Bowl Previews and Picks: December 30 Games

Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy

Schedule analysis: Middle Tennessee (8-4) ended the season on a five-game win streak. They defeated Marshall 51-49 on the last second touchdown pass. After that game they won their next four against UAB, FIU, Southern Miss and UTEP. Those four teams combined for six total wins in 2013. The Blue Raiders losses were against North Carolina, BYU, East Carolina and North Texas. Navy (8-4) also ended their season on a four-game win streak. Hawaii and Army weren’t the toughest opponents to beat but they picked up wins against South Alabama and San Jose State, who both finished 6-6. The Midshipmen started the season with a win at Indiana and beat Pittsburgh. They lost to Western Kentucky, Duke, Toledo and Notre Dame.

Miles from stadium: Middle Tennessee is 730 miles from Amon G. Carter Stadium in Forth Worth, Texas. Navy is 1,402 miles away. There is a naval base near Forth Worth so I would expect a favorable crowd for Navy.

Motivation: Navy will be motivated for this game playing near a naval base. Service schools will always bring a great effort. Middle Tennessee will enjoy playing in a bowl game and against a stronger opponent.

Pick: Navy -6 

Navy is second in the nation with 322 rush yards per game. Middle Tennessee gives up 185.4 yards per game. The Midshipmen should be able to run and control the game from start to finish.

Music City Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech

Schedule analysis: Ole Miss (7-5) was a team of streaks this season. They started with wins at Vanderbilt, home against SE Missouri State and at Texas. Then after a bye week they lost to Alabama and Auburn on the road in back-to-back games. They returned home where they lost a 41-38 shootout to Texas A&M. The Rebels started a new streak with an upset win at home against LSU. Their home success continued with wins against Idaho (1-11), Arkansas (3-9) and Troy (6-6). The Rebels ended the season with a home loss to Missouri and lost in the Egg Bowl five days later at Mississippi State. The win by Mississippi State gave the Bulldogs bowl eligibility. Georgia Tech (7-5) also had a season of streaks. They started 3-0 including ACC wins against Duke and North Carolina. Then they dropped three straight against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and BYU. The Yellow Jackets bounced back with another three game winning streak against Syracuse, Virginia and Pittsburgh. They ended the season losing two of their last three including at Clemson and home against Georgia in double overtime.

Miles from stadium: Ole Miss is 233 miles away from LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. Georgia Tech is 243 miles away. SEC fans love to travel and Ole Miss traveled well when they played Vanderbilt in Nashville earlier this season. Georgia Tech fans will travel too but I would give a slight home crowd advantage for the Rebels.

Motivation: Ole Miss is a young team that will see this bowl as a great learning experience for when they have bigger expectations in 2014. Georgia Tech will have plenty of motivation to try to beat a SEC team.

Pick: Ole Miss -3 

Georgia Tech, like Navy, relies on running the ball. Ole Miss will game plan to defend the run and have the players on defense that are good enough stop the Yellow Jackets ground game.

Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Texas

Schedule analysis: Oregon (10-2) started the season blowing out every team they faced. Oregon played Nicholls State, Virginia, Tennessee, California and Colorado in their first five games, all teams that weren’t bowl eligible, and scored at least 55 points in each game. Then the Ducks overwhelmed Washington 45-24, Washington State 62-38, and UCLA 42-14. Many thought the Ducks were the best team in the country until they went to Stanford on a Thursday night. The Cardinal jumped out to a 26-0 lead and held the mighty Oregon offense scoreless for the first three quarters. The final was 26-20 and Stanford had possession for 42:34 of the game. Oregon still had Rose Bowl hopes especially after Stanford lost their second conference game of the season. However, Oregon faltered at Arizona 42-16. In the last game of the season, Oregon needed a last minute drive at home to beat Oregon State 36-35. Texas (8-4) started the season slow with losses to BYU and Ole Miss. Then they picked up their play for the beginning of Big 12 play highlighted by a win convincing 36-20 win against Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. The Longhorns disappointed at the end of the season with a 25-point home loss to Oklahoma State and 30-10 defeat at Baylor in the last game of the season.

Miles from stadium: Oregon is 2,209 miles away from the Alamodome in San Antonio. Texas is 79 miles away. Obviously Texas will have a big crowd at the game and edge because they are in-state.

Motivation: Both teams envisioned being in better bowl games in November. Oregon players said they would’ve been mad about possibly playing in the Rose Bowl because they wanted to be in the National Championship. If they weren’t excited about the Rose Bowl, why would they be pumped up to play in the Alamo Bowl? If there’s any motivation fro Oregon, it’s that defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is retiring after the game. For Texas, this game ends the Mack Brown era in Austin. He will be coaching his last game and the players are going to want to play with pride for a man who did so much for the Texas program.

Pick: Texas +14 

Oregon can score quickly and often, but Texas will be more ready and motivated. Take Texas at any spread more than ten points.

Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech 

Schedule analysis: Arizona State (10-3) started the season slow. They won three of their first five with victories against Sacramento State, Wisconsin and USC. The win against Wisconsin was assisted by the refs and they beat USC 62-41 when the Trojans were struggling. After the game, Lane Kiffin was fired at the airport in Los Angeles. The Sun Devils suffered losses at Stanford and against Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas. Arizona State started to play better and won seven straight to win the Pac-12 South. Their best wins were against Washington, Oregon State and at UCLA. Playing at home in the Pac-12 Championship game, the Sun Devils lost to Stanford for the second time. The final was 38-14. Things looked great for Texas Tech (7-5) until late October. They started the season 7-0 beating TCU, Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia in Big 12 play. Then the Red Raiders faced the top five teams in the conference and lost all of them. They kept the game at Oklahoma close in their first loss of the year but the rest of their games were at least 18-point losses.

Miles from stadium: Arizona State is 350 miles away from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Texas Tech is 1,023 miles away. There should be a small home field advantage for Arizona State playing in Pac-12 country.

Motivation: Arizona State was so close to Pasadena but now have to settle for San Diego. They bounced back from early losses so I think they will be motivated. Texas Tech had a horrible end to the season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield decided to leave the school after starting most of the season as a walk-on true freshman. The reason for his transfer was communication issues with the coaching staff.

Pick: Arizona State -14

Arizona State won six games by 21 points or more this season so they have the offense to put up points. Texas Tech hasn’t won since October 19 and now there might be a lack of chemistry amongst the team with the quarterback transferring.

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