I only know what the average fan knows about college football. I catch the big games on TV, I listen to what the radio/TV pundits have to say, I keep fairly well informed. But the NFL keeps me busy enough where serious analysis and attention is concerned, so there are things about the college game that pass me by. For example, just how good is this Northern Illinois team that enters the Poinsettia Bowl a 13-point underdog versus the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian? Or, what were the oddsmakers thinking when they installed East Carolina as a 4-point underdog to South Florida in the PapaJohn’s.com Bowl? And just how fair is it that the University of Hawaii Rainbows get to play in the Hawaii Bowl—in Hawaii!!??
Never mind that you know the old-timey romance is definitely out of the college bowl picture when a storied team like Navy faces off with Boston College...in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. (Think about that front-end alignment you’ve been postponing while you watch the game!)
There are 32 bowl games, 64 teams. It’s enough to make Beano Cook break out into a cold sweat. And frankly, I don’t think even Beano could make consistently astute predictions about the outcomes against the spread in this motley assortment of games.
So here, for the whimsically likeminded, is a quick overview of the bowl landscape, with spreads, along with some random, semi-informed choices versus the odds. It’s fun, and everyone can play along!
12/19 Poinsettia Bowl: NORTHERN ILLINOIS (+13) vs. TCU For the sake of accuracy, this is actually the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Weird. LaDainian Tomlinson went to TCU. Northern Illinois is in the Mid-American Conference. MAC teams are always a pain in someone’s ass during March Madness. Pick: Northern Illinois.
12/21 Las Vegas Bowl: OREGON (+4.5) vs. BYU An occasional PAC-10 stalwart confronts the Mormons. They have some oddball religions in Oregon, too, you know. Pick: Oregon.
12/22 New Orleans Bowl: TROY (+7) vs. RICE Troy is one of those little southern programs that’s starting to produce NFL players. They probably can’t read or spell, but they can sure play some mean defensive tackle. Rice is probably just happy to be here. Pick: Troy.
12/23 Papa John’s.com Bowl: EAST CAROLINA (+4) vs. SOUTH FLORIDA Just what the college football world needs: another program in Florida that’s starting to achieve big-time results. South Florida beat West Virginia this year. Anybody have a clue as to their team nickname?? Pick: South Florida.
12/23 New Mexico Bowl: SAN JOSE ST. (+5) vs. NEW MEXICO Hmmm... New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl... Sounds like a stacked deck to me. Still, how can you not root for a team from San Jose? It’s so pretty there. Pick: San Jose St.
12/23 Armed Forces Bowl: TULSA (+3) vs. UTAH Is it just me, or is it suspiciously strange that the Armed Forces Bowl couldn’t manage to snag Navy for the big game? Utah has been a pretty good team of late. NFL QB Gus Frerotte went to Tulsa. Pick: Utah.
12/24 Hawaii Bowl: ARIZONA ST. (+8) vs. HAWAII This set-up is patently unfair: Hawaii at home in their very own bowl game. But if you’re gonna give me a PAC-10 team and 8 points, I’m there. Pick: Arizona St.
12/26 Motor City Bowl: MIDDLE TENN. ST. (+10.5) vs. CENTRAL MICHIGAN MTSU is the Blue Raiders, by the way. They were 7-5 this year, 6-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. They’re trying to build a legit Div. I program, and among their out-of-conference opponents this year were Louisville and Oklahoma. They got their asses kicked. Maybe they can stay with good ol’ CMU. Pick: MTSU.
12/27 Emerald Bowl: FLORIDA ST. (+5) vs. UCLA The Bruins hit their high-water mark with the big defeat of USC. For that, they were gifted with a trip to the Bay Area and a date with the legendary Bobby Bowden, whose team was only 6-6, practically an insult to Floridians. I like the really old ball coach’s chances. Pick: FSU.
12/28 Independence Bowl: ALABAMA (+2.5) vs. OKLAHOMA ST. It’s irony, right? Mike Shula coaches his team to a bowl game and himself right out of a job. Now we know what the “A” in Alabama stands for: assholes. Someone must think this’ll be close. In that case, let’s win it for the Miker. Pick: Alabama.
12/28 Holiday Bowl: TEXAS A&M (+5) vs. CALIFORNIA Can a bunch of knee-jerk lefty liberals from Berkeley really beat good ol’ boys from College Station? I think not. Pick: Texas A&M.
12/28 Texas Bowl: KANSAS ST. (+7) vs. RUTGERS I, too, was in thrall to the Scarlet Knights’ Rudy-like feel-good story, how they were an eyelash or two away from maybe even taking on Ohio St. in the biggest game of all. Then the clock struck 12. Anybody catch K-State’s victory over Texas? These guys are good. If you’re giving me 7 points to boot, it’s a no-brainer. Pick: Kansas St.
12/29 Music City Bowl: KENTUCKY (+10) vs. CLEMSON Okay, this game sounds kinda ho-hum—an SEC also-ran against an ACC also-ran. But it’s an excellent regional match-up, both teams will travel well, and in many ways this is what the bowl season should be about. Clemson should win, but the decibel level of Kentucky fans might exhort their team into beating the spread. Pick: Kentucky.
12/29 Sun Bowl: MISSOURI (+3.5) vs. OREGON ST. OSU is the team that beat USC a good while back. Mizzou plays Big 12 football. Take the team with the points. (Besides, my mother was from Missouri.) Pick: Missouri.
12/29 Liberty Bowl: HOUSTON (+6.5) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA I wonder if the ol’ ball coach Spurrier gets bored as hell having to play these bowl games. After his failure in the pros, it must be a bring-down to have to take his college squad to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. In Memphis, no less. Pick: Houston.
12/29 Insight Bowl: MINNESOTA (+7) vs. TEXAS TECH I was in Lubbock once, home of Texas Tech. Bobby Knight lives there now. Buddy Holly was from there. There’s no tree line in that part of the country. I saw Tech play Houston in football, and it was cold as a witch’s tit, with the wind blowing through the stadium like an icy dagger from hell. But the Red Raiders won. Other than that, I have no insight into this game. Pick: Texas Tech.
12/29 Champs Sports Bowl: PURDUE (+2) vs. MARYLAND Welcome to the All-Ugly Coaches Bowl, where Purdue’s Joe Tiller faces Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen. This one’s a toss-up. But Friedgen is fatter. Go with the fat. Pick: Maryland.
12/30 Meineke Bowl: NAVY (+7) vs. BOSTON COLLEGE Come Dec. 31, they’ll be shouting with rapturous glee in beautiful old Chestnut Hill, “We won the Meineke Bowl! We won the Meineke Bowl!” Pick: Boston College.
12/30 Alamo Bowl: IOWA (+11) vs. TEXAS Okay, is this one in honor of Davy Crockett or car rentals?? Those Iowa farmboys can play some football, but if this game’s in Texas, they’ll want to get back to milking cows. Pick: Texas.
12/30 Chick-fil-A Bowl: GEORGIA (+2.5) vs. VIRGINIA TECH Georgia wasn’t as good as they usually are this year. Come to think of it, neither was Tech. There are more chickens in Georgia, though. Pick: Georgia.
12/31 MPC Computers Bowl: NEVADA (+3) vs. MIAMI What happens when people who can readily avail themselves of legalized prostitution come up against a bunch of thugs? The thugs bring more mojo to the game, of course. Pick: Miami.
1/1 Outback Bowl: PENN ST. (+4.5) vs. TENNESSEE You won’t find a more mystifying “good” team than the Vols anywhere. I don’t know about you, but I’m pulling for JoPa, wheeling himself up and down the sideline, egging on his troops. Pick: Penn St.
1/1 Cotton Bowl: NEBRASKA (+3) vs. AUBURN Nebraska is coached by Bill Callahan, the guy who took the Raiders to the 2003 Super Bowl. Ever since he took over that Cornhuskers job, he looks like a guy waiting for his mother to find out he did something bad. Auburn plays kick-ass football. Pick: Auburn.
1/1 Gator Bowl: GEORGIA TECH (+7) vs. WEST VIRGINIA The Mountaineers have that Slaton guy. He can run like crazy. Tech plays defense. That’s all I know. Pick: West Virginia.
1/1 Capital One Bowl: WISCONSIN (+1.5) vs. ARKANSAS It’s the Big Ten against the SEC. What's fiercer, a badger or a hog? Well, they say a razorback hog should never be angered. Pick: Arkansas.
1/1 Rose Bowl (BCS): USC (+1) vs. MICHIGAN Wait a minute. In one breath we’re told that USC could be good enough to take on Ohio St. Now they’re an underdog in the Rose Bowl? In their own backyard? I don’t buy it. Pick: USC.
1/1 Fiesta Bowl (BCS): BOISE ST. (+8.5) vs. OKLAHOMA How come Boise St. is only getting these points? I thought they were upstarts who had no business playing against an all-world power like the Sooners. Why isn’t it 15 points, huh? They want us all to bet on Oklahoma probably. Okay, let’s do it. If the Sooners kick their asses all the way back to that Smurf-blue artificial turf they play on, big-time college football will have its vindication. Pick: Oklahoma.
1/2 Orange Bowl (BCS): WAKE FOREST (+9.5) vs. LOUISVILLE You’d think the ACC champion Demon Deacons would get more respect than this, but Louisville has that powerful offense. I think Wake will hang in there, simply because that’s what they’ve done all year long. Pick: Wake Forest.
1/3 Sugar Bowl (BCS): NOTRE DAME (+8.5) vs. LSU The Irish have had magical bowl games, but frankly I don’t think they’re that good. It’s the Cajun voodoo against Touchdown Jesus in this one. Voodoo’s in an up cycle. Pick: LSU.
1/6 International Bowl: WESTERN MICHIGAN (+8.5) vs. CINCINNATI How did this dawg get scheduled for after New Year’s Day? Gleeps. Who cares? Pick: Cincinnati.
1/7 GMAC Bowl: OHIO (+7) vs. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI Ditto this game, which I guess is supposed to remind you to make that January truck payment. Brett Favre went to Southern Miss., and that’s good enough for me. Pick: Southern Mississippi.
1/8 BCS Championship: FLORIDA (+8) vs. OHIO STATE So the Big Enchilada doesn’t have a bowl name attached to it, huh? It’s just the big game. Hmmm... I wonder what the spread would have been if Michigan had been here. Or USC. I mean, if it’s the big game and all, why isn’t it a 3-pointer? Or at least a 5-pointer? Because no one believes that Florida is that good is why. Which is kind of a shame after all that angst expended on this event. Well, from what I’ve seen of Ohio State, they are really good. And that Tressel guy who coaches them is sort of a benevolent Nazi, which could mean hell to pay for the Hurricanes. He’ll rip their hearts out, and then make nice for the cameras. Pick: Ohio State.