My predictions for this year’s minor bowl games are behind us (and some of those games already have been played), leaving us with college football’s January slate remaining to be forecast. The next five contests on the schedule feature Bret Bielema, Jim Harbaugh, Bobby Petrino, Rich Rodriguez, and Bob Stoops, so today’s set of predictions includes arguably the least likable collection of coaches since Lane Kiffin mouthed off alone. For now, though, put aside how annoying you find those guys and bear in mind my usual warning: Don’t Bet On It!
Gator Bowl: Michigan Wolverines v. Mississippi St. Bulldogs (Jan. 1): When Mississippi State’s offense lines up against Michigan’s defense, the resistible force truly will confront the movable object. While I am duly impressed by the great strides the club from Starkville has made under Dan Mullen, I know better than to pick the Bulldogs to win in Jacksonville. The Wolverines will silence the cowbells and ring in the new year with a rousing chorus of "Hail to the Victors."
Rose Bowl: TCU Horned Frogs v. Wisconsin Badgers (Jan. 1): This may represent the best BCS bowl matchup outside of the national title game; the Granddaddy of ‘Em All features not just two quality teams, but also an intriguing mascot matchup. (A glass cage death match between a badger and a horned frog would rank right behind a showdown between a cobra and a mongoose, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I, as someone with ties to Atlanta who is fond of football, am obligated to state I am not.) During their seven-game winning streak, the Badgers have scored more than 30 points all seven times, have topped 40 points four times, and have scored 48 or more in each of their last three outings. Of course, five of those games were against teams ranked 67th or worse nationally in scoring defense, but hanging 31 points apiece on Ohio State and Iowa actually counts for something, so Wisconsin may be able to move the ball on a Texas Christian unit that leads the country in scoring defense, pass defense, and total defense while languishing at third against the run. While the Horned Frogs have given up more than 17 points just once in their last eight games, and just thrice all season, TCU’s suspect schedule raises questions about just how much stock should be put in Gary Patterson’s club (which, for what it’s worth, has scored 31 or more points in seven straight contests while breaking the 40-point barrier in five of them, including four straight). While watching the game, I will be calling out, "How ‘bout them Frogs!" However, in light of the Badgers’ Rose Bowl pedigree since Barry Alvarez took up residence in Madison and Texas Christian’s BCS flop last year, I am placing my faith in Wisconsin.
Fiesta Bowl: Connecticut Huskies v. Oklahoma Sooners (Jan. 1): Permit me to make it plain from the outset that UConn has absolutely no business being here. The Big East’s automatic BCS bowl bid should have gone to TCU. The Huskies ought to meet the same fate that befell previous conference champion Cincinnati last year . . . but Connecticut is facing Bob Stoops’s Sooners, who have lost five straight BCS bowls, including Fiesta Bowl dates with Boise State and West Virginia teams Oklahoma was expected to dispatch as handily as OU is expected to dispense with UConn this year. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me six times in a row, shame on me. If they’re going to lose money on the deal, the ball-hawking Huskies might as well get a win out of their trip to the desert.
Orange Bowl: Stanford Cardinal v. Virginia Tech Hokies (Jan. 3): What better way to celebrate the holidays than with a bowl game between two teams whose mascots are a tree and a turkey? I haven’t checked a color wheel to see whether cardinal is a good match for orange, but Stanford is not a good match for VPI. Jim Harbaugh’s club has been held under 31 points only once this season, but the Cardinal have faced only one opponent that allows fewer points per game than the Hokies . . . and Stanford lost that game. I think the Cardinal will lose this one, too, as the Hokies will get it done in Sun Life Stadium.
Sugar Bowl: Arkansas Razorbacks v. Ohio St. Buckeyes (Jan. 4): The Hogs rank third in the land in passing offense. The Bucks rank fourth in the land in pass defense. Bobby Petrino has won three of his last four bowl games. Ohio State is 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games. I don’t truly buy either of these teams, but I’ll believe the Buckeyes can beat an SEC team in a bowl game when I see it happen. Coach Petrino will lead Arkansas to victory in the Superdome, then he will embarrass himself afterwards by flashing back to his abbreviated NFL career and bragging during the trophy presentation ceremony about how proud he is of his Atlanta Falcons for beating the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on the road, all as former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett stands by observing, "I thought ‘one and done’ was gutsy, but 13/16ths and done? Now that’s gutsy!"
We are nearing the end of the line in this year’s round of postseason predictions, so bear with me as we close in on such critical contests as the GoDaddy.com Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl, and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Oh, yeah, supposedly, there’s some kind of national championship game being played, too, so stick around for that. In the meantime, remember: Don’t Bet On It!