Here are my predictions for the upcoming bowl games. My final installment will have the last handful of games to make sure that this post isn’t unbearably long to read. Enjoy the bowl games! I know I will.

Meineke Car Care Bowl- South Florida (7-5) vs Clemson (6-6)

Predicted Winner: Clemson

Why: Clemson has the better, more efficient quarterback (though not by a huge margin) in Kyle Parker plus they have a very nice tandem of running backs with Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington. Clemson’s offense is better and I don’t trust B.J. Daniels to not turn the ball over like he has been prone to do.

Key to the game: Clemson’s running game. If they can work the clock, have some methodical drives and maybe rip off a couple of big runs they should win the game.

Score: Clemson: 27 – South Florida: 17

Sun Bowl- Notre Dame (7-5) vs Miami (7-5)

Predicted Winner: Miami

Why: Though I often focus on offenses I think the difference in this game will be Miami’s defense. They have a lot of talent on their defensive unit and they have enough talent on their front four to put pressure on freshman QB Tommy Rees of Notre Dame which could force some turnovers.

Key to the game: Miami’s defense. If Miami can fluster Notre Dame’s freshman QB and create turnovers then Miami will have a significant advantage. But if Miami lets him get into a rhythm and gives up big plays then Notre Dame will have a good chance.

Score: Miami: 31 – Notre Dame: 20

Liberty Bowl- Georgia (6-6) vs UCF (10-3)

Predicted Winner: Georgia

Why: I think Georgia is the better overall team despite their record. They started very slow but once they got A.J. Green back they have been much better. They started 1-4 without him and finished the season 5-2 including an overtime loss to Florida and a loss to #1 overall Auburn. They have been tested against quality teams and I think Mark Richt will have them ready to play.

Key to the game: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia. He’s a redshirt freshman but he has played very well this year, especially since he got A.J. Green back in the fold. Green had nine touchdowns in only seven games this year. If he keeps playing well then Georgia has a great chance to win this game.

Score: Georgia: 38 – UCF: 20

Chick-fil-A Bowl- South Carolina (9-4) vs Florida State (9-4)

Predicted Winner: South Carolina

Why: South Carolina has a good passing game led by Stephen Garcia featuring one of the best receivers in the country in Alshon Jeffrey and Tori Gurley. Both of them are big, physical receivers who create mismatches for even the most physical defenses. In addition they have a stud true freshman running back in Marcus Lattimore who is one of the best running backs in the country even though he is only a year removed from high school. Their offense has a lot of talent, and their defense can rush the passer and create turnovers.

Key to the game: Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State. If Christian Ponder plays at all he could give the Seminoles a lift, and if he plays and plays well like he has in the past then he could give the Seminoles a chance at victory. He has a lot of talent on his offense, and they have the ability to be very explosive, but his elbow injury has hindered him. It will be interesting to see if he plays and if he plays well.

Score: South Carolina: 41 – Florida State: 24

TicketCity Bowl- Northwestern (7-5) vs Texas Tech (7-5)

Predicted Winner: Texas Tech

Why: Northwestern would have a good chance at winning their first bowl game since 1949 if they had Dan Persa playing at QB, but unfortunately he won’t be available due to his Achilles injury that he suffered during the regular season. That makes me think that Texas Tech should be able to beat them with a very good passing offense and a somewhat underrated rushing attack.

Key to the game: Northwestern’s defense. If Northwestern can slow down Texas Tech’s offense then they stand a chance to win. They will need to create some turnovers and get some short fields for their offense so they can overcome the loss of Persa.

Score: Texas Tech: 45 – Northwestern: 27

Outback Bowl- Florida (7-5) vs Penn State (7-5)

Predicted Winner: Florida

Why: In a game with two decent offenses I think the defense that plays best will lead their team to victory. Whichever unit can force turnovers and slow down the opposing offense will give their offense a huge boost. Florida’s offense isn’t very explosive with John Brantley under center and they don’t have a very consistent running game either. Penn State looked better with Matt McGloin under center, and have a consistent running game led by Evan Royster, but Florida has a good enough defense to stop their offense in my opinion. In a game of defenses I give Florida the edge. Plus I think they have the speed and playmaking ability to change a game on special teams if they get a chance.

Key to the game: Florida’s defensive line. If the Gators can get pressure on McGloin without blitzing and if they can slow down Royster with good gap responsibility then Penn State will be in trouble.

Score: Florida: 27 – Penn State: 17

Capital One Bowl- Alabama (9-3) vs Michigan State (11-1)

Predicted Winner: Alabama

Why: As much as I might like to pick Michigan State I think Alabama is far too talented to not pick here. Michigan State will be without one of their better receivers in B.J. Cunningham and they have a tough enough task trying to beat Alabama without that. Alabama’s offense should be able to move the ball effectively on Michigan State’s defense and Alabama should be able to rattle Kirk Cousins and probably force a couple of turnovers.

Key to the game: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State. If Cousins plays one of the better games of his career Michigan State could win this game. But if Alabama pressures him and he makes mistakes and mental errors then they could be in for a long day. Michigan State has a balanced offense, so it’s not all on Cousins’ shoulders, but if the run game isn’t there then Cousins has to step up big.

Score: Alabama: 31 – Michigan State: 20

Gator Bowl- Mississippi State (8-4) vs Michigan (7-5)

Predicted Winner: Mississippi State

Why: I think Mississippi State has the team speed to slow down Denard Robinson and if they can bottle him up then Michigan’s offense will sputter. Mississippi State has a very good running game as well so being able to control the clock and keep Robinson off the field will be important.

Key to the game: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan. He is the best player in this game and if he plays well both as a runner and especially as a passer to keep Mississippi State from stacking the box then Michigan could very well win this game. But if he plays poorly, doesn’t make big plays and turns the ball over then Michigan has very little chance.

Score: Mississippi State: 28 – Michigan: 17

Rose Bowl- Wisconsin (11-1) vs TCU (12-0)

Predicted Winner: Wisconsin

Why: First and foremost I think TCU is overrated. I’ve been pretty outspoken about my opinion of teams like Boise State, Utah and TCU, and the way they have played recently hasn’t changed my mind. I don’t think TCU will be able to stop Wisconsin’s dominant running game. They have three quality running backs in John Clay, Montee Ball and James White, the exciting freshman who actually led their team in rushing yards. Wisconsin has a dominant offensive line, and their quarterback Scott Tolzien rarely makes mental errors that lead to interceptions. Wisconsin has been tested by many good teams this year, but TCU has barely played anybody as usual. Andy Dalton is a good QB, and they have a good offense, but I think that Wisconsin has the potential to get some pressure on him and slow down their run game.

Key to the game: TCU’s run defense. If they step up and slow down Wisconsin’s rushing attack and force them into 3rd and longs then it will test Tolzien’s ability to convert on downfield throws. He has shown that he can do that this year, but if you go into a game against Wisconsin you would rather slow down their running game and make Tolzien beat you than get beat up on the ground.

Score: Wisconsin: 45 – TCU: 34

Fiesta Bowl- Connecticut (8-4) vs Oklahoma (11-2)

Predicted Winner: Oklahoma

Why: This game doesn’t seem like a very even match-up, and that makes me wary of it. Oklahoma is the better team in my opinion, but Oklahoma has struggled mightily in BCS bowls as of late and a hungry team like Connecticut could very well pose them a threat. However, Oklahoma has a very dynamic offense led by Landry Jones, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Broyles plus a very impressive defense that has made a lot of talented offenses look average. So as much as I don’t trust Oklahoma in big games I am trusting that Stoops has finally righted the ship this year. Eventually they will break this streak right?

Key to the game: Jordan Todman, RB, Connecticut. If Toddman can get going somehow and break some big runs to take pressure off of UCONN’s passing game then the Huskies will have a chance. But if Oklahoma stacks the box to take Todman away I am afraid UCONN could really struggle.

Score: Oklahoma: 38 – Connecticut: 20

Orange Bowl- Stanford (11-1) vs Virginia Tech (11-2)

Predicted Winner: Virginia Tech

Why: First off I have to say I am very excited to see how this game plays out. I honestly think this could go either way. It’s natural to give the advantage to the better quarterback, which in my opinion would be Andrew Luck, but Tyrod Taylor has been fantastic this year as a passer and as a runner. More than that, he has been extremely efficient. And Taylor is no stranger to late game heroics, watch the Nebraska-Virginia Tech game from last season if you need evidence of that. So it’s hard to say that Luck would have an advantage if it came down to a key fourth quarter drive. Both teams are balanced, they run the ball effectively, they have good defenses… they are just very evenly matched in my opinion. But Virginia Tech has the more athletic defense, the better secondary and I think they will be better on special teams which is why I have to give them the edge.

Key to the game: The quarterback battle. Whoever outplays the other should give their team a significant advantage. If Luck can find a way to carve up Virginia Tech’s defense, which few teams have done this year without turning the ball over, then he could win the game for Stanford. But if Stanford can’t stop Taylor from making big plays outside of the pocket, especially on broken passing plays, then Virginia Tech could easily win. I just have no idea which way it’s going to go.

Score: Virginia Tech: 34 – Stanford: 31
Hopefully that wasn’t too long to read. I can’t wait to watch this next batch of bowl games. What better way to ring in the new year than watching football for the majority of the day? I can’t think of one. Thanks for reading!

–Tom