It’s over. It’s done. The gifts are out, and in some cases, put away or consumed. The wrapping paper is in the trash. The decorations are still up, but their days are numbered.
What does this mean? Today is the day bowl season truly begins. I’m currently sitting at 8-2, which is pretty good, but today and Saturday we’ll have eight more games so that can change rapidly. Since yesterday was Christmas, I was too busy doing, you know, Christmas stuff to update, so I’ll just be covering today’s games here and then Saturday’s in a separate post.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Friday, December 26
1:00: Louisiana Tech vs. Illinois (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): Here’s a game that will test several notions of statistical validity versus the notion of relative conference strength. By virtually every objective measure, LaTech is a better team than Illinois, and that this game probably shouldn’t even be close. I also have the Bulldogs. Basically, Illinois will be doing well to keep it close. If they prevail, it will be an upset.
Previous meetings: The all of once, back in 2012. Louisiana Tech won 52-24.
Last bowl game: This is the Bulldogs’s first bowl game since teh 2011 Poinsettia Bowl, which they lost to TCU 31-24. Illinois last appeared in a bowl game in 2011 as well, in the Fight Hunger Bowl. In a matchup of a 6-6 team coming off six straight losses and a 6-7 team coming off a title game loss, the Illini prevailed 20-14.
Announcers: Mike Corey and Charles Arbuckle
Fun facts: I’m not sure I know who those announcers are, but if they use the phrase “Zombie Cotton Bowl” even once they will rocket straight up to the top of my favorites list.
4:30: North Carolina vs. Rutgers (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): Carolina’s defense is still awful, but Rugers’s defense isn’t so great themselves and plus their offense isn’t nearly as potent as the Tar Heels’s. Thus, I have Carolina as slight favorites, but their defense is really just so bad this could go either way.
Previous meetings: The all-time series is even at three apiece. The first meeting of these two goes all the way back to 1894, where Rutgers won 5-0. The two met again in 1919, and Rutgers won again, that time 19-9. It would be 87 years before thy met again, but Rutgers would prevail again in 2006. However, Carolina has won the last three, including a 24-22 win in their last meeting in 2011.
Last bowl game: Carolina defeated Cincinnati in last year’s Belk Bowl 39-17. This is Rutgers’s fourth straight bowl game. They lost last year’s Pinstripe Bowl to Notre Dame, 29-16.
Announcers: Mark Neely and Ray Bentley
Fun facts: This is the first matchup of the bowl season between two Power-5 conference teams.
8:00: Central Florida vs. North Carolina State (St. Petersburg Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): Well, had Central Florida beat UConn, there’s a pretty good chance they would’ve been in a major bowl game. Alas for them, they did not. UCF was also last seen coming up with a miracle Hail Mary to beat ECU. NC State, meanwhile, won their last two games pretty convincingly, with a 42-13 rout of hapless Wake Forest and a 35-7 defanging of UNC. Jacoby Brissett will test UCF’s highly rated defense, but I don’t think they have enough punch of their own to win at the end of the day.
Previous meetings: Two, and the series is even. UCF’s victory came in 2007 with a 25-23 margin. NC State won the last meeting in 2010, 28-21.
Last bowl game: This is Central Florida’s third straight bowl game. It’s a bit of a let-down after last year’s, though, when they beat Baylor 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Wolfpack’s last post-season apperance was the 2012 Music City Bowl, where they lost to Vanderbilt 38-24.
Announcers: Adam Amin and John Congemi
Fun facts: The temptation to come up with a Bitcoin joke is strong, but the easy ones are already taken and I’m not clever enough to come up with one of my own. Besides, it’s a pretty good joke in and of itself.