Bowl Bonanza: Part I

Daniel is taking a three-part look at previewing and predicting all 32 matchups of this college football bowl season. This first edition breaks down the nine games most near and dear to Stanford Football – the Cardinal's 2006 opponents play in eight bowls, and a 2007 foe also shows up on the bowl slate. Enjoy the insight, analysis and wit before you enjoy the games!

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 24-15 straight up and against the spread over the regular season.  (Worry not, the regression to the mean starts now.)

(All times are Pacific)

Poinsettia (San Diego) Dec. 19 5:00 PM ESPN2

Stanford fans can take a sneak peek at a demolition, I mean opponent, on next year's slate in Texas Christian.  The Frogs face a stiff test in Northern Illinois back Garrett Wolfe, but one man an offense does not make.  Look for the Frogs to put nine in the box and run away with the kickoff to this year's bowl season.

Vegas: TCU 30, Northern Illinois 18
Daniel: TCU 34, Northern Illinois 7

Las Vegas Dec. 21 5:00 PM ESPN

BYU throws the ball well.  Really well - they're probably the best team you haven't heard of this year and are (rightfully) favored.  The minor-conference teams always show up excited for games like this, while the power-conference teams are disappointed to be playing before Christmas and sleepwalk through the game.  On paper this one looks pretty even, but I think Oregon's defense plays a little flat.  That gives the Cougars the opportunity to light it up deep.

Vegas: BYU 32, Oregon 29
Daniel: BYU 41, Oregon 31

New Mexico (Albuquerque) Dec. 23 1:30 PM ESPN

You think San Jose State and Dick Tomey will be fired up for their first bowl game since the Stone Age?  One of the nation's biggest surprise teams (they were pegged at about 3-9 entering the season) has a sneakily effective running attack, but I do not need to remind the Stanford faithful of that, do I?  Still, how could I pick against New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl?  San Jose State probably wins this one on a neutral field, so they got a really unlucky draw.

Vegas: San Jose State 26, New Mexico 23
Daniel: New Mexico 27, San Jose State 20

Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu) Dec. 24 5:00 PM ESPN

Yeah, Hawaii has no rushing game to speak of and far fewer stars (pun intended) sprinkled across their depth chart than the Sun Devils.  Still, do you think Arizona State might not be 100 percent focused for this game?  The ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team is going to implode on the islands like they did last year in Palo Alto, and this could be one of the biggest routs of the bowl season. Whoever wins, one thing is for sure though: it will not be the defense.

Vegas: Hawaii 41, Arizona State 33
Daniel: Hawaii 55, Arizona State 28

Emerald Bowl (San Francisco) Dec. 27 5:00 PM ESPN

At least UCLA has the nation's top-ranked basketball team.  As for Florida State, two words: Jenn Sterger.  (Just ask Big Game Brett Musberger.)  Playing in the Nuts Bowl is probably more of a disappointment for Florida State, which had legitimate national title hopes coming into the season, than UCLA, trending upwards after the USC upset.  Look for lame duck Florida State offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden to call the same innovative offense as always (First down: draw.  Second down: jump ball.  Third down: Walt Harris-channeling quick kick).  As long as Karl Dorrell does not faint from the realization that there are worse gameday coaches than he, I like the Bruins easily here.

Vegas: UCLA 23, Florida State 18
UCLA 20, Florida State 7

Holiday Bowl (San Diego) Dec. 28 5 PM ESPN

After last year's Oklahoma-Oregon and some of the classic games involving Texas or Washington in years past, this year's Holiday Bowl is a bit of a dud by comparison. Texas A&M enters on the positive note – the Aggies came as close to winning the Big 12 South as they had in years, with the upset of Texas and Oklahoma comparatively down.  Still, Cal is the better team and the starters remember losing to another undermatched Texas squad – Texas Tech – in the bowl game two years ago.  They will not let it happen again, especially against the offensively-challenged Aggies.

Vegas: California 28, Texas A&M 23
Daniel: California 24, Texas A&M 10

Sun Bowl (El Paso) Dec. 29 11 AM CBS

Last year's matchup was the second coming of the Apocalypse or the greatest bowl game ever, depending on whether you favor offensive or defensive play.  UCLA clobbered Northwestern as the teams combined for over 80 points.

This year, meanwhile, brings what looks to be one of the most lopsided post-Christmas games.  Oregon State cannot be stopped as of late.  Sure, everyone knows about the USC win, but the last-second win at Hawaii in early December was similarly impressive as the Warriors just do not lose in their home state.  The run attack clicks; the passing game is working; the front seven good enough and the secondary ferocious.  Missouri, meanwhile, is a team that got propelled to a quick start by the [insert direction here] [insert state you have never been to here] Universities of the world, but has since dropped quicker than Britney Spears' panties.  The Beavers roll big.

Vegas: Oregon State 28, Missouri 24
Daniel: Oregon State 41, Missouri 20

Rose Bowl (Pasadena) Jan. 1 2:00 PM ABC

Last year saw Brady Quinn and Troy Smith do battle, though most of the broadcast seemed to be of Brady Quinn's sister.  (Did you know she is engaged to Ohio State's A.J. Hawk?  In case our first seven updates did not make that clear.)  This year, Smith won the Heisman and all the media here in Detroit thinks Quinn is the Lions' top choice with the number one pick in April's NFL Draft.  (Even I did not wish for that cruel a fate for Brady Quinn.)  With Chad Henne, all-star left tackle Jake Long (projected top-five pick) and Michael Hart all announcing that they would return for Michigan (though defensive tackle Alan Branch, a projected Top 10 pick himself, is notably silent), Michigan will have a good chance at using this game as a similar launching pad.  Look for Henne to have a national breakout game, as I think USC's corners are weaker than their front seven.  It was USC 28, Michigan 14 when USC got snubbed from the national title, so why not – history displays its sense of humor on New Year's.

Vegas: USC 24, Michigan 23
Daniel: Michigan 28, USC 14

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans) Jan. 3 5:30 PM FOX

Between this matchup and the whole 'going to the Lions' thing, Brady Quinn has his comeuppance upcoming.  LSU's pass rushers are something fierce, and freshman tackle (and former Stanford recruit) Sam Young may well do his best revolving door impression.  If so, look for Charlie Weis to do what he does best in big games and hand the opponent a double-digit victory.  Bonus, off-the-wall prediction: LSU safety LaRon Landry, another Top 10 pick this April, takes one back for the score.  The replay, along with Quinn flailing helplessly at him, gets shown for months.

Vegas: LSU 32, Notre Dame 23
Daniel: LSU 37, Notre Dame 17

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