Bowl Preview: 1st Edition

by John Furgele

The college football bowl games are set and the extravaganza begins on Saturday, December 20 with four games.  The first game is the Eagle Bank Bowl, which will see Navy play Wake Forest.  The Middies had another fine season, finishing an 8-4 season with a 34-0 rout over Army.  Navy will run the triple option and when their running game struggles, they will run the triple option some more.  This is the sixth straight bowl game for Navy.  Last year, the Middies were beaten 34-32 by Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Wake Forest expected more, but ended up 7-5 in the very competitive ACC.  The Demon Deacons are led by quarterback Riley Skinner, a savvy leader.  This should be a close game and something tells me that Navy will pull out the victory.

The New Mexico Bowl is next on December 20 with Colorado State (6-6) playing Fresno State (7-5).  The Rams, based on a .500 record, have had an up and down season, and after a promising start, Fresno State faded, and were beaten badly by Boise State in their season finale.  I’m not sure this is what we would call “appointment television.”

The inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays and will pit South Florida (7-5) and Memphis (6-6).  The Bulls, like Fresno State, faded badly down the stretch and went just 2-5 in the Big East, but in this day of 68 bowl teams, a 7-5 record is a virtual guarantee for a bowl game.  Despite its name, South Florida is located in Tampa, and should enjoy a home crowd advantage, provided there is a crowd.

The December 21 nightcap is the Las Vegas Bowl, which usually features the Mountain West champions and a Pac 10 also-ran.  This year, because Utah is in the BCS Sugar Bowl, the MWC sent its number three team, the BYU Cougars, which finished 10-2, losing to Utah and TCU. 

It’s a no win situation for BYU.  If they win, they beat a lower division team from a major conference; if they lose, critics will say that the Mountain West’s elite teams aren’t as good as the lower tier teams from the big leagues.  See what I mean?

The Pac 10 also-ran is Arizona, a 7-5 team that does appear to be improving under Mike Stoops.  Still, I’m not sure why the Mountain West champ can’t play the Conference USA champ in a bowl game.  The Conference USA champ usually goes to the Liberty Bowl and plays a SEC also-ran.  I have a better idea.  Put the conference champions together and let the SEC also-ran play the Pac 10 also-ran.  Bowl games are too slotted and they could certainly do a better job of matching up teams.  The Poinsettia Bowl matchup of WAC champion Boise State (12-0) and TCU (10-2) is a beauty, and it would be nice to see more of this type of matchup. 

On Sunday, December 21, an NFL Sunday,the bowls will wait to the evening and will give us the New Orleans Bowl, which is a matchup of the Sun Belt champion and a team from Conference USA.  This year, Troy (7-5) will play Southern Mississippi (6-6) in a Superdome that will have plenty of good tickets available. 

We are off and running, five down and 29 to go.  Enjoy.

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