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by Big Al

Bowls! I do love them so. One last chance for teammates to come together and play for a championship. It's one of the things that makes this sport unique. Every decent team (or nearly so) has a chance to finish the year by hoisting a trophy. It's a sport that looks for successes. There are multiple levels of it, but they are successes all the same.

Unfortunately, I've been so busy at work that I couldn't get away to write my pre-Christmas bowl preview. So, here we are, running late. Not that it would have mattered, I think I would have gotten every single pick wrong, except for maybe San Diego State over Central Michigan. Oh well, happy bowl season!

WALK-ON'S INDEPENDENCE BOWL - December 26

Louisiana Tech vs. Miami

I'm having trouble handicapping this game. Talent-wise, it seems like Miami should be able to handle Louisiana Tech. But Miami has been so manifestly mediocre all year that I have no confidence in their ability to do so. But I'll take Miami to figure it out for one game.

QUICK LANE BOWL - December 26

Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan

Regardless of one's opinion of the quality of the ACC this year, a 7-5 ACC team is better than a 6-6 MAC team. Pittsburgh wins.

MILITARY BOWL PRESENTED BY NORTHROP GRUMMAN - December 27

North Carolina vs. Temple

North Carolina has had an impressive turnaround this year, and Mack Brown is a big reason. I'll never understand how some coaches just have it, and others don't. Mack Brown has it. And he will deliver more of it against Temple.

NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL - December 27

Michigan State vs. Wake Forest

The Pinstripe Bowl is one of my favorites, because it's almost always has snow on the ground. Snowy football games are darn fun to watch. But it won't be snowy this year. Which is bad news for Michigan State in this litmus test of the Big Ten vs. ACC game happening on December 28. Wake Forest wins.

ACADEMY SPORTS + OUTDOORS TEXAS BOWL - December 27

Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M

This Big XII vs. SEC showdown brings us... um... two Big XII teams playing each other. Sure, Texas A&M is in the SEC, but they're still a Big XII team to me. Goodness knows Oklahoma State is going to remind them that they aren't SEC good.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION HOLIDAY BOWL - December 27

USC vs. Iowa

Iowa comes in with a higher ranking and a better record. And they never do well against Pac-12 teams in the bowls. USC wins.

CHEEZ-IT BOWL - December 27

Air Force vs. Washington State

I'm rather worried about Mike Leach at Washington State. Entertaining guy with a lot of ability. But this train is heading south awfully fast. Air Force wins.

GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL CLASSIC - December 28

Memphis vs. Penn State

I rather wonder what Penn State was thinking while Charlotte and Buffalo were playing in the Bahamas Bowl. I mean, a 7-5 team and a 6-6 were going to the Bahamas, and Penn State took their 10-2 record to Dallas. Oh well, it's a premier bowl all the same.

The Big Ten always gets one bowl win every year. This may be it. Penn State wins.

CAMPING WORLD BOWL - December 28

Notre Dame vs. Iowa State

How did a 10-2 Notre Dame team end up playing a 7-5 Iowa State team? Doesn't matter, Notre Dame wins.

CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL - December 28

LSU vs. Oklahoma

I was all set. I had it ready. I was going to pick an overlooked Oklahoma team to pull off the stunner against LSU. Then they got 3 players suspended for... something. LSU wins.

One thing to watch in the game, though, is whether LSU's defense can handle Oklahoma's offense. They have had trouble this season, and Oklahoma can put up points fast. We'll learn a lot about LSU's chances in this game.

PLAYSTATION FIESTA BOWL - December 28

Clemson vs. Ohio State

Again, I'm very tempted to pick Ohio State in the upset. But Clemson has been my national championship pick all year, and I'm not changing it now. Clemson wins.

One thing to watch in this game is the defenses. These are the top two total defenses in the country. But they are playing two of the top five offenses in the country. This will be interesting.

SERVPRO FIRST RESPONDER BOWL - December 30

Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan

After a day off for the NFL, we get... this game. Oh, heck, how about Western Kentucky?

FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL - December 30

Mississippi State vs. Louisville

I'm going with Louisville to get themselves a nice win over a Mississippi State team that doesn't seem to have a peg to hang its hat on.

REDBOX BOWL - December 30

California vs. Illinois

Illinois is back in the bowls! And that's where the inspiring story ends. California it is.

CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL - December 30

Florida vs. Virginia

#24 Virginia? Really? Okay... Anyway, Florida wins.*

* It occurred to me after I'd posted this article that the Orange has a tie-in with the ACC and is either contractually obligated to choose an ACC team, or at least should do so to keep on good terms with the conference. In other news, I'm an idiot.

BELK BOWL - December 31

Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky

Time to watch ads for southern clothing! A strange and underappreciated tradition, but one I heartily enjoy for the simple fact that some 70% of the country is not within 100 miles of a Belk, as far as I know. Anyway, Virginia Tech wins.

TONY THE TIGER SUN BOWL - December 31

Florida State at Arizona State

Tony the Tiger? Okay, whatever. Arizona State beats a Florida State team that doesn't seem to care whether they win or lose.

AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL - December 31

Navy vs. Kansas State

Kansas State had one huge game to upset Oklahoma. That's kind of been it. Navy wins.

NOVA HOME LOANS ARIZONA BOWL - December 31

Wyoming vs. Georgia State

Hrm. Wyoaming?

VALERO ALAMO BOWL - December 31

Utah vs. Texas

The Orange Bowl could have had Utah, but they went with Virginia. So now Utah is playing in the Alamo Bowl against a Texas team that everyone keeps waiting on to be good. Utah makes the wait seem even longer.*

* See comments on the Orange Bowl.

OUTBACK BOWL - January 1

Minnesota vs. Auburn

Auburn.

VRBO CITRUS BOWL - January 1

Michigan vs. Alabama

One of these teams is underrated. Michigan will be after this game. Because Alabama is going to knock them into about #24.

ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL - January 1

Oregon vs. Wisconsin

Oregon won their way into this game with a stellar performance in the Pac-12 championship game. But Wisconsin finds ways to win bowls. Wisconsin wins.

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL - January 1

Georgia vs. Baylor

Something of a consolation prize for both teams who were on the cusp of the playoffs. Look for Baylor to pull off the stunner against Georgia.

TICKETSMARTER BIRMINGHAM BOWL - January 2

Boston College vs. Cincinnati

Cincinnati is a legitimately good team that can play some football. Boston College is a decent team. Cincinnati wins.

TAXSLAYER GATOR BOWL - January 2

Indiana vs. Tennessee

Indiana is in a bowl game again! And they are playing a rather beatable Tennessee team. Indiana will show why.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL - January 3

Ohio vs. Nevada

Ohio is also in a bowl game! Not that they'll be in this game for long. Nevada wins.

LOCKHEED MARTIN ARMED FORCES BOWL - January 4

Southern Mississippi vs. Tulane

They do tend to peter out fast after New Year's Day. So, um, how about Tulane?

LENDINGTREE BOWL - January 6

Louisiana vs. Miami (OH)

One week before the national championship game, these two are going at it in Mobile, Alabama. Look, I know it's not a huge game, but it's two teams battling for one last win. And it's the second-to-last game of the year. So tune in and see a couple of proud teams with eager players who want to get just one more W before they hang up their cleats for the year. Louisiana will like the look of their cleats much better come January 7.

Columns

College Football Playoff National Championship Game Preview

Only one game left. It's the Death Valley Tigers Bowl in New Orleans!

(Most of the) Bowl Preview

After weeks of busy at work, the bowl season (along with the holidays) snuck up on me. So we're getting caught up.

A Few Comments on the Playoffs

A couple of things to say about the playoff teams.

Week 15 Recap

It's already after week 16, but week 15 is done. It's been a busy week, okay?

Week 15 Preview

Championship weekend! What more buildup do you need?

Playoff Status Report

Let's see what the playoff situation is.

Week 14 Recap

The only week that matters had a lot of results that matter. It's time to take a look at them!