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College Football - Let's Go Bowl-ing

By Sean McDonald
Saturday, December 14th, 2002
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It's bowl season and with 28 games going on in 17 days, it is a daunting task to decide which ones to tune into. With that in mind, here are my top-10 bowl games that for various reasons should be worthwhile for you.

10) The "I Miss College Football" Bowl

New Orleans Bowl: North Texas vs. Cincinnati (12/17)

I will be the first to admit that I couldn't name a North Texas football player. But how could you not cheer for a team whose nickname is the Mean Green? It will have been 10 days since the last football game when this one kicks off, which is too long for some college football fanatics.

9) The "Hey You, In the Stands, You Think You Can Coach?" Bowl

Las Vegas Bowl: UCLA vs. New Mexico (12/25)

Okay, it's not quite that bad, but the coach for UCLA for this game will be someone who has not even been an assistant coach for the past 10 years. Ed Kezirian, assistant director of academic services for the Bruin football team, will be the "head coach" for the Bruins. The real coaching job will be split by the coordinators, but you have to wonder what would happen if there is a key play that is blown by the UCLA coaching staff.

8) The "Darn it, Honey, the TV is Broken" Bowl

Humanitarian Bowl: Boise State vs. Iowa State (12/31)

The field is blue. It's cute, it's different, it's kind of funny. But don't let the field distract you from watching one of the best college football teams you haven't seen. And no, it's not Seneca Wallace and the fading Cyclones. The Cyclones lost five of their last six by an average of almost 26 points per game. Ouch. More astounding is that the Broncos have won every game since an early season loss to Arkansas by an average score of 51-16. I don't condone gambling, but take the Broncos and give the points to a buddy who doesn't believe in "small-time" conferences.

7) The "It Sounded Better in August" Bowl

Outback Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan (1/1)

A pair of powerhouses meet on New Year's Day. Sounds like a heck of a game, right? Not if you've seen either the Gators or the Wolverines struggle this season. Both teams were hyped as national contenders, but played like pretenders most of the year. The biggest news from Gator camp all year has been a web site that promoted firing head coach Ron Zook, while the Wolverines have looked un-Michigan like, especially on offense where the search for a Desmond Howard-like game-breaker continues.

6) The "Shouldn't They Play Every Year?" Bowl

Continental Tire Bowl: Virginia vs. West Virginia (12/28)

It's not Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, but I would think this would make a nice preseason rivalry. I was surprised to find out that these two teams haven't faced each other since 1985, but this will be the 23rd meeting for the two programs. Hopefully, this will spark some new interest in this matchup, which I think would be better than watching a Virginia/Akron or West Virginia/UT-Chattanooga game, which both occurred this year.

5) The "If I Play Well, I Could End Up Being a Bengal" Bowl

GMAC Motor City Bowl: Marshall vs. Louisville (12/18)

If Louisville's Dave Ragone plays a great game, he won't jump ahead of Marshall's Byron Leftwich, but the Bengals haven't exactly followed the book on draft day. Both of these guys will be playing on Sunday next year, and both have been beaten up on the field this year (good training for a future in Cincinnati). You won't find a bowl game, though, with a pair of quarterbacks who have played with more heart this year. Also, it might be the last time you could see either of these players on a winning team for the next five years, so catch it while you can.

4) The "This Game Cost Us Almost $12 Million" Bowl

Gator Bowl: N.C. State vs. Notre Dame (1/1)

Notre Dame has been a great, if over-publicized, story this year, but N.C. State was capturing a lot of headlines, as well, before struggling down the stretch in the ACC. The Wolfpack did become the first ACC team to beat Florida State two years in a row, and should prove to be a tough matchup for the opportunistic Irish defense. Irish fans may complain that Florida State made it to a BCS bowl with an 8-4 record, however, the Irish also held their own destiny and blew it in an embarrassing effort against USC.

3) The "If it Wasn't For the Big Rose on the Field, I Wouldn't Believe it" Bowl

Rose Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Washington State (1/1)

Pardon me for being old fashioned, but wasn't there supposed to be a traditional matchup in this game if it wasn't played for the national title? Now there is chance for a bowl to pick what teams it wants. Call me confused about the process, but I won't let it get in the way of what should be a great game between two of the best programs over the past three years. Jason Gesser will hopefully have use of both of his legs, while Oklahoma will try to grind it out with Quentin Griffin. The key to this game is which Oklahoma defense shows up, the one that dominated Texas, or looked as slow as Greg Luzinski against its archival, Oklahoma State.

2) The "When Did the Halftime Show Become So Long in Pasadena?" Bowl

Orange Bowl: Iowa vs. USC (1/2)

The Rose Bowl East features two Heisman finalists in Iowa's Brad Banks and USC's Carson Palmer. Two of the best offenses in the country will matchup, but it will probably be which defense can contain the other's offense that will determine the winner of this game. Iowa's rush defense is great, but it covers up the fact that their pass defense has struggled at times this year. Hopefully, the month long layoff will not affect either of these teams in what looks a bowl game shootout, which is what bowl games should be.

1) The "It's Halftime ... Honey, You Want to Go See a Movie?" Bowl

Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Miami (1/3)

Here are three reasons why Ohio State will win this game. First, Maurice Clarett will run wild on Miami's below-average run defense. Second, Craig Krenzel will continue his Brian Griese-like mistake-free, one big play a game run at quarterback. Third, the Miami bus will be an hour late to the game. All kidding aside, I just don't see how Ohio State can stay in this game. They have grinded it out all year, hanging on with their defense and getting enough plays out of their offense to just win. They aren't glamorous, and while a win is a win, this is Miami, and not Purdue or Illinois they have to beat. My prediction: Miami 42, Ohio State 17.

Twenty-eight games in 17 days is every college football fan's dream. I know I'll be watching, and hopefully this guide will give you a reason to watch these 10 games and don't forget to tune in to the other 18 because there is a good reason to watch them all.

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