Texas (-3) vs. California
Corporate sponsor: Bridgepoint Education. What happened to Culligan water? Instead it's a San Diego-based, online, for-profit education company that has come into some awful publicity of late. In March 2011, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee held hearings on shady for-profit online diploma mills, with Bridgepoint was the main attraction. Senator Tom Harkin went so far as to call the company a "sham". The Office of the Inspector General released a damning report about the company's practices this year. All things considered, shouldn't these guys be sponsoring the Fiesta Bowl and its junkets? These guys are orders of magnitude more entertaining than any other sponsor this season, and so I award a full five of five NASCAR vehicles.
Swagalicious factor: Players receive a Tourneau watch, a hooded sweatshirt, a FlexFit cap and a Best Buy gift card. Best Buy is on my naughty list right now, because the laptop I ordered on Black Friday has yet to ship, and 50,000 other folks are in the same boat. Plus, the fine print is quick to note that any of the unused Best Buy balance is forfeited on the spot, and besides, you know half those Tourneau watches (a mid-scale line) are ending up on EBay. When I was in Africa for a summer, they sold $1 pouches of "Obama vodka", which best as I could tell was pure ethanol mixed with goat piss. Thus, I award an Obama vodka on the alcohol bling-bling scale.
Must-watchness factor: Two teams who have been disappointing their fan bases for the last five years. A coach who's definitely on the hot seat in Jeff Tedford, and one who could find himself there if he keeps this up in Mack Brown. Plus, of course, an opportunity for Cal to exact a measure of revenge for Texas's politicking keeping the Bears the ‘59ers, and an opportunity for the Pac-12 to stick it to Texas for its conference realignment shenanigans of the last two years. Watch over the inevitable holiday screenings of "It's a Beautiful Life", one of my favorite movies. I'm excited for the Bears and Bevo.
Prediction: Texas 27, Cal 21. The Bears again manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Corporate sponsor: Champs Sports. A perfectly fine company, but they lose points for insisting upon their company name as the actual bowl title in what should most accurately be dubbed the Citrus Bowl Jr. One-and-a-half of five NASCAR vehicles, and the tires are about to blow.
Swagalicious factor: Players receive a $420 shopping trip to a local Best Buy and a Timely Watch Co. watch. Given that it's Florida State, shouldn't they receive the trip at Dillards? For a lack of historical knowledge, I must award a Smirnoff Ice on the alcohol bling-bling scale.
Must-watchness factor: Catholics vs. Convicts! Well, if it were 1993, this would be huge. These two fan bases, however, have been convinced for a cumulative 27 seasons that this is the year their programs return to the pinnacle. If you ask NBC, this, like all Notre Dame contests, is the biggest game of all time, but I say you can only watch this over NHL hockey.
Prediction: Florida State 31, Notre Dame 24. The Irish have an awful track record in bowl games and it's nearly a home game for Florida State. Manti Te'o will frustratingly remind us Booties of why Stanford recruited him all out, but there's not much else going on for the blue and gold. Couldn't happen to a better man in Brian Kelly.
Corporate sponsor: Valero. Those Valero stations just off campus on El Camino saved me a good 20 cents per gallon time after time. Also, Valero is apparently Spanish for "Alamo", which makes this the Alamo Alamo Bowl. I award a solid four-and-a-half of five NASCAR vehicles, plus, naturally, the refills are complementary.
Swagalicious factor: Players receive a $400 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Schutt mini-helmet and panoramic team photo. You know how I feel about Best Buy, but more importantly, these folks are so cheap as to list a panoramic team photo as a perk? I award a 40 of malt liquor on the alcohol bling-bling scale.
Must-watchness factor: We ran for 446 on Washington. Robert Griffin III won the Heisman. The Pac-12 got abused in the computer ratings. The Big 12 was HAL's favorite child. A lot of interesting subplots here, and Alamo Bowls have been historically tight for whatever reason. Should be a fun, back- and-forth affair too. Watch over – crap, it's Stanford/UCLA basketball this same night. Okay, catch the last five minutes of the Alamo Bowl if it comes down to the wire.
Prediction: Baylor 45, Washington 24. RG3 is the real deal, Baylor should have the home- field edge, and Baylor's offense versus Washington's defense is no contest. The Bears make Sagarin look mighty smart.
Fight Hunger Bowl, Sat. Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. PT, ESPN, San Francisco
Illinois (-1.5) vs. UCLA
Corporate sponsor: Kraft. As a young idealist, I am all about saving the world and eliminating malnutrition. Admittedly, Kraft probably adds to the obesity epidemic more than it does fight hunger, but hey, their products are tasty. I award three-and-a-half of five NASCAR vehicles, and the cars run on ideals and imagination.
Swagalicious factor: Players receive a Soundmatters Personal Audiophile loudspeaker, Fossil watch, cap and Timbuk2 custom messenger bag. Why not just give them Kraft products -- which is just about any and every food or drink you could possibly want. Kraft owns Crystal Light, so I think it only fair to award a bottle of Crystal on the alcohol bling-bling scale.
Must-watchness factor: Yawn. UCLA has disappointed for a decade and is about to undergo an uninspired coaching change. Their last two games saw them lose 50-0 to USC, and then somehow make the Pac-12 Championship game, only to get blown up by Oregon. Of course, Illinois doesn't remind anyone of the '85 Bears either. Here are two teams that beat up on the small-conference patty cakes in September, and tread just enough water in the conference season to make a bowl. This game is one detractors can rightfully cite for a long time in arguing to cut down on bowl games. Watch over the Weather Channel. Unless there's a tropical depression in the area.
Prediction: UCLA is home-ish and they can run the football. Plus, the Bruins are great at winning the ones that don't matter. UCLA 38, Illinois 24.
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