Shipmates, it’s about time for REALBOWL action to start, and it’s just going to get hotter and heavier as the week goes on.
We note at the outset that Pitt and Bowling Green lived up to the hype for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, giving us a fine and feisty contest last night, in which Pitt finally prevailed 30-27. But the Falcons put up a good fight. Utah State and #23 Northern Illinois, by contrast, gave us something of a snooze-fest down in San Diego. The Aggies eventually staggered off with that one, 21-14.
Marshall has upheld the honor of C-USA (such as it is, with so little time remaining for the conference) by knocking off Maryland in today’s Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman. As I type, Syracuse and Minnesota are duking it out in Houston for Texas Bowl honors. As expected, their defenses are keeping things in check; the Orange has 7 on the board and Goldie is muttering to himself, scoreless and forlorn.
We still have the Fight Nausea Bowl to look forward to tonight, with the Huskies now giving 5 in the line. But then, oh then, the bowls we’re going to see!
Saturday punches off early with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, our very most favorite new bowl of all time. Sadly, it will feature Rutgers and Notre Dame this year, which would make it Fight Nausea Bowl II if it were any other Booger Bowl. But since it’s the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, played in Yankee Stadium, we’re going to give its bad taste in teams a pass and just enjoy. The oddslads have the Arsh giving 14, which is reasonable. The Scarlet Commies looked pretty sad this year. Sunny and upper 40s for the noon EST kickoff.
From Charlotte, NC comes the Belk Bowl, now in its third year as the Belk Bowl, and therefore getting pretty up there, in terms of Booger Bowl longevity. (It was formerly the Meineke Car Care Bowl, and before that the Continental Tire Bowl.) Tomorrow’s team match-up will be Cincinnati and North Carolina, so at least we don’t have to call this one the Chopped Liver Bowl. Tar Heel fans are backing a 2-point give, and we figure that’s a little low, even though the Bearcats can bring some heat. They’ll need to stop Marcus Williams.
The Russell Athletic Bowl will unfold in Orlando starting at 6:45 PM EST and featuring Miami (Da U) and #18 Louisville, two also-rans of uncertain spark this year, and occasional brilliance. The Cardinals give 3, reflecting their edge in ranking and season record (11-1 to the Hurricanes’ 9-3), but also a justified assessment that the teams are pretty well matched. This one has excellent possibilities as worthwhile appointment football.
The nightcap on Saturday has possibilities as well, with Michigan and Kansas State meeting in Tempe for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. This bowl was the Insight Bowl from 2001 to 2012, which always sounded like Keanu Reeves or Lawrence Fishburne should be lurking on the margins somewhere. Now, of course, it just sounds – football and wings – like a marriage made in heaven. Wildcats give 5, but that may be selling the Wolverines short. We’re not counting this one out.
After the pros do their thing on Sunday – the Cowboys Romo-less against the Eagles (like it would have made a difference? And please move DeMarcus back off the line. DE just isn’t working for him. Get over it already. Not that it matters if he’s too hurt to play, like half the team, including very possibly Dez Bryant with the sore back… And that’s all before we get to Aaron Rodgers back in the lineup for the Packers in the NFC North showdown with Chicago… OK OK OK) – anyway, Monday kicks off in style with the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth. TOC fave Navy will take the field against Middle Tennessee (motto: “Yes, there is one!”), and actually gives 6 in the line. As long as Keenan Reynolds is healthy. An up-with-the-chickens 10:45 AM CST kickoff for this one.
The poetically named Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl is up next on Monday, bringing us a face-off between Ole Miss and Georgia Tech. The Rebels give 3, and we’d go with at least that.
More appointment football erupts from San Antonio at 5:45 PM CST on Monday, when Texas and #10 Oregon take to the field at the Alamodome for the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Big 12 also-rans frankly walked off with better post-season match-ups than Baylor did, in the humble opinion of your TOC Football Commentary Service, and this is one of them. The oddsquad has O-Ducks giving 13, but we expect better than that from the ‘Horns, even with the uncertainty about who the coach will be next year. They’ll want to win one more for Mack Brown. Don’t miss.
And Monday’s not all footballed out yet. You won’t regret staying up for the National University Holiday Bowl, even if it has changed its name from the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, which we liked a lot better. In its new guise, the San Diego-based bowl will showcase #14 Arizona State and Texas Tech. The Sun Devils give 14, but again, we wouldn’t sell the Big 12 team short, even if they did make it to only 7-5 this year. Could be some fireworks in this one. Kickoff at 7:15 PM PST.
New Year’s Eve starts out with the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, featuring Arizona and Boston College. Might be just a tad hard to stay awake for this one, not that we have anything against either team. A fine game to accompany a steak fry. Wildcats give 7, and we say, why not?
Moving to El Paso at 1:00 PM CST, we’ll see more excitement when TOC fave Virginia Tech takes the field against #17 UCLA in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. It’s the first time the teams have met, so that’s a little something. The line shows the Bruins giving 7, but Thomas, Byrn, and Knowles are all healthy for the Hokies, and UCLA’s D was nothing to write home about by most measures during the season. So we give VT a good shot and wouldn’t advise points.
At 3:00 PM CST we’ll be darn proud of Rice, C-USA champion, heading out to face Mississippi State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Oddsdudes have the Bulldogs giving 7, which is pretty reasonable. But don’t count the Owls out. Might clean up on this one by taking the contrarian view.
At 8:00 PM EST in the Georgia Dome, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl will kick off between #24 Duke and #21 Texas A&M. Have to go with the 11-point give for the JohnnyAgs on this one. It’s always entertaining to watch the Manziel offense roll; if the Aggies are in form, they shouldn’t have much trouble with the Blue Devils.
We’re always proud to announce the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, even when it has some other, less prepossessing name. The Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl will lead us off for the year 2014, with Nebraska and #22 Georgia kicking off in Jacksonville at noon EST. The two teams are stuffed with talent, but frustrated their loyal fans to the point of sackcloth and ashes this year. Maybe they’ll redeem themselves with a rootin’-tootin’ bowl match on the 1st. Bulldogs give 9. Take ‘em if you’ve got money to throw away.
The deeply silly, but clearly necessary, Heart of Dallas Bowl is up next on New Year’s Day, and danged if North Texas won’t be in it. We’re gratified to see the Mean Green have a winning season and get to a bowl game, even if they do have to play moth-eaten, lice-infested UNLV, by far the least hygienic team in the FBS. We’re doubly gratified to report that North Texas gives 6. Take the points at your own risk.
At 1:00 PM EST in Orlando, #19 Wisconsin and #9 South Carolina will kick off in a quality Capital One Bowl (which, for those of you old enough to remember, used to be the Tangerine Bowl and was for a while the Florida Citrus Bowl). We’re hoping Samuel L. Jackson will be there. But even if he’s not, the football should be pretty good. Badgers give 1, but we wouldn’t take points on this one.
Cued up at the same time, across I-4 in Tampa, will be TOC Nation fave #16 LSU in the Outback Bowl, colliding with Iowa. Florida’s going to see 48 hours of hopping football on the 31st and 1st. Tigers give 7, and those points, we’d take. LSU fans should have Ray-Jay Stadium covered.
Of course, they’ll be having the Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO as usual, at 2:00PM PST in Pasadena, with the #5 Candy Pink giving 6 to #4 Michigan State. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, of course, will feature #6 Baylor and #15 Central Florida, and nobody’s giving UCF much of a chance. The oddsbubbas show the Bears giving 16 in the line. Probab-lee. This is one of those situations a playoff system would be more likely to adjust sensibly. I don’t think we’re going to see a Boise State and Oklahoma type ending in this one.
On the 2nd, we revert from all the of-course-ness to another tail-kicking Big 12 also-ran bout: the Allstate Sugar Bowl between #11 Oklahoma and #3 Alabama. Talk about an awesome get for the Sooners. The Tide is naturally favored by 15 or so, but hey, Sooner fans can hope, tailgate, and scream their heads off in N’awlins, Loo-see-ana, so what’s not to love? 7:30 PM kickoff in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Yeah, wearing our Football Commentary Service hat, we predict OU will get its backside handed to it. The thinnish, often-overstretched defense will really have to step up; can’t rely on the patented Occasional Sooner Offense and Special Teams Quick-Strike to carry this one off. But in Sooner-fan disguise, we’ll be rooting like crazy.
TOC Nation Bowl Week wraps up on Friday the 3rd with the Discover Orange Bowl, which around these parts is the lesser of the two bowls on the 3rd. Should be a quality BCS bout between #12 Clemson and #7 Ohio State in Miami – Buckeyes give 2; meh – with an 8:30 PM EST kickoff that unfortunately competes directly with the REALBOWL of the day: the AT&T Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, starting at 6:30 PM CST between #13 Oklahoma State and #8 Missouri.
It’s almost ridiculous how the Big 12 got off the train with all these great bowl match-ups. Mizzou gives 1, and this one’s really a pick ‘em, one of the better pairings of the entire bowl season. Lot of fast-and-funny to be expected from both teams on offense; Tigers should have a slight edge in experience on both sides of the ball, but the Pokes are talent-rich, and frankly have a better record of adjusting on the fly when the game plan’s not working. That said, the Tigers will be their toughest opponent of the year. Should be an awesome game.
So, Syracuse hung in there and pulled it off with a come-from-behind strike in the 4Q to win the Texas Bowl 21-17. We’re on to the Fight Nausea Bowl, in which Washington is up 7-0 over a BYU that looks sluggish and sleepy so far. Next week, we’ll take on the remainder of the bowl schedule. But for now, we’re getting ready for TOC Nation Bowl Week. Game on!