Don't Bet On It: Bowl Edition (Part VI)

We here at Dawg Sports are picking every last bowl game, and now we're starting to get to the good ones, so buckle up and hang on, 'cause here we go.

Time is short, so, like Ricky Bobby, we're going to go fast.

By the way, if you want to know my confidence level regarding these forecasts, I'll be happy to run through that at the end. For the moment, though, all you need to know is that I have no faith whatsoever in my abilities as a prognosticator, so much so that I will remind you once again that there is one overarching principle by which you ought to be guided when perusing the following predictions: Don't Bet On It!

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Auburn v. Clemson (December 31): I'm going with the Tigers in this one. You know, the ones who wear orange. You know, the ones who are coached by that guy named Tommy. You know, the ones who used to be coached by John Heisman. Since I live in the metropolitan Atlanta area, the Georgia Dome is a little too close to home for me to declare this one a meteor game, but showdowns like this one make me wish the overtime rule could be repealed so I could root for the tie that would prevent either of these teams from winning and provide a fitting tribute to former Auburn head coach Pat Dye. Although the Plainsmen's offense performed inconsistently in 2007, the War Eagle D was dominant in every outing that did not require the Tigers to play on the road against an S.E.C. opponent bound for a Bowl Championship Series berth. In the meantime, Clemson closed out the campaign on a tear, going 5-1 down the stretch while outscoring its final six opponents by a combined 231-92 margin. That looks pretty impressive, until you consider that the five wins were over Central Michigan, Duke, Maryland, South Carolina, and Wake Forest. Against the quality defenses fielded by Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech, the Tigers from Fort Hill were unable to score enough points to win. Why would I believe they will be able to do so against the Tigers from the allegedly Loveliest Village? Since the onetime Peach Bowl became an annual A.C.C.-S.E.C. affair a decade and a half ago, the two leagues have swapped streaks with one another, as the Atlantic Coast Conference won four straight from 1992 to 1995 before allowing the Southeastern Conference to claim five in a row from 1996 to 2000. The league that presently plays its de jure conference championship game in Jacksonville went back on top from 2001 to 2004, then the league that is about to begin playing its de facto Eastern Division championship game in Jacksonville posted wins in 2005 and 2006. Given those trends, I look for Auburn to chalk up a win in Atlanta.

I hate Auburn.

Outback Bowl: Tennessee v. Wisconsin (January 1): If there's one thing I've learned about the Volunteers over the years, it's that they never are willing to oblige me under any circumstances. Take this year, for instance. When we needed the Big Orange to roll over and play dead, they turned in by far their best performance of the year against the Red and Black in a game so demoralizing that it later became the subject of a country song. Later, when we needed U.T. to stumble, Phillip Fulmer's crew maddeningly pulled out nailbiters over South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky squads whose field goal kickers all seemed to think they were re-enacting famous Florida State-Miami endings. Finally, when it would have done the 'Dawgs some good for the Vols to have upset the Bayou Bengals in the Georgia Dome, they came out looking like a fired-up box of Crayola crayons yet lost, anyway. Now that we need Coach Fulmer to put his money where his mouth is by beating the Badgers, he simply won't do it. Tennessee is going to lose this game out of sheer spite, I just know it. Wisconsin will win, which will annoy me to no end.

Cotton Bowl: Arkansas v. Missouri (January 1): Even though the question already has been asked this week, it bears repeating. What happened to the Cotton Bowl? How did this historic contest---one of the traditional major postseason affairs, alongside the Orange, Rose, and Sugar Bowls---allow its top-tier status to be usurped by a late-arriving onetime excuse to give Arizona State an extra home game brought to you by corn chips? Rather than being a source of disappointment, this game ought to represent an admirable achievement. Mizzou had the best season in the living memory of the vast majority of the Tiger faithful and the Razorback fans who hounded Houston Nutt into fleeing for the Magnolia State ought to have been more appreciative of what they had. The Hogs, who finished above .500 in just one of the eight seasons immediately preceding Coach Nutt's arrival in Fayetteville, were guided to two S.E.C. championship games and eight bowls (including a Capital One Bowl, a Citrus Bowl, and three Cotton Bowls) in his ten-year tenure. Houston Nutt may be crazier than Angelina Jolie in "Girl, Interrupted"---or, heck, crazier than Angelina Jolie, period---but the dude could coach, so Bobby Petrino and the Arkansas fan base may be in a race to see which can more quickly remind the other that life in the Natural State is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, this is not the same Missouri team the Hogs defeated in Shreveport on New Year's Eve 2003 and Arkansas has had little luck of late in postseason play, as the squad from Fayetteville has lost eleven of its last thirteen bowl games, dating back to the 1986 season. The Razorbacks have won in January just once in the last 30 years and that trend won't change as Missouri curbs the enthusiasm of a fired-up fan base that has no idea how much buyer's remorse is coming its way.

As soon as Bobby Petrino finished calling the Hogs, Bill Clinton officially became the second-least trustworthy state employee in Arkansas history.

Gator Bowl: Texas Tech v. Virginia (January 1): Is there a more stark stylistic contrast between bowl opponents this year than the one separating the Red Raiders from the Wahoos? Staid, gruff Al Groh has guided the Cavaliers to wins in wars of attrition, going 6-1 in contests decided by margins of five or fewer points and winning three one-point ballgames in a four-week period. Outspoken, boisterous Mike Leach lets it all hang out in his wide-open passing attack, leading Texas Tech to a 5-2 record in games in which the squad from Lubbock scored 42 or more points. (Yes, that's right . . . the Red Raiders have lost twice in games in which they scored at least 43 points and the Hoos have won twice in games in which they scored only 17 points. Go figure.) Ordinarily, I count myself strongly in the offense-sells-tickets-but-defense-wins-games camp, but even I can't bring myself to argue that a plodding Virginia squad that slogged its way through the soporific morass that is the Atlantic Coast Conference will be able to keep up with the piratical pinball of the Texas Tech attack. When Coach Leach's Xbox 360 offense takes the field, Coach Groh's Atari 2600 approach will have no adequate answers, rendering a Red Raider victory all but inevitable.

That's how the bowl lineup looks to me, but, then, what do I know? My propensity for calling games incorrectly truly can be breathtaking to behold, so you should know better by now than to put any stock in my forecasts. For the experiential learners among you, though, let me put it in no uncertain terms: Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!

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