Well this ought to be fun. Let me be completely honest…the past 2 years my bowl prognostications have been a total disaster. Teams that I thought would kick ass & take names laid a big ol’ egg. Teams that I thought were horrible and didn’t even deserve to be in a bowl game all the sudden played like the ’72 Miami Dolphins. Fortunately for me (and hopefully for loyal readers & citizens of the Manoverse) this is just a fun exercise completely devoid of meaning & consequence. As always, I do not condone gambling or claim any level of expertise. If one chooses to ignore those friendly warnings they do so at their own peril. Also, so I do not have to keep repeating myself throughout these proceedings, keep in mind a few things. First of all, I think there are way too many bowl games. As much as I love football I would prefer to see an 8 team playoff and about half as many bowl games. Secondly, I detest bowls named after locations or corporate entities. Bowl games should be named after fruit or other agricultural products. I understand the necessary evil of corporate sponsorship, but when they drop all pretense and just name the game after a company I find it irritating. And finally, if it were up to me teams with .500 records wouldn’t get anywhere near a bowl game. Mediocrity should not be rewarded. Having said all that, it is clear that the money grubbing bastards that run the NCAA and all of their member universities do not share my views. So be it. At any rate, I will watch a good many of these games with varying degrees of interest, and maybe I will actually get a majority of my predictions right. We’ll see.
Temple vs. Wyoming
I am going to take a total shot in the dark here and pick Temple, mostly because I have a passing familiarity with their team & conference, while I don’t think I have seen a Wyoming game on television since the Reagan Administration.
Ohio vs. Utah State
The Bobcats play in the MAC, which means they don’t get a lot of respect, which is unfortunate since it is a better brand of football than most think. Having seen them play a few times this year I feel comfortable picking Ohio U. in this game.
San Diego St. vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Another shot in the dark since I know zilch about either of these teams. I’ll take La-Lafayette in a high scoring affair.
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s
Florida International vs. Marshall
Full disclosure: I am a proud alumnus of Marshall University (Class of ’94), so there’s no way I am picking against my Thundering Herd, even though they are one of those 6-6 teams that would not get any post-season love under my hardcore NCAA regime.
TCU vs. Louisiana Tech
A year ago the Horned Frogs defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and finished #2 in the final polls, so this is kind of like dating a matronly old maid after having broken up with a super model. Unfortunately close losses to Baylor and, inexplicably, SMU, cost them. But I don’t see this game as being much of a challenge and I think TCU rolls to an easy victory.
Arizona St. vs. Boise State
The Broncos have to be heartbroken. The only blemish on their record is a close loss to the aforementioned Texas Christian Horned Frogs on a missed last second field goal. That loss plummeted them all the way from national championship contender (or atleast the BCS bowl mix) to this afterthought of a game that no one will be watching against a 6-6 Sun Devils team that doesn’t deserve to be in a bowl. I think Boise has had more than enough time to get over that mid-November misstep and will win big.
Nevada vs. Southern Miss
Nevada pulled off a big upset in 2010, costing Boise St. an undefeated season (that seems to happen a lot to those guys), while Southern Miss had the honor this season of shattering another team’s dream, defeating previously undefeated Houston in the C-USA Championship Game, knocking the Cougars out of the Sugar Bowl in the process. Because I think the Golden Eagles may have…ummm…exhausted the full extent of their ammunition…with that huge victory, I am picking the Wolfpack in an upset.
Missouri vs. North Carolina
Does anyone really care?? I suppose I will roll the dice and pick Missouri, based largely on the fact that they should be more battle tested as a Big 12 team than the ACC’s Tar Heels.
Western Michigan vs. Purdue
I like Western Michigan. MAC football is fun to watch, and it’s kind of sad that their reward for a solid season is playing a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team, although I suppose that a MAC team defeating a Big Ten team would be sufficient reason for chest thumping, regardless of how mediocre the Big Ten representative may be. I’m going with that scenario.
Louisville vs. NC State
Belk, for anyone who may be interested, is a North Carolina department store chain. How Belk has their own bowl game but WalMart, Target, Kohl’s, or JC Penney do not is beyond my comprehension. Anyway, both of these teams skated into post-season play with solid if unspectacular seasons, yet I have high hopes that this may be a fun game to watch. I’ll go with the Cardinals in a squeaker.
Toledo vs. Air Force
Here we have what might be another sleeper, with lots of offense & scoring. As much as I’d like to give some love to the flyboys, I have to go with the Rockets in this one.
California vs. Texas
The Longhorns have recovered a bit from the disaster of a season they had in 2010, but just happen to play a murderous schedule in one of the top two conferences in the nation. Being battle tested may serve them well though, so I’ll take Texas in a comfortable fashion.
Florida State vs. Notre Dame
If this game were being played 20 years ago it might be for the National Championship. However, both of these storied programs have fallen on hard times, atleast by their definition of success. I can tell you that the folks in South Bend didn’t think they’d be playing a December bowl game this year…they had much loftier goals. That level of disappointment, combined with the fact that this game is in Orlando, FL just a few short hours away from Florida St.’s campus, is enough for me to give the nod to the Seminoles. Okay okay…maybe the fact that I detest Notre Dame has a bit to do with it as well.
Washington vs. Baylor
Baylor got robbed. The Bears should have been chosen as a BCS at-large team and be playing in January. QB Robert Griffin III is one of the most exciting players in the country and will almost definitely finish in the top 3 for the Heisman Trophy, if he doesn’t end up actually winning the darn thing. There might be some that express concern about a possible letdown due to the disappointment of getting screwed out of a more prestigious bowl game, but I’d be surprised if that happened. I’m picking Baylor to win easily.
BYU vs. Tulsa
It’s pretty cool that our men in uniform get two bowls christened in their honor. It’s just too bad that neither Army nor Navy was good enough to qualify for this one since Air Force is playing in the other one. At any rate, this should be a highly watchable game, with BYU winning a close battle.
Rutgers vs. Iowa State
I’ve watched Rutgers play a few times this season and they are decent but not unbeatable. Iowa St. ruined Oklahoma St.’s national title hopes. Rutgers has the better record, but the Cyclones are the epitome of my “battle tested” philosophy, so I give them the edge.
Mississippi St. vs. Wake Forest
This is a matchup of two 6-6 teams that would never happen if it were up to me, but it’s not so here they are. My vibes are telling me to go with the Bulldogs, and even though the vibes are hardly ever right I continue to listen to them. I don’t know why.
Iowa vs. Oklahoma
No team is probably more disappointed in their 2011 season than the Sooners. Many had them ranked in the top 2 in the preseason, and halfway thru the campaign all seemed well. But after losing 3 out of the final 6 games, including a Big 12 Championship Game in which they appeared to not even give a damn, it is hard to fathom what went wrong. This is the very definition of a contest where the lesser team pulls an upset because the favored team doesn’t really want to be there, and for that reason I suspect a lot of the talking heads on ESPN and other places might try to convince us that the Hawkeyes are going to get the win. However, I just cannot pull the trigger on that logic. I think Oklahoma had their temper tantrum game against Oklahoma St. and will come into this one psyched up and ready to make a statement.
Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Didn’t this game used to be in Charlotte?? For some reason Meineke switched their sponsorship to a bowl game in Houston. That should work out well for Aggie fans I guess. This is another dreaded two teams at 6-6 contest, but it might actually be more fun than the numbers would indicate. A&M just fired their coach, so that could have a negative impact. I predicted A&M would finish 8th & Northwestern 15th when I did my pre-season Top 25, and obviously I was way off base on both counts. I’m going to go out on a limb once again and pick the Wildcats in what most would consider a significant upset.
Georgia Tech vs. Utah
I don’t understand the reason, but I have always had an odd aversion to watching Georgia Tech football. They just aren’t a fun & interesting team. Utah is equally unimpressive since the Urban Meyer/Alex Smith era ended 7 years ago. Still, I’ll go with the Utes in a mild upset.
Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt
Cincinnati finished in a 3 way tie as Big East Champions but lost out on the BCS bid due to tiebreaker technicalities so they have something to prove. The Bearcats are being lead by a sophomore backup quarterback, but he’s got a few starts under his belt now and should be fine. On paper this doesn’t look like it’ll even be a close one and I agree…Cincy wins in a laugher.
Illinois vs. UCLA
This used to be the Emerald Bowl. Then it was the Walnuts Bowl. Now the powers-that-be are apparently concerned with feeding the hungry. Unfortunately the matchup they are feeding us is a steaming pile of crap. UCLA actually has a LOSING record!! It’s bad enough that all these 6-6 teams (including the Bruins’ opponent Illinois) get bowl bids, but now we’re allowing a team below .500 to play in the post-season?? It’s insane. Fortunately there are three other games on New Year’s Eve…two of them in the afternoon at the same time as this one. Plus the majority of the populace will be making final preparations to go out and get crazy, wasted, and stupid later that night. There was one year that I was already drunk by the time this game kicks off. But I digress. My point is that only the most bored & lonely among us will have to be subjected to this torture. If there was any justice both of these horrible teams would lose, but that won’t happen, and since I refuse to pick a team with a losing record I’ll go with Illinois.
Virginia vs. Auburn
This used to be the Peach Bowl, and the name needs to revert to that ASAP. College football is all about tradition, and the Peach Bowl was a solid traditional bowl game. Anyway, Auburn’s fortunes have fallen significantly since winning last year’s national title, but I suppose that happens when you lose players the caliber of Heisman winning QB Cam Newton and defensive lineman Nick Fairley. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers came within a whisker’s whisper of landing in the ACC title game before being beaten soundly by in-state rivals Virginia Tech. I think UVA is being overlooked and disrespected, and they just might do something about that in this game by upsetting the Tigers.
Houston vs. Penn State
TicketCity, it is my understanding, is a poor man’s Ticketmaster. Why the former has a bowl named after it but the latter does not is yet another head scratcher. This isn’t exactly what Houston fans were expecting. The Cougars seemed to be on their way to an undefeated regular season and a huge pay day against Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Those plans blew up when Southern Miss crushed Houston in the C-USA title game. Meanwhile, anyone interested enough in sports to be reading this knows about the turmoil that has engulfed Penn St. the last couple of months. There had been a train of thought that bowl games might steer clear of the Nittany Lions fearing controversy and sponsor backlash. Thankfully that did not happen because their players & fans should not be punished due to the idiocy of those no longer associated with the program. These are two good teams who should provide us with an entertaining contest. I am glad that Houston still gets to test its mettle against a BCS conference opponent, and I think they will take advantage of the opportunity by winning the game.
Michigan St. vs. Georgia
This might as well be called the Bridesmaids Bowl. Both teams had solid seasons and legitimate shots to win their conference titles, but there was no way Georgia was going to beat #1 LSU, and after beating Wisconsin on a last second Hail Mary earlier in the season it was too much to ask the Spartans to repeat that feat. So this is a consolation prize for these two teams and a treat for fans. My vibes are telling me to go with Michigan St, and I shall follow that advice.
Nebraska vs. South Carolina
I like this game. It should be fun to watch. The Gamecocks are riding a 3 game winning streak coming in to the contest, while the Cornhuskers lost 2 out of their last 4 games. Both had high hopes coming into the season, but tough losses to Auburn & Arkansas lead to South Carolina being edged out in their conference’s east division by Georgia, while Nebraska acquitted themselves quite nicely in their inaugural Big Ten season but stumbled against Wisconsin, Northwestern, & Michigan. The loss of star RB Marcus Lattimore halfway thru the campaign didn’t seem to slow down Spurrier’s Cocks, and I think given several weeks to prepare The Ol’ Ball Coach will have his team ready to win this one.
Ohio St. vs. Florida
Let’s call this the Urban Meyer Bowl. Meyer’s former team, the Gators, which he left last year due to “health issues” and to spend more time with his family, goes up against the Buckeyes, who just hired Meyer to take over after this season concludes. I guess he decided he’d spent enough time with his family. I’m a little confused by this matchup, because regardless of the past success of these two programs the fact is that they both finished at 6-6 this season, so how in the world they ended up in a New Year’s game is beyond my comprehension. This is where the current system, with all its various bowl tie-ins, fails. There are several teams…TCU, Boise St., Southern Miss, Baylor, BYU, Oklahoma…that are playing in “lesser” bowl games in December but are much more deserving of these slots. I understand that these are “name” programs that will draw good TV ratings and pack the stadium full, but that should not trump the fact that this season they are two mediocre teams who don’t measure up to the high standard of playing in a New Year’s bowl game. But I guess the money does indeed trump won-loss records, which is shameful. I have lost a lot of respect for the Gator Bowl because of these decisions. At any rate, it’s a toss-up kind of game, with neither team having much momentum coming into the contest. The crowd should make this as close to a home game for Florida as it gets, so I’ll give them the nod.
Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Now we’re getting to the really good games. This should be extremely interesting…Oregon’s fast paced, high powered spread against Wisconsin’s old school grind it out power football. Both of these clubs had national title aspirations that fell just short of the mark, with the Ducks losing out of the gate to #1 LSU and then having a late season hiccup against USC, while the Badgers lost consecutive midseason battles to Michigan St. & Ohio St. Neither team has anything about which to hang their heads though. As much as I like old fashioned smash mouth football, I think Oregon is just too fast and will score too many points on big plays for Wisconsin to keep up.
Stanford vs. Oklahoma St.
The race for #2 will be won & lost in this game. Stanford’s lone miscue was a late season loss to the Oregon Ducks, which began to sow seeds of doubt as to whether All-World quarterback and future #1 overall NFL draft pick Andrew Luck is really as awesome as he’d been hyped up to be. Meanwhile, many would rather be watching the Cowboys compete for the National Championship instead of playing in this game after the Cowboys came oh so close to overtaking Alabama in the polls. Oregon exposed Stanford as a team with a good QB but not much else, and I think the similarly high octane offense of Oklahoma State will do the same. They’ll be out to prove a point after losing out on an opportunity to play for the title, and I think we may be looking at a 100 point game here, with possibly 60 of them being scored by the guys in green.
Michigan vs. Virginia Tech
What an odd matchup. Both of these teams got into this game by way of at-large BCS bids, but the question is whether either deserved one. The original plan was for an undefeated Houston team to face Michigan, but Southern Miss torpedoed that idea. That left the powers-that be scrambling. The fall back options seemed to be Baylor or Kansas St. to face the Wolverines, which would have been just fine. Theoretically those teams had earned both slots, but that wasn’t going to happen since they are both Big 12 teams and had faced off earlier in the season. Therefore Michigan, with its lofty pedigree and rabid fanbase, became locked in. I have no problem with that part of the equation. But either Baylor or Kansas St. still should have gotten the other spot. Virginia Tech just got shellacked in the ACC Championship Game last weekend. In the minds of most that knocked them out of BCS contention. But I guess money & reputation won out yet again. Why the folks in charge of the Sugar Bowl would pass up an opportunity to have a very exciting Baylor team, with their Heisman nominee QB Robert Griffin III, face off against an equally exciting Michigan team lead by another electrifying QB in Denard Robinson is mystifying, especially since anyone with any level of football knowledge has known for months that the Hokies are completely overrated and Clemson just proved it. My vibe is that this will be the least interesting of the BCS bowls, with Michigan winning by atleast 3 touchdowns.
West Virginia vs. Clemson
More full disclosure: I am a lifelong Mountaineer fan and find it very difficult to pick against them most of the time. I even said in my pre-season rankings that West Virginia would upset LSU early in the season. That prediction proved to be slightly wrong. However, I shall not be deterred!! Clemson QB Taj Boyd originally committed to WVU before his Daddy talked him out of it, and I guess it turned out to be a wise course correction given the success he has had with the Tigers thus far. Most of the talking heads on ESPN and other outlets will do their damndest to ignore this game as much as possible, which is a shame because I think it will be a really entertaining affair. Of course I am picking West Virginia to win.
Kansas State vs. Arkansas
We’ve already talked a bit about Kansas St., and Arkansas is another team that might have fit into that Sugar Bowl game nicely, atleast moreso than Virginia Tech. But hey, both clubs find themselves in this contest which isn’t a bad thing. I hope that fans haven’t begun to suffer from football fatigue by the time this one kicks off on January 6th, which is four or five days later than it should be played. Those that do tune in should see a great game, but I think the Razorbacks just have too much on both sides of the ball and should win comfortably.
SMU vs. Pittsburgh
I still maintain that this game should feature two directional schools. Southern Methodist fulfills half the equation, but Pitt doesn’t hold up the other end. Anyway, I hate Pitt, which has worked out well the past couple of years because they legitimately suck. I suppose the Panthers will be favored, but I’m going with SMU all the way.
Arkansas St. ` vs. Northern Illinois
First of all, this is a ridiculously named bowl, sponsored by a web building company that overtly uses sex to sell what I assume must be an inferior service. Secondly, the game is being played on January 8th, atleast 2 weeks past when a bowl of this caliber should be played. And finally, the matchup isn’t exactly attractive. I honestly thought Arkansas St. was a 1-AA/FCS school. I guess not. I am sure there will be NFL games on since 1/8 is a Sunday, so who knows if more than a dozen people will even be watching. And really, who cares?? I have been entertained a bit by MAC football this season, so I’ll pick Northern Illinois to win this one.
National Championship Game
LSU vs. Alabama
The rematch that no none wants to see. Look, I know these are undoubtedly the best two teams in the country. Few people question that fact. But we’ve already seen this game and quite honestly it wasn’t very watchable the first time. I am a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so I appreciate great defense, but a 9-6 game with no touchdowns just doesn’t frost my cupcake. I sincerely hope this game is a lot more fun & interesting the second time around, and there’s reason for optimism because really, it can’t get much more tedious than that first contest. I think the result will be the same since there is no way LSU has kicked ass this long only to choke when the trophy is on the line. Of course lots of people said the same thing about the New England Patriots a few years back.