College Football: Predictions for Final 3 Bowl Games

Josh Sachnoff@@JSachnov17Contributor IIIJanuary 4, 2014

College Football: Predictions for Final 3 Bowl Games

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    It will be a heavyweight showdown in the Rose Bowl on Monday night as Florida State and Auburn will battle it out in the final BCS National Championship Game.

    While the nation waits to see if Florida State can finally end the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive national titles, there will be two more bowl games this weekend as well. 

    Vanderbilt will play Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl and Ball State will look to win its first bowl game in school history against Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl. 

    With the 2013-14 college football season coming to an end, here are predictions for the final three bowl games: 

Jan. 4: BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.)

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    Vanderbilt senior wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
    Vanderbilt senior wide receiver Jordan Matthews.Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    Vanderbilt vs. Houston, 1/4, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Vanderbilt will play in its third straight bowl game under head coach James Franklin, while Houston returns after a one-year bowl absence. 

    The biggest question heading into the BBVA Compass Bowl will be Vanderbilt’s quarterback situation.

    Austyn Carta-Samuels is out after undergoing knee surgery, meaning freshman Patton Robinette will get the start. Robinette has passed for 488 yards and two touchdowns this season and will look to All-SEC senior wide receiver Jordan Matthews (1,334 receiving yards and five TDs) to make plays in the passing game.

    The offense will also depend on running back Jerron Seymour (627 rushing yards and 13 TDs) to make plays out of the backfield. 

    Houston has averaged 284.1 passing yards per game with pass-catch tandem quarterback John O’Korn and 1,000-yard wide receiver Deontay Greenberry. Greenberry is listed as probable for Saturday’s game with a leg injury.  

    The Cougar offense has struggled against quality opponents this season.

    It lost three of its last four games of the regular season to American Athletic Conference contenders UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati by an average of 6.3 points. Houston's offense was only able to score an average of 14.7 points, which hurt it significantly in those matchups.  

    The Houston defense is holding opponents to 20.2 points per game and has played well against the run.

    If Vanderbilt wants to knock off Houston, it will need to make plays through the air against a defense that is among one of the worst in the nation against the pass. 

    Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, Houston 17

Jan. 5: GoDaddy Bowl (Mobile, Ala.)

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    Ball State senior quarterback Keith Wenning.
    Ball State senior quarterback Keith Wenning.Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Arkansas State vs. Ball State, 1/5, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

    It was Hugh Freeze in 2011, Gus Malzahn in 2012 and now Bryan Harsin.

    Harsin left Arkansas State to take the head coaching position at his Alma Mater Boise State.

    It’s the third straight season Arkansas State has lost a head coach, which means defensive coordinator John Thompson will take over head coaching duties for a second straight postseason game. 

    The Red Wolves are averaging 206 yards on the ground (25th in the nation) with sophomore running back Michael Gordon leading the way with 717 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. The offense could be in trouble though, if starting quarterback Adam Kennedy is unable to go because of a knee injury. 

    Ball State heads into the GoDaddy Bowl winning eight of its last nine games of the regular season. It also comes in with an offense that can put points on the scoreboard. 

    The Cardinal offense, led by senior quarterback Keith Wenning, is averaging 333.3 passing yards per game (ninth in the nation) and scoring 40.1 points per game (12th in the nation). Wenning is ninth in the nation with 3,933 passing yards and tied for sixth with 34 touchdown passes. 

    The offense also consists of wide receivers Willie Snead (1,429 receiving yards and 14 TDs) and Jordan Williams (1,016 receiving yards and 10 TDs), as well as running back Jahwan Edwards (964 rushing yards and 13 TDs). 

    Ball State has the firepower on offense to outscore Arkansas State and win its first bowl game in school history. 

    Prediction: Ball State 38, Arkansas State 31

Jan. 6: VIZIO BCS National Championship (Pasadena, Calif.)

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    Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston (5) and junior running back Devonta Freeman
    Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston (5) and junior running back Devonta FreemanStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn, 1/6, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

    It’s the final chapter of the the BCS era, and why not end it at one of the most famous venues in sports, the Rose Bowl? 

    Florida State makes its first BCS National Championship appearance since 2001 and will do it with Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston

    Winston, who has passed for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, leads a potent Seminole offense averaging an astounding 53.0 points per game this season (first in the nation). 

    The offense has threats in both the running and passing game as well. The backfield consists of All-ACC running back Devonta Freeman (943 rushing yards and 14 TDs) and Karlos Williams (705 rushing yards and 11 TDs).

    A passing game, which is averaging 322 yards per game, is loaded at the wide receiver position with All-ACC wide receiver Rashad GreeneKelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw. All three players have more than 900 receiving yards and have combined for 29 touchdowns.

    Tight end Nick O’Leary is capable of making big plays in the passing game as well. 

    While the offense has dismantled opposing defenses this season, the Florida State defense has done its job by holding opponents to only 10.7 points per game (first in the nation). 

    The Seminole defense, led by All-American senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, is first in the nation against the pass (152.0 yards per game), but it will be the run defense that will have its hands full against a run-heavy Auburn offense. Florida State is currently 13th in the nation against the run by surrendering just 116.5 yards per game. 

    The Seminoles were a heavy favorite to advance to Pasadena once it defeated Miami (Fla.) 41-14 on Nov. 2, but Auburn was a completely different story. 

    After an awful 3-9 finish in 2012, first year head coach Gus Malzahn led a preseason unranked Auburn team to an incredible 12-1 record and its second BCS title appearance in four years. 

    The Tiger rushing attack, which is first in the nation with 335.7 yards per game, will be key to the offense having success. Explosive All-SEC running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall have had success on the ground by combining for 2,644 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns. 

    Auburn hasn’t been as successful through the air this season, but Marshall has managed to pass for 1,759 yards and make critical completions when the game has been on the line. Wide receiver Sammie Coates heads the receiving corps with 841 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

    All-SEC defensive end Dee Ford (28 tackles and 8.5 sacks) leads a Tiger defense that is surrendering 24 points per game.

    In games against talented offenses this season, Auburn has needed to rely on its offense, which has averaged 40.2 points per game, to win games. The pass defense must step up after allowing 260.2 passing yards per game (104th in the nation) during the regular season, if it expects to have success against Winston and company. 

    The BCS era will come to a close with a tight game decided in the final minutes of regulation. 

    Prediction: Florida State 35, Auburn 28


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