Say what you will about the quality of football played by all the small schools, at least they managed to give us some competitive games. The BYU-Memphis matchup topped the list, but Bowling Green-South Alabama and Navy-San Diego State also provided some excitement.
Now we move on the teams with which we're all more familiar and you'll probably start to see some better athletes or at least guys that look more like football players, although that doesn't always mean they're better football teams. Some (great job, NC State!) will just be happy to be here, while others (sorry about that Nebraska, USC and Miami) will be a little embarrassed to be this low on the totem pole, but Jon and I will be assessing all of them as we make our picks For Entertainment Purposes Only. At the time of this article's publication, which is before the Heart of Dallas and Motor City Bowls, Jon's at 76-71, Luke's 74-73. Jon maintains a two-game lead; that won't change, as we both picked Louisiana Tech and North Carolina in today's first two games..
A reminder: we are, as a form of protest, eschewing all corporate sponsorship references.
|Friday, 7 p.m.
ST PETERSBURG BOWL
Thunderdome, St Petersburg FL
LT: Random thought: They should totally have the Thundercats come out at halftime for this game in the Thunderdome. That would probably be more exciting than the football, which is likely going to be of a very low quality. NC State's best win this season is clearly a 35-7 stomping of rival UNC on the road, and I saw Central Florida play earlier this season in Columbia and came away very unimpressed. Their quarterback is no Blake Bortles. That being said, they finished the year out strong by winning 9 of 10 (mostly against weak competition in the American but still) and they've got a three-game bowl win streak, so I'm taking UCF to cover.
JM: Did anyone expect Central Florida to go 9-3 without Bortles? No, of course not. That they did is an indication that they're actually a fairly decent football team. You know who's not a fairly decent football team (yet)? North Carolina State. Dave Doeren should have them on the right track in a year or two, but for now... take the Knights and give the points.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis MD
LT: Oh, Virginia Tech. I'm not sure what has happened in recent years and it makes me kind of sad because I really do like Frank Beamer, but they have just not been very good. In fact, they would have missed a bowl game for the first time in 22 years without that stunning upset of Ohio State. They also won on the road at Duke and then followed that up with a befuddling 6-3 double overtime loss at Wake Forest in which no one even scored in regulation, so this team is near impossible to predict. But I think Coach Beamer gets his team ready and VT covers against a mediocre Cincy team.
JM: There are two things we won't forget about 2014. M00N and VI00WF. Cincinnati's three losses this season were all in a row, against Ohio State, Memohis, and Miami -- the one in Florida, not the one in Ohio. They beat them. How often does a team play both Miamis in one year, I wonder? Anyway, while I don't know that Cincinnati's resume qualifies them as a good team, they aren't exactly mediocre. The Hokies, on the other hand, are just lost and adrift. Bearcats cover.
|Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
Sun Bowl, El Paso TX
LT: I'm still not used to this whole Duke playing football in December thing. They had another solid year, with the exception of a couple bad losses to VT and UNC late. But Arizona State is actually a very good team that played in a tough conference (they did avoid Oregon) and knows how to score points. Duke's defense isn't very good, and they're not a team built to win shootouts. Sun Devils roll and cover.
JM: We all know lots of folks on the internet who are Duke basketball fans and fans of some blue-blood football program. Me, I have a soft spot for Duke football and Alabama basketball, because I am strange and different. That's neither here nor there, though, because Arizona State's going to cover.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Independence Stadium, Shreveport LA
LT: Oh hey, look, it's the team that started the season ranked ninth by the AP and picked to win the SEC East by the media. How'd that work out for you, Coach Spurrier? So, I'm fairly certain the Gamecocks are the better team here, and Miami's three-game losing streak to end the season is somewhat concerning. But I just can't shake the feeling South Carolina won't be fully prepared for this one and I'm not even sure they'll be interested. Hurricanes cover.
JM: I don't see it. South Carolina is the better team, and they've got the incentive to avoid a losing record. If Miami really had anything at all to concern me here, I'd agree, but the only time they've really looked good all season was in the first half against Florida State.
I'm pretty sure a Texas high school would look good in the first half against Florida State, is what I'm getting at. Gamecocks cover.
|Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Yankee Stadium, Bronx NY
LT: We're still doing this bowl, huh? So glad the Big 12 got away from this one. There are few things I hate more during bowl season than matchups between mediocre ACC and Big Ten teams, so let's make this one quick. Penn State beat UCF by 2 points to barely go undefeated against a weak nonconference slate before losing six of eight Big Ten games. BC, of course, knocked off USC and actually won four conference games, even though they ranked 123rd out of 128 FBS teams in passing yards per game. Eagles cover.
JM: This is interesting only because Boston College has a chance to win the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy, awarded each year to the best team in the East. Who's won more Lambert-Meadowlands Trophies than anyone? Penn State, of course, with a ridiculous 26. (It was 29, but Paterno.) Boston College has won 6, and could move into a tie for second with Army if they claim the hardware this year. That's incentive for the Eagles. Penn State takes this thing very seriously, but they're way out of the running for the trophy this year.
And now that we've fulfilled this pick's pointless trivia quota, BC covers.
|Saturday, 7:00 p.m.
Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego CA
LT: The storied programs of Nebaska and USC meet again.....in the Holiday Bowl. This is beautiful. The Huskers are dealing with the Bo Pelini fallout, so it's hard to say whether that will be a motivating factor or if it will make them unfocused in their preparation. Meanwhile, USC is one of the most unpredictable teams in the nation's most unpredictable conference. I don't know what to do with this one, so let's take the Trojans to cover because nobody likes Nebraska.
JM: USC's been unpredictable largely because they play in a really good conference, although there is that whole Boston College problem. And lo and behold, that's where the problem comes in picking this game. Why did BC take down USC? USC can't defend the run. Uh-oh. And Nebraska's much better defending the pass than the run, which... uh-oh again. I think the Trojans are going to win this one, but with that line being where it is, it's a scary proposition. Still... it's the Huskers. USC covers.
|Monday, 1:00 p.m.
Liberty Bowl, Memphis TN
LT: I wonder if Johnny Football will make the trip down from Baltimore after his season ends to watch this one. The Aggies are probably better than their 7-5 record indicates, since they had a three-game rough patch and just weren't the same team when Kenny Hill couldn't play. But WVU can be quite good at times as well, and Kevin White will be looking to showcase his skills one last time before the NFL draft. This one could be fun to watch, since both teams love to throw the ball and generally consider defense optional. I'm not sure who wins, but more than a field goal seems like too big of a line, so I'm taking A&M to cover.
JM: Luke did not yet know this when he wrote his half of this, but he's going to stick with A&M even at +1. The big news this afternoon: Clint Trickett has retired from football, revealing that he suffered five concussions this season. That means Skyler Howard will be under center for the Mountaineers. Now, that's not disaster scenario for West Virginia; Howerd put the fear of God into K-State when he took over for Trickett in that game. But coming this late in the cycle, when presumably Trickett's been taking the majority of the first-team reps in practice leading up to the bowl game... it's now more a question of who's going to win the game than whether it stays close. So I'm taking West Virginia.
Next: From Orlando to Atlanta, as we steamroll right into the suburbs of Big Bowl City.