Top 25 Games To Watch: Bowl Week 3

We are now ten bowl games into the bowl season, with 25 games remaining. Earlier this season, we profiled games with teams in the top 25. The trend will continue in the bowl season.

These games will be covered on a weekly basis, normally from Thursday through to the following Wednesday; this week’s edition will cover games played from Thursday, December 29 through Wednesday, January 4.

#12 Baylor (9-3) (6-3 Big 12) vs. Washington (7-5) (5-4 PAC-12) (Valero Alamo Bowl)

Where to find the game: Thursday, December 29th at 9:00 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN3.

Series: Baylor leads 3-1.

Baylor: Offense 2nd (Rushing 18th; Passing 5th); Defense 114th (Rushing 102nd; Passing 112th).

Washington: Offense 57th (Rushing 67th; Passing 51st); Defense 94th (Rushing 54th; Passing 116th).

Just under three weeks ago, Baylor was honored with its first Heisman Trophy winner. The Bears now look to win their first bowl game since the 1992 Sun Bowl; Baylor has not made a bowl game in back-to-back years since 1991-1992. Washington’s back-to-back bowl lapse hasn’t been quite as long, but is still noteworthy – 2001-2002. Robert Griffin III (3998 passing yards, 612 rushing yards, 72.4% completion, and 45 total TDs) has led the Baylor offense, with RB Terrence Ganaway (1347 rushing yards, 5.9/carry, and 16 rushing TDs) and WR Kendall Wright (1572 receiving yards, 15.6/catch, and 13 receiving TDs). QB Keith Price (2625 passing yards, 67.4% completion, and 29 passing TDs), RB Chris Polk (1341 rushing yards, 5.1/carry, and 11 rushing TDs), WRs Devin Aguilar (521 receiving yards, 14.5/catch, and 4 receiving TDs), James Johnson (330 receiving yards, 12.7/catch, and 3 receiving TDs), and Jermaine Kearse (501 receiving yards, 11.9/catch, and 6 receiving TDs), and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (479 receiving yards, 13.3/catch, and 6 receiving TDs) lead Washington offensively. Both teams are defensively challenged, so expect a higher scoring affair. RG III should be the difference, leading Baylor to its first bowl win in 19 years.

Game hype grade: 4.

#14 Oklahoma (9-3) (6-3 Big 12) vs. Iowa (7-5) (4-4 Big Ten) (Insight Bowl)

Where to find the game: Friday, December 30th at 10:00 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN3.

Series: Oklahoma leads 1-0.

Oklahoma: Offense 4th (Rushing 49th; Passing 4th); Defense 62nd (Rushing 49th; Passing 83rd).

Iowa: Offense 70th (Rushing 77th; Passing 56th); Defense 68th (Rushing 64th; Passing 66th).

Both teams ended the year on losing notes, losing to their rivals. Iowa was beaten soundly, 20-7, in Lincoln, while Oklahoma was drilled in Stillwater, 44-10. The Hawkeyes and Sooners are looking to end 2011 on a high note, after an otherwise disappointing campaign. The Sooners have been led by QB Landry Jones (4302 passing yards, 63.1% completion, 28 passing TDs, but 14 INTs), RB Roy Finch (601 rushing yards, 5.7/carry, and 3 rushing TDs), and WRs Jaz Reynolds (715 receiving yards, 17.4/catch, and 5 receiving TDs), and Kenny Stills (818 receiving yards, 14.1/catch, and 8 receiving TDs). Oklahoma will be without RB Dominique Whaley (627 rushing yards, 5.5/carry, and 9 rushing TDs) and WR Ryan Broyles (1157 receiving yards, 13.9/catch, and 10 receiving TDs) for the bowl game, lost to injuries. Iowa is led by RB Marcus Coker (1384 rushing yards, 4.9/carry, and 15 rushing TDs), QB James Vandenberg (2806 passing yards, 59.4% completion, and 23 passing TDs) and WR Marvin McNutt (1269 receiving yards, 16.3/catch, and 12 receiving TDs). Oklahoma is a 16-point favorite in the game, the largest point spread of any of the bowl games. The Hawkeyes will be without RB Marcus Coker for the bowl game due to suspension. Iowa has a history of keeping bowl games close under Coach Kirk Ferentz, and has even been known to pull out wins as big underdogs.

Game hype grade: 3.


#25 Auburn (7-5) (4-4 SEC) vs. Virginia (8-4) (5-3 ACC) (Chick-fil-A Bowl)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 31st at 7:30 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN 3D/ESPN3.

Series: Tied at 1-1.

Auburn: Offense 104th (Rushing 38th; Passing 106th); Defense 78th (Rushing 99th; Passing 45th).

Virginia: Offense 51st (Rushing 53rd; Passing 62nd); Defense 30th (Rushing 34th; Passing 50th).

The Tigers are in their second Chick-fil-A Bowl since 2007; Auburn has won seven of their last eight bowl games, dating back to 2002. Virginia hasn’t played in the Chick-fil-A/Peach Bowl since 1998, when they lost to Georgia 35-33. Both teams were better than expect; Auburn lost a number of players from last year’s BCS National Championship Team, while Virginia was expected to be one year away from competing in the ACC. QB Clint Moseley (794 passing yards, 62.5% completion, 5 passing TDs, but 3 INTs) has been leading the offense as of late. RBs Michael Dyer (1242 rushing yards, 5.1/carry, and 10 rushing TDs) and Onterio McCalebb (532 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 4 rushing TDs) and WR Emory Blake (505 receiving yards, 16.8/catch, and 5 receiving TDs) have led the Tigers’ offense. Virginia’s offense is led by QB Michael Rocco (2359 passing yards, 60.3% completion, 11 passing TDs, but 11 INTs), RBs Perry Jones (883 rushing yards, 5.0/carry, and 8 total TDs) and Kevin Parks (661 rushing yards, 4.7/carry, and 8 rushing TDs), and WRs Kris Burd (810 receiving yards, 13.5/catch, and 1 receiving TD) and Tim Smith (565 receiving yards, 17.1/catch, and 3 receiving TDs). Vegas has Auburn as a slight favorite for this game. Look for Virginia to try to exploit Auburn’s run defense, in what should be a close game.

Game hype grade: 6.

#19 Houston (12-1) (8-0 C-USA) vs. #22 Penn State (9-3) (6-2 Big Ten) (TicketCity Bowl)

Where to find the game: Monday, January 2nd at 12:00 PM EST on ESPNU/ESPN3.

Series: Penn State leads 2-0.

Houston: Offense 1st (Rushing 62nd; Passing 1st); Defense 64th (Rushing 77th; Passing 38th).

Penn State: Offense 94th (Rushing 54th; Passing 96th); Defense 10th (Rushing 48th; Passing 5th).

Houston had the chance to grab a BCS bowl bid, but lost to Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship game. Penn State had a similar situation, standing at 5-0 in the Big Ten, before losing to Nebraska and Wisconsin, costing themselves a place in the Big Ten Championship, and a potential BCS bowl bid. The fallout from the Jerry Sandusky case has hurt Penn State big time; there was no bowl tie-in to prevent Penn State from falling to the TicketCity Bowl. Houston QB Case Keenum (5099 passing yards, 71.7% completion, and 45 passing TDs), RBs Michael Hayes (707 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 11 rushing TDs), and Charles Sims (782 rushing yards, 7.5/carry, and 9 rushing TDs), and WRs Patrick Edwards (1524 receiving yards, 19.3/catch, and 18 receiving TDs) and Tyron Carrier (914 receiving yards, 10.5/catch, and 5 receiving TDs). QB Matt McGloin (1571 passing yards, 54.1% completion, 8 passing TDs, but 5 INTs) has been under center for the Lions. Workhorse RB Silas Redd (1188 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 7 rushing TDs) and WR Derek Moye (654 receiving yards, 16.4/catch, and 3 receiving TDs) have chipped in offensively. It remains to be seen whether McGloin will be under center, having sustained a concussion as the result of an off the field altercation; WR Curtis Drake (102 receiving yards, 20.4/catch, and 1 receiving TD) will not make the trip for the game as a result of the fight.

Game hype grade: 5.


#16 Georgia (10-3) (7-1 SEC) vs. #17 Michigan State (10-3) (7-1 Big Ten) (Outback Bowl)

Where to find the game: Monday, January 2nd at 1:00 PM EST on ABC.

Series: Georgia leads 2-0.

Georgia: Offense 39th (Rushing 41st; Passing 49th); Defense 3rd (Rushing 9th; Passing 7th).

Michigan State: Offense 60th (Rushing 76th; Passing 44th); Defense 5th (Rushing 12th; Passing 11th).

Call this the Disappointment Bowl, of sorts. Both teams were in their conference title games, SEC and Big Ten, respectively, and both lost. Georgia is led by QB Aaron Murray (2861 passing yards, 58.8% completion, and 33 passing TDs). RB Isaiah Crowell (847 rushing yards, 4.7/carry, and 5 rushing TDs), WR Malcolm Mitchell (614 receiving yards, 16.2/catch, and 4 receiving TDs), and TE Orson Charles (572 receiving yards, 13.0/catch, and 5 receiving TDs). Senior QB Kirk Cousins (3016 passing yards, 65.0% completion, and 24 passing TDs) RBs Edwin Baker (655 rushing yards, 4.0/carry, and 5 rushing TDs) and Le’Veon Bell (900 rushing yards, 5.5/carry, and 11 rushing TDs), and WR BJ Cunningham (1240 receiving yards, 17.2/catch, and 12 receiving TDs) lead the Spartans offensively. Georgia is a slight favorite in this game. Expect the defenses to be ready to play in this one, pairing two of the top five defenses (only other game with both defenses ranked as high is in the BCS National Championship game). This should be a lot closer than last year’s Capital One Bowl, for Michigan State.

Game hype grade: 7.

#9 South Carolina (10-2) (6-2 SEC) vs. #20 Nebraska (9-3) (5-3 Big Ten) (Capital One Bowl)

Where to find the game: Monday, January 2nd at 1:00 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN 3D/ESPN3.

Series: Nebraska leads 3-0.

South Carolina: Offense 74th (Rushing 26th; Passing 97th); Defense 4th (Rushing 45th; Passing 2nd).

Nebraska: Offense 59th (Rushing 13th; Passing 103rd); Defense 36th (Rushing 66th; Passing 17th).

This mark’s Nebraska’s first bowl game as a member of the Big Ten; the Cornhuskers last faced an SEC opponent in the 2007 Cotton Bowl, falling to Auburn 17-14. Since 2000, South Carolina is 2-1 against the Big Ten. QB Connor Shaw (1218 passing yards, 65.5% completion, 12 passing TDs, but 6 INTs) leads the Gamecock offense, along with WRs Alshon Jeffrey (614 receiving yards, 13.6/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) and Ace Sanders (338 receiving yards, 13.0/catch, and 2 receiving TDs), and RB Brandon Wilds (486 rushing yards, 4.5/carry, and 3 rushing TDs). QB Taylor Martinez (3241 total yards, 55.9% completion, and 27 total TDs), RB Rex Burkhead (1268 rushing yards, 4.9/carry, and 15 rushing TDs), and WR Kenny Bell (408 receiving yards, 14.1/catch, and 2 receiving TDs) lead the Nebraska offense. The winning team will need to do their damage on the ground, as both teams have quality pass defenses. This should be one of the better games, to date.

Game hype grade: 7.


#5 Oregon (11-2) (8-1 PAC-12) vs. #10 Wisconsin (11-2) (6-2 Big Ten) (Rose Bowl)

Where to find the game: Monday, January 2nd at 5:00 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN3.

Series: Wisconsin leads 3-1.

Oregon: Offense 6th (Rushing 5th; Passing 68th); Defense 60th (Rushing 46th; Passing 82nd).

Wisconsin: Offense 15th (Rushing 10th; Passing 63rd); Defense 8th (Rushing 47th; Passing 3rd).

Both teams are in their second straight bowl game, with Wisconsin visiting Pasadena for the second straight year. As back-to-back winners of their conferences, Oregon and Wisconsin have been the most impressive teams in the PAC-12 and Big Ten, respectively. QB Darron Thomas (2493 passing yards, 61.4% completion, and 30 passing TDs), freshman RB/WR De’Anthony Thomas (571 receiving yards, 13.6/catch, and 14 total TDs), RBs LaMichael James (1646 rushing yards, 7.4/carry, and 17 rushing TDs) and Kenjon Barner (830 rushing yards, 6.5/carry, and 11 rushing TDs) remain the major leaders for Oregon, with WR Lavasier Tuinei (441 receiving yards, 11.0/catch, and 8 receiving TDs) contributing. Wisconsin is led by QB Russell Wilson (2879 passing yards, 72.5% completion, and 36 total TDs), RB Montee Ball (1759 rushing yards, 6.4/carry, and 32 rushing TDs), and WRs Jared Abbrederis (814 receiving yards, 16.0/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) and Nick Toon (822 receiving yards, 14.9/catch, and 9 receiving TDs). Wisconsin is going to have to find a way to stop Oregon on the ground, or this one could get away from them. Lucky for the Badgers, Oregon’s pass defense is suspect. If Wilson can locate his receivers, this could be close, and they could pull the upset.

Game hype grade: 8.

#3 Oklahoma State (11-1) (8-1 Big 12) vs. #4 Stanford (11-1) (8-1 PAC-12) (Tostitos Fiesta Bowl)

Where to find the game: Monday, January 2nd at 8:30 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN3.

Series: First meeting.

Oklahoma State: Offense 3rd (Rushing 43rd; Passing 2nd); Defense 107th (Rushing 84th; Passing 102nd).

Stanford: Offense 11th (Rushing 22nd; Passing 26th); Defense 25th (Rushing 5th; Passing 78th).

These teams had national title hopes until their late season losses. Oklahoma State almost made the BCS National Championship, despite a loss to Iowa State; Stanford needed to run the table but couldn’t knock off Oregon in Palo Alto. Two of the more exciting offenses will face off in what should be a higher scoring game. The Pokes are led by QB Brandon Weeden (4328 passing yards, 72.6% completion, 34 passing TDs, but 12 INTs), WR Justin Blackmon (1336 receiving yards, 11.8/catch, and 15 receiving TDs), and RB Joseph Randle (1193 rushing yards, 6.0/carry, and 23 rushing TDs). QB Andrew Luck (3170 passing yards, 70.0% completion, and 35 passing TDs) leads the Cardinal. RB Stepfan Taylor (1153 rushing yards, 5.6/carry, and 8 rushing TDs), TE Coby Fleener (648 receiving yards, 20.3/catch, and 10 receiving TDs), and WR Griff Whalen (664 receiving yards, 13.6/catch, and 4 receiving TDs) also lead the Cardinal offensively. Defense, believe it or not, will be the key to this game. Both pass defenses are questionable; the team that can get to the opposing quarterback more often will get the win.

Game hype grade: 9.

#11 Virginia Tech (11-2) (7-1 ACC) vs. #13 Michigan (10-2) (6-2 Big Ten) (AllState Sugar Bowl)

Where to find the game: Tuesday, January 3rd at 8:30 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN3.

Series: First meeting.

Virginia Tech: Offense 38th (Rushing 31st; Passing 66th); Defense 12th (Rushing 17th; Passing 41st).

Michigan: Offense 34th (Rushing 12th; Passing 90th); Defense 18th (Rushing 35th; Passing 16th).

With the SEC teams having qualified for the BCS National Championship, the Sugar Bowl was given the first pick; with the first pick, they selected Michigan, who is in their first BCS bowl game since the Rose Bowl in the 2006 season, when they lost to USC 32-18. The Sugar Bowl later selected Virginia Tech to play Michigan; both teams historically draw well and have large alumni and fan bases. Virginia Tech is led by QB Logan Thomas (2799 passing yards, 59.2% completion, 19 passing TDs, but 9 INTs), RBs David Wilson (1627 rushing yards, 6.1/carry, and 9 rushing TDs) and Josh Oglesby (336 rushing yards, 3.7/carry, and 6 rushing TDs), and WR Danny Coale (787 receiving yards, 15.1/catch, and 3 receiving TDs) and Jarrett Boykin (731 receiving yards, 12.8/catch, and 5 receiving TDs). QB Denard Robinson (3219 total yards, 56.1% completion, and 34 total TDs, but 14 INTs), RBs Fitzgerald Toussaint (1011 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 9 rushing TDs) and Vincent Smith (296 rushing yards, 6.0/carry, and 2 rushing TDs) lead the Wolverine ground attack; WRs Junior Hemingway (636 receiving yards, 19.9/catch, and 2 receiving TDs) and Jeremy Gallon (450 receiving yards, 15.0/catch, and 3 receiving TDs lead Michigan through the air. Defense is the hallmark of both of these teams; expect the ground game to carry these teams, as they both struggle to move the ball through the air. Denard Robinson singlehandedly won a few games for the Wolverines this year. If Michigan wins, don’t be surprised if he is the bowl MVP.

Game hype grade: 8.

#15 Clemson (10-3) (6-2 SEC) vs. #23 West Virginia (9-3) (5-2 Big East) (Orange Bowl)

Where to find the game: Wednesday, January 4th at 8:30 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN3.

Series: Clemson leads 1-0.

Clemson: Offense 29th (Rushing 61st; Passing 21st); Defense 59th (Rushing 80th; Passing 34th).

West Virginia: Offense 17th (Rushing 100th; Passing 7th); Defense 27th (Rushing 51st; Passing 32nd).

This year the Orange Bowl had the right to have the Big East Champion play in its post-season game. It wasn’t until the final weekend that the Big East champ was decided, since there was a three-way tie between Cincinnati, Louisville, and West Virginia; the BCS standings were the tie-breaker, allowing the Mountaineers to qualify. Clemson started off the season hot, but lost three games down the stretch, taking them from a potential BCS National Championship appearance to lucky to win their division. Fortunately for the Tigers, they got things back on track, destroying Virginia Tech, again, 38-10, in the ACC Championship Game and qualifying for the ACC automatic bid. Clemson has been led by QB Tajh Boyd (3578 passing yards, 60.5% completion, and 31 passing TDs), WR/KR Sammy Watkins (1153 receiving yards, 15.0/catch, and 11 receiving TDs), and RB Andre Ellington (1062 rushing yards, 5.0/carry, and 10 rushing TDs). West Virginia is led by QB Geno Smith (3978 passing yards, 65.0% completion, and 25 passing TDs), WRs Stedmon Bailey (1197 receiving yards, 17.9/catch, and 11 receiving TDs) and Tavon Austin (1063 receiving yards, 11.9/catch, and 4 receiving TDs), and RB Dustin Garrison (742 rushing yards, 5.5/carry, and 6 rushing TDs). Both QBs know how to get the ball to their WRs, expect this game to be no different; the pass defenses will need to slow down the opposing offense. Expect this to be a fairly evenly matched game.

Game hype grade: 7.


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  1. Pingback: New Content Added: Week of December 25th « beforevisitingthesportsbook

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