except for losses to North Carolina State Kansas State, respectively.
While coming on late after four early-season losses, Georgia will be surprised by George O'Leary's boys. AJ Green is a monster of a receiver, but his performance won't be enough, and the Bulldog faithful will be stunned in Memphis.
UCF 24, Georgia 23
14. Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina vs. Florida State
Both teams come into this matchup seeking a pick-me-up following losses in their respective conference championships. Steve Spurrier knows Florida State all too well as their former rival at Florida. Talented defenses will clash in this one. SC features a defense that led the SEC in rushing defense and quarterback pressure while FSU ranks second in the nation in QB-drops (That's sacks to the lay man).
Spurrier's squad plays solid defense while providing just enough cushion in the pocket for solid passes and big gains. Florida State will bring the heat, and get to the QB on occasion, but South Carolina squeaks this one out.
South Carolina 24, Florida State 17
13. TicketCity Bowl: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
If a bowl is sponsored by a ticket agency, does it sell out faster than normal?
Northwestern has earned their version of "Cardiac Cats" this season, winning and losing in seemingly grand fashion week in and week out. Check out this rap sheet:
Two-point winners over Vanderbilt
Five-point winners over Central Michigan
One-point winners over Minnesota
Three-point losers to Purdue
Eight-point losers to Michigan State (They led most of the way)
Three-point winners over Indiana
Four-point winners over Iowa
The final game of the season broke the mold, they were destroyed by Wisconsin 70-23.
Texas Tech has played some close games as well, but their M.O. will be staying healthy, as injuries really held them back this season.
Lead Pipe Lock
These two teams appear close on paper, but this one will really be about Northwestern's collapse after an exciting school. While injured, Texas Tech is still simply much faster. The Raiders take this one.
Texas Tech 38, Northwestern 24
12. Outback Bowl: Florida vs. Penn State
It's hard to find many reasons for the Gators to play hard in this one. They are losing their Head Coach at the end of the season, having made his heart race marathons. They are nowhere near their expectations at the beginning of the season, and tried their hardest to wipe away that pesky little number that sits in front of their name on pre-game summaries.
While Urban Meyer is perhaps coaching his final college football game (Or at least we think so this time), Joe Paterno soldiers on into salinity.
While it's difficult to pick either of these downers, Florida has to take this win for Urban Meyer. The Gators will be facing a storied program that has fallen out of the rankings in recent years, and Florida may still have something lingering in the tank. This game will be close, but Florida wins in this sloppy mess.
Florida 21, Penn State 19
11. Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Alabama
Things are all too familiar for Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban, having coached Michigan State before moving on to LSU.
Alabama won't repeat their National Championship from last year, but ten wins in three straight seasons isn't anything to sneeze at.
Michigan State comes into the game missing a chance at a BCS berth by one loss.
This prediction is bold, not because we are picking Michigan State, but because we are picking Alabama to blow them out. The Crimson Tide is just too fast, and they will be playing within reach of their legion of fans as Orlando, FL is a right turn away from Alabama.
Alabama 35, Michigan State 17
10. Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Nevada Vs. Boston College
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl has all the makings of an audition for Nevada's total yards vacuum, QB Colin Kaepernick. The Wolfpack would be considered in a major bowl had they not tripped over Hawaii by just six points. While the WAC has been kind to Nevada, they also knocked Boise State out of the BCS picture.
Boston College features size unmatched by any WAC opponent Nevada has seen this year, but that may equal slowness and big objects in Kaepernick's rear-view mirror.
Lead Pipe Lock
This one really doesn't appear to be a close affair. Boston College is not at the point where dominance is associated with their schedule, and Kaepernick will be giving it all he's got in his last hurrah with the Wolfpack.
Nevada 42, Boston College 28
9. BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky
The Panthers will feature Dion Lewis and his ability to hit the hole and pull away with solid speed. However, missing a BCS bowl while not being ranked doesn't mean they will dominate.
Kentucky needs this win more. They are struggling to put their name in the pot of elite SEC schools, getting drowned out year after year by other schools has to be taking its toll.
While most feel Pittsburgh has this one, they may be just feeling the pre-season ranking wearing off. Kentucky will be too much for Pittsburgh.
Kentucky 31, Pittsburgh 24
8. GoDaddy.com Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs. Miami of Ohio
Miami of Ohio is the team to watch in this one, having won just one game last season, they won the MAC Championship this year. If there's any story at all in this little-known bowl game, it's the turnaround of the Redhawks.
Mid Tennessee State's Dwight Dasher was touted as a major offensive threat, but has yet to live up to expectations.
Lead Pipe Lock
Miami of Ohio finishes off their miracle turnaround with a win over Mid Tennessee State.
Miami of Ohio 28, Mid Tennessee State 7
7. AT&T Cotton Bowl: LSU vs. Texas A&M
The Bayou Bengals are back, but fresh off their loss to Arkansas by eight points. It seems like every year we get a new flavor from LSU, so who knows what will show up against Texas A&M.
Keep an eye on QB converted to receiver, then back to QB Ryan Tannehill for the Aggies. However, Texas A&M hasn't defeated an SEC school since 1995, so this one will be interesting.
LSU's defense will be stronger than the exploits of Texas A&M's offense claim, and the Tigers will win this one in a close matchup. This game will be everything expect of it, but Les Miles will lead his team to the win.
LSU 30, Texas A&M 21
6. Gator Bowl: Michigan vs. Mississippi State
Denard Robinson...seems to have things under control with his rushing yards and occasional sharp passes, but for some reason the Wolverines can't get over the hill. Most likely their defense is to blame for their letdown this season.
Mississippi State's offense won't struggle against Michigan's weaker defense. Denard Robinson may have some big plays on the ground, but this one goes to the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State 35, Michigan 31
5. Fiesta Bowl: UConn vs. Oklahoma
Finally, on to the BCS! Well...sort of....
UConn will definitely have something to prove, coming out of the Big East, a conference without a ranked team.
Oklahoma meanwhile, must be attempting to practice as usual without letting the idea of a blowout creep into their minds.
This game is Exhibit A in exposing the flaws of the BCS system. While other ranked teams find themselves in smaller bowls, the Huskies will be on the main stage fighting for their lives.
Lead Pipe Lock
No controversial upset pick here. Oklahoma will roll over UConn, but the Huskies might score a couple of late TDs to make this one respectable in the books.
Oklahoma 48, UConn 21
4. Orange Bowl: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
Stanford's only loss of the season came at the hands of the Oregon Ducks, who will be playing for the National Championship.
Virginia Tech wins in agony after losing the first two games of the season, only to win out and wonder what could have been had they been better prepared at the beginning of the year. James Madison is currently hanging a banner in their gymnasium, courtesy of Virginia Tech (Not really, just figuratively).
Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck will have plenty of his last name in this contest of two very talented programs. Tyrod Taylor will lead the attack through the air, and on the ground. However, in the end it will be Stanford getting the best of VT's defense.
Stanford 27, Virginia Tech 17
3. Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Arkansas
The Big Ten runner-up will take on SEC Champ Arkansas in the Nokia Sugar Bowl this year. Ohio State was always one step behind Wisconsin this season, so a win over SEC strongman Arkansas would be a dandy of a consolation.
The Razorbacks' QB Ryan Mallet will put forth his best effort while Knile Davis builds his national spotlight stock.
This game should be everything it's hyped up to be. However, contrary to popular assumption, Lee Corso would be wise to wear a pig on his head. The Arkansas Razorbacks will take this one in a down-to-the-wire affair.
Arkansas 28, Ohio State 23
2. Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU
The Rose Bowl will have a different look this year, as no Pac-10 participant will be present. Oregon will compete in the title game, and Stanford received an at-large bid as the conference non-champ.
Wisconsin comes into this one having scored a combined 201 points in its final three games.
TCU becomes the first team from a non-AQ league in the BCS era to play in the Rose Bowl.
This should be a matchup of fast offense against fast offense, and big defense against fast defense. Wisconsin will be too much for TCU, ending TCU's run at college football history.
Wisconsin 38, TCU 23
1. Tostitos BCS National Championship Game: Auburn vs. Oregon
Here it is, one of the most highly-touted National Championship games in recent history. Heisman winner Cam Newton will be put to the test, going up against an offense of seemingly equal ability in the Oregon Ducks.
The Ducks have their own offensive weapons, primarily Heisman runner-up LaMichael James, who rushed for over 1,600 yards this year.
The BCS may have actually gotten this one right, picking the two best teams in the country.
In a battle of high-powered offenses, defense will suddenly and unexpectedly become the deciding factor in this game. While Oregon's defense seems more impressive, it's also not as tested as Auburn's in the SEC. The Ducks will have a chance to make their case for East-Coast bias to be a real thing, but they might just fall a little short. This game will be surprisingly low-scoring as well.
Auburn 30, Oregon 21
(Let the comments on my page from angry Ducks fans begin. I assure you this is NOT just because I write for Oregon State, but you'll probably say it is anyway!)