Bowl season is fast upon us, and, as Jake was kind enough to note, it is time for me to get down to the serious business of predicting (probably incorrectly) the outcomes of the various postseason tilts. Although there is a glut of bowl games, I'm not complaining, because, as my brother-in-law, Travis, likes to point out: "Every time there's a bowl game on, that's one more night I don't have to spend watching hockey."
Nevertheless, the large number of Division I-A postseason tilts necessitates that I break my prognostications down into increments, so that I can devote adequate time and special care to making the wrong prediction in each of them. Accordingly, I must warn you once again: Don't Bet On It!
How bad am I at predicting bowl games? A year ago, I actually thought Ohio State stood a chance against Florida!
I hate to admit it, but my look at the first four games of the bowl season didn't exactly do much to rebut Peter Bean's criticism of Division I-A college football's postseason structure, so, hopefully, the arguments of those of us who oppose a playoff will be bolstered by this latest round of picks; as we say in the law, to wit:
Las Vegas Bowl: Brigham Young v. U.C.L.A. (December 22): All right, see what I mean? Right off the bat, we have an intriguing matchup between a quality mid-major squad and an inconsistent yet talented B.C.S. conference team. This bowl pairing even makes geographic sense, as it's perfectly normal for a Pac-10 team from California and a Mountain West team from Utah to square off in the Sagebrush State. In fact, this matchup makes so much sense, it's almost hard to believe the Bruins and the Cougars haven't bothered to meet up in the regular season. Hold on a minute . . . these two teams did meet up during the regular season! Well, then, what in the world does a rematch prove? Yeah, all right, so U.C.L.A. won in Los Angeles and B.Y.U. is going to win in Las Vegas, but, honestly, what's the point?
Also, a city in which gambling and prostitution are legal will be hosting student-athletes from a university at which caffeine is considered sinful. Good call there, guys.
Hawaii Bowl: Boise State v. East Carolina (December 23): Here, on the other hand, we observe a fine example of what makes college football so special. Despite their disappointment at the outcome of their last trip to the Aloha State, the Broncos get to return to Honolulu for a postseason engagement that has the virtue of getting them the heck out of Idaho in December. Meanwhile, the Pirates will dock in Hawaii after having charted a course back to respectability in a season that ended with six wins in their last eight games. Just 32 contests separated the high-water mark of E.C.U. football (the 1999 victory over Miami in a game that had to be played in Raleigh when Greenville was demolished by Hurricane Floyd) from its nadir (the 2001 GMAC Bowl, which East Carolina lost in double overtime after leading 38-8 at the half), but the latter loss proved particularly devastating to the Pirate program, as the squad proceeded to lose 31 of its next 39 games before beginning an 18-14 run with a win over Rice in the middle of the 2005 campaign. While I believe Boise State rather clearly is the better team in this game, both mid-major squads will have a chance to demonstrate their quality as competitors and even the loser will have the benefit of getting to spend the holidays in Hawaii, which ain't a bad deal.
Motor City Bowl: Central Michigan v. Purdue (December 26): I've asked it before, but the question bears repeating. If the bowl game in Detroit is the Motor City Bowl and the bowl game in Nashville is the Music City Bowl, why isn't the bowl game in Las Vegas called the Sin City Bowl? Just curious. Anyway, another good one appears be on tap for the day after Christmas, when the M.A.C. champion Chippewas take on the Boilermakers. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Joe Tiller's famous Purdue offense takes on a surging Central Michigan squad. Given the Big Ten's penchant for playing Mid-American Conference opponents, I'm a bit surprised these two teams haven't butted heads already. Wait a second . . . these two teams have butted heads already! Dang it, what is wrong with these bowl selection people? When the Boilermakers and the Chippewas met in West Lafayette on September 15, they combined for 53 first downs, 1,048 yards, and 67 points. Now you know why "Motor City Bowl" contains a B, a C, an I, an L, an M, three O's, an R, two T's, a W, and a Y, but no D. Purdue won the first time, Purdue will win again, and no purpose will be served by playing this game at all.
Before presenting my Holiday Bowl prediction, I should point out that many Pac-10 fans have been critical of conference commissioner Tom Hansen for his mishandling of the West Coast B.C.S. league's postseason tie-ins, but Zac, Taylor, and Isaac think their uncle is managing the Pac-10 as well as he managed their music careers!
Holiday Bowl: Arizona State v. Texas (December 27): Now, this is more like it! A prime-time postseason game in San Diego with a history of seesaw shootouts pitting two solid squads from a couple of major conferences provides a fine example of what I love about college football. The Longhorns and the Sun Devils have been two of the most challenging teams to rank throughout the season, as it isn't at all clear to me how good either of these teams really is. How much credit does Texas deserve for, say, going on the road and beating a ten-win Conference USA champion Central Florida squad by a field goal? How impressive was the Burnt Orange's 59-point outburst against Gator Bowl-bound Texas Tech? How much goodwill did the 'Horns earn in a seven-point neutral-site setback against eventual Big 12 champion Oklahoma? Does A.S.U. deserve a pat on the back for beating by 19 points the Colorado squad that defeated those selfsame Sooners and the aforementioned Red Raiders? At what point do the Sun Devils' win over Cal and loss to Oregon lose all of their luster? How much dishonor was there in a 20-point loss to peaking U.S.C.? I believe Arizona State will have the last laugh, but I will be very interested to see how these two teams stack up against one another in what promises to be a barn-burner of a bowl game.
That's eight games down and 24 to go, so stay tuned for the next round of forecasts and, in the meantime, whatever you do, remember: Don't Bet On It!