We're five games into the bowl season, and as per usual, all we can determine is that nothing's been determined at all. The Mountain West's certainly played lights out against disillusioned and disinterested Pac 10 teams, but then again who wouldn't? If the Ducks act as satisfied to be in the Rose Bowl as Oregon State's other team did to be in Vegas Tuesday Night, expect a show. Credit where credit's due to the valorous Wyoming Cowboys. Most notably they'd played a few respectable teams tough for a quarter or half, but they brought all their resolve and capitalized on a few suspect coaching decisions by Fresno State to escape the football player soul hungry southwestern Pueblo art of Albuquerque victorious. The Scarlet Knights too deserve their due for their triumphant victory in the first ever Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl. The (previously) little known wings chain saw their name reach epic Google heights during and immediately proceeding the game. Advertising well spent. The little Blue Raiders that could, Middle Tennesseee State, deserve their name in print too for defeating favored Southern Miss. Thank you for giving me my one correct heads up pick in our little contest so far, MTSU. Our early leaders in said contest are none other than D. Moyer and K. Jackson. Whoa nelly indeed, sirs. Take advantage of your well earned bragging rights in the comment section below. The rest of you have much work to do to match their early totals of 126 points.
Thursday, December 24thHawaii Bowl: Nevada v. Southern Methodist (+12) - 8:00 PM (ESPN) June Jones makes his first trip back from the mainland since departing Hawaii's flagship university to toe off with Chris Ault and the Nevada Wolfpack. Colin Kaepernick and co. looking to Pistol whip the Mustangs, who're making their first bowl appearance in 25 years. As explosive as both of these offenses are, the opposite holds true for the defenses. Nevada, who became the first school in NCAA history with three 1000 yard rushers this season, should have a field day against SMU's 88th ranked nationally rushing defense (who yield 169.17 yards per contest). The numbers look even bleaker, however, for the Wolfpack, who enter the game with the countries second worst (try 119/120 ranked) pass defense, allowing 284.25 yards through the air per game. In this trial of anti-wills, I'm dumping my 14 confidence pick from our contest and strongly recommending SMU to win outright, 38-28.
Saturday, December 26thLittle Caesars Bowl: Marshall v. Ohio (-3) - 1:00 PM (ESPN) Ohio is back at Ford Field for the second time this month, this time facing the interim coach led former MAC member Marshall Thundering Herd. With WVU assistant head coach Doc Holliday in the wings, the Herd will be lead in the interim by Rick Minter, who look to make amends for the 32-14 loss they experienced to Cincinnati in their last bowl berth back in 2004. Marshall lost three of their final four to finishing the season, including a 52-21 beatdown at the hands of UTEP to clinch the firing of former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. On the opposing sidelines, quarterback Theo Scott and the Bobcats will look to senior wide out Taylor Price to try and get Frank Solich a bowl W. Scott, the Hilliard product, is OU's all-time leading receiver with 145 grabs. He's coming off being limited to just one reception in the MAC Championship Game against Central Michigan, but will have to be in top form for the Bobcats to have a chance to bring home the, uh, Pizza Pizza Trophy. The disarray of having an interim coach leading the way for a team who ended the season in the worst possible way will be too much for the Herd to come back from. While OU are hardly world beaters, take them and the points 27-9.
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Pittsburgh v. North Carolina (+2) - 4:30 PM (ESPN) A game of two teams who at varying points in the season had far higher aspirations, the Wannstache and the Pitt Panthers travel to square off with Butch Davis and the Carolina Tar Heels. Pitt will have to become the first team coming off a disappointing finish to look like they're remotely excited to be where they ultimately wound up, but fortunately will have Dion Lewis to help make that a reality. The true freshman finished third nationally in rushing, averaging 136.7 yards per game, and adding 17 touchdowns. Lewis and Pitt QB Bill Stull don't get a complete pushover, however, as the Heels enter into the contest with the sixth ranked defense (allowing just 267.8 yards per game), ranking ninth against the run and 15th against the pass. Pitt enters the game with the higher star rated talent, but where will their heads be after coming so close to the outright Big East championship so many had them ear marked for? In the spirit of this bowl season, against all logic, go with the 'Stache, 30-21.
Emerald Bowl: Boston College v. USC (-7) - 8:00 PM (ESPN) Speaking of gross disappointments, USC (or what's made the trip up to San Francisco of them) head to the Emerald Bowl to tee off with Frank Spaziani's Boston College Eagles. In hopes of pulling the upset, the Eagles will rely heavily on sophomore running back Montel Harris, who racked up 1,355 yards and 13 TDs this season for BC. The Trojans find themselves patching holes across both sides of the team, as suspensions, injuries, and inconsistent efforts have this group looking little like the one Ohio State fell to back in September. Ostensibly the Trojans will rely heavily on senior running back Allen Bradford, who put together a respectable 596 yards rushing and 8 scores on the year. If Matt Barkley can minimize the mistakes, and the Trojans play 3.9 focused quarters more than their Pac-10 counterparts have to this point, expect SC to roll to the tune of 35-17.
Sunday, December 27thMusic City Bowl: Kentucky v. Clemson (-7) - 8:30 PM (ESPN) Another matchup of two teams who perhaps aspired for more (though Rich Brooks' groups seems forever tied to finishing 7-5), Kentucky takes on Dabo Swinney's Clemson Tigers. C.J. Spiller wraps up the last game of a storied career, while UK is led by their talented junior running back Derrick Locke. Locke rushed for 843 yards and 6 TDs on the season. Kentucky notably also features former Ohio State receiver Brian Hartline's brother Mike, who's missed most of the season with an injured left knee. Freshman Morgan Newton should see the majority of snaps under center for the Wildcats, though it's possible Hartline could see some repetitions at the position during varying points in the contest. In the SEC's first bowl matchup of the' 09/10 bowl season, ignore Brooks' recent three game bowl winning winning streak, and instead give favor to the better overall talent. Clemson wins a tighter than it appears one, 30-21.
Monday, December 28thIndependence Bowl: Texas A&M v. Georgia (-7) - 5:00 PM (ESPN2) Georgia finishes a disappointing season where many dreams go to die: Shreveport, LA. The Bulldogs travel to the Independence Bowl to take on the Aggies of Texas A&M. UGA's paltry D (coordinator Willie Martinez has already been handed his walking papers) will face the challenge of trying to curtail A&M's Jerrod Johnson, who threw for 3217 yards and 28 touchdowns, while also rushing for 455 yards and 8 additional scores. A&M's fifth-ranked nationally offense averaged 465.3 yards per game, and also features a dynamic pair of halfbacks in freshman Christine Michael and sophomore Cyrus Gray. Georgia counters with a talented duo of backs of their own. Freshman Washaun Ealey and (perhaps better known nationally) sophomore Caleb King 9.2 yards per carry in their regular season capping upset of Georgia Tech. In a battle of which defense can fail less, the Ginger Ninja's career ends with much shame for his dojo, as A&M rides off into the steamboat casino shadowed sunset 42-38.
Tuesday, December 29thEagleBank Bowl: UCLA v. Temple (+4.5) - 4:30 PM (ESPN) After an up and down season, UCLA, the last team to qualify for a bowl berth after Army failed to secure the necessary sixth win, head to our nation's capital to take on the Temple Owls. Temple coach Al (I seriously initially typed Owl) Golden lead the Owls to just their 4th winning season in the last 3 decades. Rick Neuheisel has UCLA making progress, as the Bruins find themselves in their first bowl in his second season as head coach. Temple is led by sophomore defensive end Adrian Robinson, who racked up a cool dozen sacks and was named the MAC defensive player of the year. UCLA's counters with their own weapon of choice, sophomore safety Rahim Moore Moore led the nation with 9 interceptions on the season, often eliminating the center field deep ball for opposing defenses (unless of course it's late in the 4th quarter and someone happens to be burning timeouts to stop the clock). In a battle of hardly offensive juggernauts, don't expect too much in the area of fireworks fireworks. Look for UCLA to win this one (though miss the cover) 17-14.
Champs Sports Bowl: Miami v. Wisconsin (+3.5) - 8:00 PM (ESPN) In one of the higher marquis conference intersectional match ups, the once top 10 Hurricanes head to Orlando to do battle with the once top 20 Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams enter this game having won four of their last five games (including their respective finales). John Clay, the 2009 Big Ten offensive player of the year, rushed for 1369 yards and 16 TDs. UM is led by sophomore QB Jacory Harris, who's been a perfect microcosm of the Canes' season. While racking up 3164 passing yards and 23 TDs, the Canes' versatile threat under center also led the nation with 17 picks. Miami's talent is immense and will prove to be a test for the Badgers, though Wisconsin fans have to have hope given the trouble the Canes had with overpowering d-lines during the course of the season. While every fiber in my being wants to go with the Bucky Badger upset, UM's too talented to let this one slip from their grasp. The U reigns supreme, 24-21.
Wednesday, December 30thHumanitarian Bowl: Bowling Green v. Idaho (+2) - 4:30 PM (ESPN) Idaho travels south in-state to the Smurf Turf of Boise to do battle with Dave Clawson's Clawfense & Bowling Green. Our neighbors from northwest Ohio roll into Idaho with Biletnikoff finalist Fredide Barnes leading the way. The senior wide out lead the country in receptions (138) and TDs (16), finishing 3rd in total receiving yards (1551). For those with little else but degenerate gambling subplots to draw them towards this one, know that with 5 more receptions, Barnes will become the NCAA's single season reception king. Idaho's explosive offense is led by junior Nathan Enderle, who ranks as the 7th highest rated passer in the nation with a 155.75 passer rating. While this one may lack the luster of many of the higher profile matchups, it's tough to turn down a MAC v. WAC shootout. If you're a betting man, error on the side of the Claw, 34-24.
Holiday Bowl: Arizona v. Nebraska (+1.5) - 8:00 PM (ESPN) The final contest of the next slate pits (as ESPN's Heather Cox said Wednesday Night) two former high school teammates and "Golden Gophers under Hayden Fry", coaches Mike Stoops and Bo Pelini of Arizona and Nebraska respectively. In reality, both were high school teammates at Youngstown's Cardinal Moodey High, but Stoops played for Fry at Iowa, where as Pelini famously manned the free safety position for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The AP's player of the year (and should've been Heisman winner) Ndamukong Suh leads the Huskers with 82 tackles, 12 sacks, and 23 tackles for a loss on the year. The House of Flying Spears numbers' related favorably to many entire elite level teams' entire defensive lines. The Wildcats will have to see if they can part the red sea with tailbacks Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin, who combined for over 1100 yards and 9 touchdowns on the season. Nebraska's offense, in comparison, is completely one dimensional. Running back Roy Helu finished third in the Big 12 with 1139 rushing yards, but QB Zac Lee brings a whole new meaning to the cliche "arm punter". Don't expect much offense, and should points a plenty do inexplicably happen, blame it on the Ds. If you're still undecided as to the outcome, give the edge to Suh's Huskers, as Nebraska takes a tough one, 17-13.