Catholics, Convicts & The Rest: All The Pre-Jan 2 Bowl Game Previews

After the nuttiness of the New Orleans Bowl, the VFA has calmed down a bit. Thank God.

Anyway, there's a lot to be said for other pre-Jan 2 bowl games out there. So here are the previews:

Dec 20 - FIU vs Marshall (Beef O'Brady's Bowl)

FIU will be happy to be at this one, bearing in mind that's it's going to be practically a home game in St Pete at the (and we can't believe we're saying this) the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. After an eight-win regular season, Coach Brian Norwood may be considering a trip to Hawaii permanently at season-end. But right now, he's a Golden Panther and Kendrick Rhodes, his 1,121-yard rushing machine, will be looking to add another victory to the season. Marshall, who needed a dying-second touchdown to even get bowl-eligible, will be dangerous through QB Rakeem Cato and a nasty defence, which had 28 turnovers last season. PREDICTION: FIU wins by 10.

Dec 21 - TCU vs Louisiana Tech (Poinsettia Bowl)

We all know about TCU. After seeing their own season trainwrecked by Robert Griffin III and Baylor on Week 1, they came back and beat Boise State on its own blue turf to pull off a tremendous upset. Gary Patterson's going to have his boys up to play in San Diego - in its last game before it moves to the Big XII. WAC Champs Louisiana Tech - despite winning seven games in a row - should be worried. PREDICTION: TCU by 21

Dec 22 - Arizona State vs Boise State (Las Vegas Bowl)

The trip to the Las Vegas Bowl must be the red-headed stepchild of Bowl invites bearing in mind where both sides were in early October. Boise State was arguing about a BCS spot, while Arizona State was pretty much nailed-on favourites to win the Pac-12 South title. A couple of months' later, Boise's spot in the National Championship was blown by the wayside after a missed kick against TCU, and the Sun Devils' season - after which Dennis Erickson was fired- went to hell. PREDICTION: Boise by 21.

Dec 24 - Nevada vs Southern Miss (Hawaii Bowl)

Southern Miss by damn! We couldn't believe Souther Miss' incredible win over Houston in the Conference USA Championship Game either - but it happened. Although the bad bit of winning the title was the fact that coach Larry Fedora then got hired by North Carolina, but at least he refused to go to Chapel Hill until after Hawaii. Anyway, QB Austin Davis - who threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 TDs this season is going to cause the Wolfpack all kinds of problems. Nevada will rely on freshman QB Cody Fajardo for a lot of the offence. PREDICTION: Southern Miss by 10.

Dec 26 - Missouri vs UNC (Independence Bowl)

Both Missouri and UNC had middling years. Missouri's two highlights was its move to the SEC
and Gary Pinkel's citation for drink driving, while UNC played all season with interim coach Everett Withers, after Butch Davis' head coaching antics proved too much of an off-the-field highlights for the UNC Athletic Board. Will this game be fun? Probably not. PREDICTION: UNC wins by 7 in a low-scorer.

Dec 27- Western Michigan vs Purdue (Little Caesars Bowl)

The Big Ten gets its first outing with Purdue, who play Western Michigan in what should be quite a high-octane game in Detroit. Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder threw for 3,434 yards this season and Purdue will be hard-pressed to stop him. But the Boilermakers have a QB in their own with the amazingly-named Caleb TerBush (yes sir, that's a seriously name), who threw for 1,800 yards and led them to wins over Ohio State and Indiana to guarantee them a bowl invite. PREDICTION: Western Michigan in a high-scoring upset.

Dec 27 - Louisville-NC State (Belk Bowl)

NC State's best wins were the 27-point comeback at Maryland and the shock of Clemson a couple of games before the end of the season, while Louisville was in the hunt for the Big East title all the way to the end - but in the end Charlie Strong couldn't pull it out of the bag. Watch out for Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville's quarterback. He's going to be awesome next year - and the year after. PREDICTION: Louisville wins by 7 in a classic.

Dec 28 - Toledo vs Air Force (Military Bowl)

Both Air Force and Toledo have pretty high-octane offences, so this one should be fun to watch. In fact, Toledo's providing so much firepower (they average 42 points per game) that they should star in Top Gun: The Sports Movie. Anyway, they have not one but two quarterbacks who have thrown for over 1,000 yards and a receiver in Erik Page who's grabbed over 1,000. We anticipate Page to go to the NFL. Anyway, Air Force puts up 34 points per game, and Tim Jefferson Jr (1,478 yards and 12 TDs) can provide an arm. This one's going to be fun. PREDICTION: Toledo down - ahem- Air Force by 7 in a game that'll be settled when the first team gets to over 40.

Dec 28 - California vs Texas (Holiday Bowl)

We were meant to be impressed by Texas this year. What we got from Texas was lot of noise about a possible exit for the Big XII, a network that everyone is college football is mocking (heck - it's not even available at the Memorial Stadium), and a team that played well at the start of the season then sputtered from then on. Cal, on the other hand, didn't beat anyone spectacular all season long, but lost the usual heartbreaker - this time against their hated rivals, Stanford. PREDICTION: Cal  by 5 in a game that is big on hype, low on entertainment.

Dec 29 - Notre Dame vs Florida State (Champ Sports Bowl)

Catholics! Convicts! We can't wait! Pre-season, it seemed like this might - just might - be a BCS match-up. Florida State went into its game with Oklahoma ranked No.5, while Notre Dame started the season as No.16 with many suspecting that a good run would see them happily in the Top 10. Sadly, FSU lost a heartbreaker to Oklahoma, and then two more to Clemson and Wake Forest. They never found the Top 25 after that. And Notre Dame? A horrible losses to South Florida (turnover central) and Michigan (heartbreaker in the Game Of The Season) downed the season pretty much before it started, and then losses to USC and Stanford took them to 8-4. FSU will have to watch out for Irish receiver Michael Floyd, and the FSU has EJ Manuel's arm, and athleticism on both sides of the ball. PREDICTION: FSU by 2 in a dying-second squeaker.

Dec 29 - Washington vs Baylor (Alamo Bowl)

The Alamo Bowl has had two bits of good news in the past few weeks. One: They've got a team from Texas playing there. Two: That team happens to feature this year's Heisman winner, who wears pretty cool socks. Anyway, we can't wait for Robert Griffin III to show his stuff - again - in the Alamo Bowl, and although Washington's been decent this year, we can't help but think that Baylor has the edge. PREDICTION: Baylor by 10.

Dec 30 - BYU vs Tulsa (Armed Forces Bowl)

Both sides can put up points, averaging 30 points aside this year. We're trying to get excited for this one - but on the list, we can't. Why? Because the last time we saw BYU, they sucked (TCU). PREDICTION: BYU by 7.

Dec 30 - Rutgers vs Iowa State (Pinstripe Bowl)

Just imagine ISU coach Paul Rhoads making the speech "I am so proud of you guys" - after winning the Pinstripe Bowl against the Rutgers - in the Yankees home locker room. Poetic, isn't it? Speaking of Iowa State, their season was highlighted by a wonderful, National Championship-ruining victory over Oklahoma State, while the best moment of Rutgers season was all about the pitch - the walking onto the field of one Eric LeGrand, who was sitting up in a seat. Sports Illustrated gave it the Best Moment of 2011. We agree. PREDICTION: No dry eyes in the house for this one. Iowa State wins by a field goal.

Dec 30 - Mississippi State vs Wake Forest (Music City)

MSU flattered to deceive this season. Despite being a sexy pick for a better bowl, the Cowbellers finished with a 6-6 record and were the usual after-thought in the SEC West. Wake Forest's biggest headline was being on the receiving end of the Clemson heartbreaker in Tiger Stadium, when they lost by a field goal. Even if MSU wins, the smallest hand-clap in the world may be for Dan Mullen. PREDICTION: MSU wins by 10.

Dec 30 - Iowa vs Oklahoma (Insight Bowl)

We've said some pretty nasty things about Oklahoma, and even if Oklahoma do as we think they are going to and beat Iowa handily (and we think they will), Sooners' fans should once again look at this season as a missed opportunity. PREDICTION: Oklahoma by 17.

Dec 31 - Northwestern vs Texas A&M (Meinke Car Care Bowl)

After blowing all of those 10-point first half leads, the only thing that has made Texas A&M fans crow this year is a move to the SEC. After all, after losing the biggest game of the season (Oklahoma State) and the 'Big One' against Texas, there hasn't been a lot to laugh about off the field. As for the Wildcats, we still love Wildcats' quarterback Dan Persa, and what Pat Fitzgerald's done at the team. Of course, we would love to see him take the reigns at Penn State, but that ain't happening. PREDICTION: Northwestern with the upset - by 7.

Dec 31 - Georgia Tech vs Utah (Sun Bowl)

We are psyched about seeing the triple-option again, particularly for a team that made it look so damned fun when they beat Clemson in Atlanta. Utah this year has found that the Pac-12 is a real  step-up for them, and they are going to find Georgia Tech's offense - something that they've never seen this year - a lesson too. PREDICTION: Georgia Tech by 10. 

Dec 31 - Cincy vs Vanderbilt (Liberty Bowl)

The Liberty Bowl in Memphis is going to be sold out to Vanderbilt fans, who don't see their team at home very often. This season, the Commodores have been one of the better stories of the year, celebrating bowl eligibility like they were going to the National Championship Game (You see! It DOES pay to play Wake Forest at the end of the season!) and giving head coach James Franklin an extension that he thoroughly deserved (Vandy's 2-6 SEC record could easily have been 4-4 with a little luck). On the other side, the Bearcats claimed a share of the Big East title thanks to quarterbacking of Zach Collaros, who threw for 1,854 yards and 14 TDs this year. PREDICTION: Vandy's fun ends in tears. Cincy by 10.

Dec 31 - Illinois vs UCLA (Hunger Bowl)

If there's a Dec 31st bowl game to get excited about.....this wouldn't be the one. Illinois recently fired Coach Ron Zook - despite doing UCLA a big favour earlier in the season in knocking off Arizona State, while UCLA's Pac-12 South win proved to be fruitless bearing in mind their back-to-back crushings by USC and Oregon. UCLA's end-of-year record, by the way, means that they are the only team in this round of bowl games with a end-of-year losing record. Hunger Bowl? Hunger to turn this one off, more like? PREDICTION: If anyone cares, Illinois will win by 7.

Dec 31- Virginia vs Auburn (Chick-fil-A Bowl)

The Virginia Cavaliers pulled off one of the shocks of the ACC when it beat Georgia Tech in Charlottesville on October 15th - and the Cavaliers fought their rivals from Blacksburg all the way for an ACC Championship Game spot (they lost the finale 38-0 at home, proving how big the gap still is in the ACC Coastal Division between the Hokies and the rest). Having said that, sophomore QB Michael Rocco - who threw for nearly 2,400 yards and 11 touchdowns - has been a sensation. His problem will be to avoid the Auburn secondary (he threw for 11 interceptions, too). The Cavs defence will also have a problem in Auburn running back Michael Dyer. PREDICTION: Auburn wins in a great closer for the New Year. 

Now, back to the Catholics vs Convicts rivalry...