The bowl season begins Thursday night. We will be treated to an endless supply of season-ending exhibitions for deserving (and not-so-deserving) college football teams. Some of these games will be good, others will be only good for filling TV time and hotel rooms. Some of these games will be real duds. Some would be regular-season blockbusters, but post-season duds. The only one that really, really matters is the BCS national championship game on January 7 between Ohio State and LSU.
With bowls spread out over a two-week period, the games will be picked in multiple installments. These are picks for this weekend’s games:
Last week (playoff championship games): 2-2
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at San Diego: Utah vs. Navy
Both teams are 8-4. The Utes have won their last six bowl games. Is Navy becoming Hawaii of the East? They have the Polynesian-American connection working with quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and new coach Ken Niumatololo, the first Polynesian-American head coach in college football. The Midshipmen are proficient at running the option. This will be a good game. It’s hard to go against recent bowl history. Pick: Utah.
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at New Orleans: Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis
Zzzz. Florida Atlantic is coached by former Miami, Louisville, and Oklahoma (cough, cough) coach Howard Schnellenberger. The Owls upset Troy in the last week of the season to win the Sun Belt championship and earn the bowl bid. Memphis finished in the top half of Conference USA and had 7 wins, putting themselves into their fourth bowl in the last five years. Pick: Memphis.
Papajohns.com Bowl at Birmingham: Cincinnati vs. Southern Miss
Cincinnati has had their best season in recent memory, and are currently ranked #20. They face a team in turmoil in Southern Miss, who fired coach Jeff Bower for only going 7-5 consistently. Not too long ago, these two teams were in the same conference. Now, it is a mismatch in favor of the Bearcats. Pick: Cincy
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl at Las Vegas: BYU vs. UCLA
This is a rematch of a game played the second week of the season, won 27-17 by UCLA. The teams have gone in separate directions since, with BYU holding a nine-game winning streak, and UCLA struggling to a 6-6 record. UCLA has since fired coach Karl Dorrell, and is searching for a permanent coach. What was a good matchup in September has become a mismatch in December. What a difference three months makes. Pick: BYU
New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque: Nevada vs. New Mexico
This game proves that anyone that puts up the money can host a bowl game. This is the second year of this bowl, and the Lobos have been in both games. The state tourism department is the sponsor. The game serves two purposes: to be a three-hour commercial for the state of New Mexico, and to give the Lobos an extra game. Pick: New Mexico
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl at Honolulu: Boise State vs. East Carolina
Boise State won’t be in the BCS this year, but they get their second trip to Hawaii in two months. This trip will be more of a vacation than the last one was. East Carolina has had a nice season. They’re no Boise State. Pick: Boise State