‘Tis the Season to go Bowling

18 12 2010

My favorite time of the year begins today: College Football Bowl Season.

As if this time of the season isn’t already fun enough, the excuses are endless to sit on the couch, eat chips (which I love) and watch the best football teams in America suit it up for one last time.

Whether you are a believe in the BCS or not, one thing about the current structure that is special in my eyes, is that every single team plays like their no tomorrow.  Because win, lose or draw, there isn’t.

I know that they hype around the early matchups might resemble your feelings of when you wer eight-years old and open up a pair of socks on Christmas morning, but there are plenty of reasons to watch the “meaningless matchups.”

1. If you miss the first one, you can’t say you watched every bowl game.  I view this as a major accomplishment.  In fact, I suggest you make it your New Years resolution in 2011.  That way, when you haven’t dropped that weight you said you were going to, you can still redeem yourself with a moral build accomplishment that catapults you into 2012 with the motivation to finally shed those pounds.

2. There are great matchups within the bad matchups.  Just because the name on the front of the jerseys might not be enticing, don’t forget about the ones on the back.  For example, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl pits one of the nation’s top rushing quarterbacks in Ricky Dobbs (860 yds, 13 td), against one of the top passing signal-callers in Ryan Lindley (3,554 yds, 26 td, 146.1 qb rating).  Or in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, two 1,000-yard backs will square off in Syracuse’s Delone Carter (1,035 yds 5.1 ypc) and Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas (124.6 ypg – 6th in NCAA).
Heck, despite my disdain for the University of Washington, I’m even looking forward to see if quarterback Jake Locker – the projected preseason number-one pick in the NFL draft – can redeem himself against Nebraska led cornerback Prince Amukamara – who is currently supposed to go in the top 5 – after getting steam rolled by the Cornhuskers 56-21 on Montlake earlier this year.

3. The one you miss will be the best game of the season.  Don’t be that guy.  The one who is chatting with his buds and is the only one to have missed the game.  Case in point: Idaho vs Bowling Green, 2009.  Unless you had ties to one of the schools, your “honey” probably convinced you to get some chores done or check out the post-Christmas sale on new draps at Ikea.  All you missed was 85 points, 990 yards of total offense and a 3-play, 66-yard drive in the final 32 seconds capped by a two-point conversation that gave the Vandals a 43-42 victory.  But hey!  At least you can close those new draps to hide from your friends!

PREDICTIONS
New Mexico Bowl
BYU (6-6) vs. UTEP (6-6) – 11:00 a.m. (ESPN)
Albuquerque, N.M.
Line: BYU by 12     Over/Under: 51

Uncharacteristically, both of these offenses have sputtered this season.  BYU ranks 80th in total offense (354.2 total ypg), while UTEP has not fare much better ranking 72nd (371.0 total ypg).
A closer look though shows two teams trending in opposite directions.  Miner quarterback Trevor Vittatoe led his team to a 5-1 start, tossing 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions, but UTEP limped down the stretch finishing 1-5, as Vittatoe threw eight picks and only five touchdowns.  Coupled with a defense that allowed 29.0 points a game, the Mike Price led team limps into the postseason.
BYU on the other hand has progressed nicely over the year and true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps has been the driving force for the Cougars.  In BYU’s six wins, Heaps has thrown nine touchdowns to two interceptions, whereas in their six losses, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 2-to-6.  Either way, Heaps is the reason BYU is in the postseason, leading the Cougars to a 4-1 finish, throw 10 of his 11 total touchdown passes over that span.
The was I see it, Heaps – a highly touted recruit out of high school – will use his pristine decision-making (he passed up a scholarship for Washington after) to lead BYU past UTEP.

Final: BYU 31,  UTEP 20

uDrove Humanitarian Bowl
Northern Illinois (10-3) vs. Fresno State (8-4) – 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Boise, ID
Line: NI by 2     Over/Under: 58

Ready get for some good old fashion football.  Both Northern Illinois and Fresno State use the ground and pound approach and – to make things more difficult – possess the passers you respect enough to keep from loading the box.
For the Huskies, junior Chandler Harnish is one of the most gifted duel-threat quarterbacks you will see this bowl season (2,230 pass yards, 764 rush yards) and along with senior runningback Chad Spann (1,293 yds, 20 td), Northern Illinois ranks 7th in the NCAA with 264.8 rushing yards per game.
As for Fresno State, they have been more balanced than in years past, but are still as physical as ever.  With the departure of Ryan Matthews to the NFL last season, sophomore Robbie Rouse appears to be the next Bulldogs back destined for big things.  Despite missing two games, Rouse rushed for 1,097 yards, including 286 and 217 in back-to-back games against Louisiana Tech and Nevada.
With the in mind, Rouse will be playing with a cast on his left hand due to an injury he suffered against Boise State and I just don’t think Fresno State is the same without him at full strength.  Even though both teams played the University of Illinois this season with the Huskies losing and the Bulldogs winning, overall, Northern Illinois has been much more successful at stopping the run than Fresno State.

Final: Northern Illinois 34, Fresno State 28

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Ohio (8-4) vs. Troy (7-5) – 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

New Orleans, LA
Line: Troy by 2     Over/Under: 58
Ohio put together a nice stretch run, winning seven of their last eight games.   With their offense leading the way (35.9 points in their eight wins), this matchup presents a serious problem for their defense.
With freshman quarterback Corey Robinson leading the way, Troy likes to throw the ball and can really spread the field.
On the season, the Trojans rank 12th in the NCAA with 289.4 passing yards per game, and 27th in points scored averaging 32.9.
My gut tells me Ohio, but my brain says Troy.
Final: Troy 34, Ohio 24
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