They have finally broken my spirit. When I first started publishing my predictions of college football bowl games in 1994, there were “only” 19 games. That means 38 teams played, and as we all know, in any given year there are not 38 good teams.
This year there are 35 bowl games, which means that 70 teams are playing. Seventy! Here’s how silly it has gotten: There are 12 teams in the Southeastern Conference; 10 of them are going to bowls. Pittsburgh was so thrilled about getting a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl that they fired coach Dave Wannstedt.
With all these bowls, the names are becoming redundant: There’s the Military Bowl (Maryland vs. East Carolina) and the Armed Forces Bowl (Army vs. SMU). Similarly, we have the Independence Bowl (Georgia Tech vs. Air Force) and the Liberty Bowl (Central Florida vs. Georgia). For those of a compassionate nature, you might like the Humanitarian Bowl (Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State) or the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Boston College vs. Nevada).
With so many obscure bowls and undeserving teams, I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t summon the enthusiasm to analyze individual and team stats from the 2010 season. I’d like to warn you that East Carolina’s porous defense yielded an average of 43.42 points per game, the third-worst in the country… but who has the time to do that for 70 teams?
I used to enjoy calling your attention to facts like this: Hawaii has the top passing offense in the nation, with almost 400 yards per game. Its opponent in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl — Tulsa — was statistically next-to-last in pass defense. Based on info like that, I would confidently predict that Hawaii would win. And sometimes I’d be right.
But do any of us, other than the players’ families, care that BYU (6-6) is playing University of Texas-El Paso (6-6) for the New Mexico Bowl trophy? Or that Ohio and Troy will each get $325,000 payouts for participating in the New Orleans Bowl? Sorry, but I’m afraid you’re on your own for picking a winner in the Holiday Bowl (Hint: Nebraska).
What I will do, though, is point out four games that might actually be worth watching. Let me also suggest that if you are a fan of the University of Connecticut, you won’t want to be watching when the Huskies face Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
1) The Rose Bowl matches undefeated Texas Christian against one-loss Wisconsin. These teams tied for 4th in scoring offense, each having generated 520 points. TCU was the nation’s top defensive team, though, while Wisconsin was 22nd in total defense and 29th in scoring defense. On that basis, I give the edge to the Horned Frogs.
2) Virginia Tech was humiliated in its second game of the season, losing to James Madison (coincidentally the shortest president of the U.S. at 5’4″ tall). Since then the Hokies have turned their season around, winning 11 straight. In that stretch they have not faced a quarterback with the skills of Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who threw for over 3,000 yards and ran for 438 more. It may be close, but Stanford wins the Orange Bowl.
3) Ohio State is a slight favorite over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and should be able to at least slow down the Razorbacks’ high-powered offense. Buckeye QB Terrelle Pryor has been inconsistent throughout his career, but if Good Terrelle shows up, Ohio State will come out on top.
4) The BCS championship game matches two great teams, Oregon and Auburn. The Ducks have a slight statistical advantage, but something tells me that Cam Newton, this season’s Reggie Bush, will lead Auburn to victory.
There are some other games of at least passing interest (check out Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl if you get a chance), but these are probably the four best. And just remember that any game — even if it’s Baylor vs. Illinois in the Texas Bowl — is worth watching if it gives you an excuse not to clean out the rain gutters.