Zultan is back by popular demand to make his annual bowl predictions after ending his 2011 prognosticating season in spectacular fashion—almost perfect in Week 13.
No one did better than Zultan, who went 9-1 during the final regular season weekend. Admittedly, there were a couple who tied the All-Seeing Seer—pure luck on their part.
The Big Z’s only loss came as Nebraska skinned the Iowa Hawkeyes, stomping the sinew out the seemingly lifeless birds.
Ah, well—time to look forward to the 2011 postseason bowl games in all their stupefyingly meaningless splendor.
As Zultan surveyed the Big Ten and the other BCS and post-New Year’s Day Bowls, this much was obvious: The only game that really means anything is the one on January 9 between LSU and Alabama, yet even that one is not a perfect matchup in many people’s eyes.
But the hoopla is worth the price of entry, so join in the fun and click here. Make your own selections and see if you can top Zultan as he makes his Bowl Bonanza picks for selected bowl games.
This will be the last time you see the Mighty Zultan until the 2012 season rolls around.
Dec. 27 Little Caesars: Western Michigan (MAC) vs. Purdue (Big Ten)
Purdue (6-6) made it back into postseason play for the first time since 2007 after overcoming Indiana in the Boilers' last regular season game. The win over the Hoosiers made Purdue bowl-eligible.
While the December 27 bowl date may have saved Danny Hope’s job, a win in Detroit would secure that permanent step up—out of the Big Ten cellar for Purdue.
Who wants to go to Detroit in December? The Boilers are mighty happy to be there. Once there, Purdue will have to work very hard to contain the passing attack of Western Michigan (7-5). Passing is the Broncos’ game.
Therefore, Purdue’s only chance at winning this bowl game hinges on the Boilers secondary.
Dec. 30 Insight: Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. Iowa (Big Ten)
Mom went into anaphylactic shock upon hearing that her beloved Iowa Hawkeyes would be playing the Oklahoma Sooners in the Insight Bowl.
"What about Missouri or Texas?” she wailed. “They would have been better choices!”
Regardless, like all Hawkeye fans, she has now convinced herself that Iowa can win the game. Iowa over Oklahoma?
The Sooners were preseason favorites to be fighting for the National Championship on January 9. They remain one of the premier teams in the country. Despite the warm and fuzzy feelings Iowa fans have for Bobby Stoops, the former Hawkeye will not relent once the game is underway.
Stoops will have his Sooners ready to stomp in the Insight Bowl. After the dust has settled, Mom will suffer through a very long offseason.
Dec. 31 Meineke Texas: Northwestern (Big Ten) vs. Texas A&M (Big 12)
This is a tough one. A&M looked to be in great shape. But the Aggies lost a couple of tough games in overtime and ended the season losing four of their last five games. All of A&M’s losses were to to ranked teams, except their overtime loss to Missouri.
Still, in their infinite wisdom, A&M fired coach Mike Sherman. Both teams field exciting quarterbacks, with Ryan Tannehill leading the Aggies while Dan Persa occupies the pocket for the Northwestern Wildcats.
Sporting identical records with often ineffective defenses, the real question becomes: How will A&M do without Sherman?
This one is being played in Texas. Northwestern will have it together better.
Dec. 31 Kraft Fight Hunger: UCLA (Pac-12) vs. Illinois (Big Ten)
Talk about mirror images. Here you have two teams with high-profile coaches recently fired by their respective universities. UCLA gave Rick Neuheisel his walking papers, while Ron Zook finally got the ax in Illinois.
Illinois started the year winning their first six games and ended the year losing their last six. It was a misfired rocket that climbed halfway, then plummeted to the earth caught in an inescapable death spiral.
Illinois has already hired their new coach, who will find some real talent on this team. UCLA is in deeper distress with less talent and less hope.
Jan. 2 TicketCity: Penn State (Big Ten) vs. Houston (C-USA)
Who could have predicted the off-field destruction of a football team, a coaching legend and a major university in such a short time? Penn State had scratched their way to the top of the Big Ten Leaders Division, thanks to the offseason collapse of Ohio State and a stiff defense, when the Sandusky scandal blew the team out of the water.
Penn State should be no match for the high-flying Houston team led by premier quarterback Case Keenum. Houston had their eye on a much bigger prize than this bowl, but they let up and lost their C-USA championship game.
Will their hearts be into winning this one? Can Penn State get up off the floor to win this one?
No, probably not.
Jan. 2 Capital One: South Carolina (SEC) vs. Nebraska (Big Ten)
Ah, a Big Ten vs. SEC matchup—the unbeatable conference against the unable-to-win conference from America’s heartland. Nebraska is new to the Big Ten, though, and the Huskers have something to prove after their lackluster performance last year against Washington in San Diego.
The Gamecocks have had a great season, going 10-2, including a win over then-ranked No. 17 Clemson. This one will turn on the offensive running skills of Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez.
South Carolina and Steve Spurrier do not do “bowls” well and this one will be no exception.
Jan. 2 Outback: Michigan State (Big Ten) vs. Georgia (SEC)
At least Michigan State does not have to play Alabama. Instead, they face the Georgia Bulldogs in the Outback Bowl—again, an SEC team, but certainly no Alabama. Michigan State lost the inaugural Big Ten Championship game to Wisconsin, who moves on to the Rose Bowl for the second year in a row.
Georgia, on the other hand, faced LSU for the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs played well for the first half, but LSU wore them down and out. Essentially, Michigan State has more to prove in this game and more impetus to win it. The Spartans never get the respect they deserve and they will not quit until they are accorded the BCS red carpet.
Georgia had a yeoman-like season, but they will not overcome the Spartans in the end.
Pick Michigan State
Jan. 2 Gator: Ohio State (Big Ten) vs. Florida (SEC)
Ohio State, usually battling to get into the BCS Championship game, was busy this year battling just to become bowl-eligible. Both high-profile teams from Columbus and Gainesville went 6-6 in a 50/50 sort of year.
2011 was a transition year—it turns out from Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp and then from Jim Tressel to Urban Meyer when the former Florida coach was hired to take over the reins for the Buckeyes.
Pundits love this kind of sledgehammer irony.
Ohio State almost got their foot loose from the muck and mire when they moved Braxton Miller to their starting quarterback but the Buckeye inconsistency kept them in the middle of the Big Ten pack.
Muschamp, even with the help of Charlie Weis, could not get the Florida offense on track. There is nothing really to separate these two teams. Ohio State probably has more talent, but Florida has more focus.
Pick Ohio State
Jan. 2 Fiesta: Oklahoma State (Big 12) vs. Stanford (Pac-12)
Oklahoma State could still finish No. 2, even after being denied the privilege of playing in the BCS Championship game. If LSU beats Alabama again, then the Crimson Tide will fall in the final polls and Oklahoma State will rise—assuming, of course, that the Cowboys can stop Stanford.
The same argument might apply to Stanford—although the Pac-12 was considerably weaker than the Big 12 this year. Stanford brings Andrew Luck, probably the best quarterback in college football, who only has to get by a Cowboy defense that ranks 100th in the nation against a passing attack.
It could be one of Luck’s best bowls ever.
The Cardinal defense, on the other hand, must find a way to stifle the team with second highest-scoring offense this season. There is just no way to stop the Cowboys from reaching the end zone unless you are Iowa State.
It should be the best bowl game of the lot.
Pick Oklahoma State.
Jan. 2 Rose: Wisconsin (Big Ten) vs. Oregon (Pac-12)
Wisconsin finds themselves in the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive year. Last year the Badgers lost to TCU. This year Wisconsin has their hearts and minds set on winning the title. But to do so, the Badgers must get by Oregon.
That is no easy task. The speed of Oregon is unlike anything the Badgers have faced this year and we all know that "speed kills."
This could prove to be an epic footrace as Badger Montee Ball and Duck LaMichael James try to out-gain each other for yardage on the day. Wisconsin won the first Big Ten title game against Michigan State while Oregon State defeated UCLA for the Pac-12 championship. Both teams hoped for more, but two losses doomed them to the “also-ran” status for the BCS Championship game.
The Ducks will prevail in Pasadena.
Jan. 3 Sugar: Michigan (Big Ten) vs. Virginia Tech (ACC)
One of the reasons that Michigan is playing in a BCS Bowl game is that the Wolverines are the luckiest team in college football, going 10-2. They played only four road games, losing at Iowa and at Michigan State but defeating both Northwestern and Illinois on the road. Otherwise, the boys in blue got to stay home.
The schedule was to their advantage. True, Michigan’s defense has improved exponentially over last year and their offense is definitely more balanced. The true workhorse, however, is the quarterback Denard Robinson and he continues to be the reason Michigan wins.
Now they get to play the ACC runner-up in the Sugar Bowl, mind you. The ACC is one of the weakest of the major conferences and Michigan only has to defeat their No. 2.
Jan. 4 Orange: Clemson (ACC) vs. West Virginia (Big East)
The Orange Bowl hosts the winners of the ACC, Clemson (10-3, 6-2) against the winners of the Big East, West Virginia (9-3, 5-2). It marks the first time in 30 years that the Tigers have appeared in the Orange Bowl and their fans are loving it.
Suffering through growing pains, Clemson stumbled a couple of times during the season after winning eight straight, but righted themselves at the end of year, defeating Virginia Tech for the conference title.
The Tigers are led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, while Geno Smith leads the Mountaineer attack. West Virginia offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen will, without a doubt, have the Mountaineers ready to roll on January 4.
Expect Clemson to be ready with their own explosive offense.
Jan. 6 Cotton: Kansas State (Big 12) vs. Arkansas (SEC)
The last time Kansas State (10-2) faced Arkansas (10-2) on the gridiron was 1967—a few decades ago. Today, Arkansas continues to play their “also-ran” role behind the SEC curtain as backup to LSU and Alabama.
Kansas State, in the meantime, almost managed to upstage the more prestigious stars, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, in the Big 12. Losing twice to the Oklahoma teams, however, Kansas State failed to overtake Oklahoma State and ended up in second place in the conference.
Still the Cotton Bowl has been a good venue for the Wildcats but has never been a good environment for the Razorbacks, who have compiled a 3-7-1 all-time record there.
Will this year give the Hogs another win? Yes.
Jan. 9 BCS National Championship: LSU (SEC) vs. Alabama (SEC)
Five field goals and a cloud of rust—so much for the BCS finale, Part 2 of the SEC Championship. Everyone says these are the two best teams in the country, but will they say that after the game is over?
If they do, who cares?
Zultan remains disappointed that all we get after a whole meaningless season is a replay of the LSU vs Alabama game. Ah, well...when you have an imperfect system, you get imperfect results.
It would have been great to see how the Big 12 best did against the SEC best—most agree these are the two top conferences in the nation. These are the two winners of their respective conference titles.
Zultan agrees with Lou Holtz, who said that in order to play for the national championship, you at least had to win your conference championship title.
It has been a great season for Zultan, another inspiring performance by college football's best prognosticator. Be sure to make your picks! See you in 2012!