Bowl Bonanza: Part I

Today kicks off the 2005-06 college football bowl season, and we also kick off Daniel's coverage of all the post-season pandemonium. He is taking a three-part look at previewing and predicting all 28 matchups. This first edition breaks down half (10) of the games not immediately near and dear to Stanford Football. Enjoy the insight, analysis and wit to help you start the bowl season right!

Note on predictions:  The "Vegas" prediction is constructed by combining the over/under and the point spread currently listed by Las Vegas sports books.  My predictions went 17-20-2 against the spread and 23-16 straight up over the regular season.

(All times are Pacific)

New Orleans Bowl (Lafayette, La.) Dec. 20 5 PM ESPN

Barely topping .500 in the lowly Sun Belt Conference, Arkansas State (6-5) is arguably the worst team to ever play in a bowl game.  Southern Miss (6-5) traditionally plays stingy defense, and considering the lack of offensive speed they will be facing, 10 points might be enough.  Despite the New Orleans moniker, the game has been moved to northern Louisiana in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath – a couple of hours closer to Arkansas and further from southern Mississippi, if I remember my fifth grade geography correctly.

Vegas: Southern Miss 34, Arkansas State 17
Daniel: Southern Miss 27, Arkansas State 6

GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.) Dec. 21 5 PM ESPN

Mike Price returns to Alabama, and you have to imagine the Tide's recent success will make the locals much more pleasant for his homecoming.  Price's UTEP Miners (8-3) face the Toledo Rockets (8-3) in a bowl in which neither squad had hoped to play at the beginning of the season.  Whichever coach can best motivate his underachieving squad appears to have the best shot – and Price has the more proven track-record.

Vegas: Toledo 32, Texas El-Paso 29
Daniel: Texas El-Paso 35, Toledo 27

Fort Worth Bowl (Fort Worth, Tex.) Dec. 23 5 PM ESPN

The American South hosts yet another early-season bowl game of little national appeal.  Some are calling the Houston (6-5) versus Kansas (6-5) match-up the dullest of the bunch, but several aspects of this game intrigue me.  One: whose 6-5 was harder-earned, Kansas' in the Big 12 North, or Houston's in Conference USA?  Two: The last time Kansas played in a bowl and Kansas State did not was 1992 – think the Jayhawks are going to be fired up?  Strike one up for the power conferences.

Vegas: Kansas 26, Houston 23
Daniel: Kansas 31, Houston 17

Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu, Hawaii) Dec. 24 5:30 PM ESPN

What a great story out of Orlando, where Central Florida (8-4) turned around an 0-11 2004 season in dramatic fashion.  Perhaps it is fitting, then, that the Golden Knights' coach is George O'Leary, a man who too has had to bounce back from adversity after lying on his resume cost him the Notre Dame job.  Unfortunately for Cinderella, the clock strikes midnight here, on a trip nearly halfway around the globe to face the talented Nevada Wolfpack (8-3), a squad that showed its potential in downing Fresno State to close the regular season.

Vegas: Nevada 32, Central Florida 31
Daniel: Nevada 28, Central Florida 17

Motor City Bowl (Detroit, Mich.) Dec. 26 1 PM ESPN

How could I possibly be out of town and miss the opportunity to catch this classic in person?  Akron (7-5) fluked into the bowl (and the MAC title) after a miraculous last-second victory over a more deserving Northern Illinois team, depriving college football of a compelling Northern Illinois-Memphis showdown.  Neither team can play defense, but All-American tailback D'Angelo Williams should be the difference for Memphis (6-5).

Vegas: Memphis 27, Akron 21
Daniel: Memphis 38, Akron 24

Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando, Fla.) Dec. 27 2 PM ESPN

Look up Colorado in the thesaurus, and you will likely find "dead in the water" as an acceptable synonym, no big surprise after Gary Barnett's retirement and Colorado's 70-3 shellacking at the hands of Texas in their last contest.  (Alternatively, look up Colorado on the Internet, and you find this rather funny parody).  To their credit, Clemson (7-4) is a solid team, most recently seen shutting down Steve Spurrier's attack at South Carolina, but the Tigers win this one almost by default.

Vegas: Off the board (Dan Hawkins hire)
Clemson 24, Colorado 10

MPC Computers (Boise, Idaho) Dec. 28 1:30 PM ESPN

Seemingly every bowl season, a BCS-conference program gets sent to a bowl game they have no desire to play in, and lay an absolute stinker as they get blown out.  (Just look at Cal's loss to Texas Tech and UCLA's loss to Wyoming in last year's bowl games.)  With Florida State's struggles, Boston College (8-3) had a legitimate shot at an ACC Divisional crown, and now find themselves heading to Idaho, in Dan Hawkins' sendoff for hometown Boise State (9-3).  Think Hawkins has a trick play or two up his sleeve before he heads to Boulder?

Vegas: Boise State 28, Boston College 27
Daniel: Boise State 37, Boston College 16

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, Tex.) Dec. 28 5 PM ESPN

The 1997 national title game comes eight years too late for two programs that have seen finer seasons.  For Michigan (8-4), a four-loss season on the heels of two straight Rose Bowl trips is no cause for panic, but for Nebraska (7-4), the program continues to experience major pains transitioning from their traditional attack to a West Coast offense under Bill Callahan.  The 11.5-point line is the second-widest of the 28 bowl games, and for good reason: Michigan's weakness (pass defense) matches up against Nebraska's weakest units (wide receivers), while Michigan's strength offensively (the forward pass) should have a field day against a slower Nebraska secondary.  Bet the over.

Vegas: Michigan 29, Nebraska 17
Daniel: Michigan 38, Nebraska 21

Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.) Dec. 30 9 AM ESPN

Minnesota (7-4) has the closing speed of a sloth (or a Buddy Teevens squad, for that matter).  In years past, it was hypothesized that heartbreaking losses to Michigan did in the Gophers, but this year's dramatic victory over Big Blue did not ease the Gophers' late-season struggles any.  Shhh… do not tell the national media, but perhaps the fact that they play porous defense is a reason for their struggles.  After enduring a grueling ACC schedule, Virginia (6-5) is in prime position to capitalize.

Vegas: Minnesota 31, Virginia 27
Daniel: Virginia 34, Minnesota 31

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.) Dec. 30 1 PM ESPN

Before USC's current run, several recent national title teams (Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee) had all lost precisely five games the season before.  In fact, Oklahoma battled Mississippi State (talk about two programs that have headed in different directions) in this Independence Bowl just a year before its first national title in decades.  This year, with a Missouri win, both Missouri (6-5) and South Carolina (7-4) would fit the five-loss mold.  I guess all the lead-up was for naught, then, because Missouri's entire offense seemingly consists of quarterback Brad Smith's scrambling.  That will go nowhere against this disciplined Gamecock defense.  Oh yeah, South Carolina's offensive play-calling is nothing to be ashamed of either.

Vegas: South Carolina 28, Missouri 24
Daniel: South Carolina 23, Missouri 16

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