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The College Football Report And The College Football Report Free Range Sacred Chicken Present The 2013-14 Bowl Season
Winners, Losers, Covers, Pushes, Overs, Unders, Best Dressed, Worst Buffet, Bowls You Didn't Know Existed, Bowls You Knew Existed But Had Forgotten, Most Obscure, Weirdest Sponsor, Best Destination, Worst Destination, Least Interesting, Best Match-Up, Awesomest Mascot, And The Debut Of The College Football Report Imaginary Bowl Game Series, Or The CFRIBGS As We Like To Call It.
Brace yourself. There are more than 30 bowls this year. To spare you, and to pace ourselves, we will space out the preview across several columns in the coming weeks. This edition covers the first round of games in what we're calling Bowl Preview Week One, which, if awards were handed out to college football columns, would run away with Most Obligatory.
As an added bonus this year, we are including the forecast and a predicted final score for each game. That's what we in the business call "added value."
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
WINNER: MOST OBSCURE
Time: Saturday, December 21, 2 p.m., ESPN (University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM)
Teams: Colorado State Rams vs. Washington State Cougars (-4.5)
Forecast: Football weather
Comment: What you need to know about the Gildan New Mexico Bowl:
* The game takes place in University Stadium. Which is on the campus of a university.
* New Mexico is not a thriving sports market: the Gildan is the only nationally televised sporting event in the state.
* The 2013 result probably won't threaten the record for total points scored: 97 in Nevada vs. Arizona in 2012.
* The trophy looks pretty weird, but the MVP awards (tambourine-ish leather shields) are even stranger.
* A husband-wife team from the Zia Pueblo crafted the ceramic trophy, embellishing decorative tribal images with crude images of football players and, naturally, the bowl's logo.
* Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain, on qualifying for a bowl: "There is a certain aura that goes around about being a bowl team and there is a certain club now, you can walk in the back alley and knock on the door and you have the secret code to get in."
* No word at press time of the secret code. Our guess? "Bugs Bunny."
CFR Pick: Over 65.5, like way over.
Sacred Chicken Proprietary Final Score Prophesy (SCPFSP): Colorado State 66, Washington State 14
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
WINNER: BEST DRESSED (goes to the USC "Song Girls")
NOMINEE: WEIRDEST SPONSOR
Time: Saturday, December 21, 3:30 p.m., ABC (Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV)
Teams: #25 Southern California Trojans (-6.5) vs. #20 Fresno State Bulldogs
Forecast: Vaguely depressing, with a chance of ennui
Comment: We doubt either team set their sights on the Las Vegas Bowl when the season kicked off. The Las Vegas would earn a nomination for Best Match-Up if we felt either team cared about the outcome. USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton will serve as interim head coach for the game following the resignation of the prior interim coach, Ed Orgeron. USC offered the head coaching position to former Washington lead man Steve Sarkisian, prompting Orgeron to quit, understandably, in a huff. Coach "O" managed a 6-2 record while at the helm and earned the love of the players, putting Helton in a thankless position - win, and you have met expectations, lose and you have only helped the detractors who backed Orgeron.
Fresno can't feel good about getting the Vegas bowl invite either. The Bulldogs were poised to bust the BCS until you-know-what'ing the bed in a 62-52 loss against San Jose State on November 29. With that loss, Fresno dropped out of the Top 16 in the BCS rankings and forfeited the BCS bid. While Fresno fields the nation's top passer - QB Derek Carr posted 4,866 yards and a ridiculous 48 TDs - the USC defense is among the top (16th) in the country.
Casual fans should tune in as, despite its random nature, this one has a chance to be among the best non-BCS bowls of the season.
What about the sponsor, you ask? Never heard of Royal Purple, as in Royal Purple High Performance Lubricants? You know, "the performance oil that outperforms®"? Makers of such products as Max EZ, Max-Boost, and Ultra Performance Grease, and a suite of other goods that sound better suited to Sybaris than Jiffy Lube? (Speaking of which, "Jiffy Lube" . . . ?)
Royal Purple, knowingly or not, borrows the brand name from "Tryian Purple", a reddish-purple dye first used by the Phoenicians nearly 4,000 years ago. At some point in ancient history, someone with too much spare time noticed that a local mollusk secreted inky, purplish mucus when disturbed. This genius figured that if the dye could be produced in mass quantities, it could turn a blah everyday toga into a pretty snazzy garment. Unfortunately for the snails, about 10,000 of the critters had to be ground up to produce a single gram of Tyrian purple. The dye became a hot commodity in the ancient world, popular with elites across the Mediterranean, beginning with early trading partners like the Greeks, and eventually becoming the color du jour of Roman emperors.
So when someone asks you about the Fresno-USC game next week, you can reply: "Oh, you mean the Rock Snail Mucus Bowl?"
CFR Pick: USC to win, Fresno to cover
SCPFSP: Fresno State 27, Southern California 6
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
NOMINEE: WORST DESTINATION
Time: Saturday, December 21, 5:30 p.m. ESPN (Bronco Stadium, Boise, ID)
Teams: Buffalo Bulls vs. San Diego State Aztecs (PK)
Forecast: Nippy, mostly blue
Comment: Buffalo (8-4, 6-2 MAC) dodged conference powers Northern Illinois and Ball State en route to bowl eligibility, only the second postseason trip in the school's history. In his fourth season, Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn guided the team to an eight-win season only a year removed from a 4-8 record. San Diego (7-5, 6-2 MW) enters the game on a hot streak, winning seven of the last eight after a dismal 0-3 start to the season.
The Aztecs should expect to see a lot of Buffalo running back Branden Oliver. The senior broke his own record for single-season yards in 2013, rushing for 1,421 behind an offensive line that San Diego coach Rocky Long describes as "gigantic." Long figures the Bulls O-line outweighs (!) that of Aztecs opponent Ohio State: the starters measure 6'4" and up and 314 pounds on average. Those are some big boys. Bulls, indeed.
The Potato Bowl takes place on the famous blue turf of Bronco Stadium, the regular-season home of Boise State. Boise installed a blue field in 1986 during a redesign of the previous (green) AstroTurf. The surface has undergone a number of changes in the interim, most recently in 2010 when current provider FieldTurf replaced the field for free after years of complaints by fans, not for the obnoxious color, but because of the high glare kicked up by "light-reflecting fibers."
Reactions at the time ranged from the nonplussed (Quarterback Joe Southwick when interviewed in 2010: "It looks bluer, but I'm not exactly a turf expert.") to the quasi-scientific (such as this comment on a fan message board: "Also . . . air molecules are good at scattering blue wavelengths which is why the sky is blue."), but there's no mistaking the Smurf Turf: it was the first colored (i.e. non-green) playing surface in football history and the only one in use among all FBS teams.
In other words, there's no chance of mistaking the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for any of the other assorted games on Saturday. Just have a pair of sunglasses handy.
CFR Pick: Buffalo
SCPFSP: Buffalo 10, San Diego State 30
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
NOMINEE: BEST DESTINATION
Time: Saturday, December 21, 9 p.m. ESPN (Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA)
Teams: Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns vs. Tulane Green Wave (-2.5)
Forecast: That weird smell of recycled air and accompanying aroma of up to 73,208 (official capacity of the Superdome) football fans, nacho cheese dip, spilled beer, and lukewarm hotdogs.
Comment: Has history tainted any other venue like the Superdome? Other sites will always carry the memory of momentous, tragic disasters but we can't imagine a single building with a history that will demand mention during every major broadcast. The images from Katrina and the stories from residents sheltering in the Superdome won't fade from collective memory soon, if ever. We only hope ESPN marks the event with a tasteful, yet brief acknowledgement: we don't need footage with an overwrought voice-over.
In happier news, the bowl will host a free concert on Friday night to kick off the festivities featuring Travis Tritt and the Charlie Daniels Band. We assume the two will perform their 2003 duet "Southern Boy," which originally appeared on Daniels' 2003 album Redneck Fiddlin' Man. For the unfamiliar, you only need go so far as "Long Haired Country Boy" or "(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks" to get a flavor of the Charlie Daniels Band. As for Tritt, we feel he owes the crowd a few tunes from his 1992 album A Travis Tritt Christmas: Loving Time of the Year such as "Christmas Just Ain't Christmas Without You" or "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy".
As for the game, someone posted a list of not-so-fun-facts to get you oriented or you can just read the next four sentences: the Cajuns lost the final game of the year to South Alabama to split the Sun Belt conference championship, but starting QB Terrance Broadway (who sat out the game with broken arm) should return for the bowl. Louisiana-Lafayette won the New Orleans Bowl in 2011 and 2012 and, if Broadway returns, Louisiana will likely repeat against one of the worst offenses in the country. (Tulane averages 304 yards per game, placing them at 119th in the FBS.) That said, Tulane does take care of the ball, and the Cajuns can get turnover-happy, having coughed up the ball 10 times in the final five games, which could give the Green Wave the edge in a tight game.
CFR Pick: Tulane by 4
SCFSP: Louisiana Lafayette 30, Tulane 23
Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl
NOMINEE: LEAST INTERESTING
Time: Monday, December 23, 2 p.m. ESPN (Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL)
Teams: Ohio Bobcats vs. East Carolina Pirates (-13.5)
Forecast: Beefy, with a hint of citrus
Comment: Regardless of the teams, the St. Petersburg Bowl is among our favorites every year. For starters, it's played in St. Petersburg. Also, it's sponsored by Beef 'O' Brady's, so now it's called the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, which is even better. Plus, St. Petersburg is in Florida. Finally, it's entirely owned by ESPN Regional Television (ERT), a subsidiary of ESPN, so it's guaranteed to be a completely manufactured, irrelevant game produced to sell airtime to advertisers and corporate sponsors. Add all that up, and you've got the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl.
* Note: there is some confusion regarding the name. The bowl's website also refers to the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl as the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg. We like the latter. It makes so much more sense.
CFR Pick: East Carolina
SCFSP: Ohio 28, East Carolina 68
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.