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A long slate of bowl games kicks off on Saturday in a postseason that will include the inaugural four-team format to decide the national championship. Before we reach the championship game on January 12, 36 other (non-playoff) match-ups will take place featuring teams from far-flung places (Central Michigan, Western Kentucky) facing off in exotic locales (Boise, Detroit) in historic venues (Ladd-Peebles Stadium, in Mobile, Ala.) with the endorsement of the nation's preeminent companies (Royal Purple, Duck Commander). Fortunately for you, The College Football Report is here, bringing you an exclusive preview of the biggest games and a sneak peek at those you might not know existed. It's a holiday miracle. Shout and rejoice.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada Wolfpack (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (8-4)
December 20, 10 a.m.
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
The Cajuns finish 2014 in New Orleans for the fourth straight year, having won three straight R+L Bowls. Sadly, area fans have not responded with enthusiasm. After setting attendance records for three seasons, the chances of a full house look slim. The 10 a.m. kickoff, moved up in response to ESPN's schedule demands, has put a damper on things.
No one expects Wolfpack fans to fill the empty seats, despite the enticing lure of the free concert Friday night featuring "70s hitmakers" Cheap Trick and Kool & the Gang.
Note for those planning to attend: The show has been moved inside the Smoothie King Center due to the possibility of inclement weather.
Our pick: Considering the tepid interest, we like the prospects of Nevada getting points (+1) on the road.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State Aggies (9-4) vs. UTEP Miners (7-5)
December 20, 1:20 p.m.
University Stadium, Albuquerque
In the words of head coach Matt Wells, Utah State is "very, very hungry." Too bad, because the Aggies missed a chance at the Idaho Potato Bowl with a loss to Boise State in the season finale. Gildan makes Gold Toe socks, which are inedible. Unless you're a moth.
Our pick: UTEP, +10. If there's one thing a Miner needs to win, it's comfortable feet.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
#22 Utah Utes (8-4) vs. Colorado State Rams (10-2)
December 20, 2:30 p.m.
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
The Florida Gators poached Colorado State's head coach, leaving the Rams shepherdless in Las Vegas. If there's anywhere in the country you'd least like to have uncastrated quadrupedal ruminant mammals roaming free, it's Sin City. On the other sideline, chief Ute Kyle Whittingham looks to add to his postseason scalp total. He owns a career 7-1 record in bowl play.
Our pick: #SackLakeCity has led the nation in sacks for nine straight weeks, averaging over four per game. That's enough to give even the Rams' sterling QB (Garrett Grayson, who finished second in total passer rating to Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota) the willies. In a virtual toss-up (CSU favored by 3), we'll choose the team with the fun hashtag.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan Broncos (8-4) vs. Air Force Falcons (9-3)
December 20, 4:45 p.m.
Albertsons Stadium, Boise
Our favorite, the Potato Bowl. Every year, we take the opportunity to spotlight the latest Potato Bowl innovation and 2014 is no different. Last month, just in time for our bowl preview, KFC launched a new Loaded Potato Bowl. Loaded with what, you ask? Why, "chicken and cheesy bacon goodness," of course. Should the bacon and cheese sauce leave you wanting, fear not. The Colonel has you covered - with a sprinkled blend of three cheeses.
Our pick: We fear the Broncos and the Loaded Bowl will fall short. While adding the cheese sauce has infused a creamy flavor, accented by the introduction of a fresh pop in the green onions, the lower sodium content may leave diners missing the mouthfeel of the original, KFC's Famous Bowl.
As for the action on the field, the Broncos will be facing the only team other than #9 Ole Miss to have defeated two opponents with 10-plus wins in 2014. If that's not a telling data point, we don't know what is. We like the favorites, Falcons -1.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama Jaguars (6-6) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (7-5)
December 20, 8:15 p.m.
Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
The Worldwide Leader has just started making up bowl games in its quest for total sports airtime domination during "bowl season." With but a single game remaining outside the clutches of ABC/ESPN (the Hyundai Sun Bowl, broadcasted by - only temporarily, we assume - CBS), ESPN has gobbled up the remainder, with many now under the ownership of ESPN Regional Television. ESPN RT acquired the Idaho Potato Bowl in 2013 and awarded Montgomery with its latest invention earlier this year, the Camellia Bowl.
With more money available via the Playoff revenue sharing agreement, smaller conferences (such as the MAC and Sun Belt, represented in the Camellia) can bid on bowl tie-ins. Combined with a television market that has (somewhat to our amazement) not yet reached a saturation point and municipalities desperate for tax revenues, the mix yields clunky creations like the Camellia Bowl.
Sacramento, California, the Camellia City, hosted the Camellia Bowl from 1961-1980. The bowl functioned as a playoff game for the lower divisions, including the Division II Championship from 1973-75. Now the Camellia has resurfaced in Montgomery's Cramton Bowl. So why not the Cramton Bowl? Two guesses: for one, ESPN and its sponsors may relocate in the future, and two, organizers may not want to remind people that the land for the stadium was once a sanitary landfill, donated to the city by Montgomery elder Fred Crampton.
Our pick: For starters, we would have gone with The Gump Bowl. But nobody asked us. We have absolutely no interest or position on the game, so lacking any other idea, we'll back the chalk: Jaguars, by 2.5
Mike Luce is our man on campus - every Friday and Monday. He welcomes your comments.