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)
New Orleans Bowl Dec. 22 5 PM ESPN2
Rice played in a tougher conference (Conference USA versus Sun Belt), has to be excited for its first bowl appearance since some of our message board posters still had hair on their heads, and is being thrown around as a model for its blend of successful academics and football in the Stanford circles. But Troy has the homefield edge, and Cinderella stories have a way of running out of gas in the postseason (just wait for the Oklahoma-Boise State smackdown). I think that Troy does not just cover – it pulls the upset.
Vegas: Rice 28, Troy 24
Daniel: Troy 31, Rice 21
Papajohns.com Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.) Dec. 23 10 AM ESPN2
When is the last time two schools with directions in their names played each other on national television? What, North Texas and Western Michigan were not available? Names aside, South Florida pulled the shocker of the season with its upset of West Virginia. The Mountaineers are quietly snatching up top-level Florida talent and are one of the five most underrated programs in the nation right now. East Carolina, meanwhile, has not done anything of note since upsetting Miami about five years ago. Both programs have been in a steady decline ever since. In a match of two programs headed in opposite directions, expect the Bulls' defense to dominate.
Vegas: South Florida 24, East Carolina 20
Daniel: South Florida 27, East Carolina 5
Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, Tex.) Dec. 23 5 PM ESPN
The American South hosts yet another early-season bowl game of little national appeal. (Incidentally, the same lead-in I used for this matchup last year too.) At least we get to see the "Army of One" commercials. Remember that one for the Marines where a rock-climber transformed into a uniformed Marine? They must have played for five years straight. (And they wonder why they have trouble meeting their enrollment goals.)
Here, Tulsa has the hot-name coach and is a weaker program, so this bowl will mean more to them. Every year, one or two teams that have no business belonging on the field with their opponent pull the bowl shocker when Golaith sleepwalks through the thing. That is the only way Tulsa wins here, though, and I do not think that is a good bet.
Vegas: Utah 25, Tulsa 24
Daniel: Utah 34, Tulsa 24
Motor City Bowl (Detroit, Mich.) Dec. 26 4:30 PM ESPN
My hometown represents with another titillating matchup. At least it will be fun to see them dig for 30 seconds of good news about Detroit to throw into the mandatory welcome-to-Detroit ad. (Here goes: shot of the river, shot of a casino, shot of Tiger Stadium. Pad for the remaining 27 seconds.) Central Michigan has quietly worked itself onto the doorstep of a 10-win season in a deep MAC. With the home crowd behind them (the game is inside, and Ford Field can get loud) and in their first bowl in years, I do not think this one remains especially close at halftime.
Vegas: Central Michigan 30, Middle Tennessee State 21
Daniel: Central Michigan 38, Middle Tennessee State 17
Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.) Dec. 28 1:30 PM ESPN
Now the bowl season starts to heat up. My national perspective: Ohio State and Michigan are the only teams with a pulse in the Big 10. The Big 12 is also watered-down and overrated. The ACC is not as down as people think, and those top few teams in the Big East can play. The Pac-10 is underrated, but not as underrated as the SEC, which is the country's strongest country right now. I add my views about individual teams and the matchups to the equation, but right now, I value Alabama's season much more than Oklahoma State's. I think the Tide's defense will be the toughest the Cowpokes have seen all season, and Alabama wins on the strength of four forced turnovers.
Vegas: Oklahoma State 27, Alabama 24
Daniel: Alabama 20, Oklahoma State 13
Texas Bowl (Houston) Dec. 28 5 PM NFL
It was great watching my tax dollars hard at work as our elected representatives whined and moaned – about this game being on the NFL Network, of all things – until the cable companies caved and decided to pick up the NFL Network for the week of this game. At least the Rutgers faithful now able to watch their Scarlet Knights will enjoy what they see. Kansas State needs Darren Sproles and Ell Roberson back in the worse way.
Vegas: Rutgers 26, Kansas State 19
Daniel: Rutgers 34, Kansas State 16
Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.) Dec. 29 10 AM ESPN2
Kentucky has to be the worst seven-loss team to come out of the SEC – ever. Given that many Southerners do not consider Kentucky to be a truly Southern state anyways, there might be a movement to delegate the Wildcats and Ashley Judd to the Big 10 after Tommy Bowden is finished with his whooping.
Vegas: Clemson 34, Kentucky 24
Daniel: Clemson 44, Kentucky 28
Liberty Bowl (Memphis) Dec. 28 1:30 PM ESPN
South Carolina has no offense (it is like watching Arkansas try to pass) but the defense is light years better, and I really like Steve Spurrier with a month to prepare. The only question is if South Carolina is that big conference school that should win by two touchdowns, only to come out flat and get crushed by 20. I think Spurrier is too good to allow that to happen, though.
Vegas: South Carolina 31, Houston 25
Daniel: South Carolina 27, Houston 21
Insight Bowl (Atlanta, Ga.) Dec. 29 4:30 PM NFL
Before Stanford fans get too high on Jim Harbaugh, they might want to check out this game. Minnesota has the beef to crank out the 300 rushing yards and 30 points to keep this one interesting, but the Gophers have no corners to speak of. And not to pile on the Gopher secondary (there will be enough of that during the game, after all), but Charlie Weis' 40-time to the buffet line compares favorably. Mike Leach makes us cry tears for what could have been.
Vegas: Texas Tech 36, Minnesota 30
Daniel: Texas Tech 52, Minnesota 28
Champs Sports (Orlando) Dec. 29 5 PM ESPN
Vegas: Maryland 27, Purdue 26
Daniel: Maryland 24, Purdue 14
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