What bowl games to watch, ignore
By Jay Heater
Contra Costa (Calif.) Times
By Jay Heater
With the bowl season beginning tomorrow with TCU and Northern Illinois playing in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, it's hard not to cry for Arizona and Washington State.
Both of these football teams reached the pinnacle of success as determined by the NCAA and ESPN by reaching six wins, finishing with a fine record of 6-6. But the Wildcats and Cougars will be home for the holidays. Considering that Iowa (6-6) lost five of its final six games to earn a berth in the Alamo Bowl, perhaps they have an argument.
It also means that in some back room at ESPN, staff members are thinking of ways to entice some city to add yet another bowl game to the already turkey-stuffed schedule.
With 32 bowl games this season, only nine bowl eligible teams (all 6-6) didn't receive bids. In addition to the two Pac-10 teams, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Pittsburgh, SMU, Wyoming, Kansas and Kent State all landed at college football's Mendoza line.
Certainly, another two or three bowls could be added to the schedule.
Of course, there might be fans who believe the bowl system is incredibly watered down with frauds. But for better or worse, here is a look at this season's bowls, rated from best to watch to the worst.
1. BCS CHAMPIONSHIP
JAN. 8 (FOX)
WHO: OHIO STATE (12-0) VS. FLORIDA (12-1)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: A USC-Ohio State game would have been more fun, but this game should be intriguing. Unfortunately, it probably won't be as good as the Michigan-Ohio State regular season finale, which turned into an offensive free-for-all with the Buckeyes winning, 42-39. Florida's defense is too good for that scenario. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith will be operating against the No. 10-ranked defense in the nation. Gators coach Urban Meyer is certain to trot out some surprises. A definite turn on.
2. ROSE BOWL
JAN. 1 (ABC)
WHO: MICHIGAN (11-1) VS. USC (10-2)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Wolverines haven't faced a defense like the Trojans', so don't be surprised if this one gets out of hand in USC's favor. In a playoff, both teams would have had a shot at winning it all. NFL scouts will have a field day watching Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham. A definite turn on.
3. FIESTA BOWL
JAN. 1 (FOX)
WHO: OKLAHOMA (11-2) VS. BOISE STATE (12-0)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Say what you want about whether Boise State deserves to be in a BCS bowl, but the Broncos are interesting to watch. Boise State tailback Ian Johnson punishes defenders on the field and knits hats off it. The Sooners will get back tailback Adrian Peterson, and the NFL will be watching. You should, too. Turn it on.
4. SUGAR BOWL
JAN. 3 (FOX)
WHO: LSU (10-2) VS. NOTRE DAME (10-2)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: It's bowl season, which means its time for the Irish to take their annual beating. It's eight straight losses and probably will be nine after this one. Lots of fun stuff, though. Irish quarterback Brady Quinn will be performing his NFL audition against the nation's No. 2-ranked defense. Tigers quarterback JaMarcus Russell is a playmaker who usually is worth the price of admission. Turn it on.
5. OUTBACK BOWL
JAN. 1 (ESPN)
WHO: PENN STATE (8-4) VS. TENNESSEE (9-3)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: All eyes will be on JoePeg limping along the sideline, but there will be a pretty good game on the field. The Volunteers should have trouble moving the ball against a Nittany Lion defense that is led by linebacker Paul Posluszny. Vols quarterback Erik Ainge and wide receiver Robert Meachum (1,265 yards receiving, 11 touchdowns) had better hook up a few times early. A real turn-on game.
6. ORANGE BOWL
JAN. 2 (FOX)
WHO: LOUISVILLE (11-1) VS. WAKE FOREST (11-2)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Demon Deacons did a wonderful job navigating their way to a BCS game after being sad sacks a year ago. Along with Rutgers and San Jose State, they are the biggest stories in college football this season. However, Cardinals' quarterback Brian Brohm leads an offense that averaged 476.8 yards per game. Should be an entertaining, high-scoring turn-on game.
7. CAPITAL ONE BOWL
JAN. 1 (ABC)
WHO: ARKANSAS (9-3) VS. WISCONSIN (11-1)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The nation caught Darren McFadden fever toward the end of the season and the Hogs' tailback might be the Heisman favorite going into next season. However, adding to his 1,558 yards rushing this season will be tough against the nation's No. 3-ranked defense. Wisconsin might be irritated for not being considered for a BCS game despite going 11-1, but it played Bowling Green, Western Illinois, San Diego State and Buffalo in the non-conference season. That's college football's version of hiding under the bed. Turn it on anyway.
8. HOLIDAY BOWL
DEC. 28 (ESPN)
WHO: CAL (9-3) VS. TEXAS A&M (9-3)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Aggies, who padded their record with non-conference wins over The Citadel, Louisiana-Lafayette, Army, Louisiana Tech and Eastshore Boys Academy, completely changed their season when they upset Texas. They now look like a legitimate matchup for a Cal team that wasn't quite good enough to get the job done in the Pac-10. Cal's DeSean Jackson and Marshawn Lynch are reason enough to turn on this game.
9. TEXAS BOWL
DEC. 28 (NFL)
WHO: RUTGERS (10-2) VS. KANSAS STATE (7-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Poor Rutgers. One triple overtime loss away from a BCS playoff berth. Instead, the Scarlet Knights get a trip to Houston. Can you say booby prize? The Big East must have been studying the Pac-10's bowl arrangements. In any event, Rutgers lands a match against a Kansas State team that has a win over Texas to its credit. Turn it on.
10. LAS VEGAS BOWL
WHO: BYU (10-2) VS. OREGON (7-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Sure, we all love Las Vegas, but the Mountain West powers-that-be should be slapped for having their conference champ, which went undefeated in league play, in this bowl against an underachieving Ducks squad that went down the tubes. That being said, the game matches the nation's No. 5 (BYU) and No. 8 (Oregon) offenses. It should be an offensive slugfest and decent viewing if Hogan's Heroes is the best alternative.
11. COTTON BOWL
JAN. 1 (FOX)
WHO: AUBURN (10-2) VS. NEBRASKA (9-4)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: If you are awake for this one, it means you didn't have much fun on New Year's Eve. It's understandable why you would want to sleep in. Nebraska padded its win column by playing Nicholls State, Louisiana Tech and Troy. Auburn is the real deal and it should take care of business. A mild turn-it-on if you like seeing the Cornhuskers suffer.
12. SUN BOWL
EL PASO, TEXAS
DEC. 29 (CBS)
WHO: OREGON STATE (9-4) VS. MISSOURI (8-4)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Beavers are the interesting half of this mildly-entertaining matchup. They beat USC and won seven of their final eight. The Tigers, in contrast, gagged when it got tough in the Big 12. They lost four of five after a 6-0 start. OSU wide receiver Sammie Stroughter (1,206 yards receiving) is the guy to watch in this game. A mild turn-on.
13. GATOR BOWL
JAN. 1 (CBS)
WHO: WEST VIRGINIA (10-2) VS. GEORGIA TECH (9-4)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Offensive stars will be out in force. West Virginia quarterback Patrick White and tailback Steve Slaton, and Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson should give fans lots of thrills. Tech quarterback Reggie Ball offers thrills in a different way. He threw 14 interceptions this season. Lots of points and little defense will allow CBS to sell ads in the fourth quarter. Turn it on.
14. HAWAI'I BOWL
WHO: HAWAI'I (10-3) VS. ARIZONA STATE (7-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The attraction here is Hawai'i quarterback Colt Brennan, who has thrown for 4,990 yards and needs two touchdown passes to set the all-time NCAA record for most in a season. David Klingler of Houston holds the record with 54 set in 1990. For fans of offense, this game has produced 298 points in the past three seasons. Most of the points could be scored by Hawai'i. Arizona State players will be partying all night on the beach with fired coach Dirk Koetter. A mild turn on just to see if the Sun Devils arrive on time.
15. CHICK-FIL-A BOWL
DEC. 30 (ESPN)
WHO: VIRGINIA TECH (10-2) VS. GEORGIA (8-4)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Georgia, No. 77 nationally in total offense, struggled to move the ball against bad teams. How will it move the ball against the nation's No. 1 defense (221 yards per game)? The Hokies allowed just 11 touchdowns all season. If punting floats your boat, climb aboard. A mild turn-on, but this Chick could grow into a turkey.
16. CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
DEC. 29 (ESPN)
WHO: MARYLAND (8-4) VS. PURDUE (8-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Terps, who fashioned a pretty good run at the ACC title, face the nation's 114th-ranked defense, so points shouldn't be a problem. Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter should help make the game exciting. He has thrown 18 interceptions this season and for 3,721 yards. A mild turn on.
17. EMERALD BOWL
DEC. 27 (ESPN)
WHO: UCLA (7-5) VS. FLORIDA STATE (6-6)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Bruins have played pretty good defense all season, but their performance against USC was off the charts. Don't expect a repeat in this game. The curiosity here is how things went so wrong at Bobby Bowden U. Don't miss something important like Bingo for this one. A very, very mild turn on.
18. ALAMO BOWL
DEC. 30 (ESPN)
WHO: TEXAS (9-3) VS. IOWA (6-6)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Longhorns, a team developing under first-year quarterback Colt McCoy, definitely are worth watching. Unfortunately for them, they were dumped into the equivalent of bowl hell. They are facing the horrible Hawkeyes, who have lost five of their last six games and should be home shoveling snow. Texas has landed in the ultimate no-win situation. A total turn off.
19. LIBERTY BOWL
DEC. 29 (ESPN)
WHO: SOUTH CAROLINA (7-5) VS. HOUSTON (10-3)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Gamecocks and Steve Spurrier had just one decent win this season, over Clemson. Houston, which averages 439.9 yards of offense, won in a bad Conference USA. Turn it off unless you are a college football junkie.
20. MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL
DEC. 30 (ESPN)
WHO: BOSTON COLLEGE (9-3) VS. NAVY (9-3)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Navy played two premier teams, losing 38-14 to Notre Dame and 34-0 to Rutgers. Boston College should handle business unless it gets thrown under the Meineke Car Care bus. Turn it off.
21. NEW MEXICO BOWL,
WHO: SAN JOSE STATE (8-4) VS. NEW MEXICO (6-6)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Dick Tomey has done a wonderful job in San Jose. That being said, the Spartans lost every key game they played this season — to Boise State, Nevada and Hawai'i. They also failed to beat an opponent with a winning record. The Lobos should be at home cleaning out the rain gutters for their moms. You can watch New Mexico tailback DonTrell Moore slug it out 3 yards at a time, or you can better spend your time with a Blue Collar Comedy Tour rerun. Turn it off.
22. MUSIC CITY BOWL
DEC. 29 (ESPN)
WHO: CLEMSON (8-4) VS. KENTUCKY (7-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: The Wildcats' path to a bowl game went through Texas State, Mississippi, Central Michigan, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Monroe. Kentucky ranks No. 118 in the nation in total defense, one spot worse than Temple. If Clemson doesn't win this mismatch, it should disband its program. Turn it off.
23. INSIGHT BOWL
DEC. 29 (NFL)
WHO: TEXAS TECH (7-5) VS. MINNESOTA (6-6)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Congratulations to the Insight Bowl staff, which turned away from the Pac-10 in order to produce this clunker. Fortunately for all concerned, it's on the NFL Network, so nobody will see it. Tech should throw for about 800 yards against a crummy Gophers defense. Turn it off.
24. MPC COMPUTERS BOWL
DEC. 31 (ESPN)
WHO: MIAMI (6-6) VS. NEVADA (8-4)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Do you think the Hurricanes, who are used to playing in high-profile bowl games, will be fired up for a trip to Boise? A total turn off unless you have relatives playing at Nevada or Miami. Turn it off.
25. ARMED FORCES BOWL
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
WHO: UTAH (7-5) VS. TULSA (8-4)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Shouldn't Navy be in this bowl? The game does feature the Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year in Utah defensive back Eric Weddle, and Conference USA defensive player of the year in Tulsa linebacker Nick Bunting. For the gamblers among you, Utah has won three of four, including a 33-31 loss to conference champ BYU. Tulsa, meanwhile, lost three of its last four. If you aren't gambling, turn it off.
26. POINSETTIA BOWL
WHO: TCU (10-2) VS. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (7-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: When it becomes apparent after the first quarter that Northern Illinois tailback Garrett Wolfe, the nation's leading rusher with 1,900 yards, can't run against the nation's No. 4 ranked team in total defense (249.5), what's left? You would have more fun planting poinsettias then watching this weed of a bowl. Turn off this mismatch.
27. PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL
WHO: SOUTH FLORIDA (8-4) VS. EAST CAROLINA (7-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Sure, South Florida had a nice win over West Virginia. But it padded its record with games against McNeese State, Florida International and Central Florida. As far as East Carolina, you couldn't get Johnny Depp to watch these Pirates. Turn it off.
28. MOTOR CITY BOWL
DEC. 26 (ESPN)
WHO: Central Michigan (9-4) vs. Middle Tennessee (7-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: Michigan against Tennessee. Great stuff. Oh, those pesky directions, Middle and Central. Before you check out the Chippewas and the Blue Raiders, consider that Middle Tennessee played quality teams in Oklahoma, Louisville and South Carolina and lost by a combined 155-24. In automotive terms, that's a lemon. Turn it off.
29. INDEPENDENCE BOWL
DEC. 28 (ESPN)
WHO: OKLAHOMA STATE (6-6) VS. ALABAMA (6-6)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: You often hear there are no losers in a bowl system. Well here is a game that guarantees a loser with two 6-6 teams stinking up the joint. Mike Shula's reward for getting his team to this game was a pink slip. A major turn off.
30. GMAC BOWL
JAN. 7 (ESPN)
WHO: SOUTHERN MISS (8-5) VS. OHIO (9-4)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: This game will be kind of like somebody throwing up on the school bus. Funny at first, until the smell starts to grow. A total turn off.
31. INTERNATIONAL BOWL
JAN. 6 (ESPN2)
WHO: CINCINNATI (7-5) VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN (8-4)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: This one was scooped up by ESPN2 because ESPN had a bass fishing tournament scheduled for that time slot. You can bet that after watching this game the Canadians will sign up their sons for — curling. Turn it off.
32. NEW ORLEANS BOWL
WHO: RICE (7-5) VS. TROY (7-5)
TURN ME ON/OFF?: These two teams started the season a combined 2-9. Troy lost 56-0 to Nebraska. Rice lost 55-7 to Florida State and 52-7 to Texas. Crummy leagues improved their standing. The only thing in this bowl — other than Rice wide receiver Jarett Dillard (82 catches, 1,176 yards, 20 touchdowns) — is Alpo. Turn it off.
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Wednesday, Dec. 27