After starting 5-1 in bowl picks, I wrote this last week...
"In my past musings on State of the U, I would always address any winning streak with caution. I would talk about "dealing with success" and try to avoid jinxing myself. Those times are over. I've paid my dues. This is my time. I expect to win. We're moving into full overconfidence mode. After I finish the bowl season 29-10, I'll buy enough legal Cuban cigars for everyone to celebrate."
I kept winning for a few days after this declaration of overconfidence and was 8-3 at one point. I study the ACC more than any other conference and I've seen nearly every team play live in the past few years. With seven ACC games from Dec 26-29th, I was poised for greatness.
One thing is clear. The power of the Pickens Jinx cannot be overstated. I went 1-6 in ACC bowl games and needed Arkansas's win last night to still maintain a winning record. I'm now 11-10 and the feelings of mediocrity and disappointment are starting to creep back into my brain.
"Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real." - Tupac Shakur
Since it seems unlikely I will win 18 straight games to reach the impossible pie-in-the-sky goal I wrote about last week, I should set more realistic aspirations. That being said, I still have dreams of a hot streak that will dominate the water cooler conversations in early January. Here are six picks for today and tomorrow's games. Let's end 2014 on a positive note. The good news is that even if my picks are disastrous the next two days, I will surely write about hitting the reset button and starting fresh in 2015. I can't lose.
Thank you to everyone who read my articles this season and Happy New Year.
For this article, I'm bringing back the Wikipedia facts from each school I found particularly interesting/amusing/shocking.
Music City Bowl
LSU -7 vs Notre Dame 3pm - ESPN
"LSU was hit by scandal in 1939 when James Monroe Smith, appointed by Huey Long as president of LSU, was charged with embezzling a half-million dollars. In the ensuing investigation, at least twenty state officials were indicted. Two committed suicide as the scandal enveloped Governor Richard W. Leche, who received a 10-year federal prison sentence as a result of a kickback scheme."
LSU allowed just 16 points a game this season, but the Tigers struggled to score due to inconsistent QB play from Anthony Jennings. In their last game, LSU took advantage of a poor Texas A&M defense and ran for 384 yards, dominating the line of scrimmage. Les Miles will lean on his young star RB Leonard Fournette and control this matchup with the Irish. Notre Dame started 6-0, but lost five of the last six games to finish at 7-5. Everett Golson was a turnover machine, leading to Malik Zaire getting the opportunity to start this afternoon at QB. Zaire hasn't played meaningful snaps all season and will make mistakes against an LSU defense known for speed and aggressiveness.
GEORGIA -7 vs Louisville 630pm - ESPN
"The Gym Dogs, the University's women's gymnastics team, have a NCAA-leading 10 national championships in gymnastics, including five consecutive championships from 2005 to 2009."
In his first stint at Louisville, Bobby Petrino had success against SEC teams in bowl games. The Cardinals finished 9-3 and are led on defense by S Gerod Holliman who finished the year with an incredible 14 interceptions. I'm picking Georgia due to Louisville's uncertainty at QB. Reggie Bonnafon played well at times this season, but isn't consistent. Kyle Bolin led the Cardinals to a win against Kentucky in his first real action of the season. Both freshmen will play tonight, but their inexperience will be a factor against a veteran Georgia squad. UGA RB Nick Chubb had a great year that was overlooked due to the attention given to Todd Gurley. QB Hutson Mason will be playing his final game as a Bulldog and will go out as a winner.
Foster Farms Bowl
MARYLAND +14 vs Stanford 10pm - ESPN
"During the Civil War, financial problems forced the administrators to sell off 200 acres of land, and the continuing decline in enrollment sent the Maryland Agricultural College into bankruptcy. For the next two years the campus was used as a boys preparatory school. Following the Civil War, in February 1866 the Maryland legislature assumed half ownership of the school. The college thus became in part a state institution. By October 1867, the school reopened with 11 students. In the next six years, enrollment grew and the school's debt was paid off."
Stanford will miss star WR Ty Montgomery who won't be able to play with an injury. He was the Cardinal's leading receiver this year and brought the explosiveness to this offense. Stanford struggled on offense in 2014, averaging just 25 points a game, but excelled on defense, giving up just 16. I expect this to be a low scoring contest tonight. Stanford has the crowd and location advantage with this game being played in Santa Clara, but I'm not confident the Cardinal will be motivated for this second tier bowl after playing in marquee BCS games the past four seasons. Maryland will be able to keep this game closer than expected. The return of star WR Stefon Diggs will give the Terps an advantage on the perimeter and QB C.J. Brown is a dual-threat player with experience.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
OLE MISS +3.5 vs Tcu 1230pm - ESPN
"The first fraternity founded in the South was the Rainbow Fraternity, founded at Ole Miss in 1848. The fraternity merged with Delta Tau Delta in 1886. Delta Kappa Epsilon followed shortly after at Ole Miss in 1850, as the first to have a house on campus in Mississippi. Delta Gamma Women's Fraternity was founded in 1873 at the Lewis School for Girls in nearby Oxford. All Greek life at Ole Miss was suspended from 1912 to 1926 due to statewide anti-fraternity legislation."
I trust my instincts on this one. TCU had a tremendous season, but the Big 12 hasn't played well so far in bowl games. The Horned Frogs and QB Trevone Boykin didn't face a defense as talented as Ole Miss this year. TCU won't overwhelm Ole Miss with speed. The Rebels allow just 14 points a game and gave up just eight passing touchdowns in 2014. Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace isn't always consistent, but he stepped up in wins against Alabama and Mississippi State. Ole Miss fans will pack the Georgia Dome and the SEC earns another bowl victory.
Vizio Fiesta Bowl
ARIZONA -3 vs Boise State 4pm - ESPN
"The film Revenge of the Nerds (1984) was filmed at the University of Arizona. In the movie, the Alpha Beta "jock" house was the real-life home to the UA chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity until purchased by the Beta Theta Pi fraternity in 2006. The dorm room (with the balcony) seen in the film is located on the third floor of historic Cochise Hall on campus. When the characters are moving in at the beginning of the movie, the dorm behind the post office drop is Yuma Hall."
Arizona was embarrassed in the Pac 12 Title game, but the Wildcats still had a terrific season. Boise State played a relatively easy schedule and although Grant Hedrick completed 70% of his passes on the year, he threw four interceptions against Ole Miss and Air Force (Boise's two losses). Look for Arizona to rely heaving on the running game of RB Nick Wilson against a Boise defense that gave up 500 yards rushing to New Mexico and 287 yards to Air Force. While Boise finished the year at 11-2, this team doesn't have the same talent we've seen from the Broncos in recent years. Boise RB Jay Ajayi is a legitimate star, but Arizona's award-winning LB Scooby Wright will make plays in the backfield. With the game being played in Glendale, this should feel like an Arizona home game. Rich Rod gets the win in a high-scoring exciting game.
Capital One Orange Bowl
MISSISSIPPI STATE -6.5 vs Georgia Tech 8pm - ESPN
"The city of Starkville and the Mississippi State campus have been a tour stop for many artists such as 2 Chainz, Bon Jovi, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and most famously for Johnny Cash in 1965. After Johnny Cash's performance he was arrested, which led him to write the song "Starkville City Jail."
Yes, you read that correctly. Wikipedia lists 2 Chainz in the same company as Dylan, Cash, Presley, and Bon Jovi. Now back to football. Georgia Tech was so impressive this season, finishing 10-3 and beating Georgia to end the regular season. QB Justin Thomas led the team in passing and rushing and did a good job protecting the football. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, Mississippi State has one of the nation's best defenses. The Bulldogs have a stout defensive line and one of the best linebackers in the country in Bernardrick McKinney. Paul Johnson is 1-5 in bowl games at Georgia Tech, partially because the long layoff gives defenses a chance to better prepare to stop the triple option. MSU QB Dak Prescott will make a few big plays tomorrow night and RB Josh Robinson should have success against a small GT front 7 that couldn't deal with FSU's size in the ACC Title game.