The college bowl season is finally here, and for those who love college football, it couldn’t come soon enough.
While the bowl structure has changed over the years — there are a whopping 32 games this season — and they’ve become more commercial than ever before, nothing can match the excitement of a bowl game for college football fans.
To those critics who say there are too many bowls or too many "meaningless" games, keep in mind that bowl games are similar to brides: every one is beautiful in its own way.
Quite simply, there’s a passion in a college football game — any college football game — that is lacking at the NFL level. Teams play for pride, their school, their families and their community.
The college game is still mostly uncorrupted by money, and thus the driving force of most contests is the heart of the team members.
So, while not every game will carry the BCS significance, every game will be contested with passion.
What more do we need?
Here’s part one of a rundown of this year’s bowl season. Part two comes next week.
Tue., Dec. 19 — Poinsettia
TCU -12vs. Northern Illinois: Northern Illinois features a dynamic running back, Garrett Wolfe, the nation’s leading rusher. He needs only 100 yards to reach 2,000 for the season. That task won’t be easy as TCU has the fourth best rush defense in the country. The Horned Frogs are on a seven-game winning streak that should continue here. Take TCU.
Thu., Dec. 21 — Las Vegas
Brigham Young -3Â½vs. Oregon: Judging by ticket sales, this should be a BYU home crowd. Cougar quarterback John Beck is a solid pro prospect and he will be tossing bullets to his outstanding tight end Jonny Harline. Oregon also has a prolific offense that scores more than 30 points/game. But their defense has been porous at times. Give the nod to BYU and take a look at the over as well.
Fri., Dec. 22 — New Orleans
Troyvs. Rice -4Â½: There’s no question Rice has had an amazing season, but laying points in a bowl might be a stretch. The Owls’ defense allowed 191 yards rushing and 190 yards passing per game, as well as nearly 33 points per game. Troy State is no juggernaut, but they should be able to hang tough here.
Sat., Dec. 23
So. lorida —4Â½vs. E. Carolina: East Carolina has been the darling of point spread players all season — their 10-2 ATS record is among the best in the nation. They didn’t have as difficult a schedule as South Florida, which notched key wins against Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia. Nevertheless, you can expect a big effort from the Pirates in this spot and an outright win wouldn’t surprise.
New Mexico -3Â½vs. San Jose St: New Mexico has a miserable record in bowl games, even though this contest is in their back yard. San Jose State flew under the radar for most of the season, but ended the season with big wins over Idaho and Fresno State. The Spartans should prevail here.
Tulsavs. Utah -1Â½: Utah ended the season on a tough note, losing to BYU in the last minute after leading for the entire game. Tulsa also had a rocky stretch run in which they lost three times as a favorite before knocking off lowly Tulane. In a very close game, give the edge to Tulsa.
Arizona Statevs. Hawaii -8: Arizona State coach Kirk Koetter is a lame duck here. He may really open up the playbook. However, Hawaii will want to erase that bad taste in its mouth from a season-ending loss to Oregon State. The Rainbow Warriors could score 50 en route to a big win here.
Tue., Dec. 26 — Motor City
Central Michigan -10vs. Middle Tennessee: Central Michigan has stated that their season-long goal was to win the MAC and advance to a bowl game. Well, they were 9-1 in the MAC and have a chance to rack up a big win close to home. The Chippewas have been solid all season with honest efforts. That should be enough to get the money here.
Wed., Dec. 27 — Emerald
UCLA -4Â½vs. Florida State: Talk about your ultimate "let down" spots, this is it. It’s hard to imagine the Bruins focusing their energy on such a "meaningless" bowl game after winning their "real" bowl game against USC three weeks ago. In addition, Florida State has a speedy defense that should corral the anemic Bruin attack. In a low-scoring affair, the Seminoles are the correct side.
Thu., Dec. 28
Alabamavs. Oklahoma State -2: This is not your daddy’s Crimson Tide. ”˜Bama ended the season by losing three straight and four of their last five. They’ll be facing a high-powered Cowboy attack that rushed for more than 208 yards game while piling up more than 35 points. Alabama’s only hope is for a low-scoring slugfest. They won’t get it here as the Cowboys win.
California -5vs. Texas A&M: For most of the season, everyone thought Cal was the heir-apparent to the top spot in the Pac 10. But successive losses to Arizona and USC cured those thoughts. Meanwhile, Texas A&M was amassing its share of heartbreaking losses — they lost squeakers to Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska — before ending the season with a win over Texas. The momentum from that win should fuel a solid effort here.
Kansas Statevs. Rutgers -7Â½: Even though the Rutgers dream of a national title bid ended in Cincinnati, they’re still one of the season’s best "feel good" stories. To their credit, they rebounded with a nice win over Syracuse before ending the season with a 2-point loss against West Virginia. Expect the Scarlet Knights to make the most of this with a win over K-State.
Fri., Dec. 29
Kentuckyvs. Clemson -10: Clemson is another team that cruised through most of the season before rounding it out with three losses in their last four games. Nonetheless, the Tigers have a vastly superior defense to Kentucky’s, which gave up more than 36 points a game when playing away from home. Clemson should score enough to win by a sizable margin.