Our 62-28 record this season predicting Pacific-12 Conference football games was not as good as the 73-27 record we posted in 2018, but we have a chance to close the gap here with bowl season approaching.
Seven teams from the Conference of (real NCAA) Champions are headed to the college bowls this winter, and we close out our 2019 season of coverage with these game predictions. Sure, the Pac-12 champion was not invited to the College Football Playoff this time around, but that’s okay.
“We still gots the Rose Bowl!”
Enough said. Now, onto the bowl projections …
No. 19 Boise State vs. Washington at the Las Vegas Bowl (4:30 pm on December 21): The Huskies won 32 games from 2016-2018, including two Pac-12 championships, but this year Washington could not win the close ones as it dropped to 7-5 with a sub-.500 record in conference play. Now the Huskies are also losing Head Coach Chris Petersen, perhaps the best coach in the game. The reward for Washington is a matchup against the Broncos, perennially one of the best teams in the country—thanks partly to Petersen, who coached Boise State for years before coming to Seattle. Great story lines, right? Does not seem fair to either school to get stuck playing so early, but it is what it is. The Huskies have underperformed this year, which is why, with the emotional mood swing of a swan song for a beloved coach, we expect Washington to win this game against a Broncos squad that probably could care less about this game. Washington 38, Boise State 31.
No. 16 Iowa vs. No. 22 USC at the Holiday Bowl (5 pm on December 27): This is an underrated matchup on the national scene, for sure, since there are not that many non-CFP games between ranked teams this winter. Since this game is on the Best Coast, the Trojans may have a slight home-field advantage, but most Midwest schools from the Big Ten travel well to California for bowl games (thanks, weather gods!). And even though USC missed a bowl game last year, the Trojans like bigger bowl games. The Hawkeyes are extremely underrated, as they came within 14 points of being undefeated in the regular season this year, in addition to handing Minnesota its first loss of the season on November 16. One team knows it can finish with some Top-10 respect this year by winning big in San Diego, and motivation is what these bowl games are often about—and decided by. Iowa 27, USC 21.
No. 24 Air Force vs. Washington State at the Cheez-It Bowl (7:30 pm on December 27): One year after winning 11 games, the Cougars crashed and burned, finishing at 6-6 and in last place among Pac-12 North Division teams. WSU has just five wins this year against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) competition, but the school is in its fifth-straight bowl game for the first time ever. That says more about the Cougars’ sad history than it does about its current head coach, who is an idiot. Meanwhile, the Falcons are 10-2, although the competition wasn’t strong. Yet Air Force hung decently with Boise State and Navy on the road this year, and the defense is better than advertised. The same cannot be said for the Pac-12 squad in this one. Air Force 54, Washington State 37.
Illinois vs. California at the Redbox Bowl (1 pm on December 30): Golden Bears Head Coach Justin Wilcox has Cal in a second-straight bowl game for the first time in 10 years, and the matchup against the Fightin’ Illini is an interesting one, since the Pac-12 team is all about defense, while the Big Ten team is more about offense. This also is a virtual home game for the Bears, since it’s played in the Bay Area. Will Illinois fans travel across the country for this one? Not sure, really. Cal struggled on offense in last year’s Cheez-It Bowl loss to TCU, and the Bears are better this year moving the ball. We think that will be enough to keep the Illini off balance for enough of the game. California 28, Illinois 20.
Florida State vs. Arizona State at the Sun Bowl (11 am on December 31): What a prime bowl spot for two mediocre teams! The Sun Devils fired Todd Graham after he went 46-32 in six seasons, only to hire Herm Edwards, who is now just 14-11 in two seasons. Go figure. Even though it’s just a lower-tier bowl, we expect ASU fans to travel well for this one, and we also imagine the Seminoles fan base could care less. That alone gives the Sun Devils the edge, even with their mediocre coach in charge. However, we also think this game is snooze worthy. Arizona State 34, Florida State 31.
Texas vs. No. 11 Utah at the Alamo Bowl (4:30 pm on December 31): The bowl selections were generally not kind to the Pac-12 this year, but this one represents an interesting snub. Sure, the Longhorns have a virtual home game, but … Texas went just 7-5 this year, which included losses against highly ranked Baylor, LSU, and Oklahoma. On paper, the Utes should win, but Utah is in the rare position of having lost its motivation after dropping the Pac-12 Championship Game so badly. Then again, maybe that’s serious motivation to come out and atone for it. The Utes faithful will travel for this one, too, so the regional advantage may not help the Longhorns at all. Utah 28, Texas 17.
No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Oregon (2 pm on January 1): The stadium in Pasadena will be rocking for this one, because both the Badgers and the Ducks travel very well for bowl games. And the teams are pretty even on paper, too, but the edge has to go to the team that actually won its conference title game, handily. That would be Oregon, who also may want to prove to the CFP committee that despite the omission, it can play good football. We think the Ducks are re-emerging as the big dog in the Pac-12, too, so this may be that coming-out party that serves as a launching pad for the 2020 season. Oregon 38, Wisconsin 34.
Check back here frequently for new Pac-12 content, as our basketball season coverage begins soon as the bowl season wraps up …