Bowl Mania (of the…yeah, you know the drill) – part 6

Please note: At one point late in the game, the Pinstripe Bowl score was actually Kansas State 28, Syracuse 27. I should have got credit for 35 wins by matching a score exactly; those would have been real bragging rights to have. But I also knew the moment K-State went ahead by 1 that the score wouldn’t stand; the defenses were just playing too pourous.

Speaking of yesterday’s misadventures, this from the normal bowl game banter from my Uncle Dave:

Big 10 officials need to go back to elementary officiating school – two HORRIBLE games tonight.  Tenn game was a disaster – as was the K State thing.   How dare they call a bowl game at the close w/ such a goofy call as to change the outcome.

In all honesty, I think both officiating crews NEARLY handled what they were faced with as well as they could have.  And in both cases, the head referee let their crews down.

I will never forget randomly talking to a soccer referee while committing one of my random acts of geeky tourism in grad school (watching a minor-league soccer game in Hershey, Pennsylvania…yes, such things as minor-league soccer exist, although not in Hershey anymore). He was preparing to call a major youth tournament the following day, and (like any good referee) he had his whistle with him. At some point I asked him what he considered a foul or something, at which point he gave me a look as if to say kid, you don’t understand a thing and then he said “look, when you call a tournament game, this is the first thing you do.” He then showed me his whistle, and then he put the whistle in his pocket.

“The KIDS play. The KIDS decide the game. I don’t.”

The Kansas State salute:  yes, I can see why that flag is thrown in the heat of the moment (in the very same way that I can’t blame a kid for a quick moment of exultation in the heat of the moment).  By the letter of the rule, what you saw at the end of that game WAS excessive celebration (and next year, that move DOES take the touchdown off the board – we can talk about how wrong-headed that rule is, but it WILL be the rule).  It is down to the head referee to know the implications, and that the penalty for excessive celebration would almost CERTAINLY cost Kansas State a chance at the game; that’s down to him to make the fair decision as emotions die down, wave the flag over his head, and say “there is no foul on the play.”  The referee doesn’t even have to say what his crewman saw.  Think about it for a moment, and tell your crewman “I’m not letting a ticky-tack infraction have that kind of an impact. The KIDS play. The KIDS decide the game. I don’t.”

That does technically ignore the rule, but it’s not like television sets across America were tuned in to a game immediately following where salutes were going off right and left, with little extra bits of hip-hop flair, and people across the fruited plain were muttering under their breath “excessive celebration, 15 yards…excessive celebration, 15 yards…”

And yes, as for the chaos at the end of North Carolina – Tennessee:  for the love of all that is holy, man, once you say “the game is over,” then the dad-gum game is over, and it’s ESPECIALLY over when you’re in Nashville and Tennessee is getting declared the winner in front of a partisan crowd!  Either you mean those words to be final or YOU DON’T SAY THEM!  You say, I suppose, “The play is under review; the ruling on the field is that time has expired” or something equally convoluted – yes, you obscure what you mean, because saying what you mean is the equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in the crowded theater!

Again:  every ruling that was made was correct, if NCAA-stupid.  Why you don’t expire the clock after an offensive foul as the clock was running with 0:01 remaining is beyond me, but that’s not in the NCAA rulebook.  You can snap the ball with that one second remaining with your ENTIRE HUNDRED-MAN SQUAD ON THE FIELD and that’s a five-yard penalty but you get the one second.  So again, the guys knew the rulebook and handled the rulings correctly.

But they handled the rulings correctly AFTER their boss said “the game is over.”  And then, it doesn’t matter quite so much, does it?

“Here is a trustworthy saying”, said the Apostle Paul:  “If anyone sets his heart on being a head referee, he desires a noble task.”  (At least, I think that’s what he wrote to Timothy.)

 

This day is for the Florida schools – all of them but UF itself. And I honestly don’t see why the Outback Bowl has to be played on New Year’s Day; five Florida schools playing bowl games in one day? Tasty.

 

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL
SOUTH FLORIDA (7-5) v CLEMSON (6-6)

My pick in this game is nothing more and nothing less than lack of faith in South Florida. They had their big win towards the end of the regular season against Miami (the result that eventually cost Randy Shannon his job) but couldn’t keep UConn out of the BCS, and generally, South Florida finds ways to disappoint on the back of what should be program-building wins. The deep suspicion is that South Florida will disappoint again.

Of course, I’m picking them to disappoint against a Clemson program that has consistently disappointed since 1981. I don’t claim any fashion of consistency in my takes. CLEMSON 19, SOUTH FLORIDA 13.

 

SUN BOWL
NOTRE DAME (7-5) v MIAMI (YES, THAT MIAMI) (7-5)

Burning questions: (1) Did Notre Dame really figure it out when they throttled Utah, Army and USC in succession to close the season, or was it flattery-to-decieve and will they come crashing to earth here? (2) Will Miami rally under Jeff Stoutland, or collapse without their moral compass after Randy Shannon’s sacking?

My suspicion: there’s a lot more evidence to go on with Notre Dame’s late-season prospects than there is with anything in the Miami program ahead of Al Golden’s arrival. Again, in times of trouble, go with what you know. NOTRE DAME 28, MIAMI 14.

 

LIBERTY BOWL
UCF (10-3) v GEORGIA (6-6)

Central Florida had a delightful season, and (with the possible exception of the Southern Miss home loss) consistently won every game they were supposed to win. Georgia had a horrific start to the season in the midst of A.J. Green’s suspension, and was very fortunate to finish 6-6 after collapsing against Colorado at the season’s nadir.

And Georgia is point-blank the best 6-6 team in the country, and the whole reason that six wins is deserving of bowl eligibility. I think Aaron Murray is the best quarterback UCF has played all year, and UCF had to face down North Carolina State and Russell Wilson. A.J. Green is certainly the best receiver UCF will have to play. I hate picking 6-6 teams over 10-3 teams – winning ten games in The Division Formerly Known As I-A is HARD, and Central Florida is a very good team – but this is the type of team that makes the populace quake when they hear the letters ESS EEE SEE. GEORGIA 41, UCF 31.

 

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL
SOUTH CAROLINA (9-4) v FLORIDA STATE (9-4)

With all credit to Jimbo Fisher for getting Florida State back within a shout of the ACC title, this game should be a South Carolina runaway, and it’s easily explained:
(1) With two losses to Auburn – one in the regular season, one in the SEC Champsionship – South Carolina’s four losses are much more legitimate than Florida State’s;
(2) Steve Spurrier can unleash his inner Gator in a bowl game against Florida State, even if he doesn’t quite recognize the guy on the other sideline;
(3) Most importantly, Spurrier has finally found the three plays he needs to turn South Carolina into an SEC powerhouse: Marcus Lattimore left, Marcus Lattimore right, Marcus Lattimore up the middle. MARCUS LATTIMORE 35, FLORIDA STATE 15.

 

Wait – did I just pick the state of Florida to go 0-4 on New Year’s Eve? I think I did! Maybe UF should stay on New Year’s Day after all.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind…

Bowl Mania (of the college football variety) – Part 5

There is a spectacular Ohio State vent coming. I will save it until time to pick the Sugar Bowl. I want to say it in measured tones, given the mixed company that reads these musings.

There’s plenty of other things to rant about, worry not.

 

ARMED FORCES BOWL
ARMY (6-6) v SMU (7-6)

I think the idea behind this matchup is, I am supposed to be excited over two of the great old college programs meeting up behind two unique offensive systems. All I can think of is the raging inconsistency and mediocrity. This is a tossup and a guess, nothing more. SMU 25, ARMY 19.

 

PINSTRIPE BOWL
KANSAS STATE (7-5) v SYRACUSE (7-5)

Homer pick! I support Hilliard, Florida’s own Daniel Thomas, the hometown’s best NFL prospect since that guy who played line for the Denver Broncos when I was extremely young. (This article probably represents the most positive coverage Hilliard, Florida has ever recieved in the Los Angeles Times.)

And yet, the closer that I get to game time, the more I start to feel like the homer pick is foolhardy. This is a New York City bowl game, the first since 1962, and Syracuse (who spent the entire Greg Robinson Era in the bowl-wilderness) will be extremely well-supported. I stand behind the picks as I originally selected them two weeks ago…at least, I do until I’m eliminated from this pick-’em game. (Soon. Very soon.) KANSAS STATE 28, SYRACUSE 27.

 

MUSIC CITY BOWL
NORTH CAROLINA (7-5) v TENNESSEE (6-6)

Boy, those Vols have had a whale of a year, thanks Lane Kiffin. (Your GIF of the day, courtesy of SixMeatBuffet.com – for the nostalgic among us, UT versions still available.) But Vince Dooley’s boy has stabilized the ship, if not entirely righted it yet; Tennessee is at least somewhat steady and reliable right now.

In contrast, in this Butch-Davis-AgentGate-complete-NCAA-compliance-failure era, I have zero trust in the North Carolina Tar Heels. I’m confident in what Tennessee team that will show up; I have no clue which North Carolina team will show up (or even literally which players will show up). In times of trouble, go with what you know. TENNESSEE 20, NORTH CAROLINA 14.

 

HOLIDAY BOWL
NEBRASKA (10-3) v WASHINGTON (6-6)

It occurs to me that I have resisted a standard trope of bowl pick-’em columns for a couple of years now, despite the fact that firms like Advocare, uDrove, and Little Caesar’s have been tempting me, and now a company that is far enough beyond the pale AND just in my realm of expertise has presented itself for appropriate comment.

Ladies and gentlemen, I must rant about the stupidity of a bowl sponsor.

For the past eight years, the Holiday Bowl has been selling you life insurance through Pacific Life – solid and reputable. Previously, the Holiday Bowl has sold you water purification (Culligan), car rental (Thrifty), cars (Plymouth – !) and, of course, holidays (SeaWorld). Now, the Holiday Bowl’s title sponsor is…um…a for-profit higher education company?

Bridgepoint Education (and it is Bridgepoint, not Bridgeport as I keep hearing ESPN insisting) owns two institutions – Ashford University and the University of the Rockies. Both were formerly privately-held, nonprofit schools – U of the Rockies was a previously the Colorado School of Professional Psychology, and Ashford was previously The Franciscan University of the Prairies. Bridgepoint has bought both institutions out over the past decade.

It’s notable that the parent firm is doing the sponsoring. Pointedly, the Holiday Bowl is not selling to you or me, because none of us will ever do business with Bridgepoint Education. And even more notably, Bridgepoint is advertising its for-profit education services, in support of institutions that will pursue generally less-privileged prospective students, to business leaders who will be watching…a football game between two large publicly-funded state universities.

Maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’ve been in this business too long, but it occurs to me that this system is extremely messed up.

Oh, the football game? Should I even watch it?  It’s not like we haven’t seen this story before. NEBRASKA 56, WASHINGTON 21.

 

As far as the Pearson family game is concerned, there may be a contender arising from the pack as we head into the genuine Moving Days of the bowl season, but for the moment there is (with eyes cast to the great state of Texas) my cousin Matt on 10-4, there is my Uncle Dave on 9-5, and then there is everyone else, who despite our best efforts have proved collectively clueless. I don’t see that changing today, and it’s going to take some results falling exactly right for that to change tomorrow either. (Personally, the best I hope for is honors among the Florida Pearsons, and yet with all this research I’m still a game behind executive-secretary father and brother, and level with defending-champion and CEO mother.)

It would be one thing if you were getting these musings from somebody who had demonstrated his picking worth, but in this economy, what you get, what you pay for, you can do the math from there.

Cheers, and until tomorrow….

Bowl Mania (of the college football variety) – Part 4

An addendum to my musings for Dan Jr.’s benefit on Monday:

The sbnation.com project I referenced was a popular-vote sort of deal; all the SBNation bloggers made their picks, and the site’s picks were the majority in each case. Well, if you look at how we’re doing as a family for the 11 games so far, we’re 3-7 (with a split vote on Iowa-Missouri). We’ve had overwhelming 9-1 opinion on Southern Miss beating Louisville, Boise State beating Utah, and Hawaii beating Tulsa; we’re 1-2 on that front.

Fam, we don’t know what we’re talking about; none of us do.

Am I using this take to mask my own 3-8 ineptitude? You bet I am.

 

Three games today; four games tomorrow; four games on New Year’s Eve; six games on New Year’s Day. There is one set of standings right now; after January 1, they will be completely different, and the endgame will be firmly in place. But bully to Matt and Uncle Dave for owing the game thus far. My own chances at catching up are close to nil.

This won’t stop me spouting like a know-it-all, though.

 

MILITARY BOWL
MARYLAND v EAST CAROLINA

Yes, I made this pick after Maryland forced out Ralph Friedgen. Before that dubious move, I was leaning Maryland anyway; inconsistent-but-occasionally-spectacular ACC team over inconsistent-but-occasionally-acceptable Conference USA team. Then this became “win one for the Fridge.”

Spare a thought for Ruffin McNeill, though. Last season he was the guy responsible for rallying the troops after Mike Leach’s ouster at Texas Tech, which he did to great effect by beating Michigan State in last year’s Alamo Bowl. He got the East Carolina job out of that, and his first bowl game might be in the face of the buzzsaw of a motivated Maryland side, supporting their coach, who’s just been sacked in favor of…Mike Leach, if the rumors are to be believed? It’s funny how this game turns. MARYLAND 28, EAST CAROLINA 3.

 

TEXAS BOWL
ILLINOIS v BAYLOR

Um…home field advantage, maybe? This bowl season has already been impossible to figure out, and these teams are even harder. Congrats to Baylor, though; this bowl berth has been a long time coming, and maybe this is best described as a motivation pick (first bowl in forever vs. hoping that Fresno State loss wasn’t as bad as Fresno State’s bowl game made it look). BAYLOR 30, ILLINOIS 27.

 

ALAMO BOWL
OKLAHOMA STATE v ARIZONA

Has it become clear enough that I’m running out of words? This is at least an easier game to pick, for me; Oklahoma State beat every team they were supposed to beat, couldn’t find a way past Nebraska or Oklahoma (the class of the Big XII this year), and were unfortunate not to get the Cotton Bowl nod over TAMU. Oklahoma is better than this bowl game. Arizona is coming in on a four-game losing streak (yeah, losses to Stanford and Oregon away are forgiveable; losing to Arizona State at home isn’t so much) and does have the quality win over Iowa (more quality after last night, but at season’s end it was looking like flattery-to-deceive) but has folded every time they’ve played a team of real quality. The Cowboys have sufficient quality. OKLAHOMA STATE 45, ARIZONA 24.

 

As I was finishing this, I came across the news that the Sugar Bowl lobbied to keep Ohio State’s Tattoo Five eligible for the bowl game and to delay their five-game suspension until next season, and the Sugar Bowl CEO is willing to go on the record saying so and get quoted saying something like “[my] appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I’m extremely excited about it, that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength and with no dilution.” The NCAA is denying that such lobbying played any role in the timing of the suspensions, which only means that the NCAA is getting less and less credible by the day.

To be blunt, I’m ashamed of my alma mater and that I’m feeling uneasy now about even watching the Sugar Bowl or supporting any of the bowl sponsors (not that I’d ever have a thing to do with Allstate anyway). I’ve been known to overreact to stuff, but I’m sick about this.

Never mind the string of invectives I can clearly envision my grandfather spouting about anyone, no matter how talented, having the unmitigated gall to SELL their Gold Pants. The phrase “Woody rolling over in his grave” comes to mind.

I may have more coherent to say tomorrow.

Bowl Mania (of the college football variety) – Part 3

Before getting into the current picks, I have a special word for my young cousin Dan Jr.

Sports Blog Nation (which is now branded as sbnation.com) was seriously ramping up their college football coverage this time last year, and had just signed a host of highly clueful college football bloggers, up to and including Spencer Hall as a editor, who gained a ton of notoriety both for doing independent writing and funny and intelligent writing for the Sporting News. He knew college football well, and he was surrounding himself with people who knew college football better.

As part of their effort to ramp up the content on their page, they picked by committee the results of all the 2009 college football bowl games.

Here were the results. Most notable: the results of the first seven picks, all missed, several spectacularly.

So, Dan: If people who get paid to write about college football can pick so poorly, anybody can. And if you keep this up and you work at it, you can spill literally thousands of words of knowledge about the football games you’re watching and finish with a 2-5 record. Like me.

Meanwhile, people both with long and distinguished histories of picking these games at seeming random (like your Uncle Matt) and people who just start playing the game on a lark (like my mother) can make us both look like fools.

And yet I keep investing hours in this game, studying and watching, so I can make the most clueful picks possible below. You will grow up and wonder why you love this game so much. And yet you will keep watching.

College football, our passion, our pain.

LITTLE CAESARS BOWL
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (6-6) v TOLEDO (8-4)

Let me go through my logic on this pick ahead of the bowl season, and then let me detail the conundrum I’m presently dealing with.

The first level of my prognostication was very straightforward: this year’s model of the Sun Belt Conference was the worst FBS conference overall in the BCS era. FIU beat Troy in November in a defense-free encounter and stumbled around against Sun Belt also-rans to back into the conference title. This same team couldn’t score against Rutgers and was throttled by Florida Atlantic; they couldn’t win the conference because Troy was equally inept when it mattered most. These are not good football teams; they couldn’t make the playoffs in I-AA. Toledo was not a great football team (their moment of shame was a 20-15 home loss to Wyoming) but they generally beat the teams they were supposed to beat, grabbed a good win or two on the road, and and generally played respectable football.

That said, Troy was not a demonstrably better team than Ohio, and yet Ohio looked like goats with muscular dystrophy ($1 to the estate of Lewis Grizzard) last week in a genuinely awful football game in New Orleans. Of course, New Orleans is an exciting city, as opposed to Detroit.

You know, in all candor, I don’t think I’ve convinced myself of anything besides the fact that this football game will be bad. TOLEDO 5, FIU 3.


INDEPENDENCE BOWL
AIR FORCE (8-4) v GEORGIA TECH (6-6)

I know a skill player on the Georgia Tech roster – one of my former students transferred to Tech a couple of years back, and he’s on the roster. However, I’m not real sure he’d want me to share his name, given that Josh Nesbitt won’t be there to get him the ball and Tech hasn’t been able to win without him. Both teams will be option-mad; only one team will be able to move the ball through the air. AIR FORCE 45, GEORGIA TECH 17.


CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
WEST VIRGINIA (9-3) v NORTH CAROLINA STATE (8-4)

This is the first game I’ve seriously considered changing my pick on from my original. West Virginia had a genuinely disruptive coaching transition with Dana Holgorsen getting brought in as offensive coordinator and West Virginia’s Bill Stewart getting a de-facto demotion to “coach-in-awkwardness” ($1 to Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel). Doing the job preparing the offense will be genuinely difficult.

Fortunately, West Virginia can play defense, and they will need to. Russell Wilson has an energetic quarterback and he can score, but West Virginia can keep teams off the board. With the speed that the Mountaineers have on offense, I think they can find 24 points, and I think that will be enough – barely. WEST VIRGINIA 24, NC STATE 23.


INSIGHT BOWL
MISSOURI (10-2) v IOWA (7-5)

These are old regional rivals, who last met in 1910. Your link of the day is a Columbia Daily Tribune story on the racial strife that killed the rivalry – a look into the dark past of college football. There aren’t likely to be old wounds opened in this game, but there will be a little bit of extra intensity.

Unfortunately, Iowa comes into this game is complete turmoil. Starting wideout Derell Johnson-Koulianos is accused of a staggering range of drugs charges, up to and including keeping a drug house, and will never play for Iowa again. Enough players left the team in the aftermath that Kirk Ferentz and AD Gary Barta had to address the Iowa media last week and say “the rumors that half the offense is going to get kicked off the team and/or arrested are false”; not everybody in Iowa believes them. Morale among the Iowa fan base is somewhat low.

It would be possible to imagine the team rallying and unifying if they were playing a garden-variety Big XII opponent. Against a motivated old regional rival who has had a exceptional season and was a solid second-place in the Big XII North? I can’t see how this isn’t a blowout. MISSOURI 49, IOWA 15.


This year’s bowl season has set up in a fashion where there isn’t so much a single Moving Day as a whole Moving Week: December 29, 30, 31 and January 1 build a crescendo of games, three then four then four more then SIX on New Year’s Day, and the family rivalry will be genuinely on that week. And I can catch ANYBODY in the fam over this week…

…except for Aunt Alice. Has anybody looked at how much our picks agree for the next week? It’s FRIGHTENING.

Hope you got everything you wanted in your stocking.

Bowl Mania (of the college football variety) – Part 2

(For the record:  e-mail was sent to the whole fam at midday, and was only posted to blogspace upon my return to personal home base in Romega.  I feel minimal guilt about exposing this to the world as the third quarter of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl is underway, because (a) this game is still tied anyway and (b) the rest of the Pearson fam can verify the legitimacy of these picks.  Hoorah, and stuff.  Enjoy your football.)

The missive here is brought to you by the random juggling necessary at the Florida base of operations to get internet service.  Apparently, Florida HQ is nestled neatly between two houses with unlocked wireless service, and it is possible to get signal if you sit the computer just right.  I don’t know this from personal experience.  Oh no.

I don’t know how long this rogue signal will last, though, so I’d better type quick.

BEEF ‘O’ BRADY’S BOWL
SOUTHERN MISS (8-4) v LOUISVILLE (6-6)
I can confirm that this is, in fact, the correct spelling of “Beef ‘O’ Brady’s” – with contraction marks on BOTH sides of the O.  Your commentary winner is the indispensable Holly Anderson of SBNation.com, who remarked on Southern Miss accepting their bid that “the Golden Eagles will play a Big East team…giving the bowl a 1.5-to-1 apostrophe-to-program ratio.”

Anderson projected that Big East team to be Pittsburgh, who at least would have had an offensive identity.  As it is, the most character this game has is in those blasted apostrophes.  SOUTHERN MISS 12, LOUISVILLE 10.

MAACO LAS VEGAS BOWL
BOISE STATE (11-1) v UTAH (9-2)
Boise State apologists like myself were anticipating a Broncos rout before Jordan Wynn was ruled out of the game.  Utah had the weakest resume of the top “non-Automatic Qualifier” teams before TCU and Notre Dame torched them in succession.  Of course, Boise State had their own “before” – the time before two spectacular kicking miscues torpedoed their own season.  This is a classic motivation game, so nobody should be surprised if Utah shows up and Boise State doesn’t.  However, like I said, I’m a Boise State apologist.  BOISE STATE 38, UTAH 21.

POINSETTIA BOWL
NAVY (9-3) v SAN DIEGO STATE (8-4)
This is an extremely close matchup, which means I have to dig for which team has an edge.  Fortunately, I have three factors that come immediately to mind:
(1) the team with the more difficult offense to defend (Navy);
(2) the team with more big-game experience (and what matchup does San Diego State have that can remotely compare to GO NAVY BEAT ARMY);
(3) the team with the coach that wants to be there (and isn’t like Brady Hoke who is openly pining for a job in Ann Arbor that he will never have).  NAVY 49, SAN DIEGO STATE 38.

HAWAII BOWL
HAWAII (10-3) v TULSA (9-3)
My enthusiasm for the WAC took a hammer blow on Saturday afternoon when Northern Illinois ran all over Fresno.  I could see how this game could go the same way – Tulsa advocates can point to a season with a victory over Notre Dame and an unfortunate loss to SMU that kept them out of the Conference USA title game.

I stick to my guns stubbornly, and with Hawaii playing a home game, why wouldn’t I?  When was the last time Hawaii lost at home, anyway?  (For the record: first game of the season, against USC.)  HAWAII 54, TULSA 28.

Until Christmas…

Bowl Mania (of the college football variety) – Part 1

This is the fair warning to the whole Pearson clan: All my writing of late has concerned laboratory configurations, science literacy, or 9.8*sin(deg2rad({theta}))-{muk)*cos(deg2rad({theta})) (love to this semester’s PHY 1030 class). I have been observing the college football, but while I’ve been doing the academic work and with significantly less rigor than in years past, and I have not been writing much of anything about it. Therefore, I fear this is going to sound extremely technical and yet still find a way to be light on substance.

However, my seasonal communique on the state of college football (with a full set of bowl picks thrown in for good measure) seems to be a source of family entertainment even when it’s ill-constructed, ill-conceived, and ill-executed (I’ve only shared the coveted Pearson family hardware once, after all) and so I’ve chosen to make it available to the wider populace for the first time. I hope it’s enjoyed.

I do have to mention the initial e-mail received from our current Bowl Mania CEO and defending champion of our annual family tournament – my mother. I shall resist the temptation to snark over the failure to receive the usual spreadsheet; there’s no one best way to submit picks for this enterprise, and I can understand how geeks of a certain vintage might prefer the simple Microsoft Word document to a ready-made spreadsheet. But what took me aback was the title of the document – “2010 College Bowl Ballot.” For those who don’t know, in addition to my faculty/professional geek duties, I advise Shorter’s academic bowl team, and College Bowl is one of the formats we used to play (as well as the lone format of the game that’s ever been televised, and again, I must commend the famous Princeton v Agnes Scott match to your attention). I seriously wanted to know what my man from College Bowl, Tom Michael, wanted me to vote on. Alas, it’s simply Bowl Mania time.

So, without further ado, we’re going to start picking games.

NEW MEXICO BOWL
BYU (6-6) v UTEP (6-6)
The standard operating procedure for these write-ups is to hone in on what looks like sophisticated knowledge of the game (but really is something any joe could figure out after a weekend browsing Dr. Saturday -and if you have any claim to college football geekdom but don’t religiously read Dr. Saturday, the former Sunday Morning Quarterback, shame on you), and follow it up with a gentle jab at a far more useful pop-culture reference.

How it’s done, especially for a football game that will be as miserable as this utterly forgettable Mountain West v Conference USA matchup will prove to be: “BYU enters this game on the back of a 4-1 run to close the season, with Jake Heaps going from highly-touted-bust to highly-touted-with-a-reason. UTEP enters this game…with an inexplicable .500 record and a washed-up old Pac-10 coach of questionable personal ethics who swings a pickaxe for no good reason. BYU 27, UTEP 3, AND IT’S ROLLING, BABY.

See the model? And had you forgotten that Mike Price landed at UTEP after that unforgettable season as Alabama’s coach-elect? See, that’s what I’m here to remind you of.

uDROVE HUMANITARIAN BOWL
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (10-3) v FRESNO STATE (8-4)

I would have been very curious to see how this game turned out if the brilliantly-named Jerry Kill hadn’t taken off to Minne-ha-ha, and even in the wake of that departure I may be selling Northern Illinois short – they were far and away the most reliable team in the MAC this season, and only lost the MAC Championship on a fluky tip drill. Ordinarily, I would be all over the top team in the MAC over the consensus #4 team from the WAC.

However, and I will return to this theme frequently over the course of this month – the Western Athletic Conference this season was a beastly monster, one far more deserving of your respect than your garden-variety mid-major league. I hope I don’t need to convince you of Boise State’s power, or Nevada’s power after their brilliant comeback against the Broncos, and Hawaii has returned to their air-raiding entertaining ways. Fresno State lost to Ole Miss and beat Cincy and Illinois; they were OK against BCS foes. Northern Illinois, on the other hand, beat Minne-ha-ha and lost to Iowa State and…that same Illinois team.

If that doesn’t convince you, Jerry Kill’s mustache has left for Big Ten pastures, while Pat Hill’s brilliant facial hair has held it down in Fresno for fourteen seasons now. I think we’re done here. FRESNO STATE 34, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 20.

R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL
OHIO (8-4) v TROY (7-5)

The stat that you will hear repeatedly over the course of the runup to this game (should you even care to pay a tiny bit of attention): Ohio University has never won a bowl game in four attempts. A win in this game would be the next step in Frank Solich’s reconstruction of a proud Bobcat history.

The stat you will not hear repeatedly in the runup, but you really should to understand the demolition that is about to take place: Sun Belt Conference bowl-eligble teams have a collective record of 0-8 this season against BCS conference opposition, including Middle Tennessee’s 24-17 loss to Minne-ha-ha, Florida International’s TWO losses to Big East teams (Pittsburgh and Rutgers, if you care), and Troy’s competitive effort against Oklahoma State and capitulation against South Carolina. (Troy padded their nonconference with games against mid-major tomato cans Bowling Green and UAB…and couldn’t even beat UAB!) Troy is very likely the best team in the worst conference in BCS-era history.

(The MAC’s corresponding record among their five bowl-eligble teams isn’t great, but it is 3-8, including Temple’s win over BCS-bound UConn. Temple isn’t in a bowl this year. I hate the bowl system.)

The point is this: Ohio isn’t great shakes, but they’re due a bowl win. Troy is bad, and they only have a winning record because the rest of their conference is worse. This is the Sun Belt’s best chance at a bowl win this bowl season. Sorry, guys. OHIO 31, TROY 13.

Please note the added bonus of this flavor of college football analysis: several instances of calling a fine Midwestern state school in a city of rich and vibrant culture “Minne-ha-ha”. You can’t get this kind of sophisticated writing anywhere else, folks.

I’ll return sometime around Monday with a take on the weeknight pre-Christmas games…and a report from Florida? Stay tuned for more obnoxious analysis of bad college football…