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The College Football Czar: 2013-14 Bowl Game Picks
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press ^ | December 21, 2013 | Daniel Clark

Posted on 12/20/2013 9:25:56 PM PST by Daniel Clark

The College Football Czar: 2013-14 Bowl Game Picks

a sports publication from The Shinbone, by Daniel Clark

Week fifteen in review: Once again, the BCS has succeeded in doing exactly what it was designed to do, by matching the two most qualified teams, Florida State and Auburn, in the national championship game. Fans nevertheless hate it, and can’t wait for it to be gone. Granted, there is an element of luck involved in being able to create an unassailably valid national title game. If not for Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, people would be demanding that the four-team format be implemented right now, instead of waiting for next season.

Texas head coach Mack Brown has resigned, as had been widely speculated for months. The 16th-year skipper insists that the decision was all his, and that the university had actually asked him to stay. It sounds to the College Football Czar as if Brown borrowed a page out of the Sundance Kid’s playbook. If the Longhorns wanted him to leave, all they had to do was ask him to stick around, so that he’d be able to go out on his own terms.

It took the Czar all season long, but he finally dropped below the .700 mark in what was by far his worst week of the year. His 7-7 record for Week 15 drops his 2013 season mark to 199-87, for a .696 winning percentage.

Dec. 21 (Saturday)

New Mexico Bowl – Albuquerque – 2:00 (ESPN)

Washington State (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-6)

WSU has captured its first bowl bid since 2003, and is now seeking its first winning season in just as long. In this season’s opener, the Cougars only lost to eventual SEC champion Auburn 31-24 on the road, in a game in which they outgained the national championship contenders by 70 yards.

The season didn’t get off to nearly as good a start for Jim McElwain’s Rams, who lost their first two games to Colorado and Tulsa. They started to turn their season around in a respectable 31-6 loss to McElwain’s boss, Nick Saban at Alabama. CSU has since won six of their past eight, although there’s nothing on their whole schedule that would jump out as a quality win.

The Cougs are dead last in the nation in rushing, with a total of only 704 yards on the ground throughout the entire regular season. They’ve thrown the ball for more than five times that much, ranking them fourth in that category, just ahead of Baylor.

If you’ve never eaten out of a New Mexico Bowl, it’s just like eating off new china plates, except that eating off china won’t give you Montezuma’s Revenge. Mind you, Deng Xiaoping’s revenge is no picnic, either.

Washington State 45, Colorado State 26

Las Vegas Bowl – Las Vegas, obviously – 3:30 (ABC)

Fresno State (11-1) vs. USC (9-4)

How will the Trojans handle the bitter departure of interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who had galvanized the team after the crash of the Kiffin regime? Southern Cal passed Orgeron over and instead hired away Steve Sarkisian, but the suddenly former Washington Husky coach will not be on the sideline for this bowl game. Instead, the interim, interim coach will be offensive coordinator Clay Helton, whose father, Kim, was head coach of the Houston Cougars for seven years.

Following a stint as an assistant in the CFL, Kim Helton has now spent six years as offensive coordinator at UAB. If Clay can land a permanent head coaching job, hopefully he’ll learn from what he’s witnessed at SC, and will not make the mistake of hiring his own father to be on his staff.

Derek Carr threw for 404 yards in the Bulldogs’ 24-17 Mountain West Conference championship victory over Utah State. For the season, he has a total of 4,866. That’s 27 yards more than his brother David passed for in his senior year of 2001.

Fresno used to host this game, and in fact the Dogs won it on their home field four times, back when it was called the California Bowl from 1981-91. Like most other things and people from that state, it has since fled.

Fresno State 30, USC 27

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Boise – 5:30 (ESPN)

Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5)

Win or lose, the Bulls will finish with their best record since they started playing Division I-A football in 1999. When they won their only MAC title in 2008, they fell to 8-6 with a 38-20 loss to Uconn in the now-defunct International Bowl in Toronto. They are not MAC champions this season, although LB Khalil Mack has played like a champion, chalking up 10.5 sacks, three interceptions, and five forced fumbles.

Head coach Rocky Long has been a postseason palooka during his first two seasons at SDSU. In 2011, his heavily favored Aztecs were toppled by Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl, 32-30. Last season, they got to play on their home field in the Poinsettia Bowl, where they didn’t score nearly enough Poins in a 23-6 loss to traditional rival BYU. Including Long’s ten-year stretch at New Mexico, his teams have a record of 1-6 in bowl games.

This is usually a very entertaining game, but in a way, it’s been tragic. Idaho Potatoes were so likeable in the beginning, when they were still humble and soft-spoken, but now that they’re famous, they’re full of themselves. It’s kind of like what happened to Sheena Easton, only starchier.

San Diego State 34, Buffalo 21

New Orleans Bowl – nuff said – 9:00 (ESPN)

La.-Lafayette (8-4) vs. Tulane (7-5)

The Ragin Cajuns hadn’t been to a bowl game until 2011, but they’ve now won two consecutive New Orleans Bowls, over San Diego State (32-30) and East Carolina (43-34). This year, they’ve backed into the postseason, which only goes to prove that they really are French. Having already clinched the Sun Belt title, they were languid in season-ending losses to Louisiana-Monroe and South Alabama.

The Green Wave haven’t been to a bowl since beating Hawaii at their own game, 36-28, on Christmas Day 2002. The last time they lost a bowl game, we were listening to green wave music, back in 1987, when they were defeated by Washington in the Independence Bowl.

They say you can’t go home again, but the Green Wave, who have already played their final home game in the Superdome, now return there for this encore performance. That’s strange, the Czar could have sworn the thing you can’t do is “go home again.” Maybe it was “make toast in the shower” instead. He keeps getting those mixed up.

Tulane 27, La.-Lafayette 15

Dec. 23 (Monday)

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl – St. Petersburg – 2:00 (ESPN)

Ohio (7-5) vs. East Carolina (9-3)

Frank Solich takes his Bobcats to their fifth consecutive bowl-game, following last year’s 45-14 bombardment of Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl. Going back to his six-year tenure at Nebraska, he has taken 12 of 15 teams to the postseason, although this is only the 11th bowl he’s coached in, because the Cornhuskers foolishly fired him prior to the 2003 Alamo Bowl.

The Pirates got the pieces of eight beaten out of them by Marshall, 59-28 for the Conference USA East division title, but up until then, they’d lost only to Virginia by five, and at Tulane in overtime. Before getting picked off three times by the Thundering Herd, QB Shane Carden had thrown only 7 interceptions to 32 touchdowns.

It’s a little-known fact that Beef ‘O’ Brady is the name of a recipe created by Florence Henderson as Carol Brady. Who knew she had it in her? As far as the Czar could remember, all she ever did around the house was sit on the couch, leaf through magazines, and occasionally engage in amorous exploits that are unfit for publication here.

East Carolina 40, Ohio 28

Dec. 24 (Tuesday)

Hawaii Bowl – Honolulu – 8:00 (ESPN)

Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6)

It’s not surprising that BSU coach Chris Petersen was finally hired away by Washington, although it is a bit odd that it happened just as the Broncos finished with their worst regular season record since they also went 8-4 in 2001, which was the last time they didn’t play in a bowl game. Petersen’s replacement will be Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin, who previously had been his offensive coordinator for five seasons. Meanwhile, linebackers coach Bob Gregory will be the interim coach for this meeting with OSU.

The Beavers were given this at-large bid based purely on the strength of Sean Mannion’s arm. Otherwise, why invite a team that’s on a five-game losing streak? That slump doesn’t necessarily count them out, however. In 2011, a 6-0 Illinois team went on to lose its last six regular season games, but still upended UCLA in the Food Fight Bowl.

This will be the fourth different bowl game the Beavs have played in Honolulu. They were never invited to the best-remembered of the others, the Aloha Bowl, but they did make an appearance in the short-lived Oahu Bowl in 1999. Back in the 50s, they played in the Pineapple Bowl, but not against the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles. Before that, in the 30s, they went to the Poi Bowl. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much, but during the Depression, a bowl of poi was high stakes. And to get it, they had to walk to Hawaii, uphill in the snow.

Oregon State 38, Boise State 34

Dec. 26 (Thursday)

Little Caesars Bowl – Detroit – 6:00 (ESPN)

Pitt (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)

Like a lot of successful small conference teams, the Falcons will have to play their bowl game without the coach that got them there, since Dave Clawson has been hired away by Wake Forest. Clawson played his college ball at historic Division III Williams College, which makes him an Eph. That’s pronounced with a long “e” as in an Eephus pitch, which, like Clawson’s departure, you can see coming from a long way off, but can’t do anything about.

BGSU won the last meeting at Heinz Field, 27-17 to open the 2008 season. That day, they took advantage of a foundering Panther offensive line, an advantage they could have again, this time due to injuries. When it comes to trench warfare, however, the Panthers are hardly unarmed, with Outland Trophy winner Aaron Donald, who has recorded ten sacks among 26.5 tackles for loss this season.

If we must give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and what is Caesar’s is pizza, that must mean that everybody has been giving pizza to Caesar. No wonder he’s always wearing that white muumuu.

Pitt 24, Bowling Green 20

Poinsettia Bowl – San Diego – 9:30 (ESPN)

Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Utah State (8-5)

It can’t be easy for the Huskies to get motivated to play the Mountain West runners-up, when it looked like they were headed for a clash with the Big XII champs in the Fiesta Bowl. Their chances for a second consecutive BCS bid were dashed in a 47-27 blowout by Bowling Green in the MAC championship game. NIU’s D was MIA that night, surrendering 574 total yards.

The Aggies lost their conference title game, also, but not before putting up a much better fight, rallying for ten fourth-quarter points before falling to Fresno State 24-17. After QB Darell Garretson left the game with a head injury, Craig Harrison rallied USU for a field goal to pull within seven, but then was picked off deep in FSU territory to seal the defeat. Garretson is expected to return to action for this game.

The College Football Czar was all ready to cue his “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘poinsettia’” speech, when he realized that it actually has two “I’s”, although some of us opt not to pronounce the second one. Since the poinsettia belongs to the spurge family, he could revise it to say “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘spurge,’” but then, nobody wants to play in the Spurge Bowl, anyway.

Utah State 31, Northern Illinois 30

Dec. 27 (Friday)

Military Bowl – Annapolis – 2:30 (ESPN)

Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5)

This is practically a road game for the Thundering Herd, who didn’t handle the loss of home field advantage very well in the Conference USA championship game against Rice. Any controversy over the league’s convoluted method of determining the site of that game was quickly forgotten, after MU gave up a 75-yard first-quarter TD, en route to a 41-24 defeat.

Terps’ coach Randy Edsall has only gotten his team’s motor running in fits and starts this year. They opened on a four-game roll against weak competition, but then lost four of five, including poor offensive showings against Wake Forest and Syracuse. The O has gotten rolling again late in the year, in an overtime victory over Virginia Tech, and a tough 29-26 loss to Boston College.

In recent years, the Terrapins have become known for their variety of bizarre uniforms, most of which incorporate their state flag in one way or another. They don’t seem to get it. Everyone knows what Maryland is. It’s the Terrapins part that could benefit from a visual aid.

Maryland 37, Marshall 29

Texas Bowl – Houston – 6:00 (ESPN)

Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4)

The Orange failed at their first two attempts to secure a bowl bid, but they finally beat Boston College, 27-20, to finish the regular season. It helped that BC tailback Andre Williams left the game with a shoulder injury.

The Golden Gophers have only scored a total of ten points in their last two games, but it matters that their opponents were Wisconsin and Michigan State. For the season, they’re averaging just over 200 rushing yards per game, led by David Cobb’s season total of 1,111.

It is said that everything’s bigger in Texas, and if true, that makes this a relatively easy game to pick. Great big golden gophers can be pretty scary, not unlike the ferocious bunnies in Night of the Lepus. An abnormally large orange, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as intimidating. If they were called the Syracuse Rutabaga, it might be different.

Minnesota 24, Syracuse 13

Fight Hunger Bowl – San Francisco – 9:30 (ESPN)

Brigham Young (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4)

Kraft has surprisingly ended its sponsorship of this game, which can only mean that the heartless Big Food profiteers are pro-hunger. What do they get out of that? Why, the simple pleasure of being evil, of course.

The Cougars have been starved for offense at times themselves. After five consecutive quarters without a touchdown, BYU rallied for 28 second-half points to hold off Nevada, 28-23 in their season finale.

Husky coach Steve Sarkisian has departed for USC, to be replaced by Boise State skipper Chris Petersen. In the meantime, the interim coach is Marques Tuiasosopo, who was UW’s starting quarterback for their Rose Bowl-winning season of 2000. Don’t expect the lightly experienced assistant to do anything to tinker with a team that’s scoring an average of 38.5 points per game.

Somebody taking a quick glance at the TV listings might see this bowl game and mistakenly think that The Hunger Games was coming on. If you would be disappointed to find out that it was a college football game instead, then congratulations, you are a mucous-dripping weiner.

Washington 30, Brigham Young 21

Dec. 28 (Saturday)

New Era Pinstripe Bowl – New York – Noon (ESPN)

Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Rutgers (6-6)

Something seems terribly out of place about Rutgers facing America’s second-most storied sports team, on the home field of its first. Sure, the Scarlet Knights won the first-ever college football game over Princeton, but between then and now, they’ve cultivated about as much tradition as the Toronto Raptors.

The College Football Czar is surprised that the Fighting Irish jumped at the chance to play in this game. Surely, they could have held out for a better matchup someplace else. Perhaps after years of being invited to better bowls than they’ve deserved, they wanted to see what it was like to be on the other side of a mismatch for a change.

Knight coach Kyle Flood has wiped out much of his own staff, dismissing defensive coordinator Dave Cohen, quarterbacks coach Rob Spence and offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski since the end of the regular season. It’s too soon for him to have hired those men’s replacements, so he’ll simply go three coaches short, with others doubling up on their responsibilities.

When Greg Schiano coached at RU, he declared his intention to fabricate an instant mystique, which he tried in part by installing a prop Excalibur sword-in-a-stone in the stadium. Classy. Perhaps they should just print “The Legendary Rutgers Scarlet Knights” on their jerseys, and see if anyone buys it.

Notre Dame 38, Rutgers 10

Belk Bowl – Charlotte – 3:20 (ESPN)

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6) The Tarheels are one of several mediocre ACC teams that have conspired to take turns losing to each other, so that they’d all end up bowl-eligible. Among the 11 teams from that league that have landed in the postseason, three have records of 6-6, and three others are 7-5.

Sophomore UNC quarterback Marquise Williams has started five games this season, but by far his worst was in the last game of the season against Duke, when he completed only 17 of 36, while throwing one TD and two picks. He did rush for a season-high 104 yards with two scores that day, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Blue Devils from winning the division title.

The Bearcats had won six in a row heading into the Keg O’ Nails game against Louisville, and they should have won that one, too. Trailing by three with just over a minute left, and a first and ten at the UL 13, they stopped their own momentum, by running plays that are designed more to make coaches look witty than to win football games. After running several overly-complex, atom-splitting plays to gain practically no yardage, they had to settle for a 31-24 overtime defeat.

Cincy won this same game a year ago, 48-34 over the Duke Blue Devils. So how did they beat the Devils at their own game? Notice the four “6’s” on the head of their “C.” That means they are 133 percent evil.

Cincinnati 35, North Carolina 31

Russell Athletic Bowl – Orlando – 6:45 (ESPN)

Louisville (11-1) vs. Miami (9-3)

The Cardinals’ record is hard to believe, mostly because they gave their worst performances of the year in their nationally televised weeknight games. Listening to the announcers seriously consider the Cards’ national title hopes during an embarrassing 24-10 blunder bowl against Rutgers was just plain sad.

The Hurricanes won their last regular season game at Pitt 41-31, thanks to two big special teams plays in the first quarter. It’s a good thing they were spotted that early 14-0 lead, because their defense allowed over 500 yards for the third time in their last four games. The only exception was the 483 yards they’d given up a week earlier – to Virginia.

These teams will become conference opponents next season, when the Cards move from the AAC to the ACC. That’s a decline in league GPA from 3.3 to 2.7. The team that’s weighing that average down can only be U-know-who.

Louisville 31, Miami 28

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – Tempe – 10:15 (ESPN)

Michigan (7-5) vs Kansas State (7-5)

The Wolverines have lost 5 of 7 after a 5-0 start, but it’s not as if they’ve been inconsistent. The early nail-biters they survived against Akron and Uconn were certainly not better performances than they’ve given more recently, in losses to Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State.

The Wildcats lost their opener to defending Division I-AA champion North Dakota State, 24-21. Since they’re in a bowl game, you can count on hearing analysts say they’ve come a long way over the course of the season, but if they could play a rematch against NDSU right now, it would be no more a sure thing than it was the first time. K-State’s victories have come against the five teams trailing them in the Big XII standings, along with Louisiana-Lafayette and Umass.

Somebody please find a new sponsor for this bowl game. As long as Buffalo Wild Wings is involved, the Czar cannot help but suspect that its employees are conspiring to ruin the game, just so a few of their dorky customers can justify staying for one more round. All they need is to repeatedly press a “needless video review” button behind the bar, and the game is sure to drag on until last call.

Michigan 34, Kansas State 20

Dec. 30 (Monday)

Armed Forces Bowl – Fort Worth – 11:45AM (ESPN)

Navy (8-4) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-4)

The MT-heads did not go to a bowl game last season, in spite of an identical 8-4 record to the one they have now. Then in their last season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, they suspected that the league discouraged its bowl affiliates from inviting them, because they were about to jump to Conference USA. There’s no hard proof to back up that contention, but the Czar is inclined to believe it, based on the fact that a bid went to a 7-5 Western Kentucky team that had faded late in the regular season, and that MTSU had defeated head-to-head.

Midshipman QB Keenan Reynolds scored three TDs on the ground, as his team plowed through Army 34-7, on a snowy day in Philadelphia. That gives him a total of 29 rushing touchdowns for the season, which is a new NCAA record for quarterbacks.

As you can see from their logo, the Blue Raiders’ preferred means of attack is flying horses. They work pretty much like drones, except that nobody’s ever had his windshield nailed by a drone apple being dropped from a thousand feet.

Navy 45, Middle Tennessee 33

Music City Bowl – Nashville – 3:15 (ESPN)

Ole Miss (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)

Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace threw away the Egg Bowl with three interceptions, in a 17-10 overtime loss to Mississippi State. Hopefully, he learned his lesson, and finally went to get a haircut. You can’t produce Sampson-like strength by looking like Leif Garrett.

After seven consecutive bowl game losses, the Ramblin Wreck had made it the conventional wisdom that their wishbone offense was in trouble against any team that had a month to prepare for it. They may think that last year’s 21-7 Sun Bowl win over USC dispelled that theory, but the Czar thinks not. Anybody who saw any of that game knows that the Trojans had done nothing to prepare for it at all. On the other hand, Mississippi, which has won its past five postseason games, will be ready.

The Czar, being a Pittsburgher, resents the fact that the Music City Bowl is played in Nashville. I mean, is Nashville the home of Joe Negri? Case closed.

Ole Miss 21, Georgia Tech 13

Alamo Bowl – San Antonio – 6:45 (ESPN)

Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4)

Rather than sounding inspired to play for coach Mack Brown in his final game, some of the Longhorn players are moping that they’ve let him down. Perhaps they hope to be rewarded for their mope-mentum.

It was for the pointy cows’ victory over Oregon State in this game a year ago that Brown presented them with pseudo-championship rings, for “building momentum.” So they’ve ridden that wave from last year’s Alamo Bowl all the way to … this year’s Alamo Bowl. Quarterback Case McCoy has thrown as many interceptions this year (11) as touchdowns. The Horns can’t afford for him to take too many chances, or they’ll hear so much of Duck CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s name that by the end of the game, they’ll be able to say it.

UO’s leading rusher Byron Marshall was injured early in a shocking loss to Arizona, and was unable to play in an alarmingly close 36-35 win over rival Oregon State. He and his 6.4 per-carry average are expected to return to the field, where he remains five yards short of a 1,000-yard sophomore season.

Fighting Duck tight end Pharoah Brown is suspended for this bowl game, because of his participation in a snowball fight, which wound up being posted on YouTube. No, really. Rookie coach Mark Helfrich even called his actions “unacceptable and dangerous.” Think we’re taking this concussion awareness business a little too far? It’s a good thing Brown didn’t get caught playing dodgeball, or the college sensitivity police would be giving him the Clockwork Orange eye drop treatment by now.

When you remember The Alamo, try to always think of the John Wayne version. If, instead, you think of Billy Bob Thornton, you won’t find yourself remembering the Alamo as much as you’ll remember Mike Myers as Johnny Letter.

Oregon 45, Texas 31

Holiday Bowl – San Diego – 10:15 (ESPN)

Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Arizona State (10-3)

Todd Graham’s Sun Devils like nothing better than sinking their forks into weenies and marshmallows, and a Big XII team with a losing conference record is made to order. The Tech defense is allowing over 31 points and 491 yards per game, which means they should offer at least as little resistance to ASU as Navy did in last year’s 62-28 Food Fight Bowl blowout.

The Devils aren’t known for producing 1,000-yard rushers, but Marion Grice hopes to be well enough to break that mark, after missing his team’s Pac 12 championship loss to Stanford with an undisclosed injury. If he plays, the suspense will end early, as he only needs another four yards.

Considering how weak the Pac 12’s bowl affiliations are, you’d have thought they’d be excited about a proposed L.A.-based game called the Christmas Bowl, but that game’s first attempt at certification in 2010 was denied in part because the league refused to affiliate itself with it. So the Holiday Bowl is good enough for them, but not the actual holiday that is gradually being renamed “Holiday.” If the word “Christmas” is one of the reasons for the Pac 12 officials’ reluctance, then may Holidayman have mercy on their souls.

Arizona State 70, Texas Tech 45

Dec. 31 (Tuesday)

Independence Bowl – Shreveport – 12:30 (ESPN)

Boston College (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5)

This is a compelling matchup not just because it brings together evenly matched teams that otherwise wouldn’t play, but because it pits the leading rushers of 2012 and 2013 against each other. BC’s Andre Williams is the runaway leader this season with 2,102 yards, whereas the Cats’ KaDeem Carey finished last year with 1,929.

The Wildcats clobbered an indifferent Oregon team 42-16, but that’s been their only win in their last four games. Last time they took the field, they lost the Territorial Cup, which is a shame, because they could have stood to borrow a cup of territory from neighboring Arizona State, who owned the whole field in a 58-21 trouncing.

This game is officially not called the Independence Bowl this year, although it’s still played in Independence Stadium, for a trophy that features a bald eagle carrying a 13-star American flag. Instead, it’s the Advocare V100 Bowl. The poorly named distributor of health and dietary products has already announced that it will end its sponsorship immediately after the game. Apparently, they’ve discovered that supplanting the bowl’s traditional title with their own does nothing to explain to people exactly what in tarnation they’re selling.

Boston College 22, Arizona 17

Sun Bowl – El Paso – 2:00 (CBS)

Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. UCLA (9-3)

This traditional New Year’s Eve game is played in El Paso, which, believe it or not, is Spanish for “the pass.” Those Mexicans don’t use very clever football terminology, do they? At first, they thought about naming the city “Football Move,” but they didn’t, because that phrase had not been invented yet.

The Gobblers have only faced one offense that’s been at all comparable to the Bruins’, when they battered versatile Duke quarterback Anthony Boone and picked him off four times. Incredibly, that wasn’t enough, as Tech’s Logan Thomas tossed four INTs of his own, in an ugly 13-10 defeat.

The Bruins’ record looks even better when you consider that they’re one of the few teams to have played 12 legitimate games against Division I-A teams, and that their only losses have been to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. They continue to improve every season under coach Jim Mora, even though this is the first time in three years they were unable to win a division title.

This NCAA postseason game is not to be confused with the annual pee-wee game called the Son Bowl, which is played every year by the male children of Antonio Cromartie.

UCLA 24, Virginia Tech 16

Liberty Bowl – Memphis – 4:00 (ESPN)

Rice (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (6-6)

The mud puppies played their way into this game with a gritty 17-10 overtime win over their flashier rivals from Ole Miss. It was their second consecutive OT victory while on the brink of bowl elimination, having previously edged Arkansas, 24-17.

A win would give the Owls their best record since 1949, when they beat North Carolina in the Cotton Bowl to finish 10-1. Their only other 10-win season was in 2008, when they won the Texas Bowl over Western Michigan 38-14, to finish with the same 10-3 record they carry into this game.

The hooters of Planet Hooston mushed up Marshall 41-24 in the Conference USA championship game, which was the first postseason game to be held in Rice Stadium since 1986. That was when the Bluebonnet Bowl, which had been moved to the Astrodome, returned to its original home for two games shortly before its demise.

As the name would suggest, this game originated in Philadelphia. It was first played in Memphis in 1965, but in between, for one game in 1964, it took refuge in the Atlantic City Convention Center, where it earned the ignominy of being the first-ever bowl game played indoors (predating the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl by three years). Utah defeated West Virginia 32-6, before a crowd of barely over 6,000. Even Bert Parks found something better to do that night.

Who would want to go to a bowl game in Philadelphia? What’s next, a bowl game in Detroit?

Oh, wait a minute …

Rice 36, Mississippi State 28

Chick-fil-A (Peach) Bowl – Atlanta – 8:00

Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Duke (10-3)

The city of Atlanta has failed to support two NHL franchises, but that doesn’t faze Johnny Hockey Puck, who seems to relish the opportunity to go where he’s not wanted. The 2012 Heisman winner hasn’t fared very well in hostile territory recently, as A&M lost to LSU (34-10) and Missouri (28-21). That may actually have less to do with playing on the road than with the team nicknames. The ampersanders’ most recent home loss was to yet more Tigerses, 45-41 against Auburn.

The Blue Devils haven’t won a bowl game since the end of the 1960 season, when they held off Arkansas 7-6 to win the Cotton Bowl. They’ve since gone 0-3, falling to Texas Tech in the 1989 All-American Bowl, Wisconsin in the 1994 Hall of Fame Bowl, and Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl a year ago.

David Cutcliffe’s team won its last eight regular season games this year, but they had never faced an offense as dangerous as this one until the ACC championship game, when they were flogged by Florida State, 45-7. Is there any doubt that the Aggies’ QB wants to outdo the 330 passing yards that Jameis Winston piled up against them?

Next year, this game becomes one of the six bowls in the championship rotation, at which time it was supposed to go back to its traditional moniker, the Peach Bowl. Unfortunately, the Chick-fil-A cows can’t spell “peach,” so they’ve decided to go with Nectarine Bowl instead.

Texas A&M 44, Duke 29

Jan. 1 (Wednesday)

Gator Bowl – Jacksonville – Noon (ESPN2)

Nebraska (8-4) vs. Georgia (8-4)

These same two teams met downstate a year ago at the Capital One bowl in Orlando, where the Bulldogs prevailed, 45-31. Aaron Murray passed for 427 yards and five scores, including touchdown passes of 49, 75 and 87 yards.

Looking back at how disappointing many of the Cornhuskers’ opponents have been this year, their fans must find it a little unsettling that they’ve only beaten Wyoming, Northwestern and Penn State by a field goal apiece. Even their 17-13 victory at Michigan, as important as it was at the time, pales in hindsight.

If Husker coach Bo “Expletive the Fans” Pelini doesn’t bring home a victory, he might as well stay in the Sunshine State and look up his brother, Carl, the recently fired coach of Florida Atlantic. As big as football is in that state, another coaching opportunity will come up for them before long. It’s only a matter of time, for instance, before Miami gives up on trying to clean up its image.

Georgia 38, Nebraska 30

Heart of Dallas Bowl – um … Dallas – Noon (ESPNU)

UNLV (7-5) vs. North Texas (8-4)

In their first competitive season since the early years of the Sun Belt Conference, the Mean Green, now in C-USA, were the only team in the league to defeat eventual champion Rice. Brandin Byrd is not a household word, but the senior tailback has quietly collected 1,023 yards on just 182 carries. Just in his last three games, he has rushed for 505 yards and five touchdowns.

The Rebels, in response, would be quick to trumpet their own senior RB, Tim Cornett, who has topped the 1,200-yard mark for the second year in a row. This time, he has more than doubled his touchdown total, from 7 to 15.

When the Rebs play in a bowl game, they mean it. So far, they have only been to three, but they’re 3-0, having outscored their opponents by a combined total of 112-51. Their most recent appearance was on their home field in 2000, when they defeated Arkansas 31-14.

The Texan team may have the Heart of Dallas going for it, but the Rebels have got the Liver of Las Vegas. Is there any question which is tougher?

UNLV 26, North Texas 21

Outback Bowl – Tampa – 1:00 (ESPN)

Iowa (8-4) vs. LSU (9-3)

If this bowl matchup looks familiar, that’s because these teams met nine years ago in the Capital One Bowl, where the Hawkeyes pulled off one of the most dramatic victories in college football history. Trailing 25-24 with 46 seconds left, and starting their drive 71 yards from the end zone, the Hawks came out timid, nibbling away with two time-consuming completions just to get near midfield. One false start penalty later, they still needed to travel 56 yards on one snap. On a play that has been mischaracterized as a Hail Mary, quarterback Drew Tate threw a perfect strike to Warren Holloway at the 15-yard-line, from which point the receiver coasted into the end zone for a 30-25 final.

Iowa doesn’t have that kind of offensive firepower this season, but they do have a statistically superior defense to the one in which the Tigers take so much pride. In 2011, Louisiana State held seven of its opponents to single digits in scoring. This season, it has done so only against Florida.

The eyes have it, but which ones, the Hawkeyes, or the Eye of the Tigers? We all know that hawks have excellent vision, but Rocky Balboa had the Eye of the Tiger, and yet he couldn’t see well enough to prevent Mick from slapping the snot out of him. You can’t argue with science.

Iowa 23, LSU 14

Capital One Bowl – Orlando – 1:00 (ABC)

Wisconsin (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)

In their last game, the mighty Badger defense was pelted by Penn State freshman QB Christian Hackenberg for 339 yards and four touchdowns, in a shocking 31-24 upset. Joel “Rico” Stave matched him with 339 yards of his own, except that he gave 66 of them back on three interception returns.

The Gamecocks have forced 15 takeaways in their past four games, and have given back exactly none. Last game, they were a plus-6 in turnovers against Clemson, including four in the fourth quarter, to preserve a 31-17 win that would surely have landed them in the BCS, if the SEC didn’t already have two teams in.

To the question, “what’s in your wallet,” the Badgers’ answer next year will be one-thirteenth of the selection committee. One of the committee members will be former Badger coach and current A.D. Barry Alvarez, who reflexively attributes his team’s losses to shadowy Masonic conspiracies. But at least we’ll have gotten rid of those wretched BCS computers, right?

South Carolina 29, Wisconsin 19

Rose Bowl – Pasadena – 5:00 (ESPN)

Michigan State (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2)

Two of the nation’s most bruising defenses square off in Pasadena, but the Cardinal offense might be tougher than either of them. Their massive and experienced offensive line has helped RB Tyler Gaffney to 1,618 yards on 306 carries, as well as the appearance of invincibility in short-yardage situations.

The Spartans gave up an uncharacteristic 273 yards on the ground in the Big Ten championship against Ohio State, in which they were unable to protect a 17-0 lead. Luckily for them, QB Connor Cook whomped up his first 300-yard game of the season, and MSU went on another 17-0 run to win the game, 34-24.

As Keith Jackson always liked to remind us, the Rose Bowl, first played in 1902, is the known as the Granddaddy of Them All. Or, if you prefer, you can just call it Antonio Cromartie’s Dad.

Stanford 13, Michigan State 10

Fiesta Bowl – Glendale – 8:30 (ESPN)

Central Florida (11-1) vs. Baylor (11-1)

Midway through the season, the Czar would have picked UCF to win this game. Since the start of November, they’ve gone from being head-and-shoulders above the rest of the AAC, to the point where they’re staring eye-to-eye with the also-rans of their league. In wins over Houston, Temple, South Florida and SMU, George O’Leary’s team has only won by a total of 15 points.

The Bears reasserted their defense after three loose games in a row, clamping down on Texas 30-10, while holding Case McCoy to only 54 passing yards. For the season, BU is allowing 16 fewer points per game than it did a year ago.

The Knights are understandably excited that the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl has invited them to meet the team from the Brazos. That’s because they think that Brazos is the name of one of those scoop-shaped tortilla chips, that comes in C-cup size.

Baylor 48, Central Florida 28

Jan. 2 (Thursday)

Sugar Bowl – New Orleans – 8:30 (ESPN)

Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Alabama (11-1)

The Sooners’ 33-24 upset of Oklahoma State in the Bedlam game was a classic that will be remembered for decades, but it did very little to prepare them for a game like this. Blake Bell’s game-winning touchdown pass to WR Jalen Saunders was actually the only time their offense reached the end zone all day. Their other three TDs came on a punt return, a fake field goal attempt, and a fumble recovery on a bungled Cal-Stanford play at the end of the game. After the way the Crimson Tide lost the Iron Bowl, they will be on guard against any of OU’s unconventional methods of making up for its plodding offense.

Since a humbling Sugar Bowl loss to Utah five years ago, the Crimson Tide have crushed their last four bowl opponents, by a combined score of 149-42. Those weren’t just any bowl games against just any opponents, either. They were three BCS championships against Texas (37-21), LSU (21-0) and Notre Dame (42-14), and a 49-7 massacre of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl.

Bama coach Nick Saban angered many viewers by singling out players for blame after his team’s loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, and even faulting second-string kicker Adam Griffith for missing the foolhardy 57-yard field goal attempt that led to AU’s winning return. “He didn’t hit it right,” Saban said, noting that “Griff makes them from 60 in practice.”

Surely the coach has been in the game long enough to realize the irrelevance of a kicker’s range in practice, when he has no opposition to prevent him from driving the ball as low as necessary to make it carry through. He just doesn’t want to admit that his decision to attempt the low-percentage kick was a mistake, and that he didn’t have his players ready for the possibility of a runback.

Even when a coach uses the more generic explanation that “we didn’t execute,” this is a way to pass the buck to the players also, because he is not really including himself among “we.” You never hear any coach say something like, “Gee, our execution sure made up our ill-conceived game plan and our poor tactical decisions.” Some first-person plurals are more first-personny than others.

Alabama 27, Oklahoma 7

Jan. 3 (Friday)

Cotton Bowl – Arlington – 7:30 (FOX)

Missouri (11-2) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2)

The Cowboys aren’t known for their defense, but their average of 20 points allowed per game is 14th best in the nation, and that doesn’t account for the fact that they’ve given away six non-offensive touchdowns this year.

If Missouri loves company, then why did the Tigers maintain such a great distance between themselves and the Auburn ball carriers in the SEC championship game? Gary Pinkel’s club strangely persisted with its three-man front throughout the 59-42 flattening, during which it was gashed for an unheard-of 545 rushing yards. Incredulous AU running back Tre Mason remarked after the game, “I’ve never had holes that big to run through.” So much for halftime adjustments.

The Pokes’ 33-24 loss to Oklahoma drops Mike Gundy the Man’s record against OU to 1-8. Against everyone else, he is 76-29, including a 5-2 record in bowl games. Sounds great, but two of those wins – against Arizona in the 2010 Alamo Bowl and Purdue in last year’s Heart of Dallas Bowl – were ludicrous mismatches from the outset.

Come after the Tigers, Mike! They’re men! They’re 11-2! They’re not a 6-6 Purdue team! I hope someday you have a 6-6 team and someone belittles them 58-14! Makes me wanna puke!

Oklahoma State 45, Missouri 39

Orange Bowl – Miami – 8:30 (ESPN)

Ohio State (12-1) vs. Clemson (10-2)

How might the Heisman race have been different if lumpy nuts’ running back Carlos Hyde hadn’t been suspended for the first three games of the season? Hyde has finished the season with 1,408 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, but he missed his chance to pile up even bigger numbers against Buffalo, San Diego State and California.

OSU has allowed 1,075 passing yards in the past three games, including 451 in a narrow 42-41 victory over underachieving rival Michigan. Judging from the way the Buckeyes’ defense has played recently, their best chance at putting a solid hit on a Clemson player might be if Woody Hayes came back from the dead.

There’s not much good that can be said of the Tigers’ 31-17 loss to intrastate foe South Carolina, other than that you have to be pretty good to go minus-6 in turnovers against a Top 10 team, and still only lose by two touchdowns.

Under normal circumstances, the Tigers are just like the cereal ads say: they’re Groovy! Dabo Swinney’s offense is averaging 40.2 points per game, thanks in part to WR Sammy Watkins, who leads the ACC in receiving yards with 1,237.

You didn’t really think the Czar was going to use that tired Tony the Tiger line, did you? He was quoting Horace the Porcupine, the official mascot of Yam Flakes. They don’t make those anymore. Personally, the Czar holds the marketing campaign responsible.

Clemson 35, Ohio State 23

Jan. 4 (Saturday)

BBVA Compass Bowl – Birmingham – 1:00 (ESPN)

Houston (8-4) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)

Originally simply called the Birmingham Bowl, this game has been sponsored by BBVA Compass for four years now, and the Birmingham-based bank is barely more recognizable than Advocare V100. People actually seem to think the company makes compasses, and even the media shorthandedly refer to it as the Compass Bowl. If the Czar claimed that the name stands for Big Biff’s Very Accurate Compass Company, he’d probably have a fair percentage of his readers convinced.

It turns out that Commodore quarterback Austin Carta-Samuels had been playing with a torn ACL ever since a mid-October upset win over Georgia. He’s finally having surgery, which means that Vandy’s chances rest on the shoulders of freshman Patton Robinette, who has started only one game this season, that being a 56-24 trouncing by Texas A&M.

Freshman Cougar QB John O’Korn needs 111 more yards to reach the 3,000-mark, during a season in which he’s thrown 26 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. The drowsy old Traffic song says that John O’Korn must die, but happily for Cougar fans, that song lasts four years, by the end of which he’ll have served his purpose anyway.

Houston 33, Vanderbilt 32

Jan. 6 (Monday)

GoDaddy Bowl – Mobile – 9:00 (ESPN)

Ball State (10-2) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)

The Red Wolves return to Ladd-Peebles Stadium for their third consecutive GoDaddy Bowl. Sure, they could go somewhere else, but at what other bowl game could they see Danica Patrick strutting along the sidelines? Two years ago, ASU fell to Northern Illinois 38-20, but last year, they scored their first-ever postseason victory, 17-13 over Kent State.

Senior Cardinal quarterback Keith Wenning has thrown an incredible total of 34 touchdowns to six INTs this season, and is currently 67 yards away from the 4,000-mark. Last game against Miami Ohio, he matched a career high with 445 yards, and surpassed another career best by throwing six touchdowns, without getting picked off once, in a 55-14 romp.

Is it really a good idea to name a football game GoDaddy? Antonio Cromartie doesn’t need that kind of encouragement.

Ball State 51, Arkansas State 35

Jan. 7 (Tuesday)

BCS Championship Game – 8:30 (ESPN)

Florida State (13-0) vs. Auburn (12-1)

Will the BCS era end the way it began, with a favored FSU team blowing the title game to an SEC opponent, like it did against Tennessee at the end of the 1998 season? If that is to happen, the Tigers will have to be allowed to get up and run after being tackled, like Michael Dyer did to set up the winning score against Oregon three years ago.

Obviously, there’s good reason for the hype surrounding Heisman winner Jameis Winston, but the Seminoles also boast the second-best rushing offense in the ACC, trailing only the wishbone attack of Georgia Tech. Devonta Freeman leads the way with 943 yards, followed by Karlos Williams with 705, and James Wilder Jr. with 542.

The Tigers have won six games by eight points or fewer. The positive spin on this is that they’re a gutsy team that pulls through in the close games, which of course is true. It’s just as obviously true that the Noles wouldn’t have had nearly as tough a time against Washington State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, or even Georgia.

AU leads the nation in rushing yardage, with a total of 4,364. This may look like an advantage, in that Jimbo Fisher’s defense is stronger against the pass, but #14 in the nation against the run is not so bad, either. Besides, Fisher is smart enough to attack with more than three players once in a while.

Winston is also a very good baseball player – so good, in fact, that he pitches for FSU, when he’s not gunning out base runners from right field. While discussing his two-sport status, he ruffled the Auburn faithful by saying that he wants to be better than Bo Jackson. Maybe that was a clever way of preemptively changing the subject away from the investigation into sexual assault allegations, but his teammates really didn’t need him to give Jackson’s school any bulletin board material.

Hey, Winnie. There’s one thing at which Bo Jackson will always be better than you. Bo knows when to shaddap!

Florida State 52, Auburn 28

TOPICS: Humor; Society; Sports
KEYWORDS: bowlgames; collegefootball; predictions

1 posted on 12/20/2013 9:25:57 PM PST by Daniel Clark
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To: Daniel Clark

I don’t know much about Utah State but Northern Illinois is a tough opponent.

2 posted on 12/20/2013 9:42:57 PM PST by ConservativeStatement ("World Peace 1.20.09.")
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To: Daniel Clark

“The Tigers have won six games by eight points or fewer. The positive spin on this is that they’re a gutsy team that pulls through in the close games, which of course is true. It’s just as obviously true that the Noles wouldn’t have had nearly as tough a time against Washington State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, or even Georgia”.

I wonder how the Criminoles would have done against ‘Bama...?

3 posted on 12/20/2013 10:07:04 PM PST by mozarky2 (Ya never stand so tall as when ya stoop to stomp a statist...)
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To: Daniel Clark
Oddly enough, one of the better match-ups will be the compass Bowl with Vanderbilt playing Houston. They are both 8 and 4. The line on the game is 1.5 . Vanderbilt's starting Quarterback is hurt, so there will be two freshmen leading their teams. ESPN owns the Bowl so it should look good on television also.
4 posted on 12/20/2013 10:23:23 PM PST by political1 (Love your neighbors)
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To: Daniel Clark

Good posting! Very interesting read. Thanks.

5 posted on 12/21/2013 12:37:00 AM PST by octex
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To: Daniel Clark

In the battle of the S's, Michigan State is going to kick some S!

Go Spartans!

6 posted on 12/21/2013 4:41:19 AM PST by Yo-Yo
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To: Yo-Yo

GO Hawks !
(I am a bit concerned about the revenge factor at LSU.)

7 posted on 12/21/2013 5:40:37 AM PST by Eric in the Ozarks ("Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth.")
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To: Daniel Clark

There are so many bowl games they lose their appeal.

Some of them have teams that only won 50% of their games.

It used to be the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Cotton. Then, they added the Fiesta.

Now, there are many with ridiculous names, such as the Anti-Hunger Bowl. How PC, considering that Liberals are trying to kill football.

8 posted on 12/21/2013 7:15:30 AM PST by TomGuy
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