New for this year: announcers! Last year’s “fun facts” return only for selected games, as least for the opening slate here as I have not had enough time to to do my research.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Saturday, December 15
1:00: Arizona vs. Nevada (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): Arizona’s been a pretty solid team in the last half of the season, with the cornerstone of their year the upset over USC. Nevada has an okay year, by their standards. They made a bowl again, but I believe they were one of the preseason favorites in the Mountain West and they wound up dropping games all the teams they needed to beat. Anyway, in this cats vs. dogs battle, I like the Wildcats.
Previous meetings: This is the first time these two schools in neighboring states have met since 1941. Nevada won in 1924, they played a 0-0 draw in 1925, and then the Wildcats go on the board in 1941 with a win.
Last bowl game: This is Arziona’s first appearance in a bowl game since the 2010 Alamo Bowl, which they lost to Oklahoma State 36-10. Nevada has made a bowl every year since 2005, and actually played in this game in 2007. They lost to hosts New Mexico, 23-0.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Danny Kannel
4:30: Utah State vs. Toledo (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): While Toledo did get a big upset this year (a win over Big East frontrunners Cincinnati), Utah State was 5 points away from an undefeated season (2 to Wisconsin, who I remind you are somehow the Big Ten champions, and 3 to BYU). They also upset WAC frontrunners Louisiana State, in Louisiana. I’m going with the Aggies.
Previous meetings: Somewhat unsurprisingly, this is the first meeting between these two schools.
Last bowl game: Utah State appeared in this game last year, losing to Ohio 24-23. Toledo is making its third straight bowl appearance. They beat Air Force in the Military Bowl last year, 42-41.
Announcers: Tom Hart, Mike Bellotti
Yes, that is a picture of Brono Stadium set inside of a baked potato. I don’t feel like I really need to say much else.
Thursday, December 20
8:00: Brigham Young vs. San Diego State (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): BYU is a pretty good team, but their offense has just been sadly lacking in the second half of the season. I’m not putting a lot of confidence on this one, though.
Previous meetings: Thanks to a shared conference history in the WAC and then the MWC, these two have met quite a lot (every year from 1978 to 2010). However, since BYU went independent, they haven’t played. The Stormin’ Mormons are 27-7-1 against the Aztecs.
Last bowl game: BYU has played in a bowl game every year since 2005, most recently beating Tulsa in last year Armed Forces Bowl. This’ll be the Aztech’s third straight, and they’ll be staying home once again. They got to travel to New Orleans last year, where they lost to the local Cajuns 32-30.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn, Rod Gilmore
Friday, December 21
7:30: Central Florida vs. Ball State (Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): UCF went big this year, but they failed to get the result that presumably would’ve made the impending NCAA banhammer worth it, as they lost to Tulsa in the CUSA title game. Ball State, meanwhile. enters on a relative high note, having closed their season in strong fashion against their MAC rivals. That said, I think on paper UCF is still the better team, so I’ll go with them here.
Previous meetings: Ball State owns the all-time series, 2-1.
Last bowl game: We last saw Ball State in the 2008/9 GMAC Bowl, where they were obliterated by Tulsa 45-13. This’ll be UCF’s first bowl appearance since the wonderful 2010 Liberty Bowl, where they beat Georgia 10-6.
Announcers: Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Desmond Howard
Saturday, December 22
Noon: East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): I’m not going to pick Sun Belt teams to win very often, but here we are. UL-Lafayette has flirted with greatness several times this year, while ECU scraped their way to 8 wins.
Previous meetings: From 1977 to 1990, these teams met 10 times and UL-Lafayette came out ahead, 6-4. They have not met since.
Last bowl game: ECU had a modest bowl streak broken last year, so they last appeared in a bowl game in the 2010 Military Bowl. They got blown out by Maryland 51-20. These particular Cajuns last Raged in last year’s New Orleans Bowl, where they beat San Diego State 32-30.
Announcers: Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway
3:30: Washington vs. Boise State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ESPN): It took a week, but here’s our first real bowl game of the season. This is just the sort of situation Boise has thrived on the past, that is to say, 1-game chances to pick off a Pac-10/12 opponent. That said, with this particular bunch I would ordinarily pick the Huskies here but, well, one of these teams lost to Washington State Thankgiving weekend, and it wasn’t Boise. I’ll take the Broncos in a narrow win.
Previous meetings: These two have met exactly once, in 2007. U-Dub won 24-10.
Last bowl game: This’ll be Washington’s third straight bowl game, and third different locale. They lost last year’s (in)famously defense-less Alamo Bowl to Baylor, 67-56. Boise’s been to a bowl every year since 2002, and they only missed 2001 because there weren’t a million bowl games back then. (They were 8-4.) They won last year’s Las Vegas Bowl 56-24 over Arizona State.
Announcers: Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit. Ol’ Brent at the Las Vegas Bowl? I swear, the jokes just practically write themselves.
Monday, December 24
8:00: Southern Methodist vs. Fresno State (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): June Jones is back in Hawaii! Woo? Fresno has generally beat the teams they should beat this year, while SMU lost to Tulane and Rice, barely getting to 6-6. I like the Bulldogs.
Previous meetings: SMU and Fresno met every year between 1999 and 2004. It didn’t go so well for the Mustangs, as Fresno is 5-1 all-time.
Last bowl game: This is SMU’s fourth straight bowl. They beat Pittsburgh in last year’s BBVA Compass Bowl, 28-6. Fresno had a pretty good thing going for awhile, but they missed a bowl last year so their last postseason game was the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl, which they lost 40-17 to Northern Illinois.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn, Kelly Stouffer