Scouting the Pac-12’s bowl opponents
College football's selection Sunday saw a record eight Pac-12 teams receive bowl bids. We're all familiar with the Pac-12's teams in the bowl matchups, but what about their opponents? Get ready for a healthy dose of the Big 12. Here's your scouting report.
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - No. 8 Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)
Wisconsin isn't enjoying the type of season it had in 2011 when the Badgers went 10-2, but it's still headed to its third straight Rose Bowl. After losing two straight overtime games on the road, the Badgers turned it on in Indianapolis, rolling over No. 23 Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship game. Senior running back and NCAA all-time touchdown leader Montee Ball is well over 1,500 yards on the year and has carried the ball 48 times for 313 yards and four touchdowns in Wisconsin's last two games.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - No. 5 Oregon (11-1) vs. No. 7 Kansas State (11-1)
Had the season ended on Nov. 16, this might have been the national championship game. Like Oregon, Bill Snyder's Wildcats were in the national championship hunt for most of the season. Then they traveled to Waco, Texas and fell hard to Baylor, 52-24. They recovered by beating Texas at home last week to punch their ticket to Glendale. Senior quarterback Collin Klein – who has been with Snyder since the colossal turnaround – is the catalyst to Kansas State's offense and could win the Heisman later this week.
Valero Alamo Bowl - No. 15 Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4)
The Longhorns will try to stop chaos from erupting in Austin after two straight...8-5 seasons? As crazy as it sounds, 10 losses in two years is underperforming for Mack Brown. "At Texas, if you lose a game it’s a disappointment. We need to come back here and try to get two wins at the end," Brown told the Dallas Morning News last week. Brown didn't get it done against Kansas State, so a win over Oregon State in a virtual home game (the Alamodome is less than 90 miles from Austin) is a must.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl - No. 17 UCLA (9-4) vs. Baylor (7-5)
With Robert Griffin III gone, the Bears went into a midseason tailspin, losing four straight games. Baylor has since won four of its last five and lit up the scoreboard in the process, averaging 45.6 points during that stretch. The Bears average 578.8 yards per game but give up 513.9. Senior quarterback Nick Florence leads the Big 12 in total offense (387.7 yards per game) and passing (343.3 yards per game). Sophomore running back Lache Seastrunk rushed for 178 yards last week in a 41-34 win over Oklahoma State.
Hyundai Sun Bowl - USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7)
Georgia Tech finished the regular season 6-6, good enough to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game, but not good enough to beat No. 13 Florida State in Charlotte. Technically, a losing record disqualifies a team from being bowl eligible, but just as it did for UCLA in the same situation in 2011, the NCAA granted the Wramblin' Wreck an exemption to go bowling (much to the dismay of the MAC). Georgia Tech lost an overtime heartbreaker to Utah in the same game last season.
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl - Washington (7-5) vs. No. 20 Boise State (10-2)
Boise State is looking for its third straight win in Sin City after it beat Utah in 2010 and dismantled Arizona State 56-24 last year. The Broncos failed to win their crucial non-conference tilt with Michigan State to open the season and lost a shocker at home to San Diego State last month, leaving them on the outside of the BCS picture yet again. The annual rumors about Chris Petersen fleeing Boise for a bigger program have cropped up again. He's won 10 games or more in each of the last five seasons.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - Arizona State (7-5) vs. Navy (7-4)
After missing out on a bowl game last year, the Midshipmen will head to San Francisco no matter the result of Saturday's Army v. Navy game in which they are double-digit favorites. Nearly 80 percent of Navy's plays in the triple option offense are runs, a far cry from the wide-open offenses the Sun Devils have faced in the Pac-12 this season. Navy has three players averaging more than 50 yards per game on the ground, including freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who has accounted for half of the team's total touchdowns.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl - Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)
The Wolfpack started the season by winning six of its first seven games, but finished by losing four of its last five. Nonetheless, this will be Nevada's eighth straight bowl game under coach Chris Ault. The Pack are 2-5 in those games. Nevada averages more rushing yards per game (260) than passing yards (242.8) in the pistol offense, giving it the No. 7 rushing offense in the country. Sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo leads the Mountain West Conference in total offense at 319 yards per game.