A Bowler's Guide to Bowl Games (Dec. 23 to Dec. 28)

Jay HendryCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2008

The second part of my bowl games preview.

The ranking system is as follows.

Gutter ball: A stinker

Split: A mismatch

Spare: A good game

Strike: Can't Miss

299: TiVo it—this one's going to be a classic


San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. TCU

Dec. 23, 8 p.m. on ESPN


Santa’s coming early, and we get a January bowl before Christmas.  This game is the second-best bowl matchup of the season. If you only watch one game outside of the national championship, watch this one.

Reasons to watch

No. 2 defense in the nation

TCU’s defense is behind only the monsters out in Southern California in total defense and in scoring defense.

No. 3 defense in the nation

For all the talk of TCU’s defense, Boise State is right behind them.  The Broncos allowed a stingy 12.3 points per game.

No. 12 and No. 19 scoring offenses

This game features two high-scoring offenses as well.  Boise St. averages 39.4 points a game, and the Horny Toads average 35.

The snub factor

Boise State is two years removed from the greatest BCS upset ever, and they’re already forgotten.  An undefeated season lands them in an early December bowl, and they may be a little ticked.

Reasons to skip

None whatsoever

Bowler’s take: 299 game


Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Notre Dame

Dec. 24, 8 p.m. on ESPN


A day after a dream matchup, we are again reminded how weak early bowling is.  Both Hawaii and Notre Dame are down, Hawaii unable to replace Colt Brennan’s squad and Notre Dame still unable to replace Lou Holtz.

Reasons to Watch

You’re Catholic

You really want to see Weis in a Hawaiian shirt

Reasons to skip

Weis in a Hawaiian shirt

It’s 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve

At least I won’t have to come up with an excuse to dip out on my family to watch a football game.

Bowler’s take: Gutter ball


Motor City Bowl: Central Michigan vs. FAU

Dec. 26, 7:15 p.m. on ESPN


A very disappointing FAU team that needed a late surge to become bowl eligible faces a legitimate MAC West team in CMU who challenged Ball State for most of their November game.

Reasons to watch

You hate defense

Neither team has done much defensively, ranking No. 85 (FAU) and No. 90 (CMU) in scoring defense.  If both teams' regular season finales are any indicator, expect a lot of points

Reasons to skip

Another 6-6 bowl team

FAU had to surge to become bowl eligible, winning five of their last six.

Bowler’s take: Gutter ball


Meineke Car Care Bowl: North Carolina vs. West Virginia

Dec. 27, 1 p.m. on ESPN


WVU has a good case for being the disappointment of the year, having failed to make a January bowl for the first time since 2002.  Despite the down year, as long as Pat White is leading the offense, they are a tough team to beat.  Butch Davis has turned UNC around, and the Tar Heels are appearing in their first bowl game since 2004.

Reasons to watch

Pat White

He’s a one-man offense, and he doesn’t like to lose.  His 32-8 record as a starter is the best in WVU history.

North Carolina’s defense

Take away the 41-10 drubbing by NC State, and this unit has played pretty well.  They make big plays too, accounting for 19 interceptions this season.

Probably the best game featuring two unranked teams

Reasons to skip

I don’t really have a good one—this is the best game on the 27th.

Bowler’s take: Strike


Champs Sports Bowl: FSU vs. Wisconsin

Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. on ESPN


A matchup featuring two disappointing teams who still manage to be entertaining. Wisconsin entertains because they play OT games against Cal Poly, and FSU because they will hurt your QB, your backup QB, and that third string QB who holds a clipboard and occasionally plays receiver.

Reasons to watch

Antone Smith

Wisconsin’s run defense has been torched thrice this season (two were Shonn Greene and Beanie Wells), and a good showing by Smith would end a disappointing career on a high note.  Look for him to be more motivated than usual.

FSU’s Defense

They’re a good squad that can take out any player in the nation.  Notables include Percy Harvin, Josh Nesbitt, and every VT player to line up at the QB position.

Reasons to skip

Low lows

Wisconsin nearly lost to Cal Poly, and FSU lost 12-9 to Wake Forest while turning the ball over seven times.

Bowler’s take: Spare


Emerald Bowl: Cal vs. Miami

Dec. 27, 8 p.m. on ESPN


A Miami win would go a long way in proving that this team will be back on the top soon.  Cal won’t make it easy with running back Jahvid Best, one of the best RBs in the nation.

Reasons to watch

Jahvid Best

311, 201, and 116.  Those numbers are Best’s rushing totals over the last three games.  He is averaging eight yards per carry on the year, good enough for best in the nation.

In case Miami’s defense shows up

Miami held UF to its lowest points total (26) and lowest rushing total (89 yards) all season.  The Hurricanes managed to play over three quarters of close football with the Gators.

Reasons to skip

Miami’s defense may not show up

In the last two games the ‘Canes have given up 691 yards on the ground. Additionally, the ‘Canes gave up 281 rushing yards to FSU, and Best is the best single back UM’s faced all season.  This one could get out of hand fast.

You’re a fan of the pass

Cal has posted 2,346 passing yards all season, under 150 yards in four games, and under 200 in four more.  Miami’s thrown for 2,364 yards, not much more than Cal.  Plus, UM’s leading passer is suspended.

Bowler’s take: Split

Independence Bowl: NIU vs. LA. Tech

Dec. 28, 8:15 p.m. on ESPN


This one features two teams that are lucky to be bowling.  The Independence Bowl has SEC and Big 12 tie ins, but thanks to the top-heavy nature of both conferences, they were left without enough eligible teams to fill all the tie ins.

Reasons to watch

It’s the only game on the 28th

Reasons to skip

6-6 vs. 7-5

Final weekend of the NFL regular season and Denver-San Diego is the night game

The AFC West may be weak, but it's better than the WAC or MAC.

Bowler’s take: Gutter ball