There are 35 bowl games. Since it takes 2 teams to participate in a bowl, that means 70 teams will be playing in the postseason this year. There’s 120 teams in college football. That means that almost 60% of the teams (58.3 if you’re wanting specifics) will make a bowl game, college football’s somewhat lackluster postseason. Now, 34 of those 35 games are irrelevant to the actual championship, but this is still technically the postseason, so by golly, we’ll treat it as such!
To that end, here’s this year’s edition of the Bowl Preview. Last season (on my little rinky-dink pre-CFC blog) I went 17-17, meaning that flipping a coin is roughly as accurate as my predictions. This is doubly true for these early bowl games, most of which feature teams that I’ve seen almost once (call it none). So in this installment, I’ll be taking a look at the first week of bowl games, stretching from the 18th of December to the 24th. Let’s begin with the…
December 18, 2010
New Mexico Bowl
Brigham Young vs. UTEP
How they got here: BYU opened the year as a mega-disappointment, but they were able to climb out of that hole admirably. UTEP, meanwhile, seems to have followed the opposite philosophy, opening up 5-1, only to finish 6-6. Both these teams actually finished .500, so this looks to be a thoroughly mediocre matchup! Hooray!
Should I watch this bowl: Yes. It kicks off the college football postseason, and if you don’t watch this one you can’t say that you threw away several hours of your life every bowl game! Also, it’ll be interesting to see if UTEP can break their slide and if BYU can continue their impressive little run. But that’s not as funny as the first bit.
Blogger’s Pick: BYU, for a variety of reasons. They’ve won 5 of their last 7 (SDSU replay issue notwithstanding) and they beat the world’s best quarterback ever earlier in the season!
uDrove Humanitarian Bowl
Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State
How they got here: Fresno State had a distinctively “eh” season, going 8-4 and losing to most of the halfway decent teams they played. And Ole Miss (oooo! burn!). Put another way, Fresno State is in a conference with 3 ranked teams, and they lost to all 3. Northern Illinois had a good year, but fell short of winning their conference title, despite dominating the conference during the regular season. As a result, they fell from the rankings, as well as falling down to an opening day bowl game. The perils of playing in a mid-major conference…
Should I watch this game: Eh…I don’t know. Northern Illinois’s offensive AND defensive stats are higher, but they play in an inferior conference to Fresno State, so that could just be an aggregation of stats accumulated over a season of playing lesser foes. I’ll be watching this game for two reasons: 1) to figure out what the heck “uDrove” is, and 2) to figure out how sending people to play in Boise, Idaho in friggin’ December qualifies as “humanitarian.” For that matter, how does it qualify as a reward for playing well throughout the season? It’s going to be rainy/snowy with a high of 39 on Saturday. Coupled with the audience of roughly 19 Idahoans and the 36 or so fans watching at home, being invited to this game seems to be more of a slap in the face than a reward. So, in short, yes, you should watch this game, because you’ll be able to say that you supported student athletes from “lesser” schools.
Blogger’s pick: Northern Illinois. Take this one with no confidence, because every reason for Northern Illinois can be countered by a strike against them. Fresno beat their lone common opponent, Illinois, but UNI played them on the road 3 games in, not at home at the end of the year. Once again, take this pick with a healthy dose of salt…
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Ohio vs. Troy
How they got here: Ohio finished 4th in the MAC, dropping their first and last conference games. They shellacked the eventual conference champions Miami of Ohio, but didn’t make the conference championship game due to a loss to Kent State at the end of the season. Troy finished tied for 1st in the Sun Belt, but they lost their game to Florida International, thus sending them to the 2nd most important Sun Belt Bowl. Oddly enough, the winners of these two conferences (the MAC and Sun Belt) will play each other in a bowl game, meaning that the odds of a mid-major champion defeating a middle of the pack major conference school (e.g. Clemson, Florida, etc.) are pared down. Gee, thanks bowl system. Would’ve hated to see an upset or something…
Should I watch this game: Uhhh, probably not. It’ll be on Saturday night! Cut lose and do something! Don’t watch two teams that didn’t win their mediocre conferences. Well, if you insist on a reason, I guess the only real one is to see if Ohio’s defense (28th overall, but 61st in pass defense) can stop Troy’s passing offense (12th in the country). But, seriously, see if there’s a movie on. Or do some Christmas shopping.
Blogger’s pick: Do I have to? Fine. I pick Ohio, because I think their defense will rise to the occasion.
December 21, 2010
Beef o’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg
Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville
How they got here: Southern Miss finished 2nd in their division of Conference USA, dealing Central Florida its only conference loss on the season. The Golden Eagles lost to most of the decent teams they faced, however, though they were only blown out once, by South Carolina. Louisville got to this bowl by completing a surprisingly fast turnaround from the past two seasons. They went 4-8 last year, but pulled out a 6-6 record under new coach Charlie Strong. It may not be that impressive, considering the level of talent in the Big East, but it beats missing a bowl. (Important side note: The Louisville team that barely made this early bowl game is the team which handed UConn a 26-0 loss. That is the state of the Big East right now.)
Should I watch this game: Sure. It’ll be a Tuesday night, not much on television. Plus, if you’re willing to ignore the records this could actually be a decent little game. Southern Miss has a strong, reasonably well-balanced offense, while Louisville has the 15th best scoring defense in the country. Thus, there’s no reason to think that this can’t be a good ball game. In addition, you can see how often the commentators accidentally call this the “St. Petersburg Bowl,” rather than its actual pretentious name, the “Bowl St. Petersburg.” That’s silly.
Blogger’s pick: Louisville. For some reason, I try to favor defense. Could be because of that old aphorism “defense wins championships.” Could be that, being of Scottish stock, I just like defense. Either way, suppose it doesn’t matter. Pick Louisville…not much confidence in that, mind you.
December 22, 2010
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas
#19 Utah vs. #10 Boise State
How they got here: Well, both of these teams arrived here by losing games to other mid-major teams. Utah suffered back to back losses to TCU and Notre Dame, thus shooting them down, while Boise State suffered a late-season overtime loss to Nevada. Both of them fell extremely far from grace due to those losses, hence why they wound up here.
Should I watch this game: Yes. First and foremost, you should watch this game as a protest. There’s no reason that Utah and Boise State should have been shoehorned into a quiet backwater bowl. Actually, there is a reason: Pre-existing contracts between the MWC and Pac-10 couldn’t be fulfilled, so the bowl picked up the WAC’s 2nd place team, Boise State. It’s silly, especially when you consider that the Las Vegas Bowl’s pickup ensures that these two lower conference teams can’t hurt any of the big boys. So watch the game to boost ratings, even if you don’t care about it. Stop the myths that people don’t care about minor conference teams! (NOTE: It still counts in the ratings even if you just turn your cable box to the channel and watch a DVD or something. Hint, hint.) Second reason to watch: Omigosh! An actual ranked matchup before Christmas! It’s a miracle!
Blogger’s pick: Boise State. They should come out swinging (not unlike LeGarrette Blount) in an attempt to restore themselves in the eyes of the sneering Big Sisters of the Poor. Utah hasn’t played particularly well against the good/halfway decent teams they’ve played (crushed by TCU, crushed by Notre Dame, narrow wins over Pitt, BYU, San Diego State, and Air Force), so they’ll likely struggle against the Broncos. Yes, the same could be said about Boise, but at least they’ve beaten 2 currently ranked teams.
December 23, 2010
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy at San Diego State
How they got here: Navy’s option attack is 14 points away from an undefeated season. Losses to bowl-bound teams Maryland and Air Force, coupled with an inexplicable loss to Duke, sent them to this semi-obscure bowl game. San Diego State has lost 4 games by a total of 15 points, so we’re looking at a total of 7 losses by a total of 29 points. In other words, these are two teams that have lost very few games by very slim margins, creating a scenario where we should see a good game.
Should I watch this game: I know I say “yes” to lots of these, but consider the source. I’m currently over 1,000 words on an article about the week 1 bowl games. This game is another yes. The option (Navy’s offense) is always fun to watch, while San Diego State’s passing attack is as consistent an offense as any in the country. Neither team’s defense is super-strong, meaning that we could have a high scoring game where the last possession determines the outcome. The afore mentioned proclivity (look it up) both these teams have for close games should make it a good one. Oh, and this is the first bowl in 2 days to be the “________ Bowl” instead of the “Bowl ________.” That lack of pretentiousness is enough to make me want to watch it.
Blogger’s pick: San Diego State. The Aztecs successfully slowed down Air Force’s option, which averages slightly more points per game than Navy’s. Navy slowed down Air Force, too, but since they run the option they’re more used to seeing it. Hopefully the Aztecs’ extra time with the scout team will help them overtake Navy. Look for a close game, though, because Navy knows how to slow down a passing offense (see also: their game against SMU).
December 24, 2010
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
#24 Hawaii vs. Tulsa
How they got here: Hawaii arrives as one of three teams tied for the top spot in the WAC. But, since they were the last team to scratch their way into the Top 25, they get the 3rd place WAC bowl. Admittedly, that’s probably because they narrowly beat Nevada, but got trashed by Boise State. Tulsa tied for the top of their division of Conference USA with SMU, but lost the tiebreaker. Fortunately for the Golden Hurricane, SMU lost, so Tulsa goes to the 2nd most important C-USA bowl.
Should I watch this game: Depends directly on your definition of “good football.” If you like high point totals, then watch this game. Both teams are in the Top 10 in points scored per game, creating the potential for a basketballesque final score. If you like good defense…not so much. Hawaii’s barely in the top 50 in scoring defense, while Tulsa ranks 84th in that category. Fans hoping for a combined score of under 60 (or even 80) will likely be disappointed.
Blogger’s pick: Hawaii. The Warriors’ defense might stop Tulsa on a drive or two, while Tulsa’s D could allow 50+ (something they’ve done 3 times already this season).
That’s all for this week. Tune in next time to see if I should start blogging about the Ottoman Empire instead of football!