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Mace & Crown | April 22, 2018

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Bowl Mania

Bowl Mania
Roberto Castro
Contributing Writer

College football has once again lived up to its billing and has not failed to provide us with some of the most intriguing, and improbable outcomes and events that have helped shape the college football landscape. Though college football can be as unpredictable as any sport at any level, the agenda of the season is one that can be predicted. One can almost always count on at least one FCS school taking down an FBS school, though it does not happen every year. It’s fair to expect a couple of upsets to shake things up in the rankings, as well as the playoffs, with a surprise team crawling out of the woodwork and moving their way into the national spotlight, as well as some disappointing seasons for some and of course as always, playoff drama!

This all began with opening weekend where four FCS schools defeated FBS schools: Richmond over Virginia, Northern Iowa over Iowa State, Eastern Washington over Washington State, and Albany over Buffalo, along with a huge North Dakota over Iowa upset stemming from week 3. Then extending to the rest of the season including some big time, game changing upsets highlighted by Iowa over Michigan, Penn State over Ohio State, Pittsburgh over Clemson and more. The overachievers go to the Washington Huskies on an improbable 12-1, conference champion, playoff bound season and a shocking undefeated season by Western Michigan season concluding with a Cotton bowl bid.

Colorado also burst on the scene to surprise many with a complete 360 turnaround to what have been long season’s worth of ineptitude, as well as its first winning season since ‘05 and first ten win season since ’01. Other surprising teams include Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and Nebraska among others.  We have also seen some great turnarounds by teams who started slow and finished strong (USC, Penn State, Florida State and Oklahoma) as well as teams starting hot and not finishing so strong (Louisville, Houston and Texas A&M ) and flat out disappointing seasons from (Texas, Oregon, UCLA and Georgia).

In what has been an extensive, climatic and unpredictable college football season once again, we are now in the month of December, which means: Food? Holidays? Presents? Well sure, but one present the NCAA gives us every year during this time are the bowl games being played, especially the College Football Playoffs. While the season this year has been as exciting as ever, not every bowl game creates that same feeling. So what better way to wrap up the college season than to share some games to watch and predictions for this year’s bowl game.

Las Vegas Bowl: Houston vs. San Diego State, Saturday, Dec. 17, 3:30 p.m., ABC

This game will feature two premier players, one on each side: Houston’s quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and San Diego state running back Donnel Pumphrey. While both teams have some exciting offenses, both have very inconsistent defenses, which is something to pay attention to. I like Houston in this game despite the season they have had, which included losing their former head coach to Texas, though their effort in their last game against Memphis isn’t too convincing, They’ll be looking to send a positive message for their new head coach Major Applewhite.

Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis vs. Western Kentucky, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 7 p.m., ESPN

If you like offenses, then this will be the game for you as both teams enter this game with explosive offenses. Both teams are lead by the first year starting, transfer quarterbacks who have had really good seasons this year. Quarterbacks Mike White from Western Kentucky and Riley Ferguson from Memphis both should play hard as well as big time receiver Taywan Taylor from Western Kentucky who has had another star-studded season. I expect this game to be a shootout, though I have a little more confidence in Memphis’ defense than Western Kentucky’s to pull this one out though it might come down to which team has the ball last.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion, Friday, Dec. 23, 1 p.m., ESPN

For obvious reasons, this is a game to watch. Both teams have had a great turnaround season for years prior, but Old Dominion has too much firepower with quarterback David Washington, running backs Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox and the tremendous trio of receivers including Zach Pascal, Jonathan Duhart and Travis Fulgham. Their defense is much improved this year as well, which is why I like the Monarchs in this one.

Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma St. vs. Colorado, Thursday, Dec. 29, 9 p.m., ESPN

Very interesting matchups as both teams enter the game being the second best teams in their conferences. It will be Oklahoma State’s high-powered offense led by quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington, against the defense of the Buffaloes. Though Colorado has had a brilliant season, they have underperformed in their last two games, especially at the hands of Washington in a lopsided defeat. Will they come in with enough energy despite not getting picked for the Rose Bowl? I think so, but I don’t think it’s enough to get it done I think the Cowboys of Oklahoma State pull off an upset against the Buffaloes of Colorado.

Capital One Orange Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida State, Friday, Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN

One of the most exciting non-playoff bowl games will take place between the Michigan Wolverines and the Florida State Seminoles. Headlined by Michigan’s Heisman candidate Jabrill Peppers and once a Heisman candidate in Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, will be a premier talent on talent matchup with athletes on both defenses, both really good running teams and talented quarterbacks.

However, there lies the issue as to whether quarterback Wilton Speight is healthy enough to be at his best and if the Offensive line of the Seminoles can protect their quarterback against a very talented front seven in the Wolverines. No one seems to give the Noles a shot, so I will. Florida State will be eating oranges in this game as I have the Seminoles in a shocker against the mighty Michigan Wolverines.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: LSU vs. Louisville, Saturday, Dec. 31, 11 a.m., ABC

Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals take on the Leonard Fournette and the Tigers of LSU. This game should be exciting considering there will be plenty of NFL talent on the field in this game. However, given Louisville’s recent fall from stardom, as well as LSU hiring Ed Orgeron as full-time head coach, I think the Tigers will play hard for their head coach that they openly supported for receiving the job, and they will contain Lamar Jackson who hasn’t seen a defense like the Tigers all year.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Auburn’s defense will have their hands full against a loaded Oklahoma offense with two Heisman finalists in quarterback Baker Mayfield and his favorite target Dede Westbrook, along with the two-headed monsters in the backfield with running backs, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. The question is will Auburn’s offense be healthy enough, and good enough to help out their defense? My answer is yes because I don’t have confidence in the Oklahoma secondary and think the Tigers pull out a close victory.

Rose Bowl Game: Penn State vs. USC, Monday, Jan. 2, 5 p.m., ESPN

This should be an exciting game with two exciting offenses. Not only that, but both teams after starting the season slow are two of the hottest teams in football. This game will come down to which defense can play better and limit the other team’s high-powered offense in which I favor USC’s athletes in the secondary to help the Trojans finish a remarkable turnaround season.

CFB Playoffs: Alabama vs. Washington, 3 p.m. Ohio St. vs. Clemson, Saturday, Dec. 31, 7 p.m., ESPN

The most exciting day of the bowl season until the National Championship will take place on this Saturday with the four best teams decided upon in college football meet each other for a possible trip to Tampa for a national title shot. Though I haven’t been highly impressed by any team other than Alabama, I still believe both games will be exciting.

However, Washington concerns me as I believe they have the talent to play with Alabama, getting controlled on their home field by USC is a bit concerning considering the fact that though the Trojans are impressive, they are not Alabama, nor do they have Alabama’s defense. I expect the Tide to make life miserable on Huskies’ quarterback Jake Browning and put an end to what was an amazing year for Washington.

Both Clemson and Ohio State have been relatively impressive at times, and relatively unimpressive. However, I believe both will be at their best, in which case I like Clemson in this one, mainly because of their of their experience, as oppose to Ohio State’s youth and Clemson’s ability to play big in big games lead by Heisman finalist quarterback Deshaun Watson. Though I don’t question Urban Meyer with a month to prepare for any team, and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett is a big time playmaker himself, I still expect the Tigers to challenge the Buckeyes’ offensive line that has struggled this year, and limit Ohio State’s receivers that didn’t look impressive in their last game against Michigan, in which case setting up a national title game rematch a year ago between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers.