I didn’t ace Friday’s New Years’ games, going 2-3 with a couple losses in games I took the favorite (West Virginia and Oregon) but I look to fight back in Saturday’s lesser known bowl games. No highly ranked Top 10 match-ups here, oh no, the BCS takes a break from “blessing us” with their handy work, and we get to see unranked foes go at it, lower ranked teams try to beat up on unranked opponents, and probably some really good football. Don’t get it twisted, highly touted games rarely live up to the billing while these small bowl games often go big. Here’s some small write-ups for Saturday’s games.
Northern Illinois Huskies (+7) @ South Florida Bulls (International Bowl): The Huskies won 4 of their last 6 to become bowl eligible, at one point winning 4 in a row before losing their final two games to end the season (both against bowling teams, Central Michigan and Ohio). South Florida lost 5 of their last 7 after a 5 game winning streak to open the season. They didn’t lose to bad teams by any means, but that doesn’t mean they played like a dream either. Rutgers spanked them 31-0, but they did beat West Virginia. This is a tougher game than people are giving credit, and the 7 points are something I expect to come in handy.
Connecticut Huskies @ South Carolina Gamecocks (-4.5) (AT&T Cotton Bowl): I really like the Huskies, have been pulling hard for them all season long, and will be rooting for them to win again here – but that doesn’t keep me from using my brain and seeing a very small chance of that happening. The Gamecocks are too tough defensively, and with all that time leading up to this game, I think the Ol’ Ball Coach will have a nice plan of attack on tap.
Mississippi Rebels (-3) @ Oklahoma State Cowboys (PAPAJOHNS.com Bowl): I haven’t been a big fan of Mississippi, and watching them play at times this season has been painful – but they turned the season around a bit and have looked semi-successful toward the end of the season. They have some great players, and a RB that can dominate a game. I think they take care of the Cowboys.
Arkansas Razorbacks @ East Carolina Pirates (+8) (AutoZone Liberty Bowl): East Carolina had a great season, and while they can lay eggs, so can the Razorbacks. Arkansas can play great and play like pee, and something tells me a 4 week wait to play the East Carolina Pirates won’t have them rolling with excitement. East Carolina won 6 of their last 7 including 4 in a row to end the season. I think they keep on that hot streak and stick with the Razorbacks.
Michigan State Spartans @ Texas Tech Red Raiders (-7) (Valero Alamo Bowl): I know there’s been some crazy ish going down amongst these two teams, and a lot of players are probably really grateful a game is just around the corner so they can play football and quit talking about off-the-field problems. But I actually think Michigan State’s problems greatly out-weigh Texas Tech’s dilemma, especially for just one game. Mike Leach’s firing will certainly effect the Red Raider team, but probably next season more than this one day. His staff knows what he wants to do, and they’ll do it. As for the Spartans, loosing a gaggle of important pieces for a suspension because of a fight probably puts them in an impossible spot. The Raiders have almost every single one of their players for this game- that’s important.