The Pac-12 Conference will close out the BCS era placing teams in nine of 35 bowls in the next month, representing a quarter of all games that will be watched this holiday season. What’s more impressive is the fact that all nine teams are favored by Vegas against their upcoming opponents. Be it the Beavers and the Cougars in close match-ups or the Sun Devils and the Ducks in lopsided ones, we’re starting to see more respect handed out towards the top teams in the league.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Washington State (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-6)
Vegas Line: Washington State -4
The Cougs find themselves in uncertain waters, landing in their first bowl in 10 years. Not only that, but Mike Leach should be kissing his lucky stars as his throw-every-down Air Raid will match-up against a Rams defense that has struggled all season to defend against the pass.
CSU didn’t slay any dragons, but it did finish strong down the stretch, winning three of its final four by 20 points a game or more. And they have a shot in this one if they can establish the run with the “Marion Grice of the Foothills” in running back Kapri Bibbs, who racked up 28 rushing touchdowns in the regular season — not to mention over 600 yards rushing in back-to-back games against Nevada and New Mexico.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: #25 USC (9-4) vs. #20 Fresno State (11-1)
Vegas Line: USC -6.5
Interesting timing to stack Pac-12 teams in bowls with less than two hours of overlap, but after kickoff of the previous game, USC kicks off showcasing its third head coach of the 2013 season with Clay Helton calling the shots for this game and this game only. And it’s certainly fitting that he was the guy to take over the team for bowl season after Ed Orgeron stormed out-of-town, as Helton took over play-calling of the offense immediately following the dismissal of Lane Kiffin back in late September.
Fresno State is no push over, sporting the best passing offense in the country led by Derek Carr, who has legitimate dreams of following his big brother’s footsteps playing soon for an NFL team near you. He is supported by a defense that likes to get after the passer and a USC offensive line that has been inconsistent at times this year in protecting QB Cody Kessler.
We’re also given the gift of Marquise Lee in what is more than likely his last game as a Trojan. After an injury-plagued junior campaign, he has very little left to prove on Saturdays and is sitting as an early to mid-1st round pick as we head into draft season.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Oregon State (6-6) vs. Boise State (8-4)
Vegas Line: Oregon State -3
Boise State will be without its head coach Chris Petersen for the first time since 2005 and will be led by assistant coach Bob Gregory before former Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin joins the team as its new head coach in the off-season. Petersen had led the Broncos to bowl games in all of his eight seasons at the helm in Boise and casts a big shadow on both Gregory and Harsin.
While BSU has eight wins, it suffered a tough loss to Fresno State by a point, not to mention, BYU and San Diego State managed to finish the regular season on a positive note walloping New Mexico 45-17.
For Oregon State, it has been a roller coaster ride with the season opening loss to Eastern Washington followed by a six-game winning streak, and then a November to forget closing out on a five game losing streak.
Had Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick not gotten hurt at the mid-point of the season, I think this would be a different game, but Sean Mannion to Brandon Cooks (First Team All-American) and any semblance of the running game they found in the Civil War make them too much to contain in this game.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington (8-4) vs. BYU (8-4)
Vegas Line: Washington -3
Lots of TMZ-esque headlines leading up to this one with Steve Sarkisian exiting stage left and Tosh Lupoi facing major accusations dealing with recruiting violation. ,But hopefully, all of that goes away if you are a fan of no-huddle spread offenses because you’re going to get a lot of that in this game with two teams that get off nearly 80 plays per game each.
Both teams have successfully run the ball this year, finishing inside the top 15 in rushing yards, but they do it in different ways. BYU splits the load between their dual 1,200 yard rushers in quarterback Taysom Hill (1,211 rushing yards) and running back Jamaal Williams (1,202 rushing yards). Meanwhile, Washington did it the old-fashioned way, feeding their horse and 2nd team All-American Bishop Sankey a ton. His 306 carries tied for third most in the country this year, as did his 1,775 rushing yards.
Valero Alamo Bowl: #10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4)
Vegas Line: Oregon -13.5
Leading up to the Sun Devils’ evening tilt, we have a game that does its job in wetting viewer’s appetites. Don’t underestimate the team playing for a coach they love against an Oregon squad that really got caught sleep-walking down the stretch after getting bullied off the field for three-quarters in Palo Alto.
Emotional advantage put to the side, things don’t bode well for Texas in this one as the team is beat up and short-handed in the front seven going into this game and has had trouble stopping the run all year. And while the Ducks haven’t always established a dynamic yet physical run game the way they have in the past, they still rank in the Top 5 when it comes to the ground game.
Don’t sleep on the fact that a healthy Marcus Mariota has something to prove; dominant through his team’s first eight games, he finally looks healthy again and the match up between he and the Horns’ defensive tackle Jackson Jeffcoat should be one to watch.
National University Holiday Bowl: #14 Arizona State (10-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Vegas Line: ASU -14
And in the late game, the Sun Devils face off against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in their fourth trip during bowl season to San Diego. Previous games haven’t gone well in the Holiday Bowl for the Devils, with their last trip in 2007 being the icing on the cake for the resume of Jamaal Charles before heading to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1st round of the NFL Draft.
While some ASU fans were disappointed that a seven-win Texas Tech team would be the reward for their team’s ten-win season, at the end of the day, you take what you get, and Todd Graham faces off against a squad he would much prefer — one that lives to throw the ball, rather than one like Stanford, Wisconsin and Notre Dame — teams the Devils struggled against; teams that live and die winning the game in the trenches.
Add to it the fact that Tech has struggled to stop the run consistently all year, and you have a pretty good recipe for success, with the Devils looking at their first 11-win season since Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman roamed the field back in 1996.
AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)
Vegas Line: Arizona -7.5
The early game on New Year’s Eve pits arguably the two best running backs in the country over the past two seasons in college football. Andre Williams of Boston College and Ka’Deem Carey of Arizona have taken their turn leading the nation in rushing yardage this year and last, and both have done it the hard way, finishing first and second in attempts. And that includes Carey missing the first game of the season against NAU.
Both teams struggle when their bell cows don’t finish well, but both should get theirs. In the end, it comes down to each back putting their offense into manageable situations on third down, and who is more efficient at quarterback between B.J. Denker and Chase Rettig.
Hyundai Sun Bowl: #17 UCLA (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4)
Vegas Line: UCLA -7
Once again, Pac-12 teams overlap on the same day as UCLA tries to win ten games this year against a veteran Virginia Tech team led by head coach Frank Beamer, who is the winningest active coach in the FBS. With all those wins comes consistency, as his Hokies are making their 21st consecutive bowl appearance.
But they will need every bit of the old wise man’s coaching as they lost their starting running back, Trey Edmonds, to a broken leg in the final game of the regular season. And this comes at the worst time as the run game has uncharacteristically been a weakness all season.
Much of this game will come down to how the Hokies and their attack defense under long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster stack up against a battered Bruins offensive line starting three freshman due to a slew of injuries sustained during the season.
As you are preparing to head out for your New Year’s celebration, don’t forget to keep an eye on the young fellows in this one, be it Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year Myles Jack, or Hokies ACC Defensive Freshman of the Year Kendall Fuller.
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio: #4 Stanford (11-2) vs. #5 Michigan State (12-1)
The Line: Stanford -4.5
Stanford heads back to Pasadena in what should be considered World War II in the 100th “Grand Daddy of Them All.” This game is much like Wisconsin versus Stanford last year: two great defenses slugging away against offenses just looking to win the game of field position, not turn the ball over, and score in the red zone.
There are match-ups galore in this one, as the Spartans have the best run stopping unit in the country while the Cardinal run it better than any team not coached by Gus Malzahn, behind what is arguably the most talented offensive line in the country spearheaded by All-American left guard David Yankey.
Stanford is fresh off of a Pac-12 Championship Game beat-down of ASU, while Michigan State is playing better than nearly anyone in the country right now after its surprisingly win against Ohio State.
As usual for Stanford in 2013, much may come down to quarterback Kevin Hogan as Michigan State also has one of the best defenses at containing their opponent’s passing game.