It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Christmas songs are on the radio. Holiday cheer is being spread. The Christmas tree is beautifully lit and decorated in my living room. People are kissing under the mistletoe and roasting chestnuts on an open fire (Yupp, I just turned back the clocks 50 years, because I have never once seen either of those two Christmas traditions occur in real life.) It’s a winter wonderland outside… oh wait, I’m not in New York anymore. No winter wonderland for me. But that’s okay, because I’m filled with the Christmas Spirit. Not only is it Christmas season, but it is Bowl Season too. This year my interest in the college football bowl games is higher than usual. Why? I’m not quite sure. Maybe it is because I wrote a totally awesome paper on why College Football should turn to a playoff in English class for college. Maybe it’s just because I have watched more college football this year than I ever have. Whatever the reason may be, I am just as ready for Bowl Season as I am for Christmas Season.
Just to remind everyone, I do still have a serious problem with the BCS. I feel that my playoff system solves all problems, including world peace, lack of oil and global warming. In case anyone was wondering, this is what the Playoff Bracket would look like.
Holiday Bowl- 1. Auburn vs. 16. Alabama
Music City Bowl- 8. Arkansas vs. 9. Michigan State
Alamo Bowl- 5. Stanford vs. 12. Virginia Tech
Outback Bowl- 4. Wisconsin vs. 13. Missouri
Insight Bowl- 6. Ohio State vs. 11. LSU
Independence Bowl- 3. TCU vs. 14. Nevada
Chick-Fil-A Bowl- 7. Oklahoma vs. 10. Boise State
Liberty Bowl- 2. Oregon vs. 15. Oklahoma State
Because it’s the season for giving, I’m going to give the BCS a break. And I’m going to enjoy the BCS. In fact, there is something I will be able to enjoy about each bowl game, all 35 of them. Here are the bowl games in order of when they will be played. You will also notice that all of the winners will have a number between 1 and 35 next to them. This is my confidence level in the game (35 being most confident, 1 being least confident.) Yes indeed, the Captain is going all out with this bowl preview. That is my present to all of you readers. A totally kick-ass College Football Bowl Game preview, which I guarantee will be the best one you read (well, at least top 10.)
New Mexico Bowl- BYU vs. UTEP (December 18, 2 p.m. ESPN)
-The fact that this is the first game of the bowl season excites the hell out of me. The only other thing about that game that excites me is BYU runningback JJ Di Luigi.
Winner: BYU (26)
UDrove Humanitarian Bowl- Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State (December 18, 5:30 p.m. ESPN)
-Northern Illinois had a terrific season. Going 10-2 in the regular season, 8-0 in MAC conference play. However, Coach Jerry Kill decided to “chuck a deuce” and leave the Huskies to coach for the Gophers of Minnesota. Fresno State is bowl eligible for a fourth straight season. Three of their four losses were to WAC powerhouses Hawaii, Nevada and Boise State. Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse was a 1,000 yard rusher this season, and I expect him to lead the Bulldogs to victory. The key in this game is Fresno State coach Pat Hill. He will be coaching with a lot of confidence due to the fact that Dave Wannstedt is no longer coaching. Pat Hill has taken over the number one ranking for Best Mustache by a Coach.
Winner: Fresno State (4)
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl- Ohio vs. Troy (December 18, 9 p.m. ESPN)
-A must see match-up between MAC and Sun Belt. Can’t get much better than that, right? Well the night cap on the first night of bowl season may be a good one. Unfortunately, it’s between two teams that don’t matter much.
Winner: Troy (1)
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl- Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville (December 21, 8 p.m. ESPN)
-Former Florida Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong is taking the Cardinals to a bowl game in his first season as head coach. Hopefully he can get his Louisville defense to play the way his Florida defenses had in the past. Southern Miss has scored over 30 points in all but two games this season.
Winner: Southern Miss (3)
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl- Utah vs. Boise State (December 22, 8 p.m. ESPN)
-This one is simple. Boise State is overwhelmingly better than Utah, and they are pissed off. I don’t care what conference they come from, or who they played. Boise State is good enough to play in a BCS bowl, and win a BCS bowl this year. Utah doesn’t stand a chance in this game, especially without their starting Quarterback Jordan Wynn. Utah has a ten game bowl winning streak going into the Las Vegas Bowl. I’m willing to put 35 points on Boise State and say the streak doesn’t extend to eleven games.
Winner: Boise State (35)
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl- San Diego State vs. Navy (December 23, 8 p.m. ESPN)
-San Diego State burst onto the scene with a close loss to TCU in the middle of the season and they were a competitive team in the Mountain West Conference (Finished 5-3, tied for third in the conference). This is their first bowl appearance since 1998. Navy seems to be bowl eligible every year (8 straight bowl appearances) and this year is no different. A 9-3 record is their best regular season finish since 2006. They are a model of consistency, which makes since considering it is a military school. However, I like the upstart Aztecs in this game to get the win and continue to turn the program around. By the way, don’t sleep on the San Diego State Basketball team. Come March I assure you I will be saying the same thing.
Winner: San Diego State (17)
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl- Hawaii vs. Tulsa (December 24, 8 p.m. ESPN)
-Annually, the Hawaii Bowl is one of my favorite bowl games to watch. The delight of Christmas Eve combined with a Bowl Game is terribly satisfying. This year will be a special treat. Plenty of points will be scored in the Hawaii Bowl, as for both teams have good offenses and suspect defenses. If the over/under in this game was 100 it might be tempting to bet over. Hawaii is playing a home game, and they have won the Hawaii Bowl three times since 2002.
Winner: Hawaii (29)
Little Caesars Bowl- Toledo vs. Florida International (December 26, 8:30 p.m. ESPN)
-There is one bright spot to this game. December 26th marks my return to New York, and more importantly, the Big Room, where more sports have been watched than any other room in the history of rooms or sports. Did that make sense? The unfortunate news is this is a matchup between two relatively bland teams. Fun fact about Toledo: Their opening game versus Arizona, they scored just two points. They are probably the only team in the country who could brag about this.
Winner: Toledo (19)
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl- Georgia Tech vs. Air Force (December 27, 5 p.m. ESPN2)
-If you enjoy games with a lack of passing and a lot of rushes, specifically a number of option plays: Welcome to your wet dream! The over/under of passes in this game is officially set at 10.5. These two teams are the number one and two rush offenses in the country. It’s tough to make a prediction when the teams are practically identical, so I’m going to take a chance on Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech Coach Paul Johnson had six wins over Air Force when he coached at Navy, and Air Force is a little worse against the run than Georgia Tech. Like I said… Wet dream for fans of the run!
Winner: Georgia Tech (9)
Champs Sports Bowl- West Virginia vs. North Carolina State (December 28, 6:30 p.m. ESPN)
-This is my candidate for sneaky good bowl game of the year. Both of these teams had BCS aspirations, and had they won their respective conferences they most likely would be squaring off in the Discover Orange Bowl. The difference maker in this game is North Carolina State Russell Wilson, who could be playing his last game for North Carolina State. Wilson had over 3,000 yards passing, and 26 touchdowns this year.
Winner: North Carolina State (15)
Insight Bowl- Missouri vs. Iowa (December 28, 10 p.m. ESPN)
-This game lost a lot of its attractiveness after Iowa suspended Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (I always have to do a double take when I am listening to an Iowa game, because when I hear the announcer say “Koulianos” it sounds a similar to my last name, “Giuliano”) and Adam Robinson, their leading receiver and rusher respectively. Iowa didn’t end the season in ideal fashion anyways. Missouri was underrated all season within the Big 12 all season, which is hard for a 10-2 team to manage. Coach Gary Pinkel has turned Missouri into a yearly Big 12 contender.
Winner: Missouri (27)
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman- Maryland vs. ECU (December 29, 2:30 p.m. ESPN)
-This one intrigued me simply because I had no idea who or what Northrop Grumman was. So I did some research. Northrop Grumman is not a person. Rather, it is a company which is the fourth largest defense contractor, and largest builder of naval vessels. That was a mild disappointment to me. I imagined Northrop Grumman to be a heroic war hero who took down an entire militia after his troop was ravaged by typhoid or small pox. It turns out they are just ship builders. Ironic considering Pirates live on ships, and the East Carolina mascot is a Pirate. If East Carolina didn’t have the worst defense in the country, I would pick them based on the fact they are Pirates. But I have to go with Maryland in a high scoring affair.
Winner: Maryland (21)
Texas Bowl- Baylor vs. Illinois (December 29, 6 p.m. ESPN)
-Neither of these teams finished the year on a good note. Baylor has lost their last three games, and Illinois has lost three of their last four, only winning in the “Losers Walk” game at Wrigley Field. By the way, I would totally love seeing a bowl game there. In this game I like Baylor. They have a special quarterback in Robert Griffin III, whom Paul Clark and I both enjoy.
Winner: Baylor (16)
Valero Alamo Bowl- Oklahoma State vs. Arizona (December 29, 9:15 p.m. ESPN)
-With the exception of Oregon and Stanford, the Pac 10 has been extremely disappointing this year. There were high hopes for Arizona at the start of the year, and they finished the season as badly as any team who is in a bowl game. Oklahoma State is extremely explosive, and was very close to playing in the Big 12 Championship. This game is a given in my opinion.
Winner: Oklahoma State (31)
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl- Army vs. SMU (December 30, Noon ESPN)
-Army became Bowl eligible this year for the first time in 14 years. However, they are playing an SMU team which will be playing in their home stadium. June Jones is taking the Mustangs to a bowl game for the second time in his three years with SMU. Don’t forget, SMU played BCS buster TCU earlier in the year, and led in the 2nd half of that game.
Winner: SMU (25)
New Era Pinstripe Bowl- Kansas State vs. Syracuse (December 30, 3:20 p.m. ESPN)
-I like that this game is being played at Yankee Stadium. Its gives the game an old school feel that I enjoy every once in a while. I think on ESPN Classic they should show the game in Black and White, and run the game on a ten second delay so the announcer can be a little bit ahead of the play just like all announcers are any time you see clips of old games. I can’t figure out why NFL Films can’t fix this. The bottom line in this game is the Big 12 was tremendous this season, and the Big East was awful. Advantage Kansas State.
Winner: Kansas State (14)
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl- UNC vs. Tennessee (December 30, 6:40 p.m. ESPN)
-Tennessee had to win their last four games of the season to become bowl eligible, only because their six losses were to bowl eligible teams, including one to the number two team in the country Oregon. North Carolina had high hopes this season, but due to a butt load of suspensions they got off to a 0-2 start and never totally recovered. I’m not big on either team, but I think North Carolina will end the year on a good note. Get it? A good note… it’s the Music City Bowl. A good note. Ugh, nevermind.
Winner: North Carolina (12)
Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl- Nebraska vs. Washington (December 30, 10 p.m. ESPN)
-Right here is an example of why it would be so much better if I ran the sports world. Remember when these two teams met in September? Nebraska beat the hell out of Washington, 56-21. Jake Locker, the expected number one pick in the 2011 NFL Draft at the time had an absolutely dreadful performance (4-20, 71 yards). Well guess what everyone; we get to watch this highly anticipated rematch! I’d like to say kudos to those of you who have the power to choose bowl matchups, you prove year in and year out that I, Sonny Giuliano, a college freshman could create better bowl matchups than you could.
Winner: Nebraska (34)
Meineke Car Care Bowl- Clemson vs. South Florida (December 31, Noon ESPN)
-As a new South Floridian, this is a game where I should be backing the Bulls. They beat the bottom feeders of the Big East and Miami. Otherwise their wins over Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and Stony Brook are underwhelming at best. I’ll go with Clemson, and coach Dabo Swinney in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. It’s fun enough just to say Dabo Swinney. I can’t wait to root for him. Sorry South Florida.
Winner: Clemson (8)
Hyundai Sun Bowl- Miami FL vs. Notre Dame (December 31, 2 p.m. CBS)
-If only this were Catholics vs. Convicts again. I’d be much more intrigued with that then a matchup between two 7-5 teams. I never got to witness Catholics vs. Convicts. What I get to witness is one team who just fired their coach and the other with a defense that has 11 guys slower than me. Tough choice, but I’ll go with the convicts.
Winner: Miami FL (7)
AutoZone Liberty Bowl- UCF vs. Georgia (December 31, 3:30 p.m. ESPN)
-There has been talk that Central Florida could be a potential tenth team for the Big East. This is their chance to prove they are worthy. Georgia had a down year, but their season really turned around when star wide receiver AJ Green returned. Central Florida had a tremendous year, finishing 10-3 and winning the Conference USA. I like Georgia to finish the season with a winning record by defeating Central Florida in a game that could go either way.
Winner: Georgia (10)
Chick-Fil-A Bowl- Florida State vs. South Carolina (December 31, 7:30 p.m. ESPN)
-South Carolina proved themselves as a legitimate contender in the SEC this year. I am not going to look too deep into their blowout loss against Auburn in the SEC Championship. Auburn was clearly the better team, and had the best player on the field. Florida State has some good wins this year (Miami, Florida, Maryland) and first year Coach Jimbo Fisher led the Seminoles to the ACC Championship game, but I don’t want to undervalue the SEC or South Carolina.
Winner: South Carolina (20)
TicketCity Bowl- Northwestern vs. Texas Tech (January 1, 12 p.m. ESPNU)
-For an hour this will be the marquee game on New Year’s Day. Then three better games start, and the Ticket City Bowl will get lost in the shuffle. The only way it would make an appearance is when the other three games are at halftime, or if God forbid all three other games are at commercial, which is one of the great catastrophes in television.
Winner: Texas Tech (18)
Outback Bowl- Florida vs. Penn State (January 1, 1 p.m. ABC)
-Both of these teams had high hopes heading into this season, and both were disappointing. The deciding factor in this game is its Urban Meyers last game as Florida’s coach, and they win this one for him. He took this Florida program to another level. They owe it to him to get the win.
Winner: Florida (28)
Capital One Bowl- Alabama vs. Michigan State (January 1, 1 p.m. ESPN)
-There were plenty of new coaches this season who were worthy of winning coach of the year. Only one had a heart attack mid-season, and continued to coach his team. That was Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. Michigan State had a fantastic season, going 11-1 in a difficult Big Ten, when they were picked to finish near the bottom of the conference, and then got completely shafted (just wait until you get to Connecticut vs. Oklahoma) and left out of the BCS. Alabama was the heavy favorite to win a second National Title in a row. Hopes were high, and they finished fourth in the SEC West. I’m not sure whether to expect a pissed off Alabama team, or an Alabama team that doesn’t care, similar to the one that got rocked by Utah two years ago. If Alabama comes to play, they are the more talented team on the field.
Winner: Alabama (22)
Gator Bowl- Mississippi State vs. Michigan (January 1, 1:30 p.m. ESPN2)
-Here’s a fun game to play: Who is going to be coaching their respective team longer, Dan Mullen or Rich Rodriguez? It’s a tough call, but I’m going to say Rich Rodriguez. I think Dan Mullen’s terrific season at Mississippi State, plus a bowl win is going to land him a high profile coaching job. I’m very surprised he didn’t get the opportunity at Florida. Rich Rod is finally getting some pieces to turn this team into a contender. I think he needs a little more time. Whether he makes it to next year or not, I still think he has the edge over Mullen. Not in the game however, Mississippi State rolls.
Winner: Mississippi State (23)
Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO- TCU vs. Wisconsin (January 1, 5 p.m. ESPN)
-The David vs. Goliath matchup is always so interesting. Especially when Goliath is as good as TCU is. TCU has become the consistent non BCS power that teams like Gonzaga and Xavier have in College Basketball. They are facing a challenge unlike any they have ever faced. Perhaps no team has been as hot or dominant as Wisconsin has been in recent weeks. The key to the game is up front. Wisconsin’s offensive line is massive, and TCU’s defensive line in smaller and fast, in true David vs. Goliath form. Although I really like Wisconsin in this game, I wouldn’t rule out TCU winning. They need a statement win to prove that they aren’t just a team that beats up on “the little sisters of the poor.”
Winner: Wisconsin (30)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl- Oklahoma vs. Connecticut (January 1, 8:30 p.m. ESPN)
-First, can anyone explain to me WHY Connecticut should be in this game? I understand the setup of the BCS, and I get that every BCS Conference gets an automatic bid… But is that how we want it to be? Connecticut was 8-4 in the awful Big East. Not to mention their losses are awful (Michigan, Temple, Rutgers, Louisville). Now they get thrown to the hypothetical wolves. I’m not even buying into the fact that Oklahoma is vulnerable as the heavy favorite. I know they got shocked by Boise State and West Virginia in past BCS games, but this Connecticut team isn’t nearly as good as either of those teams were. Plus Connecticut can’t throw the ball. So if, well when they fall behind, they won’t be able to come back. They are going to be unsuccessful in trying to run the ball and control the game. Oklahoma wins this game easy, and in doing so proves another point why the BCS is so damn screwy. Give me Michigan State, LSU or Boise State in this game please.
Winner: Oklahoma (33)
Discover Orange Bowl- Virginia Tech vs. Stanford (January 3, 8:30 p.m. ESPN)
-With the exception of the BCS Championship Game, this BCS game interests me more than any other one. Take away the awful loss to James Madison, and Virginia Tech is a top 8 BCS team. Take away the second half of the game against Oregon, Stanford is going to the National Championship game. Bottom line is since their respective losses, these two teams have been playing as good as any teams in the country. The difference in this game is Andrew Luck. I, along with most NFL scouts believe he is a sure thing at the next level. Although Tyrod Taylor has had a tremendous career and season, give me Luck.
Winner: Stanford (6)
Allstate Sugar Bowl- Ohio State vs. Arkansas (January 4, 8:30 p.m. ESPN)
-Ohio State seems to win every bowl game they play, unless it is against an SEC team. I think Ohio State is 0-74 against the SEC in bowl games. Unfortunately for Ohio State, Arkansas is a member of the SEC and defeated LSU in the last week of the season to get a BCS spot. Arkansas has plenty of playmakers on offense, and a quarterback who is soon going to be in the NFL. Ohio State’s offense isn’t a slouch though. What it comes down to is I like Ryan Mallet a heck of a lot more than I like Terrelle Pryor. Ohio State is going to fall to 0-75 all-time against the SEC.
Winner: Arkansas (5)
GoDaddy.com Bowl- Middle Tennessee vs. Miami of Ohio (January 6, 8 p.m. ESPN)
-The only hope for this to be a good game is if there are some new GoDaddy.com commercials on display during the game. Candice Michelle getting half naked makes this game my favorite of the bowl season. As for the game itself, Miami of Ohio capped a terrific turnaround season (1-11 last year, to 9-4 this year) with a win over heavy favorite Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship. Middle Tennessee was 3-6 before rattling off three straight wins to end the season 6-6. That to me looks like a team that isn’t good.
Winner: Miami of Ohio (24)
AT&T Cotton Bowl- Texas A&M vs. LSU (January 7, 8 p.m. FOX)
-Of the non BCS games, this one is the most intriguing. You never know what kind of game you are going to get when the Mad Hatter is involved. I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical of LSU at the start of the year, and I am the first to say I wish they could be in the BCS. Texas A&M was another team that exceeded my expectations. They started the season 3-3, and finished strong by winning their last six games. I expect nothing less than a very unpredictable game.
Winner: LSU (13)
BBVA Compass Bowl- Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky (January 8, Noon ESPN)
-Kentucky has two terrific playmakers in Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke. The suspension of Senior Quarterback Mike Hartline will be a difficult void for Kentucky to fill. Almost as difficult as it will be for Pittsburgh to find a coach with as memorable of a mustache as Dave Wannstedt had. Wannstedt gave Pittsburgh as good of a three year stretch as the school had ever had, but it wasn’t enough for him to keep his job. With both teams dealing with difficult losses, I like Pittsburgh to gather themselves and get the victory.
Winner: Pittsburgh (2)
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl- Nevada vs. Boston College (January 9, 9 p.m. ESPN)
-This game means a lot to me. Since 2006 I have been a proud supporter of the Pistol offense in college football, and in particular at the University of Nevada. I recall joining a picking pool where confidence points were given to teams you picked to win. Foolishly, I put a large amount of points on Nevada to win over Miami FL considering a few weeks earlier I saw a formation that I never even dreamed of. Since then, I have had a love affair with the program. As a football fan, I grew up with Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua. This will be their last game at Nevada. Their legacy will be cemented with a victory in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Winner- Nevada (32)
Tostitos BCS National Championship Game- Oregon vs. Auburn (January 10, 8:30 p.m. ESPN)
-I have changed my mind on this about 97 times since the matchup came to be. I love Oregon’s speed on offense. I think Darron Thomas is underrated and if Oregon wins, he may be the key player. I think LaMichael James could have a huge game due to his loss in the Heisman ballot. I think Oregon’s defense might be better than we know. And I absolutely love the uniforms. I also love Auburn’s playmakers, even the ones not named Cam Newton. I think Nick Fairley can cause huge problems for the Oregon offense. Obviously the SEC is much tougher than the Pac 10. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of points scored in this game. It may come down to who has the ball last. Or it could come down which team could get a defensive stop. Despite going back and forth with this prediction, I settled on one thing: Cam Newton has a little bit of the Vince Young from Texas DNA. If he has to, he can will Auburn to a win. Everyone knows I was a huge Vince Young fan, and it takes a lot for me to compare someone to him… Go ahead Cam Newton. It’s your time to establish yourself on the biggest stage just like VY did. For your sake, I hope you don’t go crazy when you get to the NFL.
Winner: Auburn (11)