Our bowl previews march on and we're getting into the real meat of the schedule with a trio of New Year's bowls featuring ranked teams. Every college football coach will tell you that it's hard to have a bad season when you're still playing in January. A couple of these teams however haven't had the seasons they were hoping for, and that letdown is part of the reason I'm picking against them in the first two contests on the slate.
Outback Bowl- #19 Auburn (-6.5) vs. #18 Wisconsin.
Auburn comes in having given up a lot of points late in the season, as a result having fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, and as a result of that having paid Will Muschamp a boatload of money to turn that side of the ball around. And the Plainsmen are the team with the lesser amount of coaching turmoil in this matchup. For what seems like the fifth time in recent years Badger athletic director Barry Alvarez will be coaching Wisconsin in its bowl game. But it doesn't take Nick Saban to devise a galmeplan in which you hand the ball to Melvin Gordon. Auburn will once again be without top receiver Duke Williams, injured for the Georgia game and now suspended for the bowl. These are two very good rushing offenses, but I'm taking Wisconsin and the points.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic- #8 Michigan State(+2.5) vs. #5 Baylor.
Bowl games are all about motivation, and Baylor has every reason to either be highly motivated or to truly not give a rip. The Bears feel that they deserve to be in the inaugural college football playoff, not hanging out in Dallas to play Mark Dantonio's Spartans. While I enjoy watching Art Briles's offense work, I don't think it will work as well as usual against this Michigam State unit, which will look to send MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to his new job as the head man at Pitt with a win. Take Michigan State and the points.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl- #16 Missouri (-4.5) vs. #25 Minnesota.
This one's interesting because it pits two teams who actually should show up to play. Minnesota is playing in its first New Year's Day bowl game in over 50 years. Missouri is trying to win 11 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history. Key stat: Missouri gave up over 200 yards on the ground three times this season. They lost all three games. Gopher senior running back David Cobb just got through breaking Laurence Maroney's school rushing record, so containing him is probably the key to the game for Mizzou. I like there Tigers to shake off their loss in Atlanta to Alabama. Take Missouri, give the points.
Vineyarddawg will along shortly to preview another slate of bowl games. Until then . . .