MUSIC CITY – Friday, Dec 30, 6:40 ESPN, Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest. Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs were picked to make some noise in the SEC West this year, but slipped to a 6-6 overall record and a disappointing 2-6 in SEC play. Wake Forest is a middling ACC team that also comes in with a 6-6 record. State is favored by 7 but their more physical style of play could be a real problem for the Demon Deacons.
LIBERTY – Saturday, Dec 31, 3:30 ESPN, Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati. Like Mississippi State, Vanderbilt went 2-6 in SEC play. Cincinnati comes in as a 9-3 Big East co-champion. Commodores’ coach James Franklin has his team playing at a high level of confidence and had both Arkansas and SEC East champ Georgia on the ropes late in the fourth quarter. This should be another physical matchup and expect the Commodores to play well enough to win.
CHICK FIL-A – Saturday, Dec 31, 7:30 ESPN, Auburn vs. Virginia. Auburn played poorly against the five best teams they played and were blown out each time. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn are off to new gigs at UCF and Arkansas State. Virginia’s Mike London has resuscitated a Cavalier football team. This should be a fun game to watch—Virginia will try to exploit a leaky Auburn run defense while Chizik’s Tigers will try to get a young quarterback hitting on all cylinders. Take the over.
CAPITAL ONE – Monday, Jan 2, 1:00 ESPN, Nebraska vs. South Carolina. The Gamecocks are seeking their first 11-win season in program history. Under Steve Spurrier, the program has made a number of strides and has steadily improved its stature in the SEC. Even after a 9-3 season, the Cornhuskers come in as something of a “mystery guest.” Will it be the team that smacked Ohio State and Michigan State, or the team that got blown out by Michigan? Another interesting tidbit—Steve Spurrier is 7-10 all time in bowl games and several of his Florida and South Carolina teams simply don’t show up in the postseason.
GATOR – Monday, Jan 2, 1:00, EPSN2, Ohio State vs. Florida. Two of college football’s recent heavyweights go at it in a rematch of the 2007 BCS Championship Game. How the mighty have fallen—both teams come in at 6-6 and played poorly during the season. Of course, the real buzz in this game will be the Urban Meyer story, who left Florida after last season, took a year off from coaching and was hired by Ohio State to replace the fired Jim Tressel.
OUTBACK – Monday, Jan 2, 1:00, ABC, Michigan State vs. Georgia. In the third of three bowl games set to kick off at the same time, the Spartans take on SEC East Champ Bulldogs. Both teams come in at 10-3. Michigan State was thoroughly embarrassed by Alabama in last year’s Capital One Bowl, so expect them to play with more intensity and purpose this time around. Georgia has struggled against the best teams they played this year, losing to Boise State and South Carolina to start 0-2, then dropping a blowout in the SEC Championship Game to LSU. Is Michigan State up to the same task? This should be another close one, unless Michigan State learned nothing last year.
COTTON – Friday, Jan 6, 8:00, Fox, Arkansas vs. Kansas State. If Arkansas can’t be in a BCS bowl, then the Cotton is where hog fans want to be. The Wildcats enjoyed one of their best seasons in forever and are excited about the future. The two teams come into Jerry World with identical 10-2 records and the ability to light up the scoreboard with potent offenses. This should be one of the most interesting and high-scoring bowl games on the season, and the fact that it’s the only game on TV that night should draw in the viewers.
BCS CHAMPIONSHIP – Monday, Jan 9, ESPN, Alabama vs. LSU. There’s been enough ink spilled and bandwidth burned on the legitimacy of the “Rematch of the Century.” Like it or not though, fans tuning in will be treated to a contest between the two best teams in the country. When watching the first 12-round heavyweight bout, you got the sense that these two teams were playing not to lose. There were a lot of points left on the field because the coaching staffs played close to the vest. Do you think that’ll happen again? Me either. I expect the gloves to come off and I expect to see both teams taking chances that were unconscionable two months ago.