UPDATED 12/22: Memphis vs BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl today at 2pm ET. Here is a full preview.
Bowl games have already kicked off today. Because it is the holiday season and your friendly neighborhood bloggers are just as far behind in managing the chaos as you are, we are going to combine our Pac 12 Bowl prediction thread with an open thread for all the Bowl games of the season.
Merry Christmas, ya' filthy animals.
My projections for the seven other Pac 12 teams competing in the post season will be completed in the remainder of the post. I'm going to post this before it is fully written because a) I'm in a hurry to get an open thread up and b) I'd like a little more time to gather some intel on the later Bowl games. With that, here are my initial takes on the upcoming Pac 12 Bowl games.
Las Vegas Bowl (Sat 12/20, 12:30 PT): Utah vs Colorado State
Considering the schedule that they played, the Utes return to the Las Vegas Bowl having completed their best season as a member of the Pac. Kyle Whittingham returns the Utes to their first bowl game in three seasons. Utah has a 7-1 all time post-season record with Whittingham at the helm and will go into Las Vegas as the favorites.
Colorado State will be playing short-handed as the head coach that brought them through a 10-2 season, Jim McElwain, has departed the program to take over as the new head coach at Florida. The Rams will soldier on behind a potent offense that averaged just less than 500 yards per game - good for 12th in the FBS. RB Dee Hart is a legit NFL prospect for the Rams. The former Alabama transfer runs with power and tremendous violence. If you've never seen him play, you'll enjoy watching what he can do. The Rams QB is Garrett Grayson, an athlete who was once recruited by WSU as a Safety and the reigning MWC Offensive Player of the Year. He can sling it and his headiness will make him a draftable prospect in his own right come next spring.
The Utes have a great deal of experience against Colorado St given their lineage. However, the team that Utah will be taking on isn't the same one that Whittingham last saw. To beat this team, even without their headcoach, that strong Utah defensive line is going to have to stand tall against the run and limit Hart's effectiveness. While putting the game in Grayson's hands isn't exactly ideal, they will have a significant advantage against the CSU offensive line.
On the flip side, the question remains as to whether or not Utah can score enough points to keep the pace. I think with WR Kaelin Clay and RB Devonte Booker, they can. I expect that this one will be close, but I'll go with the Utes.
Utah 30, CSU 28
Hyundai Sun Bowl (Sat 12/27, 11:00 PT): Arizona State vs Duke
The last we saw Todd Graham and his Arizona State Sun Devils, the intense ASU coach was fuddling away his chance at a Pac 12 championship game appearance by going ultra aggressive in his defensive play calling and swapping quarterbacks halfway through his Territorial Cup loss to Arizona. The Devils enter their Sun Bowl matchup on a bit of a down swing and with a controversy at QB between Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici. We already know that the Kelly will start the game, but how long will his leash be? How much confidence does the coach have in his multi-year starter? It is a big question mark across the board.
To me, this game feels a bit like the Holiday Bowl a year ago when ASU went in a bit disappointed in their seeding and got trounced by an underdog Texas Tech team. Duke is a capable if not glitzy team that is coached by one of the finest game day coaches in the game in David Cutcliffe. I expect that Todd Graham will come into this one with the same "throw the kitchen sink at 'em" attitude and will get burned by a coach who has already figured out plan Bs for his Plan B. I like the Blue Devils. They are built on conservative principles: sound defensive and solid O-Line play. I'm looking for the Duke upset here.
ASU 31, Duke 38
National University Holiday Bowl (Sat 12/27, 7:00 PT): Nebraska vs USC
Not unlike Colorado State, Nebraska enters their matchup against USC without the head coach that got them there. Bo Pelini was fired, replaced by Oregon State head coach Mike Riley, lost his shit, and is now the head coach at Youngstown State. With all of that controversy, it would be understandable if Nebraska enters this Holiday Bowl matchup without their full focus on the Trojans. This, of course, would be ironic given that the last time they played in the Holiday Bowl, they got their butts handed to them by Steve Sarkisian and Washington in a game where many Nebraska apologists argued that the Huskers weren't focused because of the disappointment of their seeding.
History has a strange way of repeating itself.
For draftniks, this will be an interesting matchup as the game features two high-level underclassmen DL sure to declare for the upcoming NFL draft in USC's Leonard Williams and Nebraska's Randy Gregory. Outside of that, USC seems to have a lot of advantages here despite the lack of a full roster. QB Cody Kessler has emerged as one of the most efficient QBs in the nation and has paired his talents with guys like Nelson Agholor and Buck Allen to craft an explosive offense. I don't see this unit having much trouble scoring the football against Nebraska and I'm looking for USC to win this one big.
USC 49, Nebraska 27
Foster Farms Bowl (Tue 12/30, 7:00 PT): Maryland vs Stanford
Fiesta Bowl (Wed 12/31, 1:00 PT): Boise State vs Arizona
Rose Bowl (Thur 1/1, 2:00 PT): Oregon vs Florida State
Alamo Bowl (Fri 1/2, 3:45 PT): Kansas State vs UCLA
So, from one Dawg to another, enjoy the Bowl Season. Look for an update to this article later in the week as we preview the remainder of the games and re-post this open game thread.