Hey, does everybody remember how terrible the AAC and ACC were this season outside of Florida State and maybe Clemson? Well, now it's time to watch those schools play in some lower-tier bowl games in places like Annapolis, Charlotte and Houston. Exciting!
If I had to pick one, though, the Louisville-Miami game has the potential to be fairly entertaining. Teddy Bridgewater is still one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and Stephen Morris isn't half bad, either, for the Hurricanes.
Yes, you'll notice because of my laziness, we skipped the two games tonight. Sorry about that. For a quick scoring update, I've gained two games on Jon to get within 3. For Entertainment Purposes Only, naturally. We're law-abiding journalists. Also, this will serve as your Open Game Thread for today's bowls.
(Editor's note from Jon: due to lateness, we didn't pick the Little Caesars Bowl nor the Poinsettia Bowl. Ahearn hadn't even given the former any thought, and therefore had no pick even retrospectively; I would have taken Bowling Green, so I'd have lost that one. Since Ahearn didn't have a pick, it doesn't count, though. We both had Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia, so we really should both be charged with another loss for propriety's sake.)
MILITARY BOWL - Pres. by Northrup Grumman, Friday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN
Maryland (+2.5) over MARSHALL Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Annapolis, MD
AA: I don't know about you guys, but when I think military, I definitely think Maryland and Marshall. At least both team names start with an 'M', I guess? I'm not going to go too in-depth here other than to say I really don't trust Marshall much, especially after fellow MAC team Buffalo let both Jon and I down already in a big way. Maryland has won two of its last 3 and beat West Virginia 37-0. Oh, West Virginia. Terps win this one outright.
JM: Yeah. This is one of those things where I'm pretty sure Marshall can win this game, and I still don't trust them to do it. The real problem with dealing with CUSA is that in any given year you're just not sure whether their good teams are actually good, or whether CUSA was just really bad that year. Rice is good. East Carolina is good. Marshall beat East Carolina... but was that a fluke? I'm going to have to take the Turtles here, because I'm just not sold, but I won't be horribly surprised if I'm wrong.
TEXAS BOWL, Friday, 5 p.m., ESPN
Minnesota (-4) over SYRACUSE
Reliant Stadium, Houston TX
AA: A pre-New Year's bowl game without a sponsor in the name, and it's called the Texas Bowl. How terrible. Even worse is the fact that neither of these two teams are anywhere near Texas. I wonder how the crowd will be. Certainly, Syracuse fans have no reason to show up considering how likely it is their team is going to get destroyed. An 8-4 Big Ten team vs. a 6-6 ACC team? Even for me, that's a no-brainer. Minnesota wins by a lot.
JM: Well, we already know there will be over 1400 extra Syracuse fans who didn't even exist two weeks ago. That's about three whole sections of the stadium, right? As for the product on the field, let's just be blunt. Syracuse isn't a particularly good team this year. Minnesota was actually a very good team this year; this wasn't a case where Minnesota beat up on four patsies and then beat up four Big 10 doormats. Two of the Gophers' losses were wholly legit (and the Gophers were extremely competitive in both games), a third was to Michigan. Iowa, I have no explanation for. So Minnesota's definitely winning, and covering easily.
FIGHT HUNGER BOWL, Friday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
WASHINGTON (-3.5) over BYU
AT&T Park, San Francisco CA
AA: Do I need to point out the irony of a meaningless college bowl game being called the Fight Hunger Bowl? I didn't think so. At least it's in one of the few MLB stadiums not publicly financed, though Wikipedia explains how that's a bit misleading. Anyway, they're still playing this football game, so let's talk about why Washington will run all over BYU. The Huskies boast a strong rushing attack (and a decent passing game, too), and while BYU's rushing defense average of less than 4 yards per carry, it's against weaker competition. They just don't have the talent to keep up with Washington. Huskies cover.
JM: I don't know. BYU's schedule wasn't that bad, and in fairness to the Cougars they actually beat six bowl teams to get here. Washington, on the other hand, lost to almost every team with a pulse. The Huskies won exactly no games against Pac-12 teams with a winning conference record, and the one win they had this season which seemed impressive at the time has, over the course of 15 weeks, turned into a 10-point win over the 9th-best team in the Big Ten. The Huskies may win the game, but I'm going to go ahead and take BYU to at least cover.
NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL, Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN
NOTRE DAME (-14) over Rutgers
Yankee Stadium, New York
AA: Considering how low this game is on the totem pole, I'd think the Pinstripe Bowl could hardly have asked for better teams to play here. Rutgers is close, and of course ND has the national appeal. Sure, the matchup doesn't look great on paper, and the Irish theoretically should cruise to a win. But I learned long ago never to trust this team in a bowl game. With that spread, I have to pick Rutgers to at least cover.
JM: Oddly, while I agree with your reasoning, there's thre things that I can't escape. Rutgers lost to UConn, and only beat Temple by a field goal and Arkansas by four at home (both of which are an awful lot like losing). Rutgers is not a good football team. Notre Dame is not a great football team, but they're still a good one. Still: I cannot imagine the Irish are exuberant over this game. In earlier years, Notre Dame would have stayed home rather than sullying themselves with this charade. I'm going to go ahead and say Rutgers covers, but it's entirely possible the Irish win this by forty.
BELK BOWL Saturday, 2:20 p.m., ESPN
Cincinnati (+2.5) over NORTH CAROLINA
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte NC
AA: For those of you who haven't been very far east, Belk is essentially a department store of a quality somewhere between Wal-Mart and JCPenney. These teams are of about the same quality, even though both have only one loss since Oct. 17, and both of those were very close games against ranked teams. Cincy nearly beat Louisville, which would have extended their win streak to 8. For that reason, mostly, I'm taking the Bearcats in this one.
JM: I entirely agree, and I'll go even further and say that I don't care about North Carolina's late-season run because they got stomped by East Carolina and I don't care how good East Carolina is. That's just not supposed to happen to the Tar Heels. The thing is, UNC has been competent this year. Cincinnati, very quietly, has been pretty good since tripping in Tampa. Of course, they didn't play Central Florida. Had they, my opinion here would probably change, but they didn't. So I'm going with Cincinnati.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL, Saturday, 5:45 p.m., ESPN
Louisville (-3.5) over MIAMI
Citrus Bowl, Orlando FL
AA: Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter and the like may be more well-known in Orlando, but Teddy Bridgewater will be the guy to watch Saturday night. He's going to throw it a lot, and he'll likely pile up a lot of yards and points against a defense that ranked 72nd in D1 in passing yards allowed. That being said, Lousiville's impressive defensive numbers are built on the back of one of the country's softest schedules from a power (LOL) conference team, so I'm expecting Miami to turn this into a shootout. Still, Stephen Morris will probably do something stupid to cost the 'Canes a shot. Louisville covers.
JM: I've been dreading this pick for a couple of reasons. One, Miami's a very good football team. They're not perfect, but they certainly didn't lose to anyone that the final ACC standings would indicate they should have beaten. I mean, if you're a Cane you can't hold Duke up as a bad loss when they won your own division, and Virginia Tech is in that class of program where losing to them is never bad unless they've just tanked the season. Louisville, meanwhile, took care of business except against Central Florida, and UCF is a pretty good football team for those who've missed the memos. More importantly, Louisville did something this year that they've failed to do in years past: they managed to get through the rest of the schedule without shooting themselves in the foot, a seven-point win over Memphis being the closest they came to disaster. I agree with you that the Cardinals will cover. What we disagree on is that I think they're covering even if Stephen Morris avoids his trademark "Whoops" moment, and a couple of Morris turnovers will turn this into a rout.
NEXT: Assuming we aren't completely snowed under by BWW Bowl coverage and can't get to it, we'll look at the eight bowls being played on December 30-31, and ponder whether the SEC is actually capable of losing a bowl game to a school whose campus contains fewer students than Alabama has national championships.