Today we start exploring the bowls that are actually fun for the players to go to. Every one of these bowls should be sunny and warm for the players. Unfortunately, the weather might be the best part of these games. We might be wrong about that, but Don't Bet On It!
Miami Beach Bowl (Dec. 22)
BYU vs. Memphis (-1)
There's an old episode of The Simpsons in which Homer and Lisa "bond" over her uncanny ability to predict the outcome of football games. I put the scare quotes around bond because the emotional crux of the episode is Lisa's feeling of betrayal when Homer suddenly loses interest in spending "Daddy-Daughter Day" (i.e., Sunday) with her once the football season has ended. It's pretty compelling stuff for an animated series, particularly in light of the current state of the program. Anyway, an early gag in the episode is the reveal that Lisa's initial success is based largely on her assumptions about which mascot would win in a fight. If we apply that strategy here, we have a cougar versus a tiger, which seems like almost a wash... until we take into account the location of the battle. Miami Beach is home to plenty of cougars. Tigers? Not so much.
Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 22)
Marshall (-10) vs. Northern Illinois
Marshall went 12-1 this season and still isn't ranked. That may be the most impressive accomplishment of the 2014 season. It's tempting to pick Marshall here based on their record alone, but Northern Illinois had a pretty good season too. The Huskies finished 11-2 and clinched the MAC Championship by beating the tar out of Bowling Green. I think this tilt between former conference rivals will be closer than expected.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 22)
Navy vs. San Diego State (-3)
We've been joking about some teams playing home games, but, seriously, San Diego State plays all of its home games at Qualcomm Stadium, which hosts the Poinsettia Bowl. I hate picking against the service academies, but they're literally travelling across the country to play this game. Hopefully they get to enjoy the weather a bit.
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (Dec. 24)
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky (-3.5)
Fun fact: Popeyes has locations in 31 countries. The Bahamas is not one of those countries. The closest Popeyes is about 300 miles away in Miami, Florida. Bowl season is glorious and absurd. As for the game, Western Kentucky has been setting score boards on fire, averaging 44 points per game, and the Hilltoppers handed Marshall its only loss on the season. They should be able to roll a Chippewa squad that's averaging only 25 points per game.
Hawai'i Bowl (Dec. 24)
Fresno State vs. Rice (-2)
I'm on record saying that Hawai'i shouldn't even have a football program, so I'm not going to pretend to care about this game, which is being played at 8 p.m. (ET) on Christmas Eve. I guess we'll pick the Bulldogs for solidarity.