My predictions for championship Saturday fared badly indeed; I correctly called the SEC Championship Game to improve my league ledger for the season to 53-13, but my 1-3 record in the weekend’s remaining games stranded me at 37-25 in non-conference outings. The reality to which that should alert you is simple: Don’t Bet On It!
Since Division I-A college football’s postseason is less than a week away, it is time for me to get down to the serious business of forecasting the bowl games. Hey, if you’re like me, you’re tired of reading about our orange-and-blue-clad rivals and their latest newsworthy achievements, anyway. Accordingly, the first installment of my postseason prognostications follows:
New Mexico Bowl: BYU Cougars v. UTEP Miners (Dec. 18): For the first time in what seems like forever, Brigham Young did not receive a Las Vegas Bowl bid, thereby sparing the entire blogosphere another year of rehashing the usual "Mormons in Sin City" jokes. Nevertheless, there is likely to be a bit of a culture shock in Albuquerque when one sideline is peopled with student-athletes who have a moral opposition to caffeine and the opposite sideline is presided over by a head coach who is most famous for a drunken evening involving strippers in Pensacola. Since I feel comfortable asserting that going 6-6 in the Mountain West is more impressive than going 6-6 in Conference USA, I’m going with the Cougars to beat the Miners.
Humanitarian Bowl: Fresno St. Bulldogs v. Northern Illinois Huskies (Dec. 18): Somebody up there dislikes Pat Hill. The guy labors to build one of the best blue-collar programs in college football, earns a reputation for taking on and taking down the big boys, and his reward for an eight-win season is a trip to Boise to play a bowl game on a field where he cannot seem to buy a conference win. Fortunately for him, Fresno State has survived tougher tests than this in postseason play, so I’m going with the Bulldogs to beat the Huskies in a dog-eat-dog bowl game.
New Orleans Bowl: Ohio Bobcats v. Troy Trojans (Dec. 18): Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have found our national bowl of disinterest. If this outing didn’t represent the nightcap of a three-game Saturday to kick off bowl season, I might ignore it altogether. As it stands, though, I’m obliged to pick a favorite between a team that went 6-2 in the MAC and a team that went 6-2 in the Sun Belt. Eenie, meenie, minie, Ohio.
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: Louisville Cardinals v. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (Dec. 21): It’s not entirely clear to me whether this is the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl or the St. Petersburg Bowl Brought to You by Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, nor is clear to me why it is "Beef ‘O’ Brady’s" instead of "Beef O’Brady’s," nor is it even particularly clear to me what a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is or where I would go about finding one, but what is absolutely evident to me is that this is by far the least important bowl game being played in the Tampa Bay area (unless, of course, this game is being played in what used to be Leningrad, in which case its coolness quotient just shot through the roof), and that Charlie Strong has U. of L. pointed in the right direction. I expect the Cardinals to get the better of a team that spent much of the 1980s and ‘90s cultivating a reputation as a giant-killer but since has become just a Conference USA also-ran.
Las Vegas Bowl: Boise St. Broncos v. Utah Utes (Dec. 22): I was really hoping Boise State would finish the season strong, in order to heighten national interest in next autumn’s season opener between the Bulldogs and the Broncos in the Georgia Dome. Ending the campaign two days before Christmas Eve wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, since it will leave critics to charge that the Labor Day weekend matchup in Atlanta pits a pair of teams who closed out 2010 in bowl games sponsored by the auto repair industry. For all the attention paid to Boise State’s schedule, the Utes accomplished far less in the course of going 10-2 than the Broncos did while posting an 11-1 record, so I’m opting for the Broncos in Las Vegas.
Those are the first five contests of the 2010 bowl season; I’m pacing myself, so I’ll get to the rest of them shortly, but, in the meantime, you should bear in mind that my usual advice applies to every bowl game I forecast: Don’t Bet On It!