Bowl primer: A pick for every game
Like a smorgasbord, the bowl season is upon us.
And like a smorgasbord, not all the football is good but, hey, at least there’s a lot of it.
So, while you’re decking the halls, shopping in the malls and making holiday calls, it will be hard to forget there’s also a lot of football. Here’s a rundown of the 35 postseason matchups.
When: Dec. 17, 2 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Wyoming is one of the better bounce-back stories in the nation, as the Cowboys were 3-9 last season. Temple’s Steve Addazio is one of 12 first-year coaches to have led to his team to a bowl.
The line: Temple by 7 The pick: Temple 23-20
Where: Boise, Idaho
When: Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: This is Utah State’s first bowl appearance since 1997, when John L. Smith was coach. (Smith was named coach at FCS member Weber State last week.) Ohio lost on a last-play field goal in the MAC title game.
The line: Utah State by 2.5 The pick: Ohio 38-34
Where: New Orleans
When: Dec. 17, 9 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: This is the first-ever bowl appearance for ULL, whose fans snapped up the Ragin’ Cajuns’ allotment of tickets in less than a week. ULL is guaranteed just its second winning season since 1995. San Diego State is making its second consecutive bowl appearance, but this is just the Aztecs’ third bid in the past 20 years.
The line: San Diego State by 4.5 The pick: San Diego State 34-28
Where: St. Petersburg, Fla.
When: Dec. 20, 8 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: FIU is making its second consecutive bowl appearance, not bad considering the school didn’t begin playing football until 2002 and didn’t join the FBS ranks until 2006. That makes you wonder how much longer coach Mario Cristobal is going to be at FIU.
The line: FIU by 3.5 The pick: FIU 23-17
Where: San Diego
When: Dec. 21, 8 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: TCU won the Mountain West, and Louisiana Tech – coached by Sonny Dykes, the son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes - is the WAC champ. Tech is looking for its first nine-win season since 1997, when Gary Crowton was coach.
The line: TCU by 10 The pick: TCU 34-21
Where: Las Vegas
When: Dec. 22, 8 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Had Dan Goodale made a 39-yard field goal on the final play of the game against TCU, Boise State would be unbeaten and likely getting ready for the national title game. Alas, for the second season in a row, a Boise kicker missed a makeable field goal at the end of a game and Boise again is relegated to the Las Vegas Bowl.
The line: Boise State by 14 The pick: Boise State 38-17
When: Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Southern Miss doesn’t have a coach, the athletic director is retiring at the end of the month and fans are upset that the Conference USA champ is headed to Hawaii. Still, the Golden Eagles do have some players, and if they show up ready to play, they will beat the Wolf Pack.
The line: Southern Miss by 6 The pick: Southern Miss 34-24
Where: Shreveport, La.
When: Dec. 26, 5 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Neither team was quite as good as it should’ve been, but that just adds some intrigue to this matchup. The potential exists for a close and exciting game if both teams are motivated.
The line: Missouri by 5 The pick: North Carolina 28-24
When: Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: This is just the fifth bowl in its history for Western Michigan, whose campus in Kalamazoo is about two hours from Ford Field, the venue for this game. Can Purdue cover Western Michigan WR Jordan White, who leads the nation in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,646) and is second in TD catches (16)? And can Western block Purdue DT Kawann Short, who has 6.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss?
The line: Purdue by 2 The pick: Western Michigan 35-31
Where: Charlotte, N.C.
When: Dec. 27, 8 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: We don’t want to say that this is a boring matchup, but given that Belk is a department store, perhaps those with tickets can exchange them for a sweater or some shoes. NC State is 93rd nationally in total offense - but the Wolfpack are Patriots-esque when compared to Louisville (104th).
The line: NC State by 3 The pick: Louisville 20-17
When: Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Both offenses are potent and neither defense is that good. For an afternoon kickoff on a Wednesday, then, this has some potential.
The line: Toledo by 3 The pick: Toledo 37-31
Where: San Diego
When: Dec. 28, 8 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: A Texas loss would give the Longhorns their 13th loss in the past two seasons; that would be the worst two-season span since 1988 and ’89. Cal has won eight of its past 11 bowl games, including a 5-2 record under coach Jeff Tedford.
The line: Texas by 3 The pick: California 24-17
Where: Orlando, Fla.
When: Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Florida State opened the season in the top 10, but a loss to the Irish means the Seminoles will finish outside the top 25. The Irish have won their past two bowl games, but that is on the heels of a nine-game bowl losing streak.
The line: Florida State by 3 The pick: Notre Dame 27-23
Where: San Antonio
When: Dec. 29, 9 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: This almost certainly will be the final college game for Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, who heads an explosive Baylor offense. Washington also is good offensively, and both defenses … well, to put it succinctly, both defenses reek.
The line: Baylor by 9 The pick: Baylor 45-31
When: Dec. 30, noon, ESPN
The buzz: BYU has won eight of its past nine, but only one of the Cougars’ victims is in a bowl. Tulsa’s four losses have come to teams with a combined six losses. But only two teams the Golden Hurricane beat are in the postseason.
The line: BYU by 3 The pick: Tulsa 30-27
Where: New York
When: Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Rutgers wins with defense, and its offense is mediocre. The flipside: Iowa State’s offense is solid but its defense isn’t much. Will Yankee Stadium ever be the same?
The line: Rutgers by 1.5 The pick: Rutgers 24-20
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
When: Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: A middling team from the ACC meets a middling team from the SEC. The good news: This is on a Friday night, and LP Field is a short walk (or at least a short cab ride) from a lot of good Nashville music spots.
The line: Mississippi State by 7 The pick: Mississippi State 24-10
Where: Tempe, Ariz.
When: Dec. 30, 10 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: There is some pressure on Oklahoma in this one; the Sooners began the season ranked No. 1, and a loss could mean finishing outside the top 25. Of note: Sooners WR Ryan Broyles was lost for the season in the ninth game and QB Landry Jones hasn’t thrown a TD pass since Broyles was injured.
The line: Oklahoma by 14 The pick: Oklahoma 31-24
When: Dec. 31, noon, ESPN
The buzz: A&M is the most disappointing team in the nation, and winning this won’t change things. One viewing tip: If A&M takes a big halftime lead, keep watching, as the Aggies likely will cough it up.
The line: Texas A&M by 9.5 The pick: Texas A&M 40-28
Where: El Paso, Texas
When: Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS
The buzz: $5 says this will be the only bowl that lasts less than three hours. Neither team can throw it, so expect a ton of runs and a quick game.
The line: Georgia Tech by 3.5 The pick: Georgia Tech 28-20
Where: Memphis, Tenn.
When: Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The buzz: A tale of two schools. Cincinnati ties for the Big East title and gets sent to the Liberty Bowl, which doesn’t make a lot of Bearcats happy. Vandy goes 2-6 in the SEC, good for fifth place in the SEC East, and gets sent to the Liberty Bowl - and the Commodores are ecstatic.
The line: Vandy by 2.5 The pick: Cincinnati 28-21
Where: San Francisco
When: Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Can you feel the excitement and buzz surrounding this one? … Hmmm, me neither. As far as we can tell, this is the first bowl ever where both coaches were fired beforehand.
The line: Illinois by 2.5 The pick: Illinois 21-16
When: Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: In case you forgot, Auburn won the national title last season. That sure seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?
The line: Auburn by 1.5 The pick: Virginia 23-20
When: Jan. 2, noon, ESPNU
The buzz: Houston was excruciatingly close to getting a BCS bid. This will be just the ninth Big Six opponent for record-setting Cougars QB Case Keenum. You can’t blame Penn State players for wanting this season to be over. Will either team be focused?
The line: Houston by 5.5 The pick: Houston 31-28
Where: Orlando, Fla.
When: Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: This is just South Carolina’s second 10-win season ever, and the Gamecocks never have won 11 games. Both want to win with the run and a stout defense. Which defense breaks first?
The line: South Carolina by 2.5 The pick: South Carolina 24-20
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.
When: Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ESPN2
The buzz: The Urban Meyer storyline likely overshadows what will occur on the field. Truth is, neither team is that good, and Ohio State comes in on a three-game losing streak.
The line: Florida by 2 The pick: Ohio State 20-16
Where: Tampa, Fla.
When: Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ABC
The buzz: The SEC title-game loser vs. the Big Ten title-game loser, so there is going to be some crowing by the winning conference after this one. These teams met in the Capital One Bowl after the 2008 season, and the Bulldogs won 24-12.
The line: Georgia by 3.5 The pick: Georgia 24-17
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
When: Jan. 2, 5 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: A lot of good storylines in this one, with the main one being Oregon’s speed vs. Wisconsin’s brawn. And which running back will be more productive: the Ducks’ LaMichael James (1,646 yards and 19 total TDs) or the Badgers’ Montee Ball (1,759 yards and 38 total TDs)?
The line: Oregon by 6 The pick: Oregon 42-38
Where: Glendale, Ariz.
When: Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: A nice quarterback duel between Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. Luck has one more TD (35 to 34) and three fewer picks (nine to 12) in 149 fewer attempts. But Weeden has 1,158 more yards. Oklahoma State has forced a nation’s-high 42 turnovers; Stanford has committed 15.
The line: Oklahoma State by 3.5 The pick: Stanford 38-33
Where: New Orleans
When: Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: This is Michigan’s first BCS bowl since the 2006 season; it’s the Hokies’ fourth in five seasons. This features an interesting quarterback matchup between Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas.
The line: Michigan by 2.5 The pick: Michigan 28-23
When: Jan. 4, 8 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: There will be a lot of orange-clad folks in attendance, as this is Clemson’s first-ever BCS appearance and first “traditional” New Year’s Day bowl since the 1981 season - when the Tigers beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to win the national title.
The line: Clemson by 3.5 The pick: Clemson 34-24
Where: Arlington, Texas
When: Jan. 6, 8 p.m., Fox
The buzz: This is K-State’s 15th bowl all-time – and Bill Snyder has been the coach for 13 of them. Postseason football doesn’t seem to agree with Arkansas: The Hogs are 3-13 in bowls in the past 25 seasons.
The line: Arkansas by 7.5 The pick: Arkansas 34-24
Where: Birmingham, Ala.
When: Jan. 7, 1 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: The NFL playoffs start this day. Why do we think there will be far more attention focused on those games than this one?
The line: Pitt by 4.5 The pick: Pitt 23-17
Where: Mobile, Ala.
When: Jan. 8, 9 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: The Sun Belt winner vs. the MAC winner. This one should have a lot of offense, as NIU averages a bit more than 38 points per game and Arkansas State a bit more than 35.
The line: Arkansas State by 1.5 The pick: NIU 38-35
Where: New Orleans
When: Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: The SEC West heavyweights collide again, two months after their first meeting. The last time a rematch decided the national title was in 1996, when Florida beat Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. FSU had won the regular-season meeting.
The line: LSU by 1 The pick: LSU 17-13
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