Bowl Games 2010: Opening Slate

It’s that time of the year again, folks! I had an abysmal year last year (50% overall) so I’m hoping to improve on that this year. For now, we’ll start with this year’s pre-Christmas bowls.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 18
2:00: Texas-El Paso vs. Brigham Young (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): UTEP had a fairly typical year for UTEP, beating up on patsies and getting an inexplicable win over a C-USA favorite (in this case, their win over SMU). BYU’s year appeared to be going off the rails until they rediscovered their offense. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is also when they started playing the bottom dwellers of the Mountain West, though they did put up a fight in their 1-point loss to bitter rivals Utah. That said, I’m buying stock in the BYU offensive renaissance and hoping to see it pay off against UTEP.
Previous meetings: These former WAC foes met every year from 1966 to 1998 (skipping 1995), and BYU holds a commanding 28-7-1 lead, including a 31-14 win in their last meeting in 1998.
Last bowl game: This is BYU’s 6th straight bowl game, a streak starting in 2005 with a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. Every trip thereafter also was to the Las Vegas Bowl, so this marks the first time since 2001 they’ve gone somewhere else. Last year, they trounced Oregon State 44-20. Meanwhile, this is UTEP’s first trip to a bowl since the 2005 GMAC Bowl, which they lost to Toledo 44-13.

5:30: Fresno State vs. Northern Illinois (Humanitarian Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): Northern Illinois was having the season this year. The kind of year where everything was coming together, including an undefeated run through the MAC and a rushing offense that just ran every which way against everyone. Well, except Miami (of Ohio) in the MAC title game, which they lost. Then they lost their coach to a team they beat this year. I think Fresno is probably more talented, but let’s face it, no matter what they say this is a major let down.
Previous meetings: Somewhat surprisingly, these schools have met 4 times, though not since 1991. The series is split at 2-2.
Last bowl game: Fresno sports a 3 game bowl streak coming into this one, starting with a (sigh) 40-28 win over Georgia Tech in the 2007 Humanitarian, and then two trips to the New Mexico Bowl, where they lost last year to Wyoming 35-28. NIU has a two year bowl streak, including last year’s 27-3 loss in the last ever International Bowl.

9:00: Ohio vs. Troy (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Troy didn’t win the Sun Belt this year, but they still get to go New Orleans. There’s worse things in the world. Ohio heads down from the MAC thanks to some last minute bowl swapping shenanigans. Troy had a relatively disappointing year (mostly because they’re favorites for the Sun Belt crown every year these days). Ohio lost their shot at the MAC East due to a shocking upset of them by Kent State, allowing Miami to sneak in and then upset NIU. Crazy. Anyway, Troy doesn’t play much defense seemingly but they do score a whole ton of points and I don’t think the Bobcats will be able to keep up. Both teams may score more than 30 though.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Ohio lost last year’s Little Ceasar’s Bowl 21-17 to ex-MAC team Marshall and Troy lost last year’s GMAC bowl 44-41, but extends their bowl streak to three. In fact, including this year is Troy’s 5th bowl game. Not bad for a program that started playing major college football in 2001.

Tuesday, December 21
8:00: Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville (St. Petersburg Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL): Even if that league is the Big East, giving up less than 20 points per game is a pretty good defense. And that’s exactly what Louisville’s done. Southern Miss can score, but they’ve struggled a tad against better opponents. I expect a 17-14 like contest here.
Previous meetings: These two played every year from 1978 to 2002 first as independents, and then as members of the old pre-Big East poached Conference USA. Southern Miss leads the all time series 15-8-1. They last met, though, in 2009 where Louisville won 25-23.
Last bowl game :Louisville was last seen beating Wake Forest 24-13 in the 2006 Orange Bowl, where after they disappeared into the wilderness. Southern Miss is would be there in the consecutive bowl game lists, having been every year since 1997 except for 2001 (though since they were 6-5, they would’ve gone these days, but that’s another discussion). Anyway, the last two years they were in the New Orleans Bowl, where they lost to Dwight Dasher and MTSU last year 42-32.

Wednesday, December 22
8:00: Boise State vs. Utah (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV): Boise recovered from their disastrous loss to Nevada by getting back to what they did several other times this year: pound their WAC opposition into the dust. Utah, meanwhile, has only two losses but I feel they’re very telling: a blowout losses to TCU and Notre Dame. Not encouraging. I like Boise in a rout here (and with the current line I even have Boise covering the 18).
Previous meetings: Their last meeting was in a 2006 game at Utah, which Boise won 36-3. The two also met in 1998 and 1999, with Boise winning both those encounters as well.
Last bowl game: Utah beat Cal in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl, and has been to a bowl every year since 2003. Boise beat TCU in last year’s Fiesta Bowl and sports its own streak dating back to 2002. (It’d be two games longer if they had to gone to a bowl in 2001, which they didn’t despite being 8-4.)

Thursday, December 23
8:00: Navy vs. San Diego State (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): San Diego State is pretty decent this year, which is why you keep hearing Brady Hoke come up in coaching rumors. I ordinarily like Navy teams in bowl games, but I don’t think SDSU will be taking anything for granted against the home crowd, and should have a size advantage on the lines and the passing game that can expose Navy’s secondary. I don’t think SDSU will win going away, but I think they will win.
Previous meetings: They’ve met twice, in 1994 and 1997. SDSU won both games, the latter 45-31 and the former 56-14. Remember, Navy wasn’t very good back then.
Last bowl game: Navy defeated Missouri 35-13 in last year’s Texas Bowl, and has gone to a bowl every year since 2003. Meanwhile, this is SDSU’s first appearance since the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl, which they lost to UNC 20-13.

Friday, December 24
8:00: Hawaii vs. Tusla (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): Both these teams can score. Hawaii, of course, likes to throw the ball and the Tulsa defense has been awfully obliging this year, yielding 305.7 yards/game (good for 119th nationally). Tulsa may keep it close early put Hawaii should be able to pull away.
Previous meetings: Hawaii is 5-2 all-time against Tulsa, with all but their first appearance in 1992 coming from Tulsa’s stint in the WAC. Their last meeting was in 2004, a 44-16 Hawaii win.
Last bowl game: Hawaii was last seen in a 49-21 loss to Notre Dame in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl. Their sub-.500 record in 2009 snapped a modest 3-game streak. Tulsa also lost their 4-game streak last year, with their last bowl appearance in the 2008 GMAC Bowl, in which they handily beat Ball State 45-13.

The bowl predictions page should be updated with all predictions soon!