It's that time of year when teams travel to beautiful temperate climes to contest their wills against one an-- what? Idaho? Albuquerque? DETROIT? Oh, whatever. Anyway, in the first of a whopping five installments, Jon and Ahearn will tangle with one another yet again, and as always this is For Entertainment Purposes Only.
In the regular season finale, Ahearn went 3-4, his overall record dropping to 75-62-6. That closed the gap with Jon by a game, as the benevolent despot's 2-5 mark left him at 79-58-6. Four games separate our intrepid prognosticators with 35 to go. Down to the wire, folks!
Normally, the all-caps designates the home team. Well, nobody's a home team in bowl games, but one team's designated the home team for uniform and coin-toss purposes, as well as silly stuff like picking which sideline and so on. The all-caps indicates the team designated as the "home" team, but has no real impact. As always, all times are Central.
GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL, Saturday, 12/21, 1pm, ESPN
Washington State (-4.5) over COLORADO STATE
University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
JM: What's a Gildan? A t-shirt company. Now you know. What I don't know is whether I'm certain of my pick here. Washington State got into the game by the hair of their chinny-chin-chins, but they did perform adequately in a tough Pac-12 this year. Things are looking up for the Cougars. Colorado State, on the other hand, had an up-and-down season. Slam dunk, yeah? But the Rams have been visibly improving over the course of Jim McElwain's tenure, as one would expect from a trusted Nick Saban associate. Still, I have a gut feeling here that the Cougars are going to handle business and cover.
AA: I don't know. It feels like Colorado State has a lot more to play for here, and that's often what matters most, as we know all too well. Of course a win over a Pac-12 team would be a nice bragging point and as you noted, they want to continue that improvement they've been showing. Meanwhile, Washington State lost the Apple Cup, and when that happens, everyone gets really sad. I would assume that's the case, anyway. Go ahead and take the Rams to win outright.
ROYAL PURPLE LAS VEGAS BOWL, Saturday, 12/21, 2:30pm, ABC
Fresno State (+6.5) over SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas NV
JM: Now, what the hell is Royal Purple? I mean, other than a totally awesome color. Let's see here. A lubricant manufacturer? No, not that kind of lubricant. Degenerates. Anyway. So USC had a resurgence under the watchful eye of DACOACHO, and then they promptly went and hired Steve Sarkisian, which in turn prompted the guy responsible for righting the ship to take a hike. Meanwhile, Derek Carr is Derek Carr, his allergy to Yellow Spartans aside. I think the tumult in Los Angeles is going to result in, at the very least, a Fresno State cover here.
AA: Yeah, that's some crazy stuff going on with the USC coaching situation. But the Trojans still have the superior talent here. Plus, let's not forget prior to their ast game of the regular season, the Bulldogs were dreaming of an undefeated record and BCS bid. Yeah, they rebounded to win the Mountain West title (barely) but now they're playing in some lame Las Vegas Bowl against a USC team many people have probably written off. Trojans cover.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL, Saturday, 12/21, 4:30pm, ESPN
Buffalo (PK) over SAN DIEGO STATE
Bronco Stadium, Boise ID
JM: I'll be honest. I have no idea why on earth this game is a pick 'em. Allow me to offer you two numbers: 40-20 and 42-7. Those are the scores by which Ohio State beat these two teams, and one was the result of a focused second-half acceleration while the other was the result of the starters standing on the sideline. Buffalo's going to win.
AA: I'll be honest, I have no idea why on earth this game is happening. It sounds pretty awful to watch, and that's even before you consider it will be played on the blue turf. Jon's score comparison game seems strange to me in this scenario, and I could point out SDSU beat Boise and took Fresno to overtime. Actually, though, that probably just shows how weak the MWC was. Go with the MAC. Pick Buffalo.
R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL, Saturday, 12/21, 8pm, ESPN
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (+2.5) over Tulane
Mercedez-Benz Superdome, New Orleans LA
JM: Look, a bowl game where the two teams combined have to travel about 140 miles. You think the fans will travel? Trick question. I'd be more inclined to lean toward the Green Wave here just on "TULANE'S IN A BOWL GAME" principles if it weren't for the fact that Tulane wasn't so much a beautiful surprise as they were adequately mediocre. If the Ragin' Cajuns hadn't just lost their final two games to teams which had to win to get bowl eligible (and stay home anyway because Sun Belt), I wouldn't even have the inclination. In the end, though, I think the Cajuns win outright.
AA: I still remember when the Louisiana-Lafayette team played respectable against Kansas State. For that reason, I'll go ahead and pick the Cajuns to win as well.
BEEF O'BRADY'S ST PETERSBURG BOWL, Monday, 12/23, 1pm, ESPN
East Carolina (-13.5) over OHIO
Tropicana Field, Saint Petersburg FL
JM: Sure, the MAC was tough this year. But Ohio's 4-4 conference mark wasn't a result of having to play Buffalo and Bowling Green and Northern Illinois and Ball State. They only played the first two. East Carolina's losses? By five to Virginia Tech, in overtime to Tulane, and yeah, they got whooped by a sneaky good Marshall outfit. But they're the de facto North Carolina state champions (they beat both UNC and NC State), so that's gotta be worth something. Bottom line, the Pirates are a really good team, and they're not only going to win, but they're going to cover this line.
AA: Big lines always scare me in bowl games, especially the lower ones. You always have to wonder if complacency will factor in, or if teams will be underestimated, or whatever. In this one, though, I think that beatdown by Tulane will be all the motivation East Carolina needs. I watched Ohio play a game once this year and while Frank Solich has coached them well, they just don't have a whole lot of talent. ECU has more and isn't afraid to put up a lot of points. Pirates will cover.
SHERATON HAWAI'I BOWL, Tuesday, 12/24, 7pm, ESPN
OREGON STATE (-3) over Boise State
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu HI
JM: This was a boondoggle for Oregon State. Their basketball team plays in the Diamond Head Classic during the same time frame as the Hawai'i Bowl, and even better, they don't have a game scheduled the day of the bowl game. I think these teams are just about even, really. I also think having two reasons for Beaver fans to be in Hawai'i at the same time, and all of them being able to show up for what's usually a sparsely-attended bowl game, is enough to make Oregon State three points better. Beavs to cover.
AA: Once again, the Mountain West is pretty terrible. Oregon State isn't great, but they did nearly take down Oregon and bounced back to win 6 straight after a devastating season-opening loss to Eastern Washington. Don't be deceived by OSU's current 5-game losing streak. It came against
NEXT: Six of the seven games taking place on December 27-28, as it's our practice not to pick the K-State game, you see.