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The Big E College Football Picks: December 18 through 27

It’s bowl season!

The time of year when we watch college football in half empty stadiums, with unknown and weird announcers, all while universities hemorrhage money.

Whoops, that’s not what I meant.

It’s bowl season!

The time of year when we get to watch more college football, see all kinds of interesting matchups, and await the truly titanic contests that will be remembered for decades to come.

Is that better?

Forgive me if my elation for bowl season is forced.

Of course I love watching more college football and there are a lot of games I am really looking forward to (there might even be one or two in the first week and a half of bowl season!), but I just can’t get that pumped up for games that have no meaning.

Beyond the BCS national championship (very excited for), every other game (with possibly 2 or 3 exceptions) are meaningless apart from team’s trying to create some positive momentum into the off-season.

For Notre Dame fans, the Sun Bowl is a pretty big game because it could mean picking up another stud recruit or two and keep this winning streak heading into an important year two of the Brian Kelly era.

But, you have to understand if the vast majority of the country doesn’t really care about those concerns.

To me, this year’s Sugar Bowl (Ohio State vs. Arkansas) is a perfect example of a game that is seemingly intriguing, but just doesn’t do a whole lot for me.

If the Buckeyes win it will be seen as a small upset by many, and we’ll surely see the hype surrounding Terrelle Pryor go into overdrive as Ohio State becomes a favorite (again) to win the title in 2011.

If the Razorbacks win it will be chalked up to another SEC team beating an overrated Big Ten team and Ryan Mallett’s draft stock will soar.

Interesting matchup, for sure…but I’m really not going to be that upset if I don’t watch.

That may sound crazy to some people, but that’s how I roll.

A lot of these bowl games remind me of the "preseason" tournaments college basketball has in Maui and other places, except since the football games come at the end of the season we think they have more importance.

Anyway, I was going to rate each bowl game by its "watchability" in a separate post, but since I didn’t want to cram 35 bowl games into one post I’ll just throw them in with the picks.

I’ll use a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being about as lousy as you can get and 5 being must-see television.

Let’s take a look at the first handful of bowl games for this season.

New Mexico Bowl

Saturday, December 18th

2:00 PM ET

Albuquerque, New Mexico

University Stadium

BYU (-11.5) vs. UTEP

Pick: UTEP

This isn’t the same BYU program that we’ve grown accustom to over the past few years (10+ wins from 2006 through 2009) and they really played poorly in most of their tough games. Still, they beat Washington and San Diego State, played Utah down to the wire and generally destroyed those awful basement dwellers in the Mountain West.

So the Cougars come into this game 6-6, with a freshman quarterback, a decent running game and a solid defense. Does that necessitate a double-digit spread, even against UTEP?

The Miners aren’t as bad as everyone thinks, being shellacked by Arkansas (to be expected), but either winning or keeping it close in their other 11 games.

I like that UTEP has senior leadership and that the game will be close to their campus. I don’t think BYU has the scoring power to cover this spread.

BYU 30


Watchability: 2

This is the way the bowl season kicks off, deal with it! Sadly, there are worse games out there, but this is near the bottom of the list and there aren't many reasons to watch this game.

uDrove Humanitarian Bowl

Saturday, December 18th

5:30 PM ET

Boise, Idaho

Bronco Stadium

Northern Illinois (-1.5) vs. Fresno State

Pick: Fresno State

Let’s see here…A MAC team is favored against Fresno State, how does that make you feel Fresno?

I’d also like to point out that the total amount of people who have watched Northern Illinois play in their last SIX games would not fill up Notre Dame Stadium. Also, the Huskies played in front of a super excited 12,000 fans in their MAC championship loss to Miami a couple weeks ago.

Northern Illinois went 2-2 out of conference (almost beating Illinois) and smoked everyone else, save Western Michigan, in the MAC on route to a 10-3 finish.

Fresno State closed out the year with a big win over Illinois, and all of their four losses were against legitimate opponents. Still, I’m not sure I trust Fresno’s defense against a MAC team that can put some points on the board.

Neither team seems to have an advantage on the blue turf with their school colors either. My gut feeling is Fresno here, but the more I think about it the more I like Northern Illinois to win this.

I’ve got to stick with my gut.

Fresno State 28

Northern Illinois 24

Watchability: 2.5

This is down there with the most boring of the bowls games this season, but Fresno and Northern Illinois should provide some decent entertainment value. Plus, there’s always that blue turf to mesmerize you.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Saturday, December 18th

9:00 PM ET

New Orleans, Louisiana

Louisiana Superdome

Ohio (+2) vs. Troy

Pick: Troy

Ohio comes into this game with the better record and probably the better resume overall, but there’s just something about Troy’s southern athleticism and aggressiveness that you have to pick them in this game.

And let’s not forget, this game will be basically a home game for Troy while Ohio will be spending thousands of dollars to get down to Louisiana (the payout is a paltry $325,000), penny-pinching the entire time they are down there. That leads me to believe Troy will be nice and loose while the Ohio players will be tight and less prepared.

Ohio has a distinct coaching advantage but I’ll take Troy to cover.

Troy 32

Ohio 28

Watchability: 1

Quick…name a player from either team! Name four players that have ever attended either university!

That’s all you need to know.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

Tuesday, December 21st

8:00 PM ET

St. Petersburg, Florida

Tropicana Field

Southern Miss (+3) vs. Louisville

Pick: Southern Miss

I didn’t get a chance to see Louisville play this year (did anybody?), but I did watch Southern Miss on a couple of occasions.

Charlie Strong is building a foundation at Louisville but I can’t imagine they have that strong of a defense right now. On the other side, Southern Miss has a dangerous little offense that I think can exploit this weak Big East team.

Three points isn’t usually a lot, but it seems like a lot for this matchup. I’m going with the alma mater of Brett Favre.

Southern Miss 41

Louisville 35

Watchability: 2

Here’s another game where no one will know any of the players on the field, but at least these teams bring some tradition (however small) to this bowl game. It’s the first game after the action stops on Saturday, so knock yourself out if you so choose.

Maaco Bowl

Wednesday, December 22nd

8:00 PM ET

Las Vegas, Nevada

Sam Boyd Stadium

Utah (+17) vs. Boise State

Pick: Boise State

Isn’t this spread a little high?

I know I’ve been on the Boise State bandwagon all year and I was pretty upset when they lost to Nevada, but 17 points against a ten-win Utah team with a history of playing well in bowl games?

Has everyone really lost this much confidence in Utah?

Should we be resigned to the fact that Boise State is just this good and that all of those seniors are going to play lights out in their final game ever?

Is everyone reading too much into Utah’s 40 point loss to TCU and 25 point loss to Notre Dame?

This is a tough pick, but I have to go with Boise State here. I think in the grand scheme of things this is a down year for Utah and this may be the best Bronco team ever.

Boise State 35

Utah 16

Watchability: 4

I don’t think there is any doubt that this is one of the more intriguing matchups during the bowl season, and certainly in the early weeks of bowl mania. It probably would have been a lot better had Boise State faced a BCS opponent, but Utah is a good team and Notre Dame fans should be interested to see the outcome since we played the Utes earlier in the season.

San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Thursday, December 23rd

8:00 PM ET

San Diego, California

Qualcomm Stadium

Navy (+4.5) vs. San Diego State

Pick: Navy

This is a contest between two of the most underrated teams in the nation for 2010. Navy has always been underrated and probably always will be, but it’s the success San Diego State has had this season that is truly surprising.

The Aztecs finished 8-4 and nearly beat TCU for crying out loud! Their other three losses to Missouri, BYU and Utah came by a combined 10 points!

The game is going to be in San Diego State’s own stadium (well, it’s the Chargers actually, but you get the point), so that’s a bonus for the Aztecs.

But, damn near five point favorites against this Navy team? I’m not so sure about that.

I haven’t seen a whole lot of San Diego State play this year and I like that they beat Air Force (Navy didn’t), but I’m going with the Middies on this one. Ricky Dobbs goes out in style with a small upset in the Poinsettia!

Navy 27

San Diego State 24

Watchability: 3

This might be a slightly higher rating than some would like, but I don’t think this is anything less than a 3, plus Navy is always fun to watch and the country is probably best served to find out a little bit more about this San Diego State program.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Friday, December 24th

8:00 PM ET

Honolulu, Hawaii

Aloha Stadium

Hawaii (-11) vs. Tulsa

Pick: Hawaii

This game is already being touted as Pointapalooza because both teams have high-powered offenses and little or no strength on defense. Is there any way this game goes into the wacky zone and turns into a defensive battle?

Like San Diego State, the Hawaii Warriors will be playing inside their own stadium for about the millionth time. Seriously, how boring is that for them?

You could probably make the case that Tulsa has a better offense, but the Golden Hurricane defense is so atrocious that even Hawaii’s bad defense looks legit. Tulsa didn’t seem phased coming into Notre Dame Stadium this year, but you can expect them to be distracted just a little bit by the paradise that is the Hawaiian Islands.

Does that mean Hawaii will win by enough to cover the spread? I think it does.

Hawaii 48

Tulsa 35

Watchability: 2

Typically the Hawaii Bowl is one of the worst bowl games to watch on television: sparse crowd, little cheering, constant video shots of the beaches…it’s just not a great football atmosphere. If you like offense than this might be the game for you, but otherwise it’s not something to build your Christmas Eve around, like it was for Notre Dame playing there two years ago.

Little Caesars Bowl

Sunday, December 26th

8:30 PM ET

Detroit, Michigan

Ford Field

Florida International (+1.5) vs. Toledo

Pick: Toledo

Florida International didn't beat a single team worth a darn this year, while Toledo at least beat Purdue and went 7-1 in MAC play. Sometimes with these matchups between small programs it can come down to something that simple.

Toledo will also have home field advantage playing in Detroit not to far from their campus, while FIU will be one of those teams dropping thousands left and right to make it up north.

The Rockets might not have great athleticism compared to the rest of the country, but I think they have a little bit more speed and playmaking ability than FIU.

Toledo 27

Florida International 21

Watchability: 1

The Little Caesar's Bowl is in the running for the worst game during the post-season. It's winter in Detroit and a game between two programs with as little tradition as possible. View at your own risk.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

Monday, December 27th

5:00 PM ET

Shreveport, Louisiana

Independence Stadium

Air Force (-3) vs. Georgia Tech

Pick: Air Force

A quality matchup between two triple option offenses gives us something to look forward to. But unfortunately for Georgia Tech, veteran quarterback Joshua Nesbitt will likely not be healthy enough to play in this one.

You really don't want to run the triple option without a veteran leader taking the snaps, and I think Nesbitt's absence is ultimately the difference in this one.

Air Force had a pretty good season this year, taking home the Commander-in-Chief Trophy and only losing to three ranked opponents, plus a tough defeat to San Diego State. The Falcons will also be much more disciplined, something very cruicial in the option offense.

Air Force 24

Georgia Tech 17

Watchability: 3

This game is probably closer to a 2.5 rating, but it could offer some entertainment value for those die-hard college football fans. Georgia Tech without their best offensive player makes this a lot less attractive and even though Air Force is a quality team, they aren't going to bring a ton of eye balls to this broadcast.

Enjoy the Holiday's and I'll be back on the 28th with more picks!