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Bowl Previews: Meineke, Sun, Liberty, Chick-fil-A, Outback, Rose, Gator

In case you missed the first and second rounds of bowl predictions just click on the links to catch up on what you missed. As of the printing of this blog we have had 14 bowl games and both Ross and I are 8-6.

Meineke Car Care (12/31 Noon on ESPN)
South Florida (7-5) vs. Clemson (6-6)

Kevin's Prediction: SOUTH FLORIDA 24 CLEMSON 21
This is one that I am really struggling with. Both come in with pretty good defenses but under-performing offenses. I think this one with be decided by a key turnover or by who has the ball last. Both teams are exactly the same with turnover margin at a deficit of .25 per game. But USF seems to be getting better in terms of turnovers while Clemson has not won the turnover battle in a game since they beat Georgia Tech way back in late October.

Ross's Prediction: CLEMSON 27, SOUTH FLORIDA 14

Clemson has more talent, but South Florida probably has better coaching.  Both of these teams kind of stink, but give me ACC stink over Big East stink any day of the week.

HYUNDAI SUN BOWL (12/31 2pm on CBS)

Notre Dame (7-5) vs. Miami (7-5)

Kevin's Prediction: NOTRE DAME 28 MIAMI 21

Miami is one of the most talented teams in College Football. But will they be focused and ready to play? They are coming off of two consecutive defeats and have lost 3 of their last 5 that include a loss to Virginia. On the flip side Notre Dame is coming into the bowl on a 3 game winning streak that includes victories over 2 bowl teams and USC. I like how the Golden Domers are trending and while I could see Miami winning this game by 3 TDs on talent alone I am siding with Notre Dame.

Ross's Prediction: NOTRE DAME 24, MIAMI 20

This is a fun match-up, although it's also a reminder of the fact that these two storied programs are just a pale shadow of their late '80s heyday.  The ND and Miami teams from that era would smoke these squads by 40+.  Miami has better talent (Randy Shannon did manage to get some pretty solid talent to Miami, despite his other flaws), but Brian Kelly certainly gives the Irish a pretty big edge in the coaching department.  As is so often the case, these bowls usually come down to who wants it more and ND has the definite edge there: they have something to prove, while Miami is a coach-less squad playing in a minor bowl in El Paso.  Motivation trumps athletes this time.

Autozone Liberty Bowl (12/31 3:30 on ESPN)

Georgia (6-6) vs. UCF (10-3)

Kevin's Prediction: GEORGIA 41 UCF 24

Let's be honest with ourselves for a minute. Central Florida's 10-3 record is a product of their schedule. Their biggest wins are against SMU (7-6) and East Carolina (6-7). Whenever UCF has faced someone better this year they have lost (Southern Miss 31-21, Kansas State 17-13 and NC State 28-21). Georgia on the other hand has a 6-6 record because of who they have played (4 losses to Top 25 teams including 2 BCS schools and a school that played in the SEC Championship game) and some untimely errors. Central Florida can definitely make this competitive and I look for Jeffrey Godfrey to have a decent day but I think Georgia has something to prove. This will be A.J. Green's last game and I don't see anybody on the UCF sideline that can match-up with him. Georgia has won 5 of 7 with those losses being an OT loss to Florida and a loss to #1 Auburn. I think Georgia rolls much like they did in their bowl game last year (under similar circumstances) against Texas A&M)

Ross's Prediction: GEORGIA 34, CENTRAL FLORIDA 21

By my count, Georgia now has the longest active bowl game winning streak after Boise State ended Utah's nine-game winning streak earlier this bowl season.  Georgia's won their last four bowl games; Mark Richt may be having some issues winning regular season games in recent years, but he's maintained his mastery of bowl games (he's 7-2 in bowl games at Georgia).  Georgia was also playing much better at the end of the season, winning five of their last seven and putting up spirited efforts in their losses to Florida and Auburn.  Central Florida isn't just a mid-major punching bag and they have a pretty stout defense (12th best scoring defense in the nation).  But Georgia has too much talent and is too well-coached.

Chick-fil-A Bowl (12/31 7:30pm on ESPN)

South Carolina (9-4) vs. Florida State (9-4)

Kevin's Prediction: SOUTH CAROLINA 31 FSU 27

The Chick-fil-A Bowl is perennially one of the best bowl games. Despite blow outs in the last 2 games you can look back to 2007 (Auburn over Clemson in OT) and 2006 (Georgia over VT 31-24) as examples. Let's not kid ourselves everyone in the south loves an ACC vs SEC match-up and this one is pretty intriguing. I think Carolina is out to prove something after just getting absolutely embarrassed against Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers. Alshon Jeffrey and Marcus Lattimore are just going to be too much for FSU on this day but I think it will be a good close game.

Ross's Prediction: FLORIDA ST 35, SOUTH CAROLINA 24

Again, the issue of motivation rears its ugly head here.  South Carolina just made a trip to the ATL less than a month ago with dreams of an SEC Championship and a Sugar Bowl trip dancing in their heads -- only to get their heads served to them on a platter by Cam Newton.  And now they're supposed to be excited about going back to Atlanta for a New Year's Eve bash with Florida State in a bowl named after tasty chicken sandwiches?  Yeah, not seeing it -- especially when you factor in their no-show performances in their last two bowl games (a 31-10 beatdown to Iowa in the 2009 Outback Bowl and a 20-7 thumping to UConn in the 2010 Bowl).  Meanwhile, Florida State has a chance to end a solid season on a high note and Christian Ponder will probably want to put on a show for NFL scouts, too.

TicketCity Bowl (1/1 Noon on ESPNU)

Northwestern (7-5) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Kevin's Prediction: TEXAS TECH 35 NORTHWESTERN 24

Raise your hand if you've never heard of this bowl. I'm guilty. Texas Tech just lost it's defense coordinator and now they have to try and stop Dan Persa? No thank you. Oh wait...Dan Persa is in a cast until spring. Hmmmm....Texas Tech it is. But I don't like it.

Ross's Prediction: TEXAS TECH 35, NORTHWESTERN 17

If Northwestern had all-everything QB Dan Persa, this game is at least a toss-up, if not a definite edge to Northwestern.  But without the QB who was the heart and soul of their offense -- and the source of roughly 90% of its production -- it's hard to give them a fair shot here, even against a pretty mediocre Tech squad.  The NW offense looked completely toothless in their last two games this year and the defense isn't strong enough to make up for that lack of production.

OUTBACK BOWL (1/1 1pm on ABC)

Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5)

Kevin's Prediction: FLORIDA 28 PENN STATE 17

There is just no way that I can pick against Urban Cryer and the Florida Gators in his last game. I think Florida gets geeked up for this game Penn State has not performed in big games this year (their losses are to Bama, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan State) with their most impressive victories coming against Michigan and Northwestern. Florida has lost 2 out of their last 3 but I think they win this one for Urban.

Ross's Prediction: PENN STATE 23, FLORIDA 21

If you believe the rumors about JoePa, this could be a farewell game for BOTH coaches; at the very least, it's definitely Urban Meyer's swan song to the Florida program that he turned into one of the best of the 2000s.  Unfortunately, with all the turmoil that's surrounded that program lately and the fact that their offense was a complete non-entity for most of the season, it's hard to have much faith in them, even with some "win one for Urb" motivation going on.  Penn State is consistently a very good bowl team and they spent the season getting better, especially on offense where a mid-season switch to Matt McGloin at QB broke them out of their slumber.  The defense struggled at times, but should be pretty healthy here.  I think they win on a close one with a late field goal.

Capital One Bowl (1/1 1pm on ESPN)

Alabama (9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1)

Kevin's Prediction: ALABAMA 31 MICHIGAN STATE 17

In 2008 Nick Saban and his staff learned a lesson in the Sugar Bowl from Utah. I can't see Bama coming into this game unprepared. As great as a season that Michigan State had they really didn't beat anybody outside of Wisconsin (which is a great win but seems like it was before Wisconsin really turned the corner this year). As much as I hate to say it I can't go against Saban and his coaching staff or his talent in this one. Tide Rolls.

Ross's Prediction: ALABAMA 34, MICHIGAN STATE 17

Michigan State was a classic overachiever program this year -- they took advantage of some lucky breaks and mounted impressive comebacks (against Notre Dame, Northwestern, Purdue, for instance) -- but they also got blasted by Iowa and struggled against inferior competition pretty frequently (Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State) and had an advantageous schedule (no Ohio State).  There's also the question of how excited they'll be to play in this game, considering they went 11-1 and got aced out of a BCS bowl appearance.  On the other hand, motivation could be an issue for Alabama, too -- will they be excited to play in this game after suffering a stunning defeat to Auburn in their last game and playing in the national title game last year?  Ultimately, I think Saban does get them motivated here -- and their massive talent advantage proves to be the difference.

Progressive Gator Bowl (1/1 1:30 pm on ESPN2)

Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Michigan (7-5)

Kevin's Prediction: MISSISSIPPI STATE 31 MICHIGAN 24

There might not be a coach in all of College Football that I am more impressed with than Dan Mullen. Imagine what they could be doing right now if they won the Cam Newton $weepstakes (I kid!). Dan Mullen led his team to wins over both Florida and Georgia this year (even though they were both down that is impressive) and continued his dominance over the "team from the North" Ole Miss (well as dominant as you can be being 2-0 against a rival). Michigan has a chance in this one but I just can't pick them with their defense. I think Miss State grounds this one out.

Ross's Prediction: MISSISSIPPI STATE 38, MICHIGAN 35

On one hand, Michigan has a healthy Denard Robinson and one of the nation's most fearsome offenses.  On the other hand, they have one of the nation's least fearsome defenses and an embattled coach dealing with a lot of talk about his job status.  Meanwhile, Mississippi State has a coach who's the toast of the town (Dan Mullen) and a solid defense.  Their offense has been anemic at times, but the Michigan defense could be just what the doctor ordered for a weak offense.  This one smells like a shootout (like, oh, pretty much all of Michigan's games this year), but I think Mississippi State has enough defense to get a key stop at the end of the game.

Rose Bowl (1/1 5pm on ESPN)

Wisconsin (11-1) vs. TCU (12-0)

Kevin's Prediction: WISCONSIN 31 TCU 23

Now this is one to watch. I like what TCU has done this year under Gary Patterson (and in the previous years for that matter) but Wisconsin is on a roll. TCU has not played a team the caliber or with the strength of Wisconsin this year. Both teams average 43 points per game but allow under 21 per game. I think Wisconsin will just be too much for the Horned Frogs. Welcome to Big Boy football TCU, are you up for the challenge?

Ross's Prediction: WISCONSIN 35, TCU 31

Really hard game to call.  TCU has one of the nation's best defenses -- but they also haven't had to deal with an offense like Wisconsin's, either.  Wisconsin started the year slowly, but by season's end they'd turned into an old-school juggernaut with a massive offensive line paving the way for three very good running backs, allowing them to just steamroll their opponents into dust.  TCU has a great run defense, but they haven't faced a rushing offense like the Badgers.  Fortunately, they also have a very good (and underrated) offense -- and you can score on the Badgers.  I think this game turns into a bit of a shootout and Wisconsin's beastly ground game is good enough to put it over the top.  Should be a hell of a game, though.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (1/1 8:30pm on ESPN)

Connecticut (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (11-2)

Kevin's Prediction: OKLAHOMA 37 UCONN 24

On paper this is one of the biggest mismatches of bowl season. UConn went 8-4 with losses to Michigan, Temple, Rutgers and Louisville. UConn's most impressive victory this year was an overtime victory over West Virginia (who just got rolled by NC State 23 to 7). Unless Oklahoma has a monumental letdown I can't see them losing this game. Oklahoma has had a couple of mis-haps this year (A&M and Missouri) but they have just beaten 4 straight bowl teams including must win games over Okie State and Nebraska to win their Conference Title.

Ross's Prediction: OKLAHOMA 38, UCONN 21
Is UConn the worst BCS team ever?  Maybe not -- the 2007 Hawaii team and the 2004 Pittsburgh teams that made BCS bowls were pretty underwhelming outfits -- but not many BCS teams have gotten spanked by teams like Temple and Louisville in the same year, either.  And that's even without factoring in the whole "just happy to be here" factor for a team making their first-ever trip to a big-time bowl game.  Oklahoma's had their problems in BCS games over the last few years... but they really shouldn't struggle much here.  They have a massive talent advantage almost everywhere on the field and Bob Stoops has ample experience in games like this.

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