Brent's bowl-week preview

Sadly, Commodore football fans are confined to their chaise lounges for what promises to be a mesmerizing week of bowl games. Sure, there are way too many bowls, and most are meaningless except to the teams playing. A few, however, should make for must-see-TV for Commodore loyalists. Here are six bowl telecasts no self-respecting Vandy fan should miss.

It's a lovely thought that warms winter's chill: one of these years, perhaps next year, Vanderbilt fans are going to be enjoying the football bowl season from a vantage point besides their couches. Sadly, however, Commodore football fans are confined, for the 21st consecutive year, to their chaise lounges for what promises to be a mesmerizing week of bowl games.

Ah, so many bowl games, so little time. Sure, there are way too many of them, and most are meaningless except to the teams playing. A few, however, should make for must-see-TV for Commodore loyalists. Here are six bowl telecasts no self-respecting Vandy fan should miss:

Tuesday: Houston Bowl, Houston, Tex.
Navy (8-4) vs. Texas Tech (7-5); 3:30 p.m., ESPN

Why it's of interest: This contest pits one of the nation's most potent pass-happy offenses (Texas Tech) vs. the nation's most beautiful-to-watch option offenses (Navy). By all means watch this game, but don't touch it with a ten-foot pole. Texas Tech could score 60 points, or Paul Johnson and Navy could use the option to neutralize the Red Raiders with ball control. As you watch, keep in mind that (A) Vandy travels to Annapolis next season, and (B) the Houston Bowl is a possible future destination for Vandy. (Since the SEC couldn't field eight bowl-worthy teams, Navy is playing in its first bowl game in forever.)
The line: Texas Tech by 12-1/2.
Who will win: Probably Texas Tech, but like I said, don't touch it.

Wednesday: Music City Bowl, Nashville
Auburn (7-5) vs. Wisconsin (7-5); 11 a.m., ESPN

Why it's of interest: Yeah, I know, it kicks off before lunch time, and the matchup itself may not be especially compelling; both teams failed to meet lofty pre-season expectations. But you should watch this game, mainly out of civic pride. It'll also be fascinating to see how the Auburn team reacts in the first game after the Tommy Tuberville fiasco. Had the media not gotten wind of the Auburn "braintrust's" ill-fated clandestine meeting with Bob Petrino, Tuberville might have been watching this game from the couch; instead, the wily Tuberville is smirking like the Cheshire Cat. Both these teams travel well, and the cash registers in Nashville should be jingling. Auburn has the SEC's best back in slippery Cadillac Williams. The Badgers own a win over defending national champ Ohio State, and the cheeseheads are always one of the Big Ten's most physical teams.
The line: Auburn by 3.
Who will win: Wisconsin, which is finally healthy, should pull the upset.

Thursday: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Michigan (10-2) vs. Southern Cal (11-1); 3:30, ABC

Why it's of interest: The granddaddy of them all could turn out to be the game that wrecks the BCS as we know it. In what should be a captivating game, neither team can win the BCS Championship, but USC, ranked No. 1 in both major polls, could finish No. 1 and claim the "mythical" national championship. Michigan, the Big Ten champ, could restore order by upsetting the Trojans. The Wolverines boast devastating running back Chris Perry; USC has Norm Chow, Matt Leinart, and the nation's most intricate, destructive passing offense.
The line: Southern Cal by 6-1/2.
Who will win: Southern Cal, which was probably the best team in the country this season, all things considered. Let the debates begin!

Friday: Cotton Bowl, Dallax, Tex.
Ole Miss (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (9-3); 1 p.m., Fox

Why it's of interest: Here are two traditionally downtrodden football programs that finally delivered breakthrough seasons for their fans-- in a bowl game that used to be one of the biggies, but now carries little national clout. I know, nobody much cares for David Cutcliffe, but in a Big XII-SEC matchup like this one, you can't help but root for the Rebels just a little bit. It's the last game for Eli Manning, the SEC Player of the Year and the Maxwell Award winner.
The line: Mississippi by 2.
Who will win: Mississippi. They're a one-man team, but Manning should go out with a bang.

Friday: Peach Bowl, Atlanta, Ga.
Clemson (8-4) vs. Tennessee (10-2); 3:30, ESPN

Why it's of interest: Vanderbilt fans may be sitting at home, but they can't keep us from the fun of rooting against the Vols. And Phillip Fulmer has provided plenty of fodder this year. He's gone on record saying the "system failed", and that the 10-2 Vols deserved better than a game vs. 8-4 Clemson in the lowly Peach. Has he forgotten what happened last year right here in the Georgia Dome? Tennessee basically forgot they had a game to play, and "lowly" Maryland mopped the floor with the Vols; if Tennessee lays another egg, Fulmer's face will be covered with it. Bobby Johnson's alma mater was erratic this season, but Tommy Bowden saved his job with late-season wins over Florida State and South Carolina. Avoid this game if you can't abide the sight of tacky orange (Clemson goes UT one better, conterbalancing its orange with bilious purple hues).
The line: Tennessee by 5-1/2.
Who will win: Tennessee. The game could be close, but Casey Clausen and Tennessee just know how to win the close ones, dang it.

Sunday: Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, La.
Oklahoma (12-1) vs. LSU (12-1); 7 p.m., ABC

Why it's of interest: The BCS computers, in their infinite wisdom, determined these two teams should meet for all the marbles in the season's grand finale. And it should indeed be a great matchup, maybe a game for the ages like last year's Ohio State-Miami thriller. LSU, which toasted Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, is playing just an hour away from its campus, making this the toughest Sugar Bowl ticket ever. Oklahoma, which features Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, looked like one of the best teams in history as it plowed through its regular-season schedule. But Bob Stoops' Sooners forgot to show up for the Big XII Championship, and were dominated by Kansas State in the season's biggest shocker.
The line: Oklahoma by 6.
Who will win: Defense wins championships, and LSU has a great one. Kansas State gave Nick Saban the blueprint. Call me crazy, but... Bengals win, sending the Big Easy into an early Mardi Gras. (Yikes... Vandy plays in Baton Rouge next Oct. 30.)

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