Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bowling with the Guru

'Tis the season to celebrate mediocrity. Heck, even if your team went 6-6 and got its coach fired, that's not enough of a reason for them to be home for the holidays. Chances are, there will be a spot in Toronto, Detroit, Boise or even Honolulu for the guys.

But the Guru understands that there's big money involved in the bowls. And I'm not even talking about the $17 million payout to BCS teams. While the Guru would be "shocked! shocked!" that there would be gambling going on in places not inside Nevada, that's no reason to look at the point spread from a recreational perspective.

So here's the Guru's comprehensive picks on the 32 bowl games, listed chronologically:

* Poinsettia @ San Diego (Dec. 20) -- Utah (-8 1/2) vs. Navy. This looks like an even matchup on paper, but it's anything but. The Utes won eight straight before a narrow loss to BYU in the last regular season game. Navy's looking for a coach.

* New Orleans (Dec. 21) -- Memphis (+ 2 1/2) vs. Florida Atlantic. The Guru has no idea why FAU should be the favorite in this game.

* Papa John @ Birmingham, Ala. (Dec. 22) -- Cincinnati (-11) vs. Southern Miss. The Bearcats might be disappointed that they didn't end up in a better bowl. Other than that, they should win in a walk.

* New Mexico @ Albuquerque (Dec. 22) -- New Mexico (-3) vs. Nevada. This is a Lobos home game against a 6-6 WAC team.

* Las Vegas (Dec. 22) -- BYU (-6) vs. UCLA. The Bruins might have beaten the Cougars earlier in the season, but they're now in tatters and without a coach. The Pac-10 is always horrible in second-tier bowl games as well.

* Hawaii @ Honolulu (Dec. 23) -- Boise State (-10 1/2) vs. East Carolina. The Broncos are pretty acclimated with the islands after having been there just a month ago in a loss to Hawai'i.

* Motor City @ Detroit (Dec. 26) -- Central Michigan (+8 1/2) vs. Purdue. The Boilermakers lost their final three games and probably won't be all that geeked about playing in a lower tier bowl game.

* Holiday @ San Diego (Dec. 27) -- Arizona State (+2) vs. Texas. This is a toughie. ASU has been a bit shaky down the stretch, but getting up for this game -- even after a BCS snub -- shouldn't be a problem.

* Champs Sports @ Orlando (Dec. 28) -- Boston College (-3 1/2) vs. Michigan State. The Eagles are clearly the better team -- they just have to overcome the disappointment of ending up here after being ranked No. 2 earlier in the season.

* Texas @ Houston (Dec. 28) -- TCU (-3 1/2) vs. Houston. Despite being the road team, the Horned Frogs should have no trouble against their former SWC mates.

* Emerald @ San Francisco (Dec. 28) -- Oregon State (-5) vs. Maryland. This really is a mismatch. The Beavers have flown under the radar despite losing only once (to USC) after beginning the season 2-3.

* Meineke Car Care @ Charlotte (Dec. 29) -- Wake Forest (-3) vs. Connecticut. The Demon Deacons played very well down the stretch, can't say the same for UConn, who got blown out in two of its final three games.

* Liberty @ Memphis (Dec. 29) -- Central Florida (-3) vs. Mississippi State. Probably the hardest pick of the bowl season, UCF gets the edge against an SEC team because of RB Kevin Smith.

* Alamo @ San Antonio (Dec. 29) -- Texas A&M (+5 1/2) vs. Penn State. The Aggies are in turmoil, but the Nittany Lions just have been so unimpressive that it's hard to take them against an underdog playing near its home turf.

* Independence @ Shreveport (Dec. 30) -- Alabama (-3 1/2) vs. Colorado. Two storied programs. Two lousy football teams. This game screams why there are too many bowl games. Why should we take 'Bama, which has lost four straight? Uh, at least they'll have fans at the game.

* Armed Forces @ Fort Worth (Dec. 31) -- Air Force (+3 1/2) vs. California. The Golden Bears' late-season collapse should be complete with this loss. AFA is counting on fan support from the nearby Abilene AFB.

* Sun @ El Paso (Dec. 31) -- South Florida (-6 1/2) vs. Oregon. Another Pac-10 team will finish the season with a flourish (by losing). At least the Ducks have the excuse of losing the erstwhile Heisman favorite Dennis Dixon.

* Humanitarian @ Boise, Idaho (Dec. 31) -- Fresno State (+4 1/2) vs. Georgia Tech. If there is a lock game this bowl season, this is a top candidate. Fresno State has been consistently good throughout the season. Georgia Tech is playing without a coach.

* Music City @ Nashville, Tenn. (Dec. 31) -- Kentucky (-3) vs. Florida State. There really isn't much to like about either team, but at least the Wildcats were fighting in every game. The same can't be said for FSU.

* Insight @ Tempe, Ariz. (Dec. 31) -- Oklahoma State (-4) vs. Indiana. The Cowboys have been struggling late in the season, but Mike Gundy will turn this around because "I am a man! I'm 40!"

* Chick-Fil-A @ Atlanta (Dec. 31) -- Clemson (-2) vs. Auburn. In a battle of the Tigers, Clemson has been hot down the stretch, winning five of its last six games and narrowly losing to Boston College.

* Outback @ Tampa (Jan. 1) -- Tennessee (-3) vs. Wisconsin. The Vols have enjoyed a renaissance late in the season, even if they won a few squeakers. The Badgers padded their record against woeful competition.

* Cotton @ Dallas (Jan. 1) -- Missouri (-3) vs. Arkansas. Can the Tigers stop Darren McFadden? If they can, then they should be able to win this game going away.

* CapitalOne @ Orlando (Jan. 1) -- Florida (-10) vs. Michigan. Sure, 10 points are a lot to give in a big bowl game like this, but Lloyd Carr's retirement or not, this is a huge mismatch. The Wolverines simply won't be able to keep up with Tim Tebow and the Gators.

* Gator @ Jacksonville, Fla. (Jan. 1) -- Texas Tech (-6) vs. Virginia. The Red Raiders might be up-and-down a bit. But against a bowl opponent who's never seen the likes of them, they're awfully difficult to stop.

* Rose @ Pasadena, Calif. (Jan. 1) -- Illinois (+13 1/2) vs. USC. This is not your typical Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup. The Trojans might be healthy now, but they'll have their hands full with Rashard Mendenhall and Juice Williams.

* Sugar @ New Orleans (Jan. 1) -- Hawai'i (+8 1/2) vs. Georgia. Colt Brennan gets all the attention, but the Warriors have a fleet of receivers who are itching to showcase their skills. The Bulldogs will have their hands full.

* Fiesta @ Glendale, Ariz. (Jan. 2) -- Oklahoma (-6 1/2) vs. West Virginia. The Sooners are mad and have lot to prove. The Mountaineers are sad and probably will get run over.

* Orange @ Miami (Jan. 3) -- Virginia Tech (-3 1/2) vs. Kansas. The Jayhawks' dream season will end with two resounding losses. The Hokies are good enough to play for the national championship, KU isn't.

* International @ Toronto (Jan. 5) -- Ball State (+10) vs. Rutgers. The Cardinals are battle-tested with a tough non-conference schedule. That will pay off against the floundering Scarlet Knights.

* GMAC @ Mobile, Ala. (Jan. 6) -- Tulsa (-4 1/2) vs. Bowling Green. Why the Golden Hurricanes? Why not? And if you're stupid enough to put your rent money on this game, well, that's your business.

* BCS Championship @ New Orleans (Jan. 7) -- Ohio State (+4) vs. LSU. After last year's beatdown by Florida, you'd think the Buckeyes are ripe for a repeat against a similar LSU team. The Guru thinks Jim Tressel has learned his lesson and he'll do a fine job of keeping this game close, even against superior talent. If Ohio State can stay in this game into the fourth quarter, it might even steal a win, a la 2002 against Miami.

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