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Miami Beach Bowl
Memphis Tigers 55, BYU Cougars 48 (2OT)
December 22, 1 p.m.
Marlins Park, Miami
If you missed it, the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl ended in a double-overtime shootout and an all-out brawl immediately following the thrilling finish. No one seems to know who started the fight or why. Memphis coach on Justin Fuente: "I don't know what happened, so I don't know how upset I am." The skirmish has forever marred the nonexistent history of Miami Beach's preeminent, and by that we mean only, bowl game.
The game also featured sideline reporter Allison Williams, who is neither a) actress Allison Williams, daughter of news broadcaster Brian Williams, cast member of HBO's Girls, and the star of NBC's Peter Pan Live!, nor b) former Miss West Virginia Allison Williams, and especially not c) an alleged reporter named Allison Williams from Virginia who starred in a sex tape porn vendors marketed as the pageant star. Reportedly, porn sites pictured Williams alongside links to download the video, a grainy film (take our word for it, the film quality is pretty poor) allegedly recorded in the production van of Virginia television station WVEC, "Hampton Roads' trusted source for local news." And amateur porn.
Our pick: We liked Memphis, by 2. The line opened around -1, moved northward to a 'pick' at some sportsbooks, and was then pushed back to -1.5 or -2, depending where you looked. The sharps knew something. Worth noting if you monitor line movements.
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall Thundering Herd (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois Wolfpack (11-2)
December 23, 5 p.m.
(ESPN's Quint Kessenich will handle the sideline reporting for the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl. Suffice it to say, QK should never fear any coincidental mix-ups with pageant winners and amateur porn stars. He must have among the most Googleable names of any television personality. Although classifying Kessenich as such may be a stretch but he is quite the looker, pageant-winner or no.)
Despite the gaudy records and conference championships for both teams, neither ranked among the Top 25 in the AP or College Football Playoff polls. The Herd and Wolfpack suffer from playing in lesser leagues (Conference USA and MAC, respectively) and Marshall takes a double-whammy hit for a soft schedule. At one point in the season, wags wrote about the merits of an undefeated Marshall team taking a playoff spot but a loss to unranked (yet bowl bound!) Western Kentucky (go Hilltoppers!) late in the season torpedoed that conversation. No doubt the Playoff Committee celebrated at the time. Marshall would get rolled by any of the top teams, but members would have still suffered through weeks of criticism for making what would have been a pretty rational decision. No matter! The Herd have been relegated to the meaningless inaugural Boca Raton Bowl, scheduled to take place in FAU Stadium, which is in Boca Raton.
Our pick: Weird match-up. Marshall and NIU can both play the "no one respects us" (note: for good reason) card. While we're tempted to bite on the double-digit 'dogs (NIU +10), the offensive numbers for Marshall are astronomical: Second in the FBS in yards per game (563.4) and fifth (45.1 ppg) in scoring. We'll give the points.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy Midshipmen (7-5) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (7-5)
December 23, 8:30 p.m.
Why isn't this game played on an aircraft carrier? The USS Midway is right there! It's decommissioned and everything! No timeouts for takeoffs and landings, no risk of drone strikes at punts, and the deck would allow for plenty of space. The Midway's top level measures five acres. You could lay out the field and still have room for a petting zoo.
Our pick: The Aztecs look to jump from starches (having won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in '13) to shrubs as they welcome the Midshipmen to San Diego in what is essentially a home game for SDSU. We think the oddsmakers have this one dead-on, with the "visitors" getting the standard three points to account for the home field advantage. We flipped a coin and will take the favorite.
Popeyes Bahama Bowl
Central Michigan Chippewas (7-5) vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5)
December 24, 11 a.m.
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
This has to be the hands-down winner for the 2014 "just happy to be here" bowl. The game is being played in the Bahamas. The Bahamas. The weather forecast for game day is partly sunny, with a high of 79 and a low of 74. By contrast, here is the forecast for Wednesday in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., home of the Chippewas: Snow, high of 37, low of 32. As for Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers would otherwise be in . . . Western Kentucky.
Our pick: We can't help but pick WKU at -3.5 despite the dreaded half-point "hook." Still, we have to guess both teams would be perfectly happy taking a No Decision and knocking off the afternoon for beach volleyball and some Popeyes Bonafide® Chicken.
As an aside, Popeyes is totally missing out on the trend toward innovative beverages offered by other fast food chains. Take Sonic, for example. The Ultimate Drink Stop® by The Drink Experts™ offers refreshing beverages such as Ocean Water® and POWERADE® Mountain Blast® Slush. Get on it, Popeyes. How about an ice-cold (virgin) Hurricane? An Absinthe Frappe for dessert? A Café Brulot Diabolique for the breakfast menu? Must we think of everything?
Fresno State Bulldogs (6-7) vs. Rice Owls (7-5)
December 24, 8 p.m.
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
We take issue with Fresno State earning a bowl bid. Beneficiaries of the inane "six wins and you're in" rule, the Bulldogs suffered humiliating defeats to teams with terrible records, such as UNLV (2-11) and Wyoming (4-8) en route to a sub-.500 season.
Our pick to replace Fresno State for this game, tie-ins not withstanding, would be Old Dominion. At 6-6, Old Dominion is bowl eligible. We can't believe there's any significant difference between Fresno's five wins in the Mountain West and the Monarchs' 4-4 record in Conference USA. Further, our game would be more fun.
Old Dominion features a pass-happy attack, led by senior QB Taylor Heinicke, who tallied up 3,476 yards passing and 30 TDs. That's good enough for 11th in yards and 9th in scores. He also punts! Heinicke posted an outrageous 47.2 yards per kick, coming in at fourth in the country among punters with at least 10 attempts. Old Dominion could call the rare fake-fake punt play by dropping back Heinicke to kick only to fake a pass and then reverse course to boot the ball 50 yards. The Rice kick returner would probably have to sit out the second half with anxiety attacks. Who wouldn't want to see that?
Here's the clincher: Old Dominion defeated Rice in Week Three by a score of 45-42. While the Hawai'i (note: autocorrect for that one is a pain) calls for an interconference match-up, we'd much rather see a rematch. The Monarchs just joined the FBS and would no doubt play their hearts out in the school's first-ever bowl game. Rice would be itching for revenge. Forget hypotheticals - if ESPN5 broadcast a simulated game via EA Sports College Football 2014, we'd watch.
Note: Using the 2015 version of the venerable video game franchise isn't an option, as Electronic Arts canceled the title in the wake of the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit and the resulting evaporation of the NCAA's myth of amateur athletics. As such, the logistics behind updating the Rice and Old Dominion rosters to 2014 would be daunting, although less so than you might guess. A group of diehards is leveraging a feature in the version from last season to update and post rosters for all 126 teams for 2014. Surely, the same guys could gin this up.
Our pick: The Monarchs, by a pixel in an imaginary squeaker.
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-5)
December 26, Noon
Speaking of teams that don't belong in postseason play . . . your Fighting Illini! In his three years in Champaign, head coach Tim Beckman has compiled a 10-24 record. Closing out the season with wins over a mediocre (at best) Penn State squad and the down-on-their-luck Northwestern Wildcats may have delayed the inevitable, as U of I Mike Thomas Athletic Director maintains Beckman will play the remainder of his contract to 2016. Yet the Heart of Dallas Bowl may not offer much encouragement for Illini fans looking ahead to 2015. The offense squares off against a La-Tech "D" which has forced more turnovers (40) than any other in the country this season, surpassing the three-year total of Beckman's squad. A feeble run game (114th) won't help. A soft defense (109th in points against) will likely yield plenty of points to the Bulldogs high-powered "O" ranking 13th overall in total points.
Our pick: All that said, the Illini have managed to win some close games late in the season and Louisiana Tech may not deserve the 6-point edge. We prefer the "over" in what looks like a shootout: Illinois 34, Louisiana Tech 31.
Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5) vs. North Carolina Tarheels (6-6)
December 26, 4:30 p.m.
Ford Field, Detroit
The Quick Lane Bowl? Can we find a less inspiring name? We liked the game's predecessor far better. In an offseason shuffle, the Detroit Lions stepped up to co-sponsor an as-yet-unnamed game at Ford Field, displacing the Little Caesars Bowl. Paired with Ford Motor Company's Quick Lane auto shop, the new bowl inherited the traditional (if we can call it that) December 26 slot on ESPN. No word yet if Pizza! Pizza! will be served.
Reportedly, both teams relish the chance to take their talents to the Motor City, especially the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers QB Gary Nova on living it up in Detroit: "[W]e get a chance to see a little bit of the city and take advantage of it." Hopefully, the little bit you won't see is the sprawl of urban blight, Gary. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, on the hubbub leading up to the game: "There seems to be a lot of excitement in the hotel here already, so that's a good sign." (Read: "There's no way these kids are leaving the hotel. I'll bring in strippers. We'll set up blackjack tables. Whatever it takes.")
Our pick: North Carolina. The Tarheels will know better than to be seduced by Detroit's charms.
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State Wolfpack (7-5) vs. UCF Knights (9-3)
December 26, 7 p.m.
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Nothing says more about the world we live in than a cryptocurrency sponsoring a college football bowl game. Can you buy hotdogs with bitcoins at the game? Will the menu prices fluctuate in tune with the international bitcoin market?
Also: RIP, Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. We will miss you.
Our pick: The Knights, -2.
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.
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