Five Bowl Games to Watch
by Trevor Whenham - 12/05/2006
The bowls are coming, and you had better be ready for them. With 32 bowl games coming over the course of three weeks starting on Dec. 19, you need to do some planning to know which games you want to watch and handicap, and which ones you just want to avoid.
There are always some match-ups during the bowl season that are less than amazing. This year, however, we seem to be cursed with some games that are destined to be truly awful. It will take a lot of imagination to find anything compelling about Texas and Iowa in the Alamo, Texas Tech and Minnesota in the Insight, or Nevada and Miami in Boise. The worst game, though, which will only appeal to degenerate gamblers or true fans of the teams, is Oklahoma State and Alabama in the Independence. The loser of that clash of the titans will end the season with a losing record. There are some decent match-ups that could be very one-sided, too, like LSU and Notre Dame.
Despite those games, and some other stinkers, there are some match-ups on the schedule that are going to be particularly interesting to look at. Ignoring the Ohio State and Michigan games because I'm already sick of talking about them, here are six bowl games that you should be paying attention to:
Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 21 - BYU and Oregon - This one makes the list for a couple of reasons. First, if you haven't seen BYU play then you really need to. They are a surprisingly talented and creative team that spent the season overpowering opponents. It's not particularly conventional football, but it is very entertaining. On the other side you have a Pac-10 team that has had an incredibly disappointing season, made worse by the fact that they only defeated the only real opponent they beat, Oklahoma, with the help of the referees. The second reason to watch this game is the potential for value. BYU is favored by five points in early action. That seems like a fair and attractive spread already, and the public attention is more likely to gravitate towards the major conference team, so the spread could get even better before kickoff.
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1 - Wisconsin and Arkansas - Arkansas is favored by one, showing how close this game could be. In any other season Wisconsin would be a BCS team, but they have the misfortune of being in the Big Ten. This will be the showdown between the Big Ten and the SEC. Those who argue that Florida deserves to be in the national championship game because they play in a tougher conference will be watching this one closely. Both teams will have frustrations to work out. Two good teams wishing they were a bit closer to the major spotlight should put on a good show.
Fiesta Bowl, Jan.1 - Boise State and Oklahoma - This is easily the game I am most excited about. Boise State comes into the game with a huge chip on their shoulder, but without a lot of national respect. The BCS crashers are eight-point underdogs, and that spread seems likely to grow before the end of the year. What I want to know is how good the Broncos really are. Oklahoma is playing well, but they are far from an unbeatable team. I tend to think that this line could provide some value if it grows a bit, but I could be completely wrong. The total uncertainty that Boise State represents is what makes college football so great. It will also be very interesting to watch Adrian Peterson, assuming he is healthy, and the Bronco's very talented running back, Ian Johnson, burn up the turf.
Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 30 - Virginia Tech and Georgia - Both of these teams have struggled at times this year, but they are both playing very well down the stretch. With the defensive styles they both play this isn't going to be a thrilling shootout. It does have the potential, though, to be the kind of tough, in-the-trenches war that can be very entertaining when played well. Virginia Tech is favored by three. At that spread, a solid argument can be made for either team.
Orange Bowl, Jan. 2 - Louisville and Wake Forest - Two interesting BCS teams that are kind of an afterthought in the national talk. Wake Forest came from absolutely nowhere this season to win the ACC, and they did it with a run-focused offense that is strange to say the least, and a disciplined defense. Louisville was written off after they lost to Rutgers, but kept playing their explosive offensive game and ended up on top of the Big East. Louisville will score a lot of points, and it will be very interesting to see if the feisty Demon Deacons can keep up. The bookmakers don't think so, since Louisville if favored by nine.
Poinsettia Bowl, Dec. 19 - TCU and Northern Illinois - Bowl season kicks off with a match-up that certainly isn't marquee, but it could be fascinating. TCU has the fourth best run defense in the country, and nobody has been able to gain significant yards on the ground against them. Northern Illinois lives and dies by the run, with their back Garrett Wolfe, leading the country in yards gained. One of those forces will have to break, and that will define this game. TCU is favored by 13, but Northern Illinois has two more weeks to find a way to exploit any weaknesses they can find on film.