>By Dylan Davis
The week of bowls leading up to New Years day may not be as important as the games after January 1, but they often include some of the most entertaining and balanced match ups. The first week of bowl told us a few things: It told us that Boise State is one of the best teams in the country and should have gotten a shot at playing the big boys; it told us that Jake Heaps (QB for BYU) is going to be a star for the next three years; it also told us that there’s a reason some of these teams barely qualified for bowls (I’m looking at you, UTEP). But enough about last week, let’s take a look at the upcoming schedule for games from the 23–29.
Last Week’s Record: 3-2
Overall Record: 3-2
Poinsettia: Navy vs. San Diego State
Who will win: San Diego State, because it’s basically a home game. When East Coast teams travel west to play night games, or when west teams travel east to play in the morning, the results usually aren’t pretty. The players’ internal clocks are a little off and the awkward starting times don’t help. Navy is a better football team than the Aztecs but their yearlong inconsistency in the red zone will be a little too much for them to overcome in San Diego
Swag: Best Buy Gift Card, Fossil watch, hooded sweatshirt, and cap. Neither team are cut from the USC/Auburn cloth when it comes to recruiting, so that Best Buy gift card will actually mean something to these players.
Hawaii: Hawaii vs. Tulsa
Who will win: Hawaii, duh. Hawaii is almost unstoppable at home, and this is a home game, for a myriad of reasons. Even for a Midwestern team like Tulsa, going to Hawaii is a change of five hours on their internal clock, not mention the length of the flight there. Being in Hawaii all the time wears off the novelty of it, thus allowing the players to focus on football instead of vacationing and beautiful women. While the Warriors will be focused, Toledo will be sipping Pina Coladas and taking long walks in the rain. Or something. Also, Hawaii is used to the ugliness of floral shirts, while Tulsa will be exposed to them for the first time this season. If all of these factors weren’t enough, Hawaii is ranked in the top 25 and has played excellent football all year.
Swag: Earbuds, Oakley sunglasses, custom shorts, commemorative t-shirt, golf shirt, visor, Oakley backpack, beach towels, and calendar. This once again proves that quantity is not always better than quality.
Little Caesars: Florida International vs. Toledo
Who will win: Toledo, because an eight-win MAC team always beats a six-win Sun Belt team. This is one of those games that I don’t care about whatsoever, but Toledo has a better record, is from a better conference, and is nicknamed the Rockets, so there you go.
Swag: Gift Suite, watch, leather duffle bag, and commemorative football. If the players from these terrible teams weren’t so excited to just be in a bowl, they’d probably be complaining about how bad these gifts are.
Independence: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
Who will win: Georgia Tech. Depending on how you look at the world, this match up could be either disappointing or hugely entertaining. Although pairing two option offenses together is like putting Boise vs. Utah (wait…that happened? Oops), it should be interesting to see which of these teams is able to rack up yardage and points against a defense that knows what they’re trying to do. Part of the reason why the option offense works is because of its novelty, but both of these teams see it every day in practice. Expect quality defense from both sides and one big play to tip the scales.
Swag: Gift Suite, watch, New Era hat, and souvenir hat. I don’t know if the people who put the bowl gifts together stopped and thought about today’s styles, because as far as I know, most people only wear one hat at a time.
Champs Sports: West Virginia vs. North Carolina State
Who will win: West Virginia because of its superior defense. The Mountaineers have long been known for having an explosive offense and a 2010 Michigan-like defense, but this year they have an experienced, tough defense to lean on. Russell Wilson has been an absolute beast for the Wolf pack, but their one-dimensional offense will be no match for West Virginia. If Noel Devine can return to his 2009 form, the Mountaineers could roll in this one.
Swag: $420 shopping spree to Best Buy and watch. Insert 420 joke here.
Insight: Missouri vs. Iowa
Who will win: Iowa, for pride. The Hawkeyes came into this season as a top-ten team and potential national title contender, but five close losses dropped them way out of the title race and into this mediocre bowl. Kirk Ferentz is a great coach who will have his troops ready for a lesser bowl just as Chris Peterson did with Boise Wednesday night. Although Missouri has had a great year, passing the ball, Adrian Clayborn and Iowa’s suffocating defense will slow the Tigers. I expect Adam Robinson (no relation to Will) to romp for 150 yards on the ground.
Swag: Sony gift suite, Tourneau watch, cap, Ogio Cooper backpack. I’m starting to think that these bowls have no creativity. The players from all the bowls will get together at the end of the year and start to boast about getting gift suites before realizing that… wait, everyone else got that too?
Military: East Carolina vs. Maryland
Who will win: East Carolina, because of the coaching turmoil at Maryland. Ralph Freidgen has been told that he is not welcome in College Park next season and that has thrown the Terrapin program into disarray. I expect the spread offense of the Pirates to shellac the unprepared Terps defense.
Swag: Sony dash, portable speakers, beanie, cap, duffel bag, tailgate blanket. They were going to give out commemorative t-shirts until they realized Ralph Friedgen would be involved with the game and they didn’t make 7XL shirts.
Texas: Illinois vs. Baylor
Who will win: Baylor, because of Robert Griffin III. Both of these teams have explosive offensive talents (Griffin for Baylor and Mikel Leshoure for Illinois) that can single-handedly win the game for their team. The only difference is that if Baylor falls behind, Griffin can rally his troops with his arm, or his legs, while Leshoure (who is a running back) can’t help as much in the passing game.
Swag: Fossil watch, iPod touch, t-shirt, backpack, and belt buckle. I have a feeling that the Texas-based Baylor team is going to have a lot more use for the belt buckle than the Illinois players. Whatever, they all get an iPod.
Alamo: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
Who will win: Oklahoma State, in the second best non-BCS game. This game features two future first round picks in Justin Blackmon and Nick Foles. Both of these players are expected to be future NFL stars because of their college production and a bevy of weapons backs both on each side of the ball. Oklahoma State will be disappointed to have missed an opportunity to play in the Big 12 championship game, and that will drive them to a slight victory over the Wildcats.
Swag: Xbox 360, $20 GameStop card, headphones, iPod shuffle. Easily one of the best hauls of the bowl season until you realize that $20 at GameStop is about a useful as the new Big 10 division names.
That’s all for this week, check back in next week for the week 3 bowl predictions and a TSL group (and special guest) prediction of the BCS games. Have a great Christmas and enjoy the bowls.