Tag Archives: bowl games

Tom Tries Again: 2013 Bowl Picks

Andre Williams of Boston College runs for short gain against USC.

Andre Williams of Boston College runs for short gain against USC.

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.

Scientific Bowl Picks

Trojans v Sun Devils Nov 2012We may look like we’re just sitting in front of the TV eating snacks by the fistful, but we are actually studying science, right football fans?

To the discerning eye, good teams have chemistry.  Many team names are derived from biological organisms, like bears and lions and various breeds of dogs.  Physics is an especially important aspect of football; when a linebacker comes through unblocked and sacks the quarterback, we may shout “yeaahhh!”  What we’re actually thinking, though, is F=ma.  Force equals mass times acceleration.

In that scientific spirit, I spent hours (OK, a few minutes) examining statistical tables compiled from this past college football season to enlighten my opinions on upcoming bowl games.

One thing that got my attention is that almost all of the top teams have this trait in common:  strong defense.  For example, the 2012 statistical leaders in total team defense included Alabama (#1), Florida State (#2), Florida (#5), Notre Dame (#6) and LSU (#8).

While passing is a crowd-pleasing aspect of the game, it was not a crucial component for the most successful teams.  In the statistical category Team Passing Offense, well down the list were Oregon (#66), Notre Dame (#75), Alabama (#84), Kansas State (#85), LSU (#90), Stanford (#92), and Florida (#114).  Ohio State, a team that went undefeated, was 101st.  (They are not eligible to play in a bowl game until the players give back the free tattoos they received in violation of NCAA rules.)

What we conclude, then, is that the teams with the highest success rates typically a) keep their opponents from scoring very often; and b) run the ball more than they throw it.  Considering those factors, and with other statistics and guesswork mixed in, here are my predictions for some of this year’s bowl games…

Holiday Bowl     Baylor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4)

Baylor was first nationally in total offense, and next-to-last in total defense.  The Bears’ scrimmages must have been chaotic.  UCLA (#20 in total offense) can score enough to win.

Alamo Bowl     Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)

Statistically, Oregon State has a slight edge in total offense, and a significant advantage on defense.  Because it will be sort of a home game for Texas,  though, I’m going with an unscientific hunch that the Longhorns will prevail.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl     Clemson (10-2) vs. LSU (10-2)

Last year Clemson gave up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, and they were presumed to be good back then, too.  One team named the Tigers will win, but it won’t be Clemson.

Sun Bowl     Georgia Tech (6-7!) vs. USC (7-5)

A guy on a pogo stick could gain 100+ yards rushing against USC’s defense.  On the other hand, Georgia Tech’s pass defense surrendered 22 TDs.  Matt Barkley might add 3 or 4 more to that total in a Trojan victory.

Rose Bowl     Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)

Wisconsin likes to run the ball, but stopping the run is what Stanford does best — the Cardinal was #3 nationally in rushing defense.  I’m picking Stanford.

Orange Bowl     Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Florida State (11-2)

Sometimes statistics can be deceptive.  Northern Illinois put up impressive numbers, but they did so against schools like Tennessee-Martin, Army, Buffalo and UMass.  In this bowl, the Huskies will discover that Florida State is no pushover.

Sugar Bowl     Florida (11-1) vs. Louisville (10-2)

As noted earlier, the Florida Gators are defensive beasts.  Louisville represents the Big East Conference.  It might be closer than that comparison would suggest, but I do think Florida will win.

Fiesta Bowl     Kansas State (11-1) vs. Oregon (11-0)

Kansas State averaged 40 points per game; Oregon averaged 50!  This could be the most entertaining game of the bowl season; both will score often but the Ducks will win.

Cotton Bowl     Texas A&M (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)

Aggie Freshman QB Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy.  Among other things, he averaged almost 100 yards per game rushing.  Oklahoma QB Landry Jones was no slouch, though; he threw for almost 4,000 yards and 29 TDs.  I’m taking the Sooners in an upset.

BCS Championship     Notre Dame (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1)

These teams led the country in scoring defense, averaging just a tick over 10 points per game.  Alabama has the nation’s most statistically efficient QB in A.J. McCarron (26 TD, only 3 Int).  Even though I’d like to see Notre Dame break the SEC championship monopoly, the Crimson Tide will rise, and scientists will ponder its effects on marine biology.

Avert Your Eyes

If you enjoy watching college football, this year’s slate of bowl games just might cure you.

There are 35 games, which means that 70 teams will participate;  demand for good teams far exceeds supply.  Thirteen teams with break-even records — 6 wins, 6 losses — got bowl bids, and one (UCLA) actually had a losing record.  This will make for some ugly games, I’m afraid.

Florida and Ohio State faced each other in the 2007 BCS Championship game, but this year they both limp into the Gator Bowl with 6-6 records.  The Meineke Car Care Bowl matches Northwestern (6-6), a school that hasn’t won a bowl game since 1949, against Texas A&M (6-6), which fired coach Mike Sherman at the end of the season.

Mississippi State (6-6) and Wake Forest (6-6) square off in the Music City Bowl.  The Bulldogs are 73rd in the country in scoring; the Demon Deacons are 75th in total defense, so a resistible force struggles against a movable object.

Arizona State fired its coach, Dennis Erickson, and then accepted an invitation to get stomped in the MAACO Bowl.  Its opponent, Boise State, would be playing in a BCS bowl if their kicker hadn’t pushed the potential game winning field goal wide right against TCU.  The Broncos will take out their frustration on the Sun Devils, who are mainly known for amassing penalties.

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl presents two schools that must be starved for attention — why else would they risk more public humiliation?  As noted above, UCLA had a losing record (6-7) but petitioned the NCAA for permission to play in Kraft’s cheesy bowl.  Illinois (6-6) does have one player who is quite good; the aptly named defensive end Whitney Mercilus led the nation in sacks.  He will probably  be merciless against the Bruins’ offensive line, which yielded 24 sacks.  This game has already set one record that will never be broken:  Both coaches (Ron Zook and Rick Neuheisel) have already been fired.

Now, here are a few thoughts about the games you’ll want to see:

•  Fiesta Bowl          Stanford (11-1) vs. Oklahoma State (11-1)

Both teams feature excellent QBs in Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden.  Both teams have shaky pass defenses.  The Cowboys have a slight edge because of All-American wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

•  Cotton Bowl          Arkansas (10-2) vs. Kansas State (10-2)

Eight of Kansas State’s wins were by 7 points or less.  They’ll have trouble staying close to high-scoring Arkansas.

•  Rose Bowl          Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2)

The Ducks averaged 46.2 points per game, third best in the country.  Wisconsin was fourth with 44.6 ppg.  Wisconsin plays solid defense too, but they haven’t faced the kind of speed that Oregon possesses.

•  Sugar Bowl          Virginia Tech (11-2) vs. Michigan (10-2)

Both of Virginia Tech’s losses were to the same team — Clemson.  The Hokies’ defense is solid, but they’ll have to be spectacular against Michigan QB Denard Robinson.  He threw for over 2,000 yards and ran for over 1,000.  This will be close, but the edge goes to Michigan.

•  BCS National Championship Game        LSU (13-0) vs. Alabama (11-1)

Louisiana State allowed only 10.5 points per game, second best in the country.  You know who was best, right?  Yes, Alabama — 8.8 points per game.  I’m thinking the Crimson Tide won’t miss four field goals again as they did against LSU on November 5.  Alabama wins the rematch.