College Football Czar
Bowl Game Picks
Week fourteen in review: For a second year in a row, there is no
serious doubt about which four teams belong in the CFP, however hard ESPN may
have tried to stir up controversy. In
particular, Kirk Herbstreit sounded as if he must have been Herbie: Fully Loaded as he energetically
made the case for Georgia, which had taken a bruising from LSU earlier in the
season, and had just failed to play its way in against an Alabama team with a
wobbly starting quarterback. The College
Football Czar actually agrees with Herbstreit that if you’ve watched each team
play, Georgia seems like a better team than Oklahoma, but it matters that
they’ve failed to demonstrate it on the field, whereas the Sooners had only one
loss, which they avenged in their conference championship.
Whereas the major conference
championships held to form, the group-of-five games did not, with slight underdogs
Fresno State, UAB and Northern Illinois prevailing, while Central Florida
rallied past Memphis without QB McKenzie Milton. With Navy’s 17-10 loss to Army, the Czar’s
Week 14 record fell to 7-6. For the 2018
regular season, he finished 157-90, for a .636 winning percentage. That’s not nearly as good as last season, but
it shouldn’t be hard for the Czar to make up for that by improving considerably
on last year’s bowl record.
New Mexico Bowl –
Albuquerque – 2:00 (ESPN)
Utah State (10-2)
vs. North Texas (9-3)
The winner of this game literally receives a bowl of
new Mexico, in that the uniquely crafted annual trophies are made of
adobe. At least we hope it’s genuine New
Mexican adobe. Nobody wants a bowl made of
dung smuggled in from the old Mexico.
That would be revolting.
The Aggies will need interim coach Frank Maile to deliver a victory, because Matt Wells has been
tapped as the new head coach at Texas Tech.
Maile has been on the USU staff since 2009,
except for a two-year stint as DL coach at Vanderbilt. He will likely remain in Logan for the near
future, because the school has announced that his old boss, Gary Andersen, has
been hired for a second stint, having previously coached there from 2009-12.
Even without Wells on the sideline, the Agathas should prove to be too tough. Yes, they lost their last game at Boise
State, and they also dropped their opener, on the road against Michigan State,
but they won all ten games in between, most of them easily. By contrast, UNT has been involved in four
games decided by a field goal apiece, including a loss at Old Dominion, and an
even more embarrassing 27-24 win over UTEP.
Mean Green coach Seth Littrell
has rebuffed an overture from Kansas State, but that’s not to say he’s
necessarily content to stay in Denton.
The reality is that he’s likely to get a better offer if he holds out
for another year.
You’d think buffing KSU once would have been
enough. Talk about being unable to take
Utah State 40,
North Texas 29
Cure Bowl – Orlando – 2:30 (CBSSN)
La.-Lafayette (7-6) vs. Tulane (6-6)
The Green Wave play in
their first postseason game since 2013, when they lost the New Orleans Bowl to
this same ULL team, 24-21. Timid
play-calling cursed TU that day, when they ceded yardage while setting up a
late 48-yard field goal attempt, which was missed.
In their regular season
finale, the Wave were in no such mood to play it safe. Having squandered a 21-3 lead to trail Navy
by seven, senior QB Justin McMillan connected with Jaetavian
Toles for a 26-yarder to potentially tie the
score. Instead, coach Willie Fritz went
for two, and got it, for a 29-28 victory.
This is the first time
the Ragin Cajuns have played in a bowl game other than the N.O. Bowl. They won there four times in a row against
different opponents, before finally falling to Southern Miss in 2016. Playing a postseason game outdoors in sunny
Orlando, they’re probably all going to walk around squinting like James Carville.
Tulane 35, La.-Lafayette 23
Las Vegas Bowl – nuff said – 3:30 (ABC)
Fresno State (11-2)
vs. Arizona State (7-5)
The Sun Devils must feel like they’re playing with
house money, having already won their gamble in hiring Herm Edwards. The former NFL coach, who had been out of the
game for nine years, has clearly had the best season among the five first-year
skippers in the Pac 12.
The red, white and blue Bulldogs were stars on the
blue field in the Mountain West championship, where they finally broke through
for a big road win over Boise State. FSU
blocked an extra point to force overtime, where they prevailed by a final of
The Dogs’ defense has yielded just 13.7 points per
game this year. That ties them for
second in the nation with Clemson, and is a significant improvement over last
year, when they were #10 with an average of 17.9.
As if that weren’t enough bad news for the ASU
offense, the Devils’ leading receiver, N’Keal Harry,
has designated himself too important to play in this game. As you’ll have gathered by the time you’re
finished reading these picks, that’s not “N’K” as far as the College Football
Czar is concerned.
Fresno State 26,
Arizona State 16
Camellia Bowl –
Montgomery – 5:30 (ESPN)
(7-5) vs. Georgia Southern (9-3)
The bowl committee blew this one by inviting EMU
instead of a 6-6 Miami Ohio team that went 6-2 in the MAC, but will now stay
home for the postseason. This punishes
the RedHawks for playing four very good nonconference
opponents (Marshall, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Army), while rewarding the
Eagles for beating up on Division I-AA Monmouth.
Conventional wisdom says a triple-option team like
GASO is at a disadvantage in a bowl game because the opposing defense has had
extra time to prepare for it. But then,
conventional wisdom is at a loss to explain the bowl success of the military
academies, isn’t it?
One convenient thing about playing a game called the
Camellia Bowl is that it makes Boy George a natural choice to be grand marshal
of the Camellia Bowl Parade. And then,
he can sweep the street afterward.
51, Eastern Michigan 24
New Orleans Bowl –
New Orleans, obviously – 9:00 (ESPN)
(10-2) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-5)
The MT-heads lived up to that moniker at the end of
the Conference USA championship.
Trailing 27-25 with over a minute to play, they got caught with 12 men
on the punt return team. The resulting
penalty gave UAB a first down, allowing them to run out the clock.
The Blue Raiders made a four-year investment in Brent
Stockstill, and it has undoubtedly paid off. The coach’s son has thrown for a total of
12,165 yards and 105 touchdowns at MTSU.
His last game playing for his father has got to be a big one, not for
any sappy reason, but just because they’re both that good.
The Mountaineers are 3-0 in bowl games since joining
Division I-A, with an overall record of 48-15.
There are many reasons for this success, but one is that they take the
field appearing to be the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, which gives opponents a false
sense of security. Seriously, though,
this game is a step up for App State, having recorded all three bowl victories
against teams from the MAC. Having to
play it with an interim coach doesn’t help matters, with Scott Satterfield
leaving for Louisville.
Remember, it’s not “Central” Tennessee; it’s
“Middle” Tennessee. The folks in
Murfreesboro don’t see any need to use geographically proper adjectives, any
more than we do up here in Left Pennsylvania.
30, Appalachian State 27
Dec. 18 (Tuesday)
Boca Raton Bowl –
Rat Mouth – 7:00 (ESPN)
(8-5) vs. UAB (10-3)
After all the excitement of the Blazers’ successful
return last season, it’s no wonder their intensity let up in an empty stadium
at the Bahamas Bowl, where they were overpowered by Ohio, 40-3. This time, they can count on more of their
fans to make the trip, for which no visa is necessary.
The Huskies bullied Buffalo in the second half of
the MAC championship, when they rallied from 19 points down to win, 30-29, and
in doing so captured their fourth conference title in eight years. The Czar thinks NIU’s long-term success would
be more widely appreciated, except that they stupidly removed the highly
recognizable Huskie logo from their helmets since appearing in the 2012 Orange
The entire name of this game is the Cheribundi Boca
Raton Bowl, which means that it is sponsored by Cher’s buns, which were
surgically removed in the late 80s. It’s
amazing the things you can find on Overstock these days.
37, UAB 33
Dec. 19 (Wednesday)
Frisco Bowl –
Frisco, TX (not S.F.) – 8:00 ESPN
Ohio (8-4) vs. San
Diego State (7-5)
In his 20th year as a head coach, OU’s
Frank Solich is averaging more than eight wins a
season, so he needs to beat SDSU in order to consider this year a success. The 74-year-old former Nebraska fullback is
now 105-75 with the Bobcats, after his Cornhuskers had deemed his coaching
record of 58-19 in Lincoln to be insufficient.
The backbone of the Aztecs in recent years has been
their running game, but they’ve had trouble staying healthy at the tailback
position this season. They’ve gone 0-3
since the return of RB Juwan Washington from a broken collarbone, with
oft-injured sophomore Chase Jasmin being sidelined, getting only four carries
in those three games.
Envelope please. Pfffft! “What Harpo Marx would do if he co-starred in
Ohio 27, San Diego
Dec. 20 (Thursday)
Gasparilla – Tampa
– 8:00 (ESPN)
Marshall (8-4) vs.
South Florida (7-5)
For whatever the Thundering Herd must have gotten
paid to go to Virginia Tech for an abruptly scheduled season finale, it was
surely worth it to the university. The
team itself must be having second thoughts, after getting trounced 41-20 when
they thought their regular season had already ended.
Midway through the season, the 7-0 Bulls were
Exhibit C, along with Central Florida and Cincinnati, demonstrating that the
AAC was really an unappreciated power conference. Since then, USF has lost five in a row, giving
up an average of 39.6 points per game during that stretch. The only real turning point was in their
strength of schedule. In the first half
of the season, they didn’t even win very convincingly over East Carolina,
Illinois, Umass, Tulsa and Uconn.
This game, named after a mythical Spanish pirate,
moves from St. Petersburg to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. It’s a more fitting setting, not just because
it’s outdoors in a real football stadium, but because, being the home of the
NFL’s Buccaneers, it features a replica pirate shirt in the north end zone.
It’s just as well that Gasparilla didn’t exist,
because he’s reputed to have been a murdering, kidnapping coward. So by all means, let’s celebrate him. One of the game’s former titles was the Beef
‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, which was supposedly named after a crappy family
restaurant. In unreality, Beef O’Brady was a rugged, gunslinging
rustler, who would have punted Gasparilla’s puffy-panted posterior had the two
Marshall 25, South
Dec. 21 (Friday)
Bahamas Bowl –
Nassau – 12:30 (ESPN)
Toledo (7-5) vs.
Florida International (8-4)
The sponsor of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl is a
group that’s trying to lure businesses to the Elk Grove Industrial Park,
outside of Chicago. Hopefully, they’ll
at least succeed in landing a good advertising agency. Then, they can stop sponsoring an event half
a continent away, and wasting their naming rights by not bothering to put “Elk
Grove” in the title. Even Steve Martin’s
ad campaign for Okra Cola had more going for it than this.
FIU leads the series between these two, 2-1, with
their last meeting in the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit. The Rockets took a late one-point lead in
that game, but then resorted to the worst play in all of football, the squib-kick,
letting the Golden Panthers start their final drive outside the 40. Two first downs later, they sent in their
field goal team, and won, 34-32.
Until now, that had been the highlight in the
history of the International Men of Mystery, whereas UT has remained
perennially competitive. Since that loss
eight years ago, the Rockets are 3-3 in bowl games, whereas the Panthers are
As long as the Czar calls FIU the International Men
of Mystery, do you suppose he ought to also nickname Toledo the Rocket
Men? No, that would be too witty.
Toledo 49, Florida
Famous Idaho Potato
Bowl – Boise – 4:00 (ESPN)
(7-5) vs. Brigham Young (6-6)
The Cougars play in Albertsons Stadium for the
second time in two months. Against Boise
State in Week 11, they fell short 21-16, when freshman QB Zach Wilson took a
sack on a second-and-goal from the two, allowing the last 13 seconds of the
game to expire.
The Broncos bumped off Northern Illinois 28-21 in
their regular season finale, to snap a three-game skid. Those who believe in the transitive property
of football will note that BYU lost to that same Huskie team 7-6, and assume
that WMU has the advantage. That was in
Wilson’s second career start, however, and he’s shaped up into a pretty good
passer since that time.
This is the Broncs’ first bowl appearance since
losing ludicrous head coach P.J. Fleck, who led them to a Bahamas Bowl victory
over Middle Tennessee, and a very respectable 24-16 Cotton Bowl loss to
Wisconsin a year later. Before his
arrival in Kalamazoo, they went 0-5.
People can laugh all they want at the idea of the
Idaho potato being famous, but the College Football Czar says, better it than
Brigham Young 17,
Western Michigan 9
Dec. 22 (Saturday)
Birmingham Bowl –
um … Birmingham – Noon (ESPN)
Wake Forest (6-6)
at Memphis (8-5)
It’s hard to overestimate the magnitude of MU’s
meltdown in the AAC championship against Central Florida. Seeking revenge for blowing a 16- point lead
in an earlier 31-30 loss to the Knights, the Tigers took a slightly bigger
38-21 halftime lead in the rematch. Even
without having to defend against injured QB McKenzie Milton, they surrendered
five second-half touchdowns, and seemed to have no will to continue by the end
of the 56-41 debacle.
Contrast that with the way the Demon Deacons wrapped
up their regular season, with a 59-7 demolition of Duke. It was Wake’s most lopsided victory since a
53-0 whitewash of the Presbyterian College Blue Hose, whose mascot for some
reason is Scottie the Scotsman. (Because the blue hose means he’s won first
This game has added a new sponsor, and is now
officially the Jared Birmingham Bowl.
Relax. It’s being named for the
jeweler, not the hamster-faced, child-molesting, formerly fat wuss-monster from
the Subway commercials.
Wake Forest 58,
Armed Forces Bowl –
Fort Worth – 3:30 (ESPN)
Army (10-2) vs.
After throwing a sideline tantrum against coach Major
Applewhite, Cougar defensive end Ed Oliver issued the standard excuse, “That’s
not who I am.” Now, Oliver is abandoning
his teammates for their biggest game of the season. Yes, Ed, this prima donna is most definitely
who you are. If you’re not going to
change that fact, at least own up to it.
The Black Knights are already 1-0 against the
American Athletic Conference this year, having just beaten Navy 17-10 in
Philadelphia. The Cadets stifled their
arch rivals from Annapolis, holding them to 208 total yards while forcing four
Isn’t “Armed Forces” a mite redundant? Even Swiss forces are armed, in a way. What would unarmed forces even look like?
A platoon full of Woody Allens, making snide,
unfunny remarks until the enemy dies of boredom?
Army 21, Houston 18
Dollar General Bowl
– Mobile – 7:00 (ESPN)
Buffalo (10-3) at
Through most of the season, 6-foot-7 UB quarterback
Tyree “The Tree” Jackson was head and shoulders above the rest of the MAC, but
in the last four games he’s fallen to a 50 percent completion rate, while
throwing four TDs to three interceptions.
The Trojans are going for a third bowl victory in as
many years, after holding off Ohio in this same bowl in 2016, and hanging half
a hundred on North Texas last year in New Orleans. Not that these have been their biggest
victories. The Old College Troy has also
succeeded in knocking off LSU last season, and Nebraska back in Week 3.
The fact that times change is the only explanation
why George Washington is our Dollar General, while Ulysses S. Grant rates a
fifty. It’s kind of like Tom Savage
getting paid more than Terry Bradshaw did.
Troy 31, Buffalo 26
Hawaii Bowl –
Honolulu – 8:30 (ESPN)
(7-5) vs. Hawaii (8-5)
Of the eleven bowl games the Rainbow Warriors have
ever played, they’ve hosted nine of them in Aloha Stadium. You’d think that one of these seasons, they’d
opt for a change in scenery, and accept an invitation to play in Boise. Just kidding.
LTU lucked out by getting a bowl bid to Honolulu,
while a five-loss Southern Miss team that defeated them in Week 12 stays
home. The Bulldogs’ only W in their four
November games was a modest 28-13 home win over Rice.
Q: Why does the NCAA sanction the SoFi Hawaii Bowl?
A: Because the SoFi
Bulgaria Bowl sounded like a comparatively bad idea.
Louisiana Tech 21
Dec. 26 (Wednesday)
First Responder –
Dallas – 1:30 (ESPN)
(7-5) vs. Boise State (10-3)
The traditionally deliberate Eagle offense opened
things up for 32 points per game in 2018, but can they keep it up now that
offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler has been hired
away to be head coach of Bowling Green?
The Broncos are not competing for the national
championship, and there’s no doubt four-year starting quarterback Brett Rypien will be drafted.
So why is he playing this game, assuming he does? Is he just stupid, or is it that he’s an
actual member of a football team that’s playing a game on this particular day?
Come to think of it, why does anybody play in the
truly meaningless Senior Bowl? The whole
point of it is that the players are supposed to be pro prospects. Don’t they risk injury by putting on that
pointless exhibition, when the scouts all have video of their real games
anyway? The common thread between
blowing off bowl games and playing in dopey exhibitions is selfishness. Those all-star games involve no commitment to
a team. They’re the Me Show.
This game, and its new sponsor Servpro,
are paying tribute to first responders, who will be given over 10,000
complimentary tickets. The College
Football Czar was interested to learn that by “first responders,” they mean
cops, firefighters and paramedics. He
had assumed that the game had been named instead after Arnold Horshack (“Oooh! Oooh!”).
Boston College 23,
Boise State 15
Quick Lane Bowl –
Detroit – 5:15 (ESPN)
Georgia Tech (7-5)
vs. Minnesota (6-6)
Paul Johnson goes for win #190 before stepping
down. The Yellowjacket
coach, still only 61, is not sure he’s retiring, but only says he needs a
break. The Czar wouldn’t be surprised if
he ends up being asked to revive the wishbone attack at Air Force before long.
The Golden Gophers got into the postseason by
beating Wisconsin 37-15 to capture the Paul Bunyan Axe. The dominant defensive performance was more than
a little surprising coming from a team that had given up 53 points to Nebraska
and 55 to Illinois.
The only bowl hosted by an NFL team, this game’s
entire name is the Detroit Lions Quick Lane Bowl. At 5-8, with fewer than 21 points per game,
where is it the Lions are on the quick lane to?
The golf course?
Georgia Tech 45,
Cheez-It Bowl – Phoenix – 9:00
vs. TCU (6-6)
Texas Christian is only .500, but half of their
losses have been to New Year’s Six teams Ohio State, Texas and Oklahoma, and
all of those were reasonably competitive.
One of the Horned Frogs’ other three defeats, however, came at Kansas.
The Golden Bears have been bullish on defense, ever
since being embarrassed in a midseason loss to UCLA. Over their past six games, they’ve allowed an
average of 15.3 points, during a stretch of schedule that included Washington,
Washington State, USC and Stanford.
The Czar doesn’t like it when bowl games jettison
their traditional names – like this, originally the Copper Bowl and later the Cactus
Bowl – in favor of their sponsorships, but who could resist the Cheez-It Bowl? Yes,
Cheese Tid Bits were better, but they don’t exist
anymore, for reasons that would probably really tick us off if we knew. Still, the Cheez-It
Bowl is a far better idea than the Corn Nuts Bowl or the Funyuns
Bowl, insofar as neither of those products contains genuine cheez.
California 15, TCU
Dec. 27 (Thursday)
Independence Bowl –
Shreveport – 1:30 (ESPN)
Temple (8-4) vs.
For the second time in three years, the Owls enter
their bowl game with an interim head coach.
This time, it’s Ed Foley taking over for Geoff Collins, who has been
hired away by Georgia Tech. In 2016, it
was Matt Rhule’s departure that left Collins to coach
the Military Bowl, a 34-26 loss to a Wake Forest team with a far inferior
The Blue Devils were waylaid by Wake 59-7 in their
regular season finale, depressing the home crowd in Durham just in time for the
bowl invitations to go out. The loss was
their fifth in eight games, following a 4-0 start.
The College Football Czar wonders how much longer
this venerable event will last. Not only
does the 46,000-seat Independence Stadium have no regular tenant bigger than a
fourth-division soccer team, but the “Independence Bowl”? In this day and age? That sounds too much like the “You’re On Your
Own Society Bowl.” Independence is too
much like, you know, like, having to pay for your own stuff, and stuff.
Temple 34, Duke 27
Pinstripe Bowl –
New York – 5:15 (ESPN)
Miami (7-5) vs.
These same two teams met a year ago in the Orange
Bowl, where the Badgers won 34-24, but this weak sequel promises to be the Indana Jones and the Temple of Doom of
football games. The Hurricane
quarterbacks have been totally unreliable this year, and UW’s Alex Hornibrook has barely been any better, even when healthy.
The difference is that Hornibrook
will be facing far more intense pressure, from a Cane defense that ranks second
nationally in yardage allowed, while racking up 37 sacks and 17
interceptions. They’ve had lots of
success in the past two games barging through the backfields of Pitt and
Virginia Tech, and there’s no reason the Madison Reds should put up much more
Those Yankee stripes should suit The U well. Just right for breaking rocks in.
Miami 20, Wisconsin
Texas Bowl –
Houston – 9:00 (ESPN)
vs. Baylor (6-6)
Each team has mucked its way through the season, but
at least the Commodores have shown some character. Following a particularly devastating defeat
against Missouri, Vandy rallied to take two must-win
games against opponents – Ole Miss and Tennessee – who needed to win just as
The Waco kids have always wanted to go nowhere
special. Once they’ve made their
three-hour return trip home after falling below .500 for the season, at least
they’ll have accomplished that much. The
Bears have only reached a bowl game in the first place by winning their last
regular season game against a Texas Tech team that was preparing to fire its
head coach soon afterward.
There are seven bowl games that are played in the
state of Texas, so to call this one the Texas Bowl isn’t very specific. They ought to rename it something to do with
Houston in particular. For example, they
could call it the Astronaut Bowl, for those who actually believe in those kinds
of fairy tales. Eh, Steph?
Dec. 28 (Friday)
Music City Bowl –
Nashville – 1:30 (ESPN)
Auburn (7-5) vs.
Why is everyone surprised that Jeff Brohm chose to stay at Purdue? Okay, so Louisville is his alma
mater, but look at the state of that program today. Why leave a Big Ten school to join a team
whose chief rivalry has been with its own sponsor.
Tiger quarterback Jarrett Stidham
was supposed to reinvigorate Gus Malzahn’s offense
when he transferred, but Stidham has been at a
standstill, with well under 200 yards in each of his past three games. The former Baylor baller’s only 300-yard game
of the season came in an unsuccessful comeback effort against Tennessee.
The College Football Czar can’t figure out why the
Music City Bowl is played in Nashville, when everyone knows that Zamfir isn’t from anywhere near there. He sold more albums than Elvis or the
Beatles, you know. Then again, so did
Slim Whitman and Boxcar Willie. Come to
think of it, practically everybody claims to have sold more albums than Elvis
and the Beatles, so why do we even know who they were?
Purdue 33, Auburn
Camping World Bowl
– Orlando – 5:15 (ESPN)
Syracuse (9-3) vs.
West Virginia (8-3)
The game of college football badly needs for
everyone to become more judgmental about players skipping their bowl
games. Will Grier accepted a scholarship
to play this season at WVU. He’s
supposed to be the leader of a team that is counting on him. He’s a Mountaineer. The Mountaineers are playing a football
game. He should be playing. His refusal to do so is not an innocuous
personal decision. It is a selfish act
of betrayal, and ought to be recognized as such.
Stylistically, Orange QB Eric Dungey
is not cut out for the NFL, which may help explain why he’s playing in this
game, while his counterpart isn’t. In
four seasons at the helm at SU, the loping 6-foot-4 scrambler has collected
9,037 passing yards, and another 1,971 on the ground.
When these teams were conference rivals in the Big
East, it looked like WVU might soon pull even in the head-to-head series, but
the Orange (“Don’t call us men!”) ended an eight-game losing streak to take the
last three, to lead 33-27 all-time.
Their most recent meeting was also their only previous clash in a bowl
game, as the underdogged Orange dusted their foes
from Morgantown on a snowy day at Yankee Stadium, 38-14 in the 2012 Pinstripe
Mountaineer fans are bound to be disappointed when
they go to Camping World and start shopping for outdoor supplies. I mean, where are the sofas?
Syracuse 45, West
Alamo Bowl – San
Antonio – 9:00 (ESPN)
Iowa State (8-4) vs.
Washington State (10-2)
Cougar AD Pat Chun has complained that his school
should have been in a New Year’s Six game, but for the CFP committee’s bias in
favor of the SEC and Big Ten. He hastily
added, “but we’re ecstatic to be in the Alamo Bowl.” No, Pat.
If you think you should be in the Fiesta Bowl, you are not “ecstatic” to
be in the Alamo Bowl instead. While
reversing himself, he may have remembered the time that 1998 Kansas State team
whined about only going to the Alamo Bowl at 11-1, and was upset in that game
by 7-4 Purdue.
The Cyclones barely survived an awkward struggle
against Division I-AA Drake to finish the regular season, 27-24. The ISU offense was held to 273 yards by
their lower-division opponents, who outdid them by six.
In the only version of The Alamo that counts, the Duke as Davy Crockett says, “You don’t
get lard less’n you boil the hog.” Now we know what Wazzu
coach Mike Leach does to keep his office warm in the winter.
42, Iowa State 25
Dec. 29 (Saturday)
Peach Bowl –
Atlanta – Noon (ESPN)
Michigan (10-2) vs.
The Wolverines’ top-ranked defense D-sintegrated in a D-sasterous
62-39 loss to Ohio State, but they could hardly have hand-picked a better
opponent to bounce back against than the Gators. Last year these same teams opened the season
in a different depressing cave in Arlington, where the maize and blue held the
UF offense out of the end zone.
Interception returns accounted for their only two TDs allowed in a 33-17
In Dan Mullen’s first season at UF, the Gator
offense is 91 yards and 12.3 points per game better than it was in 2017. Running backs Lamical
(pronounced “La-Michael”) Perine and Jordan
(pronounced “Jordan”) Scarlett have combined for 1,467 rushing yards, with each
of them averaging 5.9 per carry.
Even though the Peach Bowl is a football game, one
might suspect it was named after famous Georgia slugger Ty Cobb. How do we know it wasn’t? Because It’s named the “Peach Bowl,” not the
Belk Bowl –
Charlotte – Noon (ABC)
Virginia (7-5) vs.
South Carolina (7-5)
Gamecock WR Deebo Samuel
is among those who have deemed themselves too important to play their
“meaningless” bowl games. Yet it wasn’t
beneath him to score three touchdowns in a hastily scheduled Week 14
afterthought against Akron. Where’s the
logic? Did he only learn after the Akron
game that he was going to be drafted? If
these players truly feared risking their draft status by getting injured,
they’d bail out long before the bowl season.
Playing hooky from bowl games has gotten to be all about status. Every cocky jerk who expects to go high in
the draft figures if Fournette and McCaffrey were too
good for it, then so am I.
The Cavaliers’ only win in their last four games was
against Division I-A newcomer Liberty.
In fact, weak finishes have become a tradition at UVa,
which has lost 15 straight to rival Virginia Tech, and gone 7-12 in bowl games.
A Belk Bowl hardly sounds sanitary. The airlines have clearly got a better idea,
by giving you a bag in which to belk instead.
South Carolina 23,
Arizona Bowl –
Tucson – 1:15 (CBSSN)
(8-4) vs. Nevada (7-5)
This game has a very brief but peculiar history, in
that it originally tried to appeal to Millennial cord-cutters, by signing a
carriage deal with the multi-platform American Sports Network, predecessor to the
far inferior Stadium network. By now, it
has accepted the fact that people watch college football games on TV, and not
on their phones, and they also tend to subscribe to cable or satellite
providers that offer a significant amount of sports programming. Hence, last year it settled in to its new
home on the CBS Sports Network, where people don’t have to search quite so hard
to find it.
Another oddity was that, by the time the invitations
went out for the inaugural game in December of 2015, there were so few
bowl-eligible teams remaining that the committee ended up inviting two teams
from the same conference. To put it
mildly, that was not a popular thing to do at the time, but the controversy
quickly faded, when this Nevada team won a 28-23 duel with Colorado State that
was easily among the most entertaining games of that bowl season.
By Sun Belt standards, the Red Wolves are a good
postseason team, with a bowl record of 3-5.
As you’re likely aware by now, ASU was the last team to defeat Central
Florida, and handily, 31-13 in the 2016 Cure Bowl.
If the people at Stadium are such high-tech,
ahead-of-the-curve wunderkinds, they why can’t they produce an over-the-air
broadcast with a clear picture? I mean,
the channels are all digital now. If you
can tune it in at all, it should come in clearly. Last time the Czar watched a football game
through such blurry reception, the winning touchdown was scored by Alfalfa.
Nevada 43, Arkansas
Cotton Bowl –
Arlington – 4:00 (ESPN)
Notre Dame (12-0)
vs. Clemson (13-0)
Last time the Fighting Irish went unbeaten in the
regular season, their performance in the 2012 BCS championship was so pitiful,
they were upstaged by Brent Musburger’s libido.
That 42-14 drubbing at the hands of Alabama was no surprise to anyone who
had seen both teams during the regular season, and this year’s CFP semifinal
appears to be every bit as bad a mismatch.
Like the golden domers,
the Tigers could have been taken early this season, but they’ve dominated since
a few weeks in, when they made a change at quarterback. Trevor Lawrence’s 6-to-1 TD-to-interception
ratio is a dramatic improvement over what Kelly Bryant had delivered in the
previous year and a half.
The College Football Czar will never understand how
some analysts talk about a game being played in “Jerry’s World,” as if that
were an asset. Since when is it fun and
exciting to experience an approximation of Jerry Jones’ personality in
architectural form? If it were instead
being held in Berry’s World, Jim
Berry’s old comic strip, filled with voluptuous women and talking inanimate
objects, now that would be enjoyable.
Clemson 45, Notre
Orange Bowl – Miami
– 8:00 (ESPN)
Oklahoma (12-1) vs.
One way to look at it is that the Crimson Tide have
got an embarrassment of riches at quarterback.
Another is that they’ve got an injured starter with limited mobility,
and may have to turn to their second-stringer.
An excellent second-stringer, perhaps, but this is the final four, and
the difference between best and second-best matters.
SEC loyalists may turn up their noses at Big XII
defenses, and understandably so up to a point, but one must take stylistic
differences between the leagues into account.
If the pachyderms had played Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and West
Virginia, they’d have given up some points, also.
Even though Sooner quarterback Kyler Murray won the
Heisman, he is eschewing pro football to play Major League Baseball instead,
and who can blame him? After all, you’re
not nearly as likely to get a concussion playing outfield for the Oakland
A’s. That is, unless you’re Jose
Canseco, and you try to catch fly balls with the hardest part of your cranium.
Dec. 31 (Monday)
Military Bowl –
Annapolis – Noon (ESPN)
vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
Just to quell the inevitable rumors, Bearcat coach
Luke Fickell will absolutely not be rehired as head
coach at Ohio State. That would be like
his evil twin Adam Sandler going back to do a second extremely unfunny football
movie riddled with irritating celebrity cameos, and what are the chances of
that? There will be suitors from other
power-five conference teams, though, so Bearcat fans better enjoy this season
while it lasts.
The Gobblers almost let an amazingly long streak of
bowl appearances get snapped, but they won their regularly scheduled final
game, then won an abruptly scheduled make-up for a game that had been canceled
by a hurricane, to salvage a .500 season and return to the postseason for one
more year. If that script sounds
familiar, it’s the same one that Florida State followed a year ago. Justin Fuente’s team hopes the similarities
This bowl is sponsored by Northrop Grumman, a
defense contractor that specializes in manufacturing military and aerospace
technology. Just in case you’re watching
the game, and would like to purchase a stealth bomber, to go along with your Cheez-Its.
Virginia Tech 22,
Sun Bowl – El Paso
– 2:00 (CBS)
Pitt (7-6) vs.
The Cardinal are far too speedy for the Panthers to
beat on the fly sweep they’ve employed for so much of the season, but they’ve
got to continue using that play in order to thin the defense out and attack up
the middle. That’s where running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall,
each of whom has gained over 1,000 yards, come into play.
On those occasions when Pitt does try the
end-around, they’ve got to move the end far enough away for the play to be
effective. Too often, they’ve run it to
the short side, which is almost like putting another tackler on the field. The whole point is to get the ball carrier
into open space as quickly as possible.
It’s kind of important for the space to actually be there.
Cardinal QB K.J. Costello has topped the 300-yard mark
seven times this year, and can be expected to pick apart the Panthers on the
underneath routes, in which his receivers will make big gains after the
catch. Quality running backs have always
gotten their yardage against David Shaw’s defense, however, and there’s no
reason to expect this game to be any different in that regard.
A Stanford fraternity was reportedly warned by a
school administrator to remove the American flag from in front of its frat
house, to avoid offending some group of vile pus bags or other. Any university officials who are accompanying
the Cardinal football team to El Paso might as well keep on going, and hop a
caravan to some country they find less shameful than ours.
Pitt 30, Stanford
Redbox Bowl – Santa
Clara – 3:00 (FOX)
(7-5) vs. Oregon (8-4)
This is a prime example of why a bowl game should
maintain a traditional name apart from its sponsor. Nobody remembers great moments in Diamond
Walnut-Emerald-Kraft Fight Hunger-Foster Farms-Redbox Bowl history. Yet the game has certainly had its moments,
with 7 of the past 11 being decided by 8 points or fewer. Unfortunately, the new sponsor, the company
that operates those movie rental kiosks in supermarkets, does not exactly suggest
a great deal of staying power. Three
years from now, the game will probably be renamed the Botox Self-Injection Kit
Bowl, or something.
It’s been an up-and-down season for first-year
Fighting Duck coach Mario Cristobal, and it’s important that he finish on the
upswing. Cristobal took the helm prior
to last year’s Las Vegas Bowl, when he fielded as ill-prepared a team as the
Czar has ever seen, in a 38-28 loss to a bumbling Boise State club.
The Czar expected the Spartans to challenge for the
Big Ten, but instead it is they who are challenged, offensively. Having been held to six points each by Ohio
State and Nebraska, they finally managed to beat Rutgers 14-10 to end the
At first glance, the Czar thought this was the
Redbook Bowl, as if football players were expected to read that magazine to get
eyebrow-plucking tips from Jennifer Garner.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, even though there is.
Oregon 20, Michigan
Liberty Bowl –
Memphis – 3:45 (ABC)
(6-6) vs. Missouri (8-4)
Okie State has been an enigma this year, blasting
Boise State and beating West Virginia, but also getting routed by Texas Tech
and Kansas State. Once the Cowboys
clinched a bowl bid with that big 45-41 victory over WVU, they turned around
and dropped their regular season finale to TCU, 31-24.
The Tigers haven’t been a terror this year, but
neither have they been an easy out. All
four of Mizzou’s losses have come in SEC play, against Georgia, South Carolina,
Alabama and Kentucky. As of this
writing, fourth-year starting quarterback Drew Lock is expected to play, and to
therefore top the 12,000-yard mark for his career.
As Patrick Henry once said, “Give me Liberty, or
give me the Cheez-It Bowl, whichever is most
convenient for our traveling fans.” What
Oklahoma State 47
Holiday Bowl – San
Diego – 7:00 (FS1)
vs. Utah (9-4)
A game that’s historically been characterized by
wild end-to-end action will be hard to recognize when these scrappy conference
runners-up take the field, but it should be no less entertaining. A game doesn’t need to be high-scoring in
order to be good football, and the Utes demonstrated during their 10-3 defeat
against Washington in the Pac 12 title game.
Injured Wildcat quarterback Clayton Thorson has
given it a game effort this season, but what else he’s given have been 14
interceptions, as opposed to throwing only 15 touchdown passes. The Ute front seven has rattled plenty of
passers who have been a lot steadier than that throughout the season.
Do yourself a favor this holiday season, and take
time out from holiday shopping and holiday parties to watch the Holiday
Bowl. Gee, the way politically correct,
sniveling drips talk on TV sure looks dumb in print, doesn’t it?
Gator Bowl – Jacksonville
– 7:30 (ESPN)
Texas A&M (8-4)
vs. Nc State (9-3)
Once considered a major bowl game, the Taxslayer-nee-Gator has had a steady diet of .500
teams. Since the return of the
traditional Gator name last season, however, it’s gotten a couple matchups that
fans can finally sink their teeth into.
It’s almost as if the Taxslayer Bowl just
wasn’t prestigious enough.
What’s the Aggie offense to do? The Wolfpack’s one-dimensional defense is
stout against the run and porous against the pass, but when A&M doesn’t run
the ball enough, they lose. The most
reliable indicator of whether the ampersanders win or
not has been the number of carries they give RB Trayveon
Williams. What if NCSU stops him
throughout the first half? Do they give
up on their running game, like they have in all four losses this year, or do
they continue to run right into the teeth of the defense? The Czar thinks they’ve learned their lesson
since they failed to put away Auburn, and will keep Williams running for as
long as it takes.
The Wolfpack must prepare for and play this game
without offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz, who has
been hired away as the new head coach at Appalachian State. What an interesting surname. Usually, people who think they drink witz don’t actually turn out to be so witty.
Texas A&M 27, Nc State 17
Jan. 1 (Tuesday)
Outback Bowl –
Tampa – Noon (ESPN2)
Iowa (8-4) vs.
Mississippi State (8-4)
Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz is the only coach the Czar has
seen who has expressed any degree of dissatisfaction about a player skipping
his bowl game. Ironically, that player
is Noah Fant, who isn’t even the team’s leading tight
end this season. Sophomore T.J. Hockenson won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top TE, and
he’s likely to enter the NFL draft, where he’d probably be taken ahead of Fant.
The Hawkeyes had lost their momentum, dropping three
in a row by a total of 12 points. In
Week 13, however, they went through Champaign like Liz Taylor, scoring a
historic 63-0 victory over Illinois that was such a total team effort that
nobody stood out statistically.
The losing team has scored 13 points or fewer in
every game the Bulldogs have played this season. Unfortunately for them, that includes their
four losses, in which they’ve scored an average of four points each.
Four points a game?
That sounds like the Saskatchewan Roughriders, when they had Tino Sunseri at quarterback.
Iowa 9, Mississippi
Citrus Bowl –
Orlando – 1:00 (ABC)
Penn State (9-3)
vs. Kentucky (9-3)
After the Wildcats’ loss to Northwestern in last
year’s Music City Bowl, the big question is whether RB Benny Snell can keep his
composure long enough to disrupt that of the PSU defense. Snell was controversially but correctly
booted against NU, but if he can keep his head and body in the game this time,
he could break some big runs against a Nittany Lion
run defense that has been weak between the tackles.
The Lions have compensated for their susceptibility
against the run by pressuring quarterbacks in order to force lots of
long-yardage situations. In Week 11, for
example, they minimized the damage done by Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor by shellshocking freshman quarterback Jack Coan. Taylor still got his yardage (185 on 20
carries), but PSU walked away with a 22-10 victory.
Before being renamed the Citrus Bowl, this game was
known for 35 years as the Tangerine Bowl, which, as enlightenment set in, was
found to be a social injustice. All the
lemons, limes, grapefruits and especially the kumquats declared it a microaggression to have been excluded. They had a point, though. Admittedly, that was rather kumquaphobic.
That last paragraph is a cautionary example of what
can happen to you if you don’t get the hell out of college before it’s too
Kentucky 19, Penn
Fiesta Bowl –
Glendale – 1:00 (ABC)
(13-0) vs. LSU (9-3)
This hasn’t been as good a season as last year for
UCF, but they have a chance for an even better finish. In last year’s Peach Bowl, they outscored an
Auburn team that had taken a bruising in the second half of the season. This time, they take on a Louisiana State
squad that’s still in midseason form.
The Tigers’ 29-0 loss to Alabama wasn’t the end of
the world, and there’s no disgrace in losing to Texas A&M in eight
overtimes. Their conference win that
fell in between, 24-17 against Arkansas, is a little harder to justify.
If somebody’s throwing a fiesta, you know it’s got
to be in an indoor stadium in Glendale for an 11AM local kickoff. One wonders if the team from Disney World
will be able to withstand all that relentless fun.
Central Florida 34,
Rose Bowl –
Pasadena – 5:00 (ESPN)
Ohio State (12-1)
vs. Washington (10-3)
This will be the final game in the illustrious
career of ailing OSU coach Urban Meyer.
Does anybody believe there’s any chance he won’t go out with a win? Meyer’s career bowl record is 11-3, and he’s
16-5 in the postseason if you include conference championship games.
After the Huskies’ 28-15 victory over Washington State in this year’s
snow-covered Apple Cup game, RB Myles Gaskin was quoted as saying, “I ain’t ever lost to no Coug!” Ray Parker Jr. could not have said it
better. In fact, he didn’t.
The College Football Czar knew that “The Granddaddy of Them All” was
somewhere in the Los Angeles area. But
he always thought it was Steve Garvey.
Ohio State 32, Washington 21
Sugar Bowl – New
Orleans – 8:45 (ESPN)
Texas (9-4) vs.
Are you outraged that the four-loss Longhorns are
playing in a New Year's Six bowl game?
Imagine if we had an expanded playoff, such that they would have gotten
a shot at a national championship. Why
do so many people seem to think that would be a good idea?
The Bulldogs would like to prove a point against
Oklahoma by not only beating Texas, but shutting them down. That won’t be easy, because the defensive superiority
of the SEC is exaggerated by the lack of opposition. When your own league is dominated by
defensively oriented teams like LSU, Mississippi State, Florida and Kentucky,
facing a potent offense could come as a bit of a shock.
In fact, in UGA’s 66-27 November blowout of
unheralded Umass, they yielded 219 yards and two
touchdowns on 15 catches to the nation’s leading receiver, Andy Isabella. The Horns’ Lil’Jordan
Humphrey will be the second-leading WR they will have faced, with 1,109 yards
and nine TDs on the season. With that
kind of production, it’s a wonder that Lil’Jordan
still finds the time to squeak at people about drinking Diet Dr. Pepper.
Georgia 54, Texas
Jan. 7 (Monday)
Game – Santa Clara – 8:00 (ESPN)
Predicted matchup – Clemson vs Oklahoma
How refreshing it is to have a championship football
game being played in a legitimate football stadium for a change. They ought to just keep the game in Levi’s
Stadium permanently, and officially rename it the Pants Bowl. That might be about the eleventh-silliest
bowl name of all time, but it still beats the “CFP Championship Game.” Casual fans probably hear that and think
“CFP” is another euphemism for some lower division of football.
Does defense win championships? It certainly can, but there’s something to be
said for leading the nation in offense with 578 yards per game, as the Sooners
are doing this year. They were thought
to be in serious trouble when RB Rodney Anderson went down early in the season,
but freshman Kennedy Brooks has topped the 1,000-yard mark by tearing off an
incredible 9 yards per carry.
The Tigers lead the all-time series against OU 3-2,
after losing the first two in Norman decades ago. They’ve won the last three meetings, all in
bowl games, and two of those recently.
In 2014, they romped over the Sooners, 40-6 in the Russell Athletic
Bowl, and almost exactly a year later, they rolled over them in the Orange
This meeting clearly runs afoul of the NCAA’s
guidelines against “hostile and abusive” American Indian imagery. How?
If you look at the helmets, you’ll see that when they clash, they will
create a “Paw-OU.”
It’s like Mel Brooks says, you always need at least
one really bad pun.
a sports publication from The