Previewing Thursday’s Bowl Games

What a fun day of games!  All of these teams were never real playoff contenders, but were at least interesting to watch and could make any game entertaining.  At the same time, it also means they underperformed (Cough, Oklahoma State).  But hey, it at least gives us some good matchups in meaningful bowl games.  Let’s preview them.

Valero Alamo Bowl: No.13 Stanford vs. No.15 TCU

Usually the Alamo Bowl features two high scoring offenses that go at each other for 60 minutes straight, leading to a 60-58 final score.  That’s half the case here.

TCU’s offense comes in waves.  They’ve had a mediocre year, ranking 47th in FEI, but have also put up a ton of points on teams.  They struggled against the top guns like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but waxed crappy conference opponents like Texas Tech and Kansas.  Essentially, the Horned Frogs are ranked exactly where they should be.

If TCU’s offense has been mediocre, then Stanford’s has been plain bad.  Sure they have Heisman contender Bryce Love, but as I pointed out in the PAC-12 Championship Game preview, he’s their whole offense.

The Horned Frogs defense has been top 20 in the country like usual, but they have problems containing high powered offenses.  That’s not the case with the Cardinal.  TCU should be able to limit K.J Costello’s passing game.  Let Bryce Love beat you, but make sure you’re getting output on the other end; Love is the type of guy who can carry a whole offense and beat you with it.

The Horned Frogs have big, strong receivers on the outside.  They can catch almost any crappy pass by Kenny Hill.  Stanford’s struggled everywhere defensively, but the secondary has been the weaker spot.  As long as Hill doesn’t meltdown, TCU should be able to get a win.  This game could go a lot of ways depending on which Horned Frog team shows up, but there’s no doubt that TCU is more complete.

Prediction: TCU-28  Stanford-13

Camping World Bowl: No.22 Virginia Tech vs. No.19 Oklahoma State 

I cannot wait for this game.  This should have been the Alamo Bowl just for offense’s sake.

Though neither had a shot at the Playoff, these were two of my favorite teams all year.  So up and down, so one way or the other.  They were a pain in the butt to analyze, but also presented a challenge.

Matchup wise, this is kind of a gridlock.  It’s Oklahoma State’s offense vs. the Hokies defense.  Virginia Tech has been annoying on offense in certain games; winning by small margins when they should be blowing teams out.  But hey, quarterback Josh Jackson is a true freshman, and two of the Hokies losses were close ones to Clemson and Miami.  Not bad!

Plus, the Cowboys defense isn’t good in any way.  It has kept opponents in games all year.  Mason Rudolph is good, but you have to give him a lot more credit when you consider what he was working with on the other side of the ball.  There was not a lot of help.

Though Virginia Tech’s defense is 17th in FEI, they’re facing an uphill battle with this Cowboys offense.  Rudolph is a gunslinger, and it helps when his receiver are always open.  Seriously, James Washington is always open.  He’s going very, very high in this Spring’s draft.

Justice Hill has been a monster out of the backfield this year too.  It’s only another weapon the Hokies have to worry about.  They might be able to get by on some possessions, but this isn’t going to be a game where the Hokies will be stopping Oklahoma State on third downs.  The Hokies will have to rely on their offense to keep them in it, and those odds are long.

I’d be a little more hopeful if Cam Phillips was playing, but he’s out with a hernia.  Yikes!  Josh Jackson needs him in this game.  He’s been great all year, but in a matchup like this, I’ll take explosiveness and experience.

Prediction: Oklahoma State-45 Virginia Tech-27 

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: No.18 Washington State vs. No.16 Michigan State

Why does this bowl name have to be so long?  Seriously!  When ESPN comes back from a commercial break, they aren’t gonna say EVERY TIME “Welcome back to the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl,” they’re gonna say, “Welcome back to the Holiday Bowl, on ESPN presented to you by Vizio”, or whatever second sponsor they have that’s not eight words long,  Why did San Diego County Credit Union decide to sponsor the game when their name is gonna be said once the entire broadcast?

Anyways, I feel like the committee got the final rankings a little backwards here.  Despite a couple weird losses, Washington State passed the eye test.  Luke Falk was a joy even though the offense couldn’t produce a lot else, and the Cougars defense was a brick wall.  Meanwhile, Michigan State did their typical ground and pound, and pulled off a couple big wins (Penn State, Michigan… but congratulations on those.  Those two teams only got worse after their respective losses.), but ultimately still ended up a tad underwhelming.

Washington State can win this game on their defensive performance alone.  If you stop L.J. Scott, you’ve shut down the Spartan offense.  Simple as that.  Scott’s good; he’s been in college a long time and is always one of those guys who you’re reminded of every year as a “Oh yeah, he’s awesome” player.  But this isn’t the Michigan State team of Scott’s previous years, and I expect the Cougars to take advantage of that.  Scott’s gonna have to do it all in this game.

The Spartans’ defense hasn’t been one of best in the country, but they’re still top 25 in FEI.  However, Luke Falk has receivers like Tavares Martin Jr. and Renard Bell who are great downfield and can make big plays.  That’s the difference tonight.

Prediction: Washington State-30  Michigan State-20