Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pac-12 Bowls

So now we know: Stanford is the 2015 Pac-12 champion and 10 of the league's 12 teams will play in a bowl game. Only Oregon State and Colorado had losing seasons and did not make it to a post season game.

And, we know that no team from the Pac-12 will be in the four team playoff to determine the national champion - primarily due to Stanford losing twice during the regular season.

Here's who is playing who during bowl season and what I think will happen:

New Mexico Bowl - Dec. 19, 2015
Albuquerque, NM

Arizona (6-6) vs. New Mexico (7-5). Yawn. This is squarely in the territory of "consolation game." It will come and go and nobody outside Albuquerque and Tucson will notice or care. Why? These are two 6-6 teams playing for the right to say they had a winning season. Ironically, it might be a fun game to watch. I'll take Arizona by a couple TDs.
Prediction: UA 31-UNM 17

Las Vegas Bowl - Dec. 19, 2015
Las Vegas, NV

#22 Utah (9-3) vs. BYU (9-3). An in-state rivalry played out during a bowl game. And for that, it'll be a good one to watch I think. Utah started the season hot, then cooled off as the injuries piled up at key positions. BYU beat the 9 teams on its schedule that are typically on par with them, but lost all three to "the big boys" - UCLA, Nebraska and Michigan. Their coach is also leaving after this game. I think this will be a close one. I'll take Utah as the slightly better squad. 
Prediction: UU 27-BYU 24

Sun Bowl - Dec. 26, 2015
El Paso, TX

WSU (8-4) vs. Miami (8-4). Miami has pedigree and history of much bigger bowls than this - although not recently. They also have a new coach. WSU has the pluck and desire to use this Sun Bowl as a building block to future 8-plus win seasons. Who wants it most? That's what it'll come down to. I think that team will be WSU. If their star QB plays, they'll win. If he does not, it's a crap shoot. I'll take the Cougs.
Prediction: WSU 31-Miami 17

Heart of Dallas Bowl - Dec. 26, 2015
Dallas, TX

Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Mississippi (9-4). Yes, UW is 6-6, but they've steadily played better over the past several weeks - sporting a very good defense and a quickly improving QB. Southern Miss has 9 wins, but against what type of competition? This is a game UW should win - by a lot. I think that's what will happen.
Prediction: UW 49-Southern Miss 23

Foster Farms Bow - Dec. 26, 2015
Santa Clara, CA

UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7). Huh? How did a 5-7 team get into a bowl game? UCLA will dominate the Cornhuskers in this one. Too bad...the day after Christmas is usually a good day to hang out and watch football. But not this one.
Prediction: UCLA 44-Nebraska 20

Armed Forces Bowl - Dec. 29, 2015
Ft. Worth, TX

Cal (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5). Yawn number two. Not much of a matchup here. Cal's QB is very good - and this is likely is last college game before going pro - but the rest of the team is underwhelming. Air Force? Not much to say either. Decent team as usual, but nothing special. I'll take Air Force in a close one because I think they'll be much more motivated to win against a Cal squad that faded big down the stretch.
Prediction: Air Force 27-Cal 23

Holiday Bowl - Dec. 30, 2015
San Diego, CA

#25 USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3). Two middle of the pack teams who expected more out of their 2015 season meet in this one. That's the downside. The upside is that the talent on both squads is good to great and the game may turn out to be quite entertaining. Can USC exit its tumultuous season with a bowl win and a national ranking for its new coach? Can Wisconsin validate its status once again as a power with a 10 win season? USC has lost two in a row - badly. Wisconsin is coming off a stretch of games it went 6-1 in. I'll go with Wisconsin.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31-USC 23

Rose Bowl - Jan. 1, 2016
Pasadena, CA

#6 Stanford (11-2) vs. #5 Iowa (12-1). Now this is an interesting one. Iowa is virtually a mirror image of Stanford. Big O and D lines, a commitment to running the ball and burning clock, a timely pass game by a smart QB and a stingy defense. Of all of those things, Iowa has the advantage on defense. They've got more depth and consistency across the board. Stanford's advantages are: 1) experience in big games, and 2) Heisman finalist RB McCaffery. If Iowa can stop the Stanford run game, I think they will win - probably a close one. If not, this game could get out of hand in favor of the Cardinal. I'm going to pick Iowa to win a close, hard fought and relatively low scoring game.
Prediction: Iowa 20-Stanford 17 

Cactus Bowl - Jan. 2, 2016
Phoenix, AZ

Arizona State (6-6) vs. West Virginia (7-5). The third "Yawn" bowl of the Pac-12 slate. In short, who cares? Sure, the faithful students and alumni of both schools will tune in for this Saturday game, played on the day after New Years day. But anyone else? Beyond gambling addicts, doubtful. ASU played very well in stretches, but ultimately proved to be flawed. That and one gets the impression the players do not like their coach. WV went 7-5 in the Big 12, so not great either. Based more on what I saw out of ASU in the games I watched this season, I'll take West Virginia.
Prediction: WV 33-ASU 28

Alamo Bowl - Jan. 2, 2016
San Antonio, TX

#15 Oregon (9-3) vs. #11 TCU (10-2). This is easily the best non-New Year's Six bowl. Both Oregon and TCU were highly ranked early in the season, only to lose games when their starting QBs went out with injuries...and then returning to their winning ways when they came back. Each has a suspect defense capable of giving up loads of yards and tons of points, but who have also played well in stretches. So, this could be a barn burner shoot out with a 66-60 type score. Seriously, it could. Truly, either team could win this one. But I think the Ducks are the overall deeper, better team (O, D, Special Teams) and they are on a hotter win streak. Yes, they gave up 42 points to a poor Oregon State team in their last game, but they also beat Stanford and USC in the previous two. And Vernon Adams is playing QB as well as anyone in the country. I'll take the Ducks in a high scoring affair.
Prediction: UO 56-TCU 42

If I am correct, the Pac-12 will go 6-3 in bowls with five teams likely in the final Top 25. We shall see.

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