BOWL PREVIEWS: New Year's Eve

Alas, I will miss most of the Dec. 31 bowls because of work. Some of those, such as the Roady's Huminatarian Bowl, will not be that big a loss. But others, such as the Sun Bowl, should be good games.

As far as records go, I'm 11-4 straight up, 5-10 against the score. Thank you, Mississippi State and Central Florida, for setting back offensive football 50 years.

Bowl: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

Teams: Cal vs. Air Force

Cal's season was... The typical season for a No. 2 team this year: A rise to the second-ranked spot because of a strong start and the errors of others, followed by a stunning fall. Cal began the year 5-0, including a victory against Oregon at Autzen on Sept. 29. The Golden Bears have won just once since then -- a 20-17 squeaker over hapless Washington State, and that back on Nov. 3.

Air Force's season was... A 9-3 campaign that placed them second in the Mountain West. Among the teams that fell to the Falcons: Utah, TCU and Notre Dame. Oh, wait a minute. Almost everybody beat Notre Dame this year. The losses, though, were to the better teams on the slate: BYU, Navy and New Mexico.

Cal impact player: RB Justin Forsett was one of the few bright spots in a season of disappointment. He rushed for 1,406 yards and 13 TDs, averaging 5.0 ypc along the way. He ran for 100 or more yards in eight games, and fell four yards short in the last game of the season. But even Forsett could disappear when the Bears needed him, scoring just twice in their six losses.

Air Force impact player: WR Chad Hall, responsible for 1,903 all-purpose yards. He's listed as a receiver, but he ran for 1,415 yards and 14 TDs on 211 carries while catching the ball a team-leading 46 times for 488 yards and a score.

Fun Sponsor Fact: Not many bowl sponsors can write something like this on their Web sites:

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The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: No Bad Guys Allowed.

Prediction: Cal is sliding hard; the defeat at the hands of Oregon State was either a harbinger of things to come or a tipping point that sent the Bears over the edge. Meanwhile, Air Force is, like most mid-majors facing BCS teams, looking for validation. Air Force 34, Cal 23


Bowl: Brut Sun Bowl, 2 p.m., CBS

Teams: No. 22 South Florida at Oregon

South Florida's season was... A rapid rise and fall. The Bulls rose to No. 2, an honor held by approximately 36 programs at some point this year, before a three-game skid knocked them to 6-3. But USF finished on an up note, winning its last three, even if all three were truly woeful Big East teams.

Oregon's season was... A slower rise and fall. As Dennis Dixon gave defensive coordinators fits, the Ducks rose to No. 2. Unfortunately, Dixon's knee fell out and onto the field during a game against Arizona. Oregon dropped its last three games and tumbled out of the rankings.

South Florida impact player: DE George Selvie has an absurd 31.5 tackles for loss, costing opponents 139 yards. No, that's not a typo. The man has 31.5 TFL. Among them, 14.5 sacks. Is that a record? Not quite. He needs another half a TFL to set the NCAA mark. Oregon surrendered nine sacks in the last three games, including a disastrous five against UCLA.


You see a QB. George Selvie sees lunch.


Oregon impact player: RB Jonathan Stewart. With the mobile Dixon out, the team's leading rusher becomes all the more important. It's been a mixed bag so far: he rushed for 131 yards at Arizona, 33 at UCLA and 163 against Oregon State. He scored none of his 10 rushing TDs during the three-game skid. Overall, Stewart has 1,469 yards on 257 carries.

Fun Sponsor Fact: Actual press release headline follows.

Masculine Icon Returns to Drag Racing


Write your own punchline.

Prediction: Both of these teams fell short of the high mark they established for themselves early in the season, but the Bulls still have their starting quarterback, something Oregon lacks, and a tough defense. That makes all the difference. South Florida 27, Oregon 10


Bowl: Roady's Humanitarian, 2 p.m., ESPN2

Teams: Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State

Georgia Tech's season was... A final, loving memorial to Chan Gailey Equilibrium. Like clockwork, the Yellow Jackets turned in a seven-win effort. The Ramblin' Wreck didn't lose to any truly bad teams, and they defeated Clemson, 13-3. But aside from that, they defeated Notre Dame, Samford, Miami (FL), Army, Duke and North Carolina -- all truly bad teams. Gailey was shown the door.

Fresno State's season was... Nothing to write home about. Pat Hill's squad went 8-4 in the WAC. Kansas State was the only BCS win of the bunch, while losses include those to Oregon, Hawaii, Boise State and Texas A&M.

Georgia Tech impact player: RB Tashard Choice was one of the few positives for the Jacket faithfult his year, rushing for 1,310 yards and 10 TDs in 11 games. The Jackets lost the one game Choice didn't play (Virginia Tech) and were 1-2 in the other games in which he didn't rush for more than 100 yards.

Fresno State impact player: QB Tom Brandstater had a good season, though not an awe-inspiring one, completing 61.2 percent of his passes (188-of-307) for 2,369 yards, 14 TDs and 5 INTs.

Fun Sponsor Fact: Roady's has truck stops in Boise and Fresno, but not in Atlanta. An omen?

Prediction: Not an omen. Fresno State has benched eight players for the game, though none of them were starters. Some of the GT defensive players, at least, probably want to send John Tenuta out on a winning note. Brandstater can be pressured, having been sacked 17 times this year. Fully realizing that doing so is potentially a stupid mistake, I'm going with the Jackets. Georgia Tech 17, Fresno State 10


Bowl: Gaylord Hotels Music City, 4 p.m., ESPN

Teams: Kentucky vs. Florida State

Kentucky's season was... A bit short of the breakout campaign Wildcats fans were hoping for. A sloppy loss at South Carolina began a 2-5 slide that dashed Kentucky's dark-horse SEC title hopes, while turnover-riddled performances against the Gamecocks and Mississippi State deep-sixed QB Andre Woodson's Heisman hopes. But two straight winning seasons and two straight bowl bids isn't bad if you're Kentucky.

Florida State's season was... Yet another chapter in what is becoming a slow, painful denoument to Papa Bowden's career. The Seminoles, who stood astride the ACC for much of the 1990s, now find themselves a middling team in the conference (4-4) and overall (7-5). FSU beat several bowl teams this year, but Boston College was the only really impressive win, and the Seminoles managed to drop a game to woeful Miami (FL).

Kentucky impact player: Woodson, shaky performances or not. He was 295-of-468 through the air for 3,351 yards, 36 TDs and 10 INTs. As we've come to expect from Woodson, he had trouble staying upright; he was sacked 35 times.

Florida State impact player: Whoever's left. FSU will be without a jaw-dropping 19 scholarship players, most of them suspended over a cheating scandal, violations of team rules and incidents of rampant rudeness.


This is about what FSU's bench looks like now.


Fun Sponsor Fact: If any of the football players want to impress their girlfriends, they might look into the special "Chocolate Sensation Experience" that will be offered this Valentine's Day at Gaylord Opryland's spa, all for the low, low price of $286.

The experience begins with the Chocolate Sensation Facial. After the aestitician determines precisely what your skin needs, this facial purifies, refines and moisturizes to counteract harsh winter weather. Next, the Chocolate Sensation Massage will enhance circulation and balance the body. Then, improve skin’s elasticity and hydration during the Chocolate Sensation Silk Wrap, which also replenishes with antioxidants and nutrients. Finally, be soothed from soul to sole with the Sole Sensation Pedicure, served with a signature chocolate martini.


Really, is there any better way to spend $300?

Prediction: Even at full strength, this would be a tough game for the Seminoles. Woodson will be trying to add to his NFL stock, he has an obscene number of good targets and the Florida State offense is absolutely pathetic. Kentucky 38, FSU 13


Bowl: Insight, 5:30 p.m., NFL Network

Teams: Indiana vs. Oklahoma State

Indiana's season was... The kind of thing College Gameday's producers drool over. Following the death of Coach Terry Hoeppner, the Hoosiers made an inspiring run to a bowl game -- Hoeppner's stated goal -- clinced with a dramatic victory over rival Purdue by a game-winning FG with their former coach's widow on hand. Disney movies don't turn out that well. Sneer at the fact that Western Michigan, Akron and Ball State are among the wins -- but seven wins are more than Indiana has seen in a long time.

Oklahoma State's season was... A man! Despite the immature and irrational explosion by head coach Mike Gundy (and don't come at me with that "defending his team" crap), the Cowboys managed to rebound from a 1-2 start to end up 6-6. Granted, the only Big XII South team looking up at Oklahoma State was Baylor, but six wins are six wins.

Indiana impact player: QB Kellen Lewis accounted for 3,492 yards of total offense for the Hoosiers, completing 60.9 percent of his passes (243-of-399) for 2,839 yards and 26 TDs against 10 INTs while adding 653 yards rushing (4.8 ypc) and 8 TDs on the ground. Not to jinx him, but no fumbles. In 2006 or 2007.

Oklahoma State impact player: RB Danrell Savage rushed for 1,172 yards and 8 TDs -- in ten games. His only sub-100 effort was a 55-yard day against Georgia, when he touched the ball 10 times. He also caught 25 passes for 258 yards and 2 TDs.

Fun Sponsor Fact: I'm still not entirely certain that Insight is not a shell company formed by Tempe's elite to give them a "sponsor" for another bowl game. Unless you can make better sense of this.

Prediction: The Hoosiers have better motivation than possibly any other team this postseason. Indiana 24, Oklahoma State 17


Bowl: Peach Chick-fil-A Bowl, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Teams: No. 15 Clemson vs. No. 23 Auburn

Clemson's season was... An abomination. The Cow-Tippers of the Upstate reeled off four straight wins to begin the year, stumbled against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech (as usual), then lost only to Boston College the rest of the way, ending up 9-3 after beating some team I don't remember to end the season.

Auburn's season was... Not as bad as it once looked. With Brandon Cox throwing interceptions like they were beads at Mardi Gras, the Tigers slipped to 1-2 after a loss to Mississippi State, at which point Bobby Lowder was fueling up the plane. But a 20-17 win at Florida two weeks later seemed to revive Auburn, which lost only to LSU and Georgia after the last-second FG in the Swamp. A win over Nick Saban's Crimson Tide wrapped up the 8-4 campaign.

Clemson impact player: The DaviSpiller monster gets all the publicity, but QB Cullen Harper has made things work for the Tiggers this year, completing 67.0 percent of his passes (268-of-400) for 2,887 yards, 27 TDs and 6 INTs. He did get sacked 29 times.

Auburn impact player: QB Brandon Cox. Before you call for me to be committed, hear me out. In the first three games of the year, Cox threw six interceptions as Auburn slipped to 1-2. He threw one interception over the next seven games, with the Tigers winning six of those. He threw four in the loss to Georgia, then back to one with the Alabama win. The pattern is pretty clear: If Cox avoids turning the ball over, Auburn wins. That's "impact." Not necessarily good impact, but it's impact. Clemson, by the way, has picked off 15 passes this year.

Fun Sponsor Fact: I refuse to do this. Chick-fil-A has insulted my SEC-loving heart by needlessly changing the bowl name for no other reason than to make the name of the company's greasy products hawked by dishonest cows even more unavoidable.

Prediction: My heart says Auburn in a big way. The real Tigers are my second-favorite team, and I despise Clemson. So there's no way for the head to win here. Auburn 20, Clemson 17

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