New Year's Day Bowl Previews: Outback, Capital One and Sugar

Our bowl weekend open thread is ready for your comments all weekend long.

OUTBACK BOWL :: WHO'S SUPPOSED TO BE HERE?
The arguments about whether Northwestern and, in particular, Auburn deserve to be in this bowl are now officially obsolete. They're going to play the game Friday, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

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Better then, perhaps, to simply focus on the reason that Outback Bowl officials seem to have put together this matching. (This makes the rather dangerous assumption that Outback Bowl officials -- or any bowl officials for that matter -- think before putting together their matchups.) The reason: POINTS!

The betting seems to be that Northwestern and Auburn's defenses are bad enough, and their offenses good enough, that it shouldn't be too much to ask for a 70- or 80-point epic that will awaken football fans still sleeping off their New Year's Eve celebration. And while the invitation to Northwestern's offense might have been based more on reputation than anything the Wildcats did this year, it's not an altogether bad bet.

Of course, trying to predict what either of these teams will do in a given week is dangerous business. The Wildcats defeated Orange Bowl-bound Iowa but lost to awful Syracuse, while Auburn defeated Ole Miss by almost two touchdowns only to lose to Arkansas by three.

It's likely, though, that the Outback Bowl will get exactly what it wants: A blizzard of points in a game that quite possibly should have never happened.

Auburn 42, Northwestern 28

CAPITAL ONE BOWL :: HIDE THE BRAINS! JOEPA'S COMING!
There's a fascinating coaching matchup taking place just after noontime Friday between a football leader on his way out (a way he's been taking now for approximately 317 years) and a coach trying to get through his first real stretch of adversity. Both happen to bring pretty good football teams into Orlando.

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Or do they? One of the consistent things about both Penn State and LSU has been their inconsistency, or at least their odd consistency. Both have played well against teams that are less talented than them and played poorly against teams that are truly elite. It's hard to think of a real marquee win for either, and yet both are still ranked in the Top 15 according to the latest Blog Poll.

It's probably no surprise that the Penn State offense is better than its Baton Rouge counterpart; after all, there's a reason the LSU faithful are ready to send Gary Crowton home with some lovely parting gifts. Yes, the national ranking is particularly awful, but that comes with the territory.

Notice, though, that Penn State also has the better defense ready to take the field today. Sure, the schedule is composed of the Big Ten and a few MAC also-rans, but it's not like LSU was playing Mothra every week or anything. One of these teams is bound to lose if for no other reason than the other is actually a decent team.

Penn State 24, LSU 13

SUGAR BOWL ::  A FEW MINUTES OF SANITY
Man, it's been quiet in New Orleans this year, hasn't it? I mean, it's not like the head coach of one of these teams left for Notre Dame and the other left for retirement only to return 24 hours later a healed man. Oh, it is.

This is one of the most difficult games to predict. Not because of the scoreboard or statistics; those pretty clearly say that Florida should win this game by not much but not exactly in a narrow victory either.

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No, this game is one of the few where raw emotion is likely to play at least a part. Will the Bearcats respond to their coach leaving the school by playing inspired football or by imploding? Will Florida win one for the Meyer or feel slightly asurd for even thinking that in the build-up to what might not even be the Gator coach's last game?

So talk about Florida's solid defense, ranked fourth in the nation, going up against the Bearcats' well-oiled offensive attack. Point out how Steve Addazio's offense hasn't quite lived up to expectations that it could be the greatest team that ever lived. Talk about how Florida is still reeling from its Alabama loss and Cincy is ready.

I'll go with raw emotion. Because that's really all we have to think about before we see what happens.

Florida 42, Cincinnati 38

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