Welcome to Round One of our Bowl Previews, a seven-piece expose into 35 games pitting some of the best (and most mediocre) teams the world of collegiate football has to offer. Our first trip takes us to lovely Albuquerque, scenic Boise, raucous New Orleans, blue-haired St. Petersburg and fabulous Las Vegas.
Not all will be eye-popping, can't-miss television, but at least it's football. Trust me, you'll want a New Mexico Bowl in February my friends.
The Bowl: New Mexico
The Matchup: UTEP vs. BYU
The Date: December 18
After five straight trips to Las Vegas, the Cougars may be the only team in the history of the world to be happy heading to Albuquerque rather than Sin City. I mean how many times can you see the Blue Man Group, drink a diet coke, and head back to your hotel room by 9:00 p.m.?
BYU: Jake Heaps, J.J. Di Luigi, Luke Ashworth
UTEP: Trevor Vittatoe, Joseph Banyard, Donald Buckram, Kris Adams
A Stat that Matters: UTEP is 90th against the run.
This one will pit two quarterbacks from opposite ends of the spectrum: the oft-overlooked Vittatoe against BMOC freshman Jake Heaps. Yet while this one looks like a aerial shootout, it's likely that both teams look to win it on the ground.
BYU will use a group of backs to set up play action, while the Miners will hope Buckram will be healthy enough to team with Barnyard to run roughshod over the 61st-ranked Cougar defense.
On the watchability scale this one's a 3. If it weren't the first game it'd be a 0.75.
The Bowl: Humanitarian
The Matchup: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State
The Date: December 18
An interim Husky coach will take on the grizzled Pat Hill. And I was looking forward to Pat Hill vs. Jerry Kill.
NIU: Chandler Harnish, Chad Spann, Willie Clark
Fresno: Ryan Colburn, Robbie Rouse, Jamel Hamler
A Stat that Matters: NIU is 7th nationally running the ball and the Bulldogs turn it over a whole bunch. Time of possession issues for Fresno?
NIU losing coach Jerry Kill to the Gophers makes this game a bit more difficult to predict. Obviously Kill has done an outstanding job, but the Huskies aren't going to forget how to run it in a matter of weeks. The only time I really sat down and watched Fresno start to finish this year was against Illinois in the finale, and while they did get off to a very nice start they also got some very nice gifts from the officiating crew.
Robbie Rouse at 100% at least makes this one watchable, but the remote should be handy.
The Bowl: New Orleans
The Matchup: Ohio vs. Troy
The Date: December 18
The Storyline: Troy is fun to watch; Ohio is not.
Ohio: Boo Jackson, Vince Davidson, Terrence McCrae
Troy: Corey Robinson, Shawn Southward, Jerrel Jernigan
A Stat that Matters: Troy is 93rd in total defense, but it may not matter against the nation's 94th-rated offense.
The Bobcats will bring their boring offense down to The Big Easy, and they'll look to slow it down a bit and lean on veteran quarterback Boo Jackson, who has 23 scores on the season with celebrations coming as a passer (15), runner (7) and receiver (1).
Troy will present a much more explosive attack, one led by future star signal caller Corey Robinson. The rest of the offense, while pretty explosive, has no true star producer. Southward, DuJuan Harris and Chris Anderson have all scored at least three on the ground, while Jernigan, Jason Bruce and Chip Reeves all caught five scoring passes on the season.
Provided the Bobcats get the occasional big play, this one has the potential to become a nice little track meet. You'll likely be at a family Christmas party during this contest, but it may be worth grabbing a cold one or two and plopping down in front of the television while taking a break from your annoying uncle.
The Bowl: Beef 'O' Brady's
The Matchup: Louisville vs. So. Mississippi
The Date: December 21
The Storyline: Three of the Golden Eagles' four losses have come by a combined eight points, and they'll be tested by a Louisville squad that has suddenly become tough and (Charlie) strong.
Louisville: Bilal Powell, Josh Bellamy, Jeremy Wright, Cameron Graham and Josh Chichester
Southern Miss: Austin Davis, Kendrick Hardy, Desmond Johnson, Kelvin Bolden, Johdrick Morris, and maybe DeAndre Brown
A Stat that Matters: The Cardinals' 12th-rated national defense takes on the 15th-rated offense.
While the whole Big East should wear a scarlet letter of shame, trust me when I tell you that the Cardinals are not a bad squad. They run the ball very well behind Powell, and they boast an attacking defense that ranks 5th nationally in sacks. They improved considerably down the stretch, and their late-season push was marred by an OT loss to USF and a seven-point defeat at the hands of the Mountaineers.
Likewise, Southern Miss is a better team than their 8-4 record indicates, as they were thiiiiis close to getting to 11 wins on the campaign. For the most part they won easily, and when they lost it was either to South Carolina, or a pull-your-guts-out, make-it-a-double barkeep special. MIA for much of the season has been ubertalented WR DeAndre Brown, but he could be a serious factor in this one.
I thought Beef 'O' Brady's was a canned meat of some sort. Here I find out it's yet another chain, fried food/Bud Light joint that's likely home to a little flair. Learn something new every day. Saddle up, order some mini corn dogs and a brewskie and tune in for some decent football.
The Bowl: MAACO
The Matchup: Utah vs. Boise State
The Date: December 22
The Storyline: Lose to Nevada? Better get MAACO. Even Tiger didn't fall so hard so fast.
Utah: Terrance Cain, Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide, DeVonte Christopher, Jereme Brooks
A Stat that Matters: Boise sucks when it comes to net punting.
Sure many of us didn't want Boise playing for everything, but this really isn't fair. We get Washington heading to San Diego to get their asses kicked by Nebraska again, and we get Utah and Boise. How about we send Boise to San Diego to take on the Huskers and we let U-Dub play Utah in a preview of things to come in the Pac-10? Bowl tie-ins be damned, how about a little common sense?
Here's what's going to happen: This will be a great game pitting two great coaches/programs. Utah will look to veteran QB Cain (replacing young and talented Jordan Wynn who's out with shoulder surgery) to manage the game while using Wide and Asiata to munch on some clock. Then Boise will score in about 9.4 seconds. This will last a while, maybe into the 4th quarter. At this point Utah will make a mistake, the Broncos will pounce, and we'll have a 38-28 Boise win.
This game will get lost among much of the crap that surrounds it, but this is one that should be played about a week later. Tune in.