Projecting Every Game of Week 1 of Bowl Season
Other than the delightful annual Army vs. Navy game, we have not seen a clash of college football teams on the gridiron in over a week.
It hurts, I know, but there is relief on the horizon, although not full relief.
Bowl season is upon us, starting with a flurry of mediocre teams facing off to win bowls that have names one would think could only be works of fiction.
Whether you are particularly thrilled about the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl or not, the fact remains that we have football, and there is still a month of this wonderful, mad thing called college football to enjoy before we close another chapter on the game.
In this list you will find predictions, analysis and projections for each of the bowl games played from December 15 through December 22.
As mentioned, they aren't the best bowl games on tap this season, but beggars can't be choosers, and there are actually some entertaining storylines for which to watch in these early bowl season matchups.
Nevada (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5)
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Gildan New Mexico Bowl
December 15, 1:00 ESPN
This one is all about toting the rock.
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey leads all running backs in rushing yards this season with 1,757, while Nevada running back Stefphon Jefferson has had a solid season himself, racking up 1,703 yards, which is good enough for third behind only Carey and Montee Ball.
The Wildcats started out the season 3-0 before losing four of their next six, finishing the season 4-4 in the Pac-12 and spending the year showing us exactly what it means to be inconsistent.
Nevada started 6-1 and then hit the skids, losing four of its last five to wind up in this game.
Neither team plays much defense, with 'Zona giving up over 34 points per game, and Nevada just behind them giving up 32.5.
Nevada coach Chris Ault is one of the most underrated in the nation, and will have an excellent game plan in place.
However, Carey and quarterback Matt Scott will be too much for the Wolf Pack in this one.
Prediction: Wildcats 34, Wolf Pack 24
Toledo (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2)
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December 15, 4:30 ESPN
This game is going to be much better than you might imagine.
These two teams have a combined five losses, which is the same amount as one of the Rose Bowl teams.
Toledo lost to Arizona, Ball State and NIU, while Utah State lost by a combined five points to Wisconsin and BYU.
The Aggies' last loss was October 5, and they have scored at least 38 points in every game since that loss to BYU.
Toledo comes in having lost two of its last three and trying to regain the swagger this team was exhibiting when it was ranked in the BCS Top 25 back in October.
The key difference will be the defense.
The Aggies are eighth in the nation in defense, allowing only 15.4 points per game.
The Rockets are going to struggle to hang with a very tough Aggie team led by quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
Prediction: Aggies 38, Rockets 20
BYU (7-5) vs. SDSU (9-3)
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San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
December 20, 8:00 ESPN
San Diego State running back Adam Muema, who led the team in rushing with 1,355 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, will be a key part of this game.
BYU has a stout defense, allowing only 14.7 points per game, and has kept the team in every game except the Oregon State game.
If you remove that game from the equation, the Cougars have lost four games by a combined total of 13 points.
This game features two underrated coaches, Rocky Long and Bronco Mendenhall, who are a combined 91-37 in their current positions.
Prediction: Cougars 27, Aztecs 13
Central Florida (9-4) vs. Ball State (9-3)
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Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg
December 21, 7:30 ESPN
UCF will be heading to the Big East next season and will hope to go in on the upswing.
The team fell to Tulsa in the C-USA title game, so it earned a bid to this game.
The Knights' defense was the best in the conference, and it will be needed in this one to slow down Keith Wenning and the Cardinals, who are 22nd in the nation in total offense.
The Cardinals' only losses came to Clemson, NIU and Kent State.
Running back Jahwan Edwards has been a force in the past six games, racking up 786 yards rushing to go with nine touchdowns, and he will be looking to continue that torrid pace against UCF's stout defense.
The Cardinals struggle to stop the run and are currently sitting at 103rd in the nation in that statistic.
This should be an interesting matchup between two under-the-radar teams in primetime.
Prediction: Ball State 31, UCF 24
East Carolina (8-4) vs. ULL (8-4)
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R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
December 22, Noon ESPN
We haven't heard much about ECU this season, but the team has played very well.
Three of the Pirates' four losses were to bowl teams, and they finished the season on a three-game winning streak.
Quarterback Shane Carden makes the offense go, and has scored 29 times this season.
ULL has also lost four times this season, and almost pulled off the upset of the season against Florida, falling 27-20 back in November.
These teams appear to be evenly matched on paper and will provide some much-needed entertainment on the Saturday before Christmas.
Unless you are still trying to complete your Christmas shopping that afternoon.
Prediction: ULL 23, ECU 21
Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2)
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MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
December 22, 3:30 ESPN
Boise State visits Las Vegas again this season.
It's becoming something of an annual tradition, as this will be the third straight season the Broncos have been participants in this game.
Their opponent, Washington, features a great quarterback, Keith Price, who has had a disappointing year this year, highlighted by the team's upset of Stanford.
Times have changed. Once upon a time, it would have been almost a given to take Washington in this game.
However, Boise State, in spite of a supposed down year, finished the season with a 10-2 record, and given the team's penchant for knocking off BCS teams, the Broncos are the pick in this one.
Prediction: Broncos 35, Huskies 30