The College Football Czar
Bowl Game Picks
Week fourteen in review: Championship weekend went pretty much as
expected this season, with the exception of the downfall of Navy, due to the
injury to quarterback Will Worth. Army’s
21-17 win in the final game of the regular season means not only that their
bowl qualification is now 100 percent legitimate, but also that the most
storied rivalry in the game has a chance to become genuinely interesting again.
As much as the sports media tried to
add some drama and controversy to the release of the CFP, the committee’s
selections of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington were virtually
unassailable, the Huskies’ comparatively weenie schedule being the only factor
to cause any serious doubt. Penn State
fans have tried to make an issue of the fact that their team won the Big Ten,
but still did not displace the Buckeyes in the semifinals. The simple explanation that nonconference
wins and losses count too is sufficient reason for most football fans to grasp
why things turned out as they did.
Some rather obvious picks in the conference title games helped the College
Football Czar to one of his better weeks of the season at 13-4. His record for the regular season finishes at
160-95, for a .627 winning percentage.
New Mexico Bowl –
Albuquerque – 2:00 (ESPN)
UTSA (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)
happily meep their way through the desert on their
way to their first-ever bowl appearance, but they’d better watch that they
don’t make that wrong turn in Albuquerque.
Bob Davie’s Lobos have overcome a slow start to win six of their last
seven, including a regular season-ending 56-35 rout of division champion
Antonio’s brief history, they have already met this Lobo team twice, splitting
a home-and-home. UTSA was charmed on its
previous trip to the Land of Enchantment, a 21-13 victory in 2013. A year later, it was UNM that prevailed in
the Alamodome, 21-9.
trophy is never the same two years in a row, because every year it is a new
handmade, hand-decorated adobe pot. That
makes it basically irreplaceable, and it is probably the most fragile of all
bowl trophies as well. Ergo, it must
also be the most valuable of the bowl trophies on eBay. Take that, you “power five” saps!
New Mexico 35. UTSA 23
Las Vegas Bowl – nuff said – 3:30 (ABC)
Houston (9-3) vs.
San Diego State (10-3)
With the departure of coach Tom Herman to Texas, the
Cougars have opted for consistency, by plucking Major Applewhite from their own
coaching tree, rather than going to the barrel.
At least as far as this bowl game is concerned, that continuity should
serve them well, as opposed to other schools who are being guided by entire
lame-duck interim staffs in the postseason.
The Aztecs avenged a damaging loss to Wyoming, 27-24
in the Mountain West Conference championship.
In between their two trips to Laramie, they suffered a terrible letdown
at home against Colorado State, 63-31.
SDSU’s defense, which allowed an average of only seven points per game
during the season’s middle six games, has returned to the form of its first
three games, which included a shocking 42-24 loss to South Alabama.
UH has had its share of letdowns, too. When the Cougs have
prepared for a big game, on the other hand, they’ve been up to the task,
dumping Oklahoma in their opener, and slobberknocking
Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville, 36-10.
Have you ever actually tried to knock slobber? It’s a surprisingly resilient substance.
Houston 52, San
Diego State 34
Camellia Bowl –
Montgomery – 5:30 (ESPN)
Toledo (9-3) vs.
Appalachian State (9-3)
The Mountaineers return to the scene of their bowl debut
from a year ago, when they edged Ohio 31-29 in one of the most exciting games
of the postseason. App State is now 2-0
all-time against opponents from the MAC, having outgunned Akron 45-38 earlier
Unlike most of their MAC rivals, the Rockets have
fared well in bowl games. Their 10-5
record memorably includes a classic 40-37 victory over Nevada in the 1995 Las
Vegas Bowl, which was the first overtime game in Division I-A history. Two decades later, they pulled off one of the
biggest surprises of the 2015 bowl season, bottling up a potent Temple offense,
It’s a little-known fact that when the Rockets
accepted an invitation to this game, they thought it was being played in a
stadium called the Kramden Bowl, not the Crampton
Bowl. What a disappointment. It turns out their road trip ends in
Montgomery, Alabama, but they wanted to go to the moon. POW! ZOOM!
Appalachian State 19
Cure Bowl – Orlando – 5:30 (CBSSN)
Arkansas State (7-5) vs. Central Florida (6-6)
A minor bowl appearance
is good for what ails the hometown Knights, who travel across town to the
Citrus Bowl from their home field at Bright House Networks Stadium. Under rookie head coach Scott Frost, they
have a chance to finish with a winning record, just one year after an 0-12
And yet, UCF really has
not scored a significant victory this season, having let their upset bid
against Temple slip away, 26-25. The
Knights’ four victories in the AAC have come against East Carolina, Uconn, Tulane and Cincinnati, each of whom finished with a
conference record of 1-7.
As a side note, the
Knights used to be called the Golden Knights, but they figured out what a lame
nickname that was. So why doesn’t the
new NHL franchise in Las Vegas get that?
Teams that use the modifier “Golden” as part of their name are turning
themselves into knick-knacks on a shelf.
It’s so girly-manny that it’s a wonder Mark
Cuban’s basketball team isn’t called the Golden Mavericks.
It does not speak well of
the Sun Belt Conference that the Red Wolves fell to 0-4 with a loss to Division
I-AA Central Arkansas, but then turned things around as soon as league play
began. In truth, the difference has as
much to do with the emergence of sophomore QB Justice Hansen, and the demotion
of Pitt transfer Chad Vojtik to a situational
role. The turning point was when the
fans wised up and stopped chanting, “No Justice, No P’s,” and instead began
saying, “No Justice, No W’s.” Coach
Blake Anderson said, “Oh, now I get it,” and the rest is history.
Arkansas State 29, Central Florida 26
New Orleans Bowl –
New Orleans, obviously – 9:00 (ESPN)
Southern Miss (6-6)
vs. LA-Lafayette (6-6)
Before stumbling to a 5-7 finish last season, the
Ragin Cajuns appeared in four consecutive New Orleans Bowls, winning all of
them, against favored opponents San Diego State, East Carolina, Tulane and
The Golden Eagles opened the season with a great
comeback to beat Kentucky, and finished with a big victory over Conference USA
West winner Louisiana Tech, but most of the results in between didn’t measure
USM once won a New Orleans Bowl in ULL’s home
stadium. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina
forced the venue to be moved to Cajun Field, where the Eagles defeated Arkansas
State, 31-19. As we all remember, the
Superdome was being used at that time for rampant acts of cannibalism and
necrophilia, all caused by George W. Bush.
Good thing we didn’t have any of that “fake news” back then that we’re
hearing about today.
Southern Miss 49,
Dec. 19 (Monday)
Miami Beach Bowl –
Miami – 2:30 (ESPN)
(6-6) vs. Tulsa (9-3)
The Golden Hurricane deserves a better bid than
this, but the American Athletic Conference simply doesn’t have quality bowl
affiliations. Hopefully, the league’s
continued improvement will soon change that.
Surely, one of the more traditional games, like the Independence Bowl,
would rather have an AAC contender than the #9 selections from two “power five”
The Chippewas never
contend in their conference, but they always seem to eke their way into a bowl
bid. Last year, they finished under .500
after a tough 21-14 loss to Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl. Quarterback Cooper Rush has been a typically
prolific four-year starter in the MAC, but he’s been consistently reckless with
the ball, throwing between 11 and 15 interceptions in each season.
Anymore, TU seldom has any gold in its
uniforms. Perhaps “Golden” Hurricane is
one of those sarcastic nicknames, like Curly Neal, or Funny Amy Schumer.
Actually, nobody ever calls her that. The Czar was just testing you.
Tulsa 59, Central
Dec. 20 (Tuesday)
Boca Raton Bowl –
Rat Mouth – 7:00 (ESPN)
Memphis (8-4) vs.
Western Kentucky (10-3)
The Hilltoppers finished at the top of the heap in
Conference USA this year, by avenging an earlier loss in their league
championship game, where they outlasted West division champion Louisiana Tech,
Mike Norvell is arguably
the most underappreciated head coach in the nation. It’s tough enough to follow hotshot coach
Justin Fuente, now at Virginia Tech, without also having to bring in former
Tennessee QB Riley Ferguson to fill in for flamethrower Paxton Lynch, who
departed early for the NFL.
Nevertheless, one more win would equal the Tigers’ record from a year
This trip to the beach should prove an educational
experience for you fans from Western Kentucky.
You see, the object that’s depicted on your team’s helmets is called a
“towel,” which may be used to dry oneself after one has been covered with
water. Here endeth
Memphis 42, Western
Dec. 21 (Wednesday)
Poinsettia Bowl –
San Diego – 9:00 (ESPN)
Wyoming (8-5) vs.
Brigham Young (8-4)
Look for BYU to blitz Cowboy QB Josh Allen, who held
the ball far too long, far too often in a 27-24 Mountain West Conference title
game loss to San Diego State. The Aztec
defense forced Allen to toss up two interceptions, while also sacking him four
times, and holding him to 14 completions on 31 attempts.
The Cougars’ four losses have been by a combined
total of only eight points, and three of those have been to teams that are
currently ranked. Of course, no team
ever loses by much if it only allows an average of 19.4 points per game.
It was 20 years ago that these teams met in Las
Vegas for the Western Athletic Conference championship, when Cowboy coach Joe
Tiller made that transparently unwise intentional safety call that set the Cougs up for the tying field goal, and ultimately to
prevail 28-25 in overtime. Tiller never
returned to the big square state, but instead fled half a continent away, to
become head coach at Purdue. Just
because the man’s a lardhead, that doesn’t make him stupid.
Brigham Young 27,
Dec. 22 (Thursday)
Famous Idaho Potato
Bowl – Boise – 3:30 (ESPN)
(7-5) vs. Idaho (8-4)
The Rams let their rivalry game against Air Force
get away from them, 49-46, but then they finished the regular season by scoring
a total of 112 points in shootout wins over New Mexico and San Diego
State. During that three-game stretch,
WR Michael Gallup raced for a total of 468 yards and five touchdowns.
In the Vandals final season of Division I-A
football, they return to postseason action in Boise, where they’ve won both of
their previous bowl appearances on the same blue turf. Well, on its flatter, Astroturfier
predecessor, anyway, but still in the same stadium. UI has previously upset Southern Miss 42-35
in the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl, and edged Bowling Green in a 43-42 cliffhanger
in that same game in 2009.
One of their regular season games leading up to that
’09 bowl victory was the last meeting between these teams in the Tater Sate, in
which the Vandals triumphed, 31-29 in the Kibbie
Dome. Moscow was as gracious a host to
CSU as its namesake had been to Napoleon, as the Rams took the field to be
greeted by a large banner that read, “Ewe Suck!”
Hopefully, the Russkies
never said anything that mean to Mr. Bonaparte.
He was sensitive, you know.
Colorado State 41,
Dec. 23 (Friday)
Bahamas Bowl –
Nassau – 1:00 (ESPN)
(7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3)
Throughout the past five games, this Monarch team
has floated like a butterfly, and stung like … a much larger, angrier
butterfly, equipped with some sort of stinging device or other. Not a perfect metaphor, the College Football
Czar admits, but you get the point. ODU
has qualified for its first bowl appearance, with plenty of room to spare, while
scoring an average of 36 points per game.
Meanwhile, EMU goes bowling for the first time since
1987, when they were still named the Hurons. That was back when the champion of the MAC
played the winner of the old Pacific Coast Athletic Association in the
California Bowl, in Fresno. Most of the
nation must have been rooting for the Hurons that
day, as they scored a mild 30-27 upset over an extremely cocky San Jose State
squad. This year’s Eagle team isn’t
nearly as formidable, but certainly good enough to quell any more rumors about
downgrading or disbanding the program.
The Eagles’ helmet logo might not look like much to
outsiders, but they’ve grown very proud of the “Block E” they debuted 15 years
ago. They got the idea from listening to
the fans in Ypsilanti yell, “Block, E!
Aw, c’mon, block! Just this once,
Old Dominion 45,
Eastern Michigan 31
Armed Forces Bowl –
Fort Worth – 4:30 (ESPN)
Navy (9-4) vs.
Louisiana Tech (8-5)
In the Midshipmen’s last two games with Will Worth
at quarterback, they scored a total of 141 points in road wins against East
Carolina and SMU. Since his ankle
injury, they’ve lost neutral-site games to Temple (34-10) and Army (21-17).
Senior Bulldog quarterback Ryan Higgins has been ex-trohhhrr-dnerry, passing for 4,208 yards, while completing 37 TDs to
eight interceptions. Binky Farnsworth
and the other lads from the regiment would be proud, if only Binky hadn’t
bought it at El Alamein. Pity.
There’s actually a very brief history between these
teams, with the Middies taking both ends of a home-and-home series in
2009-10. They were taking quite a chance
by playing that first game in Ruston.
Any frogmen spotted down around those parts are putting themselves in
danger of being et.
Louisiana Tech 28,
Dollar General Bowl
– Mobile – 8:00 (ESPN)
Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy
The Bobcats almost wiped out Western Michigan’s
undefeated season in the MAC championship game at Ford Field. Senior quarterback Greg Windham threw three
TD passes to keep them in the game, but his only interception snuffed a
potential game-winning drive, as they fell by a final of 29-23.
The Old College Troy was not enough in its regular
season finale against Georgia Southern, as the Trojans fell out of a three-way
tie for the Sun Belt Conference lead in a 28-24 setback in Statesboro. On their last possession of the game, they
drove the ball 77 yards, all the way to the Eagles’ 9-yard-line, before turning
it over on downs.
Last time TSU had a winning season was 2010, when
they won the New Orleans Bowl in a 48-21 rout over none other than the Ohio
Bobs. What relevance has that game to
this one? Well, you’re bound to see a
graphic referencing it at some point, but that’s about it.
When this game was known as the GoDaddy
Bowl, professional auto racer Danica Patrick could often be seen slinking up
and down the sidelines. Now there’s a
new discount sponsor, but never fear, they can still afford to employ the
second most famous woman in motor sports, Pinky Tuscadero.
Well, whaddaya want for a
Ohio 13, Troy 10
Dec. 24 (Saturday)
Hawaii Bowl –
Honolulu – 8:00 (ESPN)
(8-4) vs. Hawaii (6-7)
As long as the NCAA is giving special dispensations
to three 5-7 teams, it would be difficult to explain why the 6-7 Rainbow
Warriors should be left out, so here they are.
As usual, they get to play their bowl game at home, which suits them
just fine, after the regular season road schedule they played. UH opened with a game in Sydney, Australia
against the Cal Bears, and then had to play a road game a week later against
The MT-heads got kicked around for a couple games
after starting quarterback and coach’s son Brent Stockstill
suffered a broken collarbone, but they are hopeful of his return against
UH. Last game, freshman backup QB John Urzua left the game with a concussion, so the Blue Raiders
remained grounded. Running backs I’Tavius Mathers and Richie James each rushed for over 200
yards in a 77-56 romp over Florida Atlantic.
In order to be allowed in this game, the Warriors
should have been forced to demonstrate their academic fitness, by spelling
“Hawaii” without an apostrophe. And
then, they might actually bother to learn the other 13 letters.
21, Hawaii 16
Dec. 26 (Monday)
St. Petersburg Bowl
– Not Stalingrad – 11AM (ESPN)
Miami OH (6-6) vs.
Mississippi State (5-7)
The RedHawks are the first
team ever to become bowl eligible after starting 0-6. Their turnaround started when sophomore Gus
Ragland took over at quarterback. In six
consecutive victories, Ragland has completed a total of 15 touchdown passes,
without a single interception.
Just when it looked like the Bulldogs had nothing to
play for, they mauled arch rival Ole Miss 55-20 to eliminate the Rebels from
bowl contention. Then, they were awarded
a postseason slot themselves, for having achieved a high enough Academic
Progress Rate, another area in which they outperformed their foes from Oxford.
The Devil stuck around St. Petersburg when he saw it
was a time for a change. It was then
that he built an hideous dome that he comically named Tropicana Field. Just because he’s the Prince of Darkness
doesn’t mean he has to be such a total jagoff about
37, Miami OH 24
Quick Lane Bowl –
Detroit – 2:30 (ESPN)
(6-6) vs. Maryland (6-6)
These former conference foes meet for the first time
since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten.
When they were still ACC rivals in 2013, BC beat the shellbacks 29-26,
on a last-second, 52-yard field goal, to give them an 8-3 advantage in the
The Terps are so sad, they
could be related to the mock turtle played by Cary Grant in Alice in Wonderland. (He was still cool, by the way, even as a
blubbering lizard.) They’d have to be
from such a nonsensical place to lose six out of seven games, most of them
badly, and still be rewarded with a bowl bid just by beating Rutgers.
This game is so named because the quick lane is the
one that fans take to Ford Field. That’s
because there’s nobody else on it. All
the rest of the traffic is in the lane heading outbound from Detroit, to civilization.
Boston College 17,
Independence Bowl –
Shreveport – 5:00 (ESPN2)
Nc State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt
The Commodores played their way into the postseason
with a 45-34 victory over Tennessee, even though had they lost, they would have
been first in line for one of those academically-based bids for teams with
Having fallen short in previous upset bids against
Clemson and Florida State, the Wolfpack finally broke through for a 28-21
victory against North Carolina to end the regular season. Their kicking game continued to let them
down, though. Connor Haskins missed a
chip shot that could have put the UNC game away early, just as Kyle Bombard had
yanked a short kick that would have defeated Clemson. The two are a combined 9-for-17 this season.
Over the past couple years, Vandy
has added a nautical motif to its uniforms, to remind people of the meaning of
its team nickname. Otherwise, the
refined folk of that area might think a Commodore is where one keeps one’s chamber
Vanderbilt 21, Nc State 20
Dec. 27 (Tuesday)
Heart of Dallas
Bowl – Dallas – Noon (ESPN)
Army (7-5) vs.
North Texas (5-7)
Nobody likes to see a rematch of a regular season
game in a bowl, except for the team that had lost the previous matchup. The Black Knights got off to an excellent
start this year, but jeopardized their season with a 35-18 home loss to the
team from Denton.
Although the Mean Green have still had a losing
season, their turnaround has been even more dramatic than Central Florida’s. It was only a year ago that they suffered a
record blowout loss to a lower-division opponent, 66-7 to Portland State.
In the traditional regular season finale, the Cadets
said goodbye to Verne Lundquist and their 14-year streak of futility against Navy. If only they’d known the two were a package
deal, they would have done away with Verne years ago. Perhaps they could have coaxed him into
walking too close to the cannon, or had some tainted S.O.S. sent up to the
Sorry, Verne, but all’s fair.
Army 22, North
Military Bowl –
Annapolis – 3:30 (ESPN)
Wake Forest (6-6)
vs. Temple (10-3)
Whatever Baylor is paying coach Matt Ruhle to leave Temple, it isn’t enough. Ruhle is abandoning
relative job security with a championship team from the up-and-coming AAC to
jump aboard a foundering BU program in the rudderless Big XII. That’s like a game show contestant winning a
new convertible, and trading it in for the Box O’ Mystery.
Earlier this year, the Demon Deacons suspected that
someone was leaking their game plans, and they were right. Former Wake player and coach Tommy Elrod, who
had been one of their radio broadcasters this season, has been caught providing
secret information to the Deacons’ opponents.
Now that the mystery is solved, their secrets are safe. So, next time they go three-and-out after two
runs up the middle and a bubble screen, it will be a total surprise.
The Owls have extended their lease at Lincoln
Financial Field through 2018, by which time they hope to have completed a new
on-campus stadium. Following that
announcement Temple University alumni across the country expressed shock at the
discovery that their school has a campus.
Temple 42, Wake
Holiday Bowl – San
Diego – 7:00 (ESPN)
Minnesota (8-4) vs.
Washington State (8-4)
After an 0-2 start, Cougar coach Mike Leach publicly
slammed his players for being soft. What
must he have to say, now that they’ve been squooshed
in consecutive games against division winners Colorado and Washington?
The Golden Gophers’ four losses have been to Penn
State, Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin, which have a combined record of
38-12. It’s a wonder the radiant rodents
have fared this well, considering the play of QB Mitch Leidner. Against Division I-A opponents, the senior scrambler
has only three TD passes to 12 interceptions, and his rushing total of 340
yards doesn’t nearly make up for that.
Ten Gopher players have been suspended for this
game, under suspicion of sexual assault.
The rest of the team has taken the position that the charges are
baseless, and are threatening to boycott the game. The College Football Czar hasn’t got nearly
enough information to establish any opinion over who’s in the right. Everyone remembers how terribly Duke
University treated its lacrosse team, which proved to be entirely innocent, but
then, everyone also knows that such accusations against athletes are too often
true, and deserve to be taken more seriously than they have been at Baylor.
The Czar predicts that by this game’s halftime
interview, Leach will conclude that being soft is not necessarily a bad
thing. After all, bubble wrap is soft,
and who doesn’t love bubble wrap?
31, Minnesota 28
(5-7) vs. Washington State (8-4)
If the Gophers refuse to play, word is that they
will be replaced by the Northern Illinois Huskies, next in line for eligibility
according to the Academic Progress Ratings.
Had their season not been marred by a loss to the Division I-AA Western
Illinois Leathernecks, their inclusion in the postseason would be otherwise
defensible. The no-longer defending
three-time MAC West champions opened the season with a trio of tough games
against Wyoming, South Florida and San Diego State. Once 1-6, they have since gone 4-1, including
an overtime win at Eastern Michigan.
Not that Cougar coach Leach will be impressed with
the Huskies’ academic prowess. He’ll
take one look at those “NIU” helmets and think, “Those guys can’t even spell
36, Northern Illinois 17
Cactus Bowl –
Phoenix – 10:15 (ESPN)
Baylor (6-6) vs.
Boise State (10-2)
Not only have the Bears had a dismal second half of
a scandal-plagued season, but now their remaining coaches are probably busier updating
their resumes than preparing their team for this game. Perhaps it’s actually better that way, so
that they don’t see what they’re up against.
The Broncos are the best team in the Mountain West,
even though they didn’t make it into the conference championship game. Anyone who doesn’t understand how that’s
possible is not smart enough to have a valid opinion about the CFP semifinal
selections, or of the electoral college, for that matter.
Such a person would, however, figure that BU, having
lost in a six in a row since a 6-0 start, is due.
Boise State 51,
Dec. 28 (Wednesday)
Pinstripe Bowl –
New York – 2:00 (ESPN)
vs. Pitt (8-4)
Had these teams met a year ago, the Wildcats would
have been completely ill-equipped to take advantage of Pitt’s porous pass
defense, but sophomore Clayton Thorson is only 32 yards away from a 3,000-yard
season, and he’s taken much better care of the ball this season , with 21 TDS
to only eight interceptions.
To nobody’s surprise, this is the last game for
Panther RB James Conner before entering the NFL draft. The ACC’s all-time TD leader, who come back
this year from Hodgkins lymphoma, also suffered a
season-ending knee injury in the 2015 opener.
For him to risk injury for another season without getting paid would
have been sheer lunacy.
As if in anticipation of Conner’s departure, the
Panthers have discovered a passing attack.
Over the past five games, quarterback Nate Peterman has had five of his
six best performances of the season. In
his team’s 43-42 upset of Clemson, Peterman passed for a season-high 308 yards,
with five TDs and no picks.
Sure, a pinstripe bowl sounds nice, but if you own
one, beware. The Czar once had a pinstripe bowl., and he foolishly poured Chex
into it. The sight of it made him so
woozy, he couldn’t keep his breakfast down.
The only thing he can think of that would be even more unsettling would
be if the Pinstripe bowl were sponsored by Pop Rocks and Coke.
Bowl – Orlando – 5:30 (ESPN)
(10-2) vs. Miami (8-4)
Since halting a midseason four-game losing streak,
the Hurricanes have now won four straight, and convincingly so. In their last defeat, they spotted Notre Dame
a 20-0 lead, but they’ve since outscored their opponents by almost a 2-to-1
WVU has resumed its winning ways since getting
hammered by Oklahoma, but its blowout of Iowa State was only a 21-16 game at
halftime, and at this point, beating Baylor 24-21 is just as good as a
loss. To find any quality wins on the Eers’ schedule, you’d have to go back to Weeks 4 and 5,
when they held off BYU 35-32, and rallied past K-State 17-16.
ESPN has been commemorating the Notre Dame-Miami
“Catholics vs. Convicts” game.
Mountaineer fans hoped to capitalize on that concept, but they found
that “Snakehandling Chicken Blood Cultists vs.
Convicts” is too expensive to print on a tee-shirt.
West Virginia 25,
Foster Farms Bowl –
Santa Clara – 8:30 (FOX)
Indiana (6-6) vs.
The Hoosiers have given all kinds of heck to Ohio
State, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska, but the fact remains that they are
0-4 against teams with winning records this year. As if that streak of futility isn’t
discouraging enough, IU hasn’t won a postseason game since blanking Baylor 24-0
in the 1991 Copper Bowl.
Early this season, Ute running back Joe Williams
took the Urban Meyer retirement plan, except that when he abruptly returned, it
was with the same team he’d been with before.
In his six games since coming back, Williams has rushed for 1,110 yards
and nine touchdowns.
Since Utes are Indians, you might wonder why the
NCAA isn’t hounding them for being “hostile and abusive.” That’s because the university has threatened
that if they had to change their name, it would be to the Utah Putty-Tats.
Yeesh! Is the College Football Czar really resorting
to that? Good thing the season is
nearing an end.
Utah 26, Indiana 14
Texas Bowl –
Houston – 9:00 (ESPN)
Kansas State (8-4)
vs. Texas A&M (8-4)
As unpredictable as this season has been through
much of the country, one thing you knew you could count on was that Bill
Snyder’s lightly regarded Wildcats would exceed expectations yet again. Before the season started, nobody expected
K-State to finish ahead of TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor, even though they
pull off a season like this every other year.
A shoulder injury to starting QB Trevor Knight has
dropped an aTm-bomb on the Aggies’ season. The Conjunction Boys were 7-1, with their
only loss at Alabama, until their senior slinger went down. Then they lost to both Mississippi State and
Ole Miss, and struggled past Texas San-Antonio.
Knight returned in a Thanksgiving weekend loss to LSU, but had to leave
that game with a knee injury.
One of many arguments for keeping traditional bowl
names instead of naming the games after the sponsors is that this is about the eleventeenth bowl game sponsored by Advocare,
those ubiquitous purveyors of heaven only knows what. If Advo really
cared, they’d pick one bowl game and stick with it, and not be such a hussy.
Kansas State 35,
Texas A&M 31
Dec. 29 (Thursday)
Birmingham Bowl –
um … Birmingham – 2:00 (ESPN)
(10-2) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
By the records, this is a mismatch, and it really
would be if USF coach Willie Taggart hadn’t been tagged “it” by Oregon. The Bulls have responded by hiring outgoing
Texas coach Charlie Strong, which might or might not end up being a brilliant
move, but where does it leave them for this game?
From the Gamecocks’ perspective, the best thing
about having a month off before their bowl game is that it has killed their
momentum. Following a 20-7 defeat to
Florida in their SEC finale, SC won an uncomfortably close 44-31 decision
against Western Carolina – a Division I-AA team, and by no means a good
one. Then, in their alleged rivalry
game, Clemson left those little paw prints all over them after a 56-7
If the Bulls’ helmet logo looks familiar to you,
maybe that’s because it’s very similar to the Jack’s Links logo. The Czar must confess that he’s never gotten
the selling point of Jacks’ Links commercials.
“Buy our beef jerky, and Bigfoot will beat the snot out of you.” Where do you go to sign up for that?
South Florida 28,
South Carolina 10
Belk Bowl – Charlotte
– 5:30 (ESPN)
Arkansas (7-5) vs.
Virginia Tech (9-4)
During coach Justin Fuente’s first year in
Blacksburg, the Gobblers have already got more wins than they’ve had in any
season since 2011. Their first bid for a
tenth victory fell short in the ACC title game.
Nevertheless, they showed great resilience in that 42-35 loss to
national contender Clemson.
The Razorbacks were sharp as ever in taking a 24-7
halftime lead over Missouri, but then things got hairy. Not only did their defense break down, but
three offensive forays deep into Mizzou territory ended with two Austin Allen
interceptions, and a last-minute turnover on downs.
Speaking of razorbacks, it would sure make for a
happy ending if Hogs’ head coach Bret Bielema would
get his razor back. Viewers across the
nation might consider that to be the greatest feelgood
hit since Snoopy Come Home.
Virginia Tech 49,
Alamo Bowl – San
Antonio – 9:00 (ESPN)
Colorado (10-3) vs.
Oklahoma State (10-2)
In their first postseason appearance since jumping
leagues in 2011, the Buffaloes face their longtime Big 8-slash-XII foes from
Stillwater. Until this season, CU might
have wondered if they’d made the right move, but the Big XII is confirming that
for them on a daily basis.
The Cowboys’ seven-game winning streak was put to
Bedlam in a 38-20 loss to Oklahoma. That
rivalry game has been pushed up earlier on the schedule in 2017, so that those
teams can’t play each other twice in a row, with the addition of a conference
championship game. Since the Big XII is
not splitting into divisions, however, there’s really no avoiding the
possibility of regular season-ending opponents squaring off again in the league
title game. The people running that
conference are so stupid, they probably think that by using the Roman numeral
XII, they’re appealing to Latin American fans.
Pokes’ quarterback Mason Rudolph has had his two
least productive outings of the season in his last two games. Things don’t figure to get any easier against
the Buffaloes, who boast the leading defense in the Pac 12.
At the Alamo, the women and children were evacuated
unharmed, but there’s no escaping for Mike Gundy the Man, for obvious
reasons. And that hair isn’t fooling
Oklahoma State 27
Dec. 30 (Friday)
Liberty Bowl –
Memphis – Noon (ESPN)
TCU (6-6) vs.
The horny toads haven’t been so great this
year. In fact, they’re in danger of
having only their third losing season since hiring coach Gary Paterson in
2000. Their only two-game winning streak
of the season has been against Iowa State and SMU.
With mostly the same personnel as last year, the
Bulldogs’ ground game is down about 250 yards from last season, and
approximately half a yard per carry, with six fewer touchdowns. The team may be celebrating the announcements
that both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will return next season, but then again,
where else would they go?
UGA freshman quarterback Jacob Eason is Tony’s son, but
not the Tony Eason who played quarterback for Illinois and the New England
Patriots. Jacob’s dad was the
lesser-known Tony Eason who played college ball a few years later, having a
modest career as a wide receiver for Notre Dame. Just stepping on the field in South Bend was
probably enough to get him more Heisman votes than the other Tony, though.
Georgia 16, TCU 14
Sun Bowl – El Paso
– 2:00 (CBS)
(8-4) vs. Stanford (9-3)
Between the Cardinal’s Christian McCaffrey and Ryan
Switzer of UNC, this game could easily be decided by a long punt return. However, it could just as easily be decided
by special teams timidity by whichever team is more afraid of the opponents’
Stanford is hoping that El Paso does not live up to
its name, because the Tarheels have a prolific
passing attack, whereas they are dead last in passing yards in the Pac 12. The Heels have the worst run defense in the
ACC, however. In fact, if there were some
sort of a term that applied to a heel having a fatal weakness, the Czar would
be inclined to use it right here.
Why, of course El Paso is Spanish for “the
pass.” The College Football Czar is as
certain of that as he is of the fact that the “M” on the hillside next to the
stadium is a tribute to Marty Robbins.
Stanford 24, North
Music City Bowl –
Nashville – 3:30 (ABC)
Nebraska (9-3) vs.
In honor of the victims of recent wildfires, the
Volunteers will be wearing their “smokey gray”
uniforms. Boy, for college people, they
aren’t very good at this sensitivity thing, are they? Rather than paying respect to the dead, it
will look like they’re commemorating the phenomenon that killed them. Obviously, the Vols
like wearing their gray uniforms anyway, so why not use the “awareness” cult as
The Cornhuskers will be wearing white helmets with a
plain red “N” on them, in order to raise awareness of Nebraska football, of all
things. Their fans actually may have
forgotten what Husker ball is like, the way their team was systematically
dismantled in their last game against Iowa, 40-10. Unfortunately for them, a repeat of that
outcome appears likely, with WR Jordan Westerkamp out with a knee injury, and
QB Tommy Armstrong unlikely to play either.
Nebraskans quietly resent having to travel all the
way to Nashville to see a game called the Music City Bowl. Who needs the Grand Ole Opry when you’ve got
the Otoe County Hardware Store Band?
That Lester plays a mean saw!
Arizona Bowl –
Tucson – 5:30 (ASN)
South Alabama (6-6)
vs. Air Force (9-3)
This game is a first, in that it actually matches
two teams from different conferences.
Last year’s inaugural Arizona Bowl invited two MWC teams – Nevada and
Colorado State – to play each other. The
idea didn’t go over well, but it proved to be one of the bowl season’s more
riveting games, with Nevada winning 28-23.
The Jaguars’ two consecutive upsets of Mountain West
powerhouse San Diego State have surely made an impression on the Falcons, who
are not about to take this matchup lightly, regardless of what these teams’
schedules and records would suggest.
For the third consecutive year, the flyboys foiled
Boise State, this time by a score of 27-20, to keep BSU out of the conference
championship game. It was the fifth
straight victory for the AFA, whose Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy-clinching 31-12
road win over Army is looking a lot more impressive all of a sudden.
Two of the Jags’ six wins this season have come
against Division I-AA opponents Nicholls State and Presbyterian, a fact that
ought to have left them bowl-ineligible, if the NCAA weren’t so desperate for
participants of any sort. These guys
have so little business playing in a postseason game that, somewhere in
America, there’s probably some idiot running a bowl game office pool who drew
up a template representing South Alabama with the helmet of Georgia Southern by
mistake. Hypothetically speaking, of
Air Force 45, South
Orange Bowl – Miami
– 8:00 (ESPN)
Michigan (10-2) vs.
Florida State (9-3)
The fact that FSU got the major bowl bid over the
Louisville team that skunked them 63-20 has been a minor source of controversy,
but the Seminoles have since defeated South Florida, Miami and Florida, whereas
the U of L has not defeated another winning team all season long.
It’s been refreshingly uncontroversial that the
Wolverines are not in one of the semifinal games. They really don’t belong there, but not
because they lost to Ohio State head-to-head so much as because they have another
loss in addition to that, against a second-echelon Iowa team. Yet, there were those clamoring for a
two-loss Penn State team to have a shot at the national title, even though the
maize and blue mulched them 49-10 early this season.
Believe it or not, these two storied programs have
only met twice before, and never in a bowl game. In 1986, the Wolverines prevailed 20-18, but
the Noles rolled over them five years later, by a
final of 51-31. Current Michigan coach
Jim Harbaugh quarterbacked his team to that ’86 victory.
The College Football Czar won’t believe these are
such great football teams until they stop referring to their team colors as
things like “maize” and “garnet.” What’s
next, periwinkle? Real football team
colors stick to the Crayola 8-box.
Florida State 19
Dec. 31 (Saturday)
Citrus Bowl –
Orlando – 11AM (ABC)
LSU (7-4) vs.
The College Football Czar isn’t certain that coach
Ed Orgeron will succeed in Baton Rouge, but he sure seems
to be popular with his players, who will be eager to validate their school’s
decision with a big postseason victory.
Based on his season-long performance, there’s no
question Cardinal QB Lamar Jackson deserves his Heisman Trophy, but he and his
OL must be far better than they were against Houston and Kentucky when they
tangle with this Tiger defense. Jackson
obviously wanted to win the Heisman very badly.
Now that he has accomplished that, how much do you suppose he really
cares whether or not the Cards win the Citrus Bowl?
Nowadays, people probably think the Citrus Bowl is
just a more socially acceptable title for the Orange Bowl, because citrus is a
larger domain that encompasses oranges, among other things. That’s the way political correctness works,
by expanding the definition of what is being talked about until it is
essentially meaningless. It’s not
Oriental, it’s “Asian.” They’re not
midgets, they’re “little people.” Never
mind that most Asians are not Oriental, and most little people are not
midgets. A lack of accuracy is what we
strive for these days. You can’t just go
around referring to oranges, lemons and grapefruits anymore. That’s discriminatory! So enjoy your “citrus juice,” but don’t drink so much that you have to stop
at a public “people’s room.”
LSU 23, Louisville
Gator Bowl –
Jacksonville – 11AM (ESPN)
Kentucky (7-5) vs.
Georgia Tech (8-4)
This bowl was a big game back in the 70s and 80s,
but in recent years it has become the home of disappointed major conference
teams disinterestedly playing out the string at the end of their .500
seasons. Not so this year, as each of
these teams enters this postseason with a full head of steam. The Wildcats toppled Louisville on the road
to clinch a winning season, while the Yellowjackets have won their last three,
including visits to Virginia Tech and Georgia.
UK is actually a very respectable 7-3 since handing
the starting QB job to Stephen Johnson.
The big sophomore Drew Barker was worse than his bite, which probably
would not have tossed five picks in barely over two games. Barker was pulled from the lineup due to a
back injury, which the Czar presumes had something to do with his inaccuracy.
Now officially the TaxSlayer Bowl, this game awards
a trophy that features a likeness of an alligator punting a football. Is that the varmint that’s supposed to slay
our taxes? It can’t even pick up a first
Georgia Tech 27
Peach Bowl –
Atlanta – 3:00 (ESPN)
vs. Alabama (13-0)
Crimson Tide fans may be the only people in America
who will be sad to see the Georgia Dome go.
In this same building four weeks earlier, they flogged Florida 54-16 to
win the SEC Championship. It was their seventh
victory in a league title game, and sixth since that game has been played in
The Huskies demonstrate the importance of being
punctual. We know that because those who
are late do not get fruit cup, yet UW ran away with the Apple Cup by routing
rival Washington State 45-17, and here they are looking for seconds at the
Peach Bowl. Quarterback Jake Browning
has bombarded opponents for 42 TD passes this season, one behind Toledo’s Logan
Woodside for the nation’s best. Other
prolific passers like Chad Kelly of Ole Miss and Austin Allen of Arkansas have
given the Tide a tough time, but haven’t beaten them, of course.
Under Nick Saban, the
pachyderms have had their share of postseason collapses, but only in the Sugar
Bowl, where their defense has disintegrated against Utah, Oklahoma and Ohio
State. In all other bowl appearances,
they’re 7-0, and their play on the field has been nearly as perfect as that
It’s a good thing this game involves a peach bowl
and not a peach basket, because if the latter were the case, it would be a
basketball game, and who would rather see that?
Besides, if Dr. Naismith was so brilliant, why did it take him so long
to think to cut out the bottom of the basket?
Fiesta Bowl –
Glendale – 7:00 (ESPN)
Clemson (12-1) vs.
Ohio State (11-1)
Including a 42-35 scare against Virginia Tech in the
ACC title game, the Tigers have won six games by seven points or fewer. Granted, they also appeared wobbly after last
year’s league championship win over North Carolina, when they proceeded to
pound Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and put up a ferocious battle against Bama
for the CFP title. Their struggles have
been more consistent this year, however.
It’s not only that they lost to Pitt, but also their six-point scare
against Troy, and their overtime escape against Nc
State that makes the Czar doubt their chances against another of the nation’s
top teams. In hindsight, even their
42-36 victory over Louisville is troublesome.
Buckeye defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has done a tremendous job since making a difficult
decision to stay at OSU, after being demoted from the head coaching position
after the 2011 season. There’s no doubt
he’s committed to see his job through in Columbus this postseason, even though
he’s already accepted the head job at Cincinnati.
The lumpy nuts are 0-2 all-time against the Tigers,
both of those results coming in bowl games – the Gator Bowl in 1978, and the
Orange Bowl at the end of the 2013 season.
It’s a good thing they didn’t win that ’78 game, or coach Urban Meyer
might have to go punch one of the Tiger players in the throat for old times’
College football coaches are very superstitious that
Ohio State 30,
Jan. 2 (Monday)
Outback Bowl –
Tampa – 1:00 (ESPN2)
Iowa (8-4) vs.
They might as well really play this game in the
Outback, because it figures to be a test of endurance, with each team allowing
only 215 points in 12 games this season.
The Hawkeyes have won three games in which they’ve scored only 14
points, including a 14-13 shocker over Michigan. Meanwhile, the Gators have allowed 14 or
fewer in each of their eight victories.
Iowa’s Akrum Wadley needs
only 34 more yards to join teammate LeShun Daniels as
1,000-yard rushers. Between the two, the
shifty junior Wadley has by far the better per-carry average, at 6.6 yards.
What can you say about this UF offense? They’re the SEC’s worst running team, gaining
under 130 yards per game on the ground, and their QBs get picked off a lot,
despite the fact that they seldom challenge opponents directly downfield.
Come to think of it, maybe they’re the team that
should get the punting alligator trophy.
Iowa 19, Florida 9
Cotton Bowl –
Arlington – 1:00 (ABC)
(14-0) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)
How come Central Michigan’s upset of Oklahoma State
is forever asterisked because of a blown call, but when Northwestern was mugged
on a pair of late goal-line calls in a 22-21 loss to Western Michigan, nobody
cared? Is it just because the Wildcats
didn’t whine like OSU did? Yes, of course
The Broncos are actually already 2-0 against the Big
Ten this season, but their other win, aside from Northwestern, was a 34-10 romp
over Illinois. It was an impressive
victory at the time, but hardly comparable to what it will take for them to
bump off the Big Bad Gers.
It’s not often that the Badgers get a big lead
against a quality opponent, but they led Penn State 28-7 in the Big Ten title
game, and blew it, 38-31. The turning
point was their failure to increase their three-TD lead after PSU’s second
consecutive overzealous decision to go for a fourth down in their own
Considering the tremendous job he’s done at WMU, why
was coach P.J. “Tooey” Fleck not the first head coach
hired away at the end of the regular season?
Well, just look at him in that dopey sweater, hyperventilating and
generally displaying an extremely dorky degree of intensity. See?
The simplest answer is usually the correct one.
Western Michigan 7
Rose Bowl –
Pasadena – 5:00 (ESPN)
Penn State (11-2)
vs. USC (9-3)
To hear the Nittany Lions
tell it, they’re not the least bit disappointed about where they’re going. That’s a good thing, because they objectively
don’t belong in the CFP semifinals, whereas their Big Ten championship does
qualify them for the Rose Bowl. Besides,
this Trojan team they’re facing is playing better than anybody, with the
exception of #1 Alabama.
Freshman quarterback Sam Darnold
got his first start in a 31-27 defeat at Utah, which dropped Southern Cal’s
record to 1-3. They’ve since won eight
in a row, including victories over division champions Colorado and Washington.
PSU slinger Trace McSorley
played yet another brilliant game in his team’s dramatic 38-31 comeback win
over Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship.
His quick release was the key to that game, because his offensive line
was getting perforated on nearly every play by the Badger front seven. Can he possibly be expected to perform so
well again, while under the same kind of duress from SC?
If you’re among those who believe the Nittany Lions should be ranked ahead of Ohio State on the
strength of their head to head victory – even though the rest of their resume
doesn’t stack up – perhaps you should consider the following. Penn State lost to Pitt, which lost to Oklahoma
State, which lost to Central Michigan, which lost to Kent State, which lost to
North Carolina A&T, which lost to Richmond, which lost to Stony Brook,
which lost to Sacred Heart, which lost to Central Connecticut State, which lost
to Robert Morris, which lost to Alderson-Broaddus, which lost to St. Joseph’s
College of Indiana, which lost to Missouri S&T, which lost to the
University of Indianapolis, which lost to Quincy, which lost to Davenport,
which lost to St. Francis of Illinois, which lost to Trinity International,
which lost to St. Ambrose, which lost to Dakota State, which lost to Valley
City State, which lost to Hastings, which lost to Dordt. Therefore, according to lardhead football
logic, tiny Dordt College, an NAIA school from Sioux
Center, Iowa (one hour’s drive from Sioux City, according to the school’s
website), should now be competing for the Division I-A football championship.
WE ARE … DORDT!
USC 24, Penn State
Sugar Bowl – New
Orleans – 8:30 (ESPN)
Oklahoma (10-2) vs.
Why must there be a second SEC team in a New Year’s
Six bowl game, when Alabama is the only team in that conference with fewer than
four losses? If you’re looking for some
qualified teams that were shut out of the major bowl games, Oklahoma State,
Colorado, West Virginia and Stanford spring readily to mind.
The fact that Ohio State made it into the semifinals
ahead of Penn State tells the Sooners that it really would not have mattered if
their conference had played a championship game this season. If you want to be among the four elite teams
in the nation, you can have one loss to another contending team like OSU, but
add another loss to a good but not great team like Houston, and you’re done
The Tigers have lost their last two legitimate
games, sandwiched around a pointless 55-0 blowout of Division I-AA Alabama
A&M. Their season-ending 30-12
setback against Alabama is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but how does a
team drop four games, one of them being to Georgia, and still make it into as
prestigious a game as this?
Tailback Joe Mixon has
been doing just that to the Sooner offensive playbook. The sophomore stomper leads the team with
1,183 rushing yards, but he’s also gained 449 yards on 32 catches, and has
scored a combined total of 13 touchdowns rushing and receiving.
Why would OU bother to be sooner in this game, when
there’s not even a fruit cup at stake?
Oklahoma 49, Auburn
Jan. 9 (Monday)
Game – Tampa – 8:30 (ESPN)
Predicted matchup – Ohio State vs. Alabama
Oh, no! The national
championship game is being played outdoors this year! What if it rains, and the players get all wet
and fall down? Furthermore, the field is
made of grass and dirt, which could smudge the uniforms. For shame!
The Czar thought everyone knew by now that every really important
football game is supposed to be played in a large-scale model of the Cone of
Silence. No wonder this is called a
mythical championship, if the NCAA is willing to subject it to all sorts of
unnatural influences, like air. On the
bright side, just think, when all championship football games are played in
domes, and we are nearing that point rapidly, each of them will be every bit as
visually captivating as the NFL combines.
As certain as most people are that Bama is the best
heading into the bowl season, if this is the matchup that occurs, all of a
sudden people will remember the lumpy nuts’ 42-35 upset in the Sugar Bowl two
years ago, and a triumph for the Tide won’t seem so inevitable after all.
The Buckeyes don’t exactly have momentum on their
side, though. If they don’t play
considerably better than they did in their last two regular season games, they
could be in for an embarrassment. Yes,
that was a legitimate fourth-down conversion in their 30-27 double-overtime win
over Michigan, but boy, did they get away with a blatant interference penalty
to force the Wolverines to kick during that second OT.
The Czar is thankful that the CFP selections this
year were obvious enough not to stir up any enthusiasm for playoff
expansion. Not only does he think
expansion beyond the plus-one model would be detrimental to the game, but the
larger the playoff format becomes, the more we’ll be subjected to Dr. Pepper
vendor Larry Culpepper. If we were
showing that guy’s commercials to the detainees at Guantanamo, the ACLU would
raise hell – and for once, they’d have a point.
Alabama 34, Ohio
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