Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Navy (8-4)—Washington, D.C.
December 20, ESPN, 11 a.m.
What a way to kick off the bowl season. Who isn’t excited about watching Wake Forest and Navy square-off for the third time in the last 14 months? I’ve already made reservations on my couch for this baby. Who comes up with these ideas? I hate to say it, but this bowl epitomizes college football's shortcomings. With all due respect to Wake Forest and Navy—because they’ve had successful seasons and deserve to play in a postseason game—a rematch of a non-conference game from earlier in the year in a bowl named after a bank that nobody has ever heard of is not anyone's idea of compelling. Like apple pie and the Lions getting blown out at home on Thanksgiving, though, lame rematches have become a staple of American culture. Last year it was the much anticipated rematch of the Purdue-Central Michigan blowout that shockingly ended with Purdue winning again albeit in a squeaker. More people might have noticed and appreciated CMU’s near-victory the second time around if they weren’t so pissed that they had to watch CMU play Purdue again. Last year also brought us a BYU-UCLA rematch. Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played Duke. Navy lost by ten. Wake Forest won by three. Rematch Alert: Navy beat Wake Forest. Look for Wake Forest to exact revenge. It’s OK to lose to Navy once but losing to Navy twice in the same season is where the Demon Deacons draw the line. In all seriousness, Wake turned the ball over six times against Navy in its first meeting and only turned it over a total of 13 times in its remaining 11 games. That won't happen again; so Navy likely won't win again.
New Mexico Bowl
Colorado St. (6-6) vs. Fresno St. (7-5)--Albuquerque, NM
December 20, ESPN, 12:30 p.m.
Now this is more like it. Colorado St. and Fresno St. haven't faced each other since, well, 2006. Hmm. I don't think bowl organizers understand that bowl games are supposed to be entertaining. Maybe Colorado St. vs. Fresno St. was entertaining once upon a time. Sure, it was entertaining in 1999 and then again in 2001. It was entertaining in 2002 and maybe even in 2003. By 2006, though, this non-conference matchup officially became excruciating which, appropriately, has become the theme of the 2008 bowl season. Fresno should win this game but that's going to be it for the analysis. The more I write about this game, the more violent the thoughts in my head get. So, for the safety of everyone involved, I'm moving on...
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl
BYU (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)--Las Vegas, Nevada
December 20, ESPN, 8 p.m.
Now we're cookin'. These offensive powerhouses haven't met since...2007. Thanks to the geniuses that run the Las Vegas Bowl, we are fortunate enough to see BYU play Arizona for the third time in the last 27 months. Thank you, Las Vegas Bowl organizers. If there's one thing lacking in my life, it’s the final stanza of the epic BYU-Arizona trilogy. This will be the fourth consecutive season that BYU has played a middle-of-the-road Pac-10 team in a bowl game. The trend has been that the Pac-10 team comes in highly unmotivated to play a mid-major while BYU comes in highly-motivated to prove it belongs among the Pac-10 elite. Except, Arizona is coming off its first winning season since 1998. The Wildcats will want to put a stamp on their season. I don't think motivation will be a factor. Defense might be, however. Common Opponent Alert: These teams combined to clobber UCLA, 89-10. That tells us more about Tennessee than it does about either of these teams. Double Common Opponent Alert: Arizona inexplicably lost to a terrible New Mexico team while BYU handled its business against the Lobos. Neither of these teams was particularly impressive on the road so it should be close and ugly. I'm torn here. BYU was far from impressive in many of its wins. The Cougars got cold-cocked in their only two legitimate tests against TCU and Utah. I may live to regret this but I'm feeling Arizona in this one.
magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl
South Florida (7-5) vs. Memphis (6-6)--St. Petersburg, FL
December, 20, 9 p.m.
The only way this game could be watchable is if Billy Mays were added to the announcing crew. If he can make the Awesome Auger sound as important as water and food, just think what he could do with the magicJack Bowl. Something has to be done to spice this game up because the bowl organizers have laid yet another egg. South Florida has been a I-A football team for nine years. This will be the fifth time that it has played Memphis. Do we really need the fifth installment right now? Can't it wait 50 years? South Florida would be a heavy favorite no matter where the game was played but the fact that it's in Florida makes it even worse. Memphis clawed its way to bowl eligibility by getting six wins against teams without winning records. Memphis feasted on such powerhouses as Nicholls St., SMU, and Tulane. Nicholls St. is a I-AA team and a bad one at that. SMU and Tulane combined to go 3-23. Last year, the Bulls reeled off six straight wins to start the season climbing to #2 in the polls before finishing 3-4 in their last seven. This year, USF started off 5-0 and ranked #10 before finishing 2-4 in their last six. Jim Leavitt is quickly earning a reputation as a weak-finisher. That didn't work out so well for Glen Mason and Dirk Koetter. Common Opponent Alert: Both of these teams played UCF. S. Florida won at UCF. Memphis lost at home to UCF. Double Common Opponent Alert: Both lost to a bad Louisville team. If beating Memphis makes a team feel good, then S. Florida will feel good when this is over.
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Troy (8-4) vs. Southern Mississippi (6-6)--New Orleans, LA
December 21, ESPN, 8 p.m.
This is actually the first time these teams have ever met so I can skip the sarcastic intro and go right to the game. These teams are better and worse than their records, respectively. Troy played at Ohio St., at Oklahoma St., and at LSU. Troy led LSU in the 4th quarter and trailed Ohio St. 14-10 in the 4th quarter. This team has proven that it can play with the best. Southern Mississippi, on the other hand, started off the season 2-6 before finishing on a four-game win streak against suspect competition. Southern Miss did beat East Carolina so it is capable of beating a team like Troy. Common Opponent Alert: These teams combined to clobber Louisiana-Lafayette 99-24. Illinois fans just threw up in unison. Double Common Opponent Alert: Both also beat Arkansas St. Troy did it via blowout. This is the kind of game that gets the locals riled up. An Alabama school playing a Mississippi school in Louisiana will always go over well in the south. Like so many times before, the Alabama-school should roll over the Mississippi-school.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
TCU (10-2) vs. Boise St. (12-0)--San Diego, CA
December 23, ESPN, 8 p.m.
This should be a good game. TCU and Boise St. have met once before. They played a classic five years ago in the Fort Worth Bowl. Boise St. won 34-31 despite TCU's home-field advantage. Coming into their 2003 matchup, these teams had a combined record of 23-2. TCU was a defensive stalwart and Boise St. was an offensive juggernaut. This time around, they have a combined record of 22-2. TCU is still a defensive stalwart. Boise St. is still an offensive juggernaut. However, TCU has gotten better offensively while Boise State has improved defensively. These teams are slowly morphing into mirror images of each other. BSU was tested only once this season and it came away with an impressive victory at Oregon. No other opponent came closer than seven points. TCU was tested three times including a blowout loss to Oklahoma, a blowout win over BYU, and a razor-thin loss at Utah. Nothing would surprise me, here, but I'm going with TCU and the under.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Notre Dame (6-6) vs. Hawaii (7-6)--Honolulu, Hawaii
December 24, ESPN, 8 p.m.
Before the final weekend of the regular season, various bowl projections had Notre Dame playing Rice. Sadly, I don't think The Clausenettes could've beaten Rice or Hawaii. I would be surprised if Notre Dame went to Hawaii and came away with a win. I'm not alone in that sentiment because Vegas has actually made Hawaii the favorite in this game. If you've seen Hawaii play this year, then you have a pretty good idea how bad Notre Dame is. The Rainbow Warriors lost by 26 to Utah St. However, Notre Dame's AD deserves serious kudos. In fact, Jack Swarbrick should be getting thank you cards from every college football fan-base in the Midwest. Buckeyes, Sparties, Wolverines, Boilermakers, and Nittany Lions owe a serious debt of gratitude to Mr. Swarbrick for having the courage to bring Charlie Weis back for another season. The worst thing that could've possibly happened for the rest of us would've been for Notre Dame to hire Brian Kelly. That would be like Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. It's not acceptable. The Midwest football powers should be doing everything it can to keep Notre Dame from acquiring Kelly. If that means that Michigan, Ohio St., and Michigan St. pool together to help Cincinnati offer a 10-year, $100 million contract, then so be it. Kelly must not be allowed to get into the hands of Ira..., I mean, Notre Dame.
Motor City Bowl
Florida Atlantic (6-6) vs. Central Michigan (8-4)---Detroit, MI
December 26, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.
So this is what Michigan missed out on by failing to get to 6-6? Tragic, isn't it? Florida Atlantic deserves some credit. The Owls bounced back from a 1-5 start to become bowl eligible but did it by beating up on some of the worst teams in college football. You might remember Howard Schnellenberger calling Texas's defense soft. That backfired to the tune of a 52-10 beatdown. The Owls followed up that beauty by scoring a combined three points against Michigan St. and Minnesota--two middle of the road Big Ten defenses. As for CMU, the folks in Mount Pleasant are probably pretty happy about being a heavy favorite in a bowl game but they'll also probably tell you that CMU was a bit of a disappointment this year. CMU let a victory over Ball St.--and a trip to the MAC Championship Game--slip away. The Chips also lost to a bad Eastern Michigan team for the second year in a row. I think Central will take out its frustrations on Florida Atlantic and win big. Oh by the way, next year is poised to be one of the best QB classes in NFL history. Most of the talk has been centered on Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and Mark Sanchez. Don't sleep on Dan LeFevour. The Fever has a chance to be as unexpectedly good in the NFL as Ben Roethlisberger was. He should get a first-round look-see next year.
Champs Sports Bowl
Florida St. (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (7-5)--Orlando, FL
December 27, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.
This is what the bowl season should be about. Florida St. and Wisconsin have never played. They are both among the top 15 in winning percentage over the last 10 years. Even if neither team is exciting to watch--and they most certainly aren't--the fact that this is the first time these teams have met is enough to stir up some interest. BYU-Arizona and Wake Forest-Navy be damned. Florida St. is famous for its unprecedented streak of losing no more than two games for 14 consecutive seasons (1987-2000). The year that streak ended, Florida St. started a new streak that continues to today. The Noles haven't lost fewer than three games for eight consecutive seasons. The magic has left Tallahassee. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has seen its honeymoon with Brett Bielema end in a hurry. Wisconsin was ranked in the top 10 early in the season but saw that fade fast. Bielema went 17-1 through his first 18 games at Wisconsin but is only 11-9 since including a one-point overtime win at home against I-AA Cal Poly. That fresh coach smell can wear off mighty quickly. Kirk Ferentz can't leave Iowa soon enough for Bielema. As for the game, it takes place in Florida so I'll let you fill in the rest. Sadly, this game represents the Big Ten's second best chance at a victory.
Miami (FL) (7-5) vs. California (8-4)--San Francisco, CA
December 27, ESPN, 8:30 p.m.
One of the worst aspects of the bowl system--and there are a lot of them--is that bowls are played in "good weather" climates. I would love to see how the Pac-10 would've fared in the Rose Bowl all these years if it had to travel to the Midwest in January under the guise of a neutral field contest. Football is played in all climates. There's no reason why bowl games should be specific to warm weather destinations. Obviously, it is the way it is because bowls need to make money and people don't travel as well to cold destinations in the winter. Therein lays the crux of college football's problems. Instead of a system designed in the best interest of college football, the system is designed in the best interest of fat wallets. That's why there isn't a playoff and that's why we have to watch "home" games during the bowl season. This game is about as intriguing as a game between two boring teams can be. They didn't play any common opponents but California got smoked on the road against an average ACC team (Maryland). Miami is an average ACC team. The difference this time is that Miami has to travel to California. On a neutral field, this game might be close. Instead, Cal should win big.
Meineke Car Care Bowl
North Carolina (8-4) vs. West Virginia (8-4)---Charlotte, NC
December 27, ESPN, 1 p.m.
This should end up being one of the better games of the bowl season. Interestingly, North Carolina and West Virginia appear to be two programs headed in opposite directions. As long as Butch Davis sticks around, North Carolina is looking at a return to its mid-90s form under Mack Brown. Two years from now, the ACC is going to be ruled by North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Those programs will fill in the massive voids left by the marginalization of Miami and Florida St. West Virginia, on the other hand, is living on borrowed time. Bill Stewart managed to salvage one winning season--and a fat contract--off of Rich Rodriguez's residuals. It'll take a miracle for him to salvage another one. Pat White ain't walking through that door next season. Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and destroyed Connecticut by 26 and 25 points, respectively. Although, West Virginia gets bonus points for doing it on the road. Double Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and beat Rutgers. North Carolina held Georgia Tech to seven points earlier in the season. Georgia Tech runs a version of the run-based spread. West Virginia also runs the run-based spread. West Virginia is going to have a difficult time scoring. North Carolina should have no such problems.
Rutgers (7-5) vs. N.C. State (6-6)--Birmingham, AL
December 29, ESPN2, 3 p.m.
The winner of this game is going to feel really good about its season. Rutgers and N.C. State started off the season a combined 3-11. They followed that by finishing a combined 10-0 including six wins over bowl teams. Doubly Confusing Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played North Carolina and South Florida. What happened in those games is a case for the X-Files. N.C. State hammered North Carolina on the road. Rutgers got hammered by North Carolina at home. Rutgers hammered S. Florida on the road. N.C. State got hammered by S. Florida at home. Those outcomes aren't even remotely logical. I have no idea what's going to happen in this game. Vegas thinks it knows as it has Rutgers a surprising seven-point favorite. If I were picking ATS, I would surely go with N.C. State. Otherwise, I'll go with Rutgers and zero confidence points.
Louisiana Tech (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (6-6)--Shreveport, LA
December 28, ESPN, 8 p.m.
Once upon a time, these teams were both in the Big West (apparently, Illinois used to be big and in the west). Northern Illinois dominated a six-game stretch against La. Tech during that time by winning five of the six meetings by an average of 24 points per game. There's a chance that La. Tech has been simmering and seething for the last 15 years waiting to exact revenge. There's also a chance that Charles Barkley will change his mind on Gene Chizik. This is how bad the bowl system has gotten: Northern Illinois finished fourth in the MAC's West Division and it's still a favorite to win the game. Here's why: Louisiana Tech scored a combined seven points against Kansas and Army--two of the worst defenses in college football. Northern Illinois, for its part, scored zero points against Navy's atrocious defense. However, Northern Illinois did lose to three bowl teams and Tennessee by four points or less. A team like Northern Illinois should be a heavy favorite over a team like La. Tech. When it's not--the line is only 1.5--it makes me wonder if the game is a functional home again. And by golly, it is! Louisiana Tech gets this game in Louisiana. The bowl system is so fair and rewarding, isn't it? Something that is fair and rewarding, however, is this blog. I'm hiding this Easter Egg in absolutely the most excruciatingly boring section of the bowl extravaganza. I wanted to find out if anyone actually makes it this far into the extravaganza. So, I'm going to reward the first person who did. The first person who emails me the first seven words of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song gets a free Motown Sports Revival shirt. I feel bad for the second dude (or dudette) who makes it this far because it's totally not worth it without the free shirt. =)
Northwestern (9-3) vs. Missouri (9-4)--San Antonio, TX
December 29, ESPN, 8 p.m.
This game has the 2000 Alamo Bowl written all over it. Northwestern got paired up with a Nebraska team that only lost to the eventual National Champion (Oklahoma) and an 11-3 Kansas St.-team. Not surprisingly, Zak Kustok and the crew got blown out by seven touchdowns. This one probably won't be as bad but the end result will be the same: Northwestern opponent by a gazillion. Common Opponent Alert: The common opponent comparison actually puts Northwestern in a good light. Both teams played and beat Illinois. Missouri won by 10. Northwestern won by 17. Touché, Wildcats! Still, I think the line on this game is too small and a Missouri-play here represents about the best possible way someone could make money in an economy as troubled as ours. Disclaimer: I do not advocate gambling unless my advice is correct.
Western Michigan (9-3) vs. Rice (9-3)--Houston, TX
December 30, NFL Network, 8 p.m.
This game would have been a great match-up except for that pesky "home game" glitch in the bowl system. These teams are very similar in ability. Vegas generally awards a three point swing towards the home team. The spread for this game is three points. So, clearly these teams are equals. Great season, Western Michigan Broncos! You get to go lose your bowl game because you got invited to the
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Oklahoma St. (9-3) vs. Oregon (9-3)--San Diego, CA
December 30, ESPN, 8 p.m.
This is one of the gems of the bowl season. These teams are averaging close to 1,000 total yards combined per game. Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the country. QB issues derailed the Ducks early but now that Jeremiah Masoli has things rolling, the Ducks are threatening to break the scoreboard. They've gone 35, 55, and 65 in their last three games, respectively, including a drubbing of Oregon St. Oregon's defense isn't very good but it doesn't have to be. Sixty points usually gets the job done. Oklahoma St. saw a 7-0 start end with a 2-3 finish. That had more to do with the schedule than anything else. When OSU was forced to run the Oklahoma-Texas-Texas Tech gauntlet, the result was a community drubbing by a combined 60 points. OSU's resume does not stand up well under scrutiny. The Cowboys beat six teams with losing records with Missouri being the only victory of note. I'm convinced that OSU has a good offense. I'm just not convinced it can play with the big boys. Oregon has evolved into a big boy. Oregon wins via bullying.
Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl
Maryland (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)--Boise, Idaho
December 30, ESPN, 4:30 p.m.
Maryland needs to be diagnosed with--and seek treatment for--Manic-Depressive disorder. The Terps lost by 10 at Middle Tennessee. They followed that up by getting violated at Virginia, 31-0. In between those beauties, Maryland hammered California and won at Clemson. Maryland continued the "episodes" by crushing Wake Forest and beating North Carolina only to get tattooed by a Rhode's Scholar at home. That's just embarrassing. Seriously, though, Maryland hosted Florida St. in one of the biggest games in the history of Maryland football. It was favored and a win could've meant a trip to the ACC Championship game. True to form, the Terps got donkey-punched by Florida St, 37-3. Nevada's game-plan is simple: Snap the ball to Colin Kaepernick and let him try to do something. Kaepernick had 19 passing touchdowns to only five interceptions. Even more impressive was his 1,115 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. Those numbers are Tebow-esque. I'm semi-torn. Neither of these teams play well on the road. I'm tempted to take Boise St. but they aren't even playing in this game. Nevada is a one-point favorite which sounds about right to me.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Air Force (8-4) vs. Houston (7-5)--Fort Worth, TX
December 31, ESPN, 12 p.m.
YES! I was starting to get sad that we were only going to get one rematch this year. My spirits haven't been lifted this high since SpongeBob found the missing half of the Atlantean Amulet. This game features the double dose of a rematch and a "home" game. However, there is a bonus dose. Not only is this game a rematch and a virtual road game for Air Force, but the Houston-Air Force game from earlier in the season also took place in Texas. They call that "bells and whistles" where I'm from. Anyhow, I'm still trying to figure out the Houston-Tulsa game. Tulsa entered the game as the prohibitive favorite. Sixty minutes later, Houston had 70 and Tulsa only had 30. Houston QB Case Keenum threw for six touchdowns and ran for another. College football is weird like that. Houston crushed Tulsa. Tulsa crushed Rice. Rice crushed Houston. That sort of result could only happen in a world as illogical as college football. Rematch Alert: Air Force nudged by Houston in Texas earlier in the season. It's hard enough to win one game on the road. Winning two games on the road against the same team is too much to ask. To its credit, Air Force played one of the most difficult mid-major schedules in the country including games against BYU, TCU, Utah, Navy, and Houston. Vegas has Houston as a three point favorite and I concur.
Pittsburgh (9-3) vs. Oregon St. (8-4)--El Paso, TX
December 31, CBS, 2 p.m.
This is a marquee matchup if for only to watch two subpar QBs hand off to two amazing running backs with two sweet nicknames. Quizz and Shady are going to light up El Paso like it's Plaxico's sweatpants. These teams had fairly similar seasons. Both started off with clunkers against Stanford and Bowling Green, respectively. Both bounced back to finish second in their conferences. A win here by Pittsburgh would be a boon for the Big East. In fact, the Big East could actually come away with the Bowl Challenge Cup to the chagrin of schedule-hawks around the country. Oregon St. is a three-point favorite but it's unlikely to be that close. Pittsburgh is a horribly coached team. Anyone who watched the Pitt-Navy game last year has that notion permanently burned into their cerebral cortex.
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Boston College (9-4) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)---Nashville, TN
December 31, ESPN, 3:30 p.m.
This season was a success for Vandy if only for the fact the program hadn't won four conference games since 1982. Nonetheless, this is a non-compelling mismatch. My guess would be that if Vanderbilt had to play its season over again, 6-6 would be nowhere in site. Vandy started the season 5-0 with wins over S. Carolina, Mississippi, and Auburn. It was all downhill after that. Vandy failed to score more than 14 points in seven of its last eight games. That's just brutal. On average, the Fighting Lionel Ritchies were outgained by roughly sixty yards per game. BC is a 3.5 point favorite and it would've been double that if this weren't taking place in Nashville, TN--the home of the Vanderbilt Commodores. I don't have a common opponent alert for this one but Vandy did play and lose to Duke at home. Boston College would've destroyed Duke in any venue. The SEC faces a daunting bowl schedule and won't likely get any help from Vandy in this one.
Georgia Tech (9-3) vs. LSU (7-5)--Atlanta, GA
December 31, ESPN, 7:30 p.m.
From my view, this is the gem of the pre-January 1 bowl season. If you haven't seen Georgia Tech play under Paul Johnson, you're doing yourself a disservice. When healthy, the Tech offense put up astronomical numbers including close to 900 rushing yards in its last two games against Miami and Georgia. Many college football fans scoffed at the notion that Paul Johnson's triple option could work in a major conference not the least of which was a significant portion of the Georgia Tech fan-base. Georgia Tech's first win over Georgia in eight years suggests otherwise. Georgia Tech leading the nation in plays of 20+ and 30+ yards also suggests otherwise. Johnson is the ACC's worst enemy. The rest of the conference cannot be happy that he's there. The triple option machine has been working on all cylinders over the last half of the season as Tech has run all over traditionally fast and athletic defenses in Georgia, Miami, and Florida St. LSU might present the stiffest defensive challenge yet but Tech's defense is better than LSU's offense. Ga. Tech boasts a strong defensive line led by Michael Johnson who is a sure-fire top ten pick in April's NFL Draft. Common Opponent Alert: Georgia Tech won at Georgia. LSU got stoned by Georgia at home. The atmosphere will be intense as two southern teams battle it out in the Georgia Dome. A healthy Josh Nesbitt should mean an unhappy Les Miles. P.S. If you haven't prepared yourself for Georgia Tech becoming an elite program, you might want to do so now.
Minnesota (7-5) vs. Kansas (7-5)--Tempe, AZ
December 31, NFL Network, 5:30 pm
It's amazing how big the gap between "slightly above average" and "average" can be in college football. Kansas--the slightly above average team--is going to lay 500 yards on Minnesota's sorry defense. Minnesota's defense is sadder than Manny Ramirez after being offered $22.5 million per year by the Dodgers. That offer was so egregious that it might force poor Manny into retirement. Kansas's defense is even worse! The major difference between these teams is that Kansas can score 35 points on anyone and Minnesota can't score seven points against Michigan. I would be shocked if Kansas doesn't easily cover the ten-point spread here. More important than the game is the news that Minnesota-alum Greg White has decided to pay tribute to one of the great movies in American cinematic history. White legally changed his name to Stylez G. White to pay homage to Rupert “Stiles” Stilinksi from, none other than, Teen Wolf. I don’t even care that he spelled the name wrong. That's just badass. Coincidentally, I was watching Teen Wolf the day I found out about this. Ah what the heck, a free Motown Sports Revival shirt to the first person who emails me what bowl team Stiles, Scott, Boof and the rest of the Teen Wolf gang would be rooting for if they weren’t fictitious characters in a movie.
Iowa (8-4) vs. S. Carolina (7-5)---Tampa, FL
January 1, ESPN, 11 a.m.
Is there an SEC team more nauseating to watch than S. Carolina? I can only stand to watch 5-10 minutes at a time without questioning my purpose in life. It's not just a one-year deal, either. This team has been excruciating to watch for years. Believe it or not, I actually liked watching SC more when Lou Holtz was the coach. I expected more out of the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner. I don't know if his system ran dry or if he just never got that big-time QB recruit. Whatever it is, he's had virtually no impact on the South Carolina football program. Nobody is more surprised by that than me. Iowa, on the other hand, is a whack-job disguised as a college football team. These guys are as uneven as Charlie Weis standing on one foot. Kirk Ferentz was the hot name in coaching circles just a few years ago. Heck, last year he nearly bagged the Michigan job. Ferentz led Iowa to 10+ wins in three consecutive seasons starting in 2002. He followed that up with three consecutive seasons of seven wins or fewer. This season looked like another six or seven win season until everything unexpectedly clicked. If it weren't for a three point loss at Illinois on November 1, Iowa would very likely be ranked in the top 15 right now. Like many of the bowl games this year, this game is evenly matched but borderline unwatchable. Iowa could go a long way in sparing the Big Ten total embarrassment by winning this game. I'm leaning towards the Hawkeyes. Otherwise, get ready for the headline, "Big 11 goes 0-7."
Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Clemson (7-5) vs. Nebraska (8-4)--Jacksonville, FL
January 1, CBS, 1 p.m.
I damn near swallowed my dentures when I saw that Nebraska was playing a January 1st game. No, I don't really have dentures but if I did, I'm pretty sure I would've come close to swallowing them. This game should be renamed the Konica Minolta Pathetic Bowl with the loser actually being named the winner. Nebraska's five wins in the Big XII came against teams that were a combined 10-30 in the conference. It's hard for one conference to even have five teams combine for a 10-30 record. Clemson, on the other hand, is just a heaping pile of George Bush. If there was ever a school that needed Paul Johnson or Brian Kelly or Rich Rodriguez or some other dude that gets results, it would be Clemson. Clemson has been the same, slightly above average, football program since I was 12 years old. The only constant has been a mundane football coach. Clemson will continue being Clemson unless it makes a radical change in its hiring philosophy. If I was the Clemson AD, I'd be looking for a guy who makes something out of nothing. That's the only way that second-tier schools ever make the leap. Clemson should've beaten Mississippi St. to Dan Mullen but it's too late for that. Clemson should be talking to Gary Patterson and Mike Leach. Instead, they seem content on following West Virginia's lead by hiring the first guy who walks into the office the Monday after the coaching change. I would need to be paid more than $150 to watch this game.
Capital One Bowl
Michigan St. (9-3) vs. Georgia (9-3)--Orlando, FL
January 1, ABC, 1 p.m.
Normally, I make it a point to root for the Big Ten in its bowl games. This season, I'll be rooting for all of them but two. It is my plan to tune in to ABC on New Year's Day to see Georgia make like The Undertaker and tombstone Sparty. I have historically rooted for MSU in most non-Michigan contests. However, I'm putting a moratorium on that behavior until further notice. I will return to my even-keeled ways at some point. Right now, though, I cannot support the sort of idiotic fan behavior that followed MSU's closer-than-expected victory over a truly horrid Michigan team. Within hours of the game, shirts were made with a picture of the scoreboard. It would've been one thing if it was to poke fun at themselves for being so lame all of these years. But, it wasn't. Once upon a time, I actually liked Mark Dantonio as well. I thought he was a great hire. However, he has been every bit as moronic as some of the fans. First, he openly rooted for his team to not go to the Rose Bowl. If the coach of my team did that--and a National Championship Game invite was not an option--I would be calling for his head. Second, when asked if he was embarrassed by the merciless beating that his team was given at the hands of Penn St., Dantonio remarked that 3-9 would've been embarassing. Hmm. What's Michigan's record? Yep. When you're getting pancaked to death in what was essentially the Big Ten Championship Game, you shouldn't be thinking about Michigan. You should be thinking about getting that Penn St. tattoo off your forehead. Georgia will destroy Michigan St. I will enjoy it. That thud that you'll hear on New Year's Day will be the sound of Sparties in mass falling off the bandwagon. I'll let you guess the other Big Ten team I won't be rooting for.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
East Carolina (9-4) vs. Kentucky (6-6)--Memphis, TN
January 2, ESPN, 5:00 p.m.
The rise through the ranks of the coaching profession is weird. After guiding East Carolina to victories over West Virginia and Virginia Tech, Skip Holtz became one of the "hot" names to fill big coaching voids. So naturally, he openly expressed interest in...the Syracuse job. What? It would be easy to dismiss this as a one-time deal but this stuff happens all the time. Brady Hoke just left Ball St. for...San Diego St. Two years ago, Brian Kelly used his massive success at Central Michigan to leverage a job with...Iowa St. The route to a big-time program should take no more than three jobs for a coach like Kelly. The path that Urban Meyer took should be the precedent for all young, talented coaches. He started at Bowling Green, moved to Utah, and finally ended up at Florida. Here is Meyer's blueprint: 1). Rebuild a struggling mid-major. 2). Take an average mid-major to the next level. 3). Destroy people at a powerouse. Brian Kelly--despite nearly blowing it by flirting with Iowa St.--is currently taking the exact path. The worst thing you can do is accomplish step #1 in the Meyer-blueprint and then agree to repeat step #1. Hoke made that mistake and, in doing so, made his progression in the coaching profession twice as difficult. Turner Gill should take note. As for the game, it's going to be close but borderline unwatchable which makes sense since that appears to be the theme for this bowl season. East Carolina's season has to be considered a success even though it fell off significantly after reaching #15 in the polls. The Pirates were the best team in a conference (C-USA) that produced six bowl teams. Kentucky, on the other hand, was decimated by injuries. The Wildcats seemed to be headed for their best season in 24 years until they lost their two best offensive players--WR Dicky Lyons and RB Derrick Locke--for the season in back-to-back October games. Even more devastating was the affect that the injuries had on Kentucky's potent return game. Locke led the SEC in kick return average (min. 10 returns) and Lyons was third in the SEC in punt return average (min. 20 returns). East Carolina carries the momentum in this game coming off of a big win over Tulsa in the C-USA Championship game. Kentucky comes in off of back-to-back disappointing losses to Vanderbilt and Tennessee. East Carolina should take this one.
AT&T Cotton Bowl
Texas Tech (11-1) vs. Mississippi (8-4)--Dallas, TX
January 2, FOX, 2 p.m.
This is one of the great matchups of the bowl season. Mississippi was third in the SEC in yards per game with 398.7. Not to be outdone, Texas Tech was second in the Big XII in yards per game with a whopping 536.2. As you might imagine, the Over/Under for this game is through the roof. Vegas has it at 70. If I had to bet, I would go with the under. Mississippi hasn't played in a game yet this year where the total hit 70 and that includes games against Florida and Alabama. Mississippi has a good defense. The Rebels are 14th nationally in points allowed per game. Texas Tech's high scoring offense struggled against its last SEC opponent--Alabama in the '06 Cotton Bowl--so it would not be surprising to see a similar result. Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree get a lot of attention and deservedly so. However, Jevon Snead is probably the most underappreciated player in the nation. I would be surprised if he is not a Heisman finalist once or twice before his career is over. He dissected SEC defenses with precision giving Florida it's only loss, hammering LSU in Baton Rouge, and nearly taking down Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Vegas has Texas Tech a 5.5-point favorite which is about right since this is a home-game for the Red Raiders. I would take Ole Miss straight-up if this were on a neutral field. The bowl system is great, isn't it?
Connecticut (7-5) vs. Buffalo (8-5)--Toronto, Canada
January 3, ESPN2, 12 p.m.
Do we really need to see these teams play again? How about mixin' things up a little bit? Buffalo moved to Division I-A in 1999. Connecticut moved to Division I-A in 2000. In only ten seasons since, this will be their 8th meeting. Ugh. Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and beat Temple. In an indictment of the quality of this bowl, those two victories came by a combined five points. Double Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and got destroyed by Wannstache; yet another indictment of the quality of this bowl. What this bowl does have going for it is that it's in Toronto. Anyone who has been to Toronto knows that it's the place to be. This should be a virtual home game for Buffalo considering its proximity to Toronto. Vegas has it four points in favor of Connecticut. I'm putting my faith in Donald Brown. On a side note: Buffalo's two major football teams are the Bills and the Bulls. Let's hope the city doesn't get another team because I don't think America could handle the Buffalo Balls.
Ball St. (12-1) vs. Tulsa (10-3)—Mobile, AL
Jan. 6, ESPN, 8 p.m.
Any questions as to Tulsa's status as a fraud were answered mid-season against Arkansas. Then they were answered again with a thesis against Houston. The Fighting Lettermans, on the other hand, proved themselves worthy by running through their regular-season schedule unbeaten with wins over Navy, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, and Northern Illinois. No team came within seven points of beating Ball St. until the MAC Championship Game. The rule of thumb for games involving Tulsa is that if the opponent puts up a fight, Tulsa's done-for. If the opponent doesn't, it's Tulsa by 40. Ball St. will put up a fight and win.
USC (11-1) vs. Penn St. (11-1)--Pasadena, CA
January, 1, ABC, 4:30 p.m.
I have become an honorary Oregon Ducks fan for the bowl season because of the generous gift they provided to college football fans of all affiliations. The Ducks spared everyone the horror of having to witness another Penn St.-Oregon St. snoozer. That's not to say that this one is going to be a great game. The Big Ten and USC mix like oil and water. In fact, history suggests that this one is going to get ugly. Since 2002, USC has played five Big Ten opponents. Those five opponents were a combined 51-8 against everyone else and 0-5 against USC. The Trojans won all five by a combined score of 182-69. None of the five scored more than 18 points. Conveniently for USC, all five games took place in Pasadena. As long as that trend continues, the beatdowns will continue. Aside from the game, I am shocked at how calm and understanding these two schools have been about getting shut out of the BCS Championship Game with 11-1 records. These guys are letting the BCS off way too easy. If you don't complain or rip the system, then people just assume you're fine with it. Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played Oregon St. USC lost at Oregon St. Penn St. beat Oregon St. in Happy Valley. USC had to travel to Corvallis. Penn St. got Oregon St. in Happy Valley. Anyone who has seen Oregon St. play knows that the Beavers play like the Incredible Hulk at home and David Banner on the road (or Bruce depending on your preference). Double Common Opponent Alert: Both teams played and beat Ohio St. USC did it by submission. Penn St. did it by decision. Once again, though, USC got the easier draw getting Ohio St. in Pasadena. Penn St. had to travel to Columbus. I expect Penn St. to keep it within 17 points but fail to cover against the 10-point spread.
Virginia Tech (9-4) vs. Cincinnati (11-2)—Miami, FL
January 1, FOX, 8:30 p.m.
Is this the worst BCS Bowl game of all-time? I think more people watched Lipstick Jungle than will watch this game. Everyone in the country should get a day off work if these teams score more than 30 combined points. I met a relative of a Cincinnati player over the weekend. Names will be withheld to protect the innocent. I asked if his/her son liked Brian Kelly. The response was in line with what I've read from other sources. He is a yeller. He also does some pretty distasteful things to his players while he's yelling. These are probably just a few of the reasons why Michigan didn't want to get involved. Kelly is a fantastic coach. His results cannot be questioned. For those that got all bent out of shape about Rich Rodriguez's potty-mouth, it certainly sounds like Kelly is RichRodx2. This one could go either way but I'm leaning towards Cincinnati for a variety of factors. Kelly gets the coaching edge over Beamerball. The Bearcats have won six in a row including games against S. Florida, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia. All three of those teams are similar to the caliber of Va. Tech. Cincy by three and me asleep by halftime is the most likely outcome.
Utah (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1)—New Orleans, LA
January 2, FOX, 8 p.m.
As far as I'm concerned, Rich Rodriguez ruined Utah's chances at a National Championship. Utah finished 12-0 with wins over five bowl teams including Michigan and Oregon St. In any other year, that would've been enough. Because Michigan sucked so badly this year, nobody cared. All kidding aside, the fact that nobody cares that Utah didn't make the Championship game is a joke. Likewise, Alabama has just as much right to the BCS Championship game as Florida. Where's the anger from the Tide? Where's the anger from anyone? Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, and Joe Paterno are blowing this for us. Mike Leach piped up a little bit but nobody's said a word since the Final BCS Standings came out. Complaining won't do anything for your team but maybe it'll help bring change down the road. Didn't these guys learn anything from Obama? Utah is going to find out what a real defensive line is like and the Utes aren't going to like it. Like most run-based spreads, Utah's offense thrives on softening up the middle of the line. Doing so inevitably opens up room for pretty much everything else. The Utes are going to try to open up the middle of the line against Alabama and they're going to find a 6'5, 365 lb "No Entry" sign. Utah is not a soft team like Hawaii was last year. I don't anticipate a beatdown quite like Georgia gave Colt Brennan. Still, Alabama should brutalize Utah by two touchdowns.
Ohio St. (10-2) vs. Texas (11-1)---Glendale, AZ
January 5, FOX, 8 p.m.
Three years ago, this game would've excited me. The third meeting in four years? Not so much. Texas has an outside chance--and by outside, I mean it's hovering around Andromeda--of winning a split of the National Championship. Texas finished only 10 points behind Oklahoma in the AP Poll. If the Longhorns destroy Ohio St, and Oklahoma wins an ugly game against Florida, then voters could bump Texas over Oklahoma. Some voters might make a switch on principal just to stick it to the BCS. Nothing makes a mockery of the BCS more than a split national championship. Others might decide to add more weight to Texas's head-to-head win. If Oklahoma loses, however, then this is all moot. As for the game, Ohio St. has lost its last two bowl games by 41. Clearly, Vegas thinks a repeat could be in order putting Texas as high as a 10-point favorite. Ohio St. is a much better team than the one we saw get worked against USC earlier in the season. Chris Wells is healthy. Terrelle Pryor is seasoned. I expect a close game. In fact, of all the games with a spread of a touchdown or more, this is the one that the underdog has the best chance of winning straight-up. What could be interesting, though, is the reaction of Ohio St. fans if the Buckeyes get blown out again. How many times can that happen before Tressel starts feeling some heat? I'll go with Texas in a squeaker.
BCS Title Game
Florida (12-1) vs. Oklahoma (12-1)---Miami, FL
January 8, FOX, 8 p.m.
I could be mistaken but I think this is the most statistically significant offensive matchup in college football history. These two teams average 1,127 yards and 99 points per game. My rooting interest in this game--as it always is--is for as much damage to the BCS as possible. Therefore, I am hoping Oklahoma wins 23-20 in a game plagued by turnovers. If Texas does its part, that could mean split national champions from two teams in the same conference! That would be awesome. Unfortunately, I think that's probably "pie in the sky" thinking. These two teams are just too explosive to be held down. This matchup features two great teams but it also features two coaches looking for a second national championship. Meyer and Stoops are currently two and three on the active winning percentage lists behind Pete Carroll. Those three are unquestionably the top three coaches in college football having produced six Heisman Trophy winners and soon to be five National Championships. What does all of this mean for the game? Flip a coin. If I have to choose, I’ll pick against the team that will be without DeMarco Murray.