Eight of KU's 2010 opponents set to kick off bowl games
With Bowl Season 2010 officially under way, it’s time for a quick look at those KU opponents who will be playing in the postseason.
In all, eight teams responsible for making the Jayhawks 3-9 last season will play in a bowl game during the next few weeks, including two of the four non-conference opponents and six Big 12 foes. (Oklahoma and Texas Tech also qualified for bowl games, but KU did not play either team in 2010).
Southern Miss (8-4) will kick things off at 7 tonight when they play Louisville (6-6) in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Southern Miss is a 2.5-point favorite in Vegas in this one, but several people seem to be picking the Cardinals, who have a deep and talented senior class that is eager to let loose in its first bowl game.
Even though Southern Miss handled KU pretty easily, I wasn’t that impressed. I’m leaning toward picking The Ville in this one, as well.
I said before the season began that the Southern Miss game was the most important on KU’s schedule in 2010. Though my reasoning (a win at USM would’ve given KU three non-con wins and made the prospects of winning three games in the Big 12 a little more realistic) seemed to be sound, it probably wouldn’t have made that much difference in the long run. At most, KU could have won four or five games had they beaten USM. Reaching a bowl in 2010 was probably pretty unrealistic from the jump.
Having said that, there aren’t that many teams out there who faced a schedule packed with nine teams that reached a bowl game, so, in some small way, that helps lessen the blow of KU’s 3-9 season.
Here’s a quick look at the rest of the bowl games that feature KU’s 2010 opponents:
• Dec. 27, Independence Bowl, Air Force (8-4) vs. Georgia Tech (6-6): The loss to KU in Week 2 almost cost the Yellow Jackets a chance at bowl eligibility. However, Paul Johnson and Co. were able to get things turned around and find themselves taking on a tough Air Force team in Shreveport, La. My pick: Air Force.
• Dec. 28, Insight Bowl, Missouri (10-2) vs. Iowa (7-5): I really liked Iowa all season and, when the bowls were announced, this was one of my favorite matchups. However, now that several key Hawkeyes have been hit with legal trouble, I don’t think this will be much of a game. Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert rides high in his MU swan song. My pick: Mizzou.
• Dec. 29, Texas Bowl, Illinois (6-6) vs. Baylor (7-5): The Bears were the story of the conference through four weeks of play. But a tougher schedule and declining play cost them late. Still, Art Briles got the Bears to their first bowl in years and I think the feel-good season ends on a positive note. My pick: Baylor.
• Dec. 29, Alamo Bowl, Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5): This is another great match-up, despite what the records say, but I think Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon will be far too much for the Wildcats to handle. ’Zona plays tough defense and has a ton of energy offensively. But I’m not sure they’re ready for this kind of a shootout. My pick: Oklahoma State.
• Dec. 30, Pinstripe Bowl, Kansas State (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5): It’s basically a home game for the ’Cuse but I really don’t think that will matter. K-State played in the better conference and has better talent, including the best player in the game in running back Daniel Thomas. The KSU fans will be outnumbered 3-1 in the stands, but the Orange will probably be outnumbered by that same margin on the scoreboard. My pick: K-State.
• Dec. 30, Holiday Bowl, Nebraska (10-3) vs. Washington (6-6): Yaaawwwnn. We already saw this game once this year and the Huskers rolled. It’ll be closer this time, but not much. My pick: Nebraska.
• Jan. 7, Cotton Bowl, LSU (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (9-3): The Aggies were awful until they finally got things rolling. I’m afraid the season is going to end the way it started for Mike Sherman’s club. LSU was strong all year and should be able to out-physical A&M in this one. It’s another great match-up, though, and playing in Texas certainly won’t hurt A&M’s chances. My pick: LSU.
Real quick, here’s one final note of interest for those looking ahead to 2011: Nine teams on KU’s 2011 schedule are playing in bowl games this season. The only teams that aren’t? McNeese State, Iowa State and Texas.
Happy Holidays, everyone. Enjoy the bowls!