Last year my predictions for the college football bowl games were based on careful research and statistical analysis. The results were mediocre, which is why I’m going with wild guesses this year.
Oh, I’ll be citing some numbers in support of my delusions, but if you’re planning on wagering, you’d probably do just as well by basing your picks on which team’s mascot is cuter. So here are my hunches about some of the more interesting games…
Las Vegas Bowl Fresno State (11-1) vs. USC (9-4)
Fresno State led the nation in passing; they averaged over 400 yards per game, and QB Derek Carr threw 48 TDs. USC has lost their second coach this season, so I’m taking Fresno State even though the oddsmakers make the Bulldogs underdogs.
Russell Athletic Bowl Louisville (11-1) vs. Miami (9-3)
It might surprise you that Louisville was 2nd in the country in total defense and in turnover ratio (+16). The Cardinals’ offense was good, too — QB Teddy Bridgewater completed over 70% of his passes. I like Louisville’s chances.
Holiday Bowl Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Texas Tech surrendered an average of 31.2 points per game, while Arizona State ran up 41 points per game. This one could get ugly: ASU in a rout.
Advocare V100 Bowl Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)
The two best running backs in college football are featured in this game. BC’s Andre Williams (see photo) gained over 2,000 yards rushing. Ka’Deem Carey of the Wildcats averaged 156 yards per game. Arizona’s defense is marginally better, so I give them the edge.
Sun Bowl UCLA (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4)
Which is cuter, a Bruin or a Hokie? Who knows what either of those things are? Since Virginia Tech has an excellent defense, I’ll go with the Hokies.
Chick-fil-A Bowl Duke (10-3) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)
The Aggies are heavy favorites, but I think Duke’s opportunistic defense just might deflate Johnny Football in what will likely be his final college game.
Gator Bowl Nebraska (8-4) vs. Georgia (8-4)
Before the season began, some of us thought Georgia could be a top-5 team. The Bulldogs didn’t live up to expectations but should be good enough to eke out a win over the Cornhuskers.
Rose Bowl Michigan State (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2)
Statistically, Michigan State has the best defense in the country, but Stanford is solid, too. Neither team’s offense is what you would call spectacular. Expect a low-scoring battle, with Stanford edging the Spartans.
Fiesta Bowl Central Florida (11-1) vs. Baylor (11-1)
Let’s give Central Florida its due: the Knights are a good team. Baylor, however, is an outstanding team: first in total offense (624 yards per game), first in scoring (53.3 points per game). The Bears had over 60 points in six games this season. They might not score that many against UCF, but Baylor wins going away.
Sugar Bowl Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Alabama (11-1)
Alabama shouldn’t need to try a 57-yard field goal in the final second to win this one.
Orange Bowl Clemson (10-2) vs. Ohio State (12-1)
Both teams averaged over 40 points per game and might do it in this game, too. I give a slight edge to Ohio State because of their superior ground game.
Cotton Bowl Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Missouri (11-2)
If the Oklahoma State team that pounded Baylor (49-17) shows up, the Cowboys should win.
BCS Championship Florida State (13-0) vs. Auburn (12-1)
Hardly anyone expected Auburn to have a winning record in 2013, let alone be in the championship game. It’s worth noting that the Tigers had 5 wins this season by 7 points or fewer. The Seminoles are strong all around: #2 overall in scoring (53 points per game) and #1 in scoring defense, yielding only 10.7 points per game. Auburn’s luck runs out as Florida State claims the national championship.