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Don't Bet On It!: College Football Bowl Edition (Part II)

I made it through the Sin City Las Vegas Bowl in my last round of picks, so it’s time to rejoin the postseason schedule on the eve of Christmas Eve and run down my next four bowl predictions. As always, my ordinary mantra applies: Don’t Bet On It!

These are the next games on the slate in need of forecasting:

Poinsettia Bowl: California Golden Bears v. Utah Utes (Dec. 23): In the five years prior to this one, even those of us on the East Coast who aren’t entirely convinced that Versus is an actual channel have become accustomed to thinking of Utah as a top-flight college program bordering on perennial elite status. While this perception isn’t necessarily mistaken, it also isn’t applicable to 2009. This year, the Utes have gone 9-3, which sounds pretty good until you consider the fact that their three losses were to teams that together have gone 32-4 and their nine wins came against opponents with collective ledgers of 34-72. In short, Utah hasn’t beaten anyone who’s any good and Cal is a top 20 team. With apologies to the Superfans, I’m going with da Bears. (What if da Bears were midgets? Then it would be a much closer game . . . say, Bears 63, Utes 12. What about Tedford? Is he regular-sized? ‘Cause I assumed it was a mini-Tedford.)

Hawaii Bowl: Nevada Wolf Pack v. SMU Mustangs (Dec. 24): I’m not entirely convinced of this, but I’m fairly sure these two used to be in the same conference together at some point, maybe during one of the WAC’s wilder 36-team incarnations. Also, I find it a bit ironic that the student-athletes of Southern Methodist University, which is only now recovering from becoming the first program to be given the death penalty by the NCAA a quarter-century ago, are going up against the student-athletes of the University of Nevada at Reno, a program located in the quickie divorce capital of the world . . . so, basically, these two teams represent opposite ends of the spectrum where the consequences of cheating are concerned. I’m a Georgia fan, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a bit skeptical about June Jones’s ability to get his team to step up in a bowl game. I’m taking Nevada to get the better of the last living adherent of the run and shoot in what is apt to be a rocky homecoming.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Marshall Thundering Herd v. Ohio Bobcats (Dec. 26): All right, I’m absolutely certain that this used to be a conference game, back when this postseason tilt was the Motor City Bowl and wasn’t sponsored by the latest pizza company to get in on the act. I make a habit of making unmerciful fun of Ohio (Ohio), but, when the Bobcats are going up against a team that fired its head coach and is difficult to identify as a bowl team, I’ll side with Ohio to beat Marshall.

Meineke Car Care Bowl: North Carolina Tar Heels v. Pittsburgh Panthers (Dec. 26): A criminal defense attorney of my longstanding acquaintance has what he calls his "Joyce Kilmer defense" whenever a client of his is charged with manufacture of a controlled substance with respect to marijuana. His argument is that, while a guy running a meth lab is engaged in the manufacture of an illegal drug, a guy who’s growing pot plants isn’t "manufacturing" anything, because "only God can make a tree." Anyone who appreciates the distinction between a Hamiltonian affinity for manufacturing and a Jeffersonian devotion to agrarianism (as exemplified in the prose of the Vanderbilt Fugitives, the poetry of Wendell Berry, and the film "The Dukes of Hazzard") recognizes that he is right, which brings me to the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate bowl games. Bowls named after plants (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton) or after animals that are raised on a farm (Chick-fil-A) are good bowl games. (Admittedly, the aforementioned Poinsettia Bowl undermines this argument.) The Meineke Car Care Bowl generally is a clear example of the fact that bowls named after factory-produced goods or the retailers who sell them tend to be crummy contests. That said, a showdown between Pitt and UNC should make for a better game than most, and I have learned my lesson. Siding with Dave Wannstedt in a meaningful game is like getting involved in a land war in Asia; it’s one of the classic blunders. Accordingly, I’m picking the Tar Heels. After all, we are dealing with tobacco-growing Southern agrarians doing battle with steel-welding Eastern industrialists.

In case you’re keeping track at home, that’s eight games down and 73 26 to go, so stick around for the rest of the Dawg Sports bowl picks, and, in the meantime, remember . . . Don’t Bet On It!

Go ‘Dawgs!