International Bowl (Toronto): South Florida (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (7-5)
Spread: South Florida (-6.5)
Dan: Simply put in this game: A Big East team only giving 6.5 to a MAC team that has the same record has to be considered a gift. It has to be. Do not overthink this one. And I have nothing else to say about this game other than South Florida is based in Tampa and Tampa would be a fun place to go to college… South Florida 34, Northern Illinois 21.
Dave: Hey, South Florida Bulls, congrats on your season, eh. Here's everything you'll need to know a-boot your bowl vacation: You'll leave sunny Tampa and travel to the Great White North to… Canada! Don't forget your passports. Customs can be a real bear, eh. But if you like maple syrup and LaBatt's, oh my are you in for a treat! Oh, and those bowl gift packages you hear so much about… they're legit! Here's what you get: A half-pound of Canadian bacon (or as we call it up here in Toronto, "bacon"), a Maple Leafs parka furnished by the good folks at Starter, Snow's "Greatest Hits," a copy of "Strange Brew" on Beta (we don't have VHS up here), a coupon for one free lap in our Olympic-sized pool filled with Molson, and, of course, a date with Alanis Morissette at the finest waffle emporium Canada has to offer. Oh, and one last thing, don't forget our fields up here are 110 yards (or as we call 'em, "meters"). Have fun, eh!… South Florida 36, Northern Illinois 10.
PapaJohns.com Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.): Connecticut (7-5) vs. South Carolina (7-5)
Spread: South Carolina (-4.5)
Dan: Poor South Carolina. Relegated to the Papa Johns Cowl with their faithful having to travel to Birmingham for a game. I can think of about 20 places I’d want to spend New Year's and Birmingham is definitely not on that list. Every year I feel that South Carolina does this. They do just enough to finish 6-6 or 7-5 and leave their faithful wondering what if. After they got done spanking Clemson in the final game of the year our good friend from Atlanta sent me a text explaining how his team would be 10-2 or 9-3 every year if they played in the ACC. This sort of banter goes back and forth every year between us. So I was left wondering… would I rather be mediocre in the SEC every year or the top dog in the ACC every year? I think I’d rather be the top dog. So guess what buddy… you don’t play in the ACC. Enjoy the Papa Johns Bowl this year and the Music City Bowl next year. One day you’ll play on New Years Day. One day. But until then keep wondering what if… South Carolina 28, Connecticut 17.
Dave: Here's the thing about bowl sponsorships… I've never even heard of half the sponsors. I had to ask about six people in Shreveport before someone could tell me what Advocare V100 was. Gaylord Hotels is just funny. Beef O Brady's bought their sponsorship rights like 12 minutes before kickoff. The Emerald Bowl is actually sponsored by a brand of nuts. Who knew? And yet, there are some bowl sponsorships that stand out. PapaJohns.com is one of them.
Here's the story: I have a legitimate phobia about ordering pizzas over the phone. I distinctly remember my mother, who is notorious for being indifferent in situations that call for immediate decision making, forcing me to order Dominos one time when I was probably 12 or 13 -- prime self-confidence-building age. Anyway, I told her I didn't want to because I didn't know what I was supposed to be ordering. She told me to do it anyway. So I called… I ordered two pizzas… and of course there were follow-up questions. And of course, I didn't know the answers. And of course, my mother was no help in providing them. On the other end, the Dominos employee was making fun of me and then yelled at me to hang up and call back when I knew what I wanted. It was traumatizing. (And yes, I realize now the absurdity of being laughed at by a guy answering phones at Dominos.)
Anyway, for years after that, I refused to order a pizza over the phone. I'd force someone else to do it or I'd simply go out and order in person. I couldn't bring myself to dial the numbers and place the order on my own. And then, lo and behold, a bowl game comes on the TV informing me that Papa John's, the most innovative pizza delivery service in history, now has a Web site that will allow me to order pizza over the Intergoogles. It was like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Suddenly the world of food delivery was my oyster. I was a new man. It changed my life.
So God bless you, PapaJohns.com Bowl. You gave me the freedom to come home drunk at 2 a.m. and order a greasy late-night treat without having to feel like an idiot… even if I did misspell my name on the order form… Connecticut 21, South Carolina 20.
Cotton Bowl (Dallas): Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Ole Miss (8-4)
Spread: Ole Miss (-3)
Dan: This is my top pick of the bowl season… Oklahoma State has regressed as the year has gone on. I was shocked to see that they were even 9-3. Huh? Really? They will not know what to do with themselves when they see Dexter McCluster from Ole Miss, one of my favorite college players by the way.
On another note, I was recently informed that Oxford, Miss. is probably one of the coolest places to watch a college game and just a generally awesome town. I was SHOCKED by this news. Really? Mississippi has something to offer to America? Wow. That must be my Northern bias I guess because I naturally assumed that Mississippi was a dump. Lol. But I will take people's word on this subject. I guess everyone probably thinks Jersey is a dump where I live, so to each their own. When in reality Jersey has a few things to offer too with the best part being the shore.
As for this game Ole Miss rolls… Mississippi 38, Oklahoma State 17.
Dave: Here's what I love about this picks column… It was just last month I spent a significant portion of our picks column discussing my favorite SEC towns and talking about how I'd never been to Oxford and how great it was. But Dan doesn't read that. He just moves ahead with his day like my picks don't matter. Well guess what, Danny Boy… I'm working on picking winners at a 39 percent clip! That is money in the bank, and you're missing out.
Anyway, this game, of course, is being played in Jerruh's World on Jan. 2 -- one day before the Eagles and Cowboys face off in the regular-season finale in Dallas to decide who will win the NFC East. If the Birds win, they'll be the No. 2 seed in the NFC and earn a first-round bye. Sweet. If they lose, they could potentially drop all the way to the No. 6 seed and not even have a home game. Not-so-sweet. And making things even more intense on Sunday, I'm playing in my fantasy football championship game. (And as a side note, I'm playing against a guy who used the computer to autodraft his team and selected four tight ends on draft day. This is why I hate fantasy football.) My last two trips to our fantasy league Super Bowl met with peril, and I lost both games. I'm hoping the third time is a charm this season, but it's really just too much on the line. Fantasy money, Eagles' playoff hopes, potentially having to hear crap from my friends who like Dallas for an entire year… this is why it's total B.S. that you can't buy kegs on Sunday in Georgia.
Of course, before we get to all that, I have to pick this game, and hopefully this is gets all my bad luck out of the city of Dallas before the Birds kick off… Ole Miss 45, Oklahoma State 17.
Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tenn.): East Carolina (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5)
Spread: Arkansas (-8)
Dan: Is this why you hired Bobby Petrino, Arkansas fans? So you could go to the Liberty Bowl? Happy? Remember that when Houston Nutt was your coach you used to regularly play on New Year's Day? Now you are left playing in the Liberty Bowl. Arkansas is the Clemson of the SEC -- a school that thinks they are better than they actually are.Quite pathetic if you ask me.
As for this game, they should not be laying more than a TD to anyone. ECU saw a similar offensive team in Houston recently and was somewhat able to shut them down. I think they’ll be able to do that here as well… Arkansas 27, East Carolina 21.
Dave: OK, so I haven't taken these picks too seriously since starting bowl season with an 0-6 record. I get that. But let's take a bit of a closer look at this game, just for the fun of it.
On the surface, East Carolina's defense appears to be decent. They rank first in Conference USA in scoring defense, allowing just a shade over 22 points a game. Not too shabby.
But look closer: The Pirates are 110th nationally in pass defense (and astoundingly, C-USA has eight teams ranked 99th or worse) allowing 262 yards per game through the air. In three of their four biggest games this year -- vs. North Carolina, West Virginia and Houston -- they allowed an average of 33 points per game. On Virginia Tech get stuffed among big-name teams, and as Dan has told us numerous times, Virginia Tech simply can't throw the football well. And then we look at East Carolina's opponent for this game -- Arkansas, and cannon-armed QB Ryan Mallett. I foresee trouble for the Pirates.
Now, back to utter ridiculousness for a second… my buddy posed this question to me yesterday while watching the Rose Bowl: "Jim Tressel has become completely known for the sweater vest look. He owns it. So… if you were a college football coach, what would be your look?"
My answer: An ascot. I think people would have to respect a college coach who dressed as well as Charles Nelson Reilly.
My buddy's answer? A full white Reebok track suit. I liked the idea, but I think Dan's answer was even better. He suggested wearing the full football uniform, including pads. This made me laugh out loud when I pictured Joe Paterno trudging up and down the sidelines with shoulder pads and a helmet on.
I also suggested a sombrero would probably command a great deal of respect on the sideline, but I wanted more ideas. So I reposted the question on Twitter. Here's some of our top results...
@ThinkingBulldog suggested a bolo tie. That'd be a solid choice for the Alamo Bowl.
@mosmyownspace recommended a hoop skirt. I'd be worried about coaching on a windy day though.
I loved this one from @jasbragg, who wrote: "I'd go for more of The Dude look. Shades, robe, sirty undershirt. Wait, I'd prob look like Belichick." Classic.
@jdfelt knows how to look classy: "blue blazer. White button down. Khakis. Braided Belt. Loafers - no socks." Right from the gridiron to the schooner. Beautiful.
Our pal @PaulDehnerJr took time out from covering the Sugar Bowl to suggest a full suit of armor including a lance. This seems like a real possibility at Mike Leach's next gig.
@HitchJack suggests a tuxedo t-shirt because, "it says 'im formal...but i like to party'." HitchJack, your tweets are a like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.
@Rex Robinson5's suggestion? "Wife beater, tighty whiteys and knee high socks with Chuck Taylors." I feel like a kicker could probably get away with that.
@FrankPhronen chimes in with this: "I'd slick my hair back and wear a solid white turtleneck with a black dickey underneath." I feel like I've seen Woody Hayes actually wear that in some grainy clips from the '70s. Or at least Mike Brady.
@hamptanner tried to pull from a few ideas and suggested the tuxedo tshirt and cape but would top the ensemble off with some parachute pants. You can't touch that!
Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, Texas): Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Spread: Texas Tech (-7.5)
Dan: Quick… name Michigan State's best win? I guess it was against that powerhouse Northwestern program. That was the only win they have against bowl eligible teams. And they have a slew of suspensions to deal with. Yes they do. Texas A&M is starting to get healthy and actually has a decent defense and good offense. So I’ll take the Red Raiders… Texas Tech 41, Michigan State 20.
Dave: OK, which New Year's 2010 story is funnier -- Mike Leach locking Craig James' kid in an electrical closet for being a pansy or Gilbert Arenas pulling a gun on Javaris Crittenton over a gambling debt? I mean, they're both great. It's so hard to choose.
Of course, here's my favorite part about the Mike Leach fiasco, from ESPN's story:
Two days later, while the Red Raiders practiced at Jones AT&T Stadium, James was placed in a room that is used for postgame interviews involving opposing coaches and players. James told school officials he was placed in an electrical closet inside the room.When you want to know what life as a sports writer is really like, think about those three sentences. Adam James is angry about being put into a room that is used for visiting media interviews that the trainer describes as "as big as a two-car garage." Imagine, if you will, that two car garage filled with three dozen overweight media members, some of whom are carrying oversized video cameras and asking dumb questions as aggressively as possible while sports information department employees shuffle players in and out. That's my daily life. But it gets Mike Leach fired? I can only assume that James missed out on the press box meal and was angry about it.
"I walked Adam to the room, which was at least as big as a two-car garage," Pincock wrote.
Anyway, I'm not going to venture to guess what actually happened here, but I will predict a hefty payout on Texas Tech's part. But I'm thinking, particularly after last year's contract issues, they were just happy to be rid of Leach. I'm sure Tommy Tuberville will do fine there until the administration decides they hate him, too. Fun times.
As for the game, if Urban Meyer take a six-month vacation gets Florida fired up, I'm betting the firing of the scurvy sea captain at Texas Tech provides enough motivation for a win in this one… Texas Tech 28, Michigan State 14.
Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.): Texas Christian (12-0) vs. Boise State (12-0)
Spread: TCU (-7)
Dan: I for one am disappointed that these two teams are left playing each other. I would have liked each to be matched up against a BCS conference team to see what they really are made of. I swear the big boys did this so they wouldn’t need to be embarrassed by the little guys. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.
Speaking of embarrassing, here is a good story from our younger days: One night a few of us went to the Party Block in Ocean City, Md. Ocean City is an OK place to party, and the party block had three bars in one and lots of easy targets.
So we head out partying and do lots of Jager shots and car bombs and have a good ole time and throw our hats in the ring with a bunch of ladies. On that night, none of us were successful so we decided to head home. Well all of us except for our one friend. He thought it was a good idea to get pizza. Thirty minutes passed and we can’t find him so we decide to go home. Mind you, the house we used to stay at was a good 15-minute ride from the party block so we had no idea how this guy would get home. The next morning around 9:30 a.m. he comes stumbling in. I go, “Where were you?” I expected some crazy story about how he was partying all night or met some girl. His reply" “I don’t know what happened but when I started remembering things it was 7 a.m. and I was in a parking garage. That is all I know.”
Yup that sums up our lives back then. What does this mean about TCU and Boise game? Well I don’t know. Just that Boise stays within the number… TCU 27, Boise State 21.
Dave: I'm boycotting discussing this game as a protest against the utter ridiculousness of making these two teams play each other rather than giving them a shot at embarrassing Georgia Tech. It's pretty sad when the Fiesta Bowl is funneling money illegally to politicians and I consider that only the second most corrupt thing about this game. I hope they at least have the decency to dye the field blue… TCU 31, Boise State 21.
Orange Bowl (Miami): Georgia Tech (11-2) vs. Iowa (10-2)
Spread: Georgia Tech (-4)
Dan: I wonder if Iowa City is one of those sneaky fun towns. You know those places. You do not expect them to be very fun, but they are the only game in town, have tons of bars, and attract a lot of talent resulting in them being a great place to hang out and party. Since Iowa is the major university in the state, I bet that is Iowa City. Sure it is Iowa, but they have tons of bars and a good time all around. I bet it is the kind of place where everyone is always doing Jager bombs, car combs, whiskey bombs… you name it. Iowa City is the place to be! Well that is what I think at least. For this game the ACC has been a joke so far during bowl season and I do not see that stopping now… Iowa 21, Georgia Tech 20.
Dave: Truth be told, I used to like Georgia Tech. Not in any meaningful way. I mean, I didn't root for them or anything. But they were at least likable. You had Calvin Johnson, who was so talented you had to enjoy watching him. You had Tashard Choice, who to this day is one of the nicest kids I've interviewed. You had Reggie Ball, who was just a walking punchline and always made for good column-writing fodder. I wrote a piece after the 2006 ACC title game comparing Reggie to the lazy guy in your office who tries to take the credit for when a sales pitch goes well, only he slept in the car while you made the pitch. People loved it. And then you had Chan Gailey, who was a perfect foil to my early days as a reporter.
In my first press conference with Chan, I made the mistake of asking a question about seniors on the team and mentioned Reggie Ball, who was a junior at the time. I'd meant to say "veterans" instead of "seniors" but I was a little groggy from a three-hour drive from Albany, and he made sure to call me out on it. We had several other conflicts like this over my two years covering him, too. But the best story was no doubt this one...
I was working on a project on recruiting over the summer and had set up interview times with Mark Richt and Chan to get some quotes. It was June, and it just so happened to coincide with a convention a few of my old friends from San Diego were attending in Atlanta. So I drove up to Athens and did a full day's worth of interviews with Richt and a few other UGA coaches, then headed to Atlanta where I was going to meet up with my friends of the evening before a morning interview with Chan.
Not surprisingly, the night got a little crazy. At one point, my buddy was behind the bar drinking directly from a tap of Guinness.
Anyway, even in my debilitated state, I remembered I had to be in Chan's office at 8:30 the next morning, so I set the alarm on my phone. Unfortunately I must have done a bad job of setting it ("why separate knobs!") because at 8:45 I woke up to a phone call from the Georgia Tech SID wondering where I was. Of course I lied and said the hotel failed to give me the wake-up call I'd ordered and told her I was on my way.
I jumped in the shower, was dressed and in my car in about 11 minutes. I arrived at the Tech football offices and was sweating bullets. I already knew Chan hated me -- after all, he'd made a point to call me out on something I'd done wrong during virtually every encounter I'd had with him put to that point -- and I was expecting the worst. I was armed with a valid excuse, but I didn't figure it would matter. I knew he'd be mad regardless of why I was late.
So, after a few minutes of waiting, they show me into his office, where Chan is sitting behind a huge wooden desk shuffling through some papers. I come in, shake his hand and apologize profusely. He tells me to have a seat, which I do, and he sits and takes a long look at me. Feeling a little overwhelmed, I just start by explaining my story angle… this whole in-depth background on why I was doing this story and what I hoped he might be able to help me with and just way, way more information that he would want or need.
He stares at me for what seemed like an hour, leans back in his chair, takes a deep breath and says, "So how was last night?"
All the blood must have rushed from my head (though most of the "blood" was probably diluted heavily by Jack Daniels still) and he gave me a big grin and said, "I'm just messin' with ya, kid." He went on to answer every question I had and it was by far the most pleasant conversation I ever had with the man, despite it being, by far, the most irresponsible I've ever been as a journalist.
Anyway, those were the halcyon days at Tech. Now? Eh, they're impossible to like. Two slightly better-than-average seasons and they think the world of themselves. They're actually a decent offense and Josh Nesbitt seems like a solid QB. That's no fun. We need Reggie to make fun of! Paul Johnson's a solid coach with a stern attitude, but something tells me he wouldn't find me showing up for an interview 45 minutes late because I overslept all that amusing. There's no personality to these guys. I miss Chan… Georgia Tech 27, Iowa 21.
GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.): Central Michigan (11-2) vs. Troy (9-3)
Spread: Central Michigan (-3.5)
Dan: Earlier in this column I made fun of a bowl game that was being held in Birmingham. Well it looks like it actually can get worse. There is a bowl game in Mobile. That has to be worse.
Also I think this bowl name should be changed from the GMAC Bowl to the United States Taxpayers Bowl. I mean we, the taxpayers, do own GMAC now . . . no? They did just received their third bailout from the U.S. Government . . . no? Oh wait this post is supposed to be fun and not touch upon those issues that would drive you nuts. As for this game Central Michigan is a machine. I do not see them losing in this one… Central Michigan 31, Troy 17.
Dave: I'm so angry that I won three games in the last round of picks. That more than doubled my previous total! It totally threw off my mojo.
In fact, here's a great text I got from Dan regarding our picks: "I've had a nice last two days fading my picks on your blog… hahaha… just had Ohio State… Ridiculous I just realized I should fade myself!"
Seriously, I hope you all have had the decency to do the same and, ideally, start a bit earlier. This has been an impressive run. Do you realize if I'd simply bet $100 on every bowl game so far and taken the opposite of what I picked here, I'd be up $1,500 already? And there are still nine more games left! I'm money in the bank.
And when you get to the point I'm at, you really have nothing left but to celebrate failure. Because I always say that, if you're going to be bad, you might as well be really bad. I had a friend get a 4 on an English exam one time. That's embarrassing. I mean, it means you tried and still got a 4. I'd much rather a zero. I'm not sure this is a zero -- and in fact, it's probably more like a 4 -- but hey, it's still impressive, right? Right? Come on! I need this!… Troy 21, Central Michigan 20.
Bowl record: Dan 11-14, Dave 5-20.
Regular Season record: Dan 59-70-3, Dave 57-72-3.
Overall record: Dan 70-84-3 (.455), Dave 62-92-3 (.404)
One more game to go… stay tuned for our national championship game predictions later this week...