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Don't Bet On It!: Bowl Games I

This would at least provide a little warmth.Bowl season is nearly upon us! This is truly my favorite time of year. Say what you will about the relative merits of a playoff vis-à-vis crowning a national champion. I will never support a system that jeopardizes even one of the thirty-five (THIRTY-FIVE!!!) bowl games we get to enjoy over the next three weeks. Think about it: even a thirty-two team playoff wouldn’t provide the sheer quantity of football that we see under the current system. For the true college football junkie, this is the last big bender we get before we’re reduced to scraping up the resin of recruiting and scrounging up the shake of spring practice. This is it, my friends. Enjoy every minute of it.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be predicting the outcome of each of the season’s bowl games. We always warn you not to wager any real money on our picks, and with good reason: my 2-4 record over championship weekend brought my ledger for the season down to 17-18-1 against the spread. Accordingly, I don’t offer these football forecasts for any purpose other than to give you some semi-plausible excuse for why watching the bowl is more important than helping out with the dishes at your fourth-cousin-in-law’s party. Will anyone buy it? Don’t Bet On It!

Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 17th, 2 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Temple Owls (-6.5) vs. Wyoming Cowboys – These teams look comparable at first glance. Temple is an 8-4 team from the MAC. Wyoming is an 8-4 team from the Mount West. However, the Cowboys are starting freshman quarterback Brett Smith. Smith showed midseason flashes of being something special, but he still has a lot to learn. The Owls are fielding a top 20 pass defense, so you’d expect Wyoming to rely on its stable of solid running backs… but Temple also has a top 10 rushing defense. Temple’s pass offense is terrible, but they’re still managing 31 points per game due to a stout rushing attack led by junior Bernard Pierce, who averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 2 TDs per game and is likely NFL-bound in the Spring. As an SEC fan, you’ll want to watch the Owls comfortably win the first bowl game of the season with a stout defense.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 17th, 5:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Ohio Bobcats vs. Utah State Aggies (-1.5) – This line has already moved a point towards Ohio, and with good reason: the Bobcats are better or approximately equal to the Aggies in every meaningful statistical category, except that Utah State boasts a better rushing attack. The Aggies are going to have to contend with the Bobcats’ big defensive line, though, which ought to be able to force Utah State to rely on its putrid passing attack. Besides, Frank Solich is 0-5 in bowl games at Ohio; he has to win at some point, right? You’ve got to watch Ohio win outright to support an underrated head coach who has built the type of hard-working, blue-collar team that makes this country great. USA! USA! USA!

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 17th, 9 p.m. EST, ESPN)
San Diego State Aztecs (-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns – Home field advantage might make this game a little more interesting than it ought to be. But as long as the Aztecs can avoid the temptations of Bourbon Street, they should be able to ride sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman to a comfortable victory. So long as U.La-La focuses on the run, the deep ball should be open for quarterback Ryan Lindley, who has been inconsistent but doesn’t throw many picks. The Loco Locals don’t stand a chance. San Diego State will pick up its first victory of the post-Brady Hoke era, and you’ll watch because I just can’t believe he’d leave sunny Southern California for Ann Arbor. Can you? I mean just look at the program he was building down there, particularly the defense...

Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl (Dec. 20th, 8 p.m. EST, ESPN)
Florida International Golden Panthers (-4) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd – Real talk: Marshall is not a very good football team. They’re ranked in the bottom third nationally in nearly every statistical category, which is even worse than it sounds because they play in Conference USA. The Golden Panthers aren’t much better, but they’re still better by any meaningful measure, arguably including conference affiliation. FIU will win comfortably, but you’ll watch because, hey, did y’all see We Are Marshall? That’s right, Aunt Karen, the one with Matthew McConaughey. Great flick. Oh look, game’s back on.

S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 21st, 8 p.m. EST, ESPN)
TCU Horned Frogs (-10.5) vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs – OK, I’ve been trying to do some sort of detailed analysis of the other bowls, but let’s keep this simple: Since Gary Patterson got TCU turned around in 2002, the Horned Frogs have built a sterling reputation through fearsome defensive play and are undefeated in bowl games against everyone but Boise State. The Bayou Bulldogs, on the other hand, have done nothing to assuage their rent-a-win reputation, including losing to Mississippi State this season. Texas Christian wins big, and nothing could be more seasonally appropriate than rooting for that team. (Disclaimer: Dawg Sports makes no guarantees regarding your physical or metaphysical safety if you actually attempt to use this excuse to weasel out of family-related activities.)

Go Dawgs!