Monthly Archives: December 2014

Bowl Games 2014: Going Out on a High Note

Let’s go ahead and blow this open: nine games, three days, wrapping up in some of the best non-playoff teams of the season, and taking us through the end of the calendar year.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 29
2:00: West Virginia vs. Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): Looking back, I’m not quite sure why I’m confident about this one. Both these teams play a lot of offense and very little defense, which bodes well if you like high-scoring shootouts. Part of it could just be that the Mountaineers looked significantly better to close their season than the Aggies, with narrow losses to TCU, Texas, and K-State, plus a resounding win over Iowa State. Since TAMU upset Auburn back in early November, they’ve gone 0-2 to an eminently beatable Missouri and allowed an at-times lost looking LSU offense to score 23 (a lot for them) and win. We’ll see how well the eye test holds up, I guess.
Confidence: 33
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is WVU’s first bowl game since the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, which they lost to Syracuse 38-14. This is TAMU’s sixth straight bowl, starting with a 44-20 loss to Georgia in the 2009 Independence Bowl. They scraped by Duke 52-48 in last year’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Antony Becht

5:30: Clemson vs. Oklahoma (Russell Athletic Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): Speaking of ways teams closed the season, it was about as bad as it could get for Oklahoma. Basically this prediction is based entirely on the fact that Cole Stoudt is starting for the Tigers, which means that I cannot predict them to win.
Confidence: 5
Previous meetings: Just three. The Sooners won the first two meetings in 1963 and 1972, and by pretty healthy 31-14 and 52-3 margins. Clemson won the last meeting in the 1988-9 Citrus Bowl, 13-6.
Last bowl game: This is Clemson’s tenth straight bowl game, going back to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, in which they beat Colorado 19-10. Given another shot at the Orange Bowl after the 2012 debacle against West Virginia, they won last year’s contest 40-35 over Ohio State. The Sooners own the fifth longest bowl streak in the land, with this being their sixteenth straight postseason game. The beginning of the streak was the 1999 Independence Bowl, which they lost to Ole Miss, 27-25. In one of the largest upsets of last year’s bowl season, they beat Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham

9:00: Texas vs. Arkansas (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): I’m not sure why I’m confident about Arkansas in this one either. I suppose I’d chalk it up to their bruising rushing attack, which propelling them to upset wins over LSU and Ole Miss and bowl eligibility in the first place, even if they drop the ball against Mizzou. Texas also got pasted by TCU in their regular season finale, but that was pretty much expected.
Confidence: 32
Previous meetings: These former Southwest Conference foes have no shortage of meetings, with a grand total of 77 dating all the way back to 1894. Texas, as one might expect, has historically dominated the series by a 56-21 margin. The last three meetings took place during the 2003, 2004, and 2008 regular seasons. Texas is 2-1 in those, and has won two straight, most recently by a 52-10 margin.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Longhorns, going back to a 21-10 victory over Cal in the 2011 Holiday Bowl. They got wrecked by Oregon in last year’s Alamo Bowl, 30-7. This is Arkansas’s first bowl appearance since the 2011-2 Cotton Bowl, where they beat Kansas State 29-16.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Brian Griese

Tuesday, December 30
3:00: Notre Dame vs. Louisiana State (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): Notre Dame has lost 5 of their 6, with the only win coming over Navy. Losses to Florida State and Arizona State were understandable. Northwestern, less so. Getting blown out by Southern Cal, well, that was not exactly a good look. If LSU can put up some points, it’s hard to see how the Irish will have any success at all against their defense.
Confidence: 30
Previous meetings: Ten of ’em, and the series is an even 5-5 split. LSU won the last won, a 41-14 pounding in the 2005-6 Sugar Bowl.
Last bowl game: This the Domers’ fifth straight bowl game. They kicked off the streak with a 33-17 win over Miami in the 2010 Sun Bowl, and last year they beat Rutgers 29-16 in the Pinstripe Bowl. LSU owns the sixth longest bowl streak, with this being their fifteenth straight. The streak, unfortunately, started with a 28-14 win over Georgia Tech in the 2000 Peach Bowl. Last year the Bayou Bengals beat Iowa 21-14 in the Outback Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore

6:30: Louisville vs. Georgia (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): While I would love to use this space to gloat about their loss to us, the fact remains that Georgia is still a pretty decent football team. Louisville is solid, but they lost pretty convincingly to the two teams they played closest to UGA’s talent level (FSU and Clemson). I like UGA’s chances, as long as they show up.
Confidence: 31
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Louisville’s fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2010 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, where they beat Southern Miss 31-28. Last year they stomped future conference-mates Miami 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. UGA is tied with Georgia Tech for the third longest bowl streak in the land, with this being their eighteenth straight bowl. They started with a 33-6 win over Wisconsin in the 1997-8 Outback Bowl, but last year they lost 24-19 to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shorff and Kelly Stouffer
Fun facts: This is the first time since the 2006 edition of this game (when it was the Car Care Bowl), that it has not selected a team from either North or South Carolina. (Boston College beat Navy 25-24.)

10:00: Maryland vs. Stanford (Foster Farms Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; ESPN): Things like losses to Rutgers are really preventing me from believing in you, Maryland. Also not helping are things like your lack of wins over teams that finished the regular season above .500. Meanwhile, the Cardinal finished their somewhat disappointing regular season with convincing wins over Cal (expected, even if Stanford scoring 38 wasn’t) and UCLA (a massive upset in which Stanford won 31-10). So I have to go with what is basically the home team in this one.
Confidence: 28
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Maryland’s second straight bowl, after losing last year’s Military Bowl to Marshall by a 31-20 margin. (In retrospect, maybe that was more of a glimpse of things to come for the Herd than it was for the Terps.) This is Stanford’s sixth straight bowl, and a bit of a step down after four straight BCS-bowl games. The streak started with a 31-27 loss to Oklahoma in the 2007 Sun Bowl, and last year they lost 24-20 to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Greg McElroy
Fun facts: According to Google Maps (and they should know, given the area), it is 12.8 miles from Stanford University to Levi’s Stadium. It is 42.1 miles from the Civic Center area of San Francisco to Levi’s Stadium. Just sayin’.

Wednesday, December 31
12:30: Mississippi vs. Texas Christian (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): This day and the next will be a day of reckoning for the Big 12. In addition to scheduling better, one way they can prove themselves is to score some big wins in bowl games. Both these teams play good defense, though by any metric Ole Miss plays great defense. But given their issues in their three losses, it seems more likely that if one of these teams is going to come up with a big play offensively, it’ll be the Horned Frogs.
Confidence: 17
Previous meetings: Six, but none since a pair of regular season meeting in 1982 and 1983. Ole Miss is 5-1 all time, with TCU’s only win coming way back in 1949. Ole Miss won the last one 20-7.
Last bowl game: This is Ole Miss’s third straight bowl game. Two years ago, they beat Pitt in 38-17 in the Compass Bowl, and last year they won the Music City Bowl by a (sadface) 25-17 margin over Georgia Tech. This is TCU’s first bowl appearance since the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (the Arizona version), where they lost 17-16 to Michigan State.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Brock Huard

4:00: Arizona vs. Boise State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): My pick of Boise in this one is more of a reflection of Arizona than anything else. I just had a hard time buying what Arizona was selling all year. Perhaps I’m letting recent results influence me too much, but boy howdy getting owned 51-13 in the Pac-12 Championship was not a good look for the Wildcats at all. Boise also has a running back in Jay Ajayi that has declared for the draft and could make things bad for any team that potentially has issues stopping the run.
Confidence: 18
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl appearance for the Wildcats. They beat Nevada 49-48 in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl, and also won last year’s Advocare V100 Bowl 42-19 over Boston College. Boise, meanwhile, is tied with Wisconsin for the seventh longest bowl streak, with this being their thirteenth straight appearance. They started way back with a 34-16 win over Iowa State in the Humanitarian Bowl, but lost last year’s Hawaii Bowl 38-23 to Oregon State.
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman

8:00: Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): I worry about a lot of things. I’d say I’m pretty good at it. In terms of this football contest, though, I have the usual worries:
1) Our undersized offensive line against an SEC-caliber defensive line, that also defeated one good spread attack (Auburn) and one bruising rushing attack (Arkansas) this season.
2) Our very bad defense’s ability to stop anyone from doing anything. When it doesn’t generate turnovers, the results look a lot like they did against FSU. And, at least this season, Miss State’s Dak Prescott has looked every bit as good, if not better, than Jamesis Winston. Miss State’s loss to Alabama can be chalked up to their three turnovers, but their loss to Ole Miss was pure and simply that Ole Miss’s defense is really good. The Bulldogs lost around two turnovers a game this season. I’m going to guess we’ll need a margin of three to have a chance.
3) The offense after a month layoff. Not because Miss State has had a chance to prepare, but mostly because of rust. A lot of times in our bowl games, we’ve looked more like we do in early September than late November, which is to say that angles are off slightly, the blocks aren’t as clean, and the ball perhaps a little harder to hold on to at game speed.
My usual policy is that I will not predict Tech games, and that if I’m in a situation where I have to, I will pick us to win by a slim margin. This is reflected in the confidence score below.
Confidence: 1
Previous meetings: Tech is 4-0 all-time against Miss State, with the most recent victory by a 42-31 margin. See the fun facts section below for more.
Last bowl game: Tech is tied for the third longest bowl streak with Georgia, with this being our eighteenth straight bowl game. GT its streak with a 35-30 win over West Virginia in the 1997 Carquest Bowl, and last year lost 25-17 to Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl. This is Miss State’s fifth straight bowl game, going back to a 52-14 win over Michigan in the 2010-11 Gator Bowl. They demolished Rice 44-7 in last year’s Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer
Fun facts: Despite being members of the same conferences from 1921 through 1964, four all-time meetings. Yep. And only one of those meetings was in conference, in 1929. The first was in 1908, before there were really conferences, and the last two were in 2008 and 2009. Why? There’s a lot of reasons, but it essentially boils down to the ability for schools to set their own conference schedules back in the day, and like many reasonable people, Georgia Tech’s coaches didn’t want to go to Mississippi. (We have also only played Ole Miss four times.)

Bowl Games 2014: ACC-Mas

Saturday is ACC day, as four different ACC teams are all on the schedule. So Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami, and Boston College, consider yourselves on notice.

Also starting today, in addition to my score predictions (the scores are pretty much guesses, but the margins are usually indicative of how confident I am), I’ll also throw in the confidence ranking I have for each game in my ESPN pick’em group. The pick’em includes the national championship game, so each game is ranked 1-39, with the latter being the most confident. For the record, I’m currently 10-3 straight-up and sitting on 172 points on ESPN.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 27
1:00: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): Well, Cincy hasn’t lost since their 55-34 loss at Miami back in October. If the transitive property meant anything in college football, then this one would be easy: VPI beat Ohio State which beat Cincinnati. As we all should know by now, though, it doesn’t, and the Hokies’s impotent offense looks almost certain to doom them against a robust Cincinnati attack.
Confidence: 14
Previous meetings: The series record is tied at 5-5, with several meetings in the Big East. The first, though, was the 1947 Sun Bowl, which Cincy won 18-6. After that, they met regularly from 1985 to 1991, and then again in 1995. VPI prevailed in the 2008-9 Orange Bowl 20-7, and the last meeting was a regular season contest in 2012. Cincinnati won 27-24.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth straight bowl appearance for the Bearcats, who kicked things off with a 31-24 victory over Vandy in the 2011 Liberty Bowl. They lost to UNC last year in the Belk Bowl 39-17. By going 6-6, VPI preserved the second longest bowl streak in college football. This is their 22nd consecutive bowl appearance, going all the way back to the 1993 Independence Bowl, where they beat Indiana 45-20. They lost 42-12 to UCLA in last year’s Sun Bowl.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Joey Galloway

2:00: Duke vs. Arizona State (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): Two 9-3 teams will go at it in this game, but this is a pretty good demonstration that not all 9-game winners are created equal. Arizona State’s best wins include USC, Stanford, and Utah. Duke’s best win, singular, is over Georgia Tech. Either way, it’s hard to see how Duke will keep up, but hey, that’s what we said about them last year, too.
Confidence: 15
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Thanks to the dark magicks of David Cutcliffe, Duke has made three straight bowl games now. It started with a 48-34 loss to Cincinnati back in the 2012 Belk Bowl, but last New Year’s Eve they gave Texas A&M everything they wanted in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. They came up short, though, losing 52-48. This is the fourth straight bowl appearance for the Sun Devils,
Announcers: Verne Lundquist Carter Blackburn and Gary Danielson
Fun facts: We have the Blue Devils and the Sun Devils here. The latter is pretty easy to explain, but where did “Blue Devils” come from? According to Wikipedia, the name was one of several the-then Trinity College officials were considering after World War I. In 1922, the student papers started referring to the college’s athletic teams as the Blue Devils for lack of an official decision. The name itself originates with the Chasseurs Alpins, a French military unit nicknamed les diables bleus.

3:30: Miami vs. South Carolina (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ABC): From 9-3 and 9-3 to 6-6 and 6-6. The four-point margin and confidence rank both indicate the same thing: I have no idea who will win this game. Steve Spurrier is generally more amusing if he wins (in contrast to, say, the Jim Moras of the world), so we’re pulling for that.
Confidence: 3
Previous meetings: Fifteen, but none since 1987. Miami leads the all-time series 8-5-2. South Carolina won the first four meetings, all between 1936 and 1940. Miami turned it around since 1941, and the schools met intermittently through the 1960. After that were just two regular season contests in 1986 and 1987. Miami won them both, by margins of 34-14 and 20-16.
Last bowl game: This is Miami’s second bowl game since their self-imposed bowl ban sanction. Last year they showed they might’ve wished it’d lasted another year, as they lost 36-9 to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. South Carolina has now made seven straight bowl games going back to the 2008 Outback Bowl, wherein they lost 31-10 to Iowa. Last year they defeated Wisconsin 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Andre Ware

4:30: Boston College vs. Pennsylvania State (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): In a matchup of two solid defenses, the tiebreaker is generally the offense. Neither offense is great, but Penn State’s is downright anemic, while Boston College has the ability to run all over people when the mood strikes. Either way, I just don’t think Penn State will be able to score enough points.
Confidence: 34
Previous meetings: Twenty-three, count, twenty-three of ’em! Penn State, suffice it to say, has dominated the series with a 19-4 record. From 1949 through 1992, Penn State went 19-2. However, in regular season contests in 2003 and 2004, Boston College won 27-14 and 21-7.
Last bowl game: Boston College lost last year’s Independence Bowl (well, technically the AdvoCare V100 Bowl but whatever) 42-19 to Arizona. This is Penn State’s first bowl bid since their NCAA-imposed sanctions took effect after the 2011-12 Ticket City Bowl, where they lost 30-14 to Houston.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Matt Millen

8:00: Nebraska vs. Southern California (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): It’s always really hard to tell how a team will react to a coach being fired, but here I feel pretty okay with saying that the Cornhusker players aren’t particularly thrilled about the situation. Meanwhile, USC is coming off a thorough route of their second biggest rival, and things are generally looking up again in Los Angeles.
Confidence: 16
Previous meetings: Four, and somewhat surprisingly, none in bowl games between these two historic programs. They met in 1969 and 1970, where USC won 31-21 and tied 21-21. They met again in 2006 and 2007, and USC won 28-10 and 49-31.
Last bowl game: Nebraska’s seven game bowl streak dates to the 2008-9 Gator Bowl, where they beat Clemson 26-21. They played Georgia in last year’s Gator Bowl and won that one as well, 24-19. This is USC’s third straight bowl game. They lost (still not tired of saying this) 21-7 to Georgia Tech in the 2012 Sun Bowl, and then beat Fresno State 45-20 in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack

Bowl Games 2014: The Day After

It’s over. It’s done. The gifts are out, and in some cases, put away or consumed. The wrapping paper is in the trash. The decorations are still up, but their days are numbered.

What does this mean? Today is the day bowl season truly begins. I’m currently sitting at 8-2, which is pretty good, but today and Saturday we’ll have eight more games so that can change rapidly. Since yesterday was Christmas, I was too busy doing, you know, Christmas stuff to update, so I’ll just be covering today’s games here and then Saturday’s in a separate post.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 26
1:00: Louisiana Tech vs. Illinois (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): Here’s a game that will test several notions of statistical validity versus the notion of relative conference strength. By virtually every objective measure, LaTech is a better team than Illinois, and that this game probably shouldn’t even be close. I also have the Bulldogs. Basically, Illinois will be doing well to keep it close. If they prevail, it will be an upset.
Previous meetings: The all of once, back in 2012. Louisiana Tech won 52-24.
Last bowl game: This is the Bulldogs’s first bowl game since teh 2011 Poinsettia Bowl, which they lost to TCU 31-24. Illinois last appeared in a bowl game in 2011 as well, in the Fight Hunger Bowl. In a matchup of a 6-6 team coming off six straight losses and a 6-7 team coming off a title game loss, the Illini prevailed 20-14.
Announcers: Mike Corey and Charles Arbuckle
Fun facts: I’m not sure I know who those announcers are, but if they use the phrase “Zombie Cotton Bowl” even once they will rocket straight up to the top of my favorites list.

4:30: North Carolina vs. Rutgers (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): Carolina’s defense is still awful, but Rugers’s defense isn’t so great themselves and plus their offense isn’t nearly as potent as the Tar Heels’s. Thus, I have Carolina as slight favorites, but their defense is really just so bad this could go either way.
Previous meetings: The all-time series is even at three apiece. The first meeting of these two goes all the way back to 1894, where Rutgers won 5-0. The two met again in 1919, and Rutgers won again, that time 19-9. It would be 87 years before thy met again, but Rutgers would prevail again in 2006. However, Carolina has won the last three, including a 24-22 win in their last meeting in 2011.
Last bowl game: Carolina defeated Cincinnati in last year’s Belk Bowl 39-17. This is Rutgers’s fourth straight bowl game. They lost last year’s Pinstripe Bowl to Notre Dame, 29-16.
Announcers: Mark Neely and Ray Bentley
Fun facts: This is the first matchup of the bowl season between two Power-5 conference teams.

8:00: Central Florida vs. North Carolina State (St. Petersburg Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): Well, had Central Florida beat UConn, there’s a pretty good chance they would’ve been in a major bowl game. Alas for them, they did not. UCF was also last seen coming up with a miracle Hail Mary to beat ECU. NC State, meanwhile, won their last two games pretty convincingly, with a 42-13 rout of hapless Wake Forest and a 35-7 defanging of UNC. Jacoby Brissett will test UCF’s highly rated defense, but I don’t think they have enough punch of their own to win at the end of the day.
Previous meetings: Two, and the series is even. UCF’s victory came in 2007 with a 25-23 margin. NC State won the last meeting in 2010, 28-21.
Last bowl game: This is Central Florida’s third straight bowl game. It’s a bit of a let-down after last year’s, though, when they beat Baylor 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Wolfpack’s last post-season apperance was the 2012 Music City Bowl, where they lost to Vanderbilt 38-24.
Announcers: Adam Amin and John Congemi
Fun facts: The temptation to come up with a Bitcoin joke is strong, but the easy ones are already taken and I’m not clever enough to come up with one of my own. Besides, it’s a pretty good joke in and of itself.

Bowl Games 2014: Pre-Christmas Bowls

Let’s take stock of the remaining five games before Christmas.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 22
2:00: Memphis vs. Brigham Young (Miami Beach Bowl @ Miami, FL; ESPN): This season has been nothing short of miraculous for the Tigers. Perhaps the first sign that they could be better than anyone would have guessed was a narrow 7-point loss to UCLA back in September, and the game was tied in the fourth quarter. They haven’t lost since October 11th, in a 4-point loss to Houston. They dodged the other solid teams in the American conference, but nonetheless finished as co-champions with UCF and Cincinnati. So all that said, I have BYU has a narrow favorite. A lot like Utah State, BYU also lost their all-everything quarterback and lost four straight in a rough October, but they’ve recovered since and are coming off a 42-35 victory over Cal.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Memphis’s first bowl game since 2008, when they lost to South Florida 41-14 in the St. Petersburg Bowl. This will be BYU’s tenth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl. They lost to Washington 31-16 in last year’s Fight Hunger Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Danny Kanell

Tuesday, December 23
6:00: Northern Illinois vs. Marshall (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): Marshall probably didn’t really have a shot at that access-bowl bid, but they probably would’ve at least liked to have had a shot. They won Conference USA, setting up this matchup against fellow mid-major champion NIU. These are both solid teams, but it still speaks to the quality of the Thundering Herd’s schedule that this will be their toughest test. Nonetheless, I expect them to prevail.
Previous meetings: These two have met seven times intermittently going back to 1969. Marshall won the last won 37-15 in 2001, but NIU owns the overall series 4-3.
Last bowl game: This is NIU’s sixth straight bowl game, going back to the 2008 Independence Bowl. They lost 21-14 to Utah State in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl. This is Marshall’s first back-to-back streak of bowl games since the streak they had 1997-2002. They beat Maryland 31-20 in last year’s Military Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Lamont and Desmond Howard

9:30: San Diego State vs. Navy (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): Well, this matchup lacks any real sense of intrigue, but hey they’re selling a lot of tickets at least. I expect Navy to win.
Previous meetings: Three, in 1994, 1997, and the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl. San Diego State has won all three, the last by a 35-14 margin.
Last bowl game: This is the Aztecs’s fifth straight bowl game, a streak started with a 35-14 win over… Navy in this very bowl game. Last year they beat Buffalo 49-24 in the Potato Bowl. As I’m sure I’ve said a few times now, Navy would have a much longer bowl streak if not for the 2011 season, but thems the breaks. This is their third straight game now, and they beat Middle Tennessee State 24-6 in last year’s Armed Forces Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Mike Bellotti

Wednesday, December 24
Noon: Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): This game pits one of the worst defenses in major college football against an extremely pedestrian offense, but hey at least it’s placed in a semi-exotic locale. I like the Hilltoppers in this one.
Previous meetings: Central Michigan won the only meeting back in the 2012 Little Ceasars Bowl, 24-21.
Last bowl game: That last meeting was also the last bowl game for both these teams.
Announcers: Steve Levy, Lou Holtz, and Mark May get an expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. I guess that would make me able to put up with Holtz and May for a day or two.
Fun facts: The highest point in the Bahamas is “Mount” Alvernia. At only 207 feet high, it should be relatively easy for the Hilltoppers to top it.

8:00: Rice vs. Fresno State (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): This is probably one of the bowl games on the slate, but it has a slight chance of being more exciting than the Yule Log channel. Maybe. Fresno is coming off a loss to Boise State in the Mountain West championship (and consequentially has a 6-7 record) while Rice’s last game was a 76-31 thrashing at the hands of Louisiana Tech. Neither team ranks in the top half of Division I FBS in offense or defense, so, again, maybe check in on that fire every once a while, something might happen.
Previous meetings: Six, all from when both teams were members of the old WAC from 1999-2004. Fresno won all six by an average of 16.5 points, and they won the last meeting 52-21.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl game for the Owls. They lost to Mississippi State 44-7 in last year’s Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick and Rod Gilmore

Bowl Games 2014: Opening Slate

Welcome to the opening of Bowl Season 2014-2015. This year’s slate is larger than ever with 38 games, and it also features the first ever play-off in major college football. As usual, I’ve got all my predictions available here, and I’ll be publishing these previews in chunks. (Getting the scores in for all the games may take a bit, but I assure you as of this writing I’ve at least picked all my winners.) Get a fire going (if you’ve got a fireplace and stuff), sit down in your favorite chair, enjoy a warming beverage, and get ready for a ton of football.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 20
11:00: Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): This is effectively a home game for UL-Lafayette, but Nevada plays in a tougher conference, has done better against Power 5 foes, and otherwise has numbers comparable to the Ragin’ Cajuns, so I’m going with the Pack.
Previous meetings: Just one, in 1995. The Wolfpack won 38-14.
Last bowl game: Nevada snapped an 8 consecutive bowl streak last year by going 4-8, so their last appearance was the 2012 New Mexico Bowl, where they lost 49-48 to Arizona. This the Ragin’ Cajuns’ fourth straight appearance in the New Orleans Bowl. They beat Tulane 24-21 last year.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Mack Brown

2:20: Utah State vs. Texas-El Paso (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): Despite the loss of their star quarterback, Utah State has managed to find a way this year, going a respectable 9-4. UTEP has had a good year, but all things considered Utah State looks like a stronger team.
Previous meetings: Two, way back in 1960 and 1961. Utah State won 20-7 and 21-6, respectively.
Last bowl game: This is the Aggies’ fourth straight bowl game. They beat Northern Illinois 21-14 in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl. This is the Miners’ first bowl appearance since the 2010 edition of this game, where they got blown out 52-24 by BYU.
Announcers: Mark Neely and David Diaz-Infante

3:30: Utah vs. Colorado State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): Colorado State was one of the darlings of the mid-majors this year, and with their wins over Boston College and Colorado I still think they were one of the best. However, their loss to Boise and an upset by Air Force left them in the cold. Utah, meanwhile, enters ranked. While this isn’t their first bowl as a Pac-12 member, things have to feel like they’re on the up-and-up. That will be but to the test against a very tough foe. I like the Utes, but not by much.
Previous meetings: These former conference foes have played 79 times going back to 1902. They met regularly from 1926 until Utah joined in the Pac-12 in 2011 (though there was a gap between 1965 and 1971). Utah won the last five meetings in a row and holds a pretty good edge overall, 55-22-2.
Last bowl game: This is Utah’s first bowl game since the 2011 Sun Bowl, where they beat Georgia Tech 30-27. The Rams broke a bowl-less streak last year with a 48-45 win over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer
Fun fact: Provided you don’t care for your liver, take a shot every time Uncle Brent makes an oblique (or not-so-oblique) gambling reference during the course of the game. This game should be pretty good anyway, but this definitely adds an additional layer of intrigue.

5:45: Western Michigan vs. Air Force (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; EPSN): This is a toss-up for me. Going with Air Force, but I can’t say I have a whole bunch of confidence.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Western Michigan was last seen in the 2011 Little Ceasars Bowl, where they lost 37-32 to Purdue. Last year’s 2-10 debacle snapped a pretty good bowl streak for the Air Force Academy. Back in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl, they lost 33-14 to Rice.
Announcers: Eamon McAnaney and Dan Hawkins

9:15: Bowling Green vs. South Alabama (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): South Alabama is rapidly turning into a refuge for UAB’s cast-offs, but that’s not immediately relevant to this game. What is relevant is me finding scant reasons to pick a 7-6 MAC team over a 6-6 Sun Belt team, but that’s what I’m doing anyway.
Previous meetings: this is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Bowling Green’s third straight bowl game. Last year they lost 30-27 to Pittsburgh in the Little Ceasars Bowl. As you might’ve guessed, this is South Alabama’s first ever bowl game.
Announcers: Dave Lamont and Joey Galloway