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College football fans may be among the few Americans not ready for the year to end. The bulk of the nation, if not busy fleeing "nightmarish flame and towering smoke", plunging into debt in a shopping orgy, or camping out in line for Star Wars*, will welcome Baby New Year with open arms. That is, until Junior is outed by the FBI for babbling state secrets into his Classic Fisher-Price Chatter Phone toy. For now, we can look forward to 2018 with the naive optimism that is the calling card of this great nation. Should you need a distraction in the interim, CBS, ABC, Fox Sports, and all the ESPNs have you covered. Just ask any college football fan: we are entering the Gridiron Grand Finale, the Pigskin Pinnacle, the seasonal smorgasbord that is Bowl . . . er, Season. Forty (for-ty, four-zero, FORTY!) games await beginning with a brief slate of games this weekend. Call them the amuse-bouche. We are not above eager anticipation of the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl and others kicking off this Saturday.
Note: this Report omits the Celebration Bowl for no other reason than we don't want to slip down the slope that is covering anything outside the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.
The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Troy University Trojans (-6.5) vs. University of North Texas Mean Green
Saturday, December 16, 1 p.m. ESPN (Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA)
Selecting the nickname for Troy University's football squad must have been among the easiest decision in sports. The origin story of the Mean Green, however, is murky. Several competing tales claim the coach's wife, or the announcer, or various other sources, picked the name.
Our favorite involves an impromptu cheer led by two drunken NTU football players. Legend has it that during a game in the late '60s, UNT players Willie "Sleepy" Davis and Ira "Hotrod" Daniels downed a bottle (a little one, supposedly, however keep in mind this is Texas, where Everything Is Bigger) at halftime and Davis, irritated at the crowd's lack of enthusiasm in the second half, sprung to his feet and led the student section in a rousing chorus of "Mean Green, you look so good to me!" We have no idea what that means. Perhaps the lyric referenced the dominant play of Pittsburgh Steelers legend "Mean" Joe Greene. It's unclear. Also, drinking at halftime?
College Football Report pick: All the money (85%) is on Troy. Betting the chalk is boring and uncontroversial. Experts look lazy when picking the favorite. And yet . . . An early line movement from -7 to -6.5 may be the only cause to believe the 'dogs are underrated. (Perhaps not the only reason, as the Mean Green did finish with a 9-4 record including wins against . . . well, one of the Ws came against the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners, so let's not look further at UNT's record.) Bettors aren't exempt from dumb herd animal behavior any more than other large group of people, but we think taking the favorite is the move here. You'll note a trend throughout in fact.
The College Football Free Range Antibiotic Free Sacred Chicken**: Troy by 2.
AutoNation Cure Bowl
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (-6) vs. Georgia State Panthers
Saturday, December 16, 1:30 p.m. CBSSN (Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL)
This will not be the last time we consult Google for the nature of a bowl game. This Cure Bowl will be presented by AutoNation which, we can guess without consulting the Font of All Human Knowledge, is a seller or insurer of automobiles. Apart from imagining the bowl is dedicated to some cause pitted against an affliction we'd all rather avoid, we couldn't hazard a guess as to the nature of the Cure Bowl. Ah, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation as it turns out. Pink, lots of pink.
CFR pick: We have always had a soft spot for the 'Toppers. Go Big Red!
The Chicken: WKU by 5.
The Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon Ducks (-7.5) vs. #25 Boise State Broncos
Saturday, December 16, 2:30 p.m. ABC (Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, NV)
The Las Vegas Bowl will be played in Las Vegas this year. Why these two teams, perennial contenders (Oregon) or at least spoilers (Boise), are playing in a preamble game is unclear. We do expect plenty of fireworks. Defense isn't a strong suit for either squad.
CFR pick: Over 59.5
The Chicken: Boise by 4
The GILDAN New Mexico Bowl
Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Colorado State Rams (-5)
Saturday, December 16, 3:30 p.m. ESPN (Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium, in Albuquerque, NM)
Let's talk about the location for the hotly anticipated New Mexico Bowl. Beyond the controversial selection of New Mexico for the New Mexico Bowl, the site itself presents a titillating world of possibilities. Dreamstyle? Are we talking about martial arts? The Sybaris of the Southwest? Mattress. We're going mattress.
Alas, no. Apparently the naming rights went to Dreamstyle Remodeling, a local construction firm. (For the low price of $10 million, let's note.)
CFR pick: Colorado State hung with Alabama before folding 41-23 back in September and should overmatch the Herd without much trouble. The Rams have had mixed success in close games (2-2 in games decided by one score) however so keep an eye on the clock.
The Chicken: Marshall by 9
The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (-3.5)
Saturday, December 16, 7:00 p.m. ESPN (Crampton Bowl in Montgomery, AL)
We have inexplicably referred to MTSU as Mountain Dew State since . . . forever. Why? Most likely due to the school's location although the actual reason has been lost to time. As evidence of The Volunteer State's obsession with Mountain Dew and general insanity we'd point to young people's obsession with "dewshine" (not the real thing - which, let's be honest, sounded pretty awesome) but the bootleg version. To formulate Dewshine, yellow-bellied youth mix the soda with alcohol. We use that term loosely as anything close at hand can be used, even, for the truly idiotic, racing fuel. Fuel up, Tennesseans. Have your fun now before your teeth fall out from Mountain Dew Mouth.
Getting back to the game, the Red Wolves deserve a long look. Arkansas State always fields a frisky team. Especially under the tutelage of former Head Coach Gus Malzahn (now overseeing Auburn), ASU beat some legit teams and outright crushed conference foes. A notable game back in 2012 featured the same matchup as the Camellia Bowl with the Red Wolves posting a 45-0 spanking over Mountain Dew State. Saturday won't be as lopsided but winning tends to be contagious. Malzahn raised ASU's national profile and the team fields some decent talent.
CFR pick: Arkansas State
The Chicken: The Red Wolves by 16
* Here is the official College Football Report last-minute gift idea: join the Antioxidants Alliance and "Unite for a Healthy Galaxy" by gifting some Star Wars-branded Dole fruit to your loved ones.
** For those unfamiliar, the College Football Report Sacred Chicken, (now Free Range and Antibiotic Free), debuted in 2013 honoring the Roman Empire's soothsaying fowls. Senators and generals consulted the sacred chickens before every momentous decision. The luminaries released the birds, caged and starved for days, onto a heap of grain and, if the chickens "ate it avidly while stamping their feet and scattering" the kernels, fate bode well. If not, the augury was unfavorable. Woe betide he who disregarded the chickens' omen.
Mike Luce is The World's Greatest College Football Columnist. He welcomes your comments.