I’ve got good news for college football fans. The good people at the NCAA went out and got everyone a gift for Christmas. It certainly caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect anything from them this year. Instead of 28 bowl games, the NCAA is generously providing you with 32 bowl games. Lucky you! Now you’ll be able watch eight more teams that you could not care less about. I think I can speak for most college football fans when I say, “Thank you, NCAA! You actually made the bowl season less enjoyable. I didn’t think that was possible but you’ve proven that where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Despite the absurdity that is the 32-game bowl season, there are 64 teams gleefully preparing for their make or break game of the season. Here is a preview of the bowl games involving those teams and some commentary to boot. I present to you year two of the Bowl Extravaganza. Enjoy!
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
TCU (10-2) vs. Northern Illinois (7-5) San Diego, CA
December 19, ESPN2, 8 p.m.
Believe it or not, this game is probably better than half of the bowl games this year. Northern Illinois has a star running back in Garrett Wolfe. The Huskies played Ohio State and Iowa fairly tough this year. They pounded MAC champ Central Michigan. Four of their five losses came to bowl teams. TCU should be the favorite and it is. However, TCU is favored by as many as 12 points. Don’t let TCU’s 10-2 record fool you. The Horned Frogs beat two bowl teams. Their second best win was over New Mexico. They were also clobbered by an average Utah team. I expect this one to be a close game with TCU’s defense being just good enough for the win.
Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon (7-5) vs. BYU (10-2) Las Vegas, NV
December 21, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
Out of the 32 bowl games, this is the game that I have the second least confidence in behind Alabama/Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl. I also have to admit that I never actually got to see the Oregon/Oklahoma fiasco from earlier in the year. I was driving home from South Bend, IN at the time listening to the Florida/Tennessee game. I still can’t believe that same Florida team that barely squeaked by Tennessee, S. Carolina, and Vanderbilt is playing in the National Championship game. Anyhow, because I didn’t actually see the Oregon/Oklahoma game, I was never able to fully understand the lengths to which the Sooners were screwed. That game actually cost them a shot at the National Championship. I doubt a one-loss Oklahoma team would have finished ahead of Florida but at least there would have been a chance. It’s also nice to see that Oregon took that Oklahoma win and ran with it. They capitalized on that “gift” by going 4-5 to finish the season. I would have loved to see a BYU-Hawaii match-up but the sweet bowl system the NCAA has in place prefers to bore college football fans. The difference in this game will be that one team gave up on the season a long time ago and the other team wants to prove it can play with the big boys. I’m going with BYU in this one.
New Orleans Bowl
Troy (7-5) vs. Rice (7-5) New Orleans, LA
December 22, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
This game sums up the worst bowl season of all-time. These two teams have combined to lose to Arkansas State, Houston, and Tulane. Troy’s best win was a one-point win over Middle Tennessee. Rice’s best win was one-point win over East Carolina. Rice is on a six-game winning streak which is more than enough of a reason to go with them. If you’re not busy hitting yourself over the head with a hammer at 8pm on December 22, then you might want to turn this game on. It should be a doozy.
East Carolina (7-5) vs. South Florida (8-4) Birmingham, AL
December 23, ESPN2, 1:00 p.m.
At least the organizers of this bowl aren’t trying to weave corporate sponsorship together with a traditional bowl name. Despite a 7-5 record, East Carolina has victories over NC State and Virginia. Those are things that Florida State and Miami (FL) couldn’t do respectively. South Florida has one of the worst resumes of any bowl team on record. An upset win over West Virginia has somewhat masked the atrocity that was S. Florida’s schedule. Aside from the upset win over West Virginia and a win over DI-AA McNeese State, S. Florida’s wins came against teams with a combined record of 21-51. I suspect this game will be close. I’ll go with South Florida simply because it looked much better against West Virginia than East Carolina did.
New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico (6-6) vs. San Jose State (8-4) Albuquerque, NM
December 23, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.
Do you think New Mexico might have home-field advantage in this one? Not only is the game played in New Mexico but the game is called the New Mexico Bowl. These teams have combined to beat one bowl team this season. Considering that 64 of 119 (54%) of D1-A football teams make a bowl game, the organizers of this bowl could have drawn two names out of a hat and come up with a better match-up. I’m guessing the state of New Mexico stepped up and sponsored this bowl because nobody else would do it. And to be honest, it is probably the only entity that would benefit from sponsoring this sham of a bowl game. San Jose State should win 2-0.
Armed Forces Bowl
Utah (7-5) vs. Tulsa (8-4) Fort Worth, TX
December 23, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
The Armed Forces deserve better than this. Utah and Tulsa are two of the least “watchable” teams in college football. I can’t name a single player on either team nor do I want to do the research to find out any of the names. My first thought when I saw Tulsa was playing in this game was that Tulsa and Tulane should play each other every year in a bowl game. Then I found out that Tulsa already beat Tulane this season. To be honest, I bet there would be more intrigue for both Tulsa and Tulane if they did that than if they didn’t do it. Anyhow, Tulsa actually has three impressive victories this season over Navy, East Carolina, and Southern Mississippi. Unfortunately, it also lost to Houston, Rice, and SMU. Anybody who feels comfortable picking Tulsa in this game would probably enjoy a midnight stroll through Central Park. What makes this game so bad is that the same goes for Utah. Anybody who feels good about taking Utah is either a Mormon or a family member of Rick Majerus. Go with the Utes with zero confidence.
Arizona State (7-5) vs. Hawaii (10-3) Honolulu, HI
December 24, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
Why can’t we get Michigan playing at home in December against USC in the Michigan Bowl? How did New Mexico and Hawaii manage to pull this off? Talk about a sweet gig for the Rainbow Warriors. I don’t know if I can take a Hawaii loss in this game. It would trouble me beyond words. Arizona State is an underachieving, season tanking pancake. Hawaii is a high-scoring, overachieving underdog. I will probably be rooting for Hawaii as much in this game as I will be for Michigan in the Rose Bowl—and that’s saying something. It could go either way but I’ll take Hawaii in a close one in a slightly biased prediction.
Motor City Bowl
Central Michigan (9-4) vs. Middle Tennessee (7-5) Detroit, MI
December 26, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.
Middle Tennessee won seven games this season against teams with a 27-55 record. It also won by one point at home against 0-12 Florida International. It lost to all four of the BCS teams on its schedule by an average score of 45-9. That sounds like something Temple could accomplish. Seriously, would Temple be a .500 team in the Sun Belt Conference? I’m not knocking the Sun Belt Conference or the teams in the Sun Belt Conference. I’m knocking a system that produces games like Central Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee the day after Christmas. As long as the players aren’t emotional wrecks do to the departure of their coach Brian Kelly to Cincinnati, Central Michigan should destroy Middle Tennessee. Judging from some comments left on Stadium and Main recently it seems like Eastern Michigan’s 33-14 loss against Louisiana-Lafayette must have given fans of the Sun Belt a sense that the two conferences are equal. The NFL will tell you that they aren’t even close. Although, that doesn’t mean that we should be subjected to four MAC teams in bowl games. I remember when one was too many.
UCLA (7-5) vs. Florida State (6-6) San Francisco, CA
December 27, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
Is Drew Weatherford the worst quarterback that has ever played meaningful minutes for a big-time D-1 college football program? I thought long and hard about ways to prove whether he is or not. Then I finally came up with a fail-proof test. I would simply ask a group of Ohio State fans if they would rather have Drew Weatherford or Stanley Jackson. The answer was unanimous. To my surprise, they went with Stanley Jackson. So there it is. Drew Weatherford is officially the worst quarterback that has ever played meaningful minutes for a big-time D-1 college football program. Don’t feel sorry for him, though. He is related to the real William Wallace from Braveheart. So he’s got that going for him. All non-USC fans should be rooting for a revival of the UCLA program. With virtually nothing out West standing in the way of USC and an annual trip to the National Championship game with the exception of a big-time upset, a return to glory for the UCLA program doubles your team’s chances of playing for the National Championship. I’ll take UCLA in a 7-6 shootout.
Oklahoma State (6-6) vs. Alabama (6-6) Shreveport, LA
December 28, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.
Put a team with a pulse against Alabama and that team should be the easy favorite. That is precisely why I have no idea who is going to win this game. Oklahoma State certainly has nothing on Alabama even with its current coach-less state. Out of the 32 bowl games, this is by far the game that I am the least confident. This is also the only game of the 32 that I picked the underdog which happens to be Alabama.
Kansas State (7-5) vs. Rutgers (10-2) Houston, TX
December 28, NFL Network, 8:00 p.m.
It’s amazing how quickly things change. Just three weeks ago, Rutgers was actually in the peripheral of the National Championship discussions. The Scarlet Knights barely lost out on the Big East Championship by losing a triple overtime thriller to West Virginia in the season finale. Their reward for such a fantastic season? A trip to the Texas Bowl against Kansas State. Now, I’m not so confident in Rutgers to think that their “C” game would beat Kansas State’s “A” game. Rutgers doesn’t have enough talent to “mail it in” and still win against KSU. Having said that, Rutgers should win this game rather easily.
California (9-3) vs. Texas A&M (9-3) San Diego, CA
December 28, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
It could be argued that Texas A&M was the most impressive team in the Big XII this season. That argument probably gets usurped by the argument for Oklahoma but I’m going to give it a try anyway. Texas A&M lost only three times this year by a total of six points. Two of the losses were one-point heart breakers to Oklahoma and Nebraska. The other was a four-pointer to Texas Tech. A&M could have won all three games. It is amazing to think how close the Aggies actually were to finishing undefeated and playing in the BCS National Championship game. That would have blown everyone’s mind. It’s blowing my mind just thinking about it. Another amazing thing to think about is that none of Texas A&M’s conference games were decided by more than ten points. In fact, seven of the eight games were decided by six points or less. I can’t imagine that has happened too many times in the history of college football. Nonetheless, Cal has the better roster so it should take this one. Don’t be surprised, though, if this game is decided by six points or less.
Music City Bowl
Kentucky (7-5) vs. Clemson (8-4) Nashville, TN
December 29, ESPN, 1:00 p.m.
Kentucky is proof that a college football team only needs to win one game that it isn’t supposed to if it wants to make a bowl game. Kentucky’s upset over Georgia proved to be all that was needed to send the Wildcats to a bowl game for the first time since 1999. This is probably the biggest mismatch on paper of all the bowl games. Kentucky played Louisville, Florida and LSU and lost those games by a combined score of 134-35. Clemson is more like those teams than the teams that Kentucky actually beat. I actually like Clemson to cover the spread rather easily in this one.
Missouri (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-4) El Paso, TX
December 29, CBS, 2:00 p.m.
This is a game between two teams heading in opposite directions. Missouri started the season 6-0 only to go 2-4 after that including a loss to dreadful Iowa State. Oregon State started the season 2-3 including an embarrassing blowout loss to Boise State on National Television only to go 7-1 after that including a win over USC. I can’t believe the same team that looked like a JV High School team against Boise State managed to improve so much as to beat the #3 team in the country. I still find that unbelievable. I’ll take Oregon State to take this one since Missouri has been terrible and Oregon State has been quite good as of late.
Houston (10-3) vs. South Carolina (7-5) Memphis, TN
December 29, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.
I wonder which option most big-time college coaches would choose: a) play a bowl game against top-notch competition with the odds of victory hovering around 50% or, b) play a bowl game against a lower division cream puff with the odds of victory somewhere around 85%. I bet opinions would be split pretty close to 50/50 on this one. Personally, I can’t get too excited about seeing my team play a lower-caliber team. That is why I was hoping Michigan didn’t have to play Boise State in its BCS game. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. If Michigan beat Boise State, then nobody would care because Michigan is “supposed” to beat Boise State. If Michigan lost to Boise State, then everybody would laugh at Michigan for losing to Boise State. It’s a no-win situation. However, with such a high likelihood for victory, many coaches might elect to take the win to guarantee a successful end to the season. Bowl wins mean so much in college football. So many things are forgotten if you can just win the bowl game. Steve Spurrier doesn’t have to worry about that though. His job security is about as safe as it gets in college football. On a side note—I can’t believe Kevin Kolb (Houston’s quarterback) is still in college. I remember when he started at Michigan in 2003. That was so long ago that Jim Herrmann had only used up six of his nine lives by that time. Anyhow, South Carolina should take care of business in this one.
Champs Sports Bowl
Purdue (8-5) vs. Maryland (8-4) Orlando, FL
December 29, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
The luckiest two years in Purdue Boilermaker history are about to end. Purdue’s record against Michigan and Ohio State over the last two years is a nifty 0-0. I expect one of those columns to change drastically over the next few years and I don’t think it’s going to be the first one. Maryland’s eight victories were by an average margin of 5.5 points and that includes wins against William & Mary, Middle Tennessee, Florida International, Virginia and NC State. Maryland beat one good team all year and that was a one-point win over Clemson. Even though Maryland hasn’t been impressive in its victories this season, it did manage to beat both Florida State and Miami (FL) both of which have vastly superior rosters. I like Maryland in this one but that’s just because I’m not sold on Purdue.
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5) Phoenix, AZ
December 29, NFL Network, 8:00 p.m.
Minnesota deserves a lot of credit for starting 2-5 and still making a bowl game. Although, that would have never happened if Minnesota didn’t barely squeak by D1-AA North Dakota State, 10-9. This game intrigues me quite a bit. I don’t particularly care for either of these teams. I’m not interested in seeing any players in particular. I’m just looking forward to seeing the contrasting styles. Texas Tech’s aerial attack versus Minnesota’s potent ground game. Minnesota thrives on long scoring drives while Texas Tech goes for the quick strike. I’m going with Texas Tech in this one but it’s pretty close to 50/50.
Meineke Car Care Bowl
Boston College (9-3) vs. Navy (9-3) Charlotte, NC
December 30, ESPN2, 1:00 p.m.
This game should be given the most confidence on everybody’s Bowl Pick’em. Navy has no chance of winning this game. Navy played Rutgers and Notre Dame this year which happen to be teams of similar caliber to Boston College. The Midshipmen lost both games by a combined score of 72-14. Even more telling is the fact that Navy hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record from a BCS Conference since 1996. Although, I do have to give Navy kudos for putting together a better resume this season. Last year, Navy had eight wins against teams with a combined record of 13-63 (17%!!!). This season, Navy’s opponents had a more respectable won/loss record of 17-67 (20%!!!). I mentioned this one year ago right in this same spot:
“Navy has rebuilt its image entirely on scheduling the worst possible opponents. I thought this was a brilliant plan by Navy coach Paul Johnson. It was so brilliant, in fact, that Bobby Ross pulled Army out of Conference USA so he could do the same thing. Why play in a conference when you can schedule the worst teams from multiple conferences? I’m not being facetious here; Navy is no longer considered a joke. They’ve made three straight bowl games and have regained some national prominence.”
I could have just re-written the same thing this season and played it off as an original thought. Should we make a date to use the exact same passage next December, too?
There is something that has been on my mind over the last week that I just can’t figure out. Why would anyone leave a sweet coaching gig at Boston College to coach NC State? I know O’Brien went to NC State and all but I don’t think you’ll see Lloyd Carr leaving Michigan to coach his alma mater (Northern Michigan). Clearly NC State is a better job than Northern Michigan but Boston College it is not. I wish him luck. Something tells me that in four years, he’ll be hoping to land a job as cushy as the Boston College gig.
Texas (9-3) vs. Iowa (6-6) San Antonio, TX
December 30, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.
No conference consistently has more ridiculous Bowl games than the Big Ten. Every year, the Big Ten’s middle-tier teams get matched up with other conference’s powerhouses. Amazingly, this hardly ever results in embarrassment for the league with the exception of any game involving Northwestern. I still remember Purdue’s shocking victory over 11-1 Kansas State in the ’99 Alamo Bowl. Other match-ups that appeared to be huge mismatches against the Big Ten in recent history include; ’04 Capital One Bowl between Purdue-Georgia (Georgia jumped out to a 24-0 lead before Purdue stormed back to make it close), ’01 Sun Bowl between Purdue-Washington State (Purdue at 6-5 was a huge underdog to 9-2 Washington State but managed to keep things close before losing by six), ’06 Capital One Bowl between Wisconsin-Auburn (Auburn was a huge favorite but Wisconsin pulled off a convincing win), and ’05 Outback Bowl between Wisconsin-Georgia (Georgia was an even bigger favorite than Auburn was in ’06 but Wiscy managed to keep things close ultimately losing by three). Those are just some of the mismatches the Big Ten has been faced with recently. I can’t remember the last time a Big Ten team embarrassed itself in a game that the Big Ten team was the obvious underdog (’02 Citrus Bowl or '02 Sugar Bowl?). All bets are off with Northwestern though. They are 0-5 in Bowl games since 1949. They are always the underdog and they always get smoked. This game is along those same lines, though. Most people think Texas is going to crush Iowa. It certainly looks that way to me. However, judging from how competitive the Big Ten has been against any and all competition over the last 10 years, I would be surprised if Iowa got blown out of the building. I’ll take Texas in a fairly close game.
Virginia Tech (10-2) vs. Georgia (8-4) Atlanta, GA
December 30, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
If you liked the Georgia-Georgia Tech game that featured 27 total points, then you’ll love this game. The over/under on points in this game is currently at 38. I think that is a little high. Neither team has an offense capable of putting up points on the other team’s defense. Va. Tech’s defense is better than Ga. Tech’s so Georgia won’t be scoring any points. Georgia’s defense only allowed more than 24 points in a game once this season so Va. Tech won’t be scoring any points. I’m actually looking forward to watching this one. This will probably be Georgia’s worst team for the foreseeable future. I doubt they’ll be this beatable for a long time. I think Va. Tech continues its impressive run with a close victory.
MPC Computers Bowl
Nevada (8-4) vs. Miami (6-6) Boise, ID
December 30, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.
Miami’s impassioned bowl-clinching regular season finale win over Boston College earned them a bowl game against Nevada. This might be the worst Miami (FL) football season of all-time. Sure, there have been worse seasons record-wise but consider that Miami a) started the season in the top ten only to finish 6-6, b) fired its coach, c) had a bench clearing brawl against Florida A&M, d) had a player shot and killed, and e) didn’t score more than 20 points in a game after October 28. I think the “U” did the right thing by naming Randy Shannon its coach. His primary goal should be to find an offensive mind to bring back the scoring in Miami so he can focus on killing (figuratively speaking) fools with his defense. Nevada is probably in for the most physical game that it has ever played. That doesn’t mean Miami will score a lot of points. That just means Nevada won’t. Miami will pull this one out.
Nebraska (9-4) vs. Auburn (10-2) Dallas, TX
January 1, Fox, 11:30 a.m.
Despite going 10-2 this season and having the best two-win combination of any team in college football (Florida and LSU), Auburn was a bit of a disappointment. The defense was rock solid as usual only allowing more than 20 points in a game twice. The offense just wasn’t as potent as it was last season. However, with a win over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, Auburn will finish 11-2 which will go down in the history books as a fantastic season. Nebraska lost to some pretty good teams this season (USC, Texas, and Oklahoma). It took another step towards reclaiming its national prominence. Win or lose, Nebraska has brighter days ahead. Auburn “should” win this game but I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on it.
Penn State (8-4) vs. Tennessee (9-3) Tampa, FL
January 1, ESPN, 11:00 a.m.
This game has ’02 Citrus Bowl written all over it. The only difference is that this Tennessee team isn’t as consistent as the ’02 team. Penn State only beat one team that finished above .500 this season and that was Purdue. Penn State’s four losses all came to teams ranked in the top 11. That probably qualifies Penn State as having the most top heavy schedule of any team in college football. That doesn’t mean, however, that Penn State has a chance in this game. Penn State lost those four games by a combined score of 99-36. When healthy, Tennessee is better than Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Tennessee is healthy.
Capital One Bowl
Arkansas (10-3) vs. Wisconsin (11-1) Orlando, FL
January 1, ABC, 1:00 p.m.
Nobody has tougher bowl games than Wisconsin. Including this year, Wisconsin’s last four bowl games have been against Auburn, Georgia, Auburn, and Arkansas. I don’t think Wisconsin will win this game. They will fall behind early and keep it close. That is the template for Wisconsin games when they are the underdog. They never get blown out but their deficiency in talent usually keeps them from springing the upset. I just don’t see Arkansas keeping up with Arkansas’ offense. If the Big Ten has any chance of finishing above .500 in their bowl games this season, it will need a win from either Wisconsin or Penn State. I don’t see the latter happening so it pretty much comes down to Wiscy.
Georgia Tech (9-4) vs. West Virginia (10-2) Jacksonville, FL
January 1, CBS, 1:00 p.m.
If this game were played in September or October, there is no doubt in my mind that West Virginia would have blown out Georgia Tech. I think the Louisville loss caused irreparable damage to the team’s psyche. The Mountaineers didn’t seem all too interested in the rest of its games dropping a shocker to South Florida and barely squeaking by Rutgers in triple overtime. If both teams play the way they should, West Virginia should crush Georgia Tech. Considering West Virginia’s lackadaisical play to end the season, I don’t see them winning big. They should pull out a close win to set up for a National Title run next season. The Big East is going to likely have two top five teams in the 2007 pre-season polls with Rutgers a possible top 15 team. West Virginia and Louisville will both be better next season. If I had to put money on one conference putting a team in the National Championship game next season, I would put it on the Big East.
Here are the 2007 schedules for Louisville and West Virginia with projected wins in bold:
at South Florida
at West Virginia
at NC State
at South Florida
Michigan (11-1) vs. USC (10-2) Pasadena, CA
January 1, ABC, 5:00 p.m.
I have to admit that I’m surprised that USC is favored in this game. There was so much public sentiment that Michigan was actually the second best team even when USC was in the #2 spot in the BCS. I guess Michigan’s past shortcomings in bowl games and USC’s recent dominance in bowl games swayed opinions somewhat. Regardless of the outcome of this game, Michigan has already had a monumental season. This season marks only the second time in the Lloyd Carr era that Michigan finished with at least 11 wins. This season also marks only the second time in the Lloyd Carr era that Michigan finished with two losses or less. A win over USC would cement the 2006 season as Carr’s second best effort and would result in a #2 ranking in the final polls. I don’t see how Michigan can not be the pre-season number one team headed into next year with Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, and Jake Long coming back. It really doesn’t make a difference though. It is all going to come down to beating Ohio State on November 17. If that doesn’t happen, it hardly matters where Michigan starts the season in the rankings. Although, it would be nice to see Michigan ranked number one again. That hasn’t happened in 10 years. I’m almost certain that the winner of this game will be ranked number one to start the 2007 season. Oh by the way, I’ll take Michigan in this game 31-28.
Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Boise State (12-0) Glendale, AZ
January 1, Fox, 8:00 p.m.
After it became apparent that Boise State was going to be in a BCS game, there were a few fan-bases holding their collective breaths. Unfortunately for Oklahoma fans, they drew the short end of the stick. Boise State is hardly the team you want your team to play. A victory over Boise State means little and a loss to Boise State is just embarrassing. This brings up the whole scenario I brought up under the S. Carolina-Houston preview. Do you think Bob Stoops prefers to play in a BCS game against a pushover like Boise State where the odds of victory probably hover around 85% or do you think Stoops would prefer to play in a more challenging game where victory is only a 50/50 proposition at best? In this instance, I’m guessing Stoops would choose playing Boise State since that means an 11-2 record and a final ranking in or around the top 5. Speaking of Stoops, he did a superb job this season. His Sooners were three miserable calls in a one-minute span against Oregon from being 11-1. Considering he accomplished that feat with Paul Thompson at quarterback, that is quite an impressive achievement. I remember how poorly Thompson was at quarterback last season before being moved to wide receiver. I also have to commend Thompson on making such a remarkable turnaround from last season. Oklahoma should roll in this game since Boise isn’t playing on the blue stuff this year.
Wake Forest (11-2) vs. Louisville (11-1) Miami, FL
January 2, Fox, 8:00 p.m.
This is another game of contrasting styles (ala Minnesota-Texas Tech). Louisville is a huge favorite. I don’t have a problem with that although I caution people not to be overly confident in this game. Remember, Louisville’s only loss was to a carbon copy of Wake Forest (Rutgers). I actually think Wake will cover the spread. Although, the Orange Bowl has featured some of the bigger mismatches of the bowl season in recent years including USC-Iowa, USC-Oklahoma, and Florida-Maryland. I’d actually like to rescind my prediction that Wake will cover the spread and simply say that it would not surprise me if Wake did cover.
Notre Dame (10-2) vs. LSU (10-2) New Orleans, LA
January 3, Fox, 8:00 p.m.
This is a good match-up for Notre Dame in the sense that LSU isn’t an offensive juggernaut and LSU isn’t Ohio State, Michigan, or USC. This is a bad match-up for Notre Dame in the sense that LSU very well could be the most talented team in the SEC and this game is being played in Louisiana. If the good things add up to a plus five, then the bad things add up to a minus 20. Notre Dame clearly has an uphill battle. They will likely lose their 10th bowl game in a row.
Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Cincinnati (7-5) Toronto, Canada
January 6, ESPN, 12:00 p.m.
OK, who was the ad wizard that came up with this idea? Is a Western Michigan-Cincinnati match-up really what people want to see two days before the National Championship game? Can’t the NCAA use the time they wasted on creating this ridiculous game on coming up with the playoff that is slowly becoming an inevitability? I feel bad for Western Michigan and Cincinnati. Everybody is pissed off that this game exists but it isn’t their fault. Anyhow, Cincinnati “should” win this game but it’s hard to predict how much of an impact the departure of its head coach will have. Although, Cincy’s new coach (Brian Kelly) is arguably an upgrade over the departed Mark Dantonio. Speaking of that, would you rather have Dantonio or Brian Kelly as the head coach of your team? I think Dantonio will do well in E. Lansing but I would have picked Kelly. That brings me to another thing. Why was it viewed as such a disappointment when Kelly didn’t get the Iowa State job? There were people on talk radio consoling Kelly and saying things like, “keep your head up” and “your opportunity will come soon enough”. What young, self respecting, rising coach would even want the Iowa State job? Seriously, if I were Kelly, I would chill out in Mt. Pleasant coaching Central Michigan to bowl games every year until an opportunity worth pursuing came along. Iowa State has been to five bowl games in 26 years. The best thing that ever happened to Brian Kelly was not being hired by Iowa State. Not that the Cincinnati job is much better. At least he’ll get to play against the Big East instead of the big boys in the Big XII. Anyhow, I’m going with Cincy in this one.
Southern Mississippi (vs. Ohio (9-4) Mobile, AL
January 7, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
OK, I’m imagining a conversation between the big wigs at the NCAA. It goes something like this:
Big Wig #1: There is a five-day lull in between the Sugar Bowl and the BCS National Championship game. We owe it to the fans to entertain them during that down time. What can we do?
Big Wig #2: Well, I’ve got a buddy that lives in Toronto. He says the view from the CN Tower is fantastic.
Big Wig #1: No, we can’t have two bowl games in Toronto.
Big Wig #2: I heard people in Alabama like football.
Big Wig #1: Excellent. We’ve got the location down. Now we just need to match up two teams.
Big Wig #2: Well, we only have three MAC teams in bowl games this year.
Big Wig #1: That does sound a little low. How about we take a fourth MAC team and pit it against Southern Mississippi?
Big Wig #2: You stole the words from my mouth.
Again, I can’t be mad at Ohio or Southern Mississippi. They’re just two teams psyched about playing in a bowl game. Southern Mississippi should win but I’m expecting this one to be close.
BCS Championship Game
Ohio State (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1) Glendale, AZ
January 8, Fox, 8:00 p.m.
I’d like to use this space to dispel the myth that Florida played an absolutely brutal schedule this season. There is no question that the schedule didn’t end up being nearly as difficult as it appeared before the season started. Florida beat one elite team (LSU) and two good teams (Tennessee and Arkansas) this season. The rest of their victories were against Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, S. Carolina, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Southern Mississippi, UCF, and Western Carolina. For those college football fans that aren’t aware what year it is, it is not 2005. Georgia, Florida State, and Alabama were not good this year. Only Georgia finished better than .500 and it lost to Kentucky and Vanderbilt. I would love to make a bet with all of the people out there (Mark May comes to mind) that can’t stop talking about how difficult Florida’s schedule was. If Florida finishes within three points of Ohio State or actually wins the game, then I will post how brutal Florida’s schedule was this year. If Florida doesn’t finish within three points, then everyone has to shut up forever about how cruel Florida’s schedule was this season. If people say things enough times, they often begin to believe them even when they are clearly not true. Mark May is obviously a subscriber to that theory. I read someone’s pre-season top 10 for next season and Ohio State was in the top five. If Ginn leaves (as expected) and Pittman leaves (50/50), then I don’t see how Ohio State can even be a top ten team. I know people thought the same about this year’s team after losing so many players on defense but this year’s team was clearly offensive minded. The defense played well at times but don’t forget it gave up 39 points to Michigan. Troy Smith is the reason why OSU is the best team in the country this year. In all honesty, I don’t think OSU beats Michigan if Smith and Chad Henne switched teams. That’s no knock on Henne, either. Smith is just a brilliant quarterback.