Happy New Year, Dawg fans! You're probably already sitting back with a nice cold beverage and enjoying the single best college football day of the year. But there are even more games after today's action, and I'll be covering almost all of them in today's article. The only post-Jan. 1- game I won't be covering is the big one on the 12th, and Spears will be back for that one to tell us why Alabama will win the national championship, even if they end up losing to Ohio State later today. (Roll Tide.)
We've got quite a few games to cover, too... so here we go: (As usual, all times are Eastern.)
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - Jan. 2, Fort Worth, TX, Noon (ESPN)
Pittsburgh Panthers (-3) vs. Houston Cougars
Not to be outdone by the east coast, which has the Military Bowl, and the west coast, which has the bowl game that contractually gets Navy every year (the Poinsettia Bowl), Texas has their own Armed Forces Bowl, which is played in TCU's stadium. Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that we'll be seeing anything close to the offensive fireworks that Amon G. Carter stadium has heretofore seen in 2014 in this game.
This game matched up Pitt and Houston... two teams that, between them, managed to lose to Akron, Tulane, and UT San Antonion during the regular season. The biggest win either team has on their resume is... ah... well, that is... ummm... I guess that's Pitt, who beat a Virginia Tech team that had previously beaten Ohio State before imploding like Kyle Field.
Still, games between two tire-fire teams can be entertaining, especially if one remembers that we're about to embark upon 8 months without any meaningful football. If you shun this game, remember that choice in April when you're lapping up the coverage of every major school's spring game like it's water in the desert. I'll be watching, and I'm taking the team that has the significantly shorter travel, and will probably have the significant fan advantage in the stands.
Final Score Prediction: Houston 38, Pitt 35
Gator Bowl - Jan. 2, Jacksonville, FL, 3:20 PM (ESPN)
Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Tennessee Volunteers (-3.5)
Simply on principle, I can't be too upset about the fact that the word "Gator" is now gone from the college football bowl lexicon, but it seems about as wrong to drop the historic name of this game as it was to drop the word "Peach" from the Peach Bowl a few years ago. They don't ask me about these things, though, and everybody hates taxes and would like them slayed, so the TaxSlayer bowl it is!
I'm a little confused as to why the Vols are only a 3.5-point favorite here. Butch Jones has been doing some good things with Big Orange in his 2nd year, and even though they finished the season at 6-6, only one of their losses came to a team that is currently unranked (Florida). Tennessee is a program that's clearly on the upswing, to my eyes. Iowa, on the other hand, lost to Iowa State, and they have Kirk Ferentz as their head coach (and the buyout provision in his contract is so extreme that there's absolutely no way they can afford to fire him). The Hawkeyes did play Wisconsin tough, and UT has struggled against teams that run the ball well this year, so maybe Iowa will sneak up on the boys from Rocky Top and get a W. I'm going to lay the points, though.
Final Score Prediction: Tennessee 35, Iowa 21
Valero Alamo Bowl - Jan. 2, San Antonio, TX, 6:45 PM (ESPN)
#14 UCLA Bruins (-1.5) vs. #11 Kansas St. Wildcats
This is easily the most attractive post-New-Years matchup on the slate, and it also pairs up quite possibly the most diametrically-opposed teams in the country from a psychological standpoint. UCLA is one of the most schizophrenic teams in the country, and K-State is one of the most consistent. UCLA was in the preseason top 10, and they looked strong against a good Arizona State team and gave Oregon a good game, as well. But then they almost lost to Cal and Colorado(!!), and they did lose to a Stanford team that is a shadow of its former self. When the Bruins are good, they're really good. When they're bad, however, they can almost lose to Colorado. That just about says it all.
Kansas State, on the other hand, is exactly what we've come to expect from a Bill Snyder team. They are remarkably consistent week in and week out, and they're fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball. The denizens of the "little apple" have marched right through their schedule, steadily handling all of the teams in their wake except for Auburn, Baylor, and TCU, who are all very good teams.
The odds in Vegas actually opened with KSU as a field goal favorite, but it has moved towards UCLA for some reason in the last month. I'm not sure what that is the case, but the outcome of this game might depend on which UCLA team shows up. If the UCLA team that beat Arizona State and gave Oregon all they wanted gets off the plane in San Antonio, this could be a very tight matchup. If the team that nearly lost to Cal and Colorado shows up, however, this one will be a Wildcat blowout. Even at their best, though, I don't think UCLA is as good as Baylor, TCU, or even Auburn. I'm putting my chips on the known quantity here.
Final Score Prediction: Kansas State 45, UCLA 24
TicketCity Cactus Bowl - Jan. 2, Tempe, AZ, 10:15 PM (ESPN)
Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Washington Huskies (-6.5)
The Cactus Bowl is the latest in a slew of bowl games that continually change their name based on who's sponsoring the game that year. This game started out as the Copper Bowl, then the Insight.com Bowl, then the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Now they're sponsored by an online ticket-selling website, which is ironic considering the fact that ticket sales are pretty much irrelevant in deciding whether bowl games nowadays are profitable.
I have to be honest and say that the only thing I really know about Oklahoma State this year is that they beat Oklahoma, and they probably had no real business doing that. Mike Gundy has put up some strong Cowboy teams in recent years, but the 2014 edition is definitely not one of them. U-Dub, however, went 8-5 in Chris Petersen's first year in the Emerald City, and things are looking up for the Huskies. I don't particularly care for Washington's fans calling their team the "Dawgs," since that's our moniker and they don't even pronounce it correctly, but I feel pretty confident that they'll have this game well in hand. Okie State has lost 5 out of their last 6 games, and when the clock reads 0:00 in this one, it'll be 6 out of their last 7.
Final Score Prediction: Washington 34, Oklahoma State 10
Birmingham Bowl - Jan. 3, Birmingham, AL, Noon (ESPN2)
East Carolina Pirates vs. Florida Gators (-8.5)
Well, I guess they decided to keep playing a game in Legion Field at least once a year now that UAB football is dead, but fortunately they scheduled that as the only game in the entire college football universe on that day and put it on ESPN2, so the Birmingham stank doesn't infect any of the other bowl games. I appreciate that respect for college football hygiene.
victims teams selected for this year's event are the University of Eastern Carolina Buccaneers and the Sunshine State Saurians. I understand, on paper, why the Gators are more than a touchdown favorite in this game, but literally everybody in Gainesville has already mentally moved past the 2014 season and the Will Muschamp era. Let's check in with the UF beat reporters and see how their morale is holding up:
Cold. Wet. Legion Field. Miserable.— Richard Johnson (@RagjUF) December 29, 2014
Yep, "Teddy Ruxpin" McNeil's boys are gonna be eatin' some gator tails. And then they're gonna get stabbed, because this is Birmingham.
Final Score Prediction: East Carolina 21, Florida 0 (And Vineyarddawg will continue to hate Florida with the fire of a thousand suns being fueled by the fire of an additional thousand suns.)
GoDaddy Bowl - Jan. 4, Mobile, AL, 9:00 PM (ESPN)
Toledo Rockets (-4) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves
Nobody cares about this bowl or the teams that are playing in it. But I'm going to watch it, and so are you, because it's the second-to-last college football game we'll see for the next 8 months. You gotta store up that football for the long, dry desert called the offseason. Besides, it's MACtion vs. FUN BELT, so it could be entertaining.
Final Score Prediction: Arkansas State 64, Toledo 63
And that'll just about do it for your Don't Bowl On It previews! As I said, Spears will be back in a few days to preview the national championship game. Until then, Don't Bet On It! And...