Bowl guide: Must-see TV
College football writers BOB ASMUSSEN and MATT DANIELS are in football heaven right now. The first week of the bowl season is nearly complete. Now the action really ramps up. They offer up the games you must check out. Like the Rose Bowl. And the ones you might want to avoid. Like the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
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BCS title game
Florida State (13-0)
vs. Auburn (12-1)
7:30 p.m., Jan. 6, ESPN
Bob’s pick: Florida State, 31-21
Matt’s pick: Florida State, 48-38
Watch because ... Urban Meyer did everyone a favor by losing to Michigan State. No real debate about who should play in the final title game determined by computers. Enjoy watching former Illini Jay Prosch manhandle some of Florida State’s defenders like he was playing Pop Warner. The bruising fullback sure has found a home in the Tigers’ backfield. Recent Heisman winners have fared well in bowl games. Jameis Winston (left) will try to play like Johnny Manziel did in last year’s Cotton Bowl and avoid performances like the one Sam Bradford put forth in the 2009 BCS title game. All that’s missing is Keith Jackson on the call.
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Michigan State (12-1)
vs. Stanford (11-2)
4 p.m., Jan. 1, ESPN
Bob’s pick: Michigan State, 3-0
Matt’s pick: Michigan State, 24-17
Watch because ... Sparty will party like it’s 1988. Which is the last time Michigan State played in the game every Big Ten coach dreams about. Mark Dantonio, one of the good guys in the profession, has steadily progressed the Spartans each season. He seems like he’s enjoying himself, too. Which he should. Who knows if this is Michigan State’s last trip to Pasadena until 2039. Stanford will come in with a point to prove. The two losses David Shaw’s team had this season were head-scratching at the time (Utah and USC), but the Cardinal did what was asked and won the Pac-12. Now Stanford aims for its first back-to-back Rose Bowl victories since the early 1970s.
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vs. Alabama (11-1)
7:30 p.m., Jan. 2, ESPN
Bob’s pick: Alabama, 41-10
Matt’s pick: Alabama, 34-13
Watch because ... Nick Saban just might smile. No way the Crimson Tide overlooks Bob Stoops’ Sooners. Especially with what the Oklahoma boss said earlier this season about SEC defenses. Something along the lines of they’re a tad overhyped. You can bet Saban has drilled what Stoops said into his players’ minds. Oklahoma played its way into this game with a win at Oklahoma State in the regular season finale. Both offenses might struggle against two defenses ranked in the Top 15. Word of warning for any Oklahoma players: be on alert for Alabama cheerleaders mysteriously sticking their leg out. That’s not an invitation to a postgame party.
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vs. Ohio State (12-1)
7:30 p.m., Jan. 3, ESPN
Bob’s pick: Clemson, 30-20
Matt’s pick: Ohio State, 58-37
Watch because ... Who knows when you might see a coach named Urban match wits with a coach named Dabo. Two dynamic offenses. Two not-so-dynamic defenses. Plus, the winner gets a trophy full of oranges. Isn’t America great? Of course, Ohio State and its rabid fan base wish they were making travel plans to Pasadena instead of Miami. But we hear South Beach isn’t all that bad in early January. Much better than Columbus. Ohio State showed Illinois fans in mid-November that the Buckeyes are beatable. Michigan State proved that in Indianapolis the first Saturday in December. Clemson and its high-profile quarterback Tajh Boyd could have a field day against the Buckeyes’ defense.
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vs. Oklahoma State (10-2)
6:30 p.m., Jan. 3, Fox
Bob’s pick: Missouri, 24-23
Matt’s pick: Oklahoma State, 45-42
Watch because ... Still wish this game was at the original Cotton Bowl and not Jerry’s World. Along with wishing Missouri was still in the Big 12. We digress. If the latter situation was still in play, this game wouldn’t take place. Boy, we’re glad it is. Illinois shouldn’t want to play Missouri any time soon — and the Illini won’t because Illinois’ schedule is full until 2019 — with the opposite direction both programs are going. Gary Pinkel figured out the SEC in Year 2. Now he gets to figure out an Oklahoma State offense spearheaded by Clint Chelf. Watching Missouri’s stud wide receiver (Dorial Green-Beckham) go up against Oklahoma State’s stud cornerback (Justin Gilbert) will be a sight to see.
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Capital One Bowl
South Carolina (10-2)
vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
Noon, Jan. 1, ABC
Bob’s pick: South Carolina, 34-17
Matt’s pick: Wisconsin, 32-29
Watch because ... This is the perk of coaching in Madison compared to Logan, Utah, Gary Andersen. A 9-3 season with the Badgers is rewarded with a New Year’s Day bowl. In Florida. Of course, Wisconsin must figure out how to prevent Jadeveon Clowney from making another addition to his highlight reel before he goes and makes millions in the NFL. Clowney might want to top what he did to Michigan running back Vincent Smith in last season’s Outback Bowl. Like trying to tackle Melvin Gordon and James White. At the same time. Even if the game is a blowout, Steve Spurrier is bound to say something Spurrier-esque, so stay tuned for his halftime interview.
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Central Florida (11-1)
vs. Baylor (11-1)
7:30 p.m., Jan. 1, ESPN
Bob’s pick: Baylor, 52-17
Matt’s pick: Central Florida, 38-32
Watch because ... OK, raise your hand if in August you had both of these teams playing in a BCS bowl Or even one of them. Didn’t think so. Goes to show you that, despite all the flaws the BCS system has, it can still showcase teams one might not necessarily expect to see playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor hasn’t played in a bowl of this significance (sorry, Illinois fans, the 2010 Texas Bowl doesn’t count) since the Bears took it on the chin against Alabama in the 1981 Cotton Bowl. And this is only Central Florida’s sixth bowl game. One program will come away with a win it will sell hard to recruits in the months ahead.
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vs. LSU (9-3)
Noon, Jan. 1, ESPN
Bob’s pick: Iowa, 16-9
Matt’s pick: LSU, 36-18
Watch because ... Jake Rudock could become the next Drew Tate. Tate (no relation to our esteemed columnist) threw his way into bowl highlights for years when his desperation pass against LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl was caught. For a touchdown. In the closing seconds. No one knew who the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback would be after spring practices, but Rudock has held onto the job with his steady play. Kirk Ferentz can rest assured about his job status after getting the Hawkeyes back to respectability. This isn’t where Les Miles wanted to end the season (it’s national title or bust for folks in Baton Rouge). But the Tigers boast plenty of players you’ll hear about soon in the NFL.
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vs. Texas (8-4)
5:45 p.m., Dec. 30, ESPN
Bob’s pick: Texas, 33-32
Matt’s pick: Oregon, 47-12
Watch because ... This is the swan song for Mack Brown. Expect plenty of tributes to the Texas coach and plenty of photographers around him at midfield near the end of the game. This isn’t how Brown probably anticipated his final season would play out, but if a change wasn’t made, there would be a lot of unhappy fans in Austin. Texas is 2-0 in its only other Alamo Bowl appearances, but the Longhorns haven’t faced the Ducks in San Antonio yet. No matter what uniform Mark Helfrich’s team sports, Oregon will want to make a statement that it was one of the best teams in the country all year. Loudly, just like their electric/lightning yellow jerseys.
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Russell Athletic Bowl
vs. Miami (9-3)
5:45 p.m., Dec. 28, ESPN
Bob’s pick: Louisville, 34-24
Matt’s pick: Louisville, 39-36
Watch because ... Teddy Bridgewater is good. Really good. The Cardinals’ loss to Central Florida dampened his Heisman hopes and the BCS possibilities for his team. But there are worse ways to spend a bowl season than in Orlando. The lone loss to the Knights was the only thing separating Charlie Strong’s team from possibly joining the national title discussion and from Bridgewater getting an invite to New York City. Too bad Howard Schnellenberger and his pipe can’t coach in this game. For either team. That would make it even more entertaining.
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Texas A&M (8-4)
vs. Duke (10-3)
7 p.m., Dec. 31, ESPN
Bob says ... Duke, 37-27. Smart guys always win over not-so-smart guys. No offense, Kevin Sumlin.
Matt says ... Texas A&M, 55-34. Before you ring in the new year, check out Johnny Football one more time in a college uniform. Then go get his autograph.
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Fight Hunger Bowl
vs. Washington (8-4)
8:30 p.m., Dec. 27, ESPN
Bob says ... Washington, 28-21. Illini certainly will root for the team that beat them at Soldier Field.
Matt says ... BYU, 51-48. Cougars QB Tayson Hill didn’t rack up the passing yards like former BYU greats Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon and others. But he can run like Steve Young. Just ask Texas.
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Arizona State (10-2)
vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
9:15 p.m., Dec. 30, ESPN
Bob says ... Arizona State, 44-24. Red Raiders have no pop left at the end of the season. Sun Devils have better uniforms.
Matt says ... Arizona State, 39-30. Todd Graham probably has the coolest wireless headset of any college coach. And a good offense. Nice combination.
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Utah State (8-5)
vs. Northern Illinois (12-1)
8:30 p.m., Dec. 26, ESPN
Bob says ... Northern Illinois, 55-10. Jordan Lynch proves he belonged among the top three in the Heisman voting. And the Huskies will show they deserve a better bowl.
Matt says ... Northern Illinois, 29-24. A trip to San Diego instead of staying in northern Illinois in December? You bet the Huskies like that, even if there’s no BCS bowl this year.
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vs. Virginia Tech (8-4)
1 p.m., Dec. 31, CBS
El Paso, Texas
Bob says ... Virginia Tech, 17-13. Never take Frank Beamer lightly when he has a month to prepare. Remember, he is the longest-tenured coach, so he knows what he’s doing.
Matt says ... UCLA, 38-29. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will handle the call. Quite the dropoff from what the duo sees every weekend in the SEC.
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Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Kansas State (7-5)
vs. Michigan (7-5)
9:15 p.m., Dec. 28, ESPN
Bob says ... Michigan, 40-20. Speaking of aging coaches, Bill Snyder is old enough to be Loren Tate’s grandfather. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Matt says ... Kansas State, 31-14. Can’t criticize Brady Hoke for going for two against Ohio State. Can criticize him for losing six games with the talent he has.
vs. Georgia (8-4)
11 a.m., Jan. 1, ESPN2
Bob says ... Georgia, 28-27. Big question, of course, is can Bo Pelini get through the game without getting an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty or questioning a sideline reporter’s intelligence. The answer is no.
Matt says ... Georgia, 34-17. Not only is this a game between two underachieving teams, but TaxSlayer.com is the sponsor. Get ready for commercials about a business you’ve never heard of before.
North Carolina (6-6)
vs. Cincinnati (9-3)
2:20 p.m., Dec. 28, ESPN
Bob says ... North Carolina, 19-18. Something tells me the defense of Vic Koenning/Dan Disch will be ready for the Bearcats.
Matt says ... Cincinnati, 41-21. Sometime during this broadcast, Illinois fans can smile when it’s mentioned Tim Beckman’s team put the beatdown on Tommy Tuberville’s Bearcats.
BBVA Compass Bowl
vs. Houston (8-4)
Noon, Jan. 4, ESPN
Bob says ... Vanderbilt, 27-23. Why, oh, why, is James Franklin still in Nashville? Some school is going to be smart and gobble him up soon.
Matt says ... Vanderbilt, 31-16. Two back-to-back nine-win seasons for Vandy? Yes, that might actually happen with a win against the Cougars.
vs. Notre Dame (8-4)
11 a.m., Dec. 28, ESPN
Bob says ... Notre Dame, 37-20. Is it just us or has Brian Kelly run out of coordinators? It doesn’t matter who’s coaching the Irish against the Scarlet Knights.
Matt says ... Rutgers, 13-10. The late James Gandolfini won’t get to see his Scarlet Knights take down Tommy Rees at Yankee Stadium.
Music City Bowl
Georgia Tech (7-5)
vs. Mississippi (7-5)
2:15 p.m., Dec. 30, ESPN
Bob says ... Georgia Tech, 24-23. We’ve never met a visiting coach we thought was nicer than Hugh Freeze when he was at Arkansas State. No surprise he’s doing well with the Rebels.
Matt says ... Georgia Tech, 35-31. Nashville is a great city. And TV show. Too bad it can’t attract better teams.
vs. Maryland (7-5)
1:30 p.m., Dec. 27, ESPN
Bob says ... Maryland, 38-17. Great to see former Illini offensive coordinator Mike Locksley back in the bowl business. He knew the Terps were not this bad.
Matt says ... Marshall, 52-34. Matthew McConaughey, er, Doc Holliday, sure can coach the Thundering Herd’s high-flying offense.
vs. Mississippi State (6-6)
3 p.m., Dec. 31, ESPN
Bob says ... Rice, 34-24. David Bailiff is doing a remarkable job that nobody is noticing. Winning at Rice is a miracle.
Matt says ... Rice, 17-13. A
loss to the Owls won’t help Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, who is on thin ice in Starkville. If ice ever materializes outside of a freezer in Mississippi.
AdvoCare V100 Bowl
Boston College (7-5)
vs. Arizona (7-5)
11:30 a.m., Dec. 31, ESPN
Bob says ... Boston College, 37-27. Deandre Williams was second on our Heisman ballot. He’ll outgain Kadeem Cary
217-189 in terms of rushing yards.
Matt says ... Arizona, 28-27. Bring back Poulan Weed-Eater as the main sponsor. Then people will watch.
Armed Forces Bowl
Middle Tennessee (8-4)
vs. Navy (7-5)
10:45 a.m., Dec. 30, ESPN
Fort Worth, Texas
Bob says ... Navy, 28-24. Isn’t it about time that Navy coach starts getting himself on big coaching search lists?
Matt says ... Navy, 33-22. Logic is simple for this pick. Don’t go against a branch of the armed forces in a game called the Armed Forces Bowl.
Heart of Dallas Bowl
vs. North Texas (8-4)
11 a.m., Jan. 1, ESPNU
Bob says ... UNLV, 30-20. Apparently one bowl game isn’t enough for Dallas. We looked it up and Dan McCarney is at North Texas.
Matt says ... North Texas, 23-18. There’s a reason this game is on ESPNU. No one cares about it. Except Bob. Seriously, why is this game on New Year’s Day?
vs. Minnesota (8-4)
5 p.m., Dec. 27, ESPN
Bob says ... Minnesota, 21-20. Why would you bet against Jerry Kill in anything? The guy is amazing in everything.
Matt says ... Minnesota, 37-13. The Gophers snap their five-game skid in bowl games. And carry Jerry Kill off the Reliant Stadium field.
Arkansas State (7-5)
vs. Ball State (10-2)
8 p.m., Jan. 5, ESPN
Bob says ... Ball State, 38-33. Another guy that needs to move on is Ball State coach Pete Lembo. This will be his final audition.
Matt says ... Arkansas State, 30-24. Don’t expect too many TV shots of the crowd. The attendance will look like it did in the fourth quarter of the Northwestern-Illinois game. But maybe Danica Patrick will show up.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
vs. Bowling Green (10-3)
5 p.m., Dec. 26, ESPN
Bob says ... Bowling Green, 13-10. It’s going to be hard with Dave Clawson off to Wake Forest, but the Falcons have shown resiliency all season.
Matt says ... Pittsburgh, 21-19. The Falcons win the MAC and their reward is ... another trip to Detroit? In December? At least the game is inside.