New Year's Day Bowls Open Thread

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year! Today, we are all Spartans.

Goodbye 2013, hello 2014. As Cal football fans, we are not sorry to see 2013 in our rear view mirror. That's a year we don't want to look back on very often, if at all. Hopefully, 2014 will be better for Golden Bear football.

Though we say goodbye to 2013 on the calendar, we are still finishing up the 2013 college football season. New Year's Day brings the traditional orgy of college football bowl games, although it seems the orgy involves fewer games than it used to. Nevertheless, there are still six games for you to sit back and enjoy as you welcome the new year and, perhaps, nurse a hangover through your day. Here is today's schedule:

Wednesday, January 1st (all times Pacific)
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: (22) Georgia vs. Nebraska 9:00 a.m. ESPN2 (HD) / WatchESPN
Heart of Dallas Bowl: North Texas vs. UNLV 9:00 a.m. ESPNU (HD) / WatchESPN
Capital One Bowl: (9) South Carolina vs. (19) Wisconsin 10:00 a.m. ABC (HD) / WatchABC
Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. (16) LSU 10:00 a.m. ESPN (HD) / WatchESPN

Rose Bowl presented by Vizio: (4) Michigan State vs.

(5) Stanford

2:00 p.m. ESPN (HD) / WatchESPN
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: (6) Baylor vs. (15) UCF 5:30 p.m. ESPN (HD) / WatchESPN

The headliner of the day, of course, is the 100th Rose Bowl game. Unfortunately, we are forced to endure our rivals at Stanf*rd (11-2) being in the Rose Bowl once again while we continue to suffer through our interminable Rose Bowl drought. Stanf*rd is a seven-point favorite in this one against Big Ten champion Michigan State (12-1) and has already caught a break before this game even starts: Michigan State's all-Big Ten linebacker Max Bullough will not play in the Rose Bowl after Coach Mark Dantonio suspended him for a violation of team rules.

Here is a thumbnail look at the combatants by the numbers, courtesy of The Only Colors, Michigan State's SB Nation blog:

By the numbers

4 - straight years in a BCS game for Stanford

1 - This is MSU's first "BCS" appearance (since 1998). It is also MSU's first Rose Bowl since 1988.

38-0 - The last time Stanford and MSU met, the Cardinal won in dominating fashion in the 1996 Sun Bowl.

5.0 - Yards per carry for Stanford's offense, No. 29 nationally.

2.7 - Yards per carry allowed by MSU's defense, No. 2 nationally.

4.4 - Yards per carry for MSU's offense, No. 58 nationally.

2.9 - Yards per carry allowed by Stanford's defense, No. 4 nationally.

3.08 - Sacks per game for Stanford's defense, No. 7 nationally.

1 - Sacks per game allowed by MSU's offense, No. 12 nationally.

17 - Takeaways by Stanford, No. 100 nationally.

13 - Giveaways by MSU, No. 6 nationally.

9.0 - Yards per pass attempt for Stanford's offense, No. 9 nationally.

5.1 - Yards per pass attempt allowed by MSU's defense, No. 2 nationally.

5.85 - Tackles per game for Max Bullough

The Only Colors predicts MSU victory and is surprised that Stanf*rd is so heavily favored in this one. Frankly, I am not surprised. If anything, I am surprised that The Only Colors is surprised. As we know, Stanf*rd is good. Really good. Nothing against Michigan State (and let it be known that I am rooting for the Spartans today), but I expect Stanf*rd to ground and pound its way to victory in this one. For its part, Rule of Tree predicts a six-point Stanf*rd victory, expecting the Cardinal offense to grind away a win in the second half.

(While I was writing this, Ty Montgomery scored two more touchdowns against Cal.)

Other than the Rose Bowl, the next most compelling game from a Cal fan perspective might be the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. In that one, Baylor (11-1) is taking on American Conference champion Central Florida (11-1). Why is this one interesting? No, it's not because Baylor is also the Bears. It is because Baylor gives us hope. Baylor was really really really bad before Coach Art Briles got there.

How bad were the Bears before Briles left the University of Houston for Baylor in November 2007? Consider these numbers:

• Baylor was a graveyard for coaches. Briles' predecessor, Guy Morriss, went 7-33 in Big 12 play. Morriss' predecessor, Kevin Steele, went 1-31. Steele's predecessor, Dave Roberts, went 2-14. The Bears also fired Chuck Reedy after legendary coach Grant Teaff retired following the 1992 season.

• In the 11 seasons before Briles was hired, the Bears had won three games or fewer nine times. They hadn't had a winning season since finishing 7-4 under Reedy in 1995.

• When Briles was hired, the Bears had lost 85 of 96 Big 12 games. He inherited a 12-game losing streak against conference foes.

• After the Big 12 was formed in 1996, the Bears went winless against Big 12 competition in four seasons and finished in the basement of the Big 12 South in 11 seasons. In their first dozen seasons in the Big 12, the Bears lost conference games by an average margin of 24 points and won more than two league games in a season only once, going 3-5 in 2006.

• The Bears were the only Big 12 team without a bowl appearance in the first 12 years after the league's inception. At the time, only two teams from BCS conferences had gone longer without playing in a bowl game: Indiana and Vanderbilt.

Let's hope it doesn't get quite THAT bad for Cal football before it gets better. But the Baylor story gives us hope. And hope is a good thing.

Enjoy all the games today. This is your sextuple threat New Year's Day bowls open thread. Talk about all the games here.

Happy New Year!

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