Friday, December 16, 2011

Bowl Picks, Part I


 It's that time of year again: Bowl Season - the wild and wonderful - sometimes disappointing and confusing - way we wrap up the college football season. Sure it has it's flaws, but I don't see it changing anytime soon, so we may as well embrace the insanity. Personally, I think this year's slate is one of the better sets of bowls we've had in recent memory. Admittedly, there are some undeserving - or just plain uninteresting - teams in the mix, some weak spots schedule wise, or games that we already know will be boring affairs, but I do love the sport and I'll take it any way I can get it...especially with so much time to fill in the next couple of weeks. In the next week or so, I'll have up the second set of picks, but for now, here's what I'm thinking about the games between now and Christmas Eve.

New Mexico Bowl - Don't make fun, this is actually a nice starting match-up. Temple is a traditional ground-and-pound team with a great back in Bernard Pierce, while Wyoming's Brett Smith is a fun to watch, dual-threat QB. It should be a good game early, but I think the Owls can control the clock, keep the ball away from the Pokes for huge chunks of time late in the game, and maybe force a desperate mistake or two. Look for the run-game and a fourth quarter turnover to be the difference: Temple 30, Wyoming 21.

Idaho Potato Bowl - Here's another underrated gem. Ohio is a good football team - at least by MAC standards - led by another exciting dual-threat QB, Tyler Tettleton. They came up short in the MAC CG, so they should be fired up to get the win. Utah State's an up and down, albeit exciting, season; starting with the near-upset of Auburn to kickoff the season and including eight games decided by five or less points. They lost their star freshman half way through the year, but have a ground-churner in Rob Turbin. It'll be spread vs. spread, but I'll take the Aggies to pull it out, Utah State 27, Ohio 26.

New Orleans Bowl - San Diego State's a five point favorite here and RB Ronnie Hillman is a big reason why. He's a yardage machine and Louisiana-Lafayette will have a hard time containing him. But, the Ragin' Cajuns are playing in their own backyard and there could see some home-cooked voodoo in the air. I'll give it to the Aztecs, but take the points, SDSU 28, UL-L 27.

Beef O'Brady's Bowl - Another five-point spread. Honestly, Florida International and Marshall are two teams that it is very hard for me to get psyched-up about. Cristobal's done a great job with the Panthers program, but I've only seen them play once. The Hilton kid's a beast at receiver, but don't overlook the Herd's ability to clamp down defensively. It should be a lower scoring affair and is probably a game you could pass on, FIU 21, Marshall 19.

Poinsettia Bowl - Not even the nouveau riche Frogs should sleep on this Louisiana Tech squad. The Bulldogs started 1-4 (including a two-pointer to Southern Miss, a one-pointer to Houston, an overtime loss on the road at Mississippi State), but have won seven straight (including a win at Ole Miss) and are looking to pull a huge upset to get win number nine. TCU on the other hand might be a little upset about being left out of a big-boy bowl. That could either mean they'll be angry and focused or disappointed and sluggish. I'll call for the latter and say it'll take the Frogs a while to finally out the pesky Tech'ers away, TCU 30, LA Tech 20.

Las Vegas Bowl - Here we have yet another possibly disappointed and unfocused upset candidate. Boise State's one kick away from a possible BCS Title game berth and you can't tell me that's not hanging around the back of all the players' minds. I think the Broncos are definitely bitter. Will that be a motivator or a handicap? With a leader like Kellen Moore at the helm, I'll call it a wash. If Arizona State wasn't on a four-game skid or wasn't welcoming a new coach, I'd like the Devils' chances a bit more. As it is, though, take the Broncos. Boise State 37, Arizona State 20.

Hawaii Bowl - Ring in the birth of sweet little baby Jesus with this Christmas Eve classic between Southern Miss and Nevada. The Eagles are a six point fave, but their house is in total disarray and nothing quite appeases the volcano gods and island trash storms like an upset. The Eagles' coach has gone to baby blue-er pastures and their athletic director is on his way out; they might have superior talent, but they won't have any focus. I'm calling for the upset, Nevada 29, Southern Miss 27.

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