Bowl Games 2009: Opening Slate

In this opening post of bowl season, we’ll go over all the pre-Christmas games. So get your TV watching area set up and get ready to go. For reference, the full set of predictions is located here, with a smaller “mobile” version available as well.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 19
4:30: Wyoming vs. Fresno State (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): While Wyoming was reasonably consistent this season, Fresno gave several good teams all they wanted (see: Wisconsin, Cincinnati), did their usual thing in the WAC, and then beat Illinois thanks to a Fat Guy two point conversion two weeks ago. I like the Bulldogs here.
Previous meetings: Last meeting was in 1997, when Fresno defeated Wyoming 24-7. The overall record between the two is 3-3.
Last bowl game: Wyoming’s last bowl game was in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl, where they lost 24-21 to UCLA. Fresno lost last year’s New Mexico Bowl 40-35 to Colorado State.

8:00: Central Florida vs. Rutgers (St. Petersburg Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): I know little about Beef O’Brady’s except I’m reasonably sure I never want to go there. At any rate, while I fully support George O’Leary’s team and their late-90’s Georgia Tech replica uniforms, I have to like the State University of New Jersey here. Rutgers wasn’t great this year or anything, but it was solid enough and they should generally roll in with more talent than the non-Scarlet Knights can match. (Also, when did UCF go from the “Golden Knights” to just “Knights”?)
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is UCF’s 3rd bowl in the program’s short football history (their first year of Division I-A ball was 1996), and were last seen losing 10-3 in the 2007 Liberty Bowl against Mississippi State. This is Rutger’s 5th straight bowl appearance. Last year they beat NC State 29-23 in the Bowl.

Sunday, December 20
8:15: Middle Tennessee State vs. Southern Mississippi (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): It’s not like USM automatically outclasses their Sun Belt opponent in this bowl, but I still like them to win against their fellow bottom-of-the-barrel ACC team beaters. I also a expect plenty of points.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Now in their 11th season at DI-A, MTSU last went bowling in Detroit, where they lost the then-Motor City Bowl 31-14 to Central Michigan. USM makes their 7th straight bowl appearance and the 2nd year in a row at the New Orleans Bowl. Last year they beat Troy 30-27.

Tuesday, December 22 
8:00: Brigham Young vs. Oregon State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ESPN): I just don’t like BYU that much this year – something about giving up 55 points to FSU just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. (They also pretty much rolled over and died against TCU.) Oregon State should be able to just outclass them, starting with the Rodgers brothers on the ground.
Previous meetings: BYU and Oregon State have played 8 times, however, they have not faced one another since 1986. Oregon State won that meeting 10-7 and the Beavers lead the overall series 5-3.
Last bowl game: BYU’s been in a bowl game every year since 2005, and they’ve all been appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. (I guess either Mormons really like traveling to Vegas or the organizers think it’s really funny to keep inviting them.) They lost 31-21 to Arizona last year. This will be Oregon State’s 4th straight bowl game and they currently sport a 5 game bowl winning streak. Last year they walked into the Sun Bowl and then stumbled out a few hours later with a 3-0 victory in terrible game that later gets called a “defensive battle” because that doesn’t sound as bad as saying “neither offense bothered to show up”.

Wednesday, December 23
8:00: Utah vs. California (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): Both these teams come off not-so-great losses in their previous games. Utah lost to its rival in OT, while Cal followed their victory over Stanford with a blowout loss to Washington. It’s hard to gauge this one – I like Utah in a reasonably close contest.
Previous meetings: Cal leads the overall series 4-2. The first meeting was in 1920 and a 63-0 rout by Cal. Their last meeting was in 2003, when Utah won 31-24 in Berkeley.
Last bowl game: Utah’s played in a bowl game every year since 2003, and won each of those contests, most notably the 35-7 beatdown of Pitt in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and last year’s 31-17 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Cal has also appeared in a bowl every year since 2003, and beat Miami (FL) 24-17 in last year’s Emerald Bowl.

Thursday, December 24
8:00: Southern Methodist vs. Nevada (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): SMU’s had a decent year (especially compared to last year’s campaign), but I think they will have trouble keeping up with Nevada and their bevy of 1,000 yard rushers (though they’ll be missing one of them for this game). SMU may still get a touchdown or three, but I think Nevada is plenty capable of just running all over the Mustangs.
Previous meetings: This is the 5th meeting between these two schools – the previous 5 took place after Nevada joined the WAC for the 2000 season. SMU left for C-USA in 2005. Nevada is 3-2 in the series but lost the last game in 2004 38-20.
Last bowl game: This is SMU’s first bowl game since the 1984 Aloha Bowl, where they beat Notre Dame 27-20. Incidentally, the Hawaii Bowl is played in the same stadium as the Aloha was. This will be Nevada’s 5th straight bowl game. They lost last year to Maryland in the Humanitarian Bowl, 42-35.

Don’t forget about the actual championships happening today and tomorrow, as well:
8:00: Montana vs. Villanova (@ Chattanooga, TN; ESPN2): Last weekend’s games were thrilling in their own right. I especially enjoyed Montana’s thrilling back-and-forth game with Appalachian State in freezing, snowy weather up in Montana. Had Villanova lost, I’d probably actually be at this game, but they didn’t so I’ll see it on TV.

11:00 AM: Mount Union vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater (@ Salem, VA; ESPN2): It’s the Stagg Bowl, otherwise known as the Division III title game. A fine way to kick off your Saturday morning before taking advantage of hte last weekend of Christmas shopping, no?

At any rate, I’ll be back on Christmas day with my next set of picks and trivia. Until then…