Have you enjoyed the bowl season so far?
Be honest, how many full games have you watched?
Half of the Boise State-Utah game?
Luckily, the games start picking up here after Christmas and I won’t be stuck trying to motivate myself about writing college football predictions.
But before we move ahead, let’s take a look at the past week and a half of games.
*BYU put a big time hurting on UTEP to start things off this bowl season way back on December 18th.
It was never a game right from the outset, but I thought the excitement and bowl atmosphere out there in New Mexico was pretty outstanding given the nature of the game and the lack of competition for the Cougars.
BYU had a tough year, but they are set up to have a very strong season in 2011.
Bet: UTEP +11.5 (Loss)
*Our second blow out of the early bowl season saw Fresno State get pillaged by Northern Illinois. Not many people know it, but this NIU team has got some crazy athletic speed on offense and they proved it against Fresno State.
What does this say about the Bulldogs? How does a team that prides itself on hanging with the big boys in college football and being a leader in their conference deal with a blowout loss to a MAC team?
Bet: Fresno State +1.5 (Loss)
*The third straight blowout of bowl season saw Troy romp all over Ohio inside the Louisiana Superdome.
There’s not much else to say about this game as it was about as entertaining as HBO’s In Treatment. I tuned in right before halftime and that was all I needed to see.
Bet: Troy -2 (Win)
*Playing a football game inside the Trop was an interesting move, but at least this game delivered with some entertainment that was lacking in the first three games of the bowl season.
Southern Miss looked like the better team (109 more total yards), but a late-game kickoff return for touchdown by Louisville killed the Golden Eagles.
That’s a big win for Charlie Strong in his first year at Louisville.
Bet: Southern Miss +3 (Push)
*As expected, Boise State handled Utah although it wasn’t a real domination that some thought we’d see.
Utah didn’t look great, but also shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions. Some were saying this score wasn’t as close as it ended up, but if Utah could have caught a couple of dropped passes and erased some dumb penalties, this game would have been competitive.
Either way, Notre Dame still beat a 10-win team this year!
Is Kellen Moore going to come back next year? He’ll almost assuredly be losing some playmakers, so will the Broncos continue putting to together these 11+ win seasons?
Bet: Boise -17 (Win)
*Navy could find no way to stop San Diego State’s offense as the Aztecs rolled over the Midshipmen by three touchdowns.
This season was kind of a disappointment for Navy, who probably should have been at least a 10 or 11 win team this year. That’s pretty amazing given that the Middies even beat Notre Dame this year too.
On the flip side, San Diego State had a great season, coming out of nowhere in most respects and finishing with a quality 9-4 record, including competing with some very good teams throughout the country.
Bet: Navy +4.5 (Loss)
*Nobody (including me) was giving Tulsa a chance over Hawaii, but the Golden Hurricane proved that they are a pretty solid team with a 62-35 win over the Warriors.
I know no one wants to hear it, but Tulsa has one of the most explosive offenses in the country. I witnessed it up close this year and I firmly believe that Notre Dame’s loss to the Golden Hurricane will not be as painful years down the road.
Bet: Hawaii -11 (Loss)
*Toledo had a 24-7 third quarter lead over Florida International in Sunday’s Little Caesar’s Bowl, but ended up losing the game on a last-second field goal.
Despite over 300 rushing yards and a 128 total yard advantage, Toledo let this victory slip away. How do you let an opponent score 34 points on just 308 yards? Perhaps 4 turnovers had something to do with it?
Bet: Toledo -1.5 (Loss)
*The Independence Bowl is on tonight at 5PM, we'll factor that game into the next group of picks later in the week.
Bowl Record: 2-5
Overall Record: 90-95
Champs Sports Bowl
Tuesday, December 28th
West Virginia (-2.5) vs. North Carolina State
Pick: North Carolina State
I’ve stubbornly kept with NC State and still believe that they are a very talented team. I also am a believer in Russell Wilson as one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation.
West Virginia played well down the stretch, while NC State limped toward the finish and missed out on an ACC title shot, but I’m still sticking with the Wolfpack.
Plus, I’m not sure how the Mountaineers are going to react to all of the coaching drama surrounded their team right now…that is always a red flag for me.
NC State 31
West Virginia 28
West Virginia is probably the best team in the Big East, while NC State is a top 3 team in the ACC. From a national relevancy perspective this isn’t a huge game, but it is one of the better bowl matchups you’ll see all year. As we know, we could do a lot worse than this.
Tuesday December 28th
Sun Devil Stadium
Missouri (-3) vs. Iowa
I would be shocked if Iowa stays competitive in this game. Even without all of their suspensions the Hawkeyes played so poorly to end the season that I didn’t think they’d be able to hang with a potent Missouri offense.
Now with a bunch of Iowa players on the sidelines, this has to be all Missouri. If the Hawkeyes keep this close or win, Kirk Ferentz will be a miracle worker.
This is what I’d like to call an average bowl game. Two decent/good programs with some national appeal, but nothing too crazy where you’d have to watch this game or live to regret it. Solid matchup, nothing more, nothing less.
Wednesday December 29th
East Carolina (+7.5) vs. Maryland
Pick: East Carolina
Here’s another red flag alert with Maryland’s coaching situation. I know East Carolina might have the worst defense in college football and this game is almost a home game for the Terps, but this is a huge spread. Let’s not forget that East Carolina can score some points too.
My thoughts are that East Carolina is a little better than people think and Maryland isn’t quite as good as people believe.
Sure, I’ll probably regret this pick but I’m taking the points.
East Carolina 38
They’re still playing football games at RFK?
Maybe you want to get a sneak peak at a Maryland team that the Irish will be playing next season, otherwise not much to see here.
Wednesday December 29th
Illinois (+1.5) vs. Baylor
The best player in this game, Robert Griffin, plays for Baylor. The Bears finished the regular season 7-5 with losses to four ranked teams and Texas Tech. Illinois finished 6-6 and lost to Minnesota.
This has to be Baylor all the way, right?
The game is in Texas, Ron Zook could be fired immediately following this contest, and Griffin’s talents are just too great to pick against. Illinois probably has a better defense and their running game could give Baylor fits, but I like the Bears with some late-game heroics.
Is there nothing else on television Wednesday after you get out of work? Why not tune into this game? Some grocery shopping or snow shoveling could take precedent here. Early evenings in the middle of the week…it’s bowl season baby!
Valero Alamo Bowl
Wednesday December 29th
San Antonio, Texas
Oklahoma State (-5) vs. Arizona
Pick: Oklahoma State
This is a sneaky tough game to pick and I really wanted to take Arizona in this one.
Here’s what I’m thinking: Arizona was at one point terribly overrated, they didn’t really play a tough schedule this year, their win against Iowa doesn’t look that impressive now, and they were more or less destroyed by the two ranked teams they played (Oregon & Stanford). With that said, I think the Wildcats are well-rounded and have a good mixture of offensive playmaking ability and defensive toughness.
However, Oklahoma State has an offense that is lights out good, and I just can’t see Arizona being able to march up and down the field to keep pace with the Cowboys. If Dana Holgorsen left for West Virginia before this bowl game, I’d be tempted to pick Arizona, but I think Oklahoma State covers this spread.
Oklahoma State 43
Both teams have exciting spread offenses and there is enough name brand and star power to keep this game entertaining and worth your while. The Alamodome isn’t exactly a great place for football, but this is one of the better bowl games before the new year.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Thursday December 30th
University Park, Texas
Gerald J. Ford Stadium
Army (+7) vs. SMU
I don’t think this is a good matchup for Army because SMU head coach June Jones is probably going to have his team carve up the weak Army defense and the game is being played inside the Mustangs home stadium.
Sure, Army had their best season in a while and all that, but this is still a 6-6 football team without an explosive offense and a defense that isn’t going to do them much good. It’s tempting to take the points here in case Army eats up a ton of clock and keeps SMU’s offense off the field, but I’m sticking with the Mustangs.
If it was 1938 this might be one of the best games in the country! Alas, we have two non-BCS teams with a combined 13-12 record and zero star power from either club. Such is life.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Thursday December 30th
Bronx, New York
Kansas State (-1) vs. Syracuse
Pick: Kansas State
This is an interesting game as both of these teams are a little bit better this year than most give them credit for, probably more so for Syracuse as well.
I’m taking Kansas State because their resume is a little more appealing and they have Daniel Thomas ready to run the ball 30 times and wear the Orange down.
I don’t think the crowd will be much of an advantage for Syracuse, and I’m secretly hoping for a Kansas State victory so that Ishaq Williams scratches Syracuse off of his recruiting list.
Kansas State 26
Beyond Thomas, there aren’t any star players and neither of these programs is going to be bringing in the eye balls or putting people in the seats. I guess you could tune in to see how Yankee Stadium handles a bowl game after Notre Dame played there late in the season, but this is one of the lower-tier matchups this postseason, most certainly for two BCS programs.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Thursday December 30th
North Carolina (-2) vs. Tennessee
Pick: North Carolina
You have to give Tennessee some credit here for even making a bowl game. The Volunteers were sitting at 2-6 coming into November, but hunkered down and won four straight to close out the season.
I’ve given up trying to figure out North Carolina, and they are among the biggest mysteries in this bowl season and a team I really don’t want to bet on. They’re defense is still pretty good and T.J. Yates has finally made the leap to semi-dangerous quarterback, but they’ve felt like such a lame-duck team all season.
Can the Tar Heels overcome such a disappointing season, with God-knows-what kind of sanctions and coaching firings looming in the near future? And especially with this game being only 3 hours away from Knoxville?
Something inside of me is screaming pick the underdog here, but I just can’t do it. I don’t trust that Tennessee offense.
North Carolina 24
Two pretty solid programs here, one with big expectations this year, and the other with plenty of tradition and pageantry. Still, not a whole lot of excitement coming out of this contest. Hardcore fans will probably think this is a good matchup, but it’s still under a three in my system.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Thursday December 30th
San Diego, California
Nebraska (-14) vs. Washington
Nebraska beat Washington by 35 earlier in the regular season and is now only favored by 14. The Cornhuskers are a volatile bunch with a crazy head coach with a lot more on his mind than this bowl game.
You could imagine that Nebraska is overlooking Washington in this one, and to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Huskies outright won this game. C’mon, you can picture Jake Locker having a great game and shooting right up those draft boards after his combine workout, right?
Nevertheless, we need to come to terms with the fact that Washington is mediocre across the board (except for a couple positions) and Nebraska’s defense will eat up the Huskies. Maybe if every time Locker didn’t see anybody open after his first read or two and took off running, UW would have a chance. But as we so often see in college ball, Locker will try and prove that he can sit in the pocket and throw.
It probably won’t end well for Washington. Bring on the Montana era!
This game probably deserves a three because of Nebraska’s 10 win season, but not when these two teams have already played each other this year and it was a decisive blowout. It’s on the west coast too, and I personally won’t find the time to watch it.
Enjoy the next batch of games!