Like a holiday spread of roast turkey, ham, and mounds of luscious pies and cakes, the college football bowl season is unfolding at a lightning pace. Here’s a look at some of many matchups taking place over the next week.
Dec. 24, Las Vegas Bowl
N. Mexico (+3) vs Oregon St: The Lobos are on a 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS run after starting 1-3. Sam Boyd Stadium is familiar ground for New Mexico, winning 25-16 last season at UNLV and losing the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl (27-13) to UCLA. The Mountain West reps get it done with defense and outstanding RB Dontrell Moore (1,438 yards, 19 TDs, 5.4 yards per carry). The offense averages 227 rushing yards and 196 passing. The Lobos lost but covered against Pac 10 member Washington State as a 16-point road dog, 23-13. The "under" is 7-3 in New Mexico’s last 10 outings.
Oregon State (7-5 SU) carries a 6-1-1 "over" run into this game. The offense is paced by RB Stephen Jackson (1,396 rushing yards) and QB Derek Anderson (3,736 yards, 22 TDs, 23 INTs). The Beavers went just 1-4 on the road, allowing 31 points per game. OSU failed to cover against Fresno State, New Mexico State and Boise State, losing 16-14 at Fresno as an 8-point favorite.
Dec. 25, Hawaii Bowl
Houston (+10Â½) at Hawaii: First to make a tackle wins! The artificial turf works for both teams, who possess terrific, speed-oriented offenses and poor defenses. The visiting Cougars, under first-year coach Art Briles, averages 220 yards rushing and 233 yards passing. Houston has talent at the skill positions, led by QB Kevin Kolb (2,771 yds, 61 percent, 23 TDs, 4 INTs), WR Brandon Middleton (1,225 receiving yards, 14 TDs) and RB Anthony Evans (1,083 yards). The secondary was lit up, yielding 50 to Michigan, 42 to Tulane, 45 to Memphis, 62 to TCU, and 66 to Louisville.
Hawaii (8-5 SU) will attack that poor defense with a devastating passing offense that averages 33 points and 374 yards per game. Coach June Jones runs a wide-open offense and has two QBs in Jason Whieldon (12 TDs, 6 INTs, 1,079 yds) and Timmy Chang (24 TDs, 19 INTs, 3,724 yds). Hawaii went 6-1 SU and 3-3 ATS at Aloha Stadium, outscoring teams by a 41-26 average.
Dec. 27, Continental Tire
Virginia (—2Â½) vs Pitt:Two great quarterbacks hook up in Charlotte. If Pitt sophomore WR Larry Fitzgerald (87 rec., 1,595 yds, 22 TDs) was angry about not winning the Heisman, he gets a chance to showcase his stuff in what may be his final collegiate game. QB Rod Rutherford (35 TDs, 13 INTs) is graduating, along with several offensive linemen.
The Cavaliers (7-5 SU) won their last two games impressively against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Senior QB Matt Schaub completed 70 percent of his passes for an offense that averaged 28 points and 256 passing yards per game. Coach Al Groh is not one to take bowls lightly. "We’re not going for hayrides and log flumes, we’re going to win." Virginia won the 2002 Tire Bowl as a 5-point dog against West Virginia, 48-22.
Dec. 29, Alamo Bowl
Michigan St (+3) vs Nebraska: A battle of new coaches. Michigan State’s John L. Smith got the Spartans to a bowl game in his first season. Bo Pelini, Nebraska’s interim coach, took over after Frank Solich was fired after the regular season. Michigan State (8-4 SU) has a wide-open passing offense behind QB Jeff Smoker (21 TDs, 11 INTs), but the defense yielded 38 points at Minnesota, 33 at Ohio State and a whopping 56 at Wisconsin.
Nebraska played great defense (allowing 15.4 ppg) under Pelini and operated a conservative run-oriented offense. Some Nebraska players held a closed-door meeting last week about how to handle their frustrations regarding the head coaching vacancy. Said one player, "We feel like we’re completely left in the dark. There have been so many wounds opened, and everyone wants those wounds to close by hiring Coach Pelini as head coach."
Dec. 30, Houston Bowl
Navy (+13) vs Texas Tech: Do you like the run or pass? You’ll see a lot of both here. Navy (8-4 SU) leads the nation in rushing (326 ypg) behind QB Craig Candeto. Texas Tech barely knows what a run is, averaging 42 points and 473 yards passing behind quarterback B.J. Symons (5,336 yards, 48 TDs and 21 INTs).
Strategies won’t change for this game. Navy will run in order to keep the ball out of Symons’ hands. Texas Tech will pass early and often, even with a large lead. The Red Raiders were 0-3 SU against teams featuring strong ground attacks, falling 62-31 to Missouri, 43-40 to Texas and 51-49 to Oklahoma State. Navy, however, is no defensive dynamo so don’t be surprised to see a lot of offense and points.