Big Bowl Preview II

(Thanks to John Meyer for the title idea.)

Last year’s bowl preview was sent via e-mail. This year’s will use the blog medium for dissemination to the masses. At this rate, I’ll provide the bowl preview for ESPN.com’s Page 2 in 5 years and be fired from that gig in 7 years.

(All times EST)

Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl – Mount Union vs. UW-Whitewater, Dec. 15, 4:00 PM ESPN
For the third straight year, the Purple Raiders square off against the Warhawks for the Division III Championship. Mount Union has won the last two meetings (35-28 and 35-16) to capture the crown. So far, Mount Union has outscored their playoff opponents 215-49. Best of luck, Warhawks.

The remaining games are all Division I-A (or FBS) matchups.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – Utah vs. Navy, Dec. 20, 9:00 PM ESPN
Yikes. Not a great place to start. Both teams were 8-4 this year with some pretty ugly losses (Navy to Delaware and Utah to UNLV). Utah has done a much better job on defense (Navy beat North Texas, 74-62 without any overtimes) and that has me thinking Utah can slow down the Midshipmen and come away with a victory. Poinsettias for all the Utes!!

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic, Dec. 21, 8:00 PM ESPN2
I decided to check the laundry before analyzing this game. Two games into typing this and I’m already bored. Maybe it’s because both of these teams were 7-5 this year and didn’t beat anyone impressive. That said, Florida Atlantic faced off against some decent teams (Oklahoma State, Florida, Central Florida, and Kentucky) and went 6-1 in their conference (Sun Belt). Now, I have no respect for the Sun Belt Conference, but at least they played some decent non-conference opponents. Memphis’ non-conference opponents consisted of Mississippi, Arkansas State and Jacksonville State. I say Howard Schnellenberger gets his Owls ready to play and defeats the Tigers. (In other words, Florida Atlantic over Memphis in the bowl for truckers.)

Papajohns.com Bowl – Southern Miss vs. Cincinnati, Dec. 22, 1:00 PM ESPN2
About the only thing that can help Southern Miss is a year of eligibility for Brett Favre. Cincinnati should win this game. Of course, those losses to Louisville and Pitt during the middle of the year have to scare you a little. Also, I would like to reiterate my love for ordering pizza online. It’s one of the better uses of the Internet out there. Certainly not as stupid as blogs… whatever those are.

New Mexico Bowl – Nevada vs. New Mexico, Dec. 22, 4:30 PM ESPN
New Mexico sneaked into this game last year at 6-6 and were rightfully defeated by San Jose State, 20-12. The Lobos are more deserving this year, having finished the season 8-4. Nevada (6-6) has a pretty explosive offense when they’re on, but have been really inconsistent with Freshman Colin Kaepernick running the show. New Mexico should win this game. I mean, it is called the New Mexico Bowl. It would be pretty sad if they lost.

Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl – UCLA vs. BYU, Dec. 22 8:00 PM ESPN
In last year’s preview, I accurately predicted a BYU victory over Oregon based solely on the Cougars ability to avoid temptations of gambling and hookers. It showed in the final score as BYU trounced Oregon, 38-8. Nothing should change this year as UCLA visits sin city. Sure, UCLA defeated BYU 27-17 in the 2nd week of the season, but that was when UCLA was ranked 13th and before they lost about 3 QBs and their head coach. By the way, this is the third game of a tripleheader, so enjoy the abundance of college football before a little lull leading up to New Year’s weekend.

Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl – Boise State vs. East Carolina, Dec. 23, 8:00 PM ESPN
Last year’s little-team-that-could gets a trip to Hawai’i to battle the Pirates of ECU(7-5). I pleaded for Boise State to beat Oklahoma last year in hopes that it may lead to a playoff. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, but there could be more fuel added to the fire this year (see below). As for this game, I see a Boise State (10-2) victory. Other than an early-season bad game against Washington, the Broncos played very well this year before losing to undefeated Hawai’i. ECU lost to Southern Mississippi, whose ineptness has already been discussed.

Motor City Bowl – Purdue vs. Central Michigan, Dec. 26, 7:30 PM ESPN
Christmas is out of the way and now the bowl season really gets ramped up as we head toward the new year. The matchups are more exciting and the payout is greater.

(I need to step back a moment and retract my rant from last year. The 2006 Motor City Bowl featured Central Michigan and Middle Tennessee State – not an exciting game on paper or in Ford Field. However, there weren’t too many options as the Big Ten sent two teams to BCS bowls and did not have enough 6-win teams to fill this game. Also, MTSU finished 7-5 and needed to be selected for a bowl game before any 6-6 team, such as Pitt. Thus, we got that wonderful matchup.)

This could be a really exciting game as both teams are capable of putting up a lot of points. I would definitely take the over on this one. Purdue defeated CMU 45-22 on 9/15 and went 3-0 against the MAC this year. Their only “bad” loss was at Indiana to end the year, but the emotional circumstances surrounding that game call the “bad” label into question (see below). I would think Purdue gets the Big 10 off to a good start in bowl play by pulling out a close victory. Also, look for Joe Tiller to sport a Fire Millen grocery bag during the 3rd Quarter.

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl – Arizona State vs. Texas, Dec. 27, 8:00 PM ESPN
This is usually an exciting bowl game. (I predicted as such last year and it was an exciting game, if you were a Cal fan.) Again, both teams have put up some points this year and both teams have shown the ability to come back from big deficits. The big question – can either team play with a lead? Arizona State should win this game because I hate Texas. Yeah… that’s solid analysis. (Somewhere, Trev Alberts nods in agreement.)

Champs Sports Bowl – Boston College vs. Michigan State, Dec. 28, 5:00 PM ESPN
Boston College (10-3) should really win this game, but there’s that part of you that knows Matt Ryan is going to phone it in and just make sure he doesn’t get hurt before NFL Draft season. BC hasn’t played all that well since losing to Florida State in early November, so Michigan State (7-5) has a chance if those two running backs can get off. Side note: the Champs Sports Bowl web site has to be the most annoying web site just based on appearance.

Texas Bowl – TCU vs. Houston, Dec. 28, 8:00 PM NFL Network
The NFL Network can have this game for all I care. Each team’s resume is horrible. Be glad if you don’t have the NFL Network. At least last year’s game had Ray Rice and Rutgers. I don’t know who wins this game and, frankly, I don’t care. Fortunately, there is another game…

Emerald Bowl – Maryland vs. Oregon State, Dec. 28, 8:30 PM ESPN
Unfortunately, it’s not much better. Oregon State is the better team and should win this game. Also, a Beaver win would make Derek Anderson happy, and if Derek Anderson is happy, I am happy. This game will be played in AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play. I got $20 for anyone who runs on the field in a giant syringe suit.

Meineke Car Care Bowl – UConn vs. Wake Forest, Dec. 29, 1:00 PM ESPN
OOOOHHHH BABY!!!! UCONN!!! WAKE!!! BIG EAST!!! ACC!!!! DIPSY-DOO, DUNK-A-ROO!!!!!! YOU GOTTA LOVE COLLEGE BASKETBALL BABY!!!!! IT’S AWESOME WITH A CAPITAL ‘A’!!!!!

AutoZone Liberty Bowl – UCF vs. Mississippi State, Dec. 29, 4:30 PM ESPN
Not gonna do it…

Valero Alamo Bowl – Penn State vs. Texas A&M, Dec.29, 8:00 PM ESPN
Let’s just hope the Giants keep it interesting against the Patriots because this game will likely put you to sleep. I’ll use last year’s Capital One Bowl description here… “You know those 3rd and inches plays where they hand off to the fullback hoping to get 5 inches and you have to peel guys off the pile to determine the spot of the ball? That’s this entire game, in a nutshell.” I might have to start an annual “Fullback up the Middle” bowl game for each year.

PetroSun Independence Bowl – Alabama vs. Colorado, Dec. 30, 8:00 ESPN
“PetroSun is a diversified energy company specializing in the discovery and development of both traditional fossil fuels and renewable energy resources. ” Ladies and gentlemen, I would invest in PetroSun. If they can develop fossil fuels, they will soon be the world’s leader in energy supply. As for the game, look for a Colorado win. Then look for Nick Saban to compare such a loss to the losses incurred by Hurricane Katrina. Did I mention this game was in Shreveport, LA? You dead, dawg.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl – California vs. Air Force, Dec. 31, 12:30 PM ESPN
Was there a more disappointing team this year than Cal (6-6)? Well, yes, it was Michigan, but that’s not the point. Cal started the year 5-0 and rose to #2 in the standings before losing a home game to Oregon State. They proceeded to lose 5 of their 6 remaining games to such great teams as UCLA, Washington and Stanford. Air Force (9-3) has no real “bad” losses on their schedule having lost to other bowl-bound teams in BYU, Navy, and New Mexico. So, Air Force should win. Plus, it’s the Armed Forces Bowl sponsored by a company that makes helicopters. Sounds like a sure-fire win for Air Force. Side note: I love the Bell Helicopter description on their web site:

“We design, build, and support the most proven, most reliable, and best performing aircraft in the world. With our revolutionary tiltrotor technology, we are redefining flight.

Welcome to the leading edge of vertical lift.

Fly Smart. Fly Bell.”

Take that, PetroSun.

Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl – Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State, Dec. 31, 2:00 PM ESPN2
The annual battle on the blue field has a new sponsor – Roady’s Truckstops. So, we have a bowl game sponsored by a trucking company and another sponsored by truckstops. Outstanding. Did you know… Roady’s has a truck stop at Exit 151 on I-71 in central Ohio? Yes, it’s the Mount Gilead Truck Plaza and, trust me, it’s needed. Mount Gilead is a bustling metropolis. As for the game, Fresno State (8-4) should be able to handle the cold conditions and people of Boise better than Georgia Tech (7-5).

Brut Sun Bowl – South Florida vs. Oregon, Dec. 31, 2:00 PM CBS
Talk about two teams everyone forgot about. Good thing they’ll be playing in El Paso – it’ll be tough to find them there. “Welcome to El Paso – it’s almost Mexico!!!”

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl – Kentucky vs. Florida State, Dec. 31, 4:00 PM ESPN
Kentucky won this game last year and should win again. Half of Florida State’s players and coaching staff will be on a drunken trip to Dollywood in hopes of riding Twin Peaks. (Hey, Steve, 1990 called… they’d like their joke back.)

Insight Bowl – Indiana vs. Oklahoma State, Dec. 31, 6:00 PM NFL Network
Last year’s Insight Bowl proved to be one the best bowl games of all time. Texas Tech erased a 38-7 3rd Quarter deficit and won 44-41 in overtime. Man, what a great game! Remember? No? Oh, right, it was on the NFL Network. Oops.

I’m not trying to get sappy in a usually jovial bowl preview, but if you can’t get behind this Indiana team, you don’t have a soul. For those of you who don’t know, Terry Hoeppner was the coach of Indiana in 2005 and 2006. When he arrived, Indiana hadn’t been to a bowl game in over a decade. When he scheduled the awards banquet for January, the players didn’t understand why he strayed from the usual late November date. He informed them that he had plans of preparing for a postseason game during that time and wouldn’t be able to host a banquet. Hoeppner was diagnosed with a brain tumor before the 2006 season and missed two weeks following surgery before returning to coach the team. He died of complications from brain cancer on June 19, 2007. Assistant coach Bill Lynch led the team to a 7-5 record this season, including a dramatic 27-24 defeat of rival Purdue in the final game with Hoeppner’s wife watching on the sideline. The win fulfilled Hoeppner’s dream of Indiana playing in a bowl game. They’ll certainly have their work cut out for them against an explosive Oklahoma State team, but they’ll certainly have my support.

Chick-fil-A Bowl – Clemson vs. Auburn, Dec. 31, 7:30 PM ESPN
If you don’t have the NFL Network, this is your alternative once the Kentucky/FSU game is over. I predict a Tigers victory. I don’t even have to give you a reason. The Tigers are winning. Coach Tommy dominates!!!

Outback Bowl – Wisconsin vs. Tennessee, Jan. 1, 11:00 AM ESPN
Just stay in bed. It’s not that these teams are really bad, it’s just Bret Bielema and Phillip Fulmer will give you a migraine with their general smugness. Migraines are not a good thing on the morning of New Year’s Day. By the way, if Eric Ainge really thinks he’s an NFL-caliber QB, he should probably avoid throwing the ball to the other team. Just sayin’….

AT&T Cotton Bowl – Missouri vs. Arkansas, Jan. 1, 11:30 AM FOX
OK, make sure you wake up for this one. Two Heisman candidates collide in what looks like a pretty high scoring affair. If you haven’t seen Darren McFadden yet, you need to watch this game. Then you need to cry when you realize that the Patriots will draft him #2 in the 2008 NFL Draft. (Remember, the Pats lost their pick in spygate, not the one they own from the 49ers.) By the way, Felix Jones isn’t bad either. Maybe the Pats can get him as well.

Gator Bowl – Texas Tech vs. Virginia, Jan. 1, 1:00 PM CBS
This will be an interesting matchup as a traditionally strong defensive team (Virginia) meets a strong offensive squad (Texas Tech). Virginia has played a lot of close games this year, and I imagine this will be close as well. The key will be Tech’s big offensive line against the front seven of Virginia. That’s about as deep as my analysis will go for any game this year, so don’t get excited.

Capital One Bowl – Michigan vs. Florida, Jan. 1, 1:00 PM ABC
Tim Tebow, king of kings, gets a virtual home game to show off his Heisman trophy skills. Michigan has almost no chance in this game. Spread offenses have given them trouble all year and Florida’s is one of the best in nation. Let the Tebow love affair continue. At least there’s another game on at the same time. That won’t be the case from here on out…

Tournament of Roses Rose Bowl presented by Citi and made possible by Viewers Like You – Illinois vs. USC, Jan. 1, 4:30 PM ABC
Oh Ron Zook, what have you done? You promised a turnaround in Champaign and now your team walks into Pasadena to face one of the best teams in the land in what amounts to a home game for USC. Man, if only you had any experience defeating power teams on the road…

Allstate Sugar Bowl – Hawai’i vs. Georgia, Jan. 1, 8:30 PM FOX
Once again, a non-BCS school has gone undefeated and earned a spot in a BCS bowl game. Not the championship game, of course, but why should a team be allowed to play for the national title just because they went undefeated? Of course, Hawai’i tried to schedule Michigan at the beginning of the year, but Michigan decided to host Division I-AA Appalachian State (how’s that workin’ for ya?). Michigan State was under contract to play Hawai’i, but backed out, most likely from fear of losing (maybe Mark Dantonio had a bad experience with a hula girl once). So, Hawai’i was forced to play the teams on their schedule, beat them all, and here they are, playing Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia is a solid team and was playing their best as the regular season ended, but they are the enemy of those who wish to see a radical change to the BCS system. A beatdown by Hawai’i forces the discussion once again.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – Oklahoma vs. West Virginia, Jan. 2, 8:00 PM FOX
Another 5-hour bowl game comes to us on the 2nd day of the new year. This game matches up a good team (Oklahoma) and a not-good team (West Virginia). I’m sorry, you can’t lose to Pitt when you know a win gets you into the National Championship game. Did you see Rich Rodriguez’s postgame speech? Does that look like a guy who can win a big game? He was in total shock. (I’d post a link, but I can’t find it anywhere. Please post in comment section below if you find it.) Bob Stoops should be able to win this game.

FedEx Orange Bowl – Virginia Tech vs. Kansas, Jan. 3, 8:00 PM FOX
Virginia Tech’s defense is good enough to win this game if they avoid the Jayhawks sidelines. Otherwise, Mark Mangino might eat them. Similar to the Gator Bowl, it is an intriguing game based on the differences in team makeup. Kansas has a great offense, but almost no defense. That said, how many spread offenses has Virginia Tech faced? It could be an interesting game, but you’ll probably be tired of bowl games at this point and begin anticipating the NFL playoffs.

International Bowl – Rutgers vs. Kansas State, Jan. 5, Noon, ESPN2
If your NFL team is looking for a RB, you could watch Ray Rice in this game. Otherwise, find something productive to do while waiting for the NFL playoffs to start. Do you think Rutgers and Kansas State are excited to play in this game? Something tells me, no, they are not.

GMAC Bowl – Bowling Green vs. Tulsa, Jan. 6, 8:00 PM, ESPN
I’m tired. Next.

Allstate BCS Championship Game – LSU vs. Ohio State, Jan.7, 8:00 PM FOX
Once again, Ohio State faces the SEC champion in the BCS Championship game. Last year, Ohio State was trounced by Florida, 41-14. It’s one of the few games in which Jim Tressel was truly out-coached. I suspect this will be a tighter contest. LSU has had many close calls this year, with both of their losses coming in triple overtime games. Les Miles is a Michigan man and would love nothing more than to beat Ohio State, especially considering his alma mater cannot. He denies that he’ll leave LSU to coach Michigan, but I won’t believe it until Michigan brings in a different head coach. LSU doesn’t spread it out as much as Florida and that should help Ohio State’s defense match up with the Tigers. Beanie Wells was bothered by an ankle injury much of the season. It will be interesting to see what he can do if he’s 100% healthy. A lot of NFL prospects will be on display in this game, so enjoy what should be a good contest.

I may post game recaps of particularly interesting games as they are warranted, so check back for that in the future. By the way, I don’t define “interesting” as being a close game on the scoreboard. True, the score may play a role, but if those Bell Helicopter commercials show a Huey II landing in a combat zone, I may need to comment on that and provide the necessary video.

If you find yourself bored by the bowl season, begin gambling. Gambling will always make you interested in any game. Join an office pool or pick the games online. Before you gamble, remember that you should drink lots of alcohol and become incredibly depressed before placing your bets. That’s sound advice, kids, straight from Scot Pollard.

Please leave any comments in the comment section below. And in the words of Jim Rome, don’t suck.

Happy Bowling!!!

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