The Read-Option: The best and worst matchups of 2013-14 bowl season
From the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to the BCS Championship Game, bowl season offers plenty of viewing options for college football fans. But not all bowls are created equal, and in the final year of the BCS, that certainly holds true. Which games boast the most intriguing bowl matchups, and which ones look like they’ll fall short of expectations?
Zac Ellis: With the regular season come and gone, bowl season is upon us in college football. As always there are more than enough strong matchups to keep us occupied before Florida State and Auburn clash for the BCS title on Jan. 6. What are you most excited about as bowl season kicks off? Are there any surprising or intriguing matchups on your radar, Martin?
Martin Rickman: Plenty, even if intriguing is in the eye of the beholder. The New Mexico Bowl was a whole lot of fun last year, although it might have just been because it’s football after a break from football. This year shouldn’t be any different. You get Mike Leach’s throw-at-all-costs team against a Colorado State team with Kapri Bibbs, who rushed for 1572 yards and 28 touchdowns this year. The Las Vegas Bowl shows promise with a once-unbeaten Fresno State playing USC, but the lack of Coach O is a bit sad. Khalil Mack and Buffalo are going to eat potatoes and hit guys hard, and who knows if they’ll run out of potatoes? Dec. 26 gives us a sneaky good Pizza Bowl between Pitt and Bowling Green (minus the departed Dave Clawson) as well as the Poinsettia Bowl, which might be my favorite minor bowl this year. It’s Utah State’s Mountain West-best defense versus Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch. What about you, Zac, what bowl appetizers are you looking forward to?
ZE: I’m intrigued to see Washington handle a BYU defense that has been fairly unheralded for much of the year. Plus, Taysom Hill is as fun to watch as any quarterback in the country. Teddy Bridgewater’s going-away party in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Miami should be fun, too, since we all remember how Bridgewater played in last year’s Sugar Bowl upset of Florida. I also don’t think enough people are intrigued by the Oregon-Texas matchup in the Alamo Bowl. Who knows what the Mack Brown situation will look like by then — or how the Longhorns will react to it — and it seems like everyone’s forgotten how fun the Ducks can be to watch.
MR: Oh wow, I hadn’t even gotten that far into the schedule yet. The Russell and the Alamo are going to be terrific. What’s crazy is just how different Texas and Oregon really are. Texas had some success slowing down Baylor in the first half — mostly because of the cold temperatures — and I’m sure they’ll try a similar approach against the Ducks. Sending off Bridgewater in a big way will be fun, and we’ll get to see Stephen Morris against Teddy, which will be good for NFL Draft fans. Honestly, of the in-between games I might be most excited for the Sun Bowl this year. I think they got a terrific matchup in UCLA and Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ defense was good all year, and UCLA has an intriguing quarterback in Brett Hundley along with linebackers Anthony Barr and Myles Jack (who could get some more running back work in). That’s one of those New Year’s Eve games I’m really hoping to be in front of a TV for. Are there any bowls you could do without this year, or ones you’re just saying no thanks to?
ZE: Maybe I’m just not a UCF believer, but I’m not sure the Fiesta Bowl will stay competitive very long. Sure, Baylor’s high-octane offense has slowed down a bit from the first half of the season, but I can’t help but think that Bryce Petty and the Bears will run all over the Knights, despite their surprisingly strong defense. I’m afraid we might have a repeat of last year’s Orange Bowl where Florida State ripped through Northern Illinois. I also can’t quite get excited about the Holiday Bowl between Arizona State and Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are a bowl team in name only after they lost their last five games against the teeth of their Big 12 schedule. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils nearly won their division in a tough Pac-12. That one feels like a rout. What about you?
MR: Yeah that Holiday Bowl could be a disaster. Texas Tech has limped into their bowl game the past two years (the Red Raiders did rally to pull out a win over Minnesota last year in the Car Care Bowl). I think that Fiesta Bowl could be pretty good, actually. I look at how UCF is physical, and the overly physical teams are the ones Baylor has struggled with this year. The Music City Bowl isn’t really getting me excited, nor is the Belk Bowl unfortunately, with Cincinnati making its way there again. And that Pinstripe Bowl (Rutgers vs. Notre Dame) is going to be a nightmare, not to mention a Gator Bowl with the walking dead of Georgia and Nebraska (again). You know what bowl could be sneaky good? The Advocare with Boston College and Arizona.
ZE: The Advocare V100 Bowl is one I have circled pretty early, and fans of running backs will want to tune in. The tailback duo of Boston College’s Andre Williams and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey going head to head is sure to be fun. Williams, of course, will be in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist this weekend, but one could argue that Carey is just as deserving of that honor, if not more. What about the BCS bowls? Is there anything in those big-time matchups that will make you want to tune in?
MR: Aside from the death drive that it’s all ending soon, we have some pretty good games. The Rose Bowl may as well be broadcast in black and white. It’s the bowl I’m most looking forward to, with Stanford’s power run game and hard-hitting defense against Michigan State’s rabid defensive playmakers. The Clemson-Ohio State Orange Bowl could break 100 points. And there’s something about Oklahoma-Alabama that just doesn’t seem right. All signs point to a Crimson Tide rout, but it could end up being a really competitive game. Of the bunch, that’s the one I’m maybe not as excited for if only because I would’ve rather seen Alabama play Oregon in that matchup everyone wanted as a championship game at midseason. And let’s just hope the national title gives us the type of magic we’ve come to expect from Auburn and Florida State this year. Can it live up to the hype?
ZE: The title game is particularly interesting to me simply because it’s another talented defense against Auburn’s power run game. Everyone said the Tigers would have to throw the ball more in their last two games against Alabama and Missouri, two strong run defenses in their own right, but Auburn just steamrolled right through them both. Can it do the same this time around, and can its defense handle a Florida State attack that has yet to be really tested? It should be a fascinating game.
MR: That Florida State defense is the real deal. Almost every player will be playing in the NFL. It’s by far the best defense Auburn has faced all year, and that’s even before you get into the fact the likely Heisman Trophy winner is on the other side of the ball. Auburn has had the magic touch this year, and it’s hard to side against the team of destiny. But FSU’s modus operandi has been crushing dreams all year. Either Auburn wins on a play similar to the final putt from Happy Gilmore or the ‘Noles win by like three scores. I can’t see an in-between.
ZE: It does have that feel to it. Regardless, the BCS title game is a centerpiece to a bowl slate that, overall, will provide plenty to watch over the holidays.