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