The bowl season is upon us in college football. Starting Dec. 19, 2009, all the way to January 7, 2010, the bowls will be played.
That is 34 games over 20 days and the last chance to see college football until next September. So now it is time to preview the bowls and make some predictions.
With so many games over such a long time, this will be broken up into four parts. The first part will be bowl games from Dec. 19 to Christmas Eve.
Next will be part two will break down bowls from the day after Christmas to December, 30. Part three will be from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day. The final part will be bowls from the second day of the New Year to the BCS championship game.
So the following is the first six bowl games before Christmas. I will have a preview of the game and then my pick to win the game.
Saturday, Dec. 19
New Mexico Bowl: Albuquerque, N.M.
Wyoming Cowboys (6-6) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (8-4)
This is the first time the Mountain West Conference and the Western Athletic Conference will match up this bowl season.
The Cowboys needed to win their final game of the year against Colorado State just to get into this game. This team has played good teams tough in the first half and faded in the second half.
First year coach Dave Christensen will be happy he got his team into a bowl game but will have to find away to shore up his rushing defense. That defense allowed 170 yards per game this season.
Wyoming is going bowling for the first time since 2004. The Cowboys will be led by Mountain West Freshman of the Year Austyn Carta-Samuels.
The Bulldogs have been tested plenty this season. Fresno State has lost to two undefeated teams and their other two losses were against teams going to a bowl game.
This team played Wisconsin to overtime and Cincinnati escaped with an eight-point win. The Bulldogs also feature one of the best players most in the country have not heard of, Ryan Mathews.
Mathews was on pace for 2,000 yards until he suffered an injury against Nevada and missed the Louisiana Tech game. For the season, Mathews averaged 151 yards per game and should get fed the ball all day long against the Broncos.
Pick: Fresno State
Mathews should run wild on for the Bulldogs on a poor Wyoming rush defense.
St. Petersburg Bowl: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Central Florida Knights (8-4) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (8-4)
After Wyoming and Fresno State, the Big East and Conference-USA will mix it up in a post season game in Florida. Rutgers is going bowling for the fifth straight year and UCF is going bowling for the third time in five years.
The Scarlet Knights will lean on running back Joe Martinek to carry the load. Rutgers freshman quarterback Tom Savage might be the key to winning this game if he can get on track.
Savage has struggled at times this season, only completing 52.3 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. If Martinek cannot run on the stiff UCF rush defense, it will fall on Savage to move the ball.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano will try to use this trip into the Sunshine State to showcase his program. The Scarlet Knights have been putting up billboards for years and now get a chance to play a bowl game in Florida.
This could be considered a home game for Central Florida and coach George O’Leary. The Knights only have to travel 90 miles for their bowl game after missing out on last year.
UCF will use their good rush defense led by Bruce Miller, the C-USA defensive player of the year and fifth in the county in sacks with 12. Offensively, the Knights will want to run the ball with Brynn Harvey who rushed over 1,000 yards this season.
Rutgers will try to stop the ground game of UCF and force senior quarterback Brett Hodges to win the game. Hodges has had a tough season, throwing for 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions but has completed 61.1 percent of his passes.
Pick: Central Florida
The home crowd should help lead the Knights to a bowl victory over the team from New Jersey.
Sunday, Dec. 20
R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: New Orleans, La.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (9-3) vs. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (7-5)
C-USA takes the field for the second time this bowl season but against the Sun Belt Conference. Southern Mississippi is going bowling for the 12th time in 13 seasons and Middle Tennessee is making their second bowl trip since joining the FBS.
The Blue Raiders are enjoying their best season since moving to Division I in 1999 and are on a six-game winning streak. Things turned around for Middle Tennessee when coach Rick Stockstill hired offensive guru Tony Franklin.
The spread offense has been run perfectly by quarterback Dwight Dasher this season. Dasher has averaged nearly 300 yards passing per game and has thrown 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
The Blue Raiders will have to win this game with good defense. They might have the edge with Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the year Chris McCoy.
McCoy had 22 tackles for a loss and seven sacks and he gets help in the secondary from Marcus Udell who had seven interceptions. They will need all of the defense they can muster against a team with the offensive firepower Southern Miss has.
The Golden Eagles have not had problems scoring points, even after Austin Davis was lost for the season and replaced by Martevious Young. As the starter, Young has thrown 12 touchdowns and just one interception.
Still the Golden Eagles have plenty of weapons for a team that averaged 33 points a game this season. One of those weapons, DeAndre Brown, broke his leg in this game last year.
Southern Miss will also have running back Damion Fletcher one final time as he tries to become the ninth player to rush for 1,000 yards in four all four seasons. Fletcher only needs 63 yards to reach the milestone.
Pick: Southern Mississippi
The Golden Eagles will win in what could be the highest scoring bowl game this season.
Tuesday, Dec. 22
Maaco Las Vegas Bowl: Las Vegas, Nev.
Brigham Young Cougars (10-2) vs. Oregon State Beavers (8-4)
The Mountain West makes its second bowl appearance while the Pac-10 makes its first showing. This is Brigham Young’s fifth straight trip to the Las Vegas Bowl and Oregon State has won five straight bowls.
BYU and Oregon State are connected in several ways heading into this game. First, Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall played for the Beavers in college.
Next, BYU leading rusher Harvey Unga is the cousin of two Oregon State freshmen players. The Cougars will be led for the final time by senior quarterback Max Hall.
Hall will be joined for the final time by his brother-in-law and star tight end Dennis Pitta. The key to this game could be the Cougars' 23rd nationally ranked defense.
Oregon State has its own family affair with the Rodgers brothers leading the way for the Beavers. James Rodgers the top receiver on the team and Jacquizz Rodgers moving the ball on the ground.
The key to the Beavers offense could be how well Sean Canfield plays in this game. Both Canfield and Jacquizz were named first-team All-Pac-10 at their positions.
Oregon State head coach Mike Riley will have to get his team over the disappointment of not winning the conference title after a loss to Oregon. The Beavers and the Cougars are the first two ranked teams to play in this bowl game.
Pick: Oregon State
The Beavers offense will be too much for the Cougars to handle, and Canfield and the Rodgers brothers will have a huge day.
Wednesday, Dec. 23
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego, CA
Utah Utes (9-3) vs. California Golden Bears (8-4)
This is the second bowl matchup between the Mountain West and Pac-10 conference. It is also a game between two teams that were both beaten by the Oregon Ducks.
Last season Utah was the darling of college football after beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. This season, saw their 16-game winning streak was snapped by the Ducks in the third game of the season.
The Utes have won eight straight bowl games and four of those wins have come under Kyle Whittingham who replaced Urban Meyer. Utah can play either freshman Jordan Wynn, if he is healthy or junior Terrance Cain at quarterback.
On the ground Utah will depend on the conference’s leading rusher Eddie Wide to carry the load. Wide should get plenty of chances got gain yards against a Cal defense that gives up 118 yards a game.
The Bears started this season with dreams of their first Pac-10 title since 1958 but blowout losses to Oregon and USC ended their hopes. Under Jeff Tedford, Cal has reached a bowl game for the seven straight years and has won the last four.
California will have to win this game without their Heisman candidate Jahvid Best who is still recovering from a concussion suffered against Oregon State. Leading the ground game in Best’s absence will be Shane Vereen.
The key for the Bears will be the play of quarterback Kevin Riley, who has been intercepted four times in his last four games. Utah led the Mountain West with 15 interceptions this season so Riley must make good decisions.
The Utes defense and rushing game runs their bowl winning streak to nine straight games.
Thursday, Dec. 24
Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl: Honolulu, Hawai'i
Southern Methodist Mustangs (7-5) vs. Nevada Wolf Pack (8-4)
C-USA takes on the WAC in paradise on Christmas Eve. This is the first bowl game for SMU since 1984 and the “Death Penalty” the NCAA gave them in 1985.
The game will also be a homecoming of sorts for June Jones, who left Hawaii to take over the Mustangs two years ago. Jones wanted to reach this bowl game as a tribute to friend and special teams coach Frank Gansz.
SMU will use the run-and-shoot offense Jones used to get the Warriors to a BCS bowl game. The offence has found balance this season with Shawnbrey McNeal, a transfer from Miami, leading the ground game.
The Mustangs have played well after starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was injured against Houston. Stepping in for Mitchell has been freshman quarterback Kyle Padron.
Defense besides Padron will be the key in this game for SMU because Nevada is the best rushing team in the NCAA. The Wolf Pack set a NCAA record with three 1,000 rushers this season.
Nevada was lead by Vai Taua with a team high 1,345 yards but the key to this offense is junior quarterback Colin Kaepernick who had 1,160 rushing yards and passed for 1,875 yards.
The pistol offense installed by hall of fame coach Chris Ault needs Kaepernick to make the good decisions to make it go. The Wolf Pack can also turn to Luke Lippincott, who rushed for 1,034 yards, as well.
This game could rival the New Orleans bowl in points scored. One thing is for sure the team that plays the best defense will win this game. SMU with Jones as coach should be the home crowd favorite.
The Wolf Pack should be able to control the game with their rushing attack and wear down the SMU defense in the process.
This concludes the first part of our 2009-2010 bowl preview and predictions. Be sure to check back as we cover the bowls that will be played before the start of the New Year.
I hope everyone enjoys the games and that every game is close and down to the final play. I also hope that everyone who reads this has a Merry Christmas and their family and friends to share the holidays with.
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