2011 Bowl Predictions: Picking All 35 Bowl Games
Here we are again, college football fans.
Another regular season is in the books, and bowl season is upon us.
After all the dust settled, it was Alabama getting the No. 2 nod over Oklahoma State from the wacky BCS system, and now the Tide has a chance to prove its nationwide doubters wrong when they face No. 1 LSU in what some are already calling the "Rematch of the Century."
But there are plenty of other games to watch before Jan. 9 (34 more, in fact) as bowl season provides a college football overload for us fanatics, and these will be some extremely close games for the most part.
The only bad thing about the long list of bowl games is that they signal the end of another season, and boy, was this one exciting.
So cheers to all the players and coaches who made 2011 one to remember. We can't wait until next year.
Tucker Sargent is a recent graduate of Troy University in his home state of Alabama. "Tucker's Pick 'Em" started in 2009 on Facebook, with 10 games of interest being picked each week. Opinions are not meant to offend anyone. Visit Tucker's blog or follow him on Twitter.
(123-31 Regular Season)
All rankings reflect the latest BCS poll and all times are listed in CST.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Teams: Wyoming (8-4, 5-2 MWC) vs. Temple (8-4, 5-3 WAC)
Where: Albuquerque, N.M.
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011 at 1 p.m.; ESPN
In his first season at the Philadelphia school, former Florida assistant Steve Addazio leads the Temple Owls into action against the Cowboys of Wyoming.
These two have tangled before, but it was way back in 1990 when Wyoming defeated Temple, 38-23.
Temple evens the series up this time with a bowl game win that will be its first since 1979—the year Voyager I captured the first photo of the planet Jupiter's rings.
Prediction: Temple 28, Wyoming 21
Actual score: Temple 37, Wyoming 15
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Teams: Ohio (9-4, 6-2 MAC) vs. Utah State (7-5, 5-2 WAC)
Where: Boise, Idaho
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011 at 4:30 p.m.; ESPN
Most of us remember Utah State from Game 1 of the 2011 season when the Aggies came oh-so-close to knocking off Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium. They lost that one 42-38, then almost knocked off another non-conference foe (BYU) four weeks later, falling to the Cougars, 27-24.
The Aggies rank sixth in the nation in rushing yards, a ranking that might prove to be the difference on the "Smurf Turf" against the Bobcats of Ohio.
Utah State hasn't been to a bowl game since 1997; they will make this trip worthwhile.
Prediction: Utah State 28, Ohio 27
Actual score: Ohio 24, Utah State 23
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Teams: UL Lafayette (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt) vs. San Diego State (8-4, 4-3 MWC)
Where: New Orleans
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011 at 8 p.m.; ESPN
Former UNA head coach Mark Hudspeth leads his Ragin Cajuns from the Sun Belt Conference against the Mountain West's (and soon-to-be Big East's) San Diego State Aztecs.
As usual, the SBC team enters this non-conference matchup as the underdog, but don't expect the boys from Lafayette to lie down and take a whooping from the Aztecs.
With the game being in New Orleans, I would say the Cajuns have the home-field advantage, but the newly renamed Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be about half as full as it will be on Jan. 9.
Prediction: San Diego State 33, Louisiana-Lafayette 27
Actual score: Louisiana-Lafayette 32, San Diego State 30
Beef O'Brady's Bowl
Teams: Marshall (6-6, 5-3 C-USA) vs. Florida International (8-4, 5-3 Sun Belt)
Where: St. Petersburg, Fla.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011 at 7 p.m.; ESPN
The winningest team from the state of Florida this season (yes, this is not a joke), the FIU Golden Panthers, take on the Thundering Herd of Marshall in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl.
It's the second straight bowl appearance for the Golden Panthers, who set a program record in 2011 for most wins in a season.
Look for all-purpose sensation T.Y. Hilton to touch the ball a lot for FIU, and expect him to exploit the Marshall defense all game long.
The Golden Panthers tack on win No. 9 to their impressive 2011 campaign.
Prediction: FIU 24, Marshall 17
Actual score: Marshall 20, FIU 10
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Teams: No. 18 TCU (10-2, 7-0 MWC) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4, 6-1 WAC)
Where: San Diego, Calif.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 at 7 p.m.; ESPN
TCU will play its 12th bowl game in the last 13 seasons when the Mountain West Champion takes on the champions of the WAC, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
The Horned Frogs have reached the 10-win mark for the fourth straight season and the eighth time in the last 10 seasons under head coach Gary Patterson. Prior to Patterson's arrival in 1998, TCU had just four 10-win seasons in school history.
The Horned Frogs are 12-13-1 all time in bowl games; a win here brings them to .500.
Prediction: TCU 34, Louisiana Tech 23
Actual score: TCU 31, Louisiana Tech 24
Teams: No. 7 Boise State (11-1, 6-1 MWC) vs. Arizona State (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12)
Where: Las Vegas
When: Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at 7 p.m.; ESPN
Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore will play in his final collegiate game, and it won't be in a BCS matchup, despite the Broncos' No. 7 ranking in the final BCS standings.
Instead they'll face Arizona State, which finished fourth in the Pac-12 South standings.
Moore and the 10th-ranked passing offense will have a field day against the porous Sun Devils' pass-defense all night long as BSU coach Chris Peterson (.922 winning percentage at the school) tries to prove his team deserved a better bowl game than this.
At least they get to go to Vegas.
Prediction: Boise State 40, Arizona State 27
Actual score: Boise State 56, Arizona State 24
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Teams: No. 21 Southern Miss (11-2, 6-2 C-USA) vs. Nevada (7-5, 5-2 WAC)
When: Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011 at 7 p.m.; ESPN
Hawaii-bound Southern Miss has been in plenty of headlines the last few weeks.
First, the Golden Eagles "shocked" the college football nation—if you want to call it that—when they stifled then-No.6 Houston on the road to win the Conference USA Championship Game.
Then news broke that head coach Larry Fedora would be taking the same job at North Carolina next season, leaving Golden Eagles fans wondering who might assume his vacated role in Hattiesburg.
Fedora will coach his team in Hawaii before jetting off to Chapel Hill.
Prediction: Southern Miss 31, Nevada 28
Actual score: Southern Miss 24, Nevada 17
AdvoCare 100 Independence Bowl
Teams: Missouri (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) vs. North Carolina (7-5, 3-5 ACC)
Where: Shreveport, La.
When: Monday, Dec. 26, 2011 at 3 p.m.; ESPN
Fedora's new team, North Carolina, also travels southwest for its bowl game, but it won't travel quite as far.
The Tar Heels, led by interim head coach Everett Withers, meet the Missouri Tigers in Shreveport, La., for the AdvoCare 100 Independence Bowl.
The game will mark the seventh consecutive bowl appearance for the Tigers of Mizzou and the eighth bowl appearance in the last nine seasons under head coach Gary Pinkel.
Missouri has never lost to North Carolina—the Tigers won, 27-14, on the road in 1973 and again, 24-3, at home in 1976—and it won't lose this time, either.
Mizzou moves to 3-0 all-time against UNC.
Prediction: Missouri 28, North Carolina 23
Actual score: Missouri 41, North Carolina 24
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Teams: Purdue (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten) vs. Western Michigan (7-5, 5-3 MAC)
When: Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011 at 3:30 p.m.; ESPN2
Don't let Purdue's Big Ten Conference status fool you for this bowl matchup. The Boilermakers take on the Broncos of Western Michigan in the Motor City.
Western Michigan's offense could prove to be a headache for Purdue throughout this game; the Broncos rank eighth nationally in passing, 14th in passing efficiency and 18th in scoring.
Just 12 combined points have separated the winners and losers of this bowl game since 2007. I foresee another close one.
Prediction: Purdue 31, Western Michigan 29
Actual score: Purdue 37, Western Michigan 32
Teams: N.C. State (7-5, 4-4 ACC) vs. Louisville (7-5, 5-2 Big East)
Where: Charlotte, N.C.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011 at 7 p.m.; ESPN
The N.C. State Wolfpack fell off a bit in 2011, but the 'Pack still managed to get a marquee win over then-No. 8 Clemson Nov. 19, blasting the Tigers 37-13 in front of the home fans in Raleigh.
However, the 'Pack still wasn't locked into this bowl until their final game of the regular season.
Trailing Maryland 41-14 in the third quarter, N.C. State overcame the deficit, scoring 42 unanswered points (35 in the fourth quarter) against the Terrapins to win, 56-41, in the second-largest comeback in ACC history.
Louisville has head coach Charlie Strong, but who will be strong when it counts?
Prediction: N.C. State 23, Louisville 21
Actual score: N.C. State 31, Louisville 24
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Teams: Toledo (8-4, 7-1 MAC) vs. Air Force (7-5, 3-4 MWC)
Where: Washington, D.C.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 at 3:30 p.m.; ESPN
Ironically, Air Force makes its first-ever appearance in the Military Bowl, as the Falcons take on the high-flying Rockets of Toledo.
Air Force is 10-10-1 all time in bowl games, a record that includes two straight bowl wins for the Falcons.
They beat 25th-ranked Houston, 47-20, in the 2009 Armed Forces Bowl and escaped a close one last year with a 14-7 win over Georgia Tech in the Independence Bowl.
But Rockets fly higher than Falcons, don't they?
Prediction: Toledo 36, Air Force 33
Actual score: Toledo 42, Air Force 41
Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl
Teams: No. 24 Texas (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) vs. Cal (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12)
Where: San Diego, Calif.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 at 7 p.m.; ESPN
The Texas Longhorns make their fifth appearance in the Holiday Bowl and their first since a 52-34 walloping of Arizona State in the 2007 edition of the bowl game.
The Longhorns have never lost to the Cal Bears—the two have met four times in history, but never have they tangled in a bowl game. Texas beat Cal, 33-0, in 1959; 28-3 in 1961; 17-0 in 1969; and 56-15 in 1970.
Times have changed, however, and this one will be much closer.
Happy Holidays, Longhorns.
Prediction: Texas 23, California 20
Actual score: Texas 21, California 10
Champs Sports Bowl
Teams: Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Florida State (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
Where: Orlando, Fla.
When: Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 at 4:30 p.m.; ESPN
Florida State will make its nation's best 30th straight bowl game appearance against one of the most storied programs in college football history in its own backyard.
The Seminoles square off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Orlando's Champs Sports Bowl in the first meeting between the two programs since 2003.
The two have met six times in history, with the 'Noles holding a 4-2 advantage over the Irish.
Chalk up another win for FSU.
Prediction: Florida State 24, Notre Dame 21
Actual score: Florida State 18, Notre Dame 14
Valero Alamo Bowl
Teams: Washington (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) vs. No. 12 Baylor (9-3, 6-3 Big 12)
Where: San Antonio, Texas
When: Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 at 8 p.m.; ESPN
2011 Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Robert Griffin III of Baylor leads the Baylor Bears into battle with the Huskies of Washington.
Griffin has led Baylor to its most successful season since 1986, compiling nine wins on the season. The Bears' 2011 offense has set or tied 53 individual and team records, and it ranks second in the nation in yards per game (571).
That's impressive and also promising when you're going up against the nation's 94th-ranked defense.
Prediction: Baylor 41, Washington 33
Actual score: Baylor 67, Washington 56
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Teams: BYU (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4, 7-1 C-USA)
Where: Dallas, Texas
When: Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at 11 a.m.; ESPN
Tulsa is going bowling for the second consecutive year.
Last year, the Golden Hurricane beat Hawaii, 62-35, in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, and this year the 'Cane will take on the Cougars of BYU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
Tulsa has made one previous appearance in this bowl game, a 25-13 loss to Utah in the 2006 edition.
The experts favor BYU in this one, but Tulsa's four losses this season have come at the hands of stellar opponents in the final BCS standings. The Golden Hurricane lost to No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 7 Boise State and No. 19 Houston.
Prediction: BYU 31, Tulsa 24
Actual score: BYU 24, Tulsa 21
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Teams: Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) vs. Rutgers (8-4, 4-3 Big East)
Where: Bronx, N.Y.
When: Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.; ESPN
Rutgers and Iowa State will be in New York City for the holidays this season, but the Scarlet Knights and Cyclones will have to take a break from the sight-seeing to play a football game at Yankee Stadium.
The Scarlet Knights make their sixth bowl appearance in the last seven seasons (and seventh bowl appearance of all time) against an Iowa State team that handed Alabama a BCS Championship Game bid on a platter after it knocked off Oklahoma State earlier this season.
Rutgers already played in this legendary stadium once this season. The Scarlet Knights knocked off Army, 27-12, on Nov. 12.
But that doesn't matter, because the Cyclones will swirl the Scarlet Knights back to Jersey.
Prediction: Iowa State 24, Rutgers 21
Actual score: Rutgers 27, Iowa State 13
Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl
Teams: Mississippi State (6-6, 2-6 SEC) vs. Wake Forest (6-6, 5-3 ACC)
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
When: Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at 5:40 p.m.; ESPN
The Mississippi State Bulldogs make their second consecutive bowl appearance for the first time since a streak of three straight bowl appearances from 1998-2000 when they take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
The 'Dawgs have never played in the Music City Bowl before, but it won't have any effect on their chances of winning.
Dan Mullen moves to 21-17 as head coach at the Starkville school, and he also moves his record in bowl games at MSU to 2-0.
Prediction: Mississippi State 28, Wake Forest 21
Actual score: Mississippi State 23, Wake Forest 17
Teams: No. 14 Oklahoma (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) vs. Iowa (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten)
Where: Tempe, Ariz.
When: Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at 9 p.m.; ESPN
Both Oklahoma and Iowa make their second appearance in the Insight Bowl when the Sooners and Hawkeyes clash in Tempe.
Coach Bob Stoops and the Sooners have had quite an impressive season—Oklahoma put up 40 or more points in six games and 50 or more in three games, including a 62-point effort in one game this season.
The Hawkeyes have suffered through a disappointing 7-5 campaign in 2011, but they've beaten four ranked opponents on their schedule.
Will Oklahoma be the fifth?
Don't bank on it.
Prediction: Oklahoma 34, Iowa 21
Actual score: Oklahoma 31, Iowa 14
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Teams: Texas A&M (6-6, 4-5 Big 12) vs. Northwestern (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)
Where: Houston, Texas
When: Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 at 11 a.m.; ESPN
Texas A&M makes its third straight bowl appearance, but the Aggies will be without head coach Mike Sherman for their match against the Northwestern Wildcats in Houston.
Ironically, Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin will take Sherman's place on the A&M staff next season.
A&M will be searching for its first bowl win since a 2001 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl victory over TCU (a game that was also played in Houston).
It won't be easy for the Aggies to beat head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who has led Northwestern to its fourth straight bowl appearance.
Prediction: Texas A&M 37, Northwestern 28
Actual score: Texas A&M 33, Northwestern 22
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Teams: Georgia Tech (8-4, 5-3 ACC) vs. Utah (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12)
Where: El Paso, Texas
When: Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 at 1 p.m.; CBS
The Utah Utes make their second Sun Bowl appearance—granted, the first was in 1939—when they take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets' option-run attack in El Paso, Texas.
Georgia Tech makes its 15th straight bowl game appearance, and the Yellow Jackets will surely count on their third-ranked rushing offense (316.8 yards per game) to stymie the Utes.
Utah won't make it easy, though; the Utes rank seventh nationally against the run, giving up just 97 yards per game.
Prediction: Utah 24, Georgia Tech 21
Actual score: Utah 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT)
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Teams: UCLA (6-7, 5-4 Pac-12) vs. Illinois (6-6, 2-5 Big Ten)
Where: San Francisco
When: Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.; ESPN
Two programs that recently let head coaches go square off in San Francisco, hoping to salvage disappointing seasons with a bowl win to close out 2011.
Both teams scrambled quickly to find new head coaches,—UCLA has hired Jim Mora and Illinois has made Tim Beckman its newest head coach—but those two won't have any input on this game.
The only common opponent for these two teams this season was Arizona State. Illinois beat the Sun Devils, 17-14, on Sept. 17, while UCLA edged ASU, 29-28, on Nov. 5.
This one's a toss-up.
Prediction: UCLA 21, Illinois 17
Actual score: Illinois 20, UCLA 14
Autozone Liberty Bowl
Teams: Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2 Big East) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6, 2-6 SEC)
Where: Memphis, Tenn.
When: Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.; ESPN
First-year Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin leads the Commodores into their fifth bowl appearance in school history as Vandy travels to Memphis for its first-ever appearance in the Liberty Bowl.
Despite Vandy's record this season, there is plenty to be proud of.
The 'Dores have already tripled their total amount of wins in the last two seasons combined, and with Franklin's recent contract extension, those in the SEC might need to take notice of the good things that are happening in Nashville.
Vandy is 11-8-1 all time against members of the Big East conference, including a 24-21 victory over Connecticut earlier this season.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 28, Cincinnati 24
Actual score: Cincinnati 31, Vanderbilt 24
Teams: No. 25 Auburn (7-5, 4-4 SEC) vs. Virginia (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
When: Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.; ESPN
The Auburn Tigers return to the Chick-fil-A bowl for the fifth time in school history and the first time since the Tigers beat Clemson, 23-20, in overtime in the 2007 edition of the bowl game. Auburn will do battle with the Virginia Cavaliers, a team the Tigers have played just twice in history.
Auburn won the first meeting 18-7 in 1997 in Charlottesville, while the Cavaliers returned the favor in 1998, defeating the Tigers on the Plains, 19-0.
The Tigers needs to get some kind of offensive rhythm going to beat Virginia, and with the quarterback struggles we've seen all season, expect the running backs to get a lot of work.
Running backs that won't include Mike Dyer, who has been suspended for a violation of team rules.
The Tigers win a close one.
Prediction: Auburn 26, Virginia 23
Actual score: Auburn 43, Virginia 24
Ticket City Bowl
Teams: No. 22 Penn State (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 19 Houston (12-1, 8-0 C-USA)
Where: Dallas, Texas
When: Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 at 11 a.m.; ESPNU
Penn State has been hindered by the Jerry Sandusky scandal since the news broke earlier this season, but Houston will have a distraction of its own in this game.
Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin has left the program to take the same job at Texas A&M, and he has chosen not to coach the Cougars in their bowl game.
Quarterback Case Keenum has been stellar all season, but how will he fare against a team from the Big Ten Conference?
The only ranked team Houston played this season was No. 24 Southern Miss on Dec. 3 in the C-USA Championship. The Cougars lost, 49-28.
They'll bounce back and prove why their offense ranks first in the nation against a declining Penn State team.
Prediction: Houston 31, Penn State 27
Actual score: Houston 30, Penn State 14
Capital One Bowl
Teams: No. 9 South Carolina (10-2, 6-2, SEC) vs. No. 20 Nebraska (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten)
Where: Orlando, Fla.
When: Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 at 12 p.m.; ESPN
The South Carolina Gamecocks meet the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the first time since 1987, but this will be the first time the two have met in a bowl game.
In three meetings, Nebraska holds a 3-0 edge over the Gamecocks, but hey, coach Steve Spurrier wasn't at South Carolina back then.
Which South Carolina team will we see: the team that played Auburn or the team that played Clemson?
I think the latter.
Prediction: South Carolina 24, Nebraska 20
Actual score: South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
Teams: Florida (6-6, 3-5 SEC) vs. Ohio State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.
When: Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 at 12 p.m.; ESPN2
The "Urban Meyer Bowl" pits the newest Ohio State head coach, Urban Meyer, against the team that put him on the national map, the Florida Gators, in the state of—you guessed it—Florida.
These teams have met just once, in 2006 when an Urban Meyer-led Florida team thrashed Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game, 41-14.
First-year Florida coach Will Muschamp won't let his Gators lose to their former coach, whether he be on the other sideline at the game or not.
Prediction: Florida 23, Ohio State 20
Actual score: Florida 24, Ohio State 17
Teams: No. 16 Georgia (10-3, 7-1 SEC) vs. No. 17 Michigan State (10-3, 7-1 Big Ten)
Where: Tampa Bay, Fla.
When: Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 at 12 p.m.; ABC
Things look good for the Georgia Bulldogs coming into their bowl game against the Michigan State Spartans.
The 'Dawgs have been to the Outback Bowl three times in history, and they've won all three. They also hold an unblemished record of 2-0 in games played against the Spartans.
Do you remember what happened last year when Michigan State played an SEC team in a bowl game in Florida?
Okay, it won't be that bad...
Prediction: Georgia 28, Michigan State 21
Actual score: Michigan State 33, Georgia 30 (3 OT)
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio
Teams: No. 10 Wisconsin (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 5 Oregon (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12)
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
When: Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 at 4 p.m.; ESPN
The Wisconsin Badgers, led by quarterback Russell Wilson and Heisman finalist tailback Montee Ball, take on the quick-paced Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl.
The Badgers were here just last season, and by winning the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game this season, they're back again.
When Oregon faces off against bigger, tougher competition, it usually seems to falter.
Can the Ducks hold up?
Prediction: Oregon 38, Wisconsin 35
Actual score: Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Teams: No. 3 Oklahoma State (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) vs. No. 4 Stanford (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12)
Where: Glendale, Ariz.
When: Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.; ESPN
After being shut out of a chance to play LSU in the BCS National Championship Game, Oklahoma State travels west to take on Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal.
Luck finished in the runner-up spot for the 2011 Heisman Trophy for the second consecutive season.
The junior, who will likely be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, is 23-2 as a starter at Stanford, and he'll likely have a field day against the nation's 107th-ranked defense.
But the Cowboys' offense, which ranks third in the country, will be out to prove its worth, too.
The 'Pokes take a close one.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 37, Stanford 34
Actual score: Oklahoma State 41, Stanford 38 (OT)
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Teams: No. 13 Michigan (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech (11-2, 7-1 ACC)
Where: New Orleans
When: Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 at 7 p.m.; ESPN
The Meeechigan Wolverines visit a much warmer New Orleans to clash with the Virginia Tech Hokies, who somehow got this BCS bowl game bid over No. 7 Boise State after being pummeled by Clemson, 38-10, in the ACC Championship Game.
This will be Michigan's fourth all-time appearance in the BCS. The Wolverines are 1-3 in those contests.
In what should be an extremely close game—both defenses give up exactly 17.2 points per game—I'm siding with Denard "Shoelace" Robinson to lead Michigan to victory.
Prediction: Michigan 27, Virginia Tech 23
Actual score: Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT)
Discover Orange Bowl
Teams: No. 15 Clemson (10-3, 6-2 ACC) vs. No. 23 West Virginia (9-3, 5-2 Big East)
Where: Miami, Fla.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 at 7 p.m.; ESPN
Coach Dabo Swinney's Clemson Tigers take on the Mountaineers of West Virginia in sunny Miami, Fla., in the 78th edition of the Orange Bowl.
Clemson certainly accomplished a lot with such a young team this season by winning the school's first conference championship since 1991, but the Tigers' inexperience showed in losses to Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina.
Eighteen West Virginia players from the state of Florida—including quarterback Geno Smith, who threw for 463 yards against LSU earlier this season—will get the chance to play in the stadium where they grew up dreaming of playing in one day.
Start burning those couches, Mountaineers fans.
Prediction: West Virginia 31, Clemson 28
Actual score: West Virginia 70, Clemson 33
AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic
Teams: No. 8 Kansas State (10-2, 7-1 Big 12) vs. No. 6 Arkansas (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
Where: Arlington, Texas
When: Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 at 7 p.m.; FOX
The Arkansas Razorbacks will make their 39th bowl appearance and third straight under coach Bobby Petrino when they take on the Kansas State Wildcats for the first time since 1967.
The game will take place in Jerry Jones's playground, Cowboys Stadium—a stadium in which Arkansas is 3-0 all time.
The only teams to beat Arkansas this season were Alabama and LSU, and Kansas State is nowhere near as good as either one of those two.
K-State ranks 109th in passing offense and 104th in passing defense.
Prediction: Arkansas 38, Kansas State 28
Actual score: Arkansas 29, Kansas State 16
BBVA Compass Bowl
Teams: SMU (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-3 Big East)
Where: Birmingham, Ala.
When: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 at 11 a.m.; ESPN
The SMU Mustangs and Pittsburgh Panthers meet in "The Pittsburgh of the South" (better known as Birmingham, Ala.) for the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The Panthers were here just last season when they knocked off Kentucky 27-10 in a game they controlled from the opening kickoff.
SMU head coach June Jones, who has been rumored to be a candidate for the job at Arizona State, will be looking for his 100th win as a head coach (99-69).
He won't get it.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, SMU 17
Actual score: SMU 28, Pittsburgh 6.
Teams: Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0 Sun Belt) vs. Northern Illinois (10-3, 7-1 MAC)
Where: Mobile, Ala.
When: Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012 at 8 p.m.; ESPN
The Sun Belt champion Arkansas State Red Wolves meet the champions of the MAC, the Northern Illinois Huskies, the night before the BCS National Championship Game.
The Red Wolves will make their first bowl game appearance since 2005 and first since 1970, but a win here won't come easy. Head coach Hugh Freeze has left the team to take the head job at Ole Miss, and he also took several members of his staff with him.
It'll be a duel of the quarterbacks, though, that's for sure. Arkansas State's Ryan Aplin leads the team in both passing and rushing, and the junior has been involved in 28 of the Red Wolves' 44 touchdowns this season.
On the other sideline, the Huskies' Chandler Harnish, a senior, has passed for 2,942 yards and rushed for 1,382 yards in 2011.
If Freeze had stayed put, I'd have picked the Red Wolves.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 35, Arkansas State 31
Actual score: Northern Illinois 38, Arkansas State 20
Allstate BCS National Championship Game
Teams: No. 1 LSU (13-0, 8-0 SEC) vs. No. 2 Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC)
Where: New Orleans
When: Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.; ESPN
Ladies and gentlemen, sit back and enjoy this hard hitting, win-it-in-the-trenches, SEC battle for the BCS National Championship Game.
Everyone remembers the last time these two teams met Nov. 5.
On a chilly night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama kickers missed on four of six field goal tries, including a 52-yarder in overtime. The OT miss gave LSU the ball and the go-ahead field goal to beat the Tide, 9-6.
Most thought this rematch wouldn't happen. It was a "boring" game to those not familiar with smash-mouth, defensive-minded football. But losses by Oklahoma State, Oregon and Oklahoma all but cemented Alabama's dreams of returning to the National Championship Game.
Many wonder if LSU should have a right to claim the AP championship if Alabama beats the Tigers on Jan. 9. A loss to the Tide would give LSU a 13-1 record to finish the season, while Alabama would finish 12-1.
"'I think if they ever—if the Super Bowl champ ever lost to someone else, lost to that team during the regular season and wins the Super Bowl, beats them in the Super Bowl, beats them in the playoff, that's what it is,' said Saban. 'It's the National Championship game. LSU beat us and they won the SEC championship. And now this is a completely different venue where people still think—and I think the voters and the system sort of proved that out—that these are the best two teams and they're going to play again for the National Championship.'
"'And I think whoever wins the game should be viewed as the national champion.'"
Prediction: Alabama 20, LSU 17
Actual score: Alabama 21, LSU 0
**Final bowl record: 27-8
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