If I’m under .500 this year, there won’t be another one. (That’s a promise.)
This preview runs through the end of December.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Utah vs. Navy
Dec. 20, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
This bowl is just there so we don’t have to go more than three weeks without Division I-A football in the fall/winter months. The Middies have been here before, stomping TCU 51-30 in 2005, and may be back on a regular basis in years to come. Utah’s last loss in a bowl game came in something called the Copper Bowl in 1996. And that streak should continue; Navy can’t stop anyone, though they do get style points for giving up 62 points and winning by double digits.
Utah 42, Navy 27. (Utah 35, Navy 32.)
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic
Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
What business R+L Carriers has sponsoring a bowl game is beyond me, but at least they’re extending FAU Coach Howard Schnellenberger’s season a bit. It’s the Owls’ first-ever bowl bid, and the powers that edit Wikipedia in Boca Raton are optimistic enough about the 40-41 all-time record to call the Schnellenberger Era “The Beginning.” Memphis, unlike most, but not all, of the Sun Belt conference, plays good teams, but they’re losing the Battle of the Belt , going 0-2 against Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee; they probably won’t fare any better against the cream of the conference. Expect scoring: neither defense ranks in the top 105 in I-A.
Florida Atlantic 45, Memphis 35. (Florida Atlantic 44, Memphis 27.)
Papajohns.com Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Cincinnati
Dec. 22, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN2
For Cincy, which had a chance to win the Big East, this is a rather steep drop; Southern Miss, which just had longtime head coach Jeff Bower resign (well, maybe), might be kissing this side of December good-bye after this year. The Bearcats have a bruising, opportunistic defense which forced 39 turnovers (eight kindly contributed by South Florida); Southern Miss has mighty mite Damion Fletcher and not much else.
Cincinnati 27, Southern Miss 13.
New Mexico Bowl: Nevada vs. New Mexico
Dec. 22, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Nevada’s got the “Pistol” offense and a freshman quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who guns it well, running and passing. New Mexico will be playing in its home stadium, and boasts Wiki-savvy revisionist fans: “They have had some close losses to BYU, Utah, UTEP, and TCU. Other than that they are undefeated.” But the Lobos will be missing their two leading rushers, including two-time 1,000-yard gainer Rodney Ferguson, and hand the ground game over to some guy whose career high in a game is 54 yards. Eek.
Nevada 30, New Mexico 16.
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl: UCLA vs. BYU
Dec. 22, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
All the makings of another UCLA laydown in a disappointing season, coachless and rudderless as they are, (probably not the right answer, folks) but, brighten up, Bruins: you do get the newest iPod for the holidays, and your school was mentioned in perhaps the sweetest Lil Wayne line of the year. Meanwhile, all BYU wants is to avenge one of their two losses on the year, a 27-17 defeat back in September; they come in on a nine-game winning streak.
BYU 24, UCLA 14.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Boise State vs. East Carolina
Dec. 23, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Boise won’t be doing this this year, but East Carolina shouldn’t stand between the potent Broncos and their 11th win of the season, considering the Pirates allowed 35+ points four times this year in victory. And don’t even talk about the 48-7 blitzing West Virginia gave them. Legedu Naanee will be unhappy, and probably fairly surprised, if the Blue Turf Boys lose.
Boise State 41, East Carolina 21.
Motor City Bowl: Purdue vs. Central Michigan
Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Bowl season delivers a post-Christmas present in the opportunity to see the “mid-major Tim Tebow,” the Chippewas’ Dan LeFevour. He tallied some tall numbers this year, over 3,000 yards passing and over 1,000 yards rushing, rather rarefied air, and was the MVP of this bowl last year; Purdue’s quarterback, however, wins the name competition, even though he couldn’t beat Indiana. I’ll take a low-rent Tebow over a fancy name any day, especially as CMU tries to erase memories of Purdue’s September rout.
Central Michigan 37, Purdue 31.
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas
Dec. 27, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Welcome back to relevance, Arizona State! Whine about missing the BCS while you still can! Now, you get to play actual competition again, so you’re sure to plummet down to obscurity sooner or later! Start with the ‘Horns, who seemed to regain their winning mojo until an inexplicable loss to Texas A&M. They’ll be hunting for a ten-win season, and they’re returning to old stomping grounds in the Holiday Bowl, so cutesy acknowledgments of Thanksgiving which lead to losses ought not to be repeated with Christmas uniforms. Let your own Carpenter make the weak Texas secondary into believers, because the rock won’t be rolling very far against either tough rush defense. (That’s a Jesus joke. Get it?)
Texas 34, Arizona State 31.
Champs Sports Bowl: Boston College vs. Michigan State
Dec. 28, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
The first of many appearances of former #2 teams pits the Eagles’ Matt Ryan against a middle-of-the-pack Big 10 team that had difficulties slowing up the racehorses on other Big 10 teams. The Spartans do boast a punishing ground attack, with a one-two punch of a Ringer and a TD machine in Liberia’s Jehuu Caulcrick. If the Eagles aren’t sufficiently motivated after dreams of a national title and an ACC Championship were shattered, they can just try to build on their winning streak in bowl games, currently at seven years.
Boston College 35, Michigan State 21.
Texas Bowl: TCU vs. Houston
Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ET, NFL Network
It’s two teams no one cares about on a channel no one gets, in the Most Literal Bowl Title winner! Nope, no need for a playoff! Houston has a new coach, after their head man, for whatever reason, decided Baylor represented greener pastures, but the foundation is solid; the Cougars’ four losses are all to teams that are bowling. TCU had fanciful thoughts of BCS glory in the preseason, but a 4-4 record in conference will ruin that daydream pretty quickly. The Cougars put up points (to less than 24 only once this year) behind RB Anthony Alridge, but the Horned Frogs, building a tradition in Fort Worth with another trademark strong defense, aren’t apt to yield many.
Houston 27, TCU 10.
Emerald Bowl: Maryland vs. Oregon State
Dec. 28, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
And because people do get ESPN, no outcry over the matchup between King Koopa Ralph Friedgen and Oregon State’s dinged-up NFL prospect, Yvenson Bernard, will be heard, and the Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse will go on as planned. A clunker of a match-up, this one, as the Beavers beat both former #2 Pac-10 teams, but got fat on the dregs of the conference and got bludgeoned by Cincinnati, while the Terps sandwiched an improbable upset of Boston College between four losses. The cure for this game, which won’t happen? More of the late Robert Goulet.
Oregon State 21, Maryland 17.
Meineke Car Care Bowl: UConn vs. Wake Forest
Dec. 29, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Like defense? Good, because about the only way these two teams score is on rather bogus punt returns; Wake couldn’t even put up 20 in their electric early-season showdown against Nebraska’s putrid defense. Might be worth it to see the potential chess match between two highly respected coaches, UConn’s Randy Edsall and Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe.
UConn 17, Wake Forest 14.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: UCF vs. Mississippi State
Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The suprising Bulldogs beat Auburn, Kentucky, and Alabama and can shut down many a ground game, but UCF’s Kevin Smith may be too tall an order. Smith only has 2,448 yards and 29 TDs, after all, and he’s only 180 yards shy of the I-A single-season record, set by some schlub. (Nice music choice, by the by.) It’s another interesting coaching duel, this of two much-maligned coaches making good, as MSU’s Sylvester Croom has emerged from a rocky early tenure and George O’Leary’s tenure has seen abject failure as delivered by future Pro Bowl kick returner QB, but looks like it might be pretty sunny in 2008.
UCF 37, Mississippi State 20.
Valero Alamo Bowl: Penn State vs. Texas A&M
Dec. 29, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Two stubbornly above-average BCS conference schools in a time when hype is lavished on Cinderellas’ triumphs and Game of the Century candidates, the Nittany Lions and Aggies meet in what could be the Lowered Expectations Bowl. And, no, the viewer shouldn’t expect anything special: these two teams run bread-and-butter, run-powered games. It might come down to whether Anthony Morelli or Stephen McGee make mistakes; the QB who does will doom his team.
Penn State 28, Texas A&M 24
PetroSun Independence Bowl: Alabama vs. Colorado
Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
And while we’re on the subject of lowered expectations, it’s time for the BCS Conference Fallen Titans Bowl! Alabama comes in having lost four in a row, and Colorado only figured out how to score against the woeful Nebraska defense; these teams are as desperate for some momentum going forward as this girl (fast forward to 3:10 or so), and much less fun to watch. Heck, these two have the dubious distinction of both losing to a similarly blah Florida State team this year. That said, Alabama has an effective offense, somewhere, and Colorado’s still a young team, so…
Alabama 27, Colorado 17.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: California vs. Air Force
Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Cal has faded faster than Jennifer Grey post-nose job, losing six of seven and sky-diving without a parachute from the #2 ranking to Nowhereville. The ground they hit is the trippy Air Force offense, which is less wacky than under Fisher DeBerry, but can still put up some points, held under 20 only once this year. And it’s hard to imagine a Cal team that couldn’t even get up for The Game being any more motivated for a game in Fort Worth on New Year’s Eve.
Air Force 33, California 17.
Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
Georgia Tech was supposed to be a surprise team in the ACC this year, especially after dominating Notre Dame to begin the season. Then they lost games to Boston College and Virginia. Then this gentleman got hurt. And then the always-anemic passing game failed again, and the faint hopes of a conference title were foolish notions, and Chan Gailey got fired. But at Fresno State, it was business as usual for Pat Hill, who guided his Bulldogs to their typical very good season; however, they have just one win over a bowl-bound team (Nevada), and Tech is better than most of the WAC.
Georgia Tech 31, Fresno State 24.
Brut Sun Bowl: South Florida vs. Oregon
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
Otherwise known as the Curse of #2 Bowl, this is a match-up of a team that isn’t located where its name says (South Florida isn’t in southern Florida, but rather in mid-state Tampa) and a team that will probably start Brady Leaf. Oregon’s got next-to-nothing left offensively, because Dennis Dixon was the key to their Nike-sponsored and lightning yellow-colored Murcielago; Leaf’s got almost no chance of hotwiring the current Dodge Dart and somehow getting 20 points out of this team, and the Ducks will lean on Jonathan Stewart. USF only needs Matt Grothe to make a few big plays and avoid his streaky patterns of turnovers, and the Bulls can cruise. (By the way: yes, it is bad if this is the first result in a Google Image search for your starting quarterback.)
USF 31, Oregon 20.
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Florida State
Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
For possibly the first time in recorded history, Kentucky is a prohibitive favorite over Florida State with an oblong spheroid involved. (For the record, it’s almost impossible to find a line for this game; no one wants to bet on Florida State.) This qualifies as the piece de resistance in the slow decline of Bobby Bowden’s ‘Noles in the past decade or so, which began with this game (the video’s on the long side, but worth it for the wonderful production values); it’s really difficult to think that a team could survive this kind of depth charge to their depth chart and win a bowl game. But, Kentucky was still coached by Rich Brooks last time I checked. Andre’ Woodson can only make up for so much.
Kentucky 34, Florida State 14.
Insight Bowl: Indiana vs. Oklahoma State
Dec. 31, 6 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Naming a starting quarterback in this game (okay, they’re Kellen Lewis and Zac Robinson) is significantly harder than an online music theory exam; fans’ only acquaintance with these teams is through their coaches, one, in Terry Hoeppner, sadly no longer with us, the other guaranteed to be with us for a while. (Even funnier: the player Mike Gundy is defending is no longer starting.) But Indiana could score on the middling Big Ten teams, and Oklahoma State’s defense is a bit flammable, though the offense could keep pace. This has the makings of a shootout, but don’t underrate the passion of the Hoosiers who are fulfilling their coach’s last wishes.
Indiana 41, Oklahoma State 35.
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Clemson vs. Auburn
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
One of two game pre-2008 that matches two ranked teams (the Holiday is the other), the former Peach Bowl lucked into an interesting and lucrative match-up, as neither team is from far away and the stadium should be full. It’s a game of strength on strength, as Clemson will want to rely on their horses and Auburn’s got a stellar defensive line led by predatory Quentin Groves that hopes to stopper the running game up. (Good article on that angle.) If it comes down to passing games, the ACC Tigers have Cullen Harper, who was revelatory this fall, while the SEC’s Tigers have, uh, the guy on the right. Yeah.
Clemson 24, Auburn 17.