Happy New Year's Eve! Tonight, we say good bye to 2012. But before we ring in 2013, we have plenty of college football bowl action.
The bowl day starts with the Music City Bowl in Nashville. North Carolina State fired head coach Tom O'Brien after a 7-5 season and hired Northern Illinois's Dave Doeren as head coach. Interim coach Dana Bible will lead N.C. State in the bowl game against a Vanderbilt team quarterbacked by Jordan Rodgers (Aaron's brother) and riding a winning streak.
Interim coach Dana Bible and the Wolfpack look for a third consecutive postseason victory Monday in the Music City Bowl against Vanderbilt, which tries to extend its winning streak to seven for the first time in 64 seasons.
North Carolina State (7-5) failed to meet expectations after entering 2012 with ACC title hopes, instead finishing 4-4 in conference play. Though the Wolfpack assured themselves of a third consecutive winning record after beating Boston College 27-10 on Nov. 24, coach Tom O'Brien was fired after six seasons at the helm.
He's been replaced by Doeren, who became a hot commodity for leading the Huskies to a second straight Mid-American Conference championship and a BCS bowl berth. With Doeren busy recruiting, the 59-year-old Bible, the Wolfpack's offensive coordinator, is looking forward to calling the shots.
"I've always wanted to be a head coach, and this is the first opportunity I've had to do that," he said. "I'm going to do the very best I can to put this team in a position to be successful.
"This is our last chance together and it's important for us to finish strong -- that's always been one of the goals that we've had. There's nothing better than being successful in a bowl game."
Success could be hard to come by against a Vanderbilt team that's proven unbeatable since opening 2-4. The Commodores (8-4), who've outscored opponents by an average of 24.0 points during a six-game run, haven't taken seven consecutive games since closing their 1948 campaign with eight wins in a row. A victory in the bowl would be their ninth, matching the single-season record set most recently in 1915.
After that, it's Pac-12 pride. right? USC takes on Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. USC quarterback Matt Barkley will not play in this game due to the shoulder injury suffered in SC's regular season finale against UCLA. Couple that with the fact that Georgia Tech has a losing record (including a loss to Middle Tennessee State), and this game doesn't really have a whole lot of luster to it. Georgia Tech's SB Nation blog, From The Rumble Seat, presents its roadmap to a Yellow Jackets victory over the Trojies. Among the keys:
Georgia Tech MUST make USC's offense one-dimensional. In their victories, USC has rushed for 187.3 yards per game. In their losses, only once have they eclipsed the 131 rushing yards they managed while losing to Oregon (twice they failed to reach 100 yards). By bottling up Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal, they will be forcing a freshman QB to beat them, which will be a lot of pressure for a kid making his second college start. I'm willing to bet that, although Wittek has a good arm and was a highly-touted recruit, the USC coaching staff would rather not have to lean on him in trying to win this game. If Tech cannot stop the run, Wittek will have an easy, stress-free task ahead of him. If they can, he'll need to have a big game if USC is to go home with a victory.
USC certainly has enough talent, even without Barkley, to make this one ugly for Georgia Tech. But will the Trojans play like it? Or will they play like they're not particularly happy to be spending New Year's Eve in El Paso?
While the Sun Bowl is going on, the Liberty Bowl will air on the Worldwide Leader. This one features a matchup between a decidedly mediocre team from a BCS conference (Iowa State) against the Conference USA champions (Tulsa). Believe it or not, this game is a rematch.
Tulsa has a chance to match its single-season wins record when it makes its eighth bowl appearance in 10 years. The Golden Hurricane's upcoming opponent, however, could make that very difficult.
Iowa State beat the eventual Conference USA champions in this season's opener and heads into the Liberty Bowl on Monday motivated to finish with a winning record for the first time in three years.
Tulsa (10-3) won 11 games for the only time in program history in 2008, but it gave itself an opportunity to tie that mark with an overtime victory over Central Florida in the conference title game Dec. 1. Alex Singleton's school-record 41st career touchdown, a 1-yard dive, gave the Golden Hurricane their first C-USA championship since they won the inaugural game in 2005.
"It certainly gives you momentum. You want to go into bowl season with a win," coach Bill Blankenship said. "We're excited to be going to Memphis. That's big time."
A rematch with Iowa State may also be appealing after the Cyclones (6-6) rallied from an early deficit for a 38-23 home win over Tulsa on Sept. 1.
The Golden Hurricane led 16-7 after the opening quarter of that game but Iowa State took command by scoring the next 24 points. Shontrelle Johnson ran for a career-high 120 yards and a touchdown in that victory while Steele Jantz passed for two TDs.
In the nightcap, it's on to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Hotlanta. Even though the name of the bowl is lame (it was so much classier sounding when it was the "Peach Bowl"), the matchup is anything but. With two 10-2 teams locking horns in this one, this has the feel of a bowl that we should be seeing on New Year's Day. There is lots of talent on the field.
Pitting the nation's speediest offense in Clemson against an LSU defense featuring the most star-studded group of NFL draft prospects in the country will create plenty of intrigue.
Clemson true sophomore Sammy Watkins, though not eligible for the draft, is the nation's most explosive big-play receiver, and along with junior WR DeAndre Hopkins, he will challenge an LSU secondary led by FS Eric Reid, who could answer questions about his athletic limitations with a strong showing vs. Clemson.
Three junior pass rushers - speed-rushing DRE Barkevious Mingo, high-motor DLE Sam Montgomery, and the gem of the front, big, strong, athletic DT Bennie Logan - all could be playing their final college game.
LSU junior LBs Kevin Minter (MLB) and Lamin Barrow (WLB) also can prove they are ready for the NFL by containing Clemson's dynamite senior RB Andre Ellington.
Defensively, Clemson senior DE Malliciah Goodman is the Tigers' top draft prospect of note, with exceptional length (nearly 36-inch arms), outstanding power and a good motor.
There are your games for this New Year's Eve. If you're not reveling in the New Year, or if you revel by watching college football bowl games, this is your open thread for the New Year's Eve bowls. Comment away. Enjoy the games.