Merry Christmas, loyal readers. All, um, five of you.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Monday, December 26
5:00: North Carolina vs. Missouri (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN2): Nothing quite says “mediocre bowl game” like two teams with 7-5 records and average statistical rankings, it seems like. I guess it shows I haven’t paid a lot of attention to Mizzou this year, as I’m pretty shocked that they’re 11th in the nation in rushing and 57th in passing, which is pretty much the complete opposite of the past few years for them. This version of the UNC defense isn’t as fearsome as past editions, which makes me give a slight edge to the Tigers.
Previous meetings: Two, all the way back in 1973 and 1976. Mizzou won both games, 27-14 and 24-3.
Last bowl game: This is Carolina’s fourth consecutive bowl game, with their last appearance being that that debacle of a Music City Bowl against Tennessee that they wound up winning 30-27. Mizzou makes their seventh straight bowl appearance here, but you probably don’t remember their last game: the very anonymous Insight Bowl. They lost 27-24 to Iowa.
Fun facts: I’d grumble some more about 5th down, but these are supposed to be fun facts.
Tuesday, December 27
4:30: Purdue vs. Western Michigan (Little Caesars Pizza Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): The Boilermakers are pretty much here due to their miracle upset of Ohio State back on November 12th. It’s hard to tell how much of a talent disparity there is in games like, this, though, as WMU’s stats could be inflated by their league while Purdue’s could be deflated by theirs. I’m leaning toward this being a shootout, with Purdue coming out just barely ahead.
Previous meetings: Two, which is actually lower that I would’ve thought given the Big Ten teams’ proclivity of scheduling MAC teams as patsies. Anyway, they were both in September, but the first was in 1993 and the last in 2002. Purdue won both, 28-13 and 28-24.
Last bowl game: The Boilermakers are making their first bowl appearance since 2007, when they beat another directional Michigan (Central) in this very same game, 51-48 (though it was then the Motor City Bowl). The Broncos’ last bowl appearance was actually more recent. They lost 38-14 to Rice in the 2008 Texas Bowl (which is now the Mieneke Car Care Bowl of Texas).
Fun facts: Purdue quarterbacks (a group that includes names like Bob Griese and Drew Brees) have more touchdown passes thrown in the NFL than any other school.
8:00: North Carolina State vs. Louisville (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): Mediocrity, ahoy! Both of these teams sport anemic offenses and above-average defenses, which points to a low-scoring struggle to see who can kick the most field goals. However, NC State’s kicker is 10 of 15 and Louisville’s is 11 of 16, so that doesn’t quite work either in terms of distinguishing these two teams. In their last two games, both teams found their offensive mojo, as NC State routed Maryland in their last game and upset Clemson before that, while the Cardinals won 5 of their last 6 after a 2-4 start. These are basically the same team, if you ask me, so I’ll go with the one that beat North Carolina this year: NC State.
Previous meetings: This will be the fourth meeting between these two teams, with NCSU looking for its first win against the Cardinals. The first was all the way back in 1953, which Louisville won 26-2. In 1994 they won 35-14, and in 2007 they won 29-10.
Last bowl game: The Wolfpack went to the Champs Sports Bowl last year, where they beat West Virginia 23-7. Louisville won last year’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, beating Southern Mississippi 31-28.
Fun facts: I’m not entirely sure how this works, but the cardinal in the Louisville logo has teeth.
Wednesday, December 28
4:30: Toledo vs. Air Force (Military Bowl @ Washington, D.C.; ESPN): Combined average defense ranking of these two teams: 73rd in the country. Mean, both these teams are more than capable of scoring: Toledo, (in)famously lost game this year 60-63 and then came back and won the next week 66-63. Air Force’s defense is really awful in all phases, though, while Toledo is mainly terrible against the pass (118th out of 120), something they won’t really have to worry about against the triple-option lovin’ Falcons. Toledo edges out (another) shootout.
Previous meetings: None.
Last bowl game: The Rockets went to last year’s Little Caesar’s Bowl, where they lost 34-32 to Florida International. Air Force is making their fifth straight bowl game, and they (sigh) beat Georgia Tech 14-7 in last year’s Independence Bowl.
Fun facts: Toledo’s moniker, the Rockets, apparently originated as a contraction of “Skyrockets”, which was made up during in the pressbox during a massive upset in the early 1920’s. The name stuck, despite the university not otherwise having much to do with rocketry.
9:00: California vs. Texas (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): After watching the Texas-Texas A&M game, I think I described the Longhorns’ offense as “the McGuyver of offenses”, held together by trick plays, bubblegum, and dental floss. This is the best all-around defense the Golden Bears have played all year, and they already struggled offensively against every other decent outfit they’ve played. Both teams will struggle to score, but I think Longhorns are more used to that and will come out ahead in the end. (Yes, I’m aware Texas just gave up 48 to Baylor, but Cal doesn’t have Robert Griffin III at QB for them, last I checked.)
Previous meetings: The Bears are 0-4 against the Longhorns, and it hasn’t really even been close. The first meeting was in 1959, which Texas won 33-0. Two years later, they met again, with the Texas winning 28-0. To close the decade out, they met in 1969 and 1970, and again, it was all Texas, as they won 17-0 and 56-15, respectively.
Last bowl game: Cal previously had a good bowl streak going, but missed out on the postseason last year, making this their first game since the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl, where they lost to Utah 37-27. Texas looks to restart a long streak that was also broken last year, which was only one season after the lost to Alabama in the 2009-2010 BCS National Championship Game, 37-21.
Fun facts: One of the first fight songs I ever learned was the Cal Drinking Song. Of course, there’s another Cal song that has a tune that’s very familiar to most Tech fans, though I’ve read articles elsewhere that state the common theory about the song being lifted after the 1929 Rose Bowl to be false.
Thursday, December 29
5:30: Notre Dame vs. Florida State (Champs Sports Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): FSU’s offense is also a short of make-shift outfit, but they do have the dynamic E.J. Manuel, who on his good days can put some points on the board for the Seminoles. They also have the sixth ranked total defense in the country, but as their 23-13 loss to Oklahoma showed, that doesn’t necessarily matter if you still can’t put up the points, which hasn’t been a problem for the Irish this year. I’ll take the Domers in a relatively low-scoring affair.
Previous meetings: For the all the cachet this matchup has, I was actually somewhat surprised to find that FSU and Notre Dame only met once when the former was an independent, in 1981. (FSU joined the ACC in 1992.) FSU won that game 19-13. In the 90’s, the two teams played 3 times, with ND winning 31-14 in 1993 and FSU winning 23-16 in 1994. On New Year’s Day in 1996, they met in the Orange Bowl and FSU won 31-26. And finally, they played again in 2002 and 2003. ND won the first game 34-24, but FSU shut them out in the latter game, 37-0.
Last bowl game: Notre Dame ventured to El Paso last year for the Sun Bowl, where they beat Miami 33-17. FSU, of course, currently owns the longest bowl streak in the nation, with this being their 30th consecutive appearance. One has to go all the way back to 1976 to find the last time the Seminoles failed to reach a bowl game. The year after, they went to what was then known as the Tangerine Bowl, where they beat Texas Tech 40-17. Last year, the beat South Carolina in the Chick-fil-a Bowl 26-17.
Fun facts: Other than the usual (and tired) jokes about FSU being a women’s college until 1947, I can’t really think of anything to put here.
9:00: Washington vs. Baylor (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): The best hope for the Huskies in this one is probably to force a shootout and hope to have the ball last, because otherwise their offense isn’t good enough to keep up with the Bears, even with Baylor’s really bad defense.
Previous meetings: Four, and somewhat surprisingly none were bowl games. Baylor won the first two contests in 1954 and 1955 34-7 and 13-7, respectively. They met again in 1964 and 1965, and this time the Huskies managed to win a game 35-14, but the Bears came right back in ’65 and won 17-14.
Last bowl game: The Huskies snapped a bowl drought last season by making the Holiday Bowl, where they pulled off one of the most shocking upsets of last bowl season by beating Nebraska 19-7. Baylor’s drought was even longer before they made the Texas Bowl last year, when they lost to Illinois 38-14. Before that, they had not appeared in a bowl game since 1994, and you have to go all the way back to the 1992 Sun Bowl to find the last time they won a bowl game. (They beat Arizona 20-15 in that game.)
Fun facts: Very occasionally, there is actually somewhat clever writing on Wikipedia. For instance, referring to Washington: “The husky was selected as the school mascot by student committee in 1922. It replaced the ‘Sun Dodger,’ an abstract reference to the local weather that was quickly dropped in favor of something more tangible.” Well done, I say.