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Bowl Predictions 2014-2015: Outback Bowl to Citrus Bowl

Nick Marshall
Outback Bowl: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, on January 1st
Wisconsin Badgers (10-3) vs. Auburn Tigers (8-4)

The SEC West has been relatively unspectacular (2-3) in their bowl games to this point, putting pressure on Auburn to get the job done against Melvin Gordon and Wisconsin. Gordon is as good of a college running back as they come, with electrifying speed and tremendous versatility. Auburn's rush defense has been consistently average but they will need to have a great day to tame Gordon, who is complemented by rising sophomore Corey Clement. Cassanova McKinzy does it all as a linebacker for the Tigers, but Auburn could be exposed against the pass, where they have evidently struggled much of the season. Wisconsin certainly won't be thought of as a dangerous passing team but quarterback Joel Stave has shown the ability to move the ball and they could capitalize on play action opportunities. Offensively, Auburn will also lean heavily on their ground attack which is led by solid Cameron Artis-Payne along with Nick Marshall. Marshall, playing in his final collegiate game, continues to shown signs of being an improved passer but still has moments where he can't make an accurate throw whatsoever. Playmaking receiver D'haquille (Duke) Williams and Sammie Coates have helped and they should play pivotal roles on third downs, where Badger defenders will struggle to defend against their large frames. Statistically, Wisconsin's defense has been among the strongest in the nation, led by safety Michael Caputo and a powerful front seven. That front seven will have to perform against the plethora of backs Auburn has ready to make plays, or else the Badgers will have a rough time. While it hasn't been the follow-up to their SEC title and National Championship game appearance many fans would have wanted, Auburn is a really strong football team. If Marshall can make some key throws and the defense contains Gordon and Clement, the Tigers could sneak away with a nice win to kick off an exciting day of college football.
Auburn, 28 Wisconsin, 20

Cotton Bowl Classic: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas on January 1st
Baylor Bears (11-1) vs. Michigan State Spartans (10-2)

Yesterday, TCU made a strong statement by absolutely pummeling Ole Miss 42-3 in the Peach Bowl. Now, Baylor has a chance to reinforce their case that they should have the CFB Playoff against a tough Michigan State team. Bryce Petty and Baylor's high-powered offense will once more in full effect, one that has so many weapons. Receivers K.D. Cannon, a healthy Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman and backs Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson led the Bears against one of the toughest defenses in the land. Although he is off to Pitt to become their head coach after this game, Pat Narduzzi will have his defense playing hard and well. Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush will be pains to handle on the front line, while Kurtis Drummond leads a talented number of playmakers in the back. While the Spartans' defense has once more been superb, it has been exposed in Michigan State's two biggest games of the year. It was exposed constantly in the second half in the loss to Oregon, and was torn to shreds by J.T. Barrett in the Ohio State game. Petty has the arm and weapons to do much the same, and the Spartans' offense won't be able to keep up. Connor Cook has been great all year for Michigan State, along with Jeremy Langford (1,360, 19 touchdowns). Add to that Tony Lippett, who has emerged as clear No. 1 receiver, and the Spartans can put up points in a hurry. But, Baylor's defense is hungry and will force turnovers, which have been an issue for Cook throughout his young career. Defensive end Shawn Oakman has announced his decision to return to Waco next year and he could begin his 2015 by taking down Cook a couple times. The Spartans have a very improved offense, but they can't compete with a Baylor team that is rolling. If MSU continues to make their same mistakes in pass coverage, especially late in games, they'll struggle to stay in this one. It could well be a high-scoring Cotton Bowl classic, and a great start to the new year for Baylor.
Baylor, 45 Michigan State, 33

Citrus Bowl: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, on January 1st
Minnesota Gophers (8-4) vs. Missouri Tigers (10-3)

Despite severe losses on both sides of the ball, Missouri and magical Gary Pinkel managed once more to win the SEC East, despite a rough loss early in the year to a terrible Indiana team. Behind the big arm of Maty Mauk, the Mizzou offense has been great for much of the year (except for lackluster performances against Georgia and Alabama). Bud Sasser has emerged as a legit stud as a receiver for the Tigers and him and Mauk will look to make big plays against the Gophers early and often. Minnesota's defense has been solid all year, especially against the pass, which should push Missouri to explore more on the ground in this one. Minnesota's game plan will be the same it was for all of 2014, run the ball constantly. David Cobb, playing in his last game with the Gophers, has quietly put together a huge year playing behind a solid Gophers' offensive line. Add in the very mobile Mitch Leidner, and Missouri could be in for problems, especially for a rush defense that has been anything but consistently strong. The Gopher's O-Line will be in for an awfully tough challenge in this one though: containing Shane Ray and Markus Golden, two of the best pass rushers in the SEC and the entire nation. Ray, who can make plays at end or as an outside linebacker, has superb athleticism and instincts and will constantly put pressure on Leidner. Leidner leaves a lot to be desired as a passer, and if flushed out of the pocket he will rarely have success. Redshirt sophomore Maxx Williams is great at tight end and has been a security blanket for Leidner all year. Williams could find open space in the play action game or on third downs. Missouri's pass defense has been decent this year, but the Gophers will still try to get the ball to Williams as much as possible. Normally, an SEC school against Big Ten West school would usually warrant a chance at a blowout. But, Minnesota's run-orientated offense could still give Missouri problems, and Mauk could have an off day against a very underrated Minnesota secondary.  While Minnesota is never a good pick to win a bowl game, considering some of the embarrassing performances they've displayed in years past, they got a nice setup against Missouri and now have weapons on both sides of the ball to get the job done in what should be a close one.
Minnesota, 27 Missouri, 24

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