ESPN is right--this is the most wonderful time of the year. Bowl season is upon us. Sure, the first week and a half of bowls aren't exactly marquee match ups, and some of them might be played in half-empty stadiums, but it is bowl season! Time to park your butt on the couch, grab potato chips as rations, and take up residence in front of the TV until the second week of January.
Oh, and bring your computer, cause we will be keeping tabs on all the story lines of bowl season, and to start it off here is a primer for you, chop full of my ever-so-insightful picks.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Temple vs. Wyoming, Sat. Dec. 17, 2:00 p.m. ET
Who needs LSU-Alabama when you've got two great powers--Temple and Wyoming--clashing more than three weeks before the BCS National Championship Game. This game pits two 8-4 schools from non-AQ conferences against one another, and quite frankly has very little going for it other than the fact that it is the very first bowl and college-football-starved fans will be ravenously awaiting it. Temple blew out Maryland early in the season, which looked to be a monumental win for the program, until it turned out that Maryland was terrible and finished 2-10.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Utah State vs. Ohio, Sat. Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. ET
I can say, with some confidence that I know as much, if not more, than just about anyone about sports... but the "Famous Idaho Potato Bowl?" That is new to me. Utah State had a perplexing season. The Aggies started out by taking Auburn to the brink in Week 1, then proceeded to play pretty poorly for most of the first half of the season before winning their last five games. The Aggies are a running team and rank sixth nationally on the ground. Ohio came into the MAC Championship Game on a five-game winning streak before falling to Northern Illinois. Of the Bobcats' four losses, only one came by more-than three points (at Rutgers).
Pick: Utah State
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
San Diego State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Sat. Dec. 17, 9 p.m. ET
Louisiana-Lafayette doesn't have to travel far for it's bowl game this year. And the Ragin' Cajuns can score points with most anyone in the country--the question is will they get enough stops to win? San Diego State has had a steady season, with three of their four losses coming to some of the nation's best teams, Michigan, TCU and Boise State.
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl
Florida International vs. Marshall, Tues. Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ET
If there is one reason to watch this game (big if), it is to see Florida International's electric wide receiver and return man T.Y. Hilton. The diminutive (5-foot-10, 183 lbs.) Hilton is one of the most exciting players in the nation, and Marshall players will undoubtedly have one goal in mind: keep the ball out of Hilton's hands. In Marshall there is very little to be inspired about. Nothing like having a 6-6 Conference-USA team, ranked 98th in offense and 84th in defense nationally playing in a bowl game. Whoop-di-doo.
Pick: Florida International
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
No. 18 TCU vs. Louisiana Tech, Wed. Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET
TCU was a bounce or two (actually two) away from being undefeated and perhaps playing for the BCS National Championship Game. Surely I jest, you think. But no, a fluky week-one two-point loss at Baylor and an overtime loss against SMU is all that stopped TCU from heading to another BCS game. Louisiana Tech is no slouch, having won seven consecutive games. Also, let it be noted that Louisiana Tech is traveling to San Diego for a bowl game and San Diego State is traveling to Louisiana. Cause that makes perfect sense and is cost effective. Right.
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
No. 7 Boise State vs. Arizona State, Thurs. Dec 22, 8 p.m. ET
Let me start by saying that this is the top pick in my confidence pool. Boise State is angry after being snubbed from a BCS game with just one loss, it is Kellen Moore's going away party and Arizona State has a lame duck coach. Seems like the perfect storm... for an upset. Just kidding. Arizona State mailed it in after a Nov. 5 loss at UCLA, and hasn't won since.
Pick: Boise State
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
No. 21 Southern Miss vs. Nevada, Sat. Dec 24, 8 p.m. ET
The Golden Eagles are flying high coming into the Hawaii Bowl after beating undefeated Houston in the Conference-USA title game and earning a December trip to the Aloha state. They would be flying higher if their coach Larry Fedora hadn't abdicated his throne to take over North Carolina, however. Nevada had a solid, if not spectacular season. No marquee wins, no glaring, ugly losses. Luckiest people involved in this game though: the broadcasters. Free trip to Hawaii to call a game. Great life.
Pick: Southern Miss
Advo Care V100 Independence Bowl
Missouri vs. North Carolina, Mon. Dec. 26, 5 p.m. ET
This is the first bowl match up between two AQ schools, albeit mediocre ones. Despite being a program in turmoil, North Carolina started the season strong, winning five of its first six games, before closing losing four of six in the (bad) ACC conference. Missouri had moments throughout the season in which it looked like a really good team--and then times like the second half of the Oklahoma State game happen and you remember it is just Mizzou.
Little Caesars' Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Purdue, Tues. Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. ET
The thought of writing the blurb for this game has literally made my eyes roll back in my head and my fingers lock up on my keyboard. But someone's got to do it. Let's talk about how Purdue, at one point this season, had three NFL starting quarterbacks! WTF. The only other school that could say that is USC. It's Purdue! They define mediocre. When you look up the word average in the dictionary, you very well might see a Boilermaker. Anyways, Purdue, quarterback history and all (I see you, Len Dawson), doesn't score nearly at Western Michigan does. The Broncos are 18th in the nation in scoring. Okay, I did it, I'm done.
Pick: Purdue, I guess.
Louisville vs. North Carolina State, Tues. Dec 27, 8 p.m. ET
The Belk Bowl? Really? Sounds German. (Says the man who speaks no German). What is Belk? Please tell me if you know, my curiosity has piqued. Anyways, Louisville was oh-so-close to backing into a BCS bowl as a 7-5 team. Thanks, again, Big East, you abomination of a conference. NC State actually has some solid wins this season, including a romp of No. 7 Clemson on Nov. 19.
Pick: NC State
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Toledo vs. Air Force, Wed. Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. ET
Let me start by saying that when a military academy in the Military Bowl--you pick the military academy. Sorry Toledo, especially because I'm sure most casual fans will root for Air Force too. That's too bad for the Rockets, who can seriously score points, averaging 42.3 per game. Air Force, and it's run-oriented offense (ironic, I know), will have to be the Falcons' best defense, keeping Toledo's vaunted offense off the field.
Pick: Air Force
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
California vs. No. 24 Texas, Wed. Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ET
First off, it is a complete joke that Texas is still ranked. The Longhorns are 7-5, and had a losing record in the Big 12 conference this season. Oh, and they beat one team with a winning record. Second off, I hate Cal. As you loyal readers may already know, I went to Stanford, so it is engrained in my blood to hate Cal, and I do a good job of it. That being said, I'm a journalist and thus I will look at this objectively. Cal and Texas are frankly fairly similar teams. Both would be quite good if they got consistent quarterback play. Neither has, which is why they are both 7-5.
Pick: Cal (smh)