It's the most wonderful time of the year.
With December comes Christmas, spending time with family, great food, and the college football bowl season. It's a time when the best teams in the country are pitted against each other, battling it out in their final game of the season. Instead of seeing two or three marquee games per week, the bowl season crams 34 great games into three weeks.
Definitely the most wonderful time of the year.
Let's take a look at the first half of the bowl season. I have done my own research and decided which team will come out with the victory (All time Eastern).
Dec. 19 — 4:30 PM — ESPN
Albuquerque, New Mexico
New Mexico Bowl — Wyoming vs. Fresno State
Fresno State is led on the ground by running back Ryan Matthews. He has rushed for 1664 yards this year, with 6.8 yards per carry, and 17 touchdowns. Wyoming's rush defense is 89th in the FBS.
This one is pretty simple. The Bulldogs run all over Wyoming, giving them the victory.
Dec. 19 — 8:00 PM — ESPN
St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Petersburg Bowl — Central Florida vs. Rutgers
Both teams come into this game with mediocre offenses. Rutgers is 69th in rush yards per game, 94th in passing. UCF is 72nd rushing, 71st passing.
The Scarlet Knights' defense is 15th in points allowed and 19th in yards allowed. UCF's defense is 46th in YAPG. Rutgers wins what should be a defensive struggle.
Dec. 20 — 8:30 PM — ESPN
New Orleans, Louisiana
R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl — Middle Tennessee State vs. Southern Mississippi
Southern Miss heads into their 2009 bowl game with the nation's 110th ranked pass defense. Even though they have an above average offense (31st in YPG), Middle Tennessee State will still win this game. Their passing offense is 41st in the country. Look for Middle Tennessee to throw the ball on the Southern Miss defense and pull off the upset.
Dec. 22 — 8:00 PM — ESPN
Las Vegas, Nevada
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl — No. 14 BYU vs. No. 18 Oregon State
Both teams come into this game with high-powered offenses. BYU is 18th in the FBS in passing yards, led by star quarterback Max Hall, who has thrown for 3,368 yards and 30 TDs.
Oregon State is lead by quarterback Sean Canfield (3,103 yds, 21 TDs) and running back Jacquizz Rodgers (1,377 yds, 20 TDs). The Cougars' pass defense is 60th in the country. However, the Beavers' is even worse, ranked 84th in the NCAA.
This should be a great game for those watching. It should be an air-it-out style game. I look for BYU's better pass offense against Oregon State's worse pass defense to get the Cougars a bowl victory.
Dec. 23 — 8:00 PM — ESPN
San Diego, California
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl — No. 23 Utah at California
Utah sports a balanced offensive attack (46th rushing, 59th passing). California has a similarly balanced offense (40th rushing, 53rd passing).
However, the difference is in the defenses. The Utes' defense is 11th against the pass and 55th against the run. The Golden Bears are 106th against the pass. Even though Utah's pass offense isn't spectacular, they should throw the ball all over a very weak California pass defense. Utah defeats the Golden Bears in a close one.
Dec. 24 — 8:00 PM — ESPN
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl — Southern Methodist vs. Nevada
Southern Methodist is in a bowl game for the first time since 1984. This sounds like a very big accomplishment for the Mustangs. However, Nevada's potent offense may make SMU's bowl return bittersweet.
The Wolfpack have the best rushing attack in the country, led by running back Vai Taua (1,345 yards, 10 TDs) and Luke Lippincott (1,034 yards, 9 TDs). Signal-caller Kolin Kaepernick has rushed, not passed, for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The SMU defense is 87th in the NCAA against the run. Nevada will run wild on the Mustangs. This one may not even be worth watching. Find a Christmas movie marathon instead.
Dec. 26 — 1:00 PM — ESPN
Little Ceasers Pizza Bowl — Ohio vs. Marshall
Ohio has the 55th ranked passing offense in the NCAA. Marshall's offense is 74th in rushing yards and 63rd in passing yards.
The Bobcats' defense should be able to slow the attack of the Herd. They are ranked 65th in pass defense and 80th in rush defense.
However, the 96th ranked Marshall pass defense will have trouble with the Ohio passing attack. I like the Bobcats to get the victory over the Thundering Herd.
Dec. 26 — 4:30 PM — ESPN
Charlotte, North Carolina
Meineke Car Care Bowl — No. 17 Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina
Pittsburgh's offense is ranked 64th in passing yards, 30th in rushing. The North Carolina offense has been a big disappointment this year, ranking 100th in pass yards and 77th in rush yards.
However, when your defense creates offense, you don't need many yards.
The Tar Heel defense is 12th in the country in pass yards allowed, ninth in rushing yards. Also, Carolina is ninth in interceptions and T-second in interceptions returned for touchdowns.
The Pittsburgh defense is also solid. The Panthers are 50th against the pass and 16th against the run. This game should be a defensive struggle. I expect Pittsburgh's better offense to eventually prevail in a very low-scoring game.
Dec. 26 — 8:00 PM — ESPN
San Francisco, California
Emerald Bowl—No. 24 USC vs. Boston College
Boston College is similar to North Carolina in their statistical output. This has been a poor offensive year for the Eagles. They ranked 93rd in pass yards and 71st in rush yards. The Boston College defense ranks 14th against the run and 49th against the pass.
USC's defense is good as well. The Trojans rank 47th against the pass and 40th against the runs. The Southern Cal offense is better than the Boston College offense, despite a disappointing season from Pete Carroll's troops. USC will at least end the season on a high note. They will defeat the Eagles in a rather low-scoring game.
Dec. 27 — 8:30 PM — ESPN
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl — Clemson vs. Kentucky
Despite being this year's ACC runner-up, Clemson is in a rather early bowl game. The Tiger rushing attack is led by ACC Player of the Year CJ Spiller. The explosive back has rushed for 1,145 yards at 11 touchdowns. He has also caught four touchdown passes.
Spiller also returned four kickoffs and a punt for touchdown this season. He scored in every Clemson game.
Because Spiller is so good, the obvious key is the Kentucky rush defense. They happen to be ranked 98th in the country. Look for CJ Spiller to embarrass the Wildcat defense en route to a Tiger victory.
Dec. 28 — 5:00 PM — ESPN2
Advocare V100 Independence Bowl —G eorgia vs. Texas A&M
Texas A&M has had a very good offense throughout the season. The Aggies are currently 23rd in the country in passing yards and 25th rushing. The Georgia offense is not nearly as potent, ranking 81st in pass yards and 56th rushing.
However, the Bulldog defense is strong, ranking 32nd against the pass and 37th against the run. Even though A&M has a strong offense, their defense is weak, ranking 108th against the pass and 86th against the run.
This should be a high-scoring game. Texas A&M will score because their offense is strong. Georgia will score because the Aggies' defense is weak. I like the Bulldogs' defense to lead them to a victory.
Dec. 29 — 4:30 PM — ESPN
EagleBank Bow — UCLA vs. Temple
Each team in this matchup has their own strengths. UCLA is the 53rd ranked passing offense in the NCAA. Temple's run offense is 23rd in the country.
UCLA's defense is fair, ranking 59th against the run. The Owls should have some success running the ball. Temple's pass defense is poor, ranking 83rd in the country.
UCLA will be able to get the victory in this game, but it might be closer than expected by many.
Dec. 29 — 8:00 PM — ESPN
Champs Sports Bowl — No.15 Miami (FL) vs. No.25 Wisconsin
These two teams have contrasting styles of play. Wisconsin is the 13th ranked rushing team in the country, led by star back John Clay (1396 yds, 16 TDs). Miami moves the ball through the air. The 'Canes are ranked 28th in the country in passing yards.
Miami's defense is strong against the run, ranking 29th in rushing yards allowed. The Hurricanes will be able to counter the Badgers' strength. However, the Badgers are 63rd against the pass. Miami should be able to throw the ball on the Badger defense, getting them a bowl victory.
Dec. 30 — 4:30 PM — ESPN
Roady's Humanitarian Bowl — Idaho vs. Bowling Green
This should be an air-it-out style football game, featuring two prolific passing offenses. Idaho's offense ranks 12th in passing yards. Bowling Green's offense is just as good, ranking eighth in passing yards. The Falcons are led by quarterback Tyler Sheehan (3,665 pass yds, 23 TDs).
The Vandal defense may be inappropriately named. They are 111th in the NCAA against the pass. I highly doubt that the Vandals will take the ball away from the Falcons, as their name suggests. Bowling Green should win this shootout.
Dec. 30 — 8:00 PM — ESPN
San Diego, California
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl —No. 22 Arizona vs. No. 20 Nebraska
Both teams sport good defenses. Arizona is 38th against the pass, 22nd against the run. The Cornhusker defense is 41st against the pass and 13th defending the run. These defenses are pretty even.
So what sets these two teams apart?
Arizona brings a balanced offense to the table, ranking 40th in passing yards and 45th in rush yards. Nebraska's offense isn't nearly as good, ranking 58th in rushing yards and 89th in passing yards. The Wildcats' defense is strong against the run.
I look for Arizona to get the victory in a low-scoring game, thanks to their better offense.
Dec. 31 — 12:00 PM — ESPN
Fort Worth, Texas
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl — Houston vs. Air Force
The bowl season is now starting to heat up. With New Year's Eve comes big parties, watching the ball drop, and finally a full day of college football. This rematch of last year's Armed Forces Bowl kicks off the New Year's Eve slate.
Houston has the best passing offense in the country, led by superstar quarterback Case Keenum. He has thrown for a simply ridiculous 5,449 yards and 43 touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, Air Force's pass defense will challenge the high-powered Cougar pass attack. The Falcons' pass defense in the second best in the country.
The contrasting styles of these two teams should make this bowl very interesting. In order to pick this game, I looked back to last year's Armed Forces Bowl. Houston defeated Air Force 34-28. I believe that this year's result will be very similar.
Dec. 31 — 2:00 PM — CBS
El Paso, Texas
Brut Sun Bowl — No. 21 Stanford vs. Oklahoma
These two teams are a tale of different seasons.
Oklahoma's Heisman winner Sam Bradford went down early in the season with a shoulder injury. He would later return against Texas and re-injure the same shoulder, knocking him out of the Sooners' season.
Stanford surprised everyone by defeating Pac-10 powerhouses Oregon and USC in back to back weeks. The Cardinal also produced Heisman candidate Toby Gerhart, a workhorse back, who carried for 1,736 yards and an amazing 26 touchdowns.
Oklahoma's defense may be able to slow down Gerhart. The Sooners are ranked seventh in rush defense. Oklahoma won't come out running, like Stanford. The Sooners' 18th ranked pass offense should come out throwing, and should have success doing so.
The Stanford Cardinal pass defense is 103rd in the country. I like Oklahoma to throw the ball and end a disappointing season on a high note.
With that, part one of my college football bowl predictions is over. Part two is coming soon, with previews of all the BCS bowls and the National Championship game. Merry Christmas and enjoy the 2009-2010 bowl season!