It is the most wonderful time of the year! It’s time for the College Football bowl season! There are 40 bowl games (plus the National Championship game) to look forward to. In this series, I will be looking at all 80 teams who qualified for the postseason and breaking down their matchups. Each installment will focus on teams from a respective conference. This year, two teams will be making their bowl debut, one bowl-eligible team was left home, and there are 14 instances where the teams are facing for the first time in history! Let’s take a look at the 2019 PAC 12 Bowls.
2019 PAC 12 Bowls Preview
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Washington vs Boise State
The first of the 2019 PAC 12 bowls is the unofficial Chris Petersen bowl between his Washington Huskies and his former school, Boise State. This season was not the perfect send-off for Peterson. The Huskies went 7-5 overall, but 4-5 in conference play. The largest deciding factor was their 1-2 record against ranked opponents.
Washington is led by their Georgia transfer quarterback, Jacob Eason. This season has been his second chance, considering he was the Bulldogs’ starter as a true freshman, only to be beaten out by Jake Fromm. The NFL-ready quarterback threw for 2,922 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2019. Unfortunately, his favorite target, Hunter Bryant, will be sitting out the Las Vegas Bowl in order to prepare himself for the NFL draft. The good thing is that they have two running backs worth mentioning. The leader is Salvon Ahmed and his 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Richard Newton, the second back, ran for another nine touchdowns off of 429 yards on the ground. Eason will have to rely on these two to balance out the attack with the absence of Bryant.
The defense has always been the calling card for Petersen-led teams. This year is no different. The 20.4 points allowed per game is good for 3rd-best in the PAC 12. The 3rd ranked defense in the PAC 12 in terms of yards allowed (355.5 per game) is led by sophomore linebacker Joe Tryon. Tyron tallied 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks this season. All of this will culminate in an unfortunate sending away party. Boise State is criminally underrated this year, so they will win yet another bowl game against a Power 5 opponent. Hopefully, Petersen finds peace in his decision to step down after the game.
The Holiday bowl pits College Football blueblood USC against Iowa. As with every year, there were high expectations for this Trojans squad. At 8-4, they did not live up to their name but did enough to save Clay Helton’s job. USC fell to rival Notre Dame en route to a 3-3 start, but they finished the season with a strong 5-1 run.
After starting the season with JT Daniels and losing him to injury, the Trojans eventually found a solid starter in freshman Kedon Slovis. Slovis tore up defenses to the tune of 3,242 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. As a team, USC is the 2nd best offensive team in the PAC 12. The PAC 12’s freshman of the year had many weapons but none more dangerous than senior receiver Michael Pittman, Jr. Against the best defense in the conference, Pittman went off for 232 yards and one touchdown off of 10 receptions. Despite his NFL draft stock in a very deep wide receiver draft, Pittman will suit up for the Trojans one last time. Look for Slovis to get him going early and often against another great defense.
The Trojans’ defense was not the greatest, but they were certainly able to change the course of games via turnovers. They intercepted opposing quarterbacks nine times and forced seven fumbles. It will be a battle of two inept sides of the ball with Iowa’s offense and USC’s defense. The Trojans allowed more than 415 yards per game. When in doubt, roll with the better defense. I think that Iowa should be able to take care of business in this matchup and improve to 3-7 against the historic squad.
Washington State vs Air Force
Up next in the greatest named bowl in history is Washington State and Air Force in the Cheez-it Bowl. This game will be an interesting matchup of polar opposite offenses. No team in the nation throws the ball more than the Mike Leach-led Cougars. During the lowest part of the season, Washington State lost five of six contests. When they are hot, nobody can stop them. When they are cold, then end up 6-6 like this year.
Senior quarterback Anthony Gordon leads the nation in completions (465), attempts (647), passing yards (5,228), touchdowns (45), and is 2nd in career completion percentage since 1956 (71.8%). Needless to say, Gordon can certainly throw the football. With all of those passing attempts, Gordon does also lead the nation in interceptions with 16. The Cougars average more than 444 passing yards per game, so it’s only natural that they have two receivers on the brink of 1,000 yards. Both Easop Winston (927 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Brandon Arconado (942 yards and six touchdowns, though questionable with a wrist injury) will be eager to add to their totals against the Falcons, so Air Force will have their hands full.
The Cougar defense is not very good altogether. This defense is the only reason that Washington State lost six times. For example, the Gordon-led offense put up 63 against UCLA…and they lost 67-63. If there is a silver lining for this matchup, it’s that the Cougar rush defense is better than its pass defense. Usually, I would side with Air Force and their rushing attack, but I think that the Washington State Cougars will win this game. The methodical triple-option won’t be able to keep up with the Cougar’s passing attack that can score whenever they feel. Washington State should be able to take the first matchup against Air Force.
Cal will take on their B1G foe Illinois in the Redbox Bowl. This is a matchup of a couple of bad teams who managed to squeak out wins against solid competition. The Bears finished the season at 7-5, but 4-5 within the PAC 12. They posted a 3-0 non-conference schedule after taking down SEC foe Ole Miss, so there was certainly some potential here.
Another run-first offense, the leader of this Cal Bears squad is sophomore running back Christopher Brown, Jr. Brown was a threat running the ball as well as receiving the ball out of the backfield. In total, he amassed 943 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brown bust out the gate against FCS California-Davis when he ran for 197 yards and a score but was unable to replicate such success later on. The starting quarterback for Cal in this contest will be sophomore Chase Garbers. He did miss some time this year but accounted for 1,500 yards through the air and 10 touchdowns. Maybe he was the answer, considering the Bears went 6-2. Hopefully, Garbers can lead the 116th ranked scoring offense to victory in this final battle.
While they couldn’t do much in terms of offense, the Cal defense was the 3rd best in the PAC 12. If the 2019 PAC 12 bowls record is to be decent, it will have to be through defenses like this. Illinois may not be the home of the greatest offense in the B1G, so Cal should be able to hold them to around their average of 385 yards allowed. This matchup is truly a toss-up, so I will side with Cal. Illinois may have finished somewhat strong and took down Wisconsin, but don’t have much else.
Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl
Arizona State vs Florida State
The Sun Devils of Arizona State are set to take on the Seminoles of Florida State in this year’s Sun Bowl. The 7-5 Sun Devils started off strong by taking down B1G foe Michigan State in East Lansing. Unfortunately, ASU dropped four games in a row but revived their season by upsetting a great Oregon team. Herm Edwards has a very good team, but they underperformed 2019.
The offense was led by three athletes: freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, junior running back Eno Benjamin, and junior receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Daniels was a part of a monster recruiting class that included three top-rated quarterbacks. Daniels won the job and never looked back. The duel-treat quarterback threw for 2,746 yards and 17 touchdowns and added 319 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Benjamin has been the workhorse for the Devils these past two seasons, though this year was a step back. His yardage dropped from 1,642 to 1,083 and his touchdowns from 16 to 10. Production or no, Benjamin is a force. Finally, receiver Aiyuk filled departed N’Keal Harry’s shoes well. He helped out to a tune of 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns. The Devils will be without the star receiver for this game as he will be focusing on preparing for the NFL draft.
The defense started off the year very strong by only allowing seven points in each of their matchups. They did fall off a bit later on, yet they managed to finish the year as the 5th best defense in terms of points allowed and yards allowed. Ultimately, this could be a toss-up, but the Seminoles will be without stud running back Cam Akers, so I have to give the edge to ASU. The Sun Devils are certainly talented, as is FSU, but I think that the freshman phenom in Daniels will be able to close out the 2019 campaign with a win.
The next bowl on the 2019 PAC 12 bowls slate was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. The Alamo Bowl features Utah, who was a game away from the College Football Playoff, and Texas, a 7-5 Big XII team. The Utes are the 2nd-best overall PAC 12 team, whereas the Longhorns are 5th out of 10 in the Big XII. Call me crazy, but this probably should have been Oklahoma State with Oklahoma in the CFP and Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
Utah has a pair of monsters on offense. Senior quarterback Tyler Huntley leads the PAC 12 in yards per attempt (10.7) and completion percentage (73.7). In addition, he threw for 2,966 yards and 18 touchdowns. The third-year starter has had a decorated career and will close it out with fellow senior stud Zack Moss. Moss finished the year as the number one back in terms of both rushing yards (1,359) and touchdowns (17). Despite the feeling that they probably warranted a better bowl opponent, they will both suit up for their final game.
The Utes fielded the number one defense in the PAC 12. Before the championship game loss, the most that the defense allowed was in their loss to USC with 30. On six occasions, opponents failed to score more than seven. Utah allowed about 70 fewer yards per game than the next best defense. I think that Texas has plenty of NFL-ready athletes, but they are not going to win this game. Utah has a defense that even the best Big XII team could only dream of fielding. Look for the Utes to make a statement to the selection process for this disrespectful pairing and even the all-time series with Texas at one apiece.
Oregon vs Wisconsin
The Granddaddy of them all will feature Oregon and Wisconsin. This is the 2019 PAC 12 bowls marquee matchup and I, for one, am so ready for it. The Ducks finished their season 11-2 after dropping their opener at Auburn and then getting upset at Arizona State. In all reality, they led the game at Auburn for 59 minutes and 51 seconds. But they do not get the benefit of the doubt that some others do, so no matter how dominant they were in the PAC 12 title game, Oregon was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss in Tempe, AZ.
Potential first-round quarterback Justin Herbert leads this Oregon offense. For the last two seasons, Herbert has been tabbed as a top quarterback prospect and he’s lived up to that hype. This season, the senior accounted for 3,333 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. Despite some question marks, Herbert has led this team to greatness. Pairing with his stellar season, he had running back CJ Verdell to take some heat. For the second season, the sophomore ran for more than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. Verdell is the reason that the Ducks are the number two rushing offense in the conference, only behind Moss and Utah.
One would think that all of my gushings over Utah’s defense that they would be heads and shoulders better than anyone else, right? Well, in addition to Oregon’s 15th-ranked scoring offense, their defense is ranked 9th in the nation. Like Utah, the Ducks’ defense held opponents to seven points six times. In this heavyweight battle, I will side with the Wisconsin Badgers. Even including the CFP matchups, I think that this will be the best bowl game of the year.
2019 PAC 12 Bowls Results
The first Power 5 conference in this series does not disappoint. The final 2019 PAC 12 bowls record will end up 4-3. This slate is filled with playmakers and ridiculous defenses, so they will all be fun to watch. Washington’s all-time bowl record is 17-20-1, but they won’t be able to get the best of Boise State. USC has a monstrous 34-18 record in bowls, though they will also fall. Washington State and Cal hold 8-7 and 11-11-1 records, respectively, and will look to improve. Arizona State will get one game closer to pulling even with their 14-16-1 mark, while Utah’s 17-5 record is 5th all-time. Finally, Oregon’s 14-18 record should fall one more game.
Next up, we have the conference of the reigning champion: the ACC!
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