Wednesday, December 12, 2007

3rd Annual Bowl Extravaganza

You might notice an increased level of cynicism and sarcasm in this year’s edition of the Bowl Extravaganza. The BCS and the girth of excruciatingly painful-to-watch games have me worked up a bit. But, I promise to look for the silver lining whenever possible. For instance, we’ll finally get to see if Purdue is really better than Central Michigan because Purdue’s 33-point drubbing earlier in the year wasn’t conclusive enough. Additionally, Conference USA has six bowl teams so there's plenty to be excited about there (extra credit for those who can even name six Conference USA teams without looking it up). I’m not sure what the point of all of this is but you’ll find shady analysis, too much information, baseless predictions, little-known statistics, lame trivia and a brand new, Bowl-Mania saving feature called “common opponent alert”. My goal for each game is to give you a pretty good idea of who is going to win or leave you utterly confused. I'll be satisfied with either one. In the interest of keeping your job, I strongly advise against reading it all at once. Lastly, all of this nonsense is for you—my loyal reader—so enjoy it....

Poinsettia Bowl

Utah (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4) -------San Diego, CA

December, 20, ESPN, 9 p.m.

This match-up is an intriguing one and an excellent way to start the bowl-season. In most years, I’d give the edge to Navy due to its unstoppable ground-game and the wizardry of Paul Johnson. However, Paul Johnson is now at Georgia Tech while Navy’s defense has been absolutely abysmal this season allowing 36.5 points per game. With eight seniors gone from last year’s team and the reality that is perpetual talent deficiency at the Naval Academy, the defense never stood a chance this year. So, it’s not likely that we’ll see Navy destroy its third MWC bowl-opponent in four years. More likely is a tight contest with a lot of scoring. Utah is 3rd in the nation in points allowed per game so yards won’t come as easy as usual for the Midshipmen. However, Navy scores and runs on everyone. Boston College and Wake Forest (two top 20 defenses against the run) can vouch for Navy’s ground game. Utah—despite its respectable record and even more respectable defense—is a tough team to get a read on. Utah destroyed obliterated embarrassed UCLA 44-6 and put a pretty good whoopin’ on Louisville at appetizingly named Papa John’s Stadium. UCLA and Louisville were each ranked in the top ten at some point in the season. However, the other three good teams (Oregon St., Air Force, and BYU) that Utah played resulted in L’s. Navy has a better ground-game than Air Force and Air Force ran for 334 yards against the Utes. So, if there was any doubt that Navy was going to put up 300 on the ground in this game, there shouldn’t be any now. Common opponent alert: Navy beat Air Force. Utah lost to Air Force. This could end up being a bittersweet game for Navy fans. Navy should always relish the opportunity to play in a bowl game but losing Paul Johnson has to be demoralizing. Navy should remain somewhat competitive under new coach--and former Johnson assistant--Ken Niumatalolo. Utah’s D will probably be the deciding factor in this game.

New Orleans Bowl

Memphis (7-5) vs. Florida Atlantic (7-5)-------New Orleans, LA

December 12, ESPN2, 8 p.m.

With all due respect to these two schools, this game is lame. If I were promised $500 to stay awake for the entirety of this game, I’m not sure I could do it. Memphis finished the season—and clinched a bowl bid at the same time—by beating 1-11 SMU in 3OT. At least Iowa can be reassured that there is good reason why it isn't in a bowl game this year. It wouldn’t be a bowl season without a bunch of 7-5 mid-majors diluting the games. On the other hand, I have to give credit to Florida Atlantic for the non-conference schedule it put together. I can’t say I’ve seen a more impressive schedule from a mid-major in maybe ever. FAU played Oklahoma St., Minnesota (who wasn’t terrible when this game was scheduled), S. Florida, Kentucky, and Florida. FAU lost all of the games with the exception of Minnesota by at least 10 points but at this time of the year, it’s the thought that counts. Double common opponent alert: Memphis and FAU both played Middle Tennessee and Arkansas St. Memphis lost both games. FAU won both. Deduce whatever you will from that. Bowl

Southern Mississippi (7-5) vs. Cincinnati (9-3)------Birmingham, AL

December 22, ESPN, 1 p.m.

If you’re going to name a bowl after a company, you might as well name it after a pizza joint. Like most people, I get tired of the ridiculously named bowl games, but I can’t say I mind this one. Southern Mississippi apparently thinks the directional word in front of Mississippi in its name is invisible and that the Mississippi part of its name is actually Florida. That’s the only rationale I can come up with as to why it would fire/force-out Jeff Bower. Bower led USM to 14 consecutive winning seasons. He led USM to 10 bowl games in the last 11 years including a 6-3 bowl record. So, I hereby nominate the USM Athletic Department for the second annual, “Who do you think you are?” award. Minnesota won the inaugural award last season when it fired the only good thing that has happened to its football program this side of 1960 Glen Mason. A good rule of thumb to follow is if Brett Favre—the only USM QB to throw more NFL touchdowns than everyone—doesn’t like it, don’t do it! The other side of this game features no dissatisfaction at the coaching position whatsoever. Cincinnati probably thought its football program was finished when Michigan St. plucked Mark Dantonio away last season. Little did anyone know that was the best thing that could’ve happened. Brian Kelly is one of the brightest stars in the coaching ranks. His offense is lauded while his defense inconspicuously dominates. Cincinnati would be best advised to start looking for Kelly’s successor right now. He is going to end up someplace huge very soon. As for the outcome of this game, Southern Mississippi played three good teams (Tennessee, Boise St., and Central Florida) and lost all three by at least 17 points. Cincinnati crushed Oregon St. and Connecticut, and also beat S. Florida. Common opponent alert: Cincy hammered Marshall by 26. USM beat Marshall by 11. So, clearly Cincy might want to plan a post-game celebration ahead of time.

New Mexico Bowl

Nevada (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)-------Albuquerque, N.M

December 22, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.

Your life absolutely depends on answering this question right and you have to do it in five seconds; which one of these teams is in the WAC? Could you do it? If you even attempted to answer this question, you are incredibly nerdy. If you answered the question right, then you are as nerdy as me. Nevada is in the WAC. New Mexico is in the MWC. Now that I’ve tragically wasted 20 seconds of your life, I’ll move onto the game. Luckily, we have the “common opponent” option to sort this game out. Common opponent alert: Both teams played UNLV. Nevada won by seven at home. New Mexico won by 21 at home. So, New Mexico is better. Plus, New Mexico can’t lose the New Mexico Bowl two years in a row. That’s just unfathomable. That’s all you’re getting from me on this game.

Las Vegas Bowl

UCLA (6-6) vs. BYU (10-2)-------Las Vegas, NV

December 22, ESPN, 8 p.m.

I can’t stand bowl rematches. There are 64 bowl teams. Is it that hard to avoid a rematch? If something needs to be settled in a BCS Championship game, that’s one thing. But, to double-check to see if UCLA's win in the first game on September 8, was an aberration seems like a waste of a game to me. Plus, UCLA was ranked #13 when they played the first time around. To have to play BYU a second time when they aren’t ranked at all is totally unfair. Yes, I’m kidding. Nonetheless, these two acronym kings will duke it out again with nothing on the line. UCLA has two of the worst losses of the season by any team. The Bruins were violated by Utah 44-6, and lost to Notre Dame which was winless at the time. UCLA also lost to Arizona and Washington St. which would be more embarrassing if it weren’t for the Utah and ND games. BYU—on the other hand—has won nine in a row including wins over four bowl teams. Clearly these teams come in with vastly differing momentum levels. Plus, UCLA can’t be all that excited about having to play BYU again. On the flip side, BYU probably wouldn’t rather play anyone else. This one has all of the makings of a BYU blowout.

Hawaii Bowl

Boise St. (10-2) vs. East Carolina (7-5)-------Honolulu, HI

December 23, ESPN, 8 p.m.

This is just a bad match-up. Boise St. lost to the two best teams on its schedule (Hawaii and Washington) but handily thumped everyone else with the lone exception of its 69-67 victory over Nevada in one of the most entertaining games in recent memory. Nevada ran for 396 yards in that game and lost. Boise St.'s other nine wins were all by at least ten points including a 22-point win over Southern Mississippi which just happens to be better than East Carolina. Common opponent alert: Boise St. beat USM by 22. USM beat East Carolina by seven. So, you can probably guess where I’m going with this. Records don’t always tell the story but in this case, I think it lays out the story very nicely. So, this game will be terrible.

Motor City Bowl

Purdue (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (8-5)-------The D, MI

December 26, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.

Did I mention I hate rematches? At least the UCLA/BYU game features a game with the final outcome in doubt. A rematch should—at the very least—have that dynamic. Instead, we get a rematch of a game in which Purdue won 45-22 earlier in the season. I didn’t think the bowl season could get any worse than a diluted slew of games featuring terrible match-ups. But, I was wrong. Now we have to deal with a diluted slew of games featuring terrible rematches. If the Big Ten has any prayer—and it doesn’t—of going .500 or better in its bowl games, Purdue must win this game. In fact, when Purdue wins this game the Big Ten will be atop the Bowl standings for at least two days. So, get your bragging hats on and be ready to go at it starting promptly at 11:00pm on December 26th. You won’t have much time so line up your best “jorts” jokes and let ’em fly. Common opponent alert: Both teams clobbered Toledo but Purdue did it by 28 points and CMU only did it by 21 points. So, Purdue will destroy CMU.

Holiday Bowl

Arizona St. (10-2) vs. Texas (9-3)-------San Diego, CA

December 27, ESPN, 8 p.m.

This game should be intriguing but it’s not. Neither team is very watch-able. Texas is having a down year after an amazing streak of six consecutive 10-win seasons which would end if it loses this game. Texas also lost to Texas A&M for the second straight year. Making matters worse is that despite a decent record, A&M wasn’t very good in either year. So, this isn’t vintage Texas. Arizona St. had a breakthrough year under Dennis Erickson record-wise but proved virtually nothing by beating one team with a winning record. ASU beat four bowl teams but none of them are ranked and only one of them is not 6-6. So, its record doesn’t tell us a whole lot. There really are no fascinating angles or anything for the non-vested fan to grab onto in the name of intrigue in this game. I hate to say it but it’s tough to take these two teams seriously with their incredibly weak collection of wins. Moving on…

Champs Sports Bowl

Boston College (10-3) vs. Michigan St. (7-5)-------Orlando, FL

December 28, ESPN, 5 p.m

This game would make a good Holiday Bowl but, instead, it’ll make a good Champs Sports Bowl. The list of teams with winning records that BC and MSU have beaten (Va. Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Bowling Green (2), Penn St., Purdue, and Indiana) is much more impressive than the list of winning teams that ASU and Texas have beaten (Oregon St., Central Florida, TCU, and Texas Tech). Both teams have had ups and downs but they have proven that they can play at a high level. BC has the 6th best passing attack in the country while MSU has the 25th best rushing attack. Those dynamics, combined with the fact that MSU doesn’t roll over for every post-September opponent anymore makes this game very intriguing. Michigan St. very easily could’ve had nine wins with BC’s schedule so this game isn’t as big of a mismatch as it might otherwise look. This game is enormous for the MSU program. A loss here doesn’t really take away too much from an otherwise successful first-year under Mark Dantonio. A win, though, combined with the UM coaching uncertainty, would be an enormous boost for recruiting. Not to mention, the season would end on a three-game winning streak with wins over Purdue, Penn St., and BC. This might just be my “Big Ten bias” shining through but I’ll definitely be tuned in for this one. Double common opponent alert: MSU beat Notre Dame by 17 while Boston College beat Notre Dame by 14. However, my instincts tell me that this game will come down to which team beat Bowling Green by more points. BC holds the edge there, 31-11.

Texas Bowl

TCU (7-5) vs. Houston (8-4)-------Houston, TX

December 28, NFL Network, 8 p.m.

Let’s put aside the awfulness of this game for just a second. If your bowl is going to stink and you’re going to call it the Texas Bowl, you might as well have two teams from Texas in the game. And sure enough, that’s what we have here. I am at least 50% more likely to watch this game than I would’ve been otherwise. Kudos to you, organizers of the esteemed Texas Bowl. Houston comes into the game on the strength of its zero wins over teams with a better record than 4-8. One of Houston’s wins was over 1-11 SMU. That looks pretty bad until you see that it also beat Texas Southern which went 0-11 in I-AA. TCU, on the other hand, is vastly more impressive with victories over one team with a better record than 4-8. Common opponent alert: Both teams played SMU. TCU won by 14. Houston won by 10. So, that pretty much closes the case on this game from my perspective. TCU was tested much more vigorously and beat SMU by more points. The good news for the Texas Bowl is that I’m 50% more likely to watch this game. The bad news is that 50% more than zero is still zero.

Emerald Bowl

Maryland (6-6) vs. Oregon St. (8-4)-------San Francisco, CA

December 28, ESPN, 2:30pm

Alas, a splendidly named bowl game. It’s too bad this game doesn’t have a match-up befitting its name. Maryland—despite having a much less shiny record—has a more impressive resume than Oregon St. Among Maryland’s victims were Rutgers, Georgia Tech, and BC. All finished with winning records. Oregon St.—a team that played Oregon at the perfect time—can gloat about victories over Utah and a Dixon-less Oregon. Neither win is very impressive. However, I do feel compelled to give a shout-out to the Oregon St. program for its work in the Civil War over the last ten years. I bet most people would be surprised to know that Oregon St. is actually 6-4 in their last 10 games against Oregon. Oregon St. hasn’t lost at home to Oregon since 1996. Oregon St. also has a better winning percentage over the last seven seasons. Oregon St. has won four bowl games since 1999. Oregon has won three bowl games since 1999. So, congratulations to Oregon St. for being every bit as good as Oregon without anyone really noticing. As for the game, it’s going to be brutal. OSU should win based on location and location only.

Meineke Car Care Bowl

Connecticut (9-3) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)-------Charlotte, NC

December 29, ESPN, 1:00 p.m.

This might sound insane, but this is a game I can get behind. The winner will likely finish the season ranked while the loser will most definitely not. That’s something worth playing for. I have had Connecticut on “fraud” alert all season and I still do. The fact that UCONN lost by 44 to West Virginia and 24 to Cincy over the last three weeks of the season didn’t do anything to dispel that notion. Wake Forest is the ACC version of Connecticut. Before last season, Wake Forest had never had a nine-win season. A win here would give the Demon Deacons back-to-back seasons of at least nine wins. Connecticut has never had a 10-win season in I-A. A win here would accomplish that feat. Either way, this will be an historical season for the winner. Just to show how much the bowl season has deteriorated just in the last few years, UCONN finished 9-3 in 2003 and didn’t even garner a bowl bid. There would be riots if that happened in 2007. These two teams played last year with Wake winning a defensive battle. Double common opponent alert: both teams played Duke and Virginia. Each team beat Duke—although Wake only did it by five points while UCONN won by 31—and lost to Virginia. Incidentally, each team lost to Virginia by one point. This game is a toss-up. It should be mildly entertaining and will certainly fly under the radar as one of the top 15 bowl games.

Liberty Bowl

UCF (10-3) vs. Mississippi St. (7-5)-------Memphis, TN

December 29, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.

Mississippi St. held its opponents to 15 points or less in six of its seven wins. Virginia Tech and Kansas are the only teams with more wins of that variety. The Bulldogs bounced back from a 45-0 season-opening drubbing to LSU with a 7-4 finish that saw shocking wins over Auburn, Kentucky, and Alabama. UCF played three non-conference games against BCS conference teams. All three games had vastly differing outcomes. UCF squeaked out a two-point win over a bad N.C. State team. UCF barely lost at home to Texas—what was Texas doing playing at UCF?—by three. UCF was annihilated by S. Florida 64-12. There is no question that UFC can be competitive against BSC schools but I’m not sure why it is favored over Mississippi St. considering their respective resumes. I don’t even think UFC would’ve been bowl eligible if it had Mississippi St.’s schedule. This game should be fairly competitive but the real story will be whether or not UCF’s Kevin Smith can break Barry Sanders’ all-time I-A single-season college football rushing record. Smith needs 181 yards to beat Sanders’ mark of 2,628. If Smith does break the record, Tulsa should get some mention from Smith in some sort of a “this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my family, friends, teammates, coaches, and Tulsa.” Smith hit up the Golden Hurricanes for 454 yards in two games this season. Mississippi St. doesn’t have a great rush defense so anything is possible especially since the UFC coaches will probably give the ball to Smith at least 40 times. Common opponent alert: both teams played UAB. UCF won by 14 (Smith ran for 320 yards) and Mississippi St. won by 17. I hate to pick against a hallowed-record going down but I would be surprised to see Smith gash MSU for 180. I would be even more surprised if UCF won in the process.

Alamo Bowl

Penn St. (8-4) vs. @ Texas A&M (7-5)-------San Antonio, TX

December 29, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Before Penn St. joined the Big Ten, it was the equivalent of Texas. After 14 years in the Big Ten, it is now the equivalent of Texas A&M. Penn St. fans can’t be happy about that transition. So, it would appear that this would be a good match-up. However, I don’t believe Texas A&M to be a good team. Anyone who saw the Aggies get throttled at Miami (FL)—the same Miami that lost 48-0 to Virginia—is well aware that this team is borderline bad. At no point in that game did I think that Texas A&M was even close to being as good as Miami. Four of its five losses were by at least two touchdowns. Penn St. lost games to Michigan St., Michigan, and Illinois by five, four, and seven points respectively. Neither team has an impressive list of wins but only Penn St. can claim that it was competitive in just about every game. If Penn St. loses this game, the Big Ten has no chance of finishing above .500 in the bowl standings. The more I think about it, the more boring this game sounds. In fact, I could’ve skipped this game entirely and nobody would’ve noticed. I apologize for choosing not to.

Independence Bowl

Colorado (6-6) vs. Alabama (6-6)-------Shreveport, LA

December 30, ESPN, 8 p.m.

Remember when Michigan and Nebraska played in the Alamo Bowl two years ago and Nebraska fans were saying it was time to settle the ’97 co-National Championship debate as if a game eight years later has any significance to 1997 whatsoever? Well, we might as well extend that logic to this game and make it about whose national championship team was better: Colorado in ’90 or Alabama in ’92. I'll go with the team that didn't need five downs. Alabama accomplished an incredibly difficult feat this season. All six of its losses were by seven points or less including games against LSU, Auburn, and Georgia. I don’t think a “we’re seven points worse than every team” motto is going to work for Nick Saban. Not when he is making $4 million a year. Colorado actually had a pretty difficult schedule. It had to play Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Arizona St. That’s four games against teams ranked in the top six at some point this season. Neither team is anything close to being consistent. Colorado beat Oklahoma and lost to Iowa St. Alabama beat Tennessee and lost to UL Monroe. Common opponent alert: both teams played Florida St. Colorado lost by 10. Alabama lost by 7. So, Alabama is clearly the better team.

Armed Forces Bowl

Air Force (9-3) vs. California (6-6)-------Fort Worth, TX

December 31, ESPN, 12:30 p.m.

Has there ever been a bigger collapse in college football history than the one California orchestrated this season? On October 7, Cal was 5-0 and ranked #2 in the country with impressive wins over Tennessee and Oregon. Cal finished the season on a 1-6 stretch including losses to Washington and Stanford. Even Cal’s only win over that stretch was a three-point squeaker at home against a bad Washington St. team. What happened? Jeff Tedford should consider getting out ASAP before his career goes the way of Kirk Ferentz. Cal has been pretty good over Tedford’s tenure but the program will never be able to out-recruit USC and UCLA. Ferentz is “stuck” in Iowa—maybe he doesn’t care that he’s stuck but he’s stuck nonetheless—for lack of a better word. Tedford might get “stuck” in Cal if his career suffers the plight of the Ferentz. Even with Cal’s monumental struggles, it should feel good about playing Air Force. The Airmen lost to three of the four best teams it played (BYU, Navy, and New Mexico). The lone victory of the group was over Utah. On a scale of 0-100 in terms of “motivation to play this game”, Air Force is probably at a “99”. Where Cal is on that scale will probably be the deciding factor in this one. Anything less than “50” and you could see Air Force pull the upset. It’s not uncommon for a BCS-conference team to come in overconfident and under-motivated against a mid-major. It happened last year in the Las Vegas Bowl when BYU destroyed Oregon, 38-8.

Humanitarian Bowl

Georgia Tech (7-5) vs. Fresno St. (8-4)-------Boise St., ID

December 31, ESPN2, 2 p.m.

This might be the least significant game in the history of Georgia Tech football. Other than being able to say, “we won” or "we lost", nothing good or bad could possibly come from this game. Chan Gailey was fired after the regular season. Paul Johnson won’t start coaching until the ’08 opener. Tech’s style under Johnson won’t resemble anything fans will see in this bowl game. This is truly a unique situation. It’s not as if any fan-base dreams of a Humanitarian bowl bid against Fresno St. anyways. But, the added element of irrelevancy with respect to the future makes this game truly one of the most meaningless games that any team has ever played in any sport ever. Georgia Tech fans are more likely to be concerned with whether the A.D. or Johnson keeps Jon Tenuta around as Defensive Coordinator. That seems like a no-brainer to me. Nonetheless, this could end up being a competitive game. Georgia Tech is close to a carbon copy of Texas A&M . Fresno St. lost by two at Texas A&M earlier in the season. Fresno St. will probably be more motivated to play this one and the score will probably reflect that. More importantly, I think I have come up with the most impossibly difficult trivia question for qualified answerers. I would be shocked to find out if there is even a single person east of the Mississippi—who hasn’t had the task of following these conferences specifically as a job—who could identify all of the teams in the MWC and WAC without making a single mistake. Here is a just a sample of how hard that task might be for you: place the following three teams in the correct conference: Tulsa, New Mexico, and New Mexico St. See answer under the Sugar Bowl.

Sun Bowl

S. Florida (9-3) vs. Oregon (8-4)-------El Paso, TX

December 31, CBS, 2 p.m.

If you want to know if a particular coach takes pride in his ballot, simply check to see if he voted for S. Florida. If not, then there is no pride present. S. Florida was inexplicably left out of the AP Top 25 and only ranked #25 in the USA Today. S. Florida’s computer average is ranked #14. It has impressive wins over West Virginia and Auburn. All three of its losses were by seven points or less against bowl teams. It is an insult to the S. Florida program that it isn’t ranked higher. If Oregon loses this game, it will do what Oregon usually does which is lose at least five games in a season. It would be the fifth time in the last six years with five losses or more. Oregon hasn’t shown much competitiveness since Dennis Dixon went down losing at Arizona (first loss at Arizona since ’98), at home against Oregon St. (first home loss to Oregon St. since ’93), and at UCLA (first time shutout since ’85). Given all that, S. Florida should win.

Music City Bowl

Kentucky (7-5) vs. Florida St. (7-5)-------Nashville, TN

December 31, ESPN, 4 p.m.

This is one of eight bowl games that features a team that was ranked #2 at some point this season. The Sun Bowl has two such teams making it an unbelievable total of nine different teams that were ranked #2 at some point. Can you guess them? Answer below the Orange Bowl. Kentucky’s Andre Woodson would’ve won the Heisman easily had his team won one or two more games. He threw for 14 touchdowns and 1100 yards against LSU, Florida, and Tennessee alone. It’ll be interesting to see who gets drafted higher between Woodson and Darren McFadden. Common opponent alert: both teams played Florida. Kentucky—as it was against every team it played—was competitive in an eight-point loss to Florida. Florida St. was not competitive in the slightest as it allowed the production of the “Tim Tebow Show” in the form of a 33-point blowout loss to take place against its defense. Kentucky’s offense will likely prove to be too much for FSU’s 91st rated offense to keep up with.

Insight Bowl

Indiana (7-5) vs. Oklahoma St. (6-6)-------Tempe, AZ

December 31, NFL Network, 6:00 p.m.

This is another game that the Big Ten needs if it has any prayer of salvaging a respectable bowl record. Indiana had the gift from God luxury of not playing Michigan and Ohio St. which is the only reason it became bowl eligible for the first time since 1993. Indiana’s list of wins is borderline atrocious. It beat Indiana St., Western Michigan, Akron, Ball St., Iowa, Minnesota, and Purdue. That’s one I-AA team, three MAC teams, a 1-11 Big Ten team, and Iowa and Purdue. Okie St. was almost as bad beating Sam Houston St., Baylor, Nebraska, Kansas St., FAU, and Texas Tech. There won’t be any defense in this game. Both teams average over 30 points per game and both give up more than 26 points per game. The 68.5 point over/under might be a little low for this one. Oklahoma St's coach is 40. Indiana's is not. That should be the deciding factor in this one.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Clemson (9-3) vs. Auburn (8-4)-------Atlanta, GA

December 31, ESPN2, 7:30 p.m.

Auburn is often called the Clemson of the ACC and vice versa. That certainly seems to be the case but I think that comparison is a little bit unfair to Auburn. Auburn has consistently had more success than Clemson over just about any measurable time frame. Auburn has 667 all-time wins (63% winning percentage). Clemson has 616 (59 %). Auburn holds a 31-11-2 record against Clemson. Auburn has been to 33 bowl games and won 18. Clemson has been to 29 bowl games and won 15. Auburn is 13-6-1 in its last 20 bowl games. Clemson is 4-8 in its last 12 bowl games. Auburn has won the SEC West six times since 1997. Clemson hasn’t won the ACC since 1991. So, other than having the same mascot, not being named after their state but having chief rivals that are, and being fairly successful college football programs, these two teams really don’t have as much in common as one might think. This should be a pretty good game though. Auburn has won 13 in a row in the series although all but one of those was before 1972. This game is in Atlanta which is right smack dab in the middle of the two schools. I have no idea which team is going to win. Auburn has had more impressive victories so if I had to choose, I’d take the Tigers—but I’m not saying which one.

Outback Bowl

Wisconsin (9-3) vs. Tennessee (9-4)-------Tampa, FL

January 1, ESPN, 11 a.m.

This will mark the fifth straight year that Wisconsin has played an SEC team in its bowl game. The Badgers have held up their end fairly well going 2-2 despite being underdogs in every game. Tennessee played 10 bowl teams this season so it has definitely been tested. Many of Tennessee’s wins were of the close variety while most of its losses were blowouts. I don’t get the impression that Wisconsin’s offense is good enough to blowout Tennessee even on its best day. So, chances are this will be a close contest with Tennessee—the better team—coming out on top. If Wisconsin does pull the upset it would be an unexpected boost to the Big Ten’s chances of going .500 in the bowl season. I never think Wisconsin is going to win these games and this year is no different. However, win or lose, Wisconsin is always competitive.

Cotton Bowl

Missouri (11-2) vs. Arkansas (8-4)-------Dallas, TX

January 1, FOX, 11:30 a.m.

Bobby Petrino leaving the Atlanta Falcons to return to the college ranks shocks only one person in the universe. Michigan, of course, couldn't consider Petrino for its vacant head coaching position because it would disrupt its theme of ignoring all of the best candidates. Petrino will definitely impact the Arkansas program but my guess is he'll soon find out what Steve Spurrier is well aware of after three seasons at South Carolina. Reaching elite status with a middle-of-the-pack school in the SEC is borderline impossible. As for the Cotton Bowl, it should be a good game. Missouri isn’t as good as its record while Arkansas is not as bad as its record. Two of the four Heisman Trophy Finalists will be on display. I would be surprised if both teams don’t pass the 30-point mark. This will likely be your last chance to see Darren McFadden in college before he destroys the NFL. The only thing that can keep Adrian Peterson McFadden from dominating the next level is the injury-bug. McFadden has the speed/power/vision combination that few NFL running backs have ever had. Common opponent alert: both teams played Ole Miss. Missouri won by 13 while Arkansas won by 36. Both of these teams are ranked in the top 10 in total offense but get it done in different ways. Missouri has the 7th rated passing offense in the country. Arkansas has the 3rd rated rushing offense. This will be one of the most exciting games to watch. I’m slightly leaning towards Arkansas in an upset but I think it’s pretty much a toss-up.

Gator Bowl

Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Virginia (9-3)-------Jacksonville, FL

January 1, CBS, 1 p.m.

This should be another great game featuring contrasting styles. Texas Tech is #2 in the country in total yards per game. Virginia is #18 in the country in total yards allowed per game. This game could go one of a million different ways. Texas Tech could destroy Virginia with its pass-happy offense or Virginia’s defense could stifle Texas Tech. I would imagine that the over/under (60) is probably the lowest of the year for Texas Tech. Even though Virginia is ranked #20 and Texas Tech is unranked, the Red Raiders are five-point favorites. I think that has to do with the fact that Virginia hasn’t played a team with a good offense all season. Virginia has played in a number of defensive struggles that have resulted in an amazing total of five wins by two points or less. Making matters worse for Virginia is the fact that its offense is 101st in yards per game. This should be a very interesting game to watch that could get ugly or stay very close.

Capital One Bowl

Michigan (8-4) vs. @ Florida (9-3)-------Orlando, FL

January 1, ABC, 1 p.m.

Urban Meyer is putting together an unprecedented resume. His last four seasons have been monumental. Three years ago, he led Utah to a 13-0 record and made Alex Smith the #1 pick in the NFL Draft. Two years ago—in his first season at Florida—he led the Gators to a 3-0 record against Tennessee, Florida St., and Georgia for the first time since 1996. Last year, he led Florida to the National Championship. This year, his quarterback scored an unbelievable 51 touchdowns on his way to becoming the first ever sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy (feel free to question the sanity of the 21 voters who didn't have Tebow in their top three here). Meyer is 53-9 over the last five seasons including a 4-0 bowl record outscoring his opponents 124-45. Florida will likely be co-favorites to win the National Championship next season as Meyer could have the Heisman Trophy winner and a NC in the same season. So, yeah. I think he’s good. Michigan basically needs Les Miles to come to AA at this point to salvage any kind of momentum for the program. Lloyd Carr is mercifully coaching his last game which will almost undoubtedly end in his fifth straight bowl loss and his fifth straight season of losing to Ohio St. and in a bowl game. Michigan is a prohibitive underdog. Anybody who has watched Michigan play against mobile quarterbacks working out of the spread understands why. Florida was the worst possible bowl opponent Michigan could face. There are a number of teams ranked ahead of Florida who would’ve given Michigan an opportunity to win. Florida should dominate this one. In fact, I have a score…37-24.

Rose Bowl

Illinois (9-3) vs. @ USC (10-2)-------Pasadena, CA

January 1, ABC, 4:30 p.m.

The 13.5 point spread for this game has to be one of the biggest in Rose Bowl history. USC is the superior team and it has the ultimate post-season advantage in sports. Everybody wants to talk about how the Big Ten doesn’t fare all that well in bowl games but nobody wants to venture any guess as to why other than the Big Ten simply must be overrated. While that argument might be convenient for an SEC or Pac 10 fan, it ignores the fact that the Big Ten virtually plays on the road in every Rose Bowl and in most games against the SEC and Big XII. Over time, a team that plays constantly on the road against comparable teams will inevitably lose more times than not. That’s why I would love to see a playoff format with home games at college venues. It would be great to see USC travel to Ann Arbor or Columbus in December on occasion. I think Illinois has enough talent to keep this game closer than the spread. I hope this isn’t a repeat of the ’03 Orange Bowl when USC crushed an Iowa team that was somewhat similar to this year’s Illinois team. Illinois is probably the most accomplished team that USC will have faced all season. The Illini beat Wisconsin, Penn St., and Ohio St. That collection of wins is actually more impressive than what USC accomplished this season. USC only beat one team all season that is currently ranked and that’s Arizona St. This could be an entertaining game or it could be over by the end of the first quarter. I’m pulling for the former.

Sugar Bowl

Hawaii (12-0) vs. Georgia (10-2)-------New Orleans, LA

January 1, FOX, 8:30 p.m.

Hawaii had one of the easiest schedules in the history of college football this season. It needed overtime to defeat San Jose St. (5-7) and La. Tech. (5-7). Hawaii also beat two I-AA teams and 1-11 Idaho. However, Hawaii did play the four best teams on its schedule over the last four weeks of the season. The wins weren’t decisive but they were wins nonetheless. There is no question that it would take a “good” team to beat Fresno St., Nevada, Washington, and Boise St. over a four game stretch. Hawaii deserves to be in a BCS game just as much as Utah did in ’04 and Boise St. did last season. Georgia can’t be happy in the slightest to be playing Hawaii for a number of reasons. Georgia was the next team in line to play in the BCS Championship game when Missouri lost to Oklahoma. That was until the voters decided that they really didn’t believe Georgia was better than LSU despite voting that way the week before. So, playing Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl isn’t much of a consolation prize. Also, playing a team like Hawaii is a no-win situation for Georgia. If Georgia wins, then everyone will say Hawaii was terrible. If Georgia loses, then everyone will laugh at Georgia. Just ask Oklahoma. They faced this exact situation against Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl last year. Georgia has been on a heck of a roll lately having won six in a row including wins over Florida, Auburn, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech. I believe Hawaii is in for the beat-down that just about every fan was hoping Boise St. or Washington would administer at the end of the season.

Trivia answer from above: New Mexico is in the MWC. New Mexico St. is in the WAC. Tulsa is in C-USA.

Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma (11-2) vs. West Virginia (10-2)-------Glendale, AZ

January 2, FOX, 8 p.m.

This would’ve been a great National Championship game. Had Pat White not injured his thumb against Pittsburgh, West Virginia would be playing Ohio St. for the National Championship. Both of these teams will likely be in the pre-season top five next year. This game features strength vs. strength as Oklahoma sports the 8th best rush defense in the country while West Virginia has the 4th best rush offense. WVU is looking for its third straight bowl victory after going 1-11 in its previous 13. If WVU can win by a score of 38-35, it would be the third straight bowl victory for WVU by that score. I can’t imagine that has ever happened before. Oklahoma is a 6.5-point favorite but I think that is incredibly high. These teams are very close in ability and this game is easily one of the top five intriguing games of the bowl season. If I had to pick, I’d go with one of my two alma maters (Boomer Sooner).

Orange Bowl

Virginia Tech (11-2) vs. Kansas (11-1)-------Miami, FL

January 3, FOX, 8 p.m.

The Big XII has the distinction of being the only league in modern I-A history to have three 11-win teams before the bowl season. I’m not sure we’ll see that again anytime soon because it’s nearly impossible. It takes the right schedules in the right conference with the right caliber of teams. Ironically, this distinction doesn’t shed much light on how good the conference is because none of the three teams beat anyone worthwhile out of conference except for Illinois. As for the Orange Bowl, it is the Gator Bowl on HGH. Virginia Tech is a better version of Virginia and Kansas is a better version of Texas Tech. This game features the same contrasting styles of the Gator Bowl except each team is more balanced. Kansas has the #2 offense in the country and Virginia Tech has the #2 defense in the country. Kansas hasn’t beaten a single quality team all season. It didn’t have to play Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech—a game that would’ve seen an over/under of at least 80. Va. Tech isn’t perfect but at least it beat Clemson, Boston College, and Virginia. I’ll take the team with a more difficult schedule than Hawaii which is Va. Tech.

Trivia answer from above: Cal, USC, LSU, S. Florida, Boston College, Oregon, Kansas, West Virginia and Missouri were all ranked #2 at some point this season. If Va. Tech beats Kansas, it will likely be added to the list.

International Bowl

Rutgers (7-5) vs. Ball St. (7-5)-------Toronto, Canada

January 5, ESPN2, Noon

This game would probably garner more attention if it were renamed the Michigan Candidate Bowl. Unfortunately, Greg Schiano became the first coach in Rutgers history to soberly turn down an offer to be the head coach at Michigan. So, the International Bowl it is. The fact that Brady Hoke’s name is even relevant to the Michigan coach search is a sign that the search has turned into a disaster Lloyd Carr is heavily involved. Double common opponent alert: both of these teams played Navy and Buffalo. Rutgers beat Navy by 17 and Buffalo by 35. Ball St. beat Navy by 3 and Buffalo by 35 as well. Rutgers suffered a letdown-year after achieving unprecedented success last season. Had it been Penn St. calling and not Michigan, Schiano would be in Happy Valley as I type this. Rutgers could be in danger of taking this game lightly but it should still have a substantial enough talent advantage to hammer Ball St.


Bowling Green (8-4) vs. Tulsa (8-4)-------Mobile, AL

January 6, ESPN, 8 p.m.

This is the game that Bowling Green has been waiting for 18 years to play. Tulsa shellacked the Eagles 45-10 in their only previous meeting back in 1989. It’s time for redemption. This group of BGSU players can put to rest the shame that the program has endured ever since that fateful November 18th afternoon. Likewise, Tulsa will have redemption on its mind as well. Entering that game in 1989, the two teams sported nearly identical winning percentages (.60031 to .60000 in favor of Bowling Green). Ever since, the results have been drastically different. Bowling Green has only managed a .557-clip while Tulsa’s football program collapsed to a morbid .389 percentage. Clearly, that win destroyed the Tulsa football program. While that game in 1989 wasn’t good for either team, this game can make everything right for one of them. Based on the aftermath of their last meeting, these teams might be better off agreeing on some kind of a forfeit. I hope that was entertaining.

BCS Championship Game

Ohio St. (11-1) vs. @ LSU (11-2)-------New Orleans, LA

January 7, FOX, 8 p.m.

Wow. What a shocker. The Big Ten is playing a road game in the BCS Championship game. I never in a million years…..Before I get into the game itself, I'd like to devote a few sentences to the awesomeness of LSU AD Skip Bertman. In the span of two days, Bertman said, "I'd be under the assumption that the permission to speak to Les Miles has expired," and "You don't need permission, because you already have it. I feel very confident, and I don't have a problem with that." I am rooting for THE Ohio State University in this game for a number of reasons but first and foremost is because it may put Michigan in the history books. I don’t have the passion nor the resources to look this up but I think Michigan could become the first I-A team in college football history to lose to both the I-A and I-AA Champions in the same season. Michigan needs to start lightening up on the schedule a little bit. These two coaches might very well meet again on November 15, 2008 in Columbus, OH. Let’s hope if that does happen that Miles/Tressel resembles something closer to Bo/Woody than Carr/Tressel. As for the game, I think these teams are mirror images of each other despite the fact that the SEC rules the universe in every game ever played ever. Both have loaded defenses and meticulous offenses. I actually have more confidence in Todd Boeckman than I do Matt Flynn. I also have more confidence in Chris—I’m not going to say it—Wells than I do Jacob Hester. I would be shocked if this game isn’t close. The only problem for Ohio St. is that LSU will be by far the best team that it has played all season. LSU has been battle tested. This should be a good one. If LSU wins, it would be only the second team in the history of I-A college football to win a National Championship with two losses. The only other time it happened, Minnesota won the NC in 1960 after losing to Washington in the Rose Bowl. Washington won a split of the NC. So, that would be like Ohio St. losing to LSU and still winning the NC. LSU would be the first team in I-A history to lose two games in the regular season and still win the NC.


Unknown said...

For the Rose Bowl, isn't supposed to be Illinois @ USC?

My predictions:
Illinois & Ohio St are gonna get clobbered on their bowls..

2 months hiatus, there's a reason why Big Ten's extend their season to after thanksgiving...

Allen said...

Great bowl preview article Jakesta. I'll pass it on to my crew. Have a great weekend!


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