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BCS (Bob's College Summary) - Bowl Predictions 2008-2009
Bob Cunningham
December 19, 2008
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A quick few words about the real BCS before I delve into my bowl prognostications…

Simply put, Texas got shafted.

I suppose there are several ways that the three-way tie in the Big-12 Conference’s South Division could have been decided.  Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech each finished with one loss, and those defeats came in rotation with each other (the Sooners were beaten by the Longhorns, who lost to the Red Raiders, who were felled by the Sooners).  It’s a quandary to be sure.

But it’s not without a logical solution.  Here’s where I believe the conference screwed up, even though I agree with using the BCS rankings in part to solve the dilemma:  In many sports, three-way ties are settled by utilizing tiebreakers to eliminate one of the teams before reverting back to a head-to-head tiebreaker to decide between the two remaining squads.

In other words, when the Big-12 opted to use the BCS rankings, it should have done so only to the extent of eliminating one school – in this case, Texas Tech – before applying a two-team tiebreaker to the Sooners and Longhorns.  At that point, because Texas defeated Oklahoma, the Longhorns should have been the ones playing Missouri in the Conference Championship.

Bottom line – one-loss Oklahoma gets to play for the national title despite having been beaten by one-loss Texas.  That blows… for everyone except the Sooners and their faithful, that is.

BOWL PREVIEWS AND PREDICTIONS

EagleBank Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 20 at Washington, DC
WAKE FOREST (-3½) vs. NAVY
This is a rematch of a regular season game played back in September.  The Midshipmen won that day, 24-17, primarily by taking advantage of six Demon Deacon turnovers.  Interestingly, Wake Forest is tops in the country in turnover ratio since that game, and both squads are among the top 10 nationally.  Prediction:  NAVY, 23-21

St. Petersburg Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 20 at St. Petersburg, FL
SOUTH FLORIDA (-14) vs. MEMPHIS
The Bulls have a solid defense, the Tigers have the ability to put up points as evidenced by their better than 28 points per game average.  But South Florida is playing in its own backyard, and that’s as good a reason to find a difference here as any.  Still, a two-touchdown spread seems to too much to me.  Prediction:  SOUTH FLORIDA, 35-27

New Mexico Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 20 at Albuquerque, NM
FRESNO STATE (-4) vs. COLORADO STATE
The Bulldogs have been among the nation’s most disappointing teams, with much of their sub-par results due to inefficiency with the ball.  Colorado State is just opportunistic enough to win a thriller.  Prediction:  COLORADO STATE, 38-37

Las Vegas Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 20 at Las Vegas, NV
ARIZONA (-3) vs. BRIGHAM YOUNG
The Cougars played in this game against a Pac-10 team a year ago, edging UCLA 17-16.  And despite being 17th in the latest BCS rankings, BYU has been established as a three-point ‘dog.  I can see why, considering how strongly the Wildcats finished.  Pac-10 gets its revenge in Sin City.  Prediction:  ARIZONA, 37-27

New Orleans Bowl – Sunday, Dec. 21 at New Orleans, LA
TROY (-3) vs. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
Apparently, USC’s aren’t the only Trojans who can play a little pigskin.  Troy won the Sun Belt Conference, and are pitted against a Golden Eagles squad which isn’t as staunch as many of its recent predecessors.  Prediction:  TROY, 24-16

Poinsettia Bowl – Tuesday, Dec. 23 at San Diego, CA
BOISE STATE (even) vs. TCU
In a matchup every bit as beautiful as the game’s namesake flower, the Broncos (who are getting shafted even worse than Texas) take on a talented Horned Frogs team.  It’s Boise State’s explosive attack against TCU’s top-level D.  I’ll take the Broncos in a game that, as the line indicates, truly could go either way.  Prediction:  BOISE STATE, 24-20

Hawai’i Bowl – Wednesday, Dec. 24 at Honolulu, HI
HAWAI’I (-2) vs. NOTRE DAME
If for no other reason, I’d like the Irish to win this game because of the insult to its vaunted program that it has been established as an underdog to any team labeled “The Rainbow Warriors.”  Seriously, Hawai’i is favored only because it’s a home game.  The Irish are due to show up to a bowl and actually play well – its defense is the difference.
Prediction:  NOTRE DAME, 31-23

Motor City Bowl – Friday, Dec. 26 at Detroit, MI
CENTRAL MICHIGAN (-4) vs. FLORIDA ATLANTIC
With all honesty and due respect, who cares about this one?  Prediction:  CMU, 42-24

Meineke Car Care Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 27 at Charlotte, NC
NORTH CAROLINA (-1) vs. WEST VIRGINIA
At first glance, this game appears as even as the oddsmakers believe it to be.  But the Mountaineers have clear statistical edges in total offense, total defense and turnover ratio.  That’s enough in my view to overcome the Tar Heels’ perceived homefield advantage.  Prediction:  WEST VIRGINIA, 27-17

Champ Sports Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 27 at Orlando, FL
FLORIDA STATE (-4) vs. WISCONSIN
The Seminoles will likely enjoy a pseudo homefield advantage and are more explosive on both sides of the ball.  Virtually every stat except offensive yardage favors FSU.
Prediction:  FLORIDA STATE, 31-19

Emerald Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 27 at San Francisco, CA
CALIFORNIA (-7½) vs. MIAMI
It may surprise casual fans that, on paper, this game stacks up as a Cal rout.  The Bears have significant advantages on offense and in turnover ratio, and no deficiencies in any important categories.  Plus, Cal is playing virtually in its own backyard.  Plus-Plus, it seems unlikely that Miami, a program that until a few years ago was accustomed to playing for national titles in January, will get all that fired up about a December game on the opposite coast.  Prediction:  CALIFORNIA, 38-14

Independence Bowl – Sunday, Dec. 29 at Shreveport, LA
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (-3) vs. LOUISIANA TECH
Oh my gawd… another snoozer.  This matchup makes the Motor City Bowl look interesting.  Sorry, alumni, but last year this bowl featured Alabama and Colorado.  What happened?  Anyway, NIU’s superior defense will trump Tech playing essentially at home.  Prediction:  NORTHERN ILLINOIS, 23-19

Papa John’s Bowl – Monday, Dec. 29 at Birmingham, AL
RUTGERS (-7) vs. NORTH CAROLINA STATE
You know there are too many bowl games when the school listed in last place in its division in the standings is participating.  The Wolfpack was 4-4 in the ACC, 6-6 overall… and gets to play an extra game.  Methinks the standards for bowl qualification need to be bumped up a notch or two.  Knights roll.  Prediction:  RUTGERS, 38-20

Alamo Bowl – Monday, Dec. 29 at San Antonio, TX
MISSOURI (-14½) vs. NORTHWESTERN
Obviously swayed by Missouri’s eye-popping 43 points per game average, the oddsmakers have established the Tigers as prohibitive favorites.  And while Big Mo is explosive, the Wildcats are 9-3 overall and yielded less than 20 points an outing.  I give the Tigers the nod because they’re so explosive, but the numbers indicate the game should be relatively close.  Prediction:  MISSOURI, 35-31

Humanitarian Bowl – Tuesday, Dec. 30 at Boise, ID
NEVADA (-1) vs. MARYLAND
You figure that Maryland might be much more battle-tested, playing in the rugged ACC, but I thought that way last year and picked Georgia Tech over Fresno State.  The ‘dogs woofed up the Yellow Jackets impressively.   So this time around, I ignored that aspect of the matchup and the winner on paper was clear.  Prediction:  NEVADA, 34-24

Texas Bowl – Tuesday, Dec. 30 at Houston, TX
RICE (-2) vs. WESTERN MICHIGAN
The Owls are explosive – they averaged nearly 42 points a game – but I give them the nod in this one because they are significantly better at forcing turnovers, and preventing their own.  WMU’s defense is superior, but they haven’t faced many attacks like the Owls’.  Prediction:  RICE, 34-27

Holiday Bowl – Tuesday, Dec. 30 at San Diego, CA
OKLAHOMA STATE (-3) vs. OREGON
What an excellent clash of titans this is.  Both teams score gobs of points, and are extremely evenly matched across the board.  So we need to look at intangibles.  Last year in this game, the Big 12 got the best of the Pac-10 as Texas hammered Arizona State.  So can the Pac-10 gets its payback?  I’ll say yes, but this game will only surprise me if it’s not close.  Prediction:  OREGON, 41-38

Armed Forces Bowl – Wednesday, Dec. 31 at Fort Worth, TX
HOUSTON (-2) vs. AIR FORCE
The Cougars have the nation’s top-rated offense.  Pretty impressive, eh?  Sure, but their defense is anything but of quality… and the difference in turnover ratio is also a mess.  Air Force takes better care of the ball – and that’s the difference here in a down-to-the-last-possession type of game.  Prediction:  AIR FORCE, 35-34

Sun Bowl – Wednesday, Dec. 31 at El Paso, TX
OREGON STATE (-3) vs. PITTSBURGH
A tough call – should be close, although statistically the Beavers get the nod, which is why they should get mine as well.  So why am I going with the slight upset?  Because OSU simply doesn’t want this game…I believe the Panthers do.  I’m playing the mental edge card.  Prediction:  PITTSBURGH, 27-20

Music City Bowl – Wednesday, Dec. 31 at Nashville, TN
BOSTON COLLEGE (-4) vs. VANDERBILT
Perhaps this is a case of giving the SEC too much credit, because the line indicates a close game but the stats prohibitively favor the Eagles, particularly with their defense that is ranked fifth nationally.  I doubt Vandy’s homefield edge will help enough to prevent a decisive BC triumph.  Prediction:  BOSTON COLLEGE, 30-13

Insight.com Bowl – Wednesday, Dec. 31 at Tempe, AZ
KANSAS (-8½) vs. MINNESOTA
Momentum could be the key to this contest, with the Gophers having lost four in a row while KU is fresh off its upset win over Missouri. The Jayhawks are more potent offensively, and perhaps better coached as well.  Prediction:  KANSAS, 28-17

Chick-Fil-A Bowl – Wednesday, Dec. 31 at Atlanta, GA
GEORGIA TECH (-2½) vs. LSU
An interesting matchup, with an interesting but unimportant sidenote – both programs prefer to wear white jerseys at home (the only two in the Football Subdivision, I believe), although both have been known to break out dark attire on special occasions.  I don’t know which will get the privilege here.  Anyway, Tech has the edge across the board and is rolling after beating arch-rival Georgia to end the regular season.  I like the Ramblin’ Reck, handily.  Prediction:  GEORGIA TECH, 27-14

Outback Bowl – Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 at Tampa, FL
IOWA (-3) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA
My gut instinct was to go with the SEC Gamecocks over the Big-10 Hawkeyes, just on conference prowess.  But as I delved into the numbers, it became clear that Iowa’s defense should win the day.  Also, the Gamecocks have a propensity for turning the ball over.  Not a formula for success for the “other” USC.  Prediction:  IOWA, 23-10

Capital One Bowl – Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 at Orlando, FL
GEORGIA (-5½) vs. MICHIGAN STATE
A seemingly close matchup – both teams are 9-3 and from major conferences – but the Bulldogs have a decisive edge between the 20s on both sides of the ball.  Beyond that, there isn’t a great deal to separate these two squads, so that will have to suffice.  Prediction:  GEORGIA, 34-20

Gator Bowl – Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 at Jacksonville, FL
NEBRASKA (-1) vs. CLEMSON
Not sure if anyone outside of South Carolina or Nebraska will pay much attention, but this is an intriguing matchup because it is pretty much a toss-up.  I’ll cite three reasons, however, to go with the Tigers:  1) Clemson finished the regular season strong, whipping arch-rival South Carolina in its finale, 2) Nebraska is 105th in the country with a minus-11 turnover margin, and 3) I usually go with defense over offense when it comes right down to it, and Clemson’s is better.  Prediction:  CLEMSON, 27-24

Rose Bowl – Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 at Pasadena, CA
USC (-9½) vs. PENN STATE
What is with Penn State re-inking coach Joe Paterno to a three-year contract?  I like the old guy, too, and he deserves special treatment… but three years?  That might put new meaning to the term “coffin corner” if the Nittany Lions aren’t careful.  Anyway, Joe Pa won’t be able to do anything about the Trojans’ remarkable, best-in-the-country defense.
Prediction:  USC, 24-17

Orange Bowl – Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 at Miami, FL
CINCINNATI (-1) vs. VIRGINIA TECH
I gotta believe the Orange Bowl folks are bummed about this hookup.  Personally, I would have liked to have seen a Utah-Boise State clash… but that’s (apparently) just me.  As it is, the Hokies have the better defense and a big edge in turnover ratio as well.  The numbers come out as a stalemate, otherwise.  Prediction:  VIRGINIA TECH, 20-17

Cotton Bowl – Friday, Jan. 2, 2009 at Dallas, TX
TEXAS TECH (-7) vs. MISSISSIPPI
Welcome to my Upset Special.  The Red Raiders are obviously among the nation’s most explosive teams as evidenced by their nearly 45-points-per-game average.  Heck, they did knock off Texas.  But I like SEC-tested Ole Miss, with its pass rush that ranks fifth nationally in sacks, to thwart the Raiders’ aerial attack just enough.  This is, after all, the one team that found a way to beat Florida this season.  Prediction:  MISSISSIPPI, 38-31

Liberty Bowl – Friday, Jan. 2, 2009 at Memphis, TN
EAST CAROLINA (-1) vs. KENTUCKY
The Wildcats are injured-riddled, with several missing players on both sides of the ball including their QB.  The Pirates stunned Boise State in a bowl game last season – and this task looks significantly less daunting.  Prediction:  EAST CAROLINA, 24-14

Sugar Bowl – Friday, Jan. 2, 2009 at New Orleans, LA
ALABAMA (-10½)  vs. UTAH
When you’re 12-0, and you’re listed as a double-digit ‘dog, it means the general population doesn’t take you seriously.  OK, here’s what the numbers suggest:  This will be a close, competitive game.  Bama’s ability to control the ball on the ground and its superior defense will be enough to plod its way to victory, but this is unlikely to be lopsided… and Utah realistically could pull off the stunner.  Prediction:  ALABAMA, 20-16

International Bowl – Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009 at Toronto, OT (Canada)
CONNECTICUT (-6) vs. BUFFALO
The Bulls are a solid club, and the MAC champs, but UConn sports the nation’s leading rusher and a top-10 defense.  Prediction:  CONNECTICUT, 26-21

Fiesta Bowl – Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 at Glendale, AZ
TEXAS (-10½) vs. OHIO STATE
The Longhorns have plenty to play for here, because a dominating victory over the Buckeyes combined with a close BCS Title Game could encourage some AP pollsters to vote in Texas as No. 1 when all is done.   OSU hasn’t been up to the task against elite teams this season.  The Buckeyes defense is stout, but Texas is just too good.  Prediction:  TEXAS, 31-20

GMAC Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009 at Mobile, AL
BALL STATE (-2½) vs. TULSA
Although I hate that this game – and the International Bowl – are sprinkled in with legitimate bowl games after New Year’s, this is an intriguing matchup featuring the best team in Conference USA for most of the season against the Mid-American Conference’s top bird through 90 percent of the cam[aogn.  Each were then unceremoniously upset in their respective conference title games.  Expect a shootout.  Prediction:  BALL STATE, 50-38

BCS Championship Game – Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009 at Miami, FL
FLORIDA (-3) vs. OKLAHOMA
The line opened even, so it’s clear that the Gators are becoming the popular pick.  And there are plenty of reasons to take the Gators.  Their defense is much more stingy than OU’s, but will that be important going up against an Oklahoma offense which has surpassed 60 points in five (gulp) consecutive games?  Some points are going to be scored… ya think?  So to me, the key is determining whether this is going to turn into a shootout. If so, I like the Sooners’ chances.  I know that Oklahoma has been unreliable in bowl games under coach Bob Stoops, but that just means the program is due.  The BCS Title Game has been fairly unpredictable for the most part, and I’m forecasting that trend to continue in what is a very mild upset.  Prediction:  OKLAHOMA, 42-34

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