- Rose Bowl - Washington vs. Ohio State - January 1 - No surprise, but the Rose Bowl is the top Pac-12 bowl game this year, even if the national media doesn’t think Washington has a chance in Urban Meyer’s last game at OSU.
Why watch? It’s the Rose Bowl, you’d watch if it was Oregon State vs. Rutgers. On top of that, Washington has the chance to spoil Meyer’s supposed final game as a coach and put a Luxardo cherry on top of their turnaround season. Also, Ohio State’s defense is soft enough so that Washington’s troubled offense should be able to put up some points and keep this one interesting as Washington’s very-much-not-troubled defense should be able to keep the Buckeyes somewhat in check and make it interesting.
Prediction: Ohio State 34 Washington 21 - The Huskies offense, outside of Myles Gaskin, is still too-limited in my opinion to put up much against a team like Ohio State when they have a month to prepare (even with their defensive struggles). The Husky defense will keep Dwayne Haskin and company in check, but they won’t be able to completely shut down a receiver group as deep and as talented as Ohio States (even with UW’s talent at DB).
2. Holiday Bowl - Utah vs. Northwestern - December 31 - We could see a repeat of the Pac-12 Championship Game as two teams with excellent defenses that don’t make many mistakes face off in California. I think Utah should be able to make some more fireworks this time in the Golden State with Tyler Huntley back at QB, but Northwestern’s defense may be just as challenging as Washington’s and they also have a playmaking QB and dangerous running backs.
Why watch? I love to see matchups of similar teams like these two and I think this should be one of the most-evenly-matched games of the bowl season. Throw in that this is a great chance for the Pac-12 to make a minor national statement with a Pac-12 division winner beating a Big 10 division winner in Utah’s biggest bowl game since joining the conference, and I’m in.
Prediction: Utah 21 Northwestern 20 - I think getting Huntley back gives the Utes the firepower they need to win a defensive slugfest. It won’t be easy, but they push past the Wildcats late.
3. Alamo Bowl - Washington State vs. Iowa State - December 28 - Mike Leach heads back to Texas and takes on a tough Big 12 opponent who has also been overachieving in recent years.
Why watch? This is the biggest bowl game the Cougars have played in more than 15 years and the last chance to see Gardner Minshew under center for Leach. I think this is the year the Cougars show up in their bowl game under Leach, and they’ll need to, taking off a strong Cyclones squad.
Prediction: Washington State 28 Iowa State 24 - Minshew and the Cougar receivers will be enough to score some touchdowns against the Cyclones and push the Cougars to a huge bowl win for the program.
4. Redbox Bowl - Oregon vs. Michigan State - December 31 - Both of these programs have had their struggles since they faced off in 2014 and 2015 as national powers. They’re both trying to climb back to the top of their conferences and a nice bowl win could help.
Why watch? This one has some intrigue outside of just potentially being Justin Herbert’s final college game. These two teams match up fairly well with Oregon’s dangerous offense going against Michigan State’s tough defense that has given Big 10 opponents issues.
Prediction: Oregon 38 Michigan State 24 - I think the Ducks have more firepower than the Spartans and can use it to score at a regular pace and pull away from Michigan State as the game goes on.
5. Las Vegas Bowl - Arizona State vs. Fresno State - December 15 - A rare decent early bowl game pits Herm Edwards and his team against the Mountain West champion, giving them the chance to knock off a ranked opponent.
Why watch? There sadly will be no N’Keal Harry, but the Sun Devils should still be exciting with Manny Wilkins and Eno Benjamin trying to give the Sun Devils a huge win and a win that would say a lot for the Pac-12 with a 7-5 team taking down the Mountain West champ on a neutral field.
Prediction: Arizona State 27 Fresno State 24 - I think Wilkins and Benjamin can grind it out on the ground against a Mountain West opponent and the defense will do enough to give them a slight cushion and the win when the final gun sounds.
6. Sun Bowl - Stanford vs. Pittsburgh - December 31 - The Cardinal slide into El Paso after competing for the Pac-12 Championship early in the season. They will actually meet with an ACC division champ who is very capable of taking them down, if they don’t bring their A game.
Why watch? Stanford is no longer a ground and pound dinosaur - K.J. Costello can distribute the ball all over the field to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and big, talented tight ends and Bryce Love gets one more chance to do his thing in college. This is also a chance for a Pac-12 non-division winner to take down another conference’s division winner.
Prediction: Stanford 35 Pitt 28 - The Cardinal have the offense to put up points on Pitt and will be able to all game. Their defense will struggle, but not so much that it costs them the game.
7. Cheez-It Bowl - Cal vs. TCU - December 26 - The Bears are back in a bowl after a short break and get a Big 12 opponent coming off a disappointing season, but also off a big win over Oklahoma State.
Why watch - Cal’s defense is something all Pac-12 fans should witness if they haven’t yet and they’ll get a major test against a Big 12 offense, albeit one of the less-scary ones. This will be a good challenge for Justin Wilcox and his D to see if they can slow down a talented opponent from another power conference and score a huge win to take the sting off another loss to Stanford.
Prediction: TCU 27 Cal 17 - The Bears just don’t have the offense yet to take down very many talented teams. Their defense will keep it close, but they won’t be able to score enough to grab the win.