2017-18 College Football Bowl-a-Palooza

Bowl season has arrived. It’s a month long college football smorgasbord, and just like any other buffet there are some really tasty vittles, a few offerings that you might be kind of curious about but are somewhat hesitant to sample, and some things that most everyone looks at with an expression of nauseous antipathy. There are two schools of thought when it comes to bowl games. Many of us feel like there are too many of them and are troubled by the idea of rewarding mediocrity. Others opine that even bad football games are good entertainment and have no issue with having as many meaningless post-season games as possible. Regardless of one’s outlook it is undeniable that the next few weeks will be fun. Some games will live up to high expectations, while others will be just as boring as anticipated. The best games are the ones that no one thinks will be at all remarkable, but then all the sudden you find yourself glued to the television watching the 4th quarter of an epic battle involving two teams you know nothing about and now you are strangely invested in the outcome. That’s why bowl season concurrently matters yet doesn’t matter. It’s very odd.

 

Picking these games is pretty much a crapshoot. There are just so many wildcards. Injuries. Coaching changes. Neutral sites. Last year I was 18-23 with these picks, while Zach was 21-20. The whole idea of a bowl game is to pit two unfamiliar opponents against one another, so I assume much goes into scouting & film study. For Zach & I there are many teams that we know virtually nothing about outside of their record, and since we have lives and aren’t paid to spend time doing research most of our picks are semi-educated guesses based on the general knowledge we have as fans. We don’t do point spreads for these picks, and no money is on the line. We’re just having fun, which is what football fans should do this time of year. As usual I have broken down the games into three tiers. Tier 1 are the games that hold very little interest for me. Two .500 teams from a bottom dweller conference playing in a bowl game on a weekday afternoon in December is kind of like watching an Adam Sandler movie…I have very low expectations and if the result is even mildly entertaining I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Tier 2 games come with somewhat higher hopes. I might not go out of my way to watch them, but if I happen to be home and flipping thru the channels I’ll probably check out such a game if it is on. Tier 3 are the games that I’m really looking forward to and have the potential to be tremendous fun.

 

 

 

Tier 1

 

New Orleans     

12/16 at 1pm.

Troy (10-2)                   vs.    North Texas (9-4)

I’ll give credit where it is due…these two teams have won their fair share of games and actually earned a post-season reward (unlike the plethora of bowl bound 6-6 teams). Having said that, they are teams that very few outside their respective fan bases pay any attention to, so it’s difficult to be excited about the matchup. I’m feeling generous, so allow me to suggest…free of charge…some ideas to the game’s organizers for a name with a bit more pizzazz: Bayou Bowl, Cajun Bowl, Creole Bowl, Lagniappe Bowl, Jazz Bowl, Crawfish Bowl, Beignet Bowl, Big Easy Bowl, Gumbo Bowl, Jambalaya Bowl. See, it’s not that hard. You’re welcome.

My Pick:     Troy

Zach’s Pick:        Troy

 

Cure (Orlando, FL)

12/16 at 2:30pm

Georgia State (6-5)    vs.   Western Kentucky (6-6)

Proceeds from the game go to breast cancer awareness, which is admittedly quite charitable. Still though, it’s a dull name for a game featuring two prosaic opponents.

My Pick:     Georgia St.

Zach’s Pick:        Western Kentucky

 

Camellia (Montgomery, AL)

12/16 at 8pm               

Middle Tennessee (6-6)     vs.    Arkansas State (7-4)

A camellia is a type of flower. Fans of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird might recognize it as the flower grown by mean old Mrs. Dubose that was destroyed by an angry Jem Finch. The game itself holds zero interest for me. Zach has actually watched an Arkansas St. game, so he knows more about what’s going on here than me.

My Pick:     Middle Tennessee

Zach’s Pick:        Arkansas St.

 

Boca Raton       

12/19 at 7pm     

Florida Atlantic (10-3)                   vs.    Akron (7-6)

I’m surprised FAU head coach Lane Kiffin hasn’t been mentioned as a serious candidate for one of the many jobs that have been open recently. Perhaps the football community feels like he needs another season of being humbled?? Anyway, I don’t expect this to be much of a game. Zach likes FAU’s offense to make it look easy.

My Pick:     FAU

Zach’s Pick:        FAU

 

Frisco (Frisco, TX)      

12/20 at 8pm               

Southern Methodist (7-5)   vs.   Louisiana Tech (6-6)

Point of clarification: this game does not take place in San Francisco, CA. Frisco, TX is a suburb of Dallas and has been amongst the fastest growing cities in America for over a decade. So essentially this is a home game for the SMU Mustangs, whose coach just left for Arkansas.

My Pick:     SMU

Zach’s Pick:        SMU

 

Pinstripe (New York City)

12/27 at 5:15pm          

Boston College          (7-5)           vs.              Iowa (7-5)

The draw here is that the game is contested at Yankee Stadium, which I guess is supposed to be cool. Unfortunately for players & fans it’ll also be cold, but I suppose spending Christmas in The Big Apple will be fun for all involved. Zach isn’t a fan of playing a football game in a baseball stadium.

My Pick:     Iowa

Zach’s Pick:        Iowa

 

Foster Farms (Santa Clara, CA)

12/27 at 8:30pm          

Arizona (7-5)               vs.              Purdue (6-6)

In the past this game was known as the Fight Hunger Bowl and the Emerald Bowl. Foster Farms is a California poultry company, which means that they really should call this the Turkey Bowl. The matchup involves middle-of-the-road teams from the Pac 12 & Big Ten, so I suppose one could think of it as a really mediocre version of a Rose Bowl.

My Pick:     Arizona

Zach’s Pick:        Arizona

 

Texas       

12/27 at 9pm

Texas (6-6)                  vs.              Missouri (7-5)

If it were up to me I’d call it the Lone Star Bowl, but no one asked for my opinion. These two teams are better than their record shows, but playing in a competitive conference and having a little bad luck tends to have a negative impact on the numbers. It might end up being a more entertaining game than I’m giving it credit for, which would be fine with me. Zach expects a relatively low scoring defensive struggle.

My Pick:     Texas

Zach’s Pick:        Missouri

 

Military (Annapolis, MD)

12/28 at 1:30pm          

Virginia (6-6)               vs.              Navy (6-6)

I like the idea of a bowl game to honor the military, but it’s probably a bit unfair to have the Midshipmen be playing a home game.

My Pick:     Navy

Zach’s Pick:        Navy

 

Belk (Charlotte, NC)

12/29 at 1pm               

Wake Forest (7-5)                vs.              Texas A&M (7-5)

I’m praying that fans show up to this game with bells that they ring throughout the entire contest. If you don’t know why I’ll point you in the right direction to find the answer. A&M recently fired head coach Kevin Sumlin and hired Jimbo Fisher away from Florida St. That news made quite the splash, but really has no bearing here except for the fact that the Aggies…I assume…will be led by an interim coach. Wake Forest fans should have an easy time traveling 80 miles to cheer their team, and it might be their best opportunity to get a victory over a (perceived) top tier SEC opponent. Zach thinks A&M will have the game in the bag by halftime.

My Pick:     Wake Forest

Zach’s Pick:        Texas A&M

 

Sun (El Paso, TX)

12/29 at 2pm               

NC State (8-4)             vs.              Arizona State (7-5)

The Sun Bowl is the third oldest bowl game and one of the few not telecast by Disney (ESPN/ABC). The Sun Devils will also be playing for an interim coach as former NFL head coach & ESPN commentator Herm Edwards prepares to take the reins in 2018.

My Pick:     NC St.

Zach’s Pick:        Arizona St.

 

Music City (Nashville, TN)

12/29 at 4:30pm         

Kentucky (7-5)            vs.              Northwestern (9-3)

Hey, what do you know…they can do something besides play basketball & race horses in Kentucky!! Unfortunately for fans in the Bluegrass State Northwestern has been an above average program for awhile. One thing is for sure…the Wildcats will win this game.

My Pick:     Northwestern

Zach’s Pick:        Northwestern

 

Arizona

12/29 at 5:30pm         

New Mexico State (6-6)                vs.              Utah State (6-6)

Part of me wants to suggest better names for this game like I did for the New Orleans Bowl, but sadly my creativity is zapped for the moment. All I know is that this is a second-rate game with subpar teams being played at 5:30pm on a Friday. Perhaps they could call it the Who Cares Bowl.

My Pick:     Utah St.

Zach’s Pick:        Utah St.

 

 

 

Tier 2

 

Las Vegas         

12/16 at 3:30pm

Boise State (10-3)      vs.    Oregon (7-5)

Okay NOW we’re getting somewhere!! I’m guessing the players won’t be permitted to roam free thru the plethora of casinos in Sin City, but I am confident that they’ll have plenty of fun. Boise has had the kind of season they usually have…ten wins & the Mountain West title. However, due to the success of Central Florida the Broncos aren’t playing on New Year’s Eve/Day like they’ve become accustomed to doing. The Ducks have fallen off a bit from the days when they were winning 10+ games and competing for the national championship, but were a few games better this year than last. Unfortunately head coach Willie Taggert has already bolted after just one season to take over at Florida St. Zach likes Boise’s defense to make the difference in a close game.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Zach’s Pick:        Boise St.

 

New Mexico       

12/16 at 3:30pm

Marshall (7-5)    vs.    Colorado State (7-5)

Marshall University is my alma mater so I freely admit my bias toward the Thundering Herd. It’s nice to have them back in the post-season after the debacle of 2016. I believe the Rams usually have a high octane offense that scores a lot of points, so this game might be pretty fun to watch. Zach has doubts about Marshall’s ability to win big games.

My Pick:     Marshall

Zach’s Pick:        Colorado St.

 

Gasparilla (St. Petersburg, FL)

12/21 at 8pm               

Temple (6-6)      vs.   Florida International (8-4)

This game was formerly known as the St. Petersburg Bowl and the Beef o’ Brady’s Bowl, so atleast we’re making progress with the name. Gasparilla was an 18th century Spanish pirate that may or may not have actually existed, but apparently he is infamous in the Tampa, FL area and in fact inspired the nickname of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That story alone makes it a much cooler game than the New Orleans, Boca Raton, & Texas Bowls.

My Pick:     FIU

Zach’s Pick:        FIU

 

Bahamas  

12/22 at 12:30pm       

Alabama-Birmingham (8-4)                  vs.    Ohio (8-4)

I’m 45 years old and the closest I’ve ever gotten or likely ever will get to the Bahamas is when I occasionally got snockered on rum back in college, so congrats to these teams for scoring one of the cooler post-season destinations. UAB’s football program has actually been shut down the past couple of years due to financial concerns, but public outcry persuaded the powers-that be to resurrect it, so this is a pretty neat story. I’m sure most fans will be rooting for a positive outcome. So are we.

My Pick:     UAB

Zach’s Pick:        UAB

 

Potato       

12/22 at 4pm (Boise, ID)

Wyoming (7-5)            vs.              Central Michigan (8-4)

The story here will be Cowboys’ quarterback Josh Allen, who is expected to be a first round pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. One would think that if he is that talented he’d be able to lead his team to victory in a bowl game, but Zach doesn’t think that’ll happen.

My Pick:     Wyoming

Zach’s Pick:        Central Michigan

 

Birmingham       

12/23 at Noon             

South Florida (9-2)              vs.              Texas Tech (6-6)

In my pre-season poll I ranked the Bulls 7th and thought they might have an opportunity to go undefeated. That didn’t happen and they aren’t a Top 10 team…but they could still finish in the Top 25 by defeating a team from a “power” conference. Zach never bought into the USF hype, but he thinks their defense can make a difference in this game.

My Pick:     USF

Zach’s Pick:        USF

 

Armed Forces (Fort Worth, TX)

12/23 at 3:30pm          

Army (9-3)          vs.   San Diego State (10-2)

Okay, so we have an Armed Forces Bowl AND a Military Bowl. Seems a bit redundant, but it could be worse. I love the military academies, but I think the Aztecs might have a little too much offense. Zach believes Army’s ground game can dominate time of possession and make the difference in a victory.

My Pick:     San Diego St.

Zach’s Pick:        Army

 

Dollar General (Mobile, AL)

12/23 at 7pm               

Appalachian State (8-4)     vs.   Toledo (11-2)

Atleast Dollar General is a step above former title sponsor Go Daddy.

My Pick:     Toledo

Zach’s Pick:        Toledo

 

 

Hawai’i      

Christmas Eve at 8:30pm

Fresno State (9-4)      vs.   Houston (7-4)

Right up there with The Bahamas as a desirable bowl location is the lovely island of Honolulu. Mele Kalikimaka indeed!!

My Pick:     Houston

Zach’s Pick:        Fresno St.

 

 

Heart of Dallas  

12/26 at 1:30pm

West Virginia (7-5)     vs.    Utah (6-6)

As with my Marshall Thundering Herd I am completely biased when it comes to the Mountaineers. If quarterback Will Greer is able to come back from injury in time to play in this game I think he’ll lead the ‘Eers to an exciting victory. Without Greer it’s going to be tough sledding. I choose to think positively. Zach’s outlook is a bit more pessimistic. He doesn’t believe Greer will be healthy enough to play, and he has no faith in WVU’s defense.

My Pick:     West Virginia

Zach’s Pick:        Utah

 

Quick Lane (Detroit, MI)

12/26 at 5:15pm

Duke (6-6)          vs.             Northern Illinois (8-4)

Every single year, whether it’s called the Motor City Bowl, Little Caesar’s Bowl, or now the Quick Lane Bowl I poke fun at the fact that, while other teams get to go to cool places like Hawaii, The Bahamas, or Las Vegas, there are two teams that are rewarded for allegedly successful seasons with a trip to Detroit. I’ve never been there to be honest though. Perhaps it is nicer than I think?? Feedback is always welcome.

My Pick:     Northern Illinois

Zach’s Pick:        Duke

 

 

Cactus (Phoenix, AZ)

12/26 at 10pm             

UCLA (6-6)         vs.             Kansas State (7-5)

WVU fans were kind of hoping for another trip out west to this game, especially with an opportunity to face Bruins’ quarterback Josh Rosen, who could be the #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Alas, K-State gets that chance. Zach points out that Rosen can be somewhat inconsistent, but thinks he’ll play well in what is basically an NFL audition.

My Pick:     UCLA

Zach’s Pick:        UCLA

 

 

Independence (Shreveport, LA)

12/27 at 1:30pm          

Florida State (6-6)      vs.    Southern Mississippi (8-4)

The Seminoles have been bowl eligible for 36 straight seasons, which I’m pretty sure is some sort of record. However, head coach Jimbo Fisher has already left for Texas A&M, and All-American defensive back Derwin James will not play in the bowl game to protect his NFL Draft status. Despite all of that I have to think that the Golden Eagles would count beating Florida St. in a bowl game amongst their biggest all-time victories. Zach believes the upheaval in Tallahassee may serve as motivation for the team.

My Pick:     Southern Miss

Zach’s Pick:        Florida St.

 

 

Holiday (San Diego, CA)

12/28 at 9pm               

Michigan State (         9-3)            vs.              Washington State (9-3)

The Holiday Bowl has become one of my favorites over the years. Not only has it stubbornly held onto its cool & festive name, but it’s a west coast game which means late night football here in the east. What can I say…I’m easily amused. The Spartans have rebounded nicely from an abysmal 9-3 season in 2016, but the Cougars have top NFL prospect Luke Falk at quarterback. Zach likes Michigan St.’s defense better than he likes Falk.

My Pick:     Washington St.

Zach’s Pick:        Michigan St.

 

 

Gator (Jacksonville, FL)

12/30 at Noon             

Louisville (8-4)            vs.              Mississippi State (8-4)

As has become tradition I refuse to call this game by its corporate name. The Gator Bowl was just dandy for nearly seven decades, and I see no reason to change. 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson had, in my opinion, a fairly quiet season under center for the Cardinals, but he still managed another invite to the Downtown Athletic Club and finished a distant third in this year’s voting. The Bulldogs will be playing for an interim coach after Dan Mullen bounced to Gainesville, FL to helm the Gators.

My Pick:     Louisville

Zach’s Pick:        Louisville

 

Liberty (Memphis, TN)

12/30 at 12:30pm                 

Iowa State (7-5)          vs.              Memphis (10-2)

This is where most Mountaineer fans here in West Virginia wanted their team to play since it would’ve been a fairly easy drive, but the Cyclones got the nod instead. The Tigers have won atleast eight games in four straight seasons, and this is really a home game for them. Zach has high expectations for this to be a really good game.

My Pick:     Memphis

Zach’s Pick:        Memphis

 

Outback (Tampa, FL)

New Year’s Day at Noon              

Michigan (8-4)             vs.              South Carolina (8-4)

For its first eight years this was called the Hall of Fame Bowl, but for the past couple of decades it’s taken on the name of its sponsor Outback Steakhouse. As I’ve made clear I am not a fan of such things, but in this case I can atleast imagine that the game is an homage to Crocodile Dundee or kangaroos & koalas. The Wolverines & Spartans have been participants more than any other teams, so if the matchup seems familiar there’s a reason for that. Surprisingly Zach is picking against his beloved Wolverines because he just doesn’t feel like their offense is good enough.

My Pick:     Michigan

Zach’s Pick:        South Carolina

 

Peach (Atlanta, GA)

New Year’s Day at 12:30pm                  

Auburn (10-3)             vs.              Central Florida (12-0)

I was very tempted to bump this game up to Tier 3. The Tigers were just a whisper away from making the playoff until losing the SEC title game. The Knights are undefeated but getting very little respect because they play in one of those “other” conferences. I’ve been wondering aloud for years why Central Florida hasn’t become more of a collegiate sports powerhouse since the school itself is the largest university in the United States. Perhaps in the next round of conference realignment (you know it’s going to happen) they’ll be invited into the inner sanctum. The question is, despite their spotless record, can UCF compete on a big stage against an athletically superior opponent?? Head coach Scott Frost is leaving for his alma mater Nebraska, where he was a great quarterback in the mid-90’s, but it is my understanding that he might coach UCF one last time in the bowl game. I’d love to pick UCF, and I hope it turns out to be a really fantastic game, but I’m just not sure that’s the way this is going to go. Like me Zach loves what UCF has accomplished but doesn’t think this is a good matchup for them.

My Pick:     Auburn

Zach’s Pick:        Auburn

 

Citrus (Orlando, FL)

New Year’s Day at 1pm                

Notre Dame (9-3)        vs.              LSU (9-3)

The Irish really turned things around this season, improving tremendously from a 4-8 record last year. But let’s not forget the 2016 turmoil for the Bayou Bengals when they were 8-4 but fired their coach just a third of the way thru. Both programs seem to be on more familiar solid ground nowadays, which means that this might be a better game than expected.

My Pick:     LSU

Zach’s Pick:        LSU

 

 

 

Tier 3

 

Camping World (Orlando, FL)

12/28 at 5:15pm

Oklahoma State (9-3)          vs.    Virginia Tech (9-3)

This game was formerly known as the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Micron PC Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, & Russell Athletic Bowl. It’s had as many corporate sponsors as the Kardashians have had pro athlete boy toys. Despite my hatred for bowls with such names I cannot deny that the matchup is terrific. In my pre-season poll I ranked the Hokies 18th and had the Cowboys in the playoff conversation at 3rd. OK St. fell far short of my expectations, while VA Tech isn’t too far from where I predicted. My Mountaineers were a common opponent, unfortunately losing to both teams. The Hokies began the season by beating WVU by a touchdown, while the Cowboys won a high scoring shootout over the ‘Eers. I’d take the over on this one…if I was a gambling man.

My Pick:     Oklahoma St.

Zach’s Pick:        Oklahoma St.

 

Alamo (San Antonio, TX)

Dec. 28 at 9pm

Stanford (9-4)              vs.              TCU (10-3)

While neither team was ever a serious playoff contender they both played in their conference title games, where they came up short. Stanford running back Bryce Love has burst onto the scene and finished second in the Heisman race, which deserves props. This game is on at the same time as the Holiday Bowl, so I foresee a fun night of channel flipping in my future. Maybe I should buy some batteries. Zach thinks Love will have a big game.

My Pick:     Stanford

Zach’s Pick:        Stanford

 

Cotton (Arlington, TX)

12/29 at 8:30pm

Ohio State (11-2)                  vs.              USC (11-2)

I am shamelessly old-fashioned, and when I was a kid New Year’s Day meant the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, & Fiesta bowls were on. Those were the five best bowls then, and that’s what they remain in my mind. But with the playoff and a bunch of other factors all bets are off and nothing is like it once was. Progress?? I don’t know. Anyway, it weirds me out that this game is being played three days earlier than what I perceive as normal, but I’m sure no one important gives a rat’s petoot about my opinion. Did Ohio St. get screwed out of a playoff spot?? Well, on one hand I find it troubling that conference titles mean nothing to the committee. By definition one of the “power” conference champs will always be left on the outside looking in, and this year two of them didn’t make it, which feels wrong. On the other hand, the Buckeyes didn’t do themselves any favors when they got beat down by 30 points at Iowa last month. The committee could have overlooked the early season loss to Oklahoma, but such a resounding defeat to a mediocre opponent apparently made a huge difference, and wins against Army & UNLV didn’t help. The powers-that-be in Columbus have to do better when putting together the schedule. The Trojans, despite winning the Pac 12 title, weren’t serious playoff contenders due to a 35 point loss at Notre Dame in October. However, they’re riding a five game winning streak and QB Sam Darnold could be a first round pick if he declares for the NFL Draft. I expect this to be a moderately high scoring game…something with both teams hovering around 28-35 point range…with turnovers and (sadly) officiating making a difference. Zach is just thrilled that Ohio St. didn’t make the playoff.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Zach’s Pick:        USC

 

Fiesta (Glendale, AZ)

12/30 at 4pm

Washington (10-2)     vs.              Penn State (10-2)

I bumped this game up to Tier 3 specifically because of the presence of Nittany Lions’ running back Saquon Barkley. At one point he was the clear leader for the Heisman Trophy, and I took it for granted that he’d atleast be invited to New York. However, the Heisman is a numbers award, and Barkley only topped 100 yards rushing in four games. I still believe he’s the best running back in college football, and I’ll be interested to see what he can do in the NFL behind a legit offensive line, but I understand why he fell out of favor with the talking heads. The Huskies are a pretty darn good team too, so this game could be a lot of fun. Zach isn’t nearly as enthusiastic as me because he feels like both teams have been vastly overrated.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Zach’s Pick:        Penn St.

 

Orange (Miami, FL)

12/30 at 8pm

Miami (10-2)                vs.              Wisconsin (12-1)

Both teams fell short in their conference title games, so this is essentially a consolation game for just missing the playoff. The Badgers haven’t gotten much respect all season, but with early season victories over Utah St., Florida Atlantic, & BYU (teams with a combined total record of 20-18) I understand why folks have been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Still, if they would have beaten Ohio St. for the Big Ten championship and finished undefeated they would have probably made the playoff. The ‘Canes finished the season by dropping two games, including the ACC championship. But before that they vaguely resembled The U of the 80’s & 90’s. Miami is flash & speed, Wisconsin is old fashioned smashmouth football…a definite clash of styles. Both of us think size will outlast speed.

My Pick:     Wisconsin

Zach’s Pick:        Wisconsin

 

Rose (Pasadena, CA)

Playoff Semi-Final

New Year’s Day at 5 p.m.

Oklahoma          (12-1)         vs.              Georgia (12-1)

The first playoff semi features Heisman Trophy winning QB Baker Mayfield versus the SEC Champions. I’ve seen no shortage of people comparing Mayfield to former Heisman winner and NFL bust Johnny Manziel. However, as much as it pains me to say it since he does seem like kind of a prick, in my opinion Mayfield has a Bret Favre vibe. Keep in mind that Favre was a 2nd round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons before being traded to the Green Bay Packers, and you know the rest. Mayfield obviously has a higher profile than Favre did coming out of Southern Mississippi, but there are doubts about how his talent may fit into the NFL. At any rate, casual fans are probably more familiar with Oklahoma than Georgia because, despite spending some time at #1 this season, the Bulldogs have kind of flown under the radar a bit. I expect this game to be really enjoyable and very close, with turnovers & special teams making the difference. Zach believes in the old maxim that defense wins championships, and he thinks Georgia has a better defense.

My Pick:     Oklahoma

Zach’s Pick:        Georgia

 

Sugar (New Orleans, LA)

Playoff Semi-Final

New Year’s Day at 8:45 p.m.

Clemson (12-1)           vs.              Alabama (11-1)

In case you may have forgotten, this is a rematch of the past two national championship games. ‘Bama beat Clemson by five points a couple of years ago, and Clemson won with a last second touchdown a year ago. Does Alabama even deserve to be in this game?? It’s an interesting debate. I don’t like how the playoff committee has essentially rendered conference titles meaningless. The Tide didn’t lose the SEC championship game…they didn’t even play in it. But Ohio St,’s incomprehensible mid-season loss to Iowa was deemed to be a bigger faux pas than Alabama’s fairly close loss to Auburn. I don’t totally agree with the logic, but I understand it. I honestly thought that Clemson would decline just a little after QB Deshaun Watson moved on to the NFL, but the defending national champions have looked even more impressive this year. I’m not sure what happened at Syracuse back in mid-October, but that game was definitely an anomaly. I’m kind of tired of the Alabama hype myself, although I recognize that’s a fringe viewpoint. Conversely, I really like Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who seems like a genuinely good dude. Zach feels like ‘Bama has had some extra time to get healthy, and he just can’t go against Coach Saban.

My Pick:     Clemson

Zach’s Pick:        Alabama

 

 

National Championship (Atlanta GA)

January 8 at 8pm

My title game is Clemson vs. Oklahoma. Zach has Georgia vs. Alabama. ‘Bama has been there before (many times), and Saban’s experience in big games is the difference maker in Zach’s opinion. I also think coaching is a huge factor. I never thought Oklahoma would be so successful under first year head coach Lincoln Riley. The future is bright in Norman, OK if they can find a solid replacement at quarterback next season, but in this game I can’t overlook that this is Clemson’s third straight appearance and I think that experience is the deciding factor.

My Pick:     Clemson

Zach’s Pick:        Alabama

College Football Bowlapalooza 2014

College football wrapped up its regular season a couple of weeks ago, and now we have the opportunity to watch nearly 40 post-season bowl gamestrophy over the next few weeks. Some games will be more entertaining than others. Let me remind everyone that these picks are not part of our Pigskin Picks of Profundity and we do not utilize point spreads. There are just so many games, many of them featuring teams that we know very little about. Bowl season is quite unpredictable, and there are a plethora of variables. Some teams are playing for interim coaches. Some are disappointed about where they ended up. Some have a big chip on their shoulder, while others enjoy the fun aspects of the bowl experience a bit too much. Most of these teams will not have suited up for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. Having said all of that, we’ll give prognosticating these games a whirl. I am going back to an idea that I utilized a couple of years ago. I am dividing all bowl games into three tiers. Tier 1 are the more superfluous games, with second-rate matchups featuring uninteresting teams that will likely be enjoyed only by hardcore football fans and of course fans of the teams involved. Tier 2 games have the potential to be quite engaging. Most football fans will atleast check them out. Tier 3 is the good stuff. These are the games that nearly everyone is excited about and should provide several hours of quality gridiron action. Enjoy!!

Tier 1

New Orleans Bowl
Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
12/20 11am ESPN
I’m a Wolfpack fan, but there’s no denying that they’ve settled into a pattern of 7 win mediocrity the past few years after going 13-1 in 2010. I know very little about the Ragin’ Cajuns except they are one of what seems like dozens of college football teams in Louisiana. This is basically a home game for Lafayette, but old habits die hard. I’m going with Nevada. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Nevada Z’s Pick – Nevada

New Mexico Bowl
Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)
12/20 2pm ESPN
I have picked against Utah St. in previous bowl games because I didn’t know anything about them. But now I know that they’ve won their past two bowl games. That’s enough evidence for me. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Utah St. Z’s Pick – Utah St.

Potato Bowl (Boise, ID)
Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)
12/20 5:45pm ESPN
I suppose I’ll be all patriotic and pick the service academy. Zach likes the Falcons’ triple option and believes that’ll help them get the win.                     My Pick – Air Force Z’s Pick – Air Force

Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL)
South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)
12/20 9:15pm ESPN
A camellia…for those who may be wondering…is a type of flower. That’s cool. Atleast they didn’t name this game after some second-rate retail establishment or a publicity seeking restaurant. I’m a MAC fan so I’m going with the Falcons. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Bowling Green Z’s Pick – Bowling Green

Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2)
12/23 6pm ESPN
Oh where to begin. I was severely disappointed when my alma mater & the C-USA champions chose this game over another one in which they would have faced an admittedly mediocre Big Ten team. The knock on the Herd all season has been that their schedule was weak and they haven’t played any “power” conference teams. Like it or not perception matters in college football and I still believe that Marshall should have taken the opportunity to silence the doubters, even if it would have been against a 6-6 opponent. Having said all that I do have to admit that this will likely be a competitive contest. My residual bitterness about Marshall’s season ending in a low level post-season game on a Tuesday night instead of heading undefeated to a New Year’s Eve bowl or atleast a pedestrian matchup with a “power” conference foe may or may not dissipate in the next several days. Strangely enough Zach feels more loyalty to The Herd than I do, although he does have legitimate concerns about a defense that allowed 67 points to Western Kentucky…something that ruined the perfect season.
My Pick – n/a Z’s Pick – Marshall

Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego, CA)
Navy (6-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
12/23 9:30pm ESPN
So this is basically a home game for the Aztecs. Shouldn’t there be a rule against that?? Anyway, I suppose once again I’ll make the jingoistic choice. Zach is in agreement due to his affection for the triple option. My Pick – Navy Z’s Pick – Navy

Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Western Kentucky (7-5)
12/24 Noon ESPN
All I know is that Western Kentucky ruined Marshall’s perfect season…those bastards. I know even less about Central Michigan. I’m pretty unforgiving when I comes to sports, so I’m rooting for the Chippewas all the way. Zach likes WKU’s prolific offense.
My Pick – Central Michigan Z’s Pick – Western Kentucky

Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State (6-7) vs. Rice (7-5)
12/24 8pm ESPN
The NCAA oftentimes appears to be rather obtuse, but they are atleast smart enough to have figured out that if you’re going to have football teams be away from home on Christmas then they need to be enticed by exotic locales like The Bahamas and Hawaii. I have a huge problem with a team like Fresno St. going to a bowl game with a losing record, while other eligible teams with a .500 (i.e. not losing) record like Ohio U., Temple, & Middle Tennessee are staying at home. It’s not right. Pulling for Rice may be a meaningless & ineffective form of protest, but it’s all that I’ve got. The Bulldogs have screwed the pooch on three occasions this season when Zach picked them, so he’s understandably going in a different direction this time. My Pick – Rice Z’s Pick – Rice

Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5)
12/26 1pm ESPN
This is the game that my Marshall Thundering Herd should be playing in. Instead Louisiana Tech…the team that the Herd defeated in the C-USA title game…gets the opportunity to challenge a “power” conference team. Obviously the Illini aren’t that great, but they played teams like Wisconsin & Minnesota tough in losing efforts and beat both Penn St. & Northwestern. A shaky resume for sure…but I’ll take it. Zach think this will be a close game and likes Bulldogs’ QB Cody Sokol to snag a late victory. My Pick – Illinois Z’s Pick – Louisiana Tech

Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI)
Rutgers (7-5) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
12/26 4:30pm ESPN
This is the old Motor City/Little Caesars Bowl, now being sponsored by an auto shop subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company. I have a feeling most people will be at the mall exchanging the banal yet overpriced Christmas gifts they received from clueless friends & relatives rather than watching a completely superfluous football game. Zach thinks the Tar Heels’ special teams will make the difference.                                                                  My Pick – North Carolina Z’s Pick – North Carolina

St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State (7-5) vs. Central Florida (9-3)
12/26 8pm ESPN
This game would be much more interesting if it were being played in St. Petersburg, Russia instead of Florida. I had the Knights in my pre-season Top 25, and I’ll be darned if they didn’t almost get there. Ah well…close, horseshoes, hand grenades, etc. I suppose I’ll stick with them until the bitter end though. Zach is borrowing my philosophy about teams in better conferences being battle tested and therefore being prepared for games such as these.
My Pick – UCF Z’s Pick – NC St.

Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD)
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
12/27 1pm ESPN
Shouldn’t one of the academies be playing in this game?? Anyway, the Bearcats have been a much better team than the Hokies this season and I see no reason why that won’t continue here. Conversely, Zach believes Va. Tech has a better coaching staff and will win this game with a superior ground attack.
My Pick – Cincinnati Z’s Pick – Virginia Tech

Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, NY)
Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)
12/27 4:30pm ESPN
Hey look…it’s a game that could be played during every regular season if the people that ran the now defunct Big East football conference hadn’t been complete idiots. The Nittany Lions have had all sanctions removed, as if that pesky sexual abuse stuff never really happened. The NCAA should just go the extra step and restore all of Joe Paterno’s old records. The hook for this shindig is that it is played at Yankee Stadium. I suppose it’s better than playing in Detroit. Zach sees this as an even matchup, and believes that the Eagles’ rushing attack as well as their defensive line will make the difference. My Pick – Penn St. Z’s Pick – Boston College

Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC)
Georgia (9-3) vs. Louisville (9-3)
12/30 6:30pm ESPN
The Bulldogs had much higher hopes for 2014, but we knew someone would be the odd team out in the SEC. The Cardinals didn’t suffer too badly from the loss of QB Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL, and I must admit to being a bit surprised. Belk, for those who may be curious, is a department store chain on par with JC Penney’s, Dillard’s, & Kohl’s. We don’t have one where I live so I know nothing else. Anyway, I think Georgia will be ready to take their frustration & disappointment out on someone, and it looks like Louisville is the unfortunate victim. Zach is unimpressed with Louisville and thinks freshman backup RB Nick Chubb will have a breakout game for Georgia.
My Pick – Georgia Z’s Pick – Georgia

Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX)
Houston (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)
1/2 Noon ESPN
Soooo…we have a Military Bowl AND an Armed Forces Bowl?? Seems redundant. Anyway, I believe both of these teams will be playing for interim head coaches. The Cougars fired their coach and Pitt’s coach is leaving for Wisconsin. As a long time WV Mountaineer fan I can’t bring myself to cheer for the Panthers. Zach likes the Panthers’ rushing attack and believes it will help them prevail.
My Pick – Houston Z’s Pick – Pitt

Cactus Bowl (Tempe, AZ)
Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
1/2 10:15pm ESPN
This is the former Copper/Insight.com/Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. I like the new name much better. The Huskies fared quite well this season under new head coach Chris Peterson and the Pac 12 might want to look out in another year or two. The Cowboys fell off a bit after posting 9+ wins in 5 of the previous 6 seasons. I think this might be a shootout, and I’m picking the upset. Zach likes Washington to win easily.
My Pick – Oklahoma St. Z’s Pick – Washington

GoDaddy Bowl (Mobile, AL)
Toledo (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)
1/4 9pm ESPN
Those that have perused these bowl picks in previous years may recall my contempt for this particular game. It’s horribly named. GoDaddy is a website building company that can’t be taken seriously with that stupid moniker. Yes it is memorable & catchy…but it’s also juvenile & unprofessional. The game itself never features an engaging matchup, and it is played at the worst possible time. By January 4th the other bowls are over and all that remains is the national title game. Plus the NFL playoffs are underway. With all that going on in addition to the post-holidays resumption of ho-hum normalcy can anyone really be expected to give a hoot about Toledo and Arkansas St.?? I think not. Zach concurs My Pick – Toledo Z’s Pick – Toledo

Tier 2

Las Vegas Bowl
Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
12/20 3:30pm ABC
Okay…now things are beginning to heat up. This could very well be the best of the spate of games that begin the bowl season. As opposed to the poor guys who ended up in places like Detroit and Idaho for the post-season these teams get to go to Vegas. Vegas baby…Vegas!! The Rams have had a nice season and were a loss to Boise St. away from playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Their head coach has already departed for greener pastures with the Florida Gators, which puts them at a disadvantage. Zach believes that losing their coach will energize the Rams and they’ll secure the victory.                            My Pick – Utah Z’s Pick – Colorado St.

Miami Beach Bowl
BYU (8-4) vs. Memphis (9-3)
12/22 2pm ESPN
I think this is a brand new bowl game…as if we needed that. Atleast it’s a good matchup though. I think this will be a close contest that’ll be decided late in the 4th quarter. Zach sees big things on the horizon for the Cougars (might I suggest an invitation to join the Big 12) and thinks it starts with this game.
My Pick – BYU Z’s Pick – BYU

Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)
Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
12/27 2pm CBS
It’s Devils vs. Devils!! Did you know that the Sun Bowl is one of the 2nd oldest bowl games?? The Rose Bowl began in 1902, and the Sun, Sugar, & Orange Bowls were first played in 1935. I’m not sure how the Sugar & Orange Bowls have grown to be so much more prestigious than their solar-named brother. At any rate, I still think of Duke as a basketball school. Conversely, the Sun Devils have had a very nice year and were in the thick of the Pac 12 title race until the end. Zach foresees a blowout win for Arizona St.
My Pick – Arizona St. Z’s Pick – Arizona St.

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA)
Miami (FL) (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
12/27 3:30pm ABC
Not all that long ago this would have been a marquee matchup, but both programs have hit kind of a rough patch. The Hurricanes have been mired in mediocrity for about a decade, while it’s just a bad season for the Gamecocks. I refuse to believe that Steve Spurrier, given a month to practice & plan for a very average opponent, won’t be completely prepared. Zach thinks both teams have been inconsistent this season, but agrees that The Old Ball Coach will make the difference.
My Pick – South Carolina Z’s Pick – South Carolina

Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA)
Nebraska (9-3) vs. USC (8-4)
12/27 8pm ESPN
If this were the 80’s these teams might be competing for a national championship, but in the new reality of college football USC is still very good but hardly dominant, while the Cornhuskers are finding out that recruiting 5 star athletes to play in Lincoln, NE isn’t as easy as it was a few decades ago. Nebraska will be playing for an interim coach, while the Trojans seem poised to make another run at the top sooner rather than later. Zach isn’t sold on USC and believes this game is a toss-up.
My Pick – USC Z’s Pick – Nebraska

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN)
Texas A&M (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
12/29 2pm ESPN
The Aggies were knocked down a peg or two adjusting to life after Johnny Football, but still had a decent year. My Mountaineers are settling into life in the Big 12, but this may be their fate more often than not for the foreseeable future…a solid season rewarded with a December bowl game that will only draw mild interest. I’m actually looking forward to this game. The thing I notice more than anything about the much celebrated SEC is the overall speed of the teams. WVU might have a tough time matching that speed, but they’ll give it their best shot. Zach believes that A&M will shred the Mountaineers’ defense.
My Pick – West Virginia Z’s Pick – Texas A&M

Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Oklahoma (8-4) vs. Clemson (9-3)
12/29 5:30pm ESPN
Once upon a time this was the Blockbuster/MicronPC/CarQuest/Champ Sports Bowl. They seem to have an issue retaining consistent corporate sponsorship. At any rate, both teams were hoping for bigger & better things in 2014, but stuff happens. On paper this looks like it’ll be a fun, close contest. I hope that is the case. Oklahoma is beginning to have the same issues as Nebraska…just because they used to be elite 30 or 40 years ago doesn’t mean they are going to retain that status in the 21st century. Clemson benefits from playing in the ACC where only the defending national champion Florida St. Seminoles are consistently superior. I think this will be a low scoring game with lots of tough defense, but the Sooners will prevail in the end. Zach thinks Oklahoma’s offensive line will lead them to a crushing victory. My Pick – Oklahoma Z’s Pick – Oklahoma

Texas Bowl (Houston, TX)
Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6)
12/29 9pm ESPN
Despite the pedestrian name of the bowl and the matchup of two 6-6 teams this could be a real sleeper. Both programs have seen better days, but I believe that both will be successful again…eventually. I like the Razorbacks rushing attack to grind out a low scoring victory. Zach concurs.
My Pick – Arkansas Z’s Pick – Arkansas

Foster Farms Bowl (Santa Clara, CA)
Maryland (7-5) vs. Stanford (7-5)
12/30 10pm ESPN
Formerly known as the Fight Hunger/Walnut/Emerald Bowl, this game is now being played in the San Francisco 49ers brand new stadium. Foster Farms is a California poultry company. I hope that doesn’t mean the game will be a turkey. The Stanford campus is about a half hour away, so this is basically a home game for them. I think that’ll help make the difference in a fairly easy victory. Zach is all bent out of shape about Maryland’s lack of class & sportsmanship. I obviously missed something.
My Pick – Stanford Z’s Pick – Stanford

Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
Mississippi State (10-2) vs. Georgia Tech (10-3)
New Year’s Eve 8pm ESPN
I find it odd that the venerable Orange Bowl has been pushed back to New Year’s Eve. Ah well…atleast it won’t have to compete with the playoff semifinal games. The Bulldogs were in the national title hunt for awhile but must settle for this consolation prize. Tech is one of those mostly unexceptional programs that occasionally has a really good season. However, their failure to “upset” vastly overrated Florida St. in the ACC championship is troubling. I think Mississippi St. wins this game easily. Zach believes it’ll be a rather close contest, but likes Bulldogs’ QB Dak Prescott to lead his team to victory. My Pick – Mississippi St. Z’s Pick – Mississippi St.

Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Missouri (10-3) vs. Minnesota (8-4)
New Year’s Day 1pm ABC
It’s back!! Well okay…it never really left, but for the past decade this game was known by one of those horribly tacky corporate names. I’m glad that’s over. The combatants are two sneaky good teams that were overshadowed by well-known brands in their respective conferences. The Tigers probably have more team speed and I think that’ll make the difference. Zach is really interested in this game and believes that Missouri will win a close one late in the 4th quarter.
My Pick – Missouri Z’s Pick – Missouri

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL)
Iowa (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)
1/2 3:30pm ESPN
This game is officially known by one of the aforementioned crass corporate names, but I refuse to play along. It’s been the Gator Bowl since 1946 and it’ll stay that way in The Manoverse. In addition to the name BS the game is being played after New Year’s, which wouldn’t happen if I were in charge. The matchup is a little dubious as well. The Gator Bowl used to invite 9 or 10 win teams. This is the best they could do in 2014-15?? Having said all that, I think these are two solid teams that are a threat to be really good in any given season (just not this year). I think it’ll be a decent game…not a defensive battle but not a shootout either. The Voices are telling me special teams will be the difference in a Volunteers victory. Zach likes the Hawkeyes by a touchdown.
My Pick – Tennessee Z’s Pick – Iowa

Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina (8-4) vs. Florida (6-6)
1/3 1pm ESPN
I hate the unimaginative name of this bowl as well as its spot two days after New Year’s. Folks will have had their fill of collegiate gridiron action by now and will be concentrating on the NFL playoffs and the national title game. However, one cannot overlook the fact that at one time the Pirates were in the running for the “access” bowl, i.e. the bone thrown to the best team among the non-power conferences, before going 2-3 in the latter part of the season. The Gators will be playing under an interim head coach since Will Muschamp was fired (and has since become the defensive coordinator for Auburn). I’m not sure who is considered the underdog. East Carolina has the better record, but Florida is battle tested in the SEC. I am known to pull for the little guy, so I suppose I’ll do that. Zach has very little interest in this game but believes Florida will win easily.
My Pick – East Carolina Z’s Pick – Florida

Tier 3

Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN)
Notre Dame (7-5) vs. LSU (8-4)
12/30 3pm ESPN
Normally these are two teams that would be aiming for a much more valuable prize, but they just so happened to have both had an off year. Kudos to the powers-that-be in Nashville for putting together what is still an intriguing matchup despite what the mundane records might indicate. Neither team has much momentum coming into the post-season, with the Irish on a four game losing streak and the Bayou Bengals losers of 2 out of their last 3. It’s all about pride and trying to build on something positive heading into 2015. Zach has nothing but contempt for both teams, but thinks LSU will win easily. My Pick – LSU Z’s Pick – LSU

Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA)
Ole Miss (9-3) vs. TCU (11-1)
New Year’s Eve 12:30pm ESPN
Both teams were in the thick of the playoff hunt. Many still believe that TCU should be one of the final four. Now it’s time for both clubs to prove themselves. If the Horned Frogs win it’ll add fuel to the argument that they should have been included in the playoff. A Rebels victory would end a mostly positive season on a high note after dropping 3 out of their last 4 regular season games. I’m not totally sold on either team, but I’m going to pick the upset. Zach is one who believes the Horned Frogs got screwed by the playoff committee, and thinks that QB Trevone Boykin will lead TCU to a late win. My Pick – Ole Miss Z’s Pick – TCU

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ)
Boise State (11-2) vs. Arizona (10-3)
New Year’s Eve 4pm ESPN
I’m really looking forward to this game. It is unfortunate that it’ll be played at 4pm on New Year’s Eve when most folks are on their way home from work and preparing to go out and celebrate the holiday. Like the Orange Bowl the Fiesta is typically played on New Year’s Day in prime time, but the playoff has changed most of the traditional rules. Anyway, the Broncos have proven that they can go toe to toe with the big boys. The “new reality” of college football will likely dictate a move for them to one of the “power” conferences” in the near future (may I suggest the Big 12…which currently has ten teams), but that’s down the line. As far as this game goes, I certainly think Boise St. can hang with the Wildcats, who will essentially be playing a home game. Can they pull off the upset?? I’m predicting a high scoring (over 80 points combined) shootout, with the Broncos winning a squeaker. Zach likes Arizona’s high-powered offense and thinks they’ll win easily.
My Pick – Boise St. Z’s Pick – Arizona

Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL)
Auburn (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)
New Year’s Day Noon ESPN2
I was really high on the Badgers…until they got blasted in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) title game by Ohio St. Then their head coach bolted…for Oregon St. I pretty much nailed Auburn’s season in my pre-season rankings. They’re good, but not at the level they were at a year ago. This should be a really competitive contest, and I’m not at all concerned with Wisconsin’s coaching situation since former coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is temporarily at the helm. I think the Badgers were humiliated in that conference championship game and will be motivated to prove their worth. Conversely, Zach thinks the game will become ugly early, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (Heisman runner-up) will be shut down, & Auburn QB Nick Marshall will have a great game.
My Pick – Wisconsin Z’s Pick – Auburn

Cotton Bowl (Arlington, TX)
Michigan State (10-2) vs. Baylor (11-1)
New Year’s Day 12:30pm ESPN
As former pro wrestling announcer Jim Ross might say, this is going to be a real slobberknocker. Lots of people believe that Baylor deserved a spot in the playoff. The Spartans had a lot of buzz coming into the season but an early November loss to Ohio St. doomed their playoff chances. Baylor’s campus in Waco, TX is less than a hundred miles from the Palace in Dallas, so I expect they’ll have a notable home field advantage. I also think that the Bears will be hellbent on proving that they should have had the opportunity to play for the national championship. Zach, on the other hand, likes the Spartan defense to shut down Baylor and win by 7-10 points.
My Pick – Baylor Z’s Pick – Michigan St.

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) – Playoff Semifinal
Oregon (12-1) vs. Florida State (13-0)
New Year’s Day 5pm ESPN
Here we go with the four team playoff for the national title. As much as I have complained (with good reason) about the playoff committee and their methodology I must admit that I have no problem with the four teams selected. I think the Seminoles have been far more lucky than good in 2014 but I believe their luck will run out here. The Ducks can match…and probably exceed…Florida St.’s team speed, and though I’m no Mel Kiper Jr. or Todd McShay I will opine that I’d take Oregon QB & Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota over Florida St. QB & former Heisman winner Jameis Winston with no hesitation. Zach has reservations about Oregon’s defense but is still picking them to make it to the championship game. My Pick – Oregon Z’s Pick – Oregon

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) – Playoff Semifinal
Alabama (12-1) vs. Ohio State (12-1)
New Year’s Day 8:30pm ESPN
There was some thought that the playoff committee wouldn’t put Ohio St. in as the #4 seed because they are down to their 3rd string quarterback. That would have been completely unfair and I am glad the committee didn’t fall victim to that logic. However, the facts can’t be ignored when it comes to this game. The Buckeyes’ defense would have to play the game of their lives to secure a victory. Is that out of the realm of possibility?? No…but it isn’t likely. ‘Bama just has too much size & athleticism in the trenches, and their ground game may be slowed a bit but it won’t be stopped. This feels like a low scoring affair (under 40 total points), with the Tide grinding out a close victory. To say that Zach has disdain for Ohio St. would be like saying President Obama is slightly unethical or Gigli wasn’t a great film. He doesn’t believe the Buckeyes belong anywhere near the playoff and is hoping that Alabama hangs 100 points on them.
My Pick – Alabama Z’s Pick – Alabama

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX)
Kansas State (9-3) vs. UCLA (9-3)
1/2 6:45pm ESPN
I’m not sure when the Alamo Bowl became significant enough to get a post-New Year’s prime time (kind of) time slot, but there is no denying that this is an attractive matchup. The Bruins were in the hunt for a Pac 12 title until an inexplicable home loss to Stanford in the final game of the regular season. The Wildcats fought hard in the Big 12 but couldn’t overcome TCU & Baylor. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is the likely difference in a fun & competitive contest. Zach isn’t a bit impressed by UCLA and is picking K St. to win big.
My Pick – UCLA Z’s Pick – Kansas St.

National Championship (Arlington, TX)
Oregon/Florida St. vs. Alabama/Ohio St.
1/12 TBD ESPN

Oregon-DucksI am predicting an Oregon vs. Alabama title game, which is the matchup that I am pretty sure most folks want to see. Zach AlabamaCrimsonTide2agrees. Can ‘Bama’s defense, ranked 4th in the nation in points allowed, stop QB Marcus Mariota and the 3rd ranked scoring offense in the country?? Will the Ducks’ defense be able to stop the Tide’s ground game, led by TJ Yeldon & Derrick Henry?? Can ‘Bama WR Amari Cooper (who finished third in Heisman voting) escape probable double coverage and make some big plays?? I think it’ll be a close game for 3 quarters, but eventually Mariota will be able to hit a few long bombs and the Ducks will pull away for the surprising victory. Zach believes that Alabama’s experience on the big stage will make the difference.
My Pick – Oregon Z’s Pick – Alabama

A Look at the 2012-13 Bowl Season

In 1914 Yale University built a football stadium. It was the first bowl shaped stadium in the country and the prototype for what we take for granted as the typical stadium today. During this time there was only one college football post-season game to decide a national champion. It was played in Pasadena, CA and sponsored by the Roses Association, which had begun a New Year’s Day parade in 1890 and started the football tradition in 1902. By 1923 the game was such a 225px-Yale_Bowl_aerialhuge success that a new & bigger stadium was needed. The builders used the Yale Bowl as a template and called their stadium the Rose Bowl. The game played there became known as the Rose Bowl game. In 1933 some folks in Miami, FL thought that college football could stand to have another post-season game. They decided to capitalize on the popularity of the Rose Bowl by calling their game the Orange Bowl. Soon after the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas were born. The rest is history. And now you know why bowl games are called bowl games. As always I am here not only to entertain but to educate.

At any rate, I am trying something a bit different this year. I have broken down the plethora of bowl games into three tiers. Tier 3 consists of worthless games for which I can barely muster enough interest to even bother making a pick. Even as a huge football fan I doubt I’ll be watching them, and you probably won’t either. Surely there is a better way to spend one’s time, like self-mutilation or renting Mariah Carey’s Golden Raspberry award winning performance in 2001’s Glitter on DVD. Tier 2 games are largely mediocre and superfluous, but there are some decent matchups that might actually be somewhat entertaining. The Tier 3 games are the crème de la crème, the kings of the hill, the top o’ the heap. Unlike my Pigskin Picks of Profundity I will not be utilizing any point spreads. These are just straight up, win or lose, all or nothing prognostications. It is unlikely that means that’ll I’ll do any better though. As a matter of fact my picks will probably be mostly wrong as usual so as always, please, no wagering. Enjoy, and happy holidays!!

 

 

Tier 3

 

 

Potato Bowl – 12/15

Toledo (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2)

This used to be known as the Humanitarian Bowl and is played on the famous blue turf in Boise, Idaho, which is the game’s only redeeming quality. I’ll take the Rockets to win convincingly.

 

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl  –  12/21

UCF (9-4) vs. Ball State (9-3)

Beef O’Brady’s is a sports bar franchise in Florida and other southern states. The game itself is played in St. Petersburg (i.e. Tampa), FL. Yeah, I know…no one cares. I think Central Florida wins the game.

 

Las Vegas Bowl – 12/22

Boise State (10-2) vs. Washington (7-5)

Hey, atleast this game has a cool location. The Broncos are making their 3rd straight appearance after a huge Fiesta Bowl win in 2007.  Since they’ve won the past two quite easily I see no reason not to believe they’ll win again.

 

Hawaii Bowl – Christmas Eve

SMU (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3)

The game may not hold much interest for the casual fan, but kudos to these two teams for parlaying their mediocrity into a trip to Hawaii for Christmas. Mele Hula Dance 3Kalikimaka indeed. I’ll take the Bulldogs.

 

Little Caesars Bowl – 12/26

Western Kentucky (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (6-6)

Congratulations second-rate teams from second-rate conferences…you get to go to Detroit for Christmas!! Seriously…this is about a half step above an NAIA game. When did Western Kentucky upgrade from 1-AA?? I must have missed that. Anyway, I’ll take the Chippewas.

 

Military Bowl – 12/27

Bowling Green (8-4) vs. San Jose State (10-2)

Ummm…shouldn’t one of the military academies be playing in this game?? I assume Army would have been playing here…if they’d managed to attain more than 2 victories. I like the quality of football played in the MAC, so I’ll go with Bowling Green for the win.

 

Belk Bowl – 12/27

Duke (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3)

Belk is a Carolina based department store chain found in the southern U.S. The game itself was formerly known as the Queen City Bowl, the Continental Tire Bowl, and the Meineke Car Care Bowl. It’s a shame the Bearcats couldn’t score a more significant contest after a 9 win season. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils have all the sudden upgraded their football program from comatose to average, so good job. Even considering the fact that coach Butch Jones has bolted for Tennessee I’d be stunned if Cincinnati didn’t win by double digits.

 

Meineke Car Care Bowl – 12/28

Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Just because Charlotte’s game is now called the Belk Bowl doesn’t mean the Meineke people are out of the football business. They simply changed their sponsorship to this game in Houston. I am more familiar with Hayden Fox’s fictional Minnesota St. Screaming Eagles than the real life Minnesota Golden Gophers, but I have seen the Red Raiders play a few times this season so that’s the pick.

 

Russell Athletic Bowl – 12/28

Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Rutgers (9-3)

This is the former Blockbuster Bowl, CarQuest Bowl, and MicronPC Bowl. The folks in Orlando change bowl sponsorships more often than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends. At any rate, the big question to me here is what in the world happened to Virginia Tech this year?? From 2004-2011 they won 10 or 11 games every season. They haven’t been this mediocre since a two win season in 1992. Meanwhile, Rutgers is preparing to move to The Big Ten and exiting The Big East on a high note. In any other year the Hokies would be an easy choice, but it seems like the two teams have reversed roles this year, so I’ll take the Scarlet Knights.

 

Armed Forces Bowl – 12/29

Rice (6-6) vs. Air Force (6-6)

It doesn’t get any more mediocre than two 6-6 teams that, if I were in charge, would not even be playing a post-season game. Teams shouldn’t be rewarded for simply breaking even. I honestly know next to nothing about either of these clubs, and I am tempted to pick Rice in honor of my friend The Owl, but I think I’ll go with Air Force.

 

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl  – 12/29

Arizona State (7-5) vs. Navy (7-4)

Hey…atleast these two teams both won 7 games and have winning records, so that’s an improvement, right?? I’d love nothing more than to support our military academies, but in this case I just think that the Sun Devils have played a tougher schedule and shouldn’t have any problems with the Midshipmen.

 

Music City Bowl – New Year’s Eve

North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)

I think most people have better things to do on New Year’s Eve than watch these two middle-of-the-road teams play in a middle-of-the-road bowl game. I do like NC St.’s QB Mike Glennon, who a lot of “experts” are saying has a decent shot to be a good NFL quarterback. That’s enough for me to give the Wolfpack the nod.

 

Liberty Bowl – New Year’s Eve

Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)

The records are probably a little misleading. Tulsa won 10 games but plays in C-USA. Iowa St. plays in the much tougher Big 12. I’ll take the Cyclones in what I guess would be considered an upset.

 

Sun Bowl – New Year’s Eve

Georgia Tech (6-7) vs. USC (7-5)

Can someone please explain to me why in the world a team with a LOSING record is being allowed to play in a bowl game?? This is especially aggravating when one considers the fact that a 9-3 Louisiana Tech team did not receive any kind of bowl invite and will be home for the holidays. That is insane and it’s just plain wrong. I know this season hasn’t exactly turned out the way the folks at Southern Cal had hoped (they were pre-season #1 in many polls), and the final insult is being forced to play an opponent with such an atrocious record. The only thing that can make this right is the Trojans winning this game in a h-u-g-e way.

 

Compass Bowl – 1/5

Pitt (6-6) vs. Mississippi (6-6)

Let me restate my annual joke about this bowl: Shouldn’t the game pit two directional schools against one another?? Anyway, as a lifelong WV Mountaineer fan compassI cannot in good conscience cheer for the hated Pitt Panthers, which works out just fine since they suck anyway. I’ll take Ole Miss in this one.

 

GoDaddy.com Bowl – 1/6

Kent State (11-2) vs. Arkansas State (9-3)

I hate this bowl game on a multitude of levels, not the least of which is the fact that it usually (and this year is no exception) features two teams that absolutely no one gives a damn about nearly a week after the season should have been over and all anyone is concentrating on is the following day’s National Championship Game. That being said, I suppose the smart play is to pick Kent to win handily.

 

 

 

 

Tier 2

 

Poinsettia Bowl – 12/20

BYU (7-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3)

The Cougars acquitted themselves quite nicely as an independent, with victories over…well, okay…they didn’t actually beat anyone of note, but they did garner 7 victories. The Aztecs defeated both Boise St. and Nevada, which is impressive. However, I am nothing if not loyal, and since I had BYU in my pre-season Top 25 I am going to stick with them here.

 

New Orleans Bowl  –  12/22

Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) vs. East Carolina (8-4)

Here we have two teams that don’t receive much recognition because of the subpar conferences in which they play and the mostly weak schedules they have, but two teams that I guarantee you few schools would want to face as out-of-conference opponents. This should be a high scoring, fun game. Maybe we’ll get really lucky and something wacky will happen like they’ll go into 5 overtimes. The Pirates were another one of my pre-season Top 25 picks that didn’t quite go as well as I’d hoped, but I’ll pick them anyway.

 

New Mexico Bowl – 12/15

Nevada (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5)

Now this should be a fun game to watch. It seems like both of these teams are better than their records would indicate, they’ve just been inconsistent. I don’t really want to cheer for a team coached by that assclown Rich Fraudriguez, but as much as I like the Wolfpack the Wildcats have a better resume and have been battle tested in a better conference. Arizona is the pick.

 

Holiday Bowl – 12/27

Baylor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4)

This is the game that West Virginia fans were hoping the Mountaineers would land in. Instead the powers-that-be chose Baylor. Ah well…c’est la vie. I think the Bruins are clearly the better team, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t win.

 

Independence  Bowl – 12/28

Louisiana-Monroe (8-4) vs. Ohio (8-4)

At first glance this looks like a completely forgettable matchup. However, I have seen both of these teams play a couple of times this season and something tells me this’ll be a really fun game. It isn’t as if these are two teams that just broke even and barely got into the post-season…they are both 8 win teams. I really like what coach Frank Solich has done with the Bobcats, although I am concerned that they come into this contest in the midst of a 3 game losing streak. Conversely, not only are the Warhawks riding a 2 game winning streak, but they have an impressive resume, having played both Auburn & Baylor extremely tough in close losses. It’s a real toss-up, but I’ll go with Ohio U.

 

Pinstripe Bowl – 12/29

Syracuse (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)

Most Mountaineer fans aren’t the least bit excited about this game. It was bad enough that a potential national championship run and a legitimate Heisman depressioncandidacy for QB Geno Smith were derailed by a 5 game midseason swoon due to an atrocious defense, but once things got back on track rumors had the Eers headed to either the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio or the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Then this game entered the picture and the rumor became a possible revival of The Backyard Brawl against Pitt. Unfortunately Panther fans don’t even bother to fill Heinz Field during the season let alone travel to a bowl game, so now a season once filled with so much promise for WVU ends against Syracuse in New York in December. Most of the time I’d rather receive a Brazilian wax from a blind transvestite than watch any game involving Syracuse. Geno, offensive spark plug Tavon Austin, & WR Stedman Bailey deserved so much better than this. I’ll be disappointed if West Virginia doesn’t hang damn near 100 points on the Orange and win by 50 points.

 

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – 12/29

Michigan State (6-6) vs. TCU (7-5)

Ehhh…more mediocrity from two teams who have certainly had better years.  This is the old Copper Bowl, which then became the Insight Bowl. It is played in Arizona, which means TCU will probably have more fans there. So I guess I’ll go with the Horned Frogs.

 

Chick-fil-A Bowl – New Year’s Eve

LSU (10-2) vs. Clemson (10-2)

I like Chick-fil-A a lot, but being a traditionalist I would prefer that this game go back to being known as the Peach Bowl.  Anyway, these are two solid teams and we should be treated to a great game. I think LSU is the better club though since they are battle tested in the ultra tough SEC, while Clemson plays in the somewhat less impressive ACC.

 

Heart of Dallas  –  New Year’s Day

Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)

This is the new kid on the bowl block, having first been played in 2011. It was known then as the TicketCity Bowl. When I was a kid New Year’s Day games were reserved for the very best teams. I guess those days are gone. Anyway, I don’t think the Cowboys should have any problem winning this game.

 

Gator Bowl – New Year’s Day

Northwestern (9-3) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)

Two solid teams that were battled tested in good conferences. This might be a real sleeper insofar as it’ll probably be overlooked amid all the other games with bigger names, but it has the potential to steal the show. I’ll go with the Wildcats to get the victory.

 

Sugar Bowl – 1/2

Florida (11-1)  vs.  Louisville (10-2)

This is going to be a better game than most people think, but as much as I like Louisville there is no doubt that the Gators play a much tougher schedule and have a lot more talent. Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong was the leading candidate for the Tennessee coaching position but decided to stay put, which is commendable. I am very tempted to pick an upset, but I just can’t pull the trigger. I don’t think it will be a blowout, but I do expect Florida to win.

 

Orange Bowl – New Year’s Day 

Florida St. (11-2)         vs.  Northern Illinois (12-1)

Lots of talking heads have had their knickers in a twist about this game. They tend to view college football as an exclusive club where the only teams that count are Notre Dame, the SEC, the Big Ten, the Pac 12, and maybe half the teams from the ACC & Big 12. Northern Illinois is looked at as an outsider that doesn’t belong in the club. Are the Seminoles bigger, faster, stronger, and more athletic?? To a large degree yes they are. But I do think that the Huskies deserve a little more respect than they are getting. Having said that, I think Florida St wins & wins big.

 

National Championship Game – 1/7 

Notre Dame (12-0)      vs.    Alabama (12-1)          

99% of football fans in America are beyond excited about this game. For probably the only time in my life I am actually in the 1%. You see, I am an underdog 1-foam-hand-12-szsp2661041-378x386kind of guy. I need a little guy, a lovable loser type to root for. There is no such animal in this matchup. These are two of the elite programs in the history of college football, with something like 27 national championships between them. This is the Tide’s 3rd title game in 4 years. Notre Dame is back on top for the first time since 1988-89. I have searched deeply for something to cheer about here, and the two things that I’ve come up with are…stunningly…in Notre Dame’s favor. First of all, I have been truly impressed with Irish linebacker Manti Te’o. He seems like a genuinely good guy and someone very deserving of his accolades. Secondly, as most citizens of the Manoverse know, I am a big fan of ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning (back to back Sammy Award winner for Best TV Show). Mike Golic’s two sons Mike Jr. & Jake are both seniors for Notre Dame. It doesn’t seem likely that either will follow their father’s or their uncle Bob Golic’s footsteps into the NFL, so this is it for them. Knowing how great it’d be for the Golics to win this game makes me smile ever so slightly, enough to…for probably the first & last time in my life…pull for the Irish.

       

 

 

 

Tier 1

 

Alamo Bowl – 12/29

Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)

I wish West Virginia were playing in this game, but I have to admit that they ended up with quite a good matchup. Both of these teams showed flashes during the season but were just inconsistent. I think this’ll be a shootout with the Beavers coming out on top.

 

Capital One Bowl – New Year’s Day

Georgia (11-2) vs. Nebraska (10-3)

This is the old Tangerine Bowl which then became the Florida Citrus Bowl. I am loathe to comment on a game actually named after a credit card, but I’ll ignore 0the sudden tics I am experiencing a forge ahead. Georgia was THIS close to beating Alabama and making it to the title game, but had an inexplicable brain fart. Nebraska got pasted in the Big Ten championship by Wisconsin and lost out on an opportunity to go to The Rose Bowl. So neither team is playing where they’d really prefer to be playing. This isn’t necessarily a bad consolation prize though, and fans should be the big winners. I think Nebraska is a decent team, but they were exposed on several fronts by Wisconsin. Georgia might have an eye on a pre-season 2013 Top 5 ranking if they win this game, so I’ll go with the Bulldogs.

 

Outback Bowl – New Year’s Day

South Carolina (10-2) vs. Michigan (8-4)

I really thought these teams would have better seasons. I had both in my pre-season top 3. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be an extremely entertaining game to watch, chockfull of big plays and touchdowns. On paper the Gamecocks clearly look like the better team, but the vibes are speaking to me again and saying to pick Michigan. And of course I always listen to The Voices.

 

Cotton Bowl – 1/4

Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (10-2)

The Aggies acquitted themselves quite nicely in their inaugural SEC season, even beating then #1 ‘Bama. Freshman QB Johnny Manziel has taken the college football world by storm. Meanwhile, the Sooners actually had higher hopes. There are very few teams in America for whom a 10 win season is a disappointment, but Oklahoma is one of them. It’ll be interesting to see how Johnny Football does against the Sooner defense. Can he duplicate the results he produced against the Tide?? I’d love to see that, and I think it just might happen. I’m going with A&M in a squeaker.

 

Rose Bowl – New Year’s Day 

Stanford  (11-2)          vs.    Wisconsin  (8-5)

Yikes…has an 8 win team ever played in The Granddaddy?? Thanks to the…indiscretions…at Penn St. & Ohio St. the Badgers got the opportunity to play in the red-roses-photoBig Ten title game and took full advantage by blasting Nebraska. Meanwhile Stanford plugged right along with another stellar season even after losing QB Andrew Luck to the NFL. I suppose Wisconsin can’t be completely discounted given what they accomplished to get here, but I don’t think they can do that two games in a row, especially since their head coach just bolted to Arkansas. Stanford should win easily.

 

Fiesta Bowl – 1/3  

Kansas St. (11-1)       vs.    Oregon (11-1)

This should have been the national championship game. These are two of the most exciting teams on the college football landscape, and if not for the Wildcats shocking stumble against Baylor and Oregon’s overtime loss to Stanford they’d be playing for the big trophy. If the 4 team playoff that begins in a couple of years were already in place one or both teams would almost certainly be in it. Alas, there is no use looking ahead or crying over spilled milk. The winner here will probably finish #2 in the final poll, which is a fine accomplishment. I expect a high scoring affair so if you’re the betting kind the over is probably a safe pick. At the end of the day I think Oregon’s speed will be just a bit too much for K-St., and I expect the Ducks to have the edge in special teams as well. Oregon will win, but it’ll be close and loads of fun.

 

2011-12 NCAA Bowl Prognostications

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.

 

 

 

New Mexico

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.

 

Potato

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.

 

New Orleans

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.

 

Poinsettia

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.

 

Las Vegas

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.

 

Hawaii

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.

 

Independence

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.

 

Little Caesars

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.

 

Belk

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.

 

Military

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.

 

Holiday

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.

 

Champs Sports

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.

 

Alamo

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.

 

 

 

Armed Forces

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.

 

Pinstripe

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.

 

Music City

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.

 

Insight

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.

 

Meineke

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.

 

Sun

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.

 

Liberty

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.

 

Fight Hunger

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.

 

Chick-fil-A

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.

 

TicketCity

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.

 

Outback

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.

 

Capital One

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.

 

Gator

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.

 

Rose

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.

 

Fiesta

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.

 

Sugar

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.

 

Orange

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.

 

Cotton

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.

 

Compass

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.

 

GoDaddy.com

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.

A Look At The College Bowl Games

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.

New Mexico

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.

St. Petersburg

UCF      vs.       Rutgers

This is basically a home game for Central Florida. I’ll take the Knights in a competitive contest.

New Orleans

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.

Las Vegas

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.

Poinsettia

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.

Hawaii

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.

Little Caesars

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.

Emerald

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.

Music City

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.

Independence

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.

EagleBank

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.

Champs Sports

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.

Humanitarian

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.

Holiday

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.

Armed Forces

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.

Sun

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.

Texas

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.

Insight

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.

Chick-fil-A

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.

Outback

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.

Capital One

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.

Gator

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.

Rose

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.

Sugar

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.

International

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.

Papajohns.com

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.

Cotton

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.

Liberty

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.

Alamo

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.

Fiesta

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.

Orange

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.

GMAC

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.

A Plan to Save College Football

There’s an old adage that says “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. College football, to my knowledge, is as popular and successful as ever, so I suppose many would say why mess with a good thing. However, as a lifelong diehard fan of the sport, I truly feel it can be better. While many of the changes that have evolved during the course of my lifetime haven’t seemed to negatively impact business that does not necessarily mean that these changes have been positive. Monetary concerns have interfered in ways that have made college football a corporate sacrificial lamb while decreasing competitiveness and parity. Decisions are based on business considerations more than what’s best for the on-the-field product. These things may not significantly affect one’s enjoyment of the game on Saturday, but there is a cloud of self-indulgent self-interest hanging over the sport that has cheapened it somewhat and made even the most hardcore fan a bit cynical. I believe there are a few ways we can bring back atleast the appearance of virtue and tradition that is slowly and sadly evaporating.

1 Conference Realignment

Blame it on shrewd marketing, blame it on ESPN, blame it on whomever else you wish…..but the fact is that what we have right now in college football is about four conferences that matter, a few that used to matter but have fallen on rough times, and several others who are like the kid brother that desperately wants to play with the older kids but gets either knocked around or completely overlooked. We have craziness like the Big 10 having eleven teams, the ACC having a team like Boston College that’s nowhere near the Atlantic Coast for which the conference is named, and Conference USA having teams stretching across 1000 miles, from West Virginia to Texas. We have teams switching conferences like they’re a sorority girl sleeping her way through the campus until she finds the guy who’ll buy her the best gifts. Someone needs to stop the madness. The NCAA needs to act like the overseer it is supposed to be and stop letting individual conferences act selfishly while hurting the big picture. I will put forth details in a future series. For now I will just say that my conference realignment will take into consideration things like geography, traditional rivalries, and competitive balance. It will also keep an eye on how the conferences fit into the ultimate goal of crowning a legitimate national champion.

2 Eleven Game Season

For years college football teams played 11 games. Then the powers-that-be figured out that a 12th game would make them more money. This 12th game usually entails a powerhouse big conference team playing against a cupcake, a team from a much smaller and less competitive school, oftentimes from a lower division. It’s a win-win for the two schools involved. The smaller school gets paid a hefty sum for the game, money that goes into the school’s coffers and is undoubtedly spent on much needed projects most of the time. The smaller school also gets the added benefit of exposure, something that never hurts. And occasionally, as in Appalachian State’s remarkable upset of Michigan in 2007, the underdog wins which is just the cherry on top. The bigger school almost always gets an easy win to pad their schedule, something which is much more beneficial than it should be. In 2007 Ohio State beat 3 cupcakes (Youngstown St., Akron, and Kent St.) by an average of 32 points en route to an 11-1 regular season and a spot in the championship game, while other teams with tougher schedules but atleast 1 more loss were left on the outside looking in. The bigger team also gets the benefit of these types of games being on their home turf which enables them to make a lot of their money back since college football fans, being much more rabid and loyal than fans of pro teams, will sell out a 50 or 75 thousand seat stadium regardless of whether or not the game is actually good. The only losers are the fans, who will spend our hard earned money to attend or our precious time to watch these insipid and meaningless contests. I say bring the regular season back to 11 games…..2 or 3 non-conference games and 8 or 9 conference games. This would also give teams an incentive not to waste their precious few out of conference opportunities on games that, under my system, would hurt their strength of schedule and therefore their chance to make it into the playoff (more on that later).

3 One Poll

We have too many polls, too many voices telling us who should be #1. This has even lead in the past to a split national championship, where different teams were voted as the top dog by the writers and the coaches. The situation is worse now than it has ever been, even though the convoluted BCS system was supposed to achieve the goal of an undisputed champion. The BCS is itself comprised of a half dozen polls that require a PhD in mathematics to decipher. Add to that the fact that the Associated Press, one of the older and more respected rankings, opted out of the current system a couple years ago thereby re-opening the possibility of having two different championship teams. It’s just a mess. I am also of the opinion that a coaches’ poll is itself somewhat specious, with too many opportunities for jealousy, adversarial relationships, and revenge to inject themselves into the equation. What I propose is one poll made up of some acceptable mix of media, coaches, former players, and maybe even knowledgeable citizens with no ties to the sport itself. There could even be a mathematical component introduced that takes into consideration things like strength of schedule and point differential. In other words many of the same things that go into current polls, but all combined into one poll instead of several.

4 Notre Dame Isn’t Special

Notre Dame needs to be forced to join a conference immediately. Sorry Irish fans, but Knute Rockne and The Gipper are dead and it’s not the 1940’s anymore. It’s a real mystery to me why the sports media and the NCAA bend over backward in this day and age to put a product on a pedestal that’s really not that great of a product anymore. There are atleast a dozen teams who have been more successful than Notre Dame in the past 25 years and all of them are in conferences. Notre Dame has a winning tradition, a rich history, and a name brand that draws national interest and I am not disputing that. What I am saying though is that several other teams can lay claim to similar success, most of them more recent and relevant, and none of them expect the preferential treatment that the Irish demand. It’s time for Notre Dame to stop thinking it is somehow better than everyone else, join a conference, and play by the same rules as all the others. After all, a team that has a 58% winning percentage the past 4 years and a not much more impressive 65% over the past 3 decades doesn’t have that much legitimate leverage. In comparison, over the same 30 year time span, Ohio State has a winning percentage of 75%, USC 71%, and Florida State 78%. All of those teams are in a conference, so why should an exception be made for Notre Dame??

5 Conference Television Contracts

I like ESPN as much as the next guy. If you’re a sports fan “the family of networks” is nirvana. But I think maybe they have a bit too much power. And what’s up with Notre Dame having its own individual contract with NBC?? I know it seems like I’m picking on Notre Dame, and I am. It’s just that I cannot wrap my head around any reason why everyone seems to kowtow to them. It’s mind boggling. Also, why should the conferences have their own channels, like The Big Ten Network?? These are perfect examples of how the NCAA has abdicated its authority and let each conference run amok, basically going into business for themselves. When I turn on my television I see 5 places where college football ought to be found every fall Saturday (and I suppose Thursday night): ABC, CBS (and CSTV), NBC, ESPN (including ESPN2 & ESPNU), and Fox (which would include the regional Fox Sports channels and FX). Let each conference negotiate deals with a network, with each network limited to 2 conference deals. Maybe some networks only end up with one. So be it. If channels like TBS, USA, Spike, and Versus want to jump into the fray they would have the right to do so only after the “Big 5” have gotten first crack at what they want.

6 Limit Cupcakes

While going back to an 11 game season and having strength of schedule continue to be a key component in the ranking of teams very much helps the situation, we need one more control. Every Division 1 (the divisions would be realigned into Divisions 1,2,3,& 4…so no more 1-A, 1-AA, etc.) team would only be permitted to schedule 3 games with lower division teams in a 5 year period. That’s it. Sure, the fans enjoy the occasional David vs. Goliath upset, but more than that the fans like to see consistently competitive games.

7 No More Conference Championship Games

Let’s be honest…..there are only two reasons why conference championship games exist. First of all, some conferences (I’m looking at you SEC and ACC) are just too big. New conferences would have 9 or 10 teams maximum. Secondly…..greed. It’s always about the money. Always. If all the teams in a conference play each other over the course of the regular season there is no need to line anyone’s pockets…whether it’s a school, a conference, or a television network…with extra cash. These championship games are a relatively new invention and not necessarily a good one.

8 Only Three Independents

As previously mentioned, Notre Dame needs to join a conference because their arrogant sense of entitlement is misplaced and erroneous. However, under my plan we would have 3 independent teams…..Army, Navy, and Air Force. These teams represent our military, they represent the nation as a whole, they represent freedom and democracy. These are the teams that should be put on a pedestal and have earned a sense of entitlement, not because of success on the field but because of what their institutions and therefore their graduates do off the field. Besides, it would be a great recruiting tool. They would be the ambassadors of college football. And fans nationwide could cheer for these teams because they would be independent and not tied to a conference. Their schedules would vary greatly from year to year, befitting of their ambassador role. Having your favorite team get to go up against one of the service academies would be an honor and a privilege. Once upon a time these teams, Army in particular, were very highly regarded. But the business of college football got in the way and has made each of them just another team. Sadly,  outside their own conferences they are looked upon by many as being among the aforementioned cupcakes. That may not change overnight, and it may not ever completely change. After all, football is a sport of size and power, and the academies don’t necessarily get the biggest and strongest athletes. But the least we can do is celebrate them and put them in the special category they deserve to be in because of what they do for all of us that is so much more important than a football game.

9 A Playoff

I saved the best for last. Well…next to last.

There are only two things preventing a playoff from becoming reality in major college football. One is a sense of “tradition”…the old “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. This issue is a very small one though when one considers a lot of the other charming customs and rituals that have been thrown out the window the minute someone figured out a more profitable way of doing things. The bigger obstacles are greed and power. All those bowls that used to be named after fruit and regionally relevant products have been replaced with corporate names. Universities and conferences and cities make a lot of coin from these companies, who eagerly pay for a ton of positive press and a matchless advertising opportunity. Those universities, conferences, cities, and companies have a good thing going from a financial standpoint. It’s mutually beneficial for all sides and they aren’t going to give it up without a fight. They use every excuse in the book, from feigning concern about the academic careers of student athletes to hand wringing hysteria about how difficult it would be for fans to follow their teams to playoff games. To put it bluntly, it’s all poppycock. My alma mater, Marshall, was a 1-AA school when I was a student. I attended several playoff games and it was awesome. If anything a playoff would be more exciting and fun than the current bowl system. I won’t dive into details here, as I plan on laying out those details in a sequel series related to this entry. Suffice to say that a 16 team playoff while still retaining a revised version of the bowl system is eminently doable and much preferable to the existing system, atleast for us fans if not for the suits.

10 Bowl Revisions

Under my plan a few things would be done to revise the current post-season structure, the first of which is the playoff. However, as previously mentioned, the bowls would be kept, just on a smaller scale. Instead of nearly three dozen bowl games there would be maybe two dozen, if that. Corporate sponsorship would not be eliminated but it would be minimized. In other words, we aren’t naming bowls after a company. Neither are we naming bowls after a place. While the Papa John’s.com Bowl, Capital One Bowl, and Chick-Fil-A Bowl are atrociously insufferable names, the Texas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl aren’t much less obnoxious. Also, a record of 6-5 is a winning season and that’s just about it. To be bowl eligible 7 wins in an 11 game season should be required. New Year’s Day would regain its prominence, with the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, and Fiesta being played on that day and only the national championship game remaining after, hopefully to be played almost always on January 2nd.