Chaos Rankings

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008-2009 Bowl Predictions

With bowl season commencing on Saturday at the filthiest stadium on the planet, just a 1 hour Metro-ride from my house, I thought I'd take another crack at predicting the bowl games. Subject to change in winner, spread, reasoning, and bowl nickname, here's what my gut says. All predictions lock (pinky swear!) at kickoff. Enjoy!

Beltway Bowl - #44 Wake Forest vs. #34 Navy
I still maintain that this bowl game is blatantly ripping off my own idea, and it doesn't really provide anything new for the fans - the teams already played this year (and Navy graciously agreed not to exercise the no-repeat clause in their bowl contract). Still, if history has proven anything, it's that beating the same team twice in a season is a daunting task, and while I expect Wake to actually have an edge in this game, I just can't pick against the Middies. An easy drive from Annapolis, I guarantee that dirty-dirty RFK will be packed to the weird brim with uniformed future officers.
Navy by 6

New Mexico Bowl - #69 Colorado State vs. #60 Fresno State
This isn't the way Fresno expected this season to go, yet Pat Hill still had to contend with all the job offers out there and keep his team focused for the bowl. Congrats to new coach Steve Fairchild for getting his Rams into a bowl game in his first year, though their record wasn't spectacular. Despite a poor season for the boys from the Valley, Pat Hill gets them ready for post season year after year, and there's no reason to think this near will be any different.
Fresno State by 13

magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl - #61 Memphis vs. #49 South Florida
What the hell is magicJack and why isn't it capitalized properly? Regardless, this is a home game for the failed-to-live-up-to-expectations-this-season Bulls who were widely expected to content for the Big East title. Instead they kersploded in the second half of the year and limped to a 2-5 conference record. Memphis was all about streaks this year: 3L, 3W, 2L, 2W, 1L, 1W. Next game should be a tie I guess. So let's say this game goes into OT and give the edge to the home crowd.
South Florida by 3

Las Vegas Bowl - #13 BYU vs. #40 Arizona
Looks like this year's Pac-10 victim for BYU to let out their frustration on is Arizona. 10-2 is nothing to sneeze at, but loses to TCU and especially in-state rival Utah really hurt this year. Both loses came to quality teams however, and BYU is a force to be reckoned with in Sin City. Cats fans: after your team gets obliterated, take refuge in a casino where no Mormon will ever find you to gloat (are Mormon's even allowed to gloat?) about another BYU smackdown of the Pac-10.
BYU by 21

New Orleans Bowl - #53 Southern Miss vs. #31 Troy
Site of a more important bowl later in the schedule, this bowl packs about as much excitement as a library. Congrats to Troy for once again winning the worst (though admittedly improving) conference, and congrats to Larry Fedora for going bowling in his first season. Enjoy New Orleans, I'm told it's nice and the food is good.
Troy by 11

Poinsettia Bowl - #3 Boise State vs. #11 TCU
Winner of most annoying to say bowl name, this matchup could easily be one of the best bowl games on the slate this year. Boise's top 15 offense against TCU's stifling #2 defense and +13 turnover margin. On one hand, Boise may have a hard time reaching their nearly 40 points a game average, on the other hand, if they can just put more than 14 points on the board, they'll join Oklahoma as the only other team to do so this season. Does Chris Peterson have another undefeated season in him? Will the Horned Frogs provide themselves a moral victory? Tune in!
TCU by 4

Aloha Bowl - #63 Hawaii vs. #67 Notre Dame
Now do you see? I hope the Irish are happy about the ridiculous contract they gave Weis after one season with Willingham's players. You can't get rid of the man now. Serves you all right. On top of all the other injustice in the world, somehow the Irish still get a holiday vacation in Hawaii too... Go Warriors! You'd think they'd be accustomed to it with all the other tourists, but the sight of Charlie on the beach shirtless destroys any shot the former Fighting Rainbows ever had. I can see the headlines now: Notre Dame finally wins bowl game!
Notre Dame by 10

Motor City Bowl - #73 Florida Atlantic vs. #42 Central Michigan
Without the freakish turnover margin they enjoyed last year, the Owls are shells of their former selves while the Chippewas were unlucky enough to have Ball State in their division. If there's one thing Detroit can deliver, it's poor-quality, over-wrought, American products. So we'll just call this one for the "home" team.
CMU by 11

Charlotte Bowl - #33 West Virginia vs. #39 North Carolina
As I said last year, this is always one of the better games - vastly underrated in it's importance. The matchups created are always intriguing from a football standpoint if not from a storyline standpoint. An up-and-coming UNC team in their own backyard takes on a WVU team with flashes of greatness that never fully take shape for any extended period of time. The 'Neers season was really over before it started with losses to ECU and Colorado, while UNC somehow choked away a chance at at ACC title with confounding losses UVA, Maryland, and worst of all, in-state rivals NC State. Will Pat White end his career on a high note, or will the Heels continue to rise? Carolina proved they could shut down a mobile quarterback when GT came to Chapel Hill, and they are an interception-heavy defense, so good luck throwing instead. My proverbial money's on Butch Davis.
UNC by 5

Tangerine Bowl - #51 Wisconsin vs. #35 Florida State
Wisconsin's supposed breakthrough season went down the tubes faster than than you can say Bucky Badger, but they pulled out of the tailspin in time to make a bowl game. Florida State is still struggling for consistency, but I will tell you this right now, if Ponder keeps improving, no coach will want to face the Criminoles next year. And even though it's not next year quite yet, F$U should still have this game in the bag. They have superior athletes and the game's in Florida, and though neither team has fared well against the top 50, the 'Noles are 2-for-6 while Wisconsin is 0-for-4, and those two wins will carry the day.
F$U by 20

Emerald Bowl - #56 Miami vs. #24 California
Cal quietly put together a solid season. Overshadowed by the likes of USC, Oregon, and Oregon State, Cal worked their way to an 8-4 record with wins over Michigan State and the aforementioned Ducks. Miami is still a shadow of their former selves, but Randy Shannon looks to have the program headed in the right direction. Somewhere in the 'Canes locker room, there's a "It's been x days since our last gun fight/arrest/brawl." That count's for something right? I'm tempted to pick Cal based simply on Miami's propensity for turning over the ball, but I dunno, I'm really feeling an upset in this game, and given Miami's recent string of suspensions, it's easy to think that there are larger problems looming for the Canes.
Cal by 7

Independence Bowl - #59 Northern Illinois vs. #57 Louisiana Tech
Congrats to Jerry Kill for having an awesome name and leading the Huskies to a bowl game without a marquee running back. Not sure that's enough against the pass-happy Bulldogs. Somewhere, Mike Vick is excited for this one. They get ESPN in Leavenworth, right?
La Tech by 7

Pizza Delivery Bowl - #64 NC State vs. #46 Rutgers
Someone please explain to me why the bowl isn't in Lousiville's Papa John's stadium? Once the Wolfpack got everyone healthy at the same time, and everything started to click, they became a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. How will they stack up against the Scarlet Knights, who are on a hot streak of their own? NCSU is already my darkhorse pick to win the ACC Coastal next year, and this game will springboard them into that position.
NCSU by 19

Alamo Bowl - #21 Missouri vs. #32 Northwestern
It wasn't a surprise national championship run, but Northwestern did have a surprising early season run. Mizzou dropped a couple must-win games on their quest for a title in a year they were supposed to dominate. Although the Wildcats defense is vastly improved over previous years, I still think Chase Daniel and his receiving corps led by Jeremy Maclin find a way to light up the scoreboard in this one.
Mizzou by 17

Bluefield Bowl - #58 Maryland vs. #45 Nevada
Which Maryland team is going to show up? Nevada is salivating for a bite out of the big boys after seeing fellow WAC compatriots fall at the hands of the MWC. Based solely on the two-faced nature the Terps have displayed this season, there's no way to be sure whether Maryland will roll or just simply roll over. Because of the chaos involved, I'm going to stick with the only known quantity, and pick the WAC team that pushed Boise the hardest.
Nevada by 13

Texas Bowl - #30 Western Michigan vs. #20 Rice
Holy cow, way to go Rice! Who would have thought that last year was actually a building block and not a fluke occurance? But the Broncos have served notice that they're a program on the rise as well. But when in Rome (or Houston), pick the home team. Also, last night I had dinner with a longtime friend and his wife who both graduated from Rice, so go Owls!
Rice by 11

Holiday Bowl - #16 Oklahoma State vs. #17 Oregon
How exciting is this matchup? Two teams who came out of nowhere and were at least in contention for their conference crowns late in the season (albeit needing some major miracles). Even though OSU got blown out of the water by TTU, they did play Texas close, and even hung with Oklahoma for a while. Oregon's losses are slightly more suspicious, but only barely so. Even looking at their offensive and defensive stats, the teams are nearly inseparable. I expect this to be one of the most hard-fought, high scoring games this year, reminiscient of that 2004 Liberty Bowl shootout between Boise and Louisville. In the end, I'll take the Cowboys' more balanced attack to carry the day, probably into overtime.
Oklahoma State by 1

Armed Forces Bowl - #43 Houston vs. #36 Air Force
How does Air Force lose the Armed Forces Bowl? I dunno, ask Cal, who outlasted them in 2007. Under new coaches, both teams have continued to succeed. And once again, I'm calling Air Force (despite their punishing, misnomer-causing ground attack) the winner of this game.
Air Force by 5

Sun Bowl - #29 Oregon State vs. #22 Pittsburgh
Pitt was expected to contend for the Big East this year, Oregon State was an after thought. You tell me who's had the better season? I maintain that Oregon State, despite losing out on a Rose Bowl berth, had a far superior season. If the team has any of that momentum left, expect them to ride Jacquizz to victory.
Oregon State by 1

Music City Bowl - #26 Boston College vs. #66 Vanderbilt
No disrespect to Vandy, who's has a stellar season, building on their successes from last year, but Boston College, despite losing first Matt Ryan to the NFL, and then successor Chris Crane to injury, has continued to play outside of themselves. BC is truly a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Unfortunately for the Commodores, they're outmatched at every position and in nearly every statistical category.
Boston College by 15

Insight Bowl - #50 Kansas vs. #54 Minnesota
Under Tim Brewster, the Gophers put together an impressive string of wins to open the season, but stumbled a bit in the home stretch when their competition level increased. Kansas failed to produce a repeat of their 2007 performance. So really this game is nothing more than a consolation prize for two teams who had their eyes on greener pastures during the year. But the real question is whether the Jayhawks feel sorry for themselves after waxing VT in the Orange Bowl last year and now being relegated to the Insight Bowl, or whether they can use the big-game bowl experience from last year to their advantage over the Gophers. For a team that lost 55-0 to Iowa to close the season, I suspect that Minnesota is in deep trouble.
Kansas by 10

Peach Bowl - #52 LSU vs. #19 Georgia Tech
Has a defending champion ever been so much of a disappointment? Probably, but I doubt that will console Tiger fans. Paul Johnson has done an amazing job in his first year at Tech, but there's still a question of those losses to UNC and Virginia, and the near escape against Gardner-Webb to keep Jacket's fans a bit leery. Plus, the last time these two tangled in the Peach Bowl, LSU came out way on top. Still, it feels as though Tech is building toward something and has something to play for, while LSU is just grateful to be postseason play at all.
Georgia Tech by 4

Outback Bowl - #55 South Carolina vs. #23 Iowa
What does Spurrier have up his sleeve for this game? Will he pull random fans out of the stands to take snaps? Will the Gamecocks SEC defense prove any match for Iowa's higher rated Big 10 defense that shut down Penn State and blanked Minnesota? Will Shonn Greene put up another 100 yard game? Stay tuned to this low scoring affair!
Iowa by 2

Citrus Bowl - #18 Georgia vs. #25 Michigan State
I hate to gloat, but wasn't UGA ranked #1 in a handful of preseason polls and at a couple points this season, you know, until they ran into 'Bama? Michigan State finally managed to avoid the routine collapse that was a staple of the John L. Smith coaching era. However, the Spartans still haven't beaten anyone better than themselves and will have a tough challenge with the Bulldogs. Of course, the same could be said of Georgia, but I suspect losing to Alabama and Florida trumps losses to Ohio State and Penn State, while the losses to Tech and Cal are basically a wash (though technically, GT is ranked higher than Cal). Although it pains me to do so, I'm picking UGA in this one because somehow Mark Richt always has them ready for bowl games.
Georgia by 3

Gator Bowl - #38 Nebraska vs. #47 Clemson
I still can't believe overhyped letdown Clemson got rewarded with a high profile game like the Gator. Also, is Nebraska still relevant at all in college football? This might be the least exciting Gator Bowl I can remember. Dabo be damned, I still don't believe he's going to get Clemson turned around, nor do I believe Clemson is going to live up the hype they're trying to create around this game. Nebraska's porous defense be damned, I still think they're more than enough to stop an underwhelming Clemson team.
Nebraska by 1

Rose Bowl - #6 Penn State vs. #4 USC
Somehow I'm not excited about this game. I want to be. I know it's going to be a good game. I'll certainly watch it. I'm just not excited. I know I'm not the only who who felt all the energy go out of the Nittany Lions when they're undefeated dream season was derailed by Kirk Ferentz, again. If USC could ever find a way to stop losing to one team they shouldn't lose to, they'd be a #1 team every year. The athletes on that squad are insane and they always have a stellar defense (you try allowing less than 8 points a game!). I just feel like this is a major letdown game for Penn State. Joe Pa's not going anywhere anytime soon it seems, but it would still be nice to see him win this game or post another national title before he hands over the reins, I just don't feel like he's leaving Pasadena with a W this year.
USC by 11

Orange Bowl - #14 Cincinnati vs. #27 Virginia Tech
Former Big East teammates reunite for the media's title of worst BCS conference. Despite the early death knells, both conferences put together some strong portfolios this year, they just didn't have 1-2 outstanding team(s) the way the Pac-10, SEC, or Big 10 did. VT may be accustomed to winning the ACC and playing in the Orange Bowl, but I think they may be resting on their laurels a bit too much at this point. Make way for the upstart Bearcats with their tireless team-oriented mentality. Cincy carries the day to build on their resume and launch themselves into favorites to win the Big East again next year.
Cincy by 9

Cotton Bowl - #28 Mississippi vs. #9 Texas Tech
I wonder how Arkansas is feeling now about running Houston Nutt out of town? I wonder how Mike Leach feels about still being in Lubbock? He certainly had his fair share of interested suitors, but apparently no one would pony up the dough. We've seen what the Red Raiders can do on offense, but we've also seen what they can't do on defense, so Ole Miss has a shot at putting some points on the board themselves. TTU comes out on top, but only after a game-long shootout.
Texas Tech by 8

Liberty Bowl - #65 Kentucky vs. #37 East Carolina
How quickly Kentucky's SEC hopes fell apart after Andre Woodson left town. Something tells me barely making a bowl game wasn't on their list of goals for this year. And what is the deal with the Pirates? They start off by blasting VT and WVU, then somehow lost to NC State (before the Wolfpack got their act together) and Virginia (while they were still apparently actively trying to lose Al Groh his job), before turning things around to win the conference. ECU comes in on a high note, and has experience playing in tough bowl games (they beat Boise last year in Hawaii). Kentucky may play in a tougher conference, but the Wildcats just don't have the drive to come out with anything besides a loss.
East Carolina by 2

Sugar Bowl - #5 Utah vs. #7 Alabama
Utah carries a higher ranking by virtue of being undefeated. Alabama could have made that claim had they not lost to Florida in the SEC championship. Conventional wisdom says that the Tide's smashmouth brand of football is just going to steamroll the Utes. But let's remember that Utah knocked off Oregon State, TCU, BYU, and Air Force in convincing fashion, admittedly, most of those wins were at home. Unfortunately, even with that, Utah's SOS is piddly compared to Bama. Sure, Utah puts up the more impressive offensive stats, but Alabama's superior defense is likely to be able to keep them in check. If not, look for the boosters to start questioning Saba's $4 mil/year paycheck...
Alabama by 6

International Bowl - #41 Buffalo vs. #48 Connecticut
Remember just two short years ago when Buffalo was one of the worst teams year after year? Thanks to Turner Gill, they're now MAC champions, after ending Ball State's undefeated season. After the fantasy season, who is UConn to stand in their way? A team that struggled against Temple, Baylor, and Louisville? Sure, they beat Big East champion Cincy, but they're not going to beat the Bulls. There's just too much good karma surrounding the kids from Buffalo this year. Plus, the game's basically across the street from Buffalo in nearby Toronto, Canadia.
Buffalo by 3

Fiesta Bowl - #12 Ohio State vs. #8 Texas
Will Ohio State redeem themselves? Eh, probably not. Colt McCoy and the Longhorns, after being "cheated" (hey, everyone knew and agreed to the rules in advance, and let's not bring up that Texas/OU head-to-head game being ignored, because it was a 3-way tie with TTU in case you've all forgotten) are bound to have a chip on their shoulder. Texas is 4-1 against teams who finished in this Top 25, while OSU is only 1-2. Defensively, both teams are nothing to sneeze at, but offensively, Texas is vastly superior. Once the game gets into double digits, Colt can just go on cruise control as they easily handle the Buckeyes.
Texas by 14

GMAC "Bailout" Bowl - #10 Ball State vs. #15 Tulsa
So much for the undefeated season Cardinals. I guess David Letterman can go back to making jokes about instead of talking you up. Still, MAC championship game not withstanding, this game features two closely matched teams and ought to be a great one to watch. Ball State had the pressure of going undefeated graciously removed by Buffalo, so they're likely to be playing loose and easy. On the other hand, they don't really have anything left to play for, besides a meaningless bowl victory that's kind of a poor substitute for a conference championship or an undefeated season. Tulsa meanwhile lost a heartbreaker to ECU in their championship game and have been putting up ludicrous numbers against everybody all season. Watch for some offensive fireworks that will likely whet your appetite for UF/OU two days later.
Tulsa by 1

BCS National Championship Game - #2 Florida vs. #1 Oklahoma
This is as close as two teams have ever been in the 4 year history of Chaos Rankings. In 2005, #1 USC and #2 Texas were also remarkably close, and we all know how that turned out... Oklahoma is #1 in points per game, #2 in yards per game, #1 in committed turnovers per game and have a +21 margin. But the Big 12 has also exposed how porous their defense is. Florida meanwhile is only slightly behind OU in offensive numbers, but sports the #5 scoring defense, #9 yards allowed defense, and a +22 turnover margin. That's scary good. If you want to see the last 2 Heisman winners duke it out and the scoreboard operator develop carpal tunnel, this is the game for you. If "defense wins championships," the Gators take home their second crystal football in three years.
Florida by 1


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