Weekend Viewer's Guide - Bowl Edition

Florida and Michigan were at the center of the college football debate that was raging on January 1, 2007. Did the Gators deserve their spot in the BCS title game, or had the Wolverines been more worthy? After Michigan got thrashed by USC in the Rose Bowl, the question was largely settled.

Debate will not enter into the equation this year, as the two schools meet in the Capital One Bowl. ABC has the telecast from Orlando beginning at 1 p.m. on New Year's Day. Mike Patrick and Todd Blackledge are the play-by-play crew with Holly Rowe as the sideline reporter.

Big Ten partisans looking to spin the conference's top two teams getting humiliated by Florida and USC after last season fell back on the Big Ten's 2-1 mark overall against the SEC in the bowls. Several SEC teams have had major upheavals since the season wrapped up, meaning the conference's overall strength this season wi

ll be hard to judge strictly by bowl performances. Here's the breakdown of all your post-Christmas bowl viewing options. Our categories are named for hangover cures you can try after a big New Year's Eve party. All times are Eastern.

HAIR OF THE DOG - MORE BOOZE!

Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN) - Dec 31 at 4, ESPN - Gator fans will be taping this one, as FSU brings their suspension depleted squad to Nashville to face Kentucky. Even if the Seminoles can pull a new "Music City Miracle" and get a win against Kentucky, they'll still have to deal with a heaping helping of negative publicity throughout the broadcast as well as questions about Bobby Bowden's future. As for Kentucky, they get the chance to wrap up Andre' Woodson's career on a high note, as FSU's defense was hit especially hard by the suspensions. The Wildcats are missing some key weapons with injuries themselves, though.

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) - Jan 1 at 4:30, ABC - Ron Zook's Illinois squad is a sizable underdog to Pete Carroll's USC squad. As Gator fans know, Zook coached teams are always at their most dangerous when no one's expecting them to win. USC, UF and Georgia are three of the most likely selections for next year's preseason number one spot. A big win here might give the Trojans the edge for the spot, since the two SEC schools are likely to split some votes. Carroll's guys SHOULD be able to torch the Illini secondary, especially the safeties, but with Zook you never know.

BCS Championship (New Orleans, LA) - Jan 7 at 8, FOX - Ohio State is 0 for ever against SEC teams in bowl games and tries to change that as they take on LSU. Things don't look promising for the Buckeyes. The Superdome will be full of Tiger fans and key LSU players like Glenn Dorsey and Early Doucet should be as healthy as they've been since midway through the season. One possible bright spot for Ohio State is Bo Pelini's hiring as Nebraska head coach which may have his attention diverted from fully focusing on this game.

GATORADE

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta, GA) - Dec 31 at 7:30, ESPN - Auburn made a change at their offensive coordinator spot, bringing in Tony Franklin from Troy to take over play-calling from Al Borges. Franklin will be taking Auburn toward a spread look with Kodi Burns at quarterback next season, and we may get a preview in this game. Clemson's offensive coordinator Rob Spence has interviewed for the same position with Tennessee but will definitely work this game. He's got an enormous playbook but always seems to be calling the same handful of plays. Clemson may look to feature running back James Davis, who's been threatening to turn pro if he's not satisfied with how much he'll get the ball next season. Historically the Chick-Fil-A bowl is one of the closest each season, and this matchup looks like it could live up to that reputation.

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) - Jan 1 at 8:30, FOX - The team that played the worst schedule in all of division one football gets to try and show they're legit as Hawaii takes on Georgia. June Jones would like to remind you that Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan isn't a system guy like that Tim Tebow fellow. This is the first of back to back games against the SEC for Hawaii, with UF in Gainesville their opener for next season. Under Mark Richt, Georgia has done well in bowl games, winning four of their last five. The one they didn't was in the Sugar Bowl against a West Virginia team they were expected to beat comfortably, though. We'll see what lessons Richt learned to motivate his guys from that experience.

LOTS OF WATER

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN) - Dec. 29 at 4:30, ESPN - UCF's star tailback Kevin Smith has announced he'll stay in school for his senior season. This game gives him hi chance at 2008 Doak Walker and Heisman media darling status. Mississippi State will be the first of nine SEC teams to play in a bowl game and somewhat surprisingly is the underdog against UCF by a field goal.

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX) - Dec 29 at 8, ESPN - Texas A&M has been awful in bowl games recently. That's a big part of the reason Dennis Franchione was fired. Mike Sherman hasn't arrived yet, meaning former Gator interim head man Gary Darnell will lead the Aggies in this one. Joe Paterno and Penn State weren't too good this season, but this is a great opportunity for him to pick up another win in the battle for the all time record with Bobby Bowden. This bowl has tended to feature some surprises in recent years.

Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX) - Dec 31 at 2, CBS - USF gets a national TV spotlight for their third bowl game and has a great chance to pick up a win against an Oregon team which was out of gas at the end of the year because of all their injuries. The Ducks scheme is a lot of fun to watch if they have anyone capable of executing it. The question is whether the added bowl practice time has someone healthy and prepared enough to do that.

Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL) - Jan 1 at 11am, ESPN - Tennessee returns to the bowl they lost last season. Since season's end, UT has lost offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe and WR coach Trooper Taylor, their top recruiter, to other jobs. Three more staffers may leave as well to be part of Cutcliffe's Duke staff. Six Vols are suspended for academics, including their leading receiver and two defensive starters. It's safe to say things are a mess in Knoxville, but the Vols still have a decent shot to beat a decidedly lackluster Wisconsin team.

Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX) - Jan 1 at 11:30, FOX - Two of the top four for the Heisman get together as Darren McFadden plays his final college football game for Arkansas against QB Chase Daniel and Missouri. Daniel's from near Dallas, so this is a special game for him. It's the second straight year Arkansas's bowl trip is overshadowed by a soap opera, this time the departure of Houston Nutt to Ole Miss and the hiring of Bobby Petrino as his replacement.

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ) - Jan 2 at 8, FOX - Oklahoma hosts West Virginia in what would have been an intriguing game prior to Rich Rodriguez bailing out for the Michigan job. Now, after the prolonged distraction of a coaching search that's seemed more like a political campaign, it's hard to imagine the Mountaineers will be well prepared for this one. The Sooners have had to deal with losing to Boise State in this game last season for an entire year. That should motivate them to overcome the hangover teams sometimes have when they make the same bowl trip twice in a row.

V8

Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA) - Dec. 27 at 8, ESPN - Texas may be the team that achieved the least, considering their talent, of any squad that's playing in a decent bowl game. Arizona State did well in its first year under Dennis Erickson but suffered some injury losses late in the season.

Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando, FL) - Dec 28 at 5, ESPN - Boston College has the longest active string of consecutive bowl wins, but has to be disappointed after losing to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game. Michigan State is overjoyed to be back in a bowl for the first time in four years but has several important suspensions for academics including their best pass rusher. Count on seeing the highlight clip of Matt Ryan's TD pass to beat Tech during the regular season another three or four times. ESPN does it out of habit at this point.

Meineke Car Care Bowl (Charlotte, NC) - Dec 29 at 1, ESPN - Wake Forest's creative run game is normally worth watching. Connecticut was one of the luckiest teams in football this season. To be honest, the thing that most intrigues me about this game is what color the jacket that bowl representatives wear will be - metallic silver? Rust?

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA) - Dec. 30 at 8, ESPN - Colorado coach Dan Hawkins is a new age kind of guy. He writes a blog on the CU website and frequently quotes philosophers including Yoda. The only philosophy Nick Saban has is "what's in it for me?". His Alabama team flopped big time down the stretch and played in Shreveport last season so they may not be too excited about this game.

Humanitarian Bowl (Boise, ID) - Dec 31 at 2, ESPN2 - Georgia Tech will be coached by interim head man Jon Tenuta, who already knows he's leaving rather than stay on as new head coach Paul Johnson's defensive coordinator. Most believe he's joining Les Miles's LSU staff as defensive coordinator, so getting a look at his scheme elevates this one category. Fresno State's had a resurgence this season but isn't anything special to watch.

Insight Bowl (Tempe, AZ) - Dec 31 at 5:30, NFL Network - Indiana being in a bowl and honoring their late coach Terry Hoeppner is a nice story. Oklahoma State is 6-6 for the season, 4-4 in conference play. You can't get much more mediocre than that.

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL) - Jan 1 at 1, CBS - Texas Tech's offense is always fun to watch. Virginia has won a bunch of games narrowly this year, but they're not likely to keep this one close enough to win it late.

Orange Bowl (Miami, FL) - Jan 3 at 8, FOX - Kansas played one quality opponent all year and lost to them, yet they're somehow in the BCS. Virginia Tech is the champion of a mediocre conference, but they've got vastly better athletes than the Jayhawks do.

GMAC Bowl (Mobile, AL) - Jan 6 at 8, ESPN - There's only two college football games left, and this is one of them. Hence it gets a rating one spot higher than it probably should. It's Tulsa against Bowling Green, by the way, but if you decide to watch it you probably don't care.

GO BACK TO SLEEP

Motor City Bowl (Detroit, MI) - Dec. 26 at 7:30, ESPN - Purdue and Central Michigan stage a rematch of their September 15th game that was won by the Boilermakers 45-22. This is the least necessary sequel since Daddy Day Care 2. Joe Tiller's bowl record is an uninspiring 3-7, and Purdue's lost their last three postseason games.

Texas Bowl (Houston, TX) - Dec. 28 at 8, NFL Network - Matching up TCU and Houston proves this bowl is living up to its name. The Horned Frogs should benefit from Houston's staff being torn apart as a result of coach Art Briles leaving for the Baylor job. Somehow I don't think this being on NFL Network's going to get too many people to call their cable companies and demand they add it.

Emerald Bowl (San Francisco, CA) - Dec. 28 at 8:30, ESPN - A beaver taking on a turtle sounds like something I would watch on Animal Planet. In this football game between Oregon State and Maryland? Eh, not so much.

Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX) - Dec. 31 at 12:30, ESPN - Cal finished the year in a major tailspin, dropping six of their final seven including their rivalry game against Stanford. Odds are they won't be too motivated for this matchup with a decent but unspectacular Air Force squad.

International Bowl (Toronto, Ont.) - Jan 5 at Noon, ESPN2 - There's been talk Canadian universities might look into joining the NCAA in the future. If watching Ball State and Rutgers square off as "bowl teams" doesn't convince them they can compete in American football, I'm not sure what would.


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