A few bowl games I’m excited about
Bowl Season is officially upon us! Here are some of the games I’m looking forward to watching over the next couple of weeks. The College Football Playoffs will be featured in its own column for our Christmas edition.
New Era Pintstripe Bowl – Michigan State vs. Wake Forest, Friday, Dec. 27, 3:20 p.m.
This season has been a bit of a surprise for the Demon Deacons. After a hot start to the year, Wake Forest is sitting at 8-4 with the chance to grab its first 9-win season since 2007. Michigan State has had a rather disappointing season, by Sparty standards. They’re coming into the game with a 6-6 record. The Spartans were drowning in losses for a good 5-game stretch that included beat downs by Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan. Throw in a narrow loss to Illinois and it’s easy to see why Michigan State looks and feels like a burnt out old car.
Rumors are swirling that this was Mark Dantonio’s final season, which might have contributed to the tired performance by the team. I don’t really expect this bowl to go much different.
Wake Forest has been fun to watch this season, so I’m hoping they can get a solid win against a Big 10 team whose ship has been slowly sinking all season long.
The Orange Bowl – Florida v. Virginia, Monday, Dec. 30, 8 p.m.
What a season it’s been for Virginia. A 9-3 record regular season record with 2 of its 3 losses coming down to one score. The way Clemson pulverized them in the ACC Championship was expected, so I really don’t hold that against these guys. The Gators have had a strong season, too, though I’m sure fans were expecting just a little bit more. Beating FSU every season only gets you so far when you’re suffering a third straight loss to Georgia. Against Virginia, the 10-2 gators will most likely get their 11th win of the season, barring any sort of miracle by the Cavaliers.
As much as I’d like to see Virginia take the cake in this matchup, I think Florida is the second best team Virginia will have played all season, and the talent disparity will be too much to overcome. Maybe there’s a little holiday magic that can be sprinkled on the Virginia players’ Wheaties. They’ll need it.
The Outback Bowl – Minnesota vs. Auburn, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m.
New Year’s Day is loaded from top to bottom with outstanding matchups, and aside from the first round of the playoffs, Jan. 1 is the best day for great football this bowl season. Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck has overhauled the program into a conference contender. Auburn’s season hasn’t been the best by any stretch, but beating Alabama in the Iron Bowl has the program looking ahead with bright and starry eyes.
Quarterback Bo Nix has had a decent first season with flashes of brilliance throughout. He will improve even more through bowl practice, and with Gus Malzahn drawing up the plays, you never know what kind of trickery the Tigers will bring. I see Auburn running away with this one in the fourth quarter and demoralizing Minnesota the same way Wisconsin did.
Both of these teams will be back next year with an axe to grind in their divisions. The tone will be set in this bowl game.
The Citrus Bowl – Michigan vs. Alabama, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m.
Michigan is about to get processed. To Alabama coach Nick Saban, the Wolverines aren’t an actual team of players. They are chess pieces to be outmatched and beaten on every play. Saban is not happy with how the season went. He lost to LSU for the first time in years. His quarterback went down. The Iron Bowl was another magical upset win for Auburn. The gears are turning in his head like the machine-man he is.
The process, the process, the process.
I’m excited to see just how many points Alabama will put up against Michigan. The Wolverines simply don’t have the defense to hold them in check or the offense to keep up. It will be another underachieving year for Jim Harbaugh and there will need to be answers to some tough questions in Ann Arbor once this game is over.
The process. It’s all about the process. Nick Saban is angry.