No more chaos, no more arguing, no more endless amounts of “Who’s in?” commercials ( Don’t lie, you couldn’t stand them either) no more. The committee has selected their four teams for the inaugural College Football Playoff. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State and the consensus is they got it right, and I concur.
TCU and Baylor ran through a conference that was severely overrated with only four teams winning eight games or more (and more than half the conference going 5-4 or worse in it) meanwhile the Big Ten had five, and both the SEC and Pac-12 had seven teams with eight wins or better. If either Baylor or TCU got in (most likely with the 4th seed) they would have to play Alabama who has shown they can play any style they want and still dominate what they do best. Out-hit and physically punish teams on defense, and pound the ground game with two first-round running backs and then beat you over the top with the best WR in the country in Amari Cooper.
Did it hurt they didn’t have a Conference Championship Game? Absolutely. But the 61-58 score between the two when they matched up earlier this season illustrates that neither can play defense against high powered offenses, much less go up against defenses that are much more disciplined and skilled than the ones TCU and Baylor were teeing off and scoring 50+ points a game in the Big 12. Better luck next season, but you both aren’t as good as you think.
Now that we got that out of the way, lets go Bowling… (all times Eastern)
5. Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois, Dec. 23rd, 6pm.
A pair of schools who have been fighting for national respect over the past few years tee off against one another that has every possibility that one team will score 50, if not both. Marshall QB Rakeem Cato finishes off a dazzling 4-year career (13,798 passing yards, 144 TD’s) leading the Thundering Herd to a 12-1 record this season.
Meanwhile NIU, only two years removed from a Orange Bowl appearance are still dominating the MAC even after their Heisman Finalist a year ago, Jordan Lynch has graduated. At 11-2, the Huskies still have plenty of offensive fire power with Senior receiver Da’Ron Brown leading the way with over a 1,000 yards on the year. It’ll be a shootout in Boca Raton.
Prediction: Marshall 45 NIU 38
4. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia, Dec. 29th, 2pm.
Both teams were thinking about a possible playoff birth at different points throughout the year, but eventually fell off the cliff and are now unranked. A&M started off 5-0 and in the Top-10 until they lost three straight to Bama and both Mississippi schools. But the Aggies still put points on the board regardless of who is QB for them as it almost certainly will be a high scoring affair.
West Virginia nearly knocked off TCU which would have put them into serious Playoff talk until TCU stormed back to win. WVU and QB Clint Trickett have played TCU and Alabama tough to the end while beating Baylor with ease 41-27.
Prediction: WVU 42 Texas A&M 35
3. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU, Dec. 30th, 3pm.
Two traditional powerhouses who both had high hopes coming into the season, then like many other teams in college football, stumbled towards the finish line of the regular season. The Irish started 6-0 and had Florida State and Jameis Winston at the edge of defeat but like everyone else that has had FSU all but done, they came up short and the free fall began.
The young Les Miles squad highlight of the season was the defensive grudge match against Ole Miss where the Tigers pulled off the upset at home 10-7. But they never were in any serious contention, look for them to control the game with RB freshman Leonard Fournette (nations overall top recruit coming into 2014) and defensively swarm a Notre Dame offensive that has been explosive at some points and non-existent other times.
Prediction: LSU 24 ND 20
2. Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin, Jan. 1, noon.
The departure of Wisconsin coach Mark Anderson to Oregon State adds to an already interesting match-up. AD and longtime coach Barry Alvarez will be on the sidelines for Wisconsin RB and Heisman candidate Melvin “Flash” Gordon’s last collegiate game. It be a travesty if he didn’t get 30+ touches which is more than likely with Alvarez’s track record as a run first coach. The Badgers must control possession if they have a shot of keeping it close against Auburn’s spread, and we know how Wisconsin’s defense can struggle against them after the 59-0 shellacking they took from Ohio State.
Meanwhile, Auburn has their own defensive troubles. Alabama dropped 55, ran for 227 yards and totaled over 500 yards overall the last time Auburn played. Led by QB Nick Marshall, Auburn shouldn’t have issues moving the ball against a slower Wisconsin defense, but it should be intriguing to see if they can indeed stop Wisconsin from controlling the game and the clock.
Prediction: Two dynamic offenses in their own ways, reliant on their stars (Marshall and Gordon) this SEC vs. Big Ten clash is a must watch, hangover-curing New Years Day Bowl game. Auburn runs away late, 41-31.
1. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 8 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Baylor, Jan. 1, 12:30pm.
The real question here is, how motivated is Baylor? Will being bounced from the Playoff motivate them in the right way or will it incline players to feel as if they are playing for a consolation prize? ( which they are.) Regardless we will get to see the Baylor Bears against the 7th best defensive unit in the country in Michigan State. Bryce Petty and the Bears ‘O’ can score at the flick of a switch, but that was against Big-12 defenses.
The 8th ranked Spartans had their chances and they know it. They had Oregon in their grasp until, you know, that Mariota guy showed up and Oregon did what they do best at home, smother teams with the offensive machine and create turnovers on D. Even with their Autzen trip misstep, MSU had a huge opportunity against Ohio State at home and were playing well until Ohio State turned it up to a level Michigan State evidently just doesn’t have this year. Nevertheless, QB Connor Cook and WR/CB Tony Lippet were impressive all year long, as was the ground game with RB Jeremy Langford among others.
Prediction: Sparty always shows up in Bowl Games, especially in the big ones. Coach Mark Dantonio will have them ready for the distraught Bears. MSU 38 Baylor 34.