Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 12/29/12
Saturday is an important day for the Pac-12 and Big XII conferences as well as the armed forces teams. Three of the nine Big XII teams are in action against three different conferences which should give them an opportunity to improve on their 2-0 record thus far in the post season. The Pac-12 has had a rough time in the early bowl games with Arizona escaping against Nevada with two TDs in the final minute to help avoid the conference from starting the bowl season 0-3. Oregon St. and Arizona St. have a chance to improve the conference record on Saturday. The Action on Saturday starts with a matchup between C-USA and the Mountain West Conference in Ft. Worth for the Armed Forces Bowl. After a slow start, we get going with two terrific matchups involving BCS conference teams. Arizona takes on Independent Navy while two former Big East rivals, West Virginia and Syracuse, square off in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. The late games focus on the state of Texas as the Longhorns take on Oregon St. in the Alamo Bowl followed by another Texas team, TCU, taking on Michigan St. in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe. Another delicious Saturday filled with college football to finish the year. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Rice (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MWC) (-2.5) December 29th 11:45 am ESPN – Early reveille for the soldiers of the Air Force in this one. At 10:45 local (and 9:45 in Colorado Springs) this is the earliest kick of the bowl season. The Falcons have not done well away from home this year. They played 6 home games and 6 away games and ended things 6-6. They won all their home games except one, flipping the script in the middle of the season losing to Navy at home and winning at Wyoming. The Armed Forces Trophy is their prized possession and they got swept in the series against Navy and Army this season. Rice won 5 of their last 6 games to return to post-season play for the first time since 2008 and the second time overall under HC David Bailiff. SMU was the only win all year against a team that is bowling this year as their wins came against 6 teams with a combined 20 wins (including 8 wins for UT-San Antonio). What to Expect: Rice won five games down the stretch to earn a bowl but only beat one bowl team all year, but the one stat you need to know in this one is that Rice has the 92nd ranked run defense in FBS giving up over 192 ypg on the ground. Air Force is ranked second in the nation in run offense getting over 328 per game. If there is a team that will not be effected by an early kickoff it is an armed forces team. Expect the Falcons to win this pillow fight with the Owls, 21-17.   New Era Pin Stripe Bowl West Virginia (Big XII) (-4) vs. Syracuse (Big East) December 29th 3:15 pm ESPN – A couple of ex-Big East foes facing off here in Yankee Stadium; they are both ex-members because Syracuse is actually off to the ACC next year (assuming there still is an ACC next year). The Orange had to win 5 of their last 6 games of the year to get to this point to play in a bowl game. Their victory over Louisville was one of the more stunning “under the radar” results from the college football season. Syracuse has been one of the more competitive 7-5 teams on the season and their fans are likely ready for a bowl since this is only the second bowl they’ve qualified for in the past 8 seasons. Two problems: the other bowl they played in was also the Pin Stripe Bowl two years ago and West Virginia is a team they are also familiar with. This is probably not the best way to fire up the base for a bowl trip The Mountaineers entered their first season in the Big XII with the highest of hopes and expectations; a Big XII title, National Title, and Heisman Trophy were all within reach. After a 5-0 start and QB Geno Smith being thrust into position as the solid favorite to take home the hardware fans were ecstatic, although wary of the fact that their defense seemed to be 4-5 men short on every play. Five losses later and they needed to earn two late season victories against Iowa St. and lowly Kansas just to get this far. Added to the disappointments on the season is the fact that they are sent east and north for their bowl game against a former Big East foe and you have the perfect recipe for an unenthused fan base. What to Expect: QB Ryan Nassib emerged as one of the better quarterbacks in the nation this year (over 300 ypg and 26 TDs to only 9 INTs), making this one of the more competitive quarterback matchups of the post season.  The West Virginia defense is atrocious and their running game has struggled all year. In the end, Geno Smith has more weapons to work with and will win what could turn into a shootout, 42-35.   Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Navy (IND) (+14) vs. Arizona St. (Pac-12) December 29th 3:15 ESPN – It was an overall good first season for HC Todd Graham as ASU is assured of their first winning season since 2007 and can win their first bowl game since a 2005 Insight Bowl win over Rutgers. A four-game slide in the second half of their schedule kept them from bigger things but hinted at better things to come for the Sun Devils. Their future is particularly bright behind sophomore QB Taylor Kelly and junior RB Marion Grice. San Francisco is a nice bowl destination for the alumni and they should be excited for the trip. HC Ken Niumatalolo bounced back from his first losing season to return the Midshipmen to a bowl game for the fourth time in five years under his guidance. A disappointing blowout loss to Notre Dame in Ireland looked better as the year progressed. After following their loss in Ireland up with giving Penn St. their first win of the season (another loss that looked better as the year progressed), Navy ran their record to 8-4 by winning 8 of their next 10 games including wins over Air Force and Army to capture the Armed Forces Trophy. What to Expect: HC Todd Graham has a month to get his young team more acquainted with his offense and set things up for a run at the conference title next year. The future is bright for the Sun Devils, but the rushing attack will give the 74th ranked rush defense (giving up over 172 ypg) fits on Saturday. Arizona St. has better overall talent and depth and should be able to escape with the win, but the Midshipmen won’t go away quietly and will keep this one close, 34-24.   Valero Alamo Bowl Oregon St. (Pac-12) (-3.5) vs. Texas (Big XII) December 29th 6:45 ESPN – Oregon St. started the season 6-0 including an opening victory over eventual B1G Champion Wisconsin due to their opening weekend game against Nicholls St. getting canceled by Hurricane Isaac. They rose to #7 in the polls before finishing the season 3-3, losing at Washington and Stanford and at home against Oregon. A third-place finish in the Pac-12 North this year for HC Mike Riley was huge considering he was on the hot seat after 2 straight losing seasons. It is their first bowl game since 2009 and the most wins since 2008 and reasserts them as a player in an improving conference. They lose half of their defensive starting lineup, but most of their offensive firepower returns, including sophomore QB Sean Mannion. Texas is suffering through another disappointing season under HC Mack Brown and is still struggling to identify a quarterback.  Disappointment for the Longhorns is relative since their alumni have higher expectations than most programs. The Longhorns started the season 4-0 before losing to West Virginia on the eve of the Red River Rivalry. They lost their annual rivalry game against Oklahoma, in ugly fashion, but recovered to win 4 straight games and seemed to be finishing the season strong behind sophomore QB David Ash. A Thanksgiving Day loss to TCU prompted Brown to heed the alumni pressure to start junior QB Case McCoy. That decision was a disaster, as they were very uncompetitive against Kansas St. in the finale. What to Expect: An incident that is officially being reported as missing a curfew has disqualified Texas QB Case McCoy from participation in the bowl game which forces Mack Brown’s hand into starting David Ash. He is the better quarterback and would likely have gotten the starting nod anyway, but the Longhorns won’t have the “luxury” of shuffling quarterbacks on Saturday. It has been a rocky start to the off-season for the Longhorns as OC Bryan Harsin already left to become the new HC at Arkansas St. This is a team that is reeling at the moment coming off of two straight losses and Brown may be on the verge of losing his team. Oregon St. will take advantage of the upheaval in Austin and pull out a big victory for the Pac-12 (and a much needed one), 38-13.   Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl TCU (Big XII) (-2.5) vs. Michigan St. (B1G) December 29th 10:15 ESPN – TCU won their first 5 games of the season before their senior QB Casey Pachall was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and was indefinitely suspended for the rest of the season. They finished the year 2-5 as redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin got his feet under him after being thrust into the starting job. A big overtime win at W. Virginia and beating the Longhorns on Thanksgiving gives some hope to the Frog faithful as does a hard-fought loss to Oklahoma to finish the season. Gary Patterson has a strong track record at TCU and his team should bounce back next season whether Pachall is reinstated during the off-season or not. A trip to Tempe marks the fifth straight west coast trip for TCU in the post season (Rose in ’10 and Fiesta in ’09) Michigan St. surely had bigger plans than these for the post season when the season began. After missing out on either of the two B1G BCS bids last year despite having the best regular season record in the conference, this was to be the year that they finally broke through and reached the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988. They started 3-1 with a home loss to Notre Dame, but the real trouble ahead could be seen in the narrow victories against Boise St., Central Michigan, and Eastern Michigan. After they lost to Ohio St. to open B1G play, they beat Iowa and Indiana (again, narrowly) before the flood gates opened and they lost four straight conference games to seal their season’s fate. They needed a victory in the last weekend against a terrible Minnesota team just to reach the post-season. It is questionable whether any Spartan fans will be excited enough to travel to Tempe to attend this bowl game. They haven’t traveled west for a bowl game in recent years, but that may just remind them more that they are once again not playing in Pasadena. What to Expect: MSU brings in their one-dimensional offense behind Le’Veon Bell. Anything shy of an historic performance from the RB will go in the favor of HC Patterson and his Frog defense. TCU should be able to shut down the Spartan running game and the athletic Boykin should be enough to score a bowl win for Patterson. TCU wins in a defensive game, 23-20. -Doak
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