DEC. 12 HOME STRETCH COLUMN — PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR
This year’s bowl prediction column was supposed to be about saving space. I eliminated sponsors’ names whenever possible, left out the word “bowl” from each game, and tried to limit my comments.
As you can see, that effort failed miserably.
Last year’s predictions, on the other hand, went pretty well; I went 21-14. There seem to be a lot of tough ones this time around, so I’d be thrilled to match that record this season.
That’s especially true since I have made a lot of these picks based on silly, sentimental reasons rather than sound, statistical analysis. It’s more fun my way. And I’ll probably do just as well.
Mark and I have our usual friendly wager over these games. You’re welcome to keep score at home and match your picks against ours.
Let’s do this:
Dec. 15, New Mexico, Nevada vs. Arizona - I have been to Nevada four times, Arizona once. Nevada by 3.
Dec. 15, Famous Idaho Potato, Toledo vs. Utah State – Always go with the school you’ve heard of. Toledo by 3.
Dec. 20, Poinsettia, BYU vs. San Diego State – San Diego State by 2. No reason.
Dec. 21, St. Petersburg, UCF vs. Ball State – Go with Florida teams whenever possible. UCF by 5.
Dec. 22, New Orleans, East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette – Louisiana is home to some of my favorite simulcast horse racing tracks.
“Ils sont partit!” (Google it.) Lafayette by 1.
Dec. 22, Las Vegas, Washington vs. Boise State – In Las Vegas last summer, I bought Packer Insurance, betting the “Guhs” to win the Super Bowl, which seems more likely by the week. So if I have to suffer through such a calamity, at least I get some cash.
There was a moment of horror during this transaction. The teller, mistaking me for a Packer fan, told me to “have a good season.”
“No, no, no,” I stammered. I then tried to explain about Packer Insurance. Amazingly, he didn’t seem to care.
Which has nothing to do with the Las Vegas Bowl, for which I’m taking Washington, by 6.
Dec. 24, Hawaii, Fresno State vs. SMU – I went with SMU successfully a year ago. I’ll try again. SMU by 3.
Dec. 26, Little Caesars Pizza, Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan – Dan Fogelberg’s classic song “Run For the Roses,” about the Kentucky Derby, contains the phrase “Western Kentucky.” WK by 2.
Dec. 27, Military, Bowling Green vs. San Jose State – Time for the annual Coin Flip Special. Heads is BG; tails it is. SJS by 1.
Dec. 27, Belk, Cincinnati vs. Duke – I would pick differently if this were a basketball game. Cincinnati by 9.
Dec. 27, Holiday, Baylor vs. UCLA – I remember a game five or six years ago when a USC defensive player bashed the UCLA quarterback out of bounds with a ferocious, helmet-to-helmet hit. The announcers gushed about the defender’s competitiveness. I’m guessing they would treat such a hit differently these days.
It’s nice that UCLA got a measure of revenge this season. I like the Bruins here, too, by 4.
Dec. 28, Independence, Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe – Another Louisiana team. L-M by 3.
Dec. 28, Russell Athletic, Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech – I won’t whine about Rutgers’ admission into the Big Ten, and college football’s continued assault on tradition. Tradition started its decline long ago, when they stopped playing the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Tech by 6.
Dec. 28 - Texas, Minnesota vs. Texas Tech – My beloved Gophers’ strategy worked to perfection: rack up four wins against the New Hampshires of the world, and then eke out two wins against a weakened Big Ten. Six wins! And now…seven losses! Tech by 7.
Dec. 29, Armed Forces, Rice vs. Air Force. I always pick the armed force in the Armed Forces Bowl. Air Force by 4.
Dec. 29, Pinstripe, West Virginia vs. Syracuse - This Yankee Stadium game is a mismatch, much like Tigers-Yankees. (Sorry, Sheralyn, Junelle, Dave, Denny, Doug, et al; I couldn’t resist.) West Virginia by 20.
Dec. 29, Kraft Fight Hunger, Navy vs. Arizona State – I’m guessing ASU is better here, by 6.
Dec. 29, Alamo, Texas vs. Oregon State – How’s that network deal working out, ESPN? Oregon State by 7.
Dec. 29, Buffalo Wild Wings, TCU vs. Michigan State – I really thought Michigan State was going to be a lot better. I’ll take one more shot with MSU, by 2.
Dec. 31, Music City, North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt – Vandy again posts a winning record in a killer conference. Amazing. Vanderbilt by 8.
Dec. 31, Sun, USC vs. Georgia Tech – USC didn’t come close to this year’s pre-season hype, but should win here, by 8.
Dec. 31, Liberty, Iowa State vs. Tulsa – ISU’s 6-6 is misleading; the Cyclones had one of the nation’s toughest schedules. They also beat Tulsa earlier, and will again. ‘Clones by 11.
Dec. 31, Chick-fil-A, LSU vs. Clemson – I’m going to lean SEC here, taking LSU by 4.
Jan. 1, Gator, Mississippi State vs. Northwestern – South team in the South. Mississippi State by 3.
Jan. 1, Heart of Dallas, Purdue vs. Oklahoma State - Big 10 (14) vs. Big 12 (10). Confused? So am I. OSU by 6.
Jan. 1, Outback, South Carolina vs. Michigan - Going against the Big Ten. SC by 3.
Jan. 1, Capital One, Georgia vs. Nebraska - Possibly the most attractive game on the entire bowl slate. When in doubt, I go SEC. Georgia by 6.
Jan. 1, Rose, Wisconsin vs. Stanford – This one had a lot of appeal until Bielema packed up and headed south. The return of Barry Alvarez to the sideline will help, but not enough. Stanford by 10.
Jan. 1, Orange, Northern Illinois vs. Florida State – Not sure what I am enjoying more, that NIU busted the BCS, or that broadcasters are whining about it. But as much as I’d love to see NIU win, it seems doubtful. Florida State by 12.
Jan. 2, Sugar, Louisville vs. Florida – Same thought here. I love that Louisville is in it; don’t think the Cardinals can win. Florida by 9.
Jan. 3, Fiesta, Oregon vs. Kansas State - K-State is this year’s poster child for the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx. Days after being splashed on the cover and declared “the nation’s best team” by SI, the Cougars were pounded by unranked Baylor. Redemption time: Kansas State by 7.
Jan. 4, Cotton, Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma - I made fun of A&M’s move to the SEC in this column last year. Then the Aggies racked up a 6-2 SEC record, including a win over Alabama. Oops. A&M by 3.
Jan. 5, BBVA Compass, Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss – How, oh how, Pitt, did you let that Notre Dame upset slip away? Pitt should be good enough here, by 8.
Jan. 6, GoDaddy.com, Kent State vs. Arkansas State – Um…no clue. Arkansas State by 1.
Jan. 7, BCS National Championship, Notre Dame vs. Alabama - According to Sports Illustrated, NBC considers Notre Dame not a college football program but a “brand.”
That, and the school’s exclusive TV contract with the network giant, are reasons enough to hope the Irish lose.
I do believe Alabama is better, but I hope I’m not just betting with my heart. Do us a favor, Tide. ‘Bama by 14.