Bowl Previews: Part I - "The Uglies"
Okay, if these games were fast food, they'd be White Castle (Never tried it? Be thankful.). If these games were a college coach's voice, they'd be Chuck Amato's (or Jim Bates doing Steve Spurrier's in a HILARIOUS video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eqy28LUdhzo). If these games were a boy band, they'd be O-Town, and if they were your girlfriend, you'd call her "very nice." I think you get the idea, but when we're previewing every single bowl game at TheBootleg.com, we've got to start small…
Thu., Dec. 20 9 p.m., San Diego
Poinsettia (Mountain West vs. At-large team)
Why you care: It's the first bowl game of the season. Stanford played Navy in 2005 and 2006, splitting the series.
Why Utah will win: Those chop blocks were dirty and karma's a tough mother. Navy beat Notre Dame, God's Catholic, and karma's a real tough mother. Oh, and Utah outweighs the Midshipmen by about 50 pounds at each position on the line. They're not just big, they're pretty good too: before the BYU loss they'd won seven straight in the country's best non-BCS conference. Navy will score, but its defense gave up 44 to Notre Dame, 45 to Pittsburgh and 43 to Duke. Enough said.
Why Navy will win: The crowd should be 70 percent Navy faithful in San Diego, a city with a huge military base. (That's why this game has had Army or Navy in it each of its three years.) The Midshipmen are ninth nationally in scoring offense, at nearly 40 points per game. Utah did lose earlier in the season to Air Force, another service academy with an option attack.
Whom you should root for: Utah. Mormon girls are hot (and always on the market, even with a boyfriend or three). And chop blocks, right?
Vegas says: Utah 36, Navy 29 (Combining the point spread and the over/under.)
Daniel says: Utah 45, Navy 24
Fri., Dec. 21, 8 p.m., New Orleans
New Orleans (Sun Belt vs. Conference USA)
Why you care: Good question. Maybe you have a relative that works for sponsor R&L Carriers? You care about New Orleans more than Kanye West thinks the President does. We could all learn something watching that Southern speed. I hope it's contagious.
Why FAU will win: Southern speed. That nitty-gritty attitude that is keeping our Stanford players from yearly Rose Bowl trips: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Nv5UINZGHJ4. Oh wait, that's Florida International, not Florida Atlantic. Still, as close as we get this bowl season with Miami stuck at home. Memphis won five games by a field goal or less, they're lucky to have a winning record. Florida Atlantic beat a BCS-school opponent…
Why Memphis will win: …but that team was Minnesota, who'd be underdogs to Notre Dame. Neither team's great, but FAU lost to Louisiana Monroe. FAU racked up its wins in the Sun Belt - at least the teams in Memphis' Conference USA have a pulse. The Tigers were Phil Steele's turnaround team of the year back in August. That guy's better at his job than anybody.
Whom you should root for: Florida Atlantic, in the hopes that these directional southern schools can become the MAC of the South, steal some recruits and push SEC schools a little bit, and stop making our favorite conference's fans so insufferable.
Vegas says: Florida Atlantic 35, Memphis 32
Daniel says: Memphis 38, FAU 13
Sat., Dec. 22, 1 p.m., Birmingham, Ala.
Papajohns.com (Big East vs. Conference USA)
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Southern Mississippi (7-5)
Why you care: You hate those Digornio commercials and want to see a rival in the pizza market do well? Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly is one of the nation's hottest assistant coaches and will probably be a BCS head coach in two years (lots of Michigan fans were clamoring for him), catch him in action now so you have an opinion. Brett Farve went to Southern Miss.
Why Cincinnati will win: They're a much, much better team, both in terms of coaching quality and level of player talent (BCS vs. non-BCS) and showed Oregon State as much in a early-season Thursday night spanking. In fact, they beat Rutgers and South Florida and lost to West Virginia only by five. Their other two losses, to Louisville and Pittsburgh, were both within a score. This is the best bowl team we'll see before Christmas. Southern Miss meanwhile, lost to Rice and went just 7-5 in a league with Houston and Southern Methodist.
Why Southern Mississippi will win: So, this is like one of blanks on a test where you know you don't have a good answer but are scavenging for some partial credit. Umm… I just jinxed Cincinnati. Brett Farve's an alum. (Okay, scratch those out, scrawl down this answer in big letters..) Every year we see teams (LSU in the Peach vs. Miami, UCLA pretty much every year under Dorrell) who've underachieved show up flat for bowl games. Guarantee we see two or three BCS conference schools lose games they shouldn't this postseason too, and this one would definitely qualify. Cincinnati did start 6-0 and cracked the top 25. Maybe Kelly doesn't fully have them prepared (and maybe his mind has been on bigger programs.)
Whom you should root for: Went to high school with a guy who's now a receiver at Cincinnati - we both liked the same girl and she was feeling me more than him, and was I ever happy to let him know about it. It's the closest I ever came to getting beat up in high school, so depending on what you think of my writing, you have a definite rooting interest one way or the other. For me, Cincinnati's the no-brainer call. Southern Miss recently fired their longtime winning head coach Jeff Bowers. You're the third-best program in talent-poor Mississippi, the guy's been the head coach for, I think, 17 years and has posted a winning record over all those years. Plus Cincinnati walloped Oregon State, so Pac-10 transitive property pride.
Vegas says: Cincinnati 33, Southern Miss 22
Daniel says: Cincinnati 27, Southern Miss 13
Sat., Dec. 22, 4:30 p.m., Albuquerque, N.M.
New Mexico (Mountain West vs. WAC)
New Mexico (8-4) vs. Nevada (6-6)
Why you care: Wooo! West Coast pride (give or take 500 miles)! You're still hung over from a crazy Friday night and so don't even notice who's on TV? You hate corporate sponsors, and thus support this aptly-named game.
Why New Mexico will win: Home field advantage. Nevada played two games this season on Friday and one on Sunday - not used to Saturday college football. More pertinently, the Lobos put up a better record in a tougher conference. They also didn't lose to San Jose State, and how any bowl team could do that is just unfathomable. Nevada has no reason to play hard in this game - away from home in a low-level game, a major falloff after playing Miami in last year's postseason. New Mexico, meanwhile, sports a solid defense, a dominant running back (Rodney Ferguson, 1,177 yards and 13 TDs) and a passing game that does enough to keep opponents honest. Sounds like a failproof winning formula.
Why Nevada will win: I've never been to Albuquerque, but I know Reno's a depressing town, so those guys probably have nothing better to do than practice football. They played Boise State (69-67, no typo) and Hawaii (28-26) tough in losses. New Mexico did beat Arizona and Air Force (and played BYU within a touchdown), but lost 37-0 to TCU, who as we know was nothing special.
Whom you should root for: Our underdog Nevada. Plus, Trent Johnson coached there last. It is what it is, but New Mexico's got better athletes, with more quickness and athleticism.
Vegas says: New Mexico 30, Nevada 28 *combining the point spread and the over/under
Daniel says: New Mexico 34, Nevada 17
Sun., Dec. 23, 8 p.m., Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaii (Conference USA vs. WAC)
East Carolina (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2)
Why you care: A rare chance to catch the game on the islands without Hawaii actually in it. The announcers in leis and the shirtless 300-pound Samoan cheerleader/drum-beater guy should be there (unless he only comes out for Hawaii games). Chris Petersen, Boise State's head man, is like Kelly - an incredible coach who will have a BCS job in the next two years (heck, probably the next month) if he wants it. And, oh yeah, remember Boise State's last bowl game: http://youtube.com/watch?v=WgjKXyL_o24
Why Boise State will win: Better Xs and Os, better Jesses and Joes. Boise's a tough sell, but after winning 82 games the past eight seasons, the recruiting has really picked up. Their only losses were close to Hawaii (the secondary wasn't deep enough for Hawaii's spread - shouldn't be a problem here) and to Jake Locker & Co. in September. Thought this was going to be a down year with the loss of Jared Zabransky? Think again - quarterback Taylor Tharp has a 68 percent completion percentage an an astronomical QB rating of 158.
Why East Carolina will win: Hawaii and Boise State are the two WAC powers, maybe Hawaii fans root for the underdog Pirates against their main rivals? Hawaii's a disappointment after last year's Fiesta, maybe that combines with all the rumors linking Pederson to every job on the market to lead the Broncos into a lackluster performance. Quarterback Patrick Pinkney is a Jake Locker-lite run-pass threat (60 percent accuracy and a 130 QB rating, plus 253 ground yards) and Boise State didn't acquit itself so well the first time. Tailback Chris Johnson has 1,200 yards on a 5.8 average, but 301 of those came against Memphis, and he couldn't crack 50 against Virginia Tech, North Carolina or Southern Miss. The Pirates' win over North Carolina is better than any Boise State win, but really, that's just trivia - the Broncos should roll here.
Whom you should root for: Rewatching the Boise State highlights for the fifth time right now gave me the chills. A coach who puts it all on the table, a blue field and a running back (Ian Johnson, 1030 yards, 16 TDs this season) who proposes to the head cheerleader after a career-defining win make this a no-brainer.
Vegas says: Boise State 41, East Carolina 30
Daniel says: Boise State 48, East Carolina 31
Wed., Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m., Detroit, Mich
Motor City (MAC vs. Big Ten)
Why you care: I have a tattoo on my hand for my hometown Detroit (no joke) and I'm struggling with reasons here. Maybe your parents work for a car company? (Wait, Mommy does and I still don't care.) Maybe you appreciate one of the world's finest mustaches? http://www.everydayshouldbesaturday.com/2007/10/03/joe-tiller-mustache-of-the-day/
Why Purdue will win: Better athletes. Better facilities. The MAC's track record versus the Big 10 has been like the Norwegians' in limbo contests against the Pygmies. Quarterback Curtis Painter (3:1 TD:INT ratio, 3300 yards, 130 rating) struggles against quality opponents but cleans up against the Centrals of this world. Purdue runs the spread, which can't be stopped...
Why Central Michigan will win: …Oh wait, that was five years ago, Tiller's never adjusted as the game has moved from his pass-only spread to the run-pass threat of a zone-read Rich Rodriguez/Urban Meyer spread and Purdue's gone from the Rose Bowl under Drew Brees to games like this. This is my bet for the annual BCS school team shows up flat game. Purdue's season's a flop no matter what, and they already beat Central 45-22 in week three -- what the heck do the Boilers have to play for? Central, meanwhile, has a roster predominantly of Michigan kids, many of whom either played at Ford Field for high school football finals or are from Detroit and will be in front of friends and family. Purdue's better, but not that much better - Ohio State and Michigan beat them by a combined 43 points in the Boilers' biggest games of the season. Plus, Purdue's lost its last three.
Whom you should root for: Fun fact about Central Michigan: Depressing, depressing town (ironically, Mount Pleasant, MI), whose one redeeming quality is the massive Soaring Eagle Casino complex, which is literally right across the street from the CMU campus. I've indirectly bought half the team helmets, if you see what I mean, so they have my vote, plus, for all you West Coasters, screw the Big 10, right?
Vegas says: Purdue 40, Central Michigan 32
Daniel says: Central Michigan 27, Purdue 21
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!