Bowl Picks: Going for 4!
By Queen Carioca
Come in and have a seat. Close the tent flap behind you as once again I glance into my crystal ball.
Check out my bowl prophecies for the Rose and the Orange:
ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO
WISCONSIN (8-5) vs STANFORD (11-2): Its says a lot about a team’s fortitude when that team is resilient enough to lose 3 overtime conference games in 4 weeks and still summon the strength needed to drop 70 points on a 10-win opponent in the Big Ten championship game. That’s exactly what Wisconsin did. After losing overtime decisions to Michigan State (16-13), Ohio State (21-14) and Penn State (24-21), the Badgers somehow rebounded to lambaste the 10-2 Nebraska Cornhuskers 70-31 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy to grab the Big Ten crown and earn the program’s third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl. In Pasadena, Wisconsin’s mettle will be tested once again – and this one might be the toughest challenge yet. After guiding the Badgers to 67 wins in seven years in Wisconsin, Head Coach Bret Bielema shocked the college football world by bolting to Arkansas in early December, taking a job that most regard as a lateral move at best. Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez will temporarily stand-in to lead the Badgers into the Rose Bowl, but Wisconsin will have its hands full against 8th ranked Stanford. The Cardinal are making their third consecutive BCS appearance – but their first without Andrew Luck under center. This year Stanford has been the surprise of the Pac 12. They’ve been disruptive (no. 1 nationally in both Sacks & Tackles-for-Loss); they’ve been stout against the run (allowing just 88 yards/game, no. 3 in the country); they’ve been opportunistic (26 takeaways); and yes – they’ve found their quarterback of the future, and of the present. Freshman Kevin Hogan (9 TD, 3 Int.) stole the job down the stretch and helped Stanford close out the year with four straight wins over ranked teams – including no. 1 Oregon. Sure, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball rebounded from a slow start to have the kind of year we all expected from him (1,730 yards & 21 TDs). But all of the above might be a bit too much for even the Badgers to overcome this time around. Stanford 27, Wisconsin 17
DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-1) vs FLORIDA ST. (11-2): What happens when a talented but discontented team squares off against an overmatched but elated one? We’ll find out soon enough as FSU – a program that entered 2012 with national title game aspirations – crosses swords with NIU, a team dancing with euphoria over its first ever BCS appearance. Jimbo Fisher has rebuilt the Florida State program from the defensive side up. After inheriting a team that in 2009 finished 110th nationally in yards allowed (444/game) and 98th in scoring (31/game), Fisher and his staff hit the recruiting trail hard in pursuit of the brand of big-bodied, athletic playmakers with a hand in the dirt that the Seminoles used to be known for. It’s paid off in spades. Led by studs like Bjoern Werner (13 sacks) and Cornellius Carradine (11 sacks), Florida State has finished the last three seasons ranked 20th, 4th and 6th, respectively, in points allowed. The problem? The architect of those defenses, Mark Stoops, is off to Kentucky. The Seminoles D is now left to its own devices in solving dual-threat QB Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois’ no. 9 scoring offense (41/game) – and that’s no easy chore. This fall, Lynch might’ve been the best college football player that most fans have never heard of. The junior sensation has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards & 24 scores while adding another 1,771 & 19 TDs on the ground to rank no. 3 in the country in total offense (364/game). This game could be less about skill than it is about mindset and a turnover-prone FSU offense (26 giveaways) could keep things interesting. The Noles, however, have too much senior leadership in key spots to go gently into the night by wrapping their careers up on the business end of a BCS meltdown. One of those seniors, QB EJ Manuel (3,106 yards & 22 TDs), will find a way to get it done against an overachieving Huskies defense that’s yielding just 19 points/game. FSU will take care of business and Manuel will become only the second signal caller in history (Pat White, West Virginia) to win a 4th bowl game as a starter. Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 21 P.S. Mountaineer fans - EJ Manuel isn't the only QB chasing Pat White's record for bowl wins this postseason. Also keep an eye on Oklahoma's Landry Jones in the Cotton Bowl. More on that one later!