After an appetizer of bowls like the Beef O’Brady’s and Little Caesars, we’re getting into some better material, including Wednesday night’s Cal-Texas Holiday Bowl and Thursday night’s matchup of Washington and Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.
Holiday (Texas minus 3 vs. Cal): There are some similarities between Cal and Texas, two 7-5 teams. Both have stout defenses (Texas is No. 15 in total defense, Cal 26th). Both had iffy quarterbacking at times this year. Texas probably will play both Case McCoy (7-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 61-percent completions) and David Ash (3-8, 56% percent) while it’s been a learning year for Cal’s Zach Maynard (17-11 TD-int, 57 percent).
Where they differ is that Texas has outrushed opponents by 1,300 yards, while Cal is less overpowering on the ground, at 48th in the nation.
There’s been some discussion about a contract extension for Texas coach Mack Brown, whose team is just 6-11 in Big 12 games the past two years.
Cal, in contrast to some past seasons, seems to be finishing strong, with victories in three of its last four games. The key is whether the Bears can get Maynard comfortable against a good defense. I like Cal in a mild upset in a defensive battle. Pick: Cal, 23-17.
Alamo (Baylor minus 9.5 vs. Washington): TV ratings should be good for this one because it includes the Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III of the Bears.
Some of the statistical particulars: Baylor rushed for 2,581 yards, or 215 a game. Washington is only 67th in rushing offense, but that’s deceiving, as Chris Polk has a chance to become the school’s all-time leading rusher.
The less said about either defense, the better.
Griffin has some daunting numbers: 36 touchdowns, six interceptions, 72.4% completions and a 192.3 pass-efficiency rating, better than the NCAA record if it holds up. The most fearsome stat for UW fans is Baylor’s huge averages of 10.9 yards per pass attempt and 15.1 yards per completion.
The argument can be made that with Washington’s offensive weapons and Polk’s clock-eating ability, it sets up well for Washington (7-5). But they’re not likely to run into a team that’s treating this in a ho-hum fashion as Nebraska did last year in the Holiday Bowl; Baylor is gunning for a 10th victory, it hasn’t been in the bowl business much, and it will have a huge crowd advantage to urge it on.
I see a game in which Washington hangs around and has a chance, but Baylor makes it a comfortable margin near the end. Pick: Baylor, 43-31.