Much like other tasks this holiday season, I have waited until the last minute to take a gander at the muddled landscape of bowl games. We are on the eve of the first two of nearly three dozen mostly meaningless, hopefully entertaining gridiron clashes that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Let’s take a look.
Fresno State vs. Wyoming
Fresno State is almost always fun to watch. I would place them on a tier about a half step below Boise St. as far as smaller schools with great potential in big games. Wyoming is one of those 6-6 teams that, under my benevolent dictatorship of college football, would never be rewarded for a .500 record. Fresno State wins easily.
UCF vs. Rutgers
This is basically a home game for Central Florida. I’ll take the Knights in a competitive contest.
Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee
I don’t know enough about these teams to comment intelligently on the matchup, so I’ll go with my vibes, which are saying Southern Miss wins a game that no one will see because they’ll either be watching the Vikings/Panthers NFL game or whatever Christmas movies happen to be on TV.
Oregon State vs. BYU
What’s not to love about this game?? It’s in Vegas, one of the coolest towns in the universe and it features two good teams who actually deserve to be in a postseason game. On paper BYU looks better, but Oregon St. is battle tested in the tough Pac 10. I think this will be a high scoring shootout, which is always great fun. In the end I’ll go with the Beavers in a squeaker.
Utah vs. California
Another good game. I’m impressed. The loss of RB Jahvid Best to a spectacular concussion will have a deleterious effect on the Golden Bears, so the nod goes to the Utes.
Nevada vs. SMU
When I was a kid in the early 80’s SMU was a very good team featuring The Pony Express, i.e. the running back tandem of future NFL legend Eric Dickerson and Craig James. A few years later the football program was given a “death penalty” for cheating, aka paying players. The death penalty was really only a 2 year hiatus, but its effects have been long lasting. More than 2 decades later SMU has finally clawed their way back to respectability. To be honest both of these teams are already winners…they’re spending the holidays in Hawaii for pete’s sake. As far as the game, I hate to say it but I think the Mustangs much desired fairy tale ending won’t happen in paradise, as Nevada is just too good.
Marshall vs. Ohio
Merry Christmas gentlemen…your success on the field prompted Santa to reward you with a trip to Detroit in December. Full disclosure…I am a proud alumnus of Marshall University. I was there when Chad Pennington took his very first snap, and I had the pleasure of watching both Randy Moss and Byron Leftwich play for the Herd. This game probably doesn’t interest about 95% of the football lovin’ masses, but I’ll be watching and cheering my team onto victory.
Meineke Car Care
Pitt vs. North Carolina
Pitt’s fan base doesn’t travel and this is basically a home game for the Tar Heels. Last year North Carolina lost a thriller to West Virginia, so they’ll be seeking retribution and I think they’ll get it.
Boston College vs. USC
Wow, what a disappointing season for Southern Cal. They aren’t used to playing in December bowl games for sure. I think this is the first time they haven’t been in the BCS mix in 8 years. Meanwhile, BC has to be licking their chops at the thought of taking on what most consider one of the top teams of the decade. The study in contrasts…motivation vs. no motivation…is stunning, and I think that’s exactly what the Eagles will do. Boston College by a touchdown.
Kentucky vs. Clemson
Isn’t Kentucky a basketball school?? Anyway, Clemson has outstanding RB CJ Spiller, and I think he’s the difference. Clemson should win comfortably.
Texas A&M vs. Georgia
Georgia had a very disappointing season. A lot of folks, including me, had them highly ranked in the preseason. But losing a star RB and QB was just too much loss for the Bulldogs. My vibes are saying the Aggies win a very close, competitive game.
UCLA vs. Temple
I’m fascinated by this game. First of all, I thought there was a financial crisis and all the banks were going belly up, so how is one affording to sponsor a bowl game?? Secondly, it’s in Washington DC. Ah, the plot thickens. And finally, making their first bowl appearance in 20 years are…the Temple Owls. I thought they’d dropped down a division or disbanded the football program. The opponents are UCLA, who make their way to DC from the other side of the country. That, I believe, will be a huge factor. Temple will be pumped and out to prove something, UCLA will be 3000 miles from home with few fans in the seats. Temple wins a close game.
Miami vs. Wisconsin
I sure didn’t see the revival of Hurricanes football coming, atleast not yet. Good for them. Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten so their games tend to not be very exciting or remotely interesting, but I do like the fact that they play good old fashioned smashmouth football. I think this game will be won with a big play or two, and that is more likely to be pulled off by Miami.
Bowling Green vs. Idaho
I’m not sure why this game even exists. The only thing I can think of is that some television pinheads like the idea of a bowl game played on the unique blue turf. Or maybe it’s a conspiracy lead by Big Potato. Anyway, I couldn’t possibly care less, as this may be the least interesting bowl game in history. I’ll give the nod to the Vandals.
Arizona vs. Nebraska
Now THIS is a good game, one I will set the reminder on the remote for. Those who prefer high powered offensive shootouts may disagree, because this one is likely to be a defensive struggle. I’ll take the under at 35 points total and give the edge to Nebraska.
Houston vs. Air Force
Speaking of shootouts…here you go. The over on this one should be 70 points easily, and I’m going with Houston.
Oklahoma vs. Stanford
Oh what might have been. Oklahoma certainly had higher hopes for this season, but a knee injury to QB Sam Bradford ended those dreams early. Meanwhile, Stanford burst onto the scene with record setting RB Toby Gerhardt, a battering ram reminiscent of Jerome Bettis or Earl Campbell. Word on the street is that Stanford’s talented freshman QB Andrew Luck is injured and may not play in this game, which would be a difference maker. If Luck plays Stanford wins, if he does not then the pick is Oklahoma.
Navy vs. Missouri
I know Texas is special (my best friend lives there and tells me how awesome it is), but why does it deserve its own bowl game?? Playing in The Big 12 makes Missouri a bit more battle tested than Navy, so I’ll go with the Tigers.
Minnesota vs. Iowa State
If you are curious, this game is named after an information technology company in Arizona, it does not mean that the winners of the game will suddenly gain a heretofore unknown level of self awareness or perception. The game matches two 6-6 teams, which itself is an atrocity. They should rename it the Mediocre Bowl. As a matter of fact, because of the level of mundaneness involved, it doesn’t deserve the honor of me picking a winner.
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee
This used to be called The Peach Bowl. At one time it was even played on New Year’s Day. I love Chick-fil-A as much as the next guy, but the former name needs to return ASAP. In the meantime, a completely overrated Hokie squad takes on a Volunteers team lead by new coach Lane Kiffin, who’s spent months trying to act like a new version of Steve Spurrier and pulled it off quite nicely. I’m picking Tennessee in an upset.
Northwestern vs. Auburn
Northwestern is playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game?? Really?? If the Wildcats win this one and the New England Patriots miss the playoffs ESPN’s Mike Greenberg might just keel over from the ensuing apoplectic pleasure. Fortunately I think Greeny’s health, if not his everlasting happiness, is safe because Auburn will win this game.
Penn State vs. LSU
No bowl game should ever…EVER…be named after a credit card company. That’s just cruel. On the field will be two teams who probably had visions of something a little grander at the start of the season, but both fell short of expectations. No one wants to see Joe Paterno exit in the politely forced way Bobby Bowden is leaving Florida State, so I think his players will be ready to rock n’ roll. This may be the sleeper game of the entire bowl season, a back and forth contest decided in the final minute. A flip of the coin gives the nod to Penn State.
West Virginia vs. Florida State
Florida State is undoubtedly a popular sentimental choice among the masses given that this is Coach Bowden’s final game. If he were playing most any other team I might roll with it, but I am a lifelong Mountaineer fan who lives less than an hour from the school. But above and beyond all that, the only reason anyone would pick Florida State is because of the romantic, nostalgic aspect. If most pundits who are following their hearts were truly honest with themselves they’d know deep down that West Virginia is the logical pick. I say the Mountaineers win it going away, with Bowden having that sad “it’s over” look on his face the entire 4th quarter, although if I were to write a script I think it’d be fun to have the Seminoles in it to the end when they line up for a last second game winning field goal only to see it sail wide right. But really…thanks for the memories Bobby.
Ohio State vs. Oregon
Ohio State is another overrated team. They won 10 games, but among those wins were victories over Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico State, Toledo, and Michigan…five teams with 20 wins among them. Meanwhile, Oregon battled through the Pac 10 with big wins over Utah, California, Arizona, and USC. Oregon wins The Granddaddy in grand fashion.
Cincinnati vs. Florida
Cincinnati is a Big East team who just lost their coach to Notre Dame, so no one expects anything out of them. Meanwhile, the sports media should be tested for both VD and arthritis as much time as they spend on their knees fellatiating Florida and QB Tim Tebow (who apparently will be the only disciple Jesus will need upon His return). If Brian Kelly would have stuck around in Cincinnati I would have picked the upset for sure, but the coaching situation makes me hesitant. There is a precedent though. In the 2008 Fiesta Bowl n-o-o-n-e picked West Virginia over Oklahoma. The Mountaineers had just suffered a shocking loss to an abysmal Pitt team that cost them an opportunity to play for the national title and then watched their evil, despicable, dirtbag coach lie through his teeth en route to a new gig at Michigan (how’s that working out Fraudriguez??). The situation served as motivation for West Virginia. Will somewhat similar circumstances provide the impetus for Cincinnati to defeat the Gators?? I’m leaning toward “no”, as much as that sucks. Florida’s defense is just too tough.
South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
Why in the blue hell are there eight games being played AFTER New Year’s Day?? And why is one of them in Canada?? I’m picking Northern Illinois in an upset.
South Carolina vs. UConn
I’m a big fan of pizza, really I am. But naming two bowl games after pizza joints is ridiculous. The sentimental choice is UConn, a team whose season has been eventful and not in a good way. But when the coach on the opposing sideline is Steve Spurrier the task becomes quite difficult. This may be another sleeper game that comes down to the end. Connecticut has the experience edge in those sorts of games…the experience of seeing them slip from their grasp. I’ll take the Gamecocks in a squeaker.
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss
The season can be called a success for both teams, no matter what happens in this game. Oklahoma Ste went downhill a bit after the suspension of star WR Dez Bryant, and his absence will prove harmful here as well. I’m going with the Rebels in a competitive game.
Arkansas vs. East Carolina
Once upon a time the Liberty Bowl was a middle-of-the-road December bowl game. Now All the sudden it’s a post-New Year’s contest. Odd. This looks to be a high scoring affair with no time for such trifles as defense. Arkansas has the QB everyone’s talking about, but East Carolina has the better overall team and has something to prove. Look for the Pirates to steal this one.
Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
Michigan State suspended 8 players for this game after they got into a physical tete-a-tete with some frat boys. That’ll kill their chances, along with any chance this had of being a watchable game. Texas Tech wins in a blowout.
Boise State vs. TCU
The powers-that-be are pretty slick. They couldn’t take the chance that two schools from non-BCS conferences would score two huge wins against traditional power conference schools, so they pitted the two intruders against one another. Outrageous, but savvy. Both of these teams are undefeated but never had a snowball’s chance to play for the championship, all the evidence anyone should need to see that the BCS system is poppycock. One of them will remain unbeaten after this game and have a legitimate gripe. The game itself should be highly entertaining and deserving of its Monday night January 4th time slot, all alone on the football landscape, the center of the sports world with all eyes focused on it. Boise has experience on this kind of big stage, TCU does not. That’s the difference and why I’m picking Boise State to win.
Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
This game might get overlooked. It’s on January 5, which is right around the time some may be reaching a football hangover and have that “let’s just get it over already” attitude. There are way too many of these games and they are stretched out too far, even for die hard pigskin fans like me. And if Boise/TCU is as exciting as it has the potential to be folks may still be talking about it. Also, let’s be honest…these aren’t the two most exciting teams in the universe and they don’t play in the two sexiest conferences. Big 10 football is plodding and prosaic, the ACC is increasingly irrelevant. But let’s be fair. These are two very good teams who should have a good game. I think Iowa’s line will wear out Georgia Tech in the 4th quarter and seize control, giving the Hawkeyes the victory.
Central Michigan vs. Troy
One more game whose existence seems unexplainable. Alabama already has the Liberty Bowl…does it really need another postseason game?? Anyway, the people in charge of this thing were hoping Notre Dame and its 6-6 record would participate, but the arrogant bastards in South Bend decided they’d rather stay home then play in a “lesser” bowl game. Sure they used the fact that they’d just fired their coach as an excuse, but that’s a load of Barbara Streisand. As a matter of fact, Central Michigan is going to be lead by an interim coach because theirs, Butch Jones, is leaving for Cincinnati. Why?? Because Cincinnati’s coach, Brian Kelly, is leaving for…Notre Dame. What a tangled web those catholic boys weave, huh?? On the field Central Michigan is clearly the superior team. I don’t think the coaching carousel will affect them too much, and I think they’ll roll to victory.
National Championship Game
Texas vs. Alabama
I can’t add much to the discussion that hasn’t or won’t be said by a multitude of talking heads in the coming weeks. We’ve known for many weeks that this would be the matchup to decide the title, the only mystery being whether it’d be Alabama or Florida. It was a three team race nearly all season. Whether or not that is fair to teams like Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State is a debate for another time, but all things considered this looks to be a fairly tantalizing matchup. Texas looked pretty shaky in its last two games against Texas A&M and Nebraska. They won the Big 12 Championship over Nebraska on a last second field goal that may or may not have been aided by a friendly clock operator. Meanwhile, Alabama legitimized its ranking by destroying Florida and Saint Tebow in the SEC Championship. The end result of those two title games was that some of the luster of this game was off before it ever started. Most are assuming the Tide will roll and claim the not-as-mythical-as-it-used-to-be national championship, and I concur. Alabama just looks to be the more complete team. Will it be a blowout?? No. But will it be a game the average fan will easily recall a few years from now?? Probably not.