Raleigh News & Observer sports columnists Caulton Tudor and Luke DeCock debate some of the big issues of the bowl season, from N.C. State and Dukes chances to the national championship.
Who wins the Music City Bowl, N.C. State or Vanderbilt?
TUDOR: As much as many folks would like to see Dana Bible coach the Wolfpack to a win, almost everything is working in Vanderbilts favor.
N.C States defense will be healthy but its difficult to imagine that those defenders and their coaches will be completely focused.
LUKE: I like the Wolfpack here. This team had high expectations coming into the season and showed against Florida State they were justified, but played poorly enough over the rest of the schedule to get Tom OBrien fired.
The Wolfpack has one chance to prove its a better team than it showed against Tennessee and Clemson and Virginia and so on, and Mike Glennon will want to go out of his college career and go into the NFL draft on a high note.
Who wins the national title, Alabama or Notre Dame?
LUKE: Duke coach David Cutcliffe talked before the season about how SEC teams play in this kind of environment all the time, giving them an advantage over everyone else in big bowls. Notre Dame, a sellout every week, home and road, is probably as close as anyone else gets, but no team and no coach knows this routine better than Alabama and Nick Saban.
It took a Heisman Trophy-winning performance to beat the Crimson Tide this season. Roll Tide.
TUDOR: This might sound somewhat stupid, but I think Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame defensive coaches were pulling for Alabama to beat Georgia in the SEC title game.
If you take into account that the Irish defense has been more consistent than the teams offense, its likely that Kelly would prefer to devise a game plan against Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron than Georgias Aaron Murray.
Alabamas ground game is the best in the country, but the Irish defend the run better than anyone. Give me the gold hats.
Will Duke be the only ACC team to win its bowl?
TUDOR: Thats not out of the question even though Cincinnati (9-3) is a heavy favorite in Charlottes Belk game. But the coaching change should be a distraction for the Bearcats while Dukes humbled defense has had time to regroup.
LUKE: The five FBS teams Duke beat had a combined record of 24-36. The six FBS teams Duke lost to had a combined record of 44-19.
Im on the record picking N.C. State, and Florida State should overpower Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. Clemson will struggle against LSU and Georgia Tech has yet to win a bowl game under Paul Johnson. Virginia Tech (vs. Rutgers) and Duke might be the swing votes on whether the ACC is above or below .500.
TUDOR: Florida State should win. But if Northern Illinois can find a way to keep it close entering the fourth quarter, the Seminoles might panic again. If the ACC could get out with three wins and three losses, itd be an overachievement.