We kick off this year's bowl coverage, obviously, at the beginning. Over this first seven days we'll see some of the teams that might not draw much attention. These are often the bowls that get the jeers of the crowds saying there are too many bowls. But what we do get to see is a lot of young men who will get on the field for something that roughly half of college football teams don't get - postseason play. The crowds will be mostly die-hard fans and locals hoping to see a game in person. It might sound anticlimactic and for some it is. But for many, this is one last chance on the field. A chance they wouldn't trade anything for.
R & L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL- troy VS NORTH TEXAS
There is a challenge to writing sports commentary. It requires a writer to look at facts and reality and set aside any sympathies, animosity, or perhaps even hate driven by blind rage that you may have for a team. You have to look at statistics and players and games honestly and try to relay your best guesses based on available information. Sometimes that is harder than others.
I absolutely hate troy.
I've looked at the stats and the schedules and I didn't really like what I saw. North Texas has fielded a decent team. troy comes in 10-2 with a strong showing in conference and on the road - including that win at LSU. After comparing the two teams I came to a logical decision, wrote it down and then I burned it with fire.
WINNER: NORTH TEXAS
AUTONATION CURE BOWL – WKU VS. GA ST
This is an interesting match up. Georgia State is the new kid on the block. Less than 10 years into football they line up against an older program.
Looking into the schedules, one thing really jumped out at me. At the end of October, WKU was sitting at 5-2 and looked poised for a strong finish. Then they lost four of their last five. That stretch included a loss to a Vandy team that started strong and then ended up being a team that any bowl team should have beaten. Going into bowl season it is better to be inconsistent than to consistently lose. That leaves me wondering if the Hilltoppers can pull out of that dive. It isn't looking good for the guys from Bowling Green.
WINNER: GEORGIA STATE
LAS VEGAS BOWL - BOISE SATE VS OREGON
This one has some history. A lot of that history is ugly. For the sake of the game, let's hope these two have that out of their system and are ready to really play football.
The folks in this world who love an underdog are really missing the Boise of yore. Those were the days of the Statue of Liberty and running backs proposing to cheerleaders.
The Ducks are always in the hunt but always seem to overachieve. That still true today but they opted out of the hunt.
I think the chronically underappreciated Boise roughs up the chronically over-hyped Ducks.
WINNER: BOISE STATE
NEW MEXICO BOWL - MARSHALL VS COLORADO STATE
This looks to be one of the better match ups this week. They are fairly well matched on both sides of the ball. Colorado State is an older program that is moving into a new age. Marchall is a storied program of rich tradition and a lot of success.
But there is one key to this game for me. Any honest Georgian who follows football and pays attention to details and stats knows that Mike Bobo is one of the finest offensive minds in football. He will make the difference in this game. Look for a lot of yards and a lot of points.
WINNER: COLORADO STATE
CAMELLIA BOWL - MIDDLE TENNESSEE VS ARKANSAS STATE
Two former opponents from my Jax State days meeting in a beautifully named bowl. Two fairly evenly matched teams at an equally neutral site. I'm looking for the Red Wolves to make the difference on offense. Look for a high scoring game as neither team boasts a dominant defense. Taking that consideration and The Red Wolves bringing the #6 passing offense to Montgomery, look for fireworks.
WINNER: ARKANSAS STATE
BOCA RATON BOWL - AKRON VS FLORIDA ATLANTIC
The Zips have had a pretty good season. Their few losses were to impressive opponents...at least until they are compared to FAU's losses. A team that is on the run they are having and playing a home game can hardly be expected to offer a fair match up in this one. Obvious advantage: FAU. There's no way I can pick against Kiffin in this one.
FRISCO BOWL - LOUISIANA TECH VS SMU
A December trip to Frisco isn't really undesirable. But let's face it, it's not Boca Raton.
Louisiana Tech is that solid team that produces year after year. They are going to the playoff but they are going bowling. SMU is a former power that never returned to the status it enjoyed before the Death Penalty. SMU come in without their coach, gone on to bigger things. The kicker for me is that Louisiana Tech has a defense. I think that will make the difference here.
WINNER: LOUISIANA TECH
GASPARILLA BOWL - TEMPLE VS FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
This might be the least evenly matched game. Temple comes in with six losses and a home win over Cincinnati as their biggest boast. FIU comes in with eight wins and has put a ton of points on the board. With Butch Davis on the sideline you can expect a disciplined approach and a team that will be well prepared. Look for few mistakes from FIU. Most importantly, look for a win from FIU.
Coach Drew Burnham
Picking bowl games is different than picking regular season matchups. It’s not about who is the better team. It’s not about who is playing close to home and who had to travel. Being so far removed from the season, it’s not even about who is on a hot streak and who may have struggled at the end. It all comes down to one question. Who GETS to play in this game and who HAS to play in this game? The season has been over for weeks and for everyone except the playoff teams this is the end of the line. Who is exited to get the opportunity to strap it up one final time? Who is ready to find their way home for winter break?
R & L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL- TROY VS NORTH TEXAS
I would like to say that I have enjoyed my time in this segment this year and I am appreciative for the invitation to join it. It really has been a ton of fun and I have enjoyed the time I spent writing my piece every week. All good things must come to an end I suppose and I believe that this pick will be the end of the line for me as the curator will certainly have my head for this.
The men of Troy are 1-0 in the state of Louisiana this season and will add another one Saturday. You beat an SEC school, win your conference and then get to play in the Superdome AND be home in time for Christmas? What’s not to love? North Texas is a very talented team but found themselves on the wrong side of the tracks in the conference championship game against the Lane Train. Troy gets to play. NT has to play.
AUTONATION CURE BOWL – WKU VS. GA ST
A 6-6 season isn’t what the Hilltoppers have come to expect in Bowling Green. A dramatic 3OT win over major rival Middle Tennessee had a chance to save the psyche for bowl season, but Butch Davis was having none of it and delivered in Western’s final regular season game. The Panthers have an opportunity to win their first bowl game in program history. Although their season ended on 2 losses to good teams (Idaho may be one of the most under rated ones out there this year), I think they are excited to see their program take that step and be a part of history. For one of these teams, a 6 win season is a let down. For the other, it is an opportunity to do something never done before. Formula holds true.
WINNER: GA STATE
LAS VEGAS BOWL – BOISE STATE VS OREGON
*SIDE QUESTION: Is Legarrette Blount going to be in Las Vegas Saturday? If he is, someone let the boxing odds makers know.
Typical National Title contender Oregon will play this game under their 3rd Head coach in a year. No seriously, it was 364 days. That, added to a 7-5 season, added to opponents who just won their conference title on their own field in a tremendous football game does not spell out an easy road for the Ducks. For personal relationship reasons I certainly hope I’m wrong. I just see a team who is ready for their opportunity to hit the reset button and begin their climb back to national prominence. Boise is very dangerous and will enjoy this experience. WINNER: BOISE STATE
NEW MEXICO BOWL - MARSHALL VS COLORADO STATE
Marshall had a very real opportunity to finish the regular season 9-3 and get win #10 in a bowl game before dropping their final 2 games. Aspirations were high, and rightfully so, for this season early on before November took its toll on the Herd. Things are changing in Fort Collins. Brand new stadium. Big time coach. Big time offense that scored 40 or more 7 times this season. Those guys are changing how things are done at that place and what other people think when they hear the name. I think this is one of the more exciting games of the week, but I think I know who is more invested in the game.
WINNER: COLORADO STATE
CAMELLIA BOWL – MIDDLE TENNESSEE VS ARKANSAS STATE
After a loss at Western Kentucky, Middle’s season was on the brink of ending early. They had to win their final game of the year to be eligible which they did in convincing fashion. Arkansas State has won the sunbelt 5 times in the past 7 years before losing their final week game to Troy which would have given them a share of another. Who’s enjoying their game in Montgomery?
WINNER: MIDDLE TENNESSEE
BOCA RATON BOWL – AKRON VS. FLORIDA ATLANTIC
Akron won the MAC East but fell short in their championship game. Do I think that makes this a let down for them? No! They get to leave central Ohio in mid December to spend a week in Boca Raton, Florida! I expect that team to fight their guts out and represent themselves very, very well. BUT. Choo Choo!!! All aboard the Lane Train for…a home game? Come on.
FRISCO BOWL – LOUISIANA TECH VS SMU
We’re going to FRISCO!!! Oh wait, wrong division.
For one of these teams, it is business as usual. LA Tech heads back to another bowl game just like they do every year, and if you’re counting they’ve won 3 in a row. SMU, though, is a team with something to prove. Their coach has gone Hog hunting and won’t be with them. This is their chance to show the world that they are as good as advertised, new coach, old coach or no coach. The players will be excited for this one. And that’ll be the difference.
GASPARILLA BOWL – TEMPLE VS FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
You don’t win games at Florida International. It doesn’t happen. Well, until now that is. Enter Butch Davis. Wow. The 8 wins is the most in program history and they’re going to just their 3rd bowl game. The guy can absolutely do it. Those kids have to be so fired up about what they are accomplishing for that program that it doesn’t matter who they play (within reason). Do it Butch.