Happy New Year, Dawg fans!
We're continuing our roundup of predicting all this season's bowl games by looking at today's late game and the next two bowl games on the calendar, as well. Today's theme, fittingly, is partying (Fiesta!!), while the theme over the next two games, also fittingly, is bowls named after various tradable commodities, which reminds us that some of us have to get right back to work since some jerk scheduled New Year's Day on a friggin' Wednesday this year. But I digress... on to the games!
Fiesta Bowl (January 1, 8:30 p.m.)
No. 15 UCF v. No. 6 Baylor (-16.5)
FIESTA means PAARRRRTTTTAAAAYYYY!! Or... uh, wait a minute. See, what we've got here is a small, private Baptist school playing a primarily-commuter school that didn't even play at the Division I-A level until Jim Donnan's first season strolling the sidelines in Athens. Well, there will be a lot of Tostitos, at any rate, and I guess that counts for something.
UCF's only loss on the year was to a strong South Carolina squad, and Baylor's only loss on the year was to an equally-strong Oklahoma State squad. Baylor unquestionably looked better as the season came to a close, however, behind quarterback Blake Bortles, even though they'd had some significant injuries to key contributors Lache Seastrunk and Tevin Reese. Both players should be back and healthy for this game, however, and UCF will need a huge effort on defense to hold back the Baylor offensive juggernaut.
In the end, I just don't see George O'Leary outcoaching Art Briles, even if O'Leary's resume says he's already done it 15 times. Prediction: Baylor 54, UCF 31
Sugar Bowl (January 2, 8:30 p.m.)
No. 11 Oklahoma v. No. 3 Alabama (-15.5)
I have no doubt that the executives at the Sugar Bowl Committee are excited to finally have a bowl matchup that can sell tickets, after having matchups utterly bereft of allure for the past several years. The closest they've come to a matchup of traditional powerhouses like this is the LSU/Notre Dame game after the 2006 season.
Oklahoma's "Big Game Bob" Stoops has become "Big Game Bust" Stoops in recent years, but they do keep throwing out 10-win seasons year in and year out. I'm astounded they were able to cobble 10 wins together this year, though. One cannot question Stoops' credentials as a coach, and hey, his record in bowl games is understandable, right? After all, his teams have played major powerhouses like... uh, Boise State, and West Virginia... and uh, UConn. (Ok, so they beat UConn, and I can't make fun of a coach for losing to Boise State at a neutral site or losing to West Virginia in a bowl game.)
The problem this year is that "Big Game Bob" is facing off against the best coach of our generation in Nick Saban. And when Saban has more than one week to prepare his team, they rarely lose. (Of course, there was that one time they came into the Sugar Bowl off a disappointing season-ending loss and got their rear ends handed to them by a Mountain West team... so this game does bear watching.) The 3-score point spread gives me pause, though, since I think Alabama will win, but I don't think they'll crush the Sooners that badly. So, I'm picking Alabama straight-up, but taking the Sooners and the points.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Oklahoma 28
Cotton Bowl (January 3, 7:30 p.m.)
No. 13 Oklahoma State v. No. 8 Missouri (-1)
Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2013 Big XII Championship Game will be played on January 3, 2014 at Jerruh World in
Dallas Arlington, TX. Oh, excuse me, my spotter is giving me a note... (Leans over, takes note, then reads it.) Hmm... it seems I was wrong, ladies and gentlemen. Mizzou is actually in the SEC, and this is, for some reason, the Cotton Bowl game, even though it's not being played in the Cotton Bowl stadium. (The game still played in the Cotton Bowl stadium would be the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which I reviewed for the evening-soap-opera fans among us two days ago.)
Not that I have anything against the Cotton Bowl Classic or Jerry World in particular, mind you. It looks like a fun stadium to experience, and our fanbase has some great memories of that bowl. In fact, I would love to have our Georgia Bulldogs play there, if only the Cotton Bowl selection committee were ever allowed to pick a team out of the SEC East. (Leans over, picks up another note from my spotter.) Ah, yes... so Mizzou is not only in the SEC, but they're in the SEC East, you say? Well, then. In that case, screw the Cotton Bowl and screw Jerry Jones. Go Falcons, Redskins, and anyone else that doesn't like the Cowboys. (Hint: No one likes the Cowboys except the type of person who also cheers for the Lakers and Yankees. And Colin Cowherd. But I repeat myself.)
So, on to the actual game itself. It will be interesting to see how Missouri rebounds from the absolutely defense-free display they put on in the Georgia Dome against Auburn. Oklahoma State has an extremely powerful offense, so the Tigers will once again be put to the test on the defensive side of the ball. Mizzou does have a potent offense of its own, though, and fans of the Columbian Cats will be eager to see Henry Josey and James Franklin lace up their cleats one last time for the Black and Gold. I'll be interested to see this game, as well, since these two teams (and, more importantly, coaches) still know each other pretty well from their Big XII days. Perhaps the most interesting thing of all, however, will be to see if Jerry Jones' huge-ass HD TV will be big enough to contain all of the points that each team will score on the other. To me, it's honestly a toss-up at this point, and the team holdng the ball last will be likely to win. When in doubt, however, go with your SEC brethren*.
* - As long as they're not named "Florida" or "Auburn," that is.
Prediction: Missouri 56, Oklahoma State 54
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below! Enjoy your New Year's Day, Dawg fans! Let's husk some corns (or whatever you do to cornhuskers to make them mad)!!