Biggest question of the bowl season: will ESPN use the Manheim Steamroller cover of "Carol of the Bells" as its theme music for the 23rd consecutive year?
Still recovering after a rough Championship Week. Conference Championship week got weird, and I have purposely chosen to not review the stinky mediocrity of my picks. Just know, whoever still reads this, that I am not a pro picker, and feel real emotions just like the rest of you.
But it's a new day.
Picking bowls is TOUGH. Really weird stuff happens in them, because lots of weird factors are thrown together. For example:
(i) Long rest and improving health and depth that make mediocre teams better;
(ii) Unheralded freshmen playing much better at the end of the season after more experience and practice time;
(iii) Strange conference matchups;
(iv) Motivation to play in a shitty bowlgame if you expected better;
(v) Coaching changes/absences/interims;
(vi) Being too excited about the Fossil watch you got as part of your bowl gift package to focus on the game;
But, there are certainly some good picks to grab, so let's take a look. We'll look at all the Pac-12 affiliated bowls, plus games I think have some value. Let's take a look at some of the better bowl games up through December 27.
(Reminders: (i) Lines are from Las Vegas Insider's Consensus Picks; (ii) Picks are on a 1-to-5 Mike Bellotti "Staches" confidence-o-meter. Obviously more "Staches" is good. In all contexts.)
12/21 - New Mexico Bowl: Washington State -4.5 over Colorado State (5-Stache Pick): I think Wazzu is real excited to be back in a bowl game, and are on a nice little streak, and are a solid 9-3 against the spread this year. The Rams of Colorado State have had some nice moments this year, and have an All-American running back in Kapri Bibbs, but I just don't think they quite have the athletes to stay with the Cougs in space. Wazzu by 10.
12/21 - Las Vegas Bowl: USC -7 over Fresno State (3-Stache Pick): Been burned this year a few times by USC. And they've had turmoil: playing under their third head coach this year, and are waiting for a fourth (Sarkisian) to take over. But Fresno quite simply cannot play defense. And though USC has been uninspring at times, I think they can physically outmatch Fresno. Take the Trojans and their top-5 talent to run the ball down the Bulldogs' throats, and probably score some special teams TD's.
12/21 - Potato Bowl: Buffalo +1.5 over San Diego State (2-Stache Pick): I think the MAC is better than the Mountain West this year. And Buffalo might have the best player in the entire MAC: superfreak LB Khalil Mack. Game is in Boise, where Buffalo should be able to deal with the cold better. They play nice D, and can score points. SDSU is talented, but up and down, so I think the Bulls win this one.
12/21 - New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette +1.5 over Tulane (2-Stache Pick): Tulane has lost 3 of its last 4, and ULL has lost its last two after sitting at 8-2. Neither inspires much confidence at this point in the year. But ULL is just better, I think. And they've won their past two bowl games, so they know how to do it. Take the RAGIN' CAJUNS because RAGIN' CAJUNS.
12/23 - Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: East Carolina -14 over Ohio (3-Stache Pick): I've been riding ECU all year. They've been beating good ACC teams on the reg, and I think they're way better than Ohio. I could see a crushing here. I also refrain from commenting on the title of this bowl.
12/24 - Hawaii Bowl: Oregon State -3 over Boise State (1-Stache Pick): No clue how to feel about this one. On one hand, the Beavs have lost 5 straight. On the other, they looked very, very good against the Ducks during the Civil War. On still another hand (appendage?), I am ready to see the Boise State empire (or whatever) fall. I have an inkling that it will in Hawaii. Beavs are ready to win a bowl game after a long drought, and do it here.
12/26 - Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State +1.5 over Northern Illinois (2-Stache Pick): Didn't know this, but apparently Utah State has developed into a defensive powerhouse: top 12 in almost every defensive category. Just the kind of thing you want to be good at when facing a running QB. Bet on the letdown potential with Northern Illinois: expected a BCS game, got the Poinsettia Bowl. The Aggies have done a great job recruiting recently, have done an awesome job replacing all-everything QB Chuckie Keeton, and I think they're ready to roll.
12/27 - Texas Bowl: Minnesota -4.5 over Syracuse (5-Stache Pick): Lock this up. Syracuse is real bad. Minnesota has a solid, smash mouth running game, which is great in bowl games where other things can go awry. And this bowl game seems to be one of the few that doesn't have a stupid sponsor name in front of it. Downside: expect to see a lot of Rick Perry commercials.
Stay tuned next week to see how we did, and for look at the next group of bowl games. Go Ducks.