It’s a big week for the Inner Circle in bowl-dom. Whether they lucked out and got Boogers, or had to settle for Biggers, we’ve got some choice teams in viewing opportunities of a lifetime.
We’re sorry to have to mention that Oklahoma State couldn’t quite get it done against Texas A&M on Friday night. The 24-21 final wasn’t exactly because either team had much D to speak of, but the Ds were kind of bendy-not-breaky, versus … what shall we call them, passive-aggressive offenses. A&M still makes a fine Big 12 team in a pinch.
Air Force, however, prevailed 31-21 over Washington State in the Cheez-It Bowl, and we’re darn proud of them for bringing home our first Inner Circle win of the bowl vulnerability window. Well done!
We note that USC proved once again they’ve been overranked all season, in an ignominious loss to Iowa in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl (motto: Never Abbreviated, No Matter Where We Roam). Hey, it happens.
Saturday 27 December
Speaking of vulnerability windows, holiday visiting is getting the best of us here at your LU Football Commentary Service, and we’re dog-paddling behind at the moment. The goal is to get this posted before the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl starts sucking up all the oxygen, which may mean some filling in later.
Between now and the Poultry & Peach Fest, we’ve got the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic to contend with, featuring #17 Memphis and #10 Penn State. The Cotton Bowl is officially the first of our Bigger Bowls, and it feels Bigger because it’s now played in the House that Jerry Built, AT&T Stadium, in Arlington. We’re sure Memphis will take that in stride; PSU, of course, can’t be fazed by ultra-humongoid bowl venues.
PSU is giving 7, and considering how long it typically takes them to get their motor running in a given game, that may be all they have to give. PSU’s got the roster and Power 5 advantages. But heads up, Nittany Lions; the Tigers like to come out kicking and scratching.
Also kicking off at noon Eastern (11 AM central) are #15 Notre Dame (10-2) and Iowa State (7-5) in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando. The Camping World CEO said some rather unpleasant things about President Trump a couple of years ago, which we always feel is unnecessary (even when it’s a president we, personally, don’t especially care for), so forgive us for being a bit standoffish about this bowl. It’s at least got a long ton of Booger cred, not only having been through eight sponsor and name changes since 1990, but having one of those changes be from “MicronPC Bowl” to “MicronPC.com Bowl.”
You can’t buy that kind of Booger cred. You just have to wait for it to light on your shoulder like the butterfly from Brazil. To no one’s surprise, the Arsh have the odds-nod by 3.5. But as always, ‘ware the Cyclone Jinx.
At last, at 3 PM Central (4 PM Eastern), the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will erupt in Mercedes-Benz in Atlanta, featuring the #4 Oklahoma Sooners and the #1 LSU Tigers in the most august match to date of our fabled Inner Circle.
With Heisman winner Joe Burrow behind center for LSU, the Sooners are going to miss the heck out of DL Ronnie Perkins, OU’s best pass rusher suspended for at least this game. (Reportedly for failing a drug test, although Coach Riley isn’t confirming any reports on that head.) Also suspended are RB Rhamondre Stevenson and WR Trejan Bridges. It won’t help to lose the depth in the backfield with Stevenson out.
From everything we can tell, meanwhile, LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire is still a game-time decision coming off his hamstring injury, and we suspect he’s probably not going to play since it’s getting down to the wire and we haven’t heard yet. Against an SEC West defense, that would be a bigger deal; Oklahoma has been, um, porous against the run throughout the season, especially O-line powered off-tackle charging, so we’re not sure how much it will affect LSU’s chances.
With Delpit and JaCoby Stevens roving the LSU defensive backfield, Jalen Hurts will need a lot of mobility, and as much unpenalized protection as he can get from his line, to find receivers. It will help if the Sooners can punch the run as they’ve been laboring to do since the Baylor comeback. That LSU D-line looms awfully fast and furious though.
The suave Zouave give is 14. Sooner fans are praying. Let the wild rumpus begin.
Saturday rounds off with the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, in which #3 Clemson and #2 Ohio State will finally each play an opponent worthy of their steel. OK, we kid, we kid. Sort of. OK, all right, both teams really are very, very good. We expect big things from the game.
Besides being 13-0 each, both teams have terrific QBs (though it seems OSU’s Justin Fields still has a hint of hobble from his mid-season sprain) and fabulous-yardage RBs in Dobbins and Etienne. We’d call Clemson for a slight edge on the D side, but really, not that much. That being said, neither defense has faced the kind of offense this year that both teams will bring.
We can’t choose for the life of us, but the oddsquad is calling it for Ohio State by 3. Good luck to both in Glendale.
Monday 30 December
Monday rolls around and presents us with some very excellent Booger viewing, starting with the ServPro First Responder Bowl, which you may remember from story and song as the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl in previous years. This bowl being well on its way to peak Booger Excellence, we put before you the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-4) and the Western Michigan Broncos (7-5), who we feel sure will be able to finish this year’s game rather than having it called due to weather right in the middle of it.
Played in Gerald J. Ford (no relation) at SMU, and always enlivened by kid-friendly fire engines and SWAT MRAPs, the First Responder Bowl sees WKU favored by 3 for some reason, and gets a big Blue Salute from us.
The Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl kicks off next, with Mississippi State (6-6) meeting Louisville (7-5). Much as you love the on-field action, we know your enduring concern here is with the Hattie B’s hot-chicken-eating contest, which we track religiously.
So we’ve got you covered: Louisville LB Patrick Owen, sporting the Hattie B’s belt, is this year’s winner (and seemed to feel well enough to stand up for a little victory address after consuming 19 hot wings). Congratulations!
The 🍗 King Patrick Owen! pic.twitter.com/mK9GkvUzpV
— Music City Bowl (@MusicCityBowl) December 28, 2019
On the gridiron, the Bulldogs are giving 4.5.
Also Monday afternoon, the Redbox Bowl – formerly the Foster Farms Bowl, which we’re just saying had some killer swag bags for the players – gets underway in the Tiny Stadium in Santa Clara. We do miss this bowl’s incarnation as the Fight Hunger Bowl. Cal (7-5) isn’t coming from a distance, which is probably best, but Illinois (6-6) did have to come a ways for this. That may be why the Golden Bears are giving 5.5.
The Capital One Orange Bowl owns the night, featuring #9 Florida (10-2) and #24 (ha!) Virginia (9-4) in Hard Rock Stadium. Having the Orange Bowl played in, you know, NOT the Orange Bowl still takes some getting used to, even though it’s been at least 20 years, but we’re sticking with it.
This game is a whimsical mismatch, but those sometimes go against type in the bowl vulnerability window. So the Gator give of 14.5 may not be the fickle finger of fate for the Yahoos.
Tuesday 31 December
A much better class of bowl inaugurates New Year’s Eve Tuesday for us, with Virginia Tech (8-4) of our Inner Circle taking on Kentucky (7-5) in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC. You may not know what the Belk department store chain is, but some of us do, and have fond memories of it (including the go-to shoe department; don’t miss the sports shoes sale for Labor Day). This bowl gets very good attendance for a semi-Booger, typically in the 40,000-some range.
We regret to hear that Hokie LB of Excellence Caleb Farley may not be on the field for the game, which will hurt. We also note that the local news stations are providing helpful hints to Wildcat fans for how to enjoy themselves in Charlotte, which we think is hilarious (like you have to tell Kentuckians anywhere how to have fun). North Carolina; what can you do. We’re just saying there’s a reason it’s at risk of turning more purple.
VT gives 2.5.
Next up: the spanking new Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso, featuring Florida State (6-6) and Arizona State (7-5). This used to be the Hyundai Sun Bowl, but we kind of like Tony the Tiger, and hope he’ll hang around for a while. The oddsdudes have found a way to handicap this one, for which we salute them roundly. We figure they didn’t just look for the team with “Sun” in its name to give the nod to the Sun Devils.
We’re thrilled to have the AutoZone Liberty Bowl lurking for us on New Year’s Eve, because it’s a rare match-up between our Inner Circle stalwarts #23 Navy (10-2) and Kansas State (8-4). There couldn’t be two more deserving teams for this fine old bowl, which like the Belk Bowl gets a honking good crowd each year and is always a royal hoot. Our own OK-State downed Mizzou in it last year; this year we can’t lose either way.
We’re not necessarily feeling the oddsquad’s 2.5 advantage for Navy, but we’ll be delighted to see it all through.
The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl is coming at us fast, bringing Georgia State (7-5) and our own Wyoming (7-5) to Tucson for an afternoon clash. We couldn’t be prouder of the Cowboys for this step-out at the end of a retooling season. We also understand we’re to have an LU correspondent in attendance, and may hope for a photo or two.
It’s extremely gratifying to report that Wyoming is giving 7. Go Pokes!
Tuesday night sees #11 Utah (11-2) and Texas (7-5) in the Valero Alamo Bowl. If you haven’t seen Longhorn QB Sam Ehlinger when he gets up a good head of steam, you might call this one a hilarious mismatch. But we’ve seen Sam, so we don’t think the Utah give of 7 is unnaturally puny. In honor of our Texas family, we’ll even undertake to utter a few encouraging bleats for the Burnt Orange.
Wednesday 1 January 2020
On New Year’s Day, of course, it just doesn’t let up, starting with the Vrbo Citrus Bowl in which #14 Michigan (9-3) will meet #13 Alabama (10-2; restrain yourselves, LSU fans) in Orlando. As every schoolboy knows, Vrbo is a vacation-rental company. You’ve all seen the commercials in which delighted people meander through ridiculously gorgeous properties and gaze from their barbecue fires upon gently lapping waters and glorious sunsets. No clogged toilets or illegally parked neighbor cars with Vrbo.
The Tide gives only 7, which seems like bettors being weak and undisciplined from where we sit.
With the Outback Bowl we’re back at Ray-Jay in Tampa, to be entertained by #18 Minnesota (10-2) and #12 Auburn (9-3). We congratulate Goldie and Pals for getting to a New Year’s Day bowl game, and wish them well against the 7.5-point War Eagle give.
The Granddaddy of them All, the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, kicks off at 2 PM Pacific in Pasadena between #6 Oregon and #8 Wisconsin, and although we’d urge Oregon to get a D (and Wisconsin to get an O, for that matter), we figure there’s a good chance of a pretty fair game here.
We can’t blame the oddsfellows for giving the Badgers a 3-point advantage.
Meanwhile, #5 Georgia and #7 Baylor both come into the Allstate Sugar Bowl 11-2 for the night game. But we’re leery of that Georgia defense, and doubt it will take the Bulldogs three quarters to shut Baylor’s run down, in the more learn-by-doing manner of the Sooners. Georgia gives 5.5; we’ll stand loyally with the Big 12 and root for the Bears.
Thursday 2 January
Thursday aims two Booger Bowls at us that we wouldn’t miss for anything. In the early slot, Boston College (6-6) and #21 Cincinnati (10-3) meet for the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl, in the first year of its new TicketSmarter incarnation.
You may guess that the Bearcats are giving 7, having played for the conference title this year and looking pretty peppy up to then to boot, as opposed to the not-so-much season enjoyed by the Eagles.
The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl steps up for the late game, offering – we’re sure – the usual tax-advice benefits to qualifying ticket-holders, along with a classic match-up of Indiana (8-4) and Tennessee (7-5) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Vols are giving 1.5 if you feel like taking points; we don’t, but there’s a still a lot of fun things to do in the Jacksonville area, before and after the game.
Friday 3 January
We thought we’d never get to Friday afternoon and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the only bowl game ever named for a starchy tuberous root crop, this year graced by our very own Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5), playing formal host on the Smurf Turf in Boise to MAC’s Ohio (6-6).
We aren’t exactly gratified to report that it’s supposed to be about 40 and dumping a wintry mix of precip on the field on Friday afternoon, as the temps slide downward into oblivion. But we know both teams can handle it, as can their many fans. The Bobcats are favored by 8, which we can’t objectively gainsay, but what we still say is, Go Pack!
The FCS championship match is set for 11 January, with North Dakota State and James Madison meeting in Frisco.
We congratulate this year’s Div II champion West Florida for a fine 48-40 win over Minnesota State in the Sultan of Brunei High School Stadium in McKinney, Texas. Well done!
In Div III, North Central (IL) blew in from the sticks to run the table, after edging past Mount Union, by wiping the field with perennial high-seed Wisconsin-Whitewater, 41-14. Dang. It’s the first national title for this promising club. Well done, Cardinals!