The BCS is a joke. That much, we can all agree. With that said, there are still some excellent match-ups in the 2012-2013 NCAA bowl season. No reason we can’t enjoy them while simultaneously begrudging the broken system. If you’re smart about things, you can even score a bit of a holiday bonus by watching — there’s a list of various bowl contests you can enter at the bottom of this post.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Nevada vs. Arizona
Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. on ESPN
Nevada has looked inconsistently solid this season. So has Arizona. The strength of schedule easily swings the favor of this game toward Arizona — as does the talent level and the overall play-making potential. The Wildcats and their top RB, Ka’Deem Carey, have the potential to run away from the Wolf Pack in this one. Arizona wins it.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Toledo vs. Utah State
Dec. 15 at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN
Toledo comes into this bowl battle at 9-3, but it’s a 9-3 that is very misleading when you consider Utah State’s 10-2 record and the fact that Utah State lost both of its games by a combined five points. The Aggies’ fan-base will travel well from Logan, UT to Boise, ID, but will Toledo’s? Captain Obvious tells me Rockets fans won’t be making the trek from Ohio. Utah State takes this one.
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
BYU vs. San Diego State
Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. on ESPN
The popular consensus: Roll with the home team — San Diego State. I just can’t do it. BYU played better competition, has the better defense and stayed in big games vs. big-time opponents. One of their losses came at Notre Dame, by the very close score of 17-14. The BYU Cougars hold a slight edge over the San Diego State Aztecs. I like BYU to win.
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg
UCF vs. Ball State
Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
The UCF Knights are another team that could have easily finished the season at 10-2. Two of their losses came to Ohio State and Missouri, and the other two were heartbreaking losses to Tulsa. The Knights are the better defensive team in this battle, and they’re playing a quick 90 miles from home. UCF should take this battle, but they’ll need to neutralize Jahwan Edwards, the very good sophomore running back from Ball State. He put up over 1,300 yards in 12 games this season. If UCF lets him outside of the box, this match-up has shoot-out potential written all over it. That said, I’m sticking with the Knights.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Dec. 22 at Noon on ESPN
Can the East Carolina Pirates beat a team nicknamed the Rajun Cajuns in the Louisiana Superdome? I made the mistake of picking against the beloved Louisiana-Lafayette Rajun Cajuns in the same bowl last year. Not this time around. East Carolina looks better on paper in many ways, but… it’s still the Rajun Cajuns playing in New Orleans. Laissez les bon temps rouler! Rajun Cajuns win.
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
Washington vs. Boise State
Dec. 22 at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
Boise State in bowl games — should you ever bet against them? The short answer: no. Steve Sarkisian will have the Washington Huskies ready to play. For some reason, my gut is suggesting the Huskies could make a huge statement in this game, but choosing against Chris Petersen when he has over three weeks to prepare? Never. Just can’t do it. Boise State wins this one.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs. SMU
Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. on ESPN
Fresno State and SMU have scored some serious points in 2012. What better place to do it than the perennial paradise of Honolulu, HI. June Jones returns to Hawaii (where he once coached the Hawaii Warriors to a BCS berth) with the SMU Mustangs — a team he and his staff have pulled from the depths of Hades to return to football prominence. Still, they’re shy of where they want to be, and Fresno State is closer to realizing its own potential. The Bulldogs from central California will take what should be a high-scoring battle.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan
Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers hold a distinct advantage with the nation’s eighth-ranked rusher, Antonio Andrews. If the Chippewas of Central Michigan can neutralize the WKU rushing game, they might hang around long enough to make a game of it. Just don’t bet on that. WKU takes the illustrious Little Caesars Bowl. Pizza! Pizza!
San Jose State vs. Bowling Green
Dec. 27 at 3 p.m. on ESPN
San Jose State is certainly a “program on the rise.” The Bowling Green Falcons are underrated and potentially disrespected going into this match-up, but when it comes right down to brass tacks, San Jose State is the better team. Definitely going with the Spartans in this one.
Cincinnati vs. Duke
Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN
Congrats to Duke for qualifying for a bowl. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils are gonna get hammered by Cincinnati. Perhaps that’s unfair. Would it serve the interest of fairness to state that Cincinnati is an easy touchdown favorite? OK. Let’s go with that. Cinci wins.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Baylor vs. UCLA
Dec. 27 at 9:45 p.m. on ESPN
This is one of the better match-ups in all of the bowl season. Certainly better than four of the five BCS games. This game could play out several ways — both of these teams can light up a scoreboard. Baylor’s defense is much improved from their early season woes, and UCLA is rapidly rising to become the class of the PAC-12. This one could be a blow-out or a shoot-out. Because I haven’t offered enough cliches at this point of the breakdown: the team playing the most disciplined football will win this battle. That’ll be UCLA.
AdvoCare v100 Independence Bowl
Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. on ESPN
This should have been a battle of Louisiana schools. Louisiana Tech played the hold-out game, and the Independence Bowl selection committee went on without them. Instead, the Bobcats of Ohio will travel to Shreveport, LA, to play the ULM Warhawks just 100 miles from their front door. If you love quarterbacks who have a tendency to scramble and sling it, ULM’s Kolton Browning will be sure to entertain. He’ll also lead his team to victory.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech
Dec. 28 at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN
What the heck happened to Virginia Tech this season? This 7-5 stinkfest put an end to eight straight ten-win seasons and a string of big bowl berths. The vast majority of the polled population believe the 9-3 Scarlet Knights of Rutgers will take this one. I’m going the other way. Virginia Tech grossly underachieved all season and, with four weeks to prepare, this young team will begin to find a new identity. It’s really a toss-up, but I’m going with the Hokies.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. on ESPN
Red Raiders will score an easy win over the Gophers. Do I need to break it down any further than that? O.K. Tommy Tuberville has the Texas Tech program moving back in the right direction. Minnesota? Yeah, the team is bowl eligible, but hardly bowl-worthy.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Rice vs. Air Force
Dec. 29 at 11:00 a.m. on ESPN
Woo-hoo! Two 6-6 teams. Flip a coin. Seriously. It’s the Armed Forces Bowl sponsored by Bell Helicopter — I better go with Air Force. They seem to play well in bowls, especially with a large amount of prep time.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
West Virginia vs. Syracuse
Dec. 29 at 3:15 p.m. on ESPN
Which West Virginia team will show up? The team that started the season 5-0? Or the team that lost 5 consecutive games to threaten its bowl eligibility? Syracuse is no joke when playing in New York. That said, WVU quarterback Geno Smith is destined to have a huge game — as his curtain call before he is selected in next years NFL draft (possibly as high as No. 1 overall). I’m going with the West Virginia Mountaineers. You probably should, too.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Navy vs. Arizona State
Dec. 29 at 4 p.m. on ESPN2
Navy won six games this year? Huh. As it stands, the United States’ favorite sailors have a chance to go 8-4 with a probable win over Army this weekend. But when December 29th rolls around, I’m picking the PAC-12 representative. Arizona State has shown consistent improvement all season. A long, post-season break will allow them to heal up and be in top form when they face the Midshipmen.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Texas vs. Oregon State
Dec. 29 at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN
This game could be a great one. These are two young teams that have played well against some big opponents. They’ve also been blown out by big opponents. The Texas defense is much improved, but Oregon State will find the chinks in the armor. Yes, I’m fully aware this game will be played in Texas. Oregon State still wins.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
TCU vs. Michigan State
Dec. 29 at 10:15 p.m. on ESPN
Michigan State was another one of those pre-season Top-10 squads that was absurdly overrated — with USC taking the top honor in that category. I was surprised to see MSU reach bowl eligibility. It will only be appropriate when they finish the season with a losing record. The Horned Frogs of TCU will paint this victory purple.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
NC State vs. Vanderbilt
Dec. 31 at Noon on ESPN
Hey! Where does Aaron Rodgers’ little brother play? Vanderbilt. That’s right. And if you wanna see little bro in action (his name is Jordan Rodgers, BTW), tune in to have a look on New Year’s Eve Day. (Is that what it’s called?) Regardless of whether you love or hate Vandy coach James Franklin (I love him), he’s going to bring the thunder with an aggressive offensive and defensive gameplan — especially considering the Commodores will be playing in their hometown. Vanderbilt. Winner.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
USC vs. Georgia Tech
Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. on CBS
The Matt Barkley farewell tour will end in a victory over Georgia Tech. Tech needed special dispensation from the NCAA to play in a bowl game with a losing record. USC wide receiver Marqise Lee will probably have a kajillion receiving yards and three or more touchdowns in this match-up.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Iowa State vs. Tulsa
Dec. 31 at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
This is the battle of tornado-nicknamed teams. On paper, the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes look better than the Iowa State Cyclones, but the line at kickoff will probably be less than two points. ISU plays big against big-time opponents, but I’ll stick with the slight favorite in this one. Tulsa wins.
LSU vs. Clemson
Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
The Georgia Dome will be rockin’ in this battle of Tigers. There is also an oft-spoken debate between these two schools as to which stadium is really deserving of the nick-name “Death Valley.” I’m going with the SEC defense over the ACC offense. Look for LSU to let the ball fly after establishing the run game early.
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Northwestern
Jan. 1 at Noon on ESPN2
Northwestern hasn’t scored a bowl victory since 1948. That streak won’t end when they travel to Florida to take on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. Pundits are calling for this one to be close. I don’t think so. The weakness of the Big 10 will be exposed in this match-up. Mississippi State stops the potent Northwestern rushing attack — and goes back to Starkville with the victory.
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Purdue vs. Oklahoma State
Jan. 1 at Noon on ESPNU
If you’re trying to figure out which game to watch at noon on New Year’s Day — while you’re fighting off your hangover — choose the other one. (Northwestern v. Mississippi State) If Oklahoma State is firing on all cylinders offensively, this game could be over by halftime. Another terrible match-up courtesy of the NCAA.
South Carolina vs. Michigan
Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. on ESPN
Neutralize Denard Robinson, beat Michigan. That’s always the game plan for Michigan opponents, isn’t it? South Carolina didn’t get nearly enough credit for the adversity they fought through after losing running back Marcus Lattimore for a second straight season to a horrendous knee injury. The 10-win SEC squad should have no issue in handling anything and everything Michigan has to offer. The Gamecocks will tack on an 11th win to their impressive season.
Capital One Bowl
Georgia vs. Nebraska
Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. on ABC
After seeing Georgia lock horns and go the distance with Alabama, there’s no way I’m giving Nebraska a remote shot in this game. Nebraska has struggled to score points consistently all season. Georgia’s only faux-pas was a serious stumble against conference rival South Carolina. Georgia will prepare to stop the run, as Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is still trying to find a solid rhythm as a passer. Georgia wins this battle handily.
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
Wisconsin vs. Stanford
Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. on ESPN
The Rose Bowl is a special game. I feel privileged to live less than 15 minutes from the historic stadium, and to get to enjoy the pomp and circumstance surrounding the annual celebration and coronation. Bret Bielema, now the former coach of Wisconsin, just took a dump on all of that by leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas. I don’t understand why coaches bail on teams just before bowl games — especially the big ones. They need to negotiate and keep their mouths shut. I assume Barry Alvarez will coach Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Regardless, Stanford is going to win.
Discover Orange Bowl
Northern Illinois vs. Florida State
Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
I don’t want to insult the group of young men playing for Northern Illinois University. This isn’t as terrible a BCS match-up as some in the past — Hawaii vs. Georgia in the 2008 Sugar Bowl comes to mind. Having said that, FSU will roll. NIU will enjoy a different brand of competition, playing in the biggest game in program history. I’m curious to see if NIU quaterback, Jordan Lynch, can have an impact. If he’s neutralized, this game will be the joke many are suggesting.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Louisville vs. Florida
Jan. 2 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
Florida is just too good. Louisville can put up some points, but the Cardinals will struggle like never before against this Gators defense. This one has the potential to get ugly early. Gators fans will be chomping all night long in the Louisiana Superdome.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Oregon vs. Kansas State
Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
Finally. The BCS game we’ve all been waiting for. Wait. No. No, it isn’t. This one will play tight until halftime. In the second half, the Oregon pace will become way too much for the K-State defense. The Wildcats defense will struggle to contain Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas. Oregon rolls.
AT&T Cotton Bowl
Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. on FOX
If you’re only going to watch one bowl game this holiday season, make it this one. Johnny Manziel, quarterback for the Texas A&M Aggies (and probable Heisman trophy winner this weekend), is a very special football player. If you haven’t seen him play, you’ve probably heard some hype. It’s legit. The kid just turned 20 on Dec. 6 and he possesses a skill set that rivals many greats. Oklahoma defenders will be frustrated and flat-out dizzy when this one is over with. Texas A&M is only marginally favored in this match-up. Might I suggest: A&M will win big — and signal their intent to take a bigger prize next season.
BBVA Compass Bowl
Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss
Jan. 5 at 1 p.m. on ESPN
It’s good to see Ole Miss back in the bowl mix. This bowl is played in Birmingham, AL. The Rebels will score double to triple the amount of fans of Pittsburgh, essentially making this a regional home game. Mississippi wins, and easily covers the spread of 3.5 points.
Kent State vs. Arkansas State
Jan. 6 at 9 p.m. on ESPN
The GoDaddy.com Bowl. Why don’t they just call it “The Biding Time Bowl”? What this game does have: two really good teams, making for a potentially competitive match-up. More competitive than what the National Championship will be, at least. Arkansas State is favored in this game, but an upset seems more likely. The Golden Flashes of Kent State cap a magical season with a bowl victory.
Discover BCS National Championship Game
Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Jan. 7 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
Alabama is an early 10-point favorite. They’ll probably win by more. Yes, Notre Dame has more regular season wins over “bowl eligible” teams this season, but scroll back up through this list. How hard is it to become bowl eligible? Six wins is not impressive, and Notre Dame’s wins (aside from Stanford — which was not the same Stanford chemistry that was cooking when they beat Oregon) were relatively unimpressive.
Notre Dame has not seen competition like Alabama, because Notre Dame refuses to schedule SEC opponents. Look for this one to play tight early and, after the scripts are set aside, watch for many more momentum plays to be made by Alabama. The Crimson Tide will win their second straight BCS Title and secure a seventh consecutive championship for the South Eastern Conference.
Links to Bowl Pick ‘Em Contests:
Jock 98.7 FM – A nationwide contest hosted by several local news and radio stations.
ESPN College Bowl Mania
Yahoo! Sports College Bowl Pick ‘Em
The Ultimate Eliminator – A site specializing in free pick contests. $100 prize.
FOX Sports – Free entry. Big money contests.