Sunday, December 20, 2015

Top Ten 2015 Bowl Games

We complete our annual rankings of all the bowl games in Part Four of the series, the top ten. Here is our best of the best list for the 2015 bowl season...

#10 Citrus Bowl (1/1)
There are probably not many more great stories like the 2015 season at both Michigan and Florida. Both storied programs have been on downward spirals for years, and both programs made solid hires last off season to try to fix that problem. Michigan brings in the fiery, bombastic Jim Harbaugh, and the Wolverines had their best season in years, and the best is yet to come, assuming that Harbaugh resists the pull back to the NFL. Florida hired a coach with a storied SEC history when they nabbed Jim McElwain away from Colorado State, and McElwain made history immediately by taking Florida to an SEC East title, and did it all the while with an offense that usually could not get out of its own way. It won't really matter who wins here, because both programs are on their way back.

#9 Holiday Bowl (12/30)
The Holiday Bowl has always been one of my favorites, and who doesn't want to hit up San Diego in December, or anytime for that matter? There is an interesting clash of styles heading into the 2015 game, as USC gets Wisconsin. The Trojans are fresh off of breaking a three game losing streak to UCLA, while Wisconsin took a step back in Big 10 play this season, as was expected in season one under Paul Chryst. Look for USC to run their conventional pro offense a shade better than Wisconsin's three yards and a cloud of dust approach, but either way, you will be entertained.

#8 Russell Athletic Bowl (12/29)
This game was set up as a fireworks display of a game between high powered foes in Baylor and North Carolina. This should be a top five match, but Baylor limped into the bowl after blowing through and losing three QBs due to injury. It was so bad that against Texas, the Bears were using WRs and RBs at QB in a loss to the Longhorns. That really dampens this date somewhat. North Carolina, on the other hand, got hammered by Clemson in the ACC title game, but can still light it up. If Baylor can find a QB here, this could be a great game.

#7 Sugar Bowl (1/1)
This game is an unconventional match between Oklahoma State and Ole Miss, and somehow because of this, it doesn't have the shine that most Sugar Bowls seem to have to most folks. I find this match to be thoroughly full of hope for one hell of a football game between two programs who failed to make elite level this season, but are still very good football programs right now. We could see the over in this one.

#6 Peach Bowl (12/31)
If you are looking for a big bowl upset potential, look no further as Houston takes on Florida State here. The Cougars are coming off a massively pleasing season, and then managed to keep first year coach Tom Herman from bailing to another school (namely Missouri) with a $3 million per season contract. Not bad. Florida State took the expected step back this fall, but they still have some elements that remind us all of how good this program can be. They may, however, underestimate the Cougars, and as Emperor Palpatine learned in Return of the Jedi, underestimation can end badly.

#5 Alamo Bowl (1/2)
TCU was on a crash course towards competing for a national title, and then injuries kicked in. Oregon suffered injuries as well, but then got those players back for the stretch run and finished red hot once their QB got healthy. In both cases, these teams can light it up, and so this could be a classic shootout in the old WAC style (google it young people).

#4 Fiesta Bowl (1/1)
Ohio State is coming into this game on a real letdown, as they lost the Big Ten title for the first time when eligible under Urban Meyer. Ohio State narrowly missed a playoff bid, but still has plenty to play for, and if they decide to pout and not show (it is possible), NOtre Dame would love to show them how dumb a mistake that would be.

#3 Rose Bowl (1/1)
It doesn't get any more pleasingly old school than this. PAC-12 vs. Big 10. Stanford against Iowa in a game that should take offense back to the 80s when teams still liked to play grind it out football. This should be one of the best games of the bowl season, just because it is one of the few games that will have an old world traditional feel to it.

#2 Semifinal Arlington, Texas (12/31)
This will be the ugly match between the two national semifinals, as Alabama and Michigan State will square off in Arlington for a spot in the national title game. I am not thrilled with the New Year's Eve slot, as this game should be played on 1/1, but that's not a major issue, it just feels kind of wrong. This will likely be a game where defense reigns supreme, and that's not a bad thing at all. If you like offense, however, look for Alabama to grind it out with Heisman winner Derrick Henry. Can he carry the ball 50 times? Maybe.
Michigan State will have a more diverse look on offense, but can they blow through that Alabama defense? That's the serious question here.

#1 Semifinal Miami, Florida (12/31)
This game ought to be quite a show when Oklahoma and Clemson meet up. Clemson had a huge season with Hesiman finalist Deshaun Watson at QB, and they found the right window to win the overall vanilla ACC this season. Oklahoma was not expected to be playing for a Big 12 title by many, and even I felt that they wouldn't even do very well under those expectations this season. I was proven wrong, as were many others, and OU won the Big 12 during a grueling three week process in November. Does OU still have enough in the tank to get to the final? Does Clemson have enough firepower to take out OU? This will be the best game of the bowl season, as it should be a highly unpredictable environment on that field in Miami.

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