I’m baaaaaack. After a month long adventure in the Southern California desert I am back in the friendly confines of OFD headquarters just in the nick of time for Bowl Season.
A whopping 35 games will be played between 18 December and 10 January and you can bet that we will discuss every single one of them. Now that ESPN owns the rights to all but two of them (Sun Bowl- CBS, Cotton Bowl- FOX) they rarely even overlap. Just what the wife wants to hear!
I typically attend a few bowl games each year but due to the Fighting Irish making a New Year’s Eve appearance in the Sun Bowl I am off loading my tickets to the Holiday and Fiesta Bowls in favor of a trip to the Great Pass of the West. If you are in the market for some discounted Fiesta tix, let me know, I still haven’t moved those thanks to the Big East Champs! For some reason people aren’t jazzed about watching OU beat up on UCONN. Go figure.
Now on to these 35 Bowl Games. I am going to bust this preview into 3 parts out of consideration for my phalanges and your eyes. This first installment will cover the games that will be played from 18-27 December. Consider this a complementary piece to the one that our own Eric Murtaugh posted yesterday. Several of these early games are rather craptastic, but if you are like me you really don’t care in the early going. I just get excited that the holidays are upon us and there are bowl games on TV.
For those of you looking for the full bowl schedule the WWL has it available here. And away we go.
Saturday 18 December
BYU vs. UTEP
The Bowl Season kicks off with Mike Price and the Fighting Utep Miners traveling up the road to Albuquerque to get throttled by a BYU team coming off of a disappointing 6-6 regular season. UTEP also managed to go 6-6 this fall against a terrifying schedule that ranks a cool 128 on Sagarin. Having a SOS that is ranked below some FCS schools is always impressive. It is even more impressive when you go 6-6 against said schedule. This one is about as automatic of a pick as you are going to find this bowl season. Coogs roll and the Miners finish the season with a losing record. Ouch.
Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State
This one is tricky. At a glance one would think that the Green V’s will blast the little MAC school that could but this one isn’t as automatic as you might think. Pat Hill and the boys have found ways to lose 3 of their last 4 bowl games against teams they were supposed to run rule and that makes me a little bit cautious.
Northern Illinois put together a pretty solid 10 win season in the MAC that included some respectable offensive and defensive stats. The true wildcard in this one lies in the fact that the Huskies will be playing with an Interim HC as front man Jerry Kill just bolted for the Minnesota job. As a general rule I shy away from teams playing with interim coaches in bowl games. That said I also tend to shy away from picking teams from the MAC. As a conference they have gone an impressive 2-15 over the last four years. That’s two strikes against Northern Illinois for me.
The so called experts and Vegas are all over Northern Illinois in this one but I’ll take the Green V’s picking up what will be a rare victory for them on the Smurf Turf.
R+L Carriers New Orleans
Ohio vs. Troy
This is the first of 3 games that pit a team from the Sun Belt against a team from the MAC. Wildly exciting stuff is it not? Not really. From the MAC we have an Ohio team that likes to chip away at you with their rushing attack and plays respectable defense. Frank Solich still roams the Bobcat sidelines so you are likely familiar with his preferred formula. Frank wants to run and play defense.
Troy on the other hand has a defense made out of paper mache’ and throws the ball all over hell’s half acre out of a spread offense. Neither of these teams really has what I would consider to be a quality win, or even a quality loss for that matter with the exception of Troy’s 3 point scare of Okie Light back in September. Flip a coin, this one is damn near impossible to pick.
Despite the fact that Troy’s defense is statistically horrendous I can’t bring myself to pick a JV Big 10 team to beat a JV SEC team. I’ll take Troy in a barn burner. The 500 fans that show up might be in for a wild one in the Superdome Saturday night.
Tuesday 21 December
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St Petersburg Bowl
Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville
Southern Miss boasts the wild and wide open offense of Head CoachLarry Fedora. Louisville boasts a good defense and a solid ground game led by first year Head Coach Charlie Strong. The Golden Eagles are a true shootout team and the Cardinals are grinders. Five of the six games that Louisville lost this season were by less than 7 points. I have always thought that to be an indicator that a team is better than they might appear on paper. Deal me in, I’ll take Louisville in a close one at Tropicana Field.
Wednesday 22 December
MAACO Las Vegas
Utah vs. Boise State
Finally another one that at least looks like an automatic pick on paper. I still can’t believe that a one loss Boise State is relegated to the Las Vegas Bowl. As the last guy on the planet that has yet to jump on the playoff bandwagon even I am horrified by the fate of the Broncos. Two loss Arkansas picked up an at large berth in the Sugar Bowl against one loss Ohio State and I would much rather see Boise State play in that game than either of those teams. Whatever. As it stands the Broncs will have to settle for beating a good Utah team soundly in Vegas.
Thursday 23 December
SD County Credit Union Poinsettia
Navy vs. San Diego State
SDSU might have the home field advantage in this one but San Diego is home to more combined Navy and Marine Corps personnel than any other city in the country. Right now it looks like they might actually sell Qualcomm out. Don’t tell the Chargers, they can’t sell enough tickets to stop the local blackouts! The Mids will undoubtedly have the crowd in this game and I expect them to do what they do and quietly grind out a win.
Friday 24 December
Hawaii vs. Tulsa
Tulsa is a pretty good football team that won their fair share of shootouts this season but their pass defense is just plain awful. That probably won’t work out too well for them against a Hawaii team that boasts the #1 pass offense in the country. While the Golden Hurricane are out sightseeing the Warriors are going to be tuning up for one more home game. This one could get ugly. Warriors roll.
Sunday 26 December
Florida International vs. Toledo
I can’t believe Little Caesars is still in business! That pizza is on par with Totino’s at best. Awful. The game itself is another titillating matchup between the MAC and Sun Belt. How does a 6-6 Sun Belt team end up in a Bowl Game? Even a college football junkie like me is starting to accept the reality that about 10 of these games could vanish into thin air and hardly anyone would notice. Despite the .500 record I’ll take FIU in this one. I’m sticking with the MAC vs Sun Belt athleticism angle. This is also the Golden Panthers first ever bowl appearance. I’ll bank on them showing up and getting after it.
Monday 27 December
AdvoCare V100 Independence
Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
If you like option football this game is for you. At a glance you would think that Paul Johnson would have this one locked up before it even kicks off. After all Johnson owned Air Force when he was at Navy and he has better athletes now than he did then. But wait! Air Force held a 9 win Navy team to a paltry six points this year, and the Jackets are 6-6 with zero quality wins. Does any of that matter? Probably not but that’s what makes the bowl games fun.
At the end of the day both of these teams are going to run, run and run some more. Both also have statistically terrible run defenses. I’ll go with Air Force in a close one simply due to the fact that they have shown up more consistently in Bowl Games these last few years. Johnson’s teams tend to take the vacation approach to going bowling.
Enjoy this first round of games and Merry Christmas from all of us at OFD. For those that might be interested in mixing it up with us in multiple ways over the next several days utilize the links below.