There are more bowl games than ever, and there is barely enough time to forecast them all. I have predicted the first ten games of Division I-A college football’s postseason, and now it is time to take up the next five, beginning, as always, with my typical disclaimer: Don’t Bet On It!
Insight Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes v. Missouri Tigers (Dec. 28): This is an interesting clash of future Big Ten rivals . . . oops; belay that. My bad. Despite vineyarddawg’s helpful mnemonic device, I’m still not sure whether Iowa is in the
Leaders Division or the Legends Division Big Ten East or Big Ten West, but I’m pretty sure this is not the optimal time to be a Hawkeye. How far short of optimal does the present period fall? So far short that I am picking the Tigers. Yeah, I know, it shocked me, too.
Military Bowl: East Carolina Pirates v. Maryland Terrapins (Dec. 29): This one is easy, and not for the obvious reasons that (a) Washington, D.C., is right in the Terps’ backyard, and the venue therefore affords them a measure of home field advantage, and (b) going 5-3 in ACC play is at least marginally more impressive than going 5-3 in Conference USA play. It’s the Military Bowl. One team is made up of Pirates. Maryland’s offensive coordinator is about to become a Commodore. Dude, this bowl game is basically a verse out of the Marines’ Hymn. This could get nasty, particularly if President Obama is in attendance. Granted, these Pirates aren’t facing off against the Navy SEALs, but ECU is going up against the sea creatures who beat Navy! East Carolina is going to learn the hard way to fear the Turtle.
Texas Bowl: Baylor Bears v. Illinois Fighting Illini (Dec. 29): I don’t know which is the more difficult concept to grasp, Baylor in a bowl game or Ron Zook in a bowl game. This contest is likely to cause some mixed emotions among the Superfans, who will be torn between loyalty to the home-state Illini and their natural inclination to root for "Da Bears." (Yes, I get how dated that reference is; what can I say? My inner Scott Marchand strikes again!) On the other hand, Pac-10 administrators are breathing a sigh of relief that their deft rejection of the Bears as a candidate for admission eliminated all risk that these two teams could ever meet in what assuredly would be the least-watched Rose Bowl in history. The single most relevant datum concerning this year’s showdown in Houston is the fact that, in almost a decade as a college head coach, Ron Zook has never guided his team to a bowl win. I don’t expect that to change this year, as resurgent Baylor beats back the invading Illini.
Alamo Bowl: Arizona Wildcats v. Oklahoma St. Cowboys (Dec. 29): All kidding aside, this outing actually represents one of the better pre-New Year’s Eve bowl games. Even apart from the obvious logic of matching a team from Arizona and a team from Oklahoma in a bowl in Texas, and even aside from the subplot concerning how close these two teams came to sharing a Pac-16 conference affiliation, this genuinely ought to be a good game . . . and, if the pregame press conference is as spirited as I anticipate, Coaches Gundy and Stoops could end up replacing Messrs. Golic and Greenberg as the hosts of "Mike & Mike in the Morning." With respect to the game itself, Mike Gundy has never won a bowl when his team came into the contest with a top 25 ranking, whereas Mike Stoops has never lost a bowl when his team finished lower than second in the Pac-10 standings. Probably due to the quality of postseason opponent regular-season success garners, neither coach has been particularly adept at handling prosperity. Since the Pokes have had the more prosperous season, it stands to reason that the Wildcats will win.
Armed Forces Bowl: Army Black Knights v. SMU Mustangs (Dec. 30): Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, we have "duty, honor, country," and, in this corner, we have . . . um, yeah. I’m going to use the fact that the Cadets gave Navy a better game than I expected as the basis for the slender rationalization that permits me to justify picking the Knights to get the better of the Ponies. I can’t really defend that prediction logically, but, dang it, I’d just feel like a bad American if I went the other way on this one.
We now have the first 15 forecasts in the can, leaving us with just 84 more bowl games to go! All right, I overstated the case just a bit when making that claim, but I am not overselling the reality when I tell you that I am bad at predicting the outcomes of college football games, so, please, do yourself a favor. Whatever you do, . . . Don’t Bet On It!