The college football regular season is over, all conference championships have been won (except of course the co-champion Big XII) and the Heisman Trophy has been awarded to the much deserving Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks. This can only mean that the only thing standing between us and the silent void that is the off season is bowl season. Every season teams across the country fight tooth and nail to win enough games to earn a bowl bid. Regardless if you think that there are too many bowls and find no interest in a mid-December match up with BYU and Memphis in the Miami Beach Bowl, it’s still a big deal to the players on those teams and gives them an extra month of practice where they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. Also, remember that Temple, UAB, Ohio, Georgia Southern, Texas State & Appalachian State won enough games to get to a bowl game but did not receive a bid to play in the post season. I think that we need three more bowl games. I think that the city of Macon should host the ‘Heart of Georgia Macon Bowl’ and invite UAB & Georgia Southern but that’s just my personal opinion. Here are the top ten bowls games this season according to the Southern Football Report!
10. Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida, at FAU Stadium – Marshall Thundering Herd v. Northern Illinois Huskies – Tuesday, December 23rd – At first glance, you probably don’t think to highly of this match up but when you begin looking a little deeper you notice that this game has some intrigue. First off, it’s one of only three games that feature two conference champions as Marshall won the Conference USA & Northern Illinois won the Mid American Conference. Marshall was undefeated until the final week of the regular season while Northern Illinois has had the MAC in an absolute stranglehold the last five seasons. Marshall’s only loss of the season came at home against Western Kentucky and the nation’s best passer (Brandon Doughty) while Northern Illinois’ lost two games, one at Arkansas and another at home against conference foe Central Michigan. Defensively, the Huskies have been pretty good all season and they will be need to be as Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato will be playing less than an hour from where he played high school ball in Miami. Bradley’s Pick – Marshall
9. Duck Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, at Independence Stadium – Miami Hurricanes v. South Carolina Gamecocks – Saturday, December 27th – Anytime you get Steve Spurrier against any school from the state of Florida, there will be some fireworks. These two programs are trending in opposite directions this season as the Gamecocks began the season in the top ten but finished the season 6-6. Miami, on the other hand, started the season with a true freshman quarterback and finished the season a surprising 6-6 with the aforementioned freshman quarterback being one of the few bright spots of the season as he led all ACC quarterbacks with 25 touchdown passes. South Carolina hasn’t lost a bowl game since 2010 while the Hurricanes haven’t won a bowl game since 20o6 when they defeated Nevada 21-20 on the blue turf of Boise, Idaho. A win over an SEC team will be a huge boost for Canes head coach Al Golden and a program quietly on the rise. South Carolina needs a win to avoid falling under .500 on a season for the first time since 2003. Bradley’s Pick – South Carolina
8. AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston, Texas, at NRG Stadium – Arkansas Razorbacks v. Texas Longhorns – Monday, December 29th – Forty five years ago these two teams met in what some called the ‘Game of the Century’ as it pitted the #1 Texas Longhorns against the #2 Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, a game that the Longhorns came back from two scores down to win 15-14. The 2014 version of the game features two 6-6 unranked teams in a sterile NFL stadium in Texas which at first give the advantage to the Longhorns but there are Razorback fans dug into the Lone Star State like ticks. Texas’ defense has played fairly well this season and the offense has shown glimpses of what could be in the future but turnovers and poor decisions have plagued head coach Charlie Strong’s squad in 2014. Arkansas boasts one of the top rushing attacks in America but haven’t quite figured out how to pass consistently and their defense has given just about everyone on their schedule fits. Bradley’s Pick – Texas
7. AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee, at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium – Texas A&M Aggies v. West Virginia Mountaineers – Monday, December 29th – Historically, this has always been a good matchup of predominantly southern and midwestern teams but somehow Texas A&M and West Virginia just feels right in this year’s Liberty Bowl. Texas A&M has been a bizarrely inconsistent team on defense and will be coached by an interim in the bowl game as they search for a new defensive coordinator. West Virginia came out of nowhere after a subpar season in 2013 to be one of the top offensive teams in the country led by quarterback Clint Trickett and wide receiver Kevin White. Both teams are 7-5 on the season and both are trending upwards towards next season even though the Mountaineers will have to replace their top two playmakers. Given the Aggies inability to stop anything that resembles an offense, I expect a lot of points in this one. Bradley’s Pick – West Virginia
6. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington, Texas, at AT&T Stadium – Michigan State Spartans v. Baylor Bears – Thursday, January 1st – Sometimes you just need a good match up of a great offense and a great defense and that is exactly what we are going to get in this New Year’s Day game. Michigan State’s meal ticket for years has been their stifling defense and Baylor is the exact opposite with a high octane offense. Both of these teams ended up on the outside looking in when it came to the College Football Playoff so this game really comes down to which team can refocus on beating a really good team on New Year’s Day, which is what they would have had to do had they made the playoff anyways. It’s really hard to ignore the production that Bears quarterback Bryce Petty and company have put up this season and if there is any defense that can slow them down, it would be Sparty. Bradley’s Pick – Baylor
5. Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Georgia Dome – TCU Horned Frogs v. Ole Miss Rebels – Wednesday, December 31st – Just about every year, the Peach Bowl manages to end up with a really good SEC/ACC/Big XII match up and this year is no different as the Rebels will make their second trip to Atlanta this season and the TCU Horned Frogs will be making their first appearance in the bowl. Both teams were right in the thick of things mid season but were unable to crack the top four but are both really good teams. Ole Miss has one of the best defenses in the country and TCU has one of the most explosive offenses. Something has got to give as these two come in firing on all cylinders after Ole Miss’s rivalry win over Mississippi State and TCU’s seven game winning streak to close out the regular season. The last four Peach Bowls combined for an average of over 60 points with an average margin of victory of only 8 points. This one will fall in line with those. Bradley’s Pick – TCU
4. Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Florida, at the (newly renovated) Florida Citrus Bowl – Oklahoma Sooners v. Clemson Tigers – Monday, December 29th – I think we can all just call this the ‘Underachievers Bowl’ as both of these teams have failed to live up to expectations the last three or four years. The Tigers will carry the nation’s top defense to Orlando but won’t have super freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Sooners will have their starting quarterback Trevor Knight back after he missed the final three games of the season with a neck injury. Clemson’s offensive staff will also be without a missing cog as their offensive coordinator Chad Morris has departed for the vacant SMU job so there will definitely need to be some kinks ironed out before the 29th when Clemson takes the field against Oklahoma. The Sooners coaching staff is intact at the moment but there might be some changes after the bowl game as this Oklahoma team massively underachieved in 2014 after opening the season ranked in the top 5 in just about every poll. Bradley’s Pick – Oklahoma
3. Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Bank of American Stadium – Georgia Bulldogs v. Louisville Cardinals – Tuesday, December 30th – Oh, at the storylines in this one: former UGA defensive coordinator going against his former team, former UGA players on the Louisville roster and another SEC v. ACC match up. The Georgia Bulldogs just never could get over the hump in 2014 as they would look like absolute world beaters against some teams and then look flat as a board against others. The Cardinals are probably beside themselves after finishing their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 9 wins. They didn’t win either of the two big trophy games (Clemson & Florida State) but I’m sure a road win over Notre Dame and a home rivalry win over Kentucky are just fine for their inaugural ACC season. The problem for Louisville is that their starting quarterback Will Gardner missed those last two games with a broken bone in his foot and obviously, will miss the bowl game. How Louisville is going to score shouldn’t be number one on head coach Bobby Petrino’s list but how Louisville will keep Georgia runningback Nick Chubb out of the end zone should be. Bradley’s Pick – Georgia
2. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual in Pasadena, California, at the Rose Bowl – Florida State Seminoles v. Oregon Ducks – Thursday, January 1st – Two conference champions, two Heisman Trophy winners and only one team can advance to the National Championship Game; I like how this one is setting up. The early game of the two semifinal games in the College Football Playoff will have as much star power as you can ask for on New Year’s Day. The Ducks will have the geographical advantage obviously as this game is being played on the west coast but the Noles have been there before, almost a year earlier when they defeated Auburn 34-31 in the final BCS National Championship Game. Florida State has skimmed by playing teams that, according to some, didn’t stack up but in the end turned out to be pretty good as Florida State ended the season having played nine bowl teams. Oregon finished the season having beaten four ranked opponents and two of them on the road. This will be one of those games where the team with the ball last will end up being the victor. Bradley’s Pick – Florida State
1. Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – Alabama Crimson Tide v. Ohio State Buckeyes – Thursday, January 1st – Two big time programs with big time coaches playing for a chance to go to the National Championship Game in Dallas makes the nightcap College Football Playoff Semifinal the number one bowl game of the bowl season. This game will put Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer on opposing sidelines once again while the last couple times have been for the SEC Championship Game, this time the stakes are a lot higher. Survive and advance will be the mantra of both teams but Ohio State will need to do so with their third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, who had a marvelous game in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin. The Alabama defense will be a tad better than Wisconsin’s but with only one game under his belt, there isn’t much film for Bama coaches to study on the 6’5″ 250-pound sophomore quarterback.
Tune in to the Southern Football Report Bowl Special on Saturday December 20th from 10 am until Noon on Live 101.9, Rockin 106.3 & Q 92.3 FM for a regular season wrap up as well a commentary on all the big bowls coming up this bowl season!