The waining moments of 2009 (and the 2000s for that matter) are rapidly approaching. Personally, I see no better way to spend them by doing what you've done for the previous 9.99 years: neglecting co-workers, friends, and family in favor of an absurd amount of college football.
In the next 7 days, your tubes/ITO electrodes will be working overdrive with some 18 collegiate games set to go down. The subplots are wide in variety, ranging from bidding a fond farewell to Tim Tebow before he goes home to be with his Father to the BCS matchup between two teams we all wanted in but can't believe the establishment is patronizing by pitting them against each other for a second straight year in what amounts to the kids' table. Without further mincing words, we get at it:
Thursday, December 31st
Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. Houston (-5) - 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The University of Houston and their high profile explosive attack roll into Fort Worth to do battle with Troy Calhoun and the cadets of the United States Air Force Academy. One time Heisman candidate Case Keenem wraps up his junior year as the nation's leading passer, averaging some 429.3 yards per game and an absurd 43 TDs. Intriguingly enough, the Falcons answer with the nation's best pass defense, conceding just 148.7 yards per game through the air. Air Force will try and keep pace with a two head monster running the ball in Jared Tew and Asher Clark. Each racked up over 700 yards rushing and 5+ TDs a piece. After falling to the Cougars in the same game last year will the Academy be able to bounce back? Bet it on. Air Force outlasts the high scoring assault of Houston 45-35.
Sun Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Stanford (+10) - 2:00 p.m. (CBS)
Sam Bradford and Jermaine Grisham will... watch comfortably from the sidlines as teammate Landry Jones tries to lead Oklahoma back from a disappointing, injury ridden season against the surprising Stanford Cardinal. Jim Harbaugh's bunch are led by Heisman runner up Toby Gerhart, his 1736 yards rushing (5.6 ypc) yards and 26 TDs. To OUs credit, they do answer with the nation's 7th best defense, giving up just 273.5 yards a game. Despite a game effort from the Cardinal, expect the Sooners to take this one 33-30.
Texas Bowl: Missouri vs. Navy (+6.5) - 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
A battle of contrasting styles leads the Missouri Tigers to Houston to tangle with the United States Naval Acdemy. Navy returns a top 5 rushing offense yet again, where as Mizzou are no slouches themselves offensively, coming in with the nation's 13th best passing offense. One time darkhorse candidate Missouri receiver Danario Alexnader lead the nation with 1644 yards receiving. Navy will be led by arguably the best triple option quarterback in recent history, junior Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs rushed for an NCAA record 1037 yards for a quarterback this season. Look for Navy to be game for the upset by capitalizing on Missouri's weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball and leaving Reliant Field with a 24-14 W.
Insight Bowl: Iowa State vs. Minnesota (-2) - 6:00 p.m. (NFL Network)
Bouncing back from a 2-10 season, Iowa State embraced new coach Paul Rhodes and rebounded to a 6-6 record and a bowl date with the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. With dynamic All-American caliber receiver Eric Decker done for the season with a foot injury, Minnesota's never really found themselves. Conveniently they run into a Cyclone team who's also struggled to find an offensive identity for much of the season. Don't expect much in the area of fireworks, but Adam Weber and co. should revert to form just in time to leave victorious 17-9.
Chick Fil-A Bowl: Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (-5.5) - 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
End your New Years right with a bottle of champagne, friends and loved ones, and Lane Kiffin's Volunteers and Frank Beamer's Virginia Tech Hokies. Both of these teams have shown multiple personalities throughout the season, at times showing the potential top national talent can provide, but just as often failing to execute and looking horribly out of sync in the process. Tennessee's primary offensive source should be running back Montario Hardesty, he of the 1306 yards and 12 TDs. Surprising freshman Ryan Williams will answer for the Hokies, having put up a ridiculous 1538 rushing yards and a mind boggling 19 TDs during 2009. Look for this one to be an interesting match of wits between two great tactical teams, with the veteran Beamer coming out just ahead 28-24.
Friday, January 1st
Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Northwestern (-7.5) - 11:00 a.m. (ESPN)
The first college football game of the 2010s sends Pat Fitzgerald's best Northwestern squad to date and Gene Chizik's up and coming Auburn Tigers to Tampa for the Outback Bowl. The Wildcats' season ended with a bang, upsetting then ranked (and since bowl victorious) WIsconsin, where as the Tigers came up just close in an upset bid against rival #1 Alabama. Both teams bring diverse spread attacks and this one could very easily turn into a shootout. One area to keep an eye on is the Wildcats' shaky offensive line play. Northwestern finished 2nd in the Big Ten with 23 sacks allowed, which the Auburn defense will look to exploit with all-SEC first team defensive end Antonio Coleman and his 9 sacks. Should the 'Cats figure a way to keep quarterback (and philosopher king) Mike Kafka on his feet, look for them to spring the 31-28 upset.
Capital One Bowl: LSU vs. Penn State (-2) - 1:00 p.m. (ABC)
Two defensive forces clash as the LSU Tigers meet the Penn State Nittany Lions in yet another SEC-Big Ten matchup. Daryl Clark and Evan Royster will wear the blue and white for a final time, while LSU answers with the tandem of the younger Jordan Jefferson and senior Charles Scott. PSU's linebackers Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman, and Josh Hull look to be healthy for the first time all-season, as they look to tee off on LSU's pedestrian 108th ranked offense. Should PSU have any success on offense, they win this one. That being said, look for LSU to win this one on defense 17-13.
Gator Bowl: Florida State vs. West Virginia (-2.5) - 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Bobby Bowden's final game in his storied career takes him to not far away Jacksonville where he meets one of his former players, Bill Stewart, and the school he got his start at West Virginia. Bowden's Seminoles will have their work cut out for them without talented quarterback Christian Ponder. Backup EJ Manuel completed 63.4% of his passes in Ponder's absence, but threw 6 picks to just 2 TDs. WVU will attack the Seminoles D with explosive tailback Noel Devine. Devine rushed for 1297 yards and 12 TDs on the year. While many undoubtedly long for the storybook ending of Bowden riding off into the sunset, the possibility of that happening vanished into ether when he should've retired years ago. WVU plays spoilers as Bill Stewart continues to inexplicably win bowl games, 27-14.
Sugar Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Florida (-12.5) - 8:30 p.m. (FOX)
In lieu of Urban Meyer's mid life crisis and the turmoil/heavy turnover in Cincinnati's coaching ranks, expect an otherwise compelling matchup to cause spontaneous ear drums explosion as Thom Brenneman sings the praises of Tim Tebow for in upwards of 4 hours. Mardy (Mardy Bill Y'all) Gillyard will look to keep UC in the game with an always game Gators group. UF looks to play the same inspired football that prompted Urban Meyer's flip flop. Betting types, go with UC to beat a still too large cover, but expect Florida to send Urban Meyer to 8 month retirement in style, 40-31.
Saturday, January 2nd
International Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. USF (-7) - 12:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Will Jim Leavitt head butt a kid at half time? Will you even know Northern Illinois' head coaches name by the end of the game? Inquiring minds want to know. Canada requests American football, and boy do they ever get it! NIU rolls into Toronto with the nation's 17th best rushing attack led by junior Chris Spann, he of the 945 yards rushing and 20 TDs. USF will lean heavily on mobile QB B.J. Daniels who was thrust into the role after an injury to 4-year starter Matt Groethe. Despite the controversy surrounding their coach, the Bulls get it done 24-10.
Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss (-3.5) - 2:00 p.m. (FOX)
A game that certainly would've looked far sweeter in week 1, the Pokes of the other OSU head to Jerry World to meet Houston Nutt's Rebels. Both teams had vaunted pre-season QBs, but much like their actual season body of work, both failed to live up to the lofty expectations. Zac Robinson finished senior season with just 1966 yards, 15 TDs, to 8 INTs after dealing with injury and the departure of former leading receiver Dez Bryant. Jevon Snead regressed to the mean in the worst of ways throwing 20 picks to 17 INTs in a Favre'ian gun slinger mentality riddled season. The versatility of receiver/running back/freak Dexter McCluster is too much for the Cowboys as Ole Miss wins its second straight Cotton Bowl 31-24.
PapaJohns Bowl: UConn vs. South Carolina (-4.5) - 2:00 p.m. (ESPN)
UConn fights on in the memory of fallen teammate Jasper Howard, where as the OBC looks to make a statement football wise to try and help build recruiting momentum in lieu of the instability in the SEC East presently. UConn's explosive tailback Jordan Todman will be the focal point for the Huskie offense, averaging over 5 yards a carry and accumulating 1152 yards on the season. Stephen Garcia will continue to be righteous for the Gamecocks, as he looks to avoid becoming the latest Erik Ainge (4-year highly vaunted prospect who is constantly on the verge of emerging). Expect UConn to put up a noble effort, but the Gamecocks' skill position talent prevails in a 28-17 effort.
Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. East Carolina (+7.5) - 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
CUSA Champion East Carolina travel to their second straight liberty bowl to meet Bobby Petrino's high flying Hogs. Memphis, a long time Arkansas recruiting target and home of many alumni, should serve as a venerable home game this one as former Michigan QB Ryan Mallett looks to exploit the talent differential between the two schools. Mallett sure looked the way Lloyd Carr envisioned he could be used throwing 29 TDs to just 7 picks and a ridiculous 3425 yards in 2009. East Carolina is led by senior tailback Dominique Lindsay who broke the 1000 yard barrier and added 5 TDs on the ground. This game has all the making of an overlook game by the Hogs, but their artillery should be too much for ECU to keep up with as they win 38-31.
Alamo Bowl: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech (-7.5) - 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
My how a few weeks change perception doesn't it? Michigan State looked like the ravaged team when this one was announced, with 9 players suspended after a wild dorm melee. Texas Tech now finds itself on the brink, after head coach (and offensive play caller) Mike Leach was fired in a scandal done proper justice eloquently elsewhere. The Red Raiders will seek to find semblance of continuity under interim head coach/defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeal, at the very least have the luxury of a mostly in tact roster. Look for Texas Tech to wreck many a bowl pick em entries, as Sparty plays spoiler 24-21.
Monday, January 4th
Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. TCU (-7.5) - 8:00 p.m. (FOX)
This puppy features two teams who likely didn't feel any need to play each other again for millions of viewers who probably didn't feel any real urgency to watch the game in the first place. On paper, the Horned Frogs are everything a #3 ranked nationally team should be: a top 5 offense and a top 5 defense who seemingly toy with their opposition in route to mostly comfortable victories. The Broncos are led by Heisman snubbed Kellen Moore, who put up a ridiculous 3300 yards passing and 39 TDs in what could be the precursor to a 2010 Heisman campaign. While TCU are heavy favorites for a reason, expect Boise to feel every bit slighted though after hearing for a month how TCU will roll them. Glendale proves kind to the Broncos again as they win their 2nd Fiesta Bowl 38-30.
Tuesday, January 5th
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Iowa (+3.5) - 8:00 p.m. (FOX)
Just how good is Iowa? Big Ten (and national) talking heads a like spent the better part of the first 3 months of the season asking this question, though we'll finally get the answers as the Hawkeyes head to the alien world of Miami to square off with ACC Champion Georgia Tech. GT brings their flexbone we've all become so accustomed to, with B-Back Jonathan Dwyer and QB Josh Nesbitt bringing their 2200+ rushing yards and 32 TDs leading the assault. Iowa's stellar D will have to play their lanes in the most disciplined fashion possible to have a chance for the Hawkeyes to come out on top. With the return of QB Ricky Stanzi and running back Adam Robinson, why not take a flier on the Hawkeyes to quiet the doubters and come out victorious, 17-14?
Wednesday, January 6th
GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Troy (+3.5) - 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The final pre-MNC bowl brings us the matchup of the young decade, as Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan wrestle with the Trojans of Troy. CMU looked like stronger locks, but with head coach Butch Davis departing for Cincinnati, they'll be led by interim coach Steve Stripling. Larry Blankely's Trojans enter into this one with an offense amongst the elite nationall. The Trojans average 478.5 yards per game, good for 3rd best in the country. Troy's Levi Brown quietly put up 3868 yards and 22 TDs while throwing just 9 INTs. Expect a shootout in Mobile, with Troy escaping 31-28.