35 Bowls in 24 Days: Day 17

The Cowboys have their eyes on a Fiesta Bowl trophy (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

The second trio of Jan. 2 bowl games features a very interesting matchup, followed by two BCS tilts featuring four of the best teams in the country. Picking winners in these three games was very difficult, but I have high hopes for my analysis, and I’m sure I’ll have to face the music if I am incorrect on my picks.

More: See the other bowl games

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Ohio State Buckeyes (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) vs. Florida Gators (6-6, 3-5 SEC), Monday, 1 p.m. [ESPN2]

In a long, tumultuous season, the Ohio State Buckeyes had moments of promise where you could see it all starting to come together for a pretty good 2012 season. They won back-to-back games against Illinois (ranked No. 16 at the time) and Rose Bowl participant Wisconsin (ranked No. 15 at the time). But after a 6-3 start, OSU lost the final three games of the season, all by less than a touchdown.

The Florida Gators, on the other hand, looked downright hopeless. Following a 4-0 start against world-beaters like FAU, UAB, Tennessee and Kentucky (which, somehow, nearly vaulted them into the top-10 of the rankings), the Gators lost six of their final eight games. Their two wins during that stretch were Furman and Vanderbilt.

The field in Jacksonville is allegedly in horrible shape, and I’m not really sure who that benefits. Both fanbases should be equally represented (nobody travels like Ohio State), and I think the Buckeyes have something going as they head to the 2012 season.

My prediction: Ohio State 31, Florida 14

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio: No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 5 Oregon Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12), Monday, 5 p.m. [ESPN]

I read a preview that labeled these two teams as “ruthlessly proficient” on offense, and I’m not sure there are two better words in the English language to describe Wisconsin and Oregon.

I have no idea how any team not named LSU beat either one of these teams, because they are both really good. Their offenses flow so smoothly, and their defenses are just good enough that they should be able to win any game they played on their schedules (like I said, Oregon’s loss to LSU in Week 1 is totally understandable). Now, we get to watch these two teams play each other.

The Pac-12 champion Ducks are the higher-scoring offense in this matchup, averaging 46.2 points per game to the Badgers’ 44.6. But in order to score more points in this one, Oregon will need running back LaMichael James to stay healthy all game and perform as well as he has all season.

James has run for 1,646 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011; meanwhile, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball was a Heisman Trophy finalist this year, running for 1,759 yards and 32 touchdowns. Both average more than six yards per carry, and that’s what makes these offenses so potent — their big-play ability.

The over/under in this game? 72 points. And I think it will go higher than that.

My prediction: Wisconsin 45, Oregon 41

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: No. 4 Stanford Cardinal (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State Cowboys (11-1, 8-1 Big 12), Monday, 8:30 p.m. [ESPN]

The Fiesta Bowl definitely got this one right.

Stanford and Okie State may have set bigger goals for themselves in 2011, but a BCS bowl is never a bad consolation prize. I don’t doubt that Stanford will be hyped for this game, but I question whether or not the Cowboys will be disappointed after getting left out of the BCS Championship game.

I’m so torn on this one — Stanford has faded a little on offense as quarterback Andrew Luck had a few of his weapons plucked away due to injuries, but they have a very solid front seven on defense that keeps them in every game. OSU has the No. 2-ranked passing attack in the nation, racking up an average of 394 yards per game through the air, but their defense hasn’t been stellar at times this year.

Honestly, who has the edge?

The Cowboys are favored by 4.5 points, but I believe in the hangover they will feel from getting shunned by the national title game. And I believe in Stanford.

My prediction: Stanford 40, Oklahoma State 30

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