As the bowl season prepares to get underway I'm distracted by two pet peeves. The first is the practice of the bowl committees to sully their names (literally) with corporate sponsorship affiliation. Those of you who feel the same as I do about the corporate relationship with bowl games bleeding over to their billboard names will appreciate the fact that I've eliminated those monikers from my annual Bowl Roundup column. I've restored all names to their original settings with the exceptions of the Meineke Car Care Bowl (which was previously the Continental Tire Bowl), the GMAC Bowl, the MPC Computers Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl (who have no name-predecessors), and I've taken the liberty (no pun intended) of restoring the Insight Bowl to its earlier, more dignified name of Copper Bowl.
The second problem I have is with the BCS in general. Realizing that I'm not exploring new territory in becoming a BCS critic, I'd still like to mention the fact that while it's true that we wouldn't be enjoying a head-to-header between Texas and USC this season without the BCS, it's equally true that it was merely a twist of fate and a stroke of luck that threw them together within the BCS framework. That the BCS is free of controversy this year and able to showcase a true title game featuring real contenders is little more than a result of favorable circumstances; we could easily have been watching the title game with two or more undefeated and worthy opponents left out to dry.
A playoff system for college football is long past due.
Tuesday, December 20th
NEW ORLEANS BOWL
Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana (7:00 p.m. ESPN)
Arkansas State (6-5) vs. Southern Mississippi (6-5)
Line: Southern Mississippi (-17)
Just as Bill Callahan provides a vivid example of why cousins shouldn't have sex, this year's New Orlean's Bowl pitting Southern Miss against Arkansas State makes an eloquent argument for fewer, more meaningful bowl games. Arkansas State ran the gamut of lackluster bowls in the 1950's (playing in the Refrigerator Bowl and the Pecan Bowl as well as in the more prestigious Tangerine Bowl) and saw their share of 1-AA playoff contests in the 1980's. But since those days Arkansas State has only enjoyed the post-season games from the comfort of their living rooms while perched in front of a television. These Indians have been so bad for so long that even the Native American protest groups don't care enough to protest their nickname. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles, on the other hand, are at the top-end of the mediocrity scale. The GE's went 7-5 last year including a post-season New Orleans Bowl win over North Texas. This game should be a gimme for the bettors.
Southern Mississippi by 24
Wednesday, December 21st
Ladd Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama (7:00 p.m. ESPN)
Toledo (8-3) vs. UTEP 8-3
Line: Toledo (-2 ½)
After last season's Motor City Bowl wipeout (UConn 39, Toledo 10), the Rockets are coming back to the post-season for more. Tom Amstutz's team has played well this year albeit a bit weakly on the road circuit. They'll be staring across the line of scrimmage on December 21st at Mike Price's ‘Little Tide', the UTEP Miners. Price, still trying to redeem himself from a much-publicized bout with Satan which cost him his ‘Bama job in ‘03, has been doing a terrific job on the field in El Paso while keeping his nose clean (or, at least keeping a lower profile during those south-of-the-border junkets into Juarez). Have to believe that the Miners will launch the Rockets into another losing orbit.
UTEP by 7
Thursday, December 22nd
LAS VEGAS BOWL
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada (7:00 p.m. ESPN)
BYU (6-5) vs. California (7-4)
Line: California (-7)
When your name is "Bronco" Mendenhall, there aren't a heck of a lot of career paths open to you (the few vocations that spring immediately to mind are rodeo cowboy, entertainment director at a dude ranch, or sidewalk "cowboy" in New York City). So for this "Bronco" to assume the reigns of command in Provo (he was promoted from within) and prove to be even relatively successful (with a 6-5 record this season) is quite an accomplishment. California, conversely, is a good-team-gone-bad this season. The Golden Bears were expected to offer something of a challenge to USC for the PAC 10 crown but fell significantly short of that goal. Furthermore, Tedford's stock fell moderately with his 23-17 loss to the Trojans in ‘04 and even more precipitously with the 45-31 blowout (which wasn't as close as the score might indicate) loss to Leach's Red Roosters in the Holiday Bowl. And with a coach-class fare to the Las Vegas Bowl in hand, a true nothing-to-gain-and-everything-to-lose scenario if ever there was one, Tedford cannot afford to lose to a minimally regarded BYU team.
California by 21
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California (9:30 p.m. ESPN2)
Colorado State (6-5) vs. Navy (7-4)
Line: Navy (-3)
I'm too lazy to look this one up, but this could be the first time a bowl venue has hosted two bowl games in one year as Quack-Quack (Qualcomm) Stadium will entertain both the Poinsetta and Holiday Bowls this season. The Colorado State Rams have been rammed in their last three games to the tune of 90-47 and lost two of those games in the process. Navy continued their winning ways in '05 as they've won three of their last four games, losing only to the Fighting Irish. Navy's broadside will be two much for the mountain goats to weather.
Middies by 10
Friday, December 23rd
FORT WORTH BOWL
Amon Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas (7:00 p.m. ESPN)
Kansas (6-5) vs. Houston (6-5)
Line: Kansas (-3)
Considering Mark Mangino's uncanny tendency to do what you least expect him to do (e.g. beating Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa State and losing to Kansas State…) it's tough to pick the JaySquawks when they're favored. But considering Houston's "great leap forward" from simply pathetic in 2004 to just mediocre in 2005, it's also hard not to pick Kansas.
KU by 4
Saturday, December 24th
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii (7:30 p.m. ESPN)
Nevada (8-4) vs. UCF (8-4)
Line: Nevada (-2 ½)
Twenty-year head coach Chris Ault has done an impressive job in Reno this year taking the Wolf Pack from 5-7 in '04 to 8-3. And in the process, Nevada has won seven of their past eight games. And speaking of breath-taking turnarounds, how ‘bout that George O'Leary? Taking an 0-11 group of Knights in '04 to 8-3 in '05 is a pretty impressive accomplishment. In fact, it almost has me believing his resume.
Central Florida by 6
Monday, December 26th
MOTOR CITY BOWL
FORD Field, Detroit, Michigan (3:00 p.m. ESPN)
Memphis (6-5) vs. Akron (7-5)
Line: Memphis (-5)
Memphis and Akron? Do we really need this game? I cannot conceive of a better example of a bowl system gone awry than a Motor City Bowl in Detroit in the open air in late December. Even the woeful New Orleans Bowl is played in better weather. I mean, is this supposed to be a reward for these kids?
Memphis by 3
Tuesday, December 27th
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida (4:00 p.m. ESPN)
Clemson (7-4) vs. Colorado (7-5)
Line: No Line (Clemson's Whitehurst and Colorado's Klatt are both questionable)
The bookies' logic is faulty in this situation. They've issued no line on the game because Charlie Whitehurst and Joel Klatt are questionable. What they have failed to take into consideration is that both quarterbacks are questionable while on the field as well. But all things considered, Clemson has to be favored because Colorado is unsettled at head coach and, head coach notwithstanding, they are in a world-class psychological slump.
Clemmie by 10
Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona (7:30 p.m. ESPN)
Arizona State (6-5) vs. Rutgers (7-4)
Line: Arizona State (-11)
Word has it that Koetter, in spite of smelling up the desert this year, has been offered an extended contract by Athletic Director Lisa Love. This is an excellent example of what can happen when you have an athletic director named ‘Lisa.' It has also been reported that the Sun Devils will change their uniform colors to fuchsia and teal blue in '06 because Lisa finds that color combination "cuter."
ASU by 17
Wednesday, December 28th
MPC COMPUTERS BOWL
Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho (3:30 p.m. ESPN)
Boise State (9-3) vs. Boston College (8-3)
Line: Boston College (-1 ½)
Boise State's stroll through the WAC was interrupted only by Fresno State this year as the Broncos handled most opponents with relative ease. Boston College for the most part beat every team it was expected to beat (except for North Carolina) and lost to the teams that were expected to beat them. On a neutral field, the Eagles would be the choice in this game but Boise State in Boise, Idaho might be a bit much for BC.
Broncos by 3
Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas (7:00 ESPN)
Michigan (7-4) vs. Nebraska (7-4)
Line: Michigan (-11 ½)
This game opened with Michigan installed as a 12 point favorite and has slipped to 11 ½, largely because the folks in Nebraska are hocking their International Harvesters to bet on this one. While true that the Huskers have been "coming on" of late, the best thing they've got going for them is Lloyd Carr on the opposing sideline. Michigan will win this one but may not cover.
Wolverines by 10ish
Thursday, December 29th
SBC Park, San Francisco, California (3:30 p.m. ESPN)
Georgia Tech (7-4) vs. Utah (6-5)
Line: Georgia Tech (-8 ½)
Georgia Tech's victory over Miami on November 19th was unquestionably the biggest feather in underachieving Chan Gailey's war bonnet and without a doubt the most exciting thing to happen to the Tech faithful since indoor plumbing was installed in Bobby Dodd stadium back in 2001. The good news for GT in this bowl game? They should emerge victorious against a rebuilding Utah team. The bad news for GT? They won't do it impressively.
Yellow Jackets by 4
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California (7:00 p.m. ESPN)
Oregon (10-1) vs. Oklahoma (7-4)
Line: Oregon (-3)
Oklahoma appears to be on the verge of throwing a coming out party for the offense with Rhett Bomar maturing and Adrian Peterson healthy. Now all they need is some cohesion in the defensive secondary. Oregon is coming into this game with great trepidation. They are the PAC 10 runners-up and have only lost one game. OU, on the other hand, is 7-4 and has struggled mightily against the pass. In spite of the national tendency to favor Oregon (by 3), the Sooners have a psychological edge here. Oregon has never beaten the Sooners (the Ducks served as Barry Switzers tackling dummies in 1975 as OU skinned them 62-7 and lost in 2004 to Stoop's 31-7…) but having never lost to Oklahoma hasn't been much of a consideration in 2005 as both TCU and UCLA broke through. A cursory glance at the situation leads one to believe that Oregon will have far more to lose than to gain on December 29, which could make the going rather dicey for them. Expect Stoops to end his two-game post-season slide.
Sooners by 6
Friday, December 30th
MUSIC CITY BOWL
Adelphia Coliseum, Nashville, Tennessee (11:00 a.m. ESPN)
Minnesota (7-4) vs. Virginia (6-4)
Line: Minnesota (-3 ½)
To say that no progress has been made by Glen Mason in Minneapolis wouldn't be entirely accurate. Glen's Gophers opened the '04 season with five straight wins before losing five of their final seven including a 20-16 affair to Alabama in last year's Music City Bowl. This year, Minnesota started the season with four straight wins before the wheels fell off as the Gophers dropped four of their last seven. So, if Glenn can beat the Cavs he'll have improved his '04 record by one game. Lose to Virginia and the Gophers will find that they've only been treading water in one of those 10,000 lakes. Virginia, on the other hand, is purely pedestrian this season; they can only squeeze so much juice out of that October 15th victory over Florida State.
Gophers by 10
Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas (1:00 p.m. ABC)
Northwestern (7-4) vs. UCLA (9-2)
Line: UCLA (-2 ½)
This game could be tagged the ‘mini-Rose Bowl', as both of these teams are very good and may be only a year or two away from a rematch in Pasadena. But, in fact, it's not the mini-Rose Bowl but the Sun Bowl, a difference of about $13,423,000. UCLA showed up for most of their games this season…it's the two they didn't show up for that hurt them. Northwestern's mid-October run had the country believing that they'd found themselves until they tanked against Michigan and Ohio State. Look for the Bruins to establish themselves as contenders for the '06 PAC 10 on December 30th.
UCLA by 14
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana (2:30 p.m. ESPN)
South Carolina (7-4) vs. Missouri (6-5)
Line: South Carolina (-4)
This one's easy. Pinkel coaching against Spurrier? Where's the guesswork in that?
Gameboys by 17
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia (6:30 p.m. ESPN)
Miami (9-2) vs. LSU (10-2)
Line: No Line (LSU's JaMarcus Russell is questionable)
Word on the street is that JaMarcus Russell will play in this game (reports of his injury have evidently been somewhat exaggerated). But this shouldn't make a huge difference because Miami's defense will work the same magic on the Tiger's offense as Georgia did in early December. Have to give the nod here to the guys in the Earl Scheib uniforms.
Sugarcanes by 7
Saturday, December 31st
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL
Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina (10:00 a.m. ESPN2)
South Florida (6-5) vs. North Carolina State (6-5)
Line: North Carolina State (-5 ½)
Jim Leavitt's Bulls have nicely emerged from their 4-7 dive of '04 but their late-season nosedive against Connecticut and West Virginia can't help but hurt them. NC State is the opposite side of that coin as they've won four of their last five including victories over Maryland and Florida State.
Wolfpack by 8
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee (12:00 p.m. ESPN)
Fresno State (8-4) vs. Tulsa (8-4)
Line: Fresno State (-7)
Interesting matchup here between feisty Bulldogs coach Pat Hill and the emerging star of the Golden Hurricane, coach Steve Kragthorpe. Tulsa has surprised many this year (they have the best overall record of any Division 1 team in the state of Oklahoma) but the thinking here is that they're not quite ready to handle a team that took USC down to the wire.
Fresno State by 10
Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas (1:30 p.m. ESPN2)
TCU (10-1) vs. Iowa State (7-4)
Line: TCU (-4)
TCU's performance in '05 should increase Gary Patterson's appeal to bigger, more prestigious football schools ten-fold. The Horned Frogs haven't played this well since the nineteen-fifties. Iowa State, who managed to play low-ball in their stretch run for the Big 12 North title for the second consecutive year, won't be up for this one.
Horney Toads by 10
Monday, January 2nd, 2006
Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas (11:00 a.m., Fox Sports)
Texas Tech (9-2) vs. Alabama (9-2)
Line: Texas Tech (-3)
This will be a de facto home game for Leach and his Red Raiders. Tech has proven itself extremely vulnerable to a good offense, which is irrelevant in this game because Alabama ain't got one. But the ‘Bama defense should make it interesting. A high scoring game goes to TTech; a low scoring game to the Tide.
Texas Tech by 9
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida (10:00 a.m. ESPN)
Iowa (7-4) vs. Florida (8-3)
Line: Florida (-3)
This team features two good coaches, one good team and one better team. Iowa, who has had trouble playing south of the Mason-Dixon line, will not be able to withstand Florida's revenge for the January 1st, 2004 pre-Urban loss to the Hawkeyes 37-17.
Gators by 7
Alltell Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida (11:30 a.m. NBC)
Louisville (9-2) vs. Virginia Tech (10-2)
Line: Virginia Tech (-8)
Isn't this the same Hokies team that lost to its last two quality opponents by a combined score of 54-29? Why yes, I believe that it is. Louisville is a good team with a real shot here.
VT by 3, if at all
Orlando, Florida (12:00 p.m. ABC)
Wisconsin (9-3) vs. Auburn (9-2)
Line: Auburn (-11)
After winning six of his first nine games, Barry Alvarez was giving serious thought to reconsidering his retirement. But then games 10 through 12 made sitting in the rocking chair a bit more appealing. Barry's affable snow creatures won't match up well with the Tigers.
Auburn by 14
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona (4:00 p.m. ABC)
Ohio State (9-2) vs. Notre Dame (9-2)
Line: Ohio State (-4)
Payout: $14,000,000 – $17,000,000
If A.J. Hawk goes out of this game in the first quarter with an ankle sprain, Ohio State will turn back into a pumpkin. But the fact is, Hawk probably won't hurt his ankle and he'll probably lead an inspired defense against the Irish. Will that be enough? Not likely.
Notre Dame by 4
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia (7:30 p.m. ABC)
Georgia (10-2) vs. West Virginia (10-1)
Line: Georgia (-8)
Payout: $14,000,000 – $17,000,000
Mark Richt has already equaled last season's ten-and-two mark and is going for more. And West Virginia has already achieved far more than they expected to this season. Georgia in Georgia too hot for Rich Rodriguez to handle.
Bulldogs by 10
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006
Dolphins Stadium, Miami, Florida (7:00 p.m. ABC)
Penn State (10-1) vs. Florida State (8-4)
Line: Penn State (-8)
This should be renamed the "meals-on-wheels" bowl as the sidelines have already been equipped with walkers for both head coaches. The question is, can a resurgent Joe Paterno keep a struggling Bobby Bowden's Orange Bowl curse alive? The Magic Eight Ball says…"all signs point to no." Bowden will motivate them enough to put a damper on Joe's season.
Florida State by 3
Wednesday, January 4th, 2006
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California (7:00 p.m. ABC)
USC (12-0) vs. Texas (12-0)
Line: USC (-7)
So here we go, with the grand-daddy of all bowl games, the be-all and end-all of post-season competition. An uncharacteristically undefeated Mack Brown versus a tediously undefeated Pete Carroll. The buildup for this game is remarkably similar to the buildup of last season's USC – Oklahoma disaster, a game that was not only ugly to watch (unless you were a Trojan fan) but was totally non-representative of the sort of matchup one might expect from a championship game. Will the 2006 Rose Bowl be any different. Most decidedly, yes. Southern California has displayed an ability to make games that shouldn't be close, close. And despite the muli-layered talent on the team, the Trojans have managed to scare the daylights out of their fans on several occasions. Meanwhile, back in Austin, the Longhorns have been busy fielding a good team that has been made great by one player – Vince Young. The Longhorns have also flirted with failure in 2005 but were able to dispatch most competitors in seemingly tireless fashion.
The difference in this game will be Texas' tendency to make mistakes. Vince Young has been successful in '05 in one critical category; when he has fumbled or thrown interceptions he has not allowed those errors to bother him – he has "kept them out of his head." But will Vince be able to maintain his composure in the face of the occasional mistake in such a high-pressure game? I suspect that Texas' inexperience in this sort of winner-take-all affair will come back to haunt the Longhorns. And the Trojans do not make critical mistakes very often.
USC by 10
Wann Smith has served two years as national columnist for the Pigskin Post, contributed to the College Football News (a contributor to Fox Sports and the Sporting News) and is currently the editor of the College Football Gazette. Smith lives in St. Louis with his family.
Click the link below to visit his website...
College Football Gazette
You can also contact Wann Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Smith's Bowl Roundup
Sooners Illustrated Top Stories
Video: Bob Stoops after Tech, heading to KUWatch OU coach Bob Stoops' full opening statement trying to reconcile what happened vs. Tech and looking ahead to Kansas.
Sooners IllustratedYesterday at 11:33 AM
Przybylo: Back to drawing board for OU's DOU's defense must find its heart, soul and identity pretty quickly because things will only get tougher for Sooners down stretch run of Big 12 play.
Sooners IllustratedYesterday at 7:02 AM
Video: Joe Mixon with historic outing for OUOU coach Bob Stoops talks about the huge performance running back Joe Mixon had in Sooners 66-59 win at Texas Tech.
Sooners IllustratedSunday at 2:50 PM
Home sweet home in Lubbock for Baker MayfieldA sweeter reunion there couldn't have been for OU quarterback Baker Mayfield in his return to Lubbock.
Sooners IllustratedSaturday at 11:23 PM
Video: Bob Stoops after 66-59 win at TechOU coach Bob Stoops' opening statement following Sooners wild 66-59 victory at Texas Tech.
Sooners IllustratedSaturday at 10:43 PM