After starting 5-1, my last article displayed overconfidence and my new expectation of winning nearly every bowl game. I had been worried about jinxing myself in the past, but I decided to throw caution to the wind this week. On Tuesday, I split the two games, with San Diego State losing a frustrating game to Navy. Christmas Eve gave me one of the worst losses of my "illustrious" writing career. I picked Western Kentucky -4....
I usually watch every bowl from start to finish, but I had plans to go skiing during the Bahamas Bowl. As a Floridian, I have to take advantage of every chance I get to propel my body down a new mountain. After seeing most of the first quarter, WKU had a decent lead as I strapped on my rental gear. Technology in 2014 is truly amazing, allowing me to watch several WKU touchdowns live on ESPN3 on my phone from a ski lift. I fell dozens of times, but the pain was temporary since the Hilltoppers were up 49-14 entering the fourth quarter. For the next 45 minutes, I didn't check my phone until arriving back at the lodge for lunch. When I sat down to look at the final score, I saw that WKU was now up just 7, clinging to a 49-42 lead with under a minute remaining. I ordered my meal and watched Central Michigan's 75-yard hail mary attempt just to make sure my win was secure. I wasn't prepared for what I am calling "The Play Heard Round the Caribbean."
I nearly fainted after the miracle touchdown, and then starting panicking about the chance that Central Michigan might go for the win. Sure enough, CMU went for 2, threw an incompletion, and handed me a devastating loss for the ages. The woman making my pasta asked me if was alright, but I didn't have words to reply with. I sheepishly nodded. If i had time to collect myself I would've channeled Elaine Benes and said: "I am speechless. I am without speech."
After losing with Western Kentucky, I fully expected Rice to get blown out thanks to my jinxing abilities, but the Owls stepped up and won easily. Rice's win gives my confidence heading into these next eight games. I'm staying in overconfidence mode until proven otherwise. With a 7-3 record this bowl season, my winning ways are just getting started. I've been solid in the ACC all season and six of these eight games involve teams from the conference.
Even though I lost my pick on the game, I still agree 100% with SBNation's Bill Connelly, who wrote about the incredible fourth quarter in his piece yesterday.
"I don't want to ever hear someone saying there are too many bowls again. Every bowl is bonus football and a chance to see something you've never seen before. If we wanted to create 64 bowls and let the two worst teams in the country take each other on from an aircraft carrier or from farmland in the middle of Montana, I would watch, just in case."
Duck Commander Independence Bowl
MIAMI -3.5 vs South Carolina 330pm - ABC - SATURDAY
"Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose." - Lyndon B. Johnson
Miami fans aren't happy. The Canes finished the regular season 6-6 and clearly underachieved. There is plenty of frustration and blame to go around, but none of that matters now. As hard as it is to do, Miami fans, players, and coaches must move on and look forward. Like it or not, this coaching staff is here for at least another year. This program desperately needs some momentum and winning a bowl game for the first time since 2006 is the best we can hope for at this point. South Carolina is clearly down this year, but the country will still take notice if the Canes play well and beat an SEC opponent. LBJ's quote says it all - it's time to leave the past behind and focus on the future.
South Carolina's defense has struggled all season and I expect big games from RB Duke Johnson and QB Brad Kaaya. With star TE Clive Walford out with an injury, this is the opportunity Louisiana native TE Standish Dobard has been waiting for. Dobard will be a major part of Miami's offense in 2015 and has shown flashes this season. It's time for him to step up. UM caught a break when South Carolina announced that WR Shaq Roland has left the team. Roland wasn't always reliable, but has game-breaking speed. Denzel Perryman will be playing his final game in a Miami uniform and he'll have his hands full with USC RB Mike Davis. Gamecocks' QB Dylan Thompson played well in 2014, but I don't trust him to be consistent on Saturday.
In this battle of two disappointed 6-6 teams, motivation will be crucial. Steve Spurrier is probably planning his trips to Augusta this spring, while Al Golden is feeling the pressure and coaching for his job and reputation. The Canes seem more focused this December, having learned from the debacle loss to Louisville last bowl season. Miami plays more like the team we saw in late October and beats the Gamecocks by two scores. Go Canes.
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
LOUISIANA TECH -6 vs Illinois 1pm - ESPN
After starting 4-6, Illinois earned a bowl bid by beating Northwestern and Penn State in the final two weeks of the season. The Illini aren't explosive on offense and inconsistent QB Reilly O'Toole gets the start today. WR Mike Dudek is an emerging star in the Big Ten, but the rest of Illinois' offense isn't good enough to keep pace with LaTech. The Bulldogs have forced an incredible 40 turnovers this season and will force O'Toole into a few mistakes. Louisiana Tech's offense has a senior leader in QB Cody Sokol, but RB Kenneth Dixon is the gamechanger. Dixon had 26 touchdowns this year and should have a big afternoon against a poor Illinois run defense. Look for Skip Holtz's team to win by 10 in Dallas.
Quick Lane Bowl
UNC -3 vs Rutgers 430pm - ESPN
Which UNC team will show up? The one that blew out Duke with ease? Or the one that laid an egg against NCST, losing 35-7 in the season finale. Rutgers struggled through the Big Ten schedule, but did manage to beat Maryland to finish the year. While QB Gary Nova had the best year of his career in 2014, I still don't trust him in crunch time. Rutgers has been hit with injuries at RB all season, leaving too much pressure on Nova to win games with his arm. UNC's defense was dreadful in 2014, but I'm picking the Tar Heels because I believe in QB Marquise Williams, who was also his team's leading rusher. North Carolina will make the most of the trip to beautiful Detroit and earn the ACC an important early bowl win.
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
UCF -3 vs NCState 8pm - ESPN
CINCINNATI -3 vs Virginia Tech 1pm - ESPN
Hyundai Sun Bowl
ARIZONA STATE -8 vs Duke 2pm - CBS
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
PENN STATE +3 vs Boston College 430pm - ESPN
For whatever reason, I have a strong feeling about this game. Both teams have strong defenses and play low-scoring games. Boston College struggles to throw the ball, but QB Tyler Murphy had a huge season on the ground, rushing for more than 1000 yards. This crowd should provide a great atmosphere at Yankee Stadium, with both schools having large alumni bases in NYC. Despite how poorly he looked at times this season, I'm relying on Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg to lead me to victory. The bowl layoff gave him a chance to regroup and he's too talented to stay down long. This game means everything to the Nittany Lions, given all the program has been through with NCAA sanctions. PSU's seniors will play inspired and lead James Franklin's team to a close win.
National University Holiday Bowl
USC -7 vs Nebraska 8pm - ESPN
Nebraska might not be ready to play, with players still upset over the firing of Head Coach Bo Pelini. USC finished the year with a huge win over Notre Dame and QB Cody Kessler had an incredible season (36 TD and just 4 INT). Nebraska's defense was exposed several times in 2014 and USC has better speed on the perimeter than the Huskers' faced in the Big Ten. USC WR Nelson Agholor should have a huge night. Steve Sarkisian will have his team focused and Trojan fans will pack the stadium, making the short drive to San Diego. USC wins by three scores.