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Our bowl series continues.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
WINNER: WEIRDEST SPONSOR
Time: Friday, December 27, 2:30 p.m., ESPN (Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD)
Teams: Marshall Thundering Herd (-2.5) vs. Maryland Terrapins
Comment: Northrop Grumman edged out Royal Purple as our 2013 winner for weirdest sponsor. The name (Military) and location (Annapolis) lends naturally to an armed forces-related endorsement, but a multibillion dollar defense contractor known for manufacturing drones seems like a politically tone-deaf choice. Formed in 2008 under the name "The Congressional Bowl" before signing EagleBank as a sponsor, the bowl tie-ins include Army (if eligible) against the #8 ACC team, with the #5 Conference USA team serving as a backup if the Black Knights don't reach six wins. Thus, the Marshall-Maryland combination in 2013.
Maryland head coach Randy Edsall has yet to win a bowl game after taking the job in 2011. Edsall looked like a prime candidate to take over after UM ousted Ralph "the Fridge" Friedgen in 2010. Edsall had just led lowly UConn to four straight winning seasons and four bowl games, but has struggled with the Terrapins: 13-23 overall and 6-18 in ACC play. At this point, Maryland hardly seems ready to jump conferences into the Big Ten and Edsall's performance on Friday may set the tone for a make-or-break fourth year.
Speculating on Edsall's potential replacement may be more interesting than the game itself. Our picks: Dan McCarney of North Texas, Michigan State d-coordinator Pat Narduzzi, or Ohio State's Tom Herman. We'd give Herman the edge: he would bring a young, dynamic vibe to a languishing program and experience from the high-powered Buckeye offense. The Big Ten looks less and less like the grind-it-out conference of years past, and installing a pass-happy "O" could stimulate an otherwise moribund fanbase.
As for Marshall, football expert Phil Steele ranked the Herd among his "most improved" teams for the 2013 season. The results bear out his projection: after a losing record (5-7, 4-4 in Conference USA) in 2012, Doc Holliday (yes, that's really his name) took the Herd to 9-4 overall and 7-1 in C-USA.
Recent trends against the point spread seem to favor Maryland: the Terrapins have covered in last five games and six of the last seven against non-conference opponents.
Score updates throughout the game will be provided by a prototype of Northrop's classified RQ-180 drone, the latest in the company's line of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles commissioned by the Department of Defense. The development of the RQ-180 will reportedly give the US military an advantage in "contested" or "denied" airspace, where the less stealthy (and possibly compromised) RQ-170 would be less effective. What does all this mean? Essentially, that by 2015 (at the latest) the US will be able to blithely pilot enormous (reportedly with a wingspan up to 130 feet) drones over long distances for days at a time, flying undetected by radar, spying on hostile, neutral, and allied targets alike.
Too bad Army wasn't eligible this year. No doubt the RQ-180 is capable of reading lips and playsheets from long distances.
CFR Pick: Maryland
Sacred Chicken Proprietary Final Score Prophesy (SCPFSP): Marshall 48, Maryland 15
WINNER: BOWLS YOU KNEW EXISTED BUT HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT
Time: Friday, December 27, 6 p.m., ESPN (Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX)
Teams: Syracuse Orange vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (-4)
Forecast: Mixed. Texas is big.
Comment: We always forget about the Texas Bowl. One of six bowls in the state of Texas, the Texas Bowl takes place first (followed by the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, et al.), has the least interesting match-up, and lacks a compelling storyline. The Texas Bowl began life as The Houston Bowl (which was played in Houston) followed by the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas but, appropriately enough for such a lackluster game, has yet to secure a sponsor other than Texas.
Texas Bowl organizers have a wealth of options at hand for future sponsors, ranging from the well-known and well-regarded (Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines), to the obscure (Commercial Metals Company, Flowserve Corp.), the menacing (Halliburton), and the despised (BP, Exxon). Our vote is for Waste Management, headquartered in Houston, which is in Texas. The national exposure could help the company promote its "new waste solutions."
Alternatively, the bowl could branch out into neighboring Mexico to become The Mexico Bowl (to be played in Mexico) or could become the first bowl in North America, The North America Bowl, provided the organizers could find a suitable location in North America.
CFR Pick: Gophers
SCPFSP: Syracuse 25, Minnesota 28
Fight Hunger Bowl
Time: Friday, December 27, 9:30 p.m., ESPN (AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA)
Teams: Washington Huskies (-4.5) vs. Brigham Young Cougars
Forecast: Scattered clouds, 46 degrees.
Comment: Finally, a sponsor we can all get behind.
Visiting fans looking to fight hunger should try Paul Martin's American Grill, "a classic American restaurant with a California twist." Even the insufferable food snobs in the Bay Area find the fare passable, even noteworthy, at least for a chain restaurant located (gasp) in a shopping mall.
One reviewer loved the smoked chicken bites and the "toothsome" Caesar kale salad, despite the excessive "thick dressing" which "undermined" the dish, but faulted the "uneven execution" of the entrees, such as the "barely cooked" albacore tuna. We're left to assume that Martin's rises above the likes of Applebee's and Outback by virtue of the attentive waitstaff, as the reviewer, no doubt stressed by the surrounding horde of hoi polloi, never felt "neglected" and appreciatively accepted their server's apology for bringing out the orders "so quickly."
CFR Pick: Under 65
SCPFSP: Washington 2, BYU 52
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.