Every season, there's one really good bowl buried in the heap of "lower- to mid-tier bowls." This year, it's the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, which features the only pairing of ranked teams before the
Peach Chick-fil-A Bowl. (I might never buy another chicken sandwich from those people after what they did to the Peach Bowl.)
Alas, I must handle the PLHB as I would any other pre-Jan. 1 bowl. The rankings are BlogPoll, per usual.
Finally, I'm 5-2 picking the winners of bowl games and 2-5 against the score (within a TD of each team's actual score).
Bowl: Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, 8 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
Teams: No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 17 Texas
Arizona State's season was... Better than you expected, but worse than it could have been. Dennis Erickson, who's been a gypsy far longer than Nick Saban or Bobby Petrino, got the Sun Devils out to an 8-0 record and high in the polls before a falling-off that ended in a nationally-televised humiliation against Southern Cal and a narrow win over rival Arizona.
Texas' season was... Exactly what you expected. Yours truly had the Longhorns ranked No. 1, most people expected them to be pretty good and...and...apparently we all forget that Mack Brown was coaching this team. The Longhorns started out a shaky 4-0 before getting smacked by Kansas State and edged by Oklahoma. After reeling off five straight wins and entertaining faint hopes of getting back to the Big XII Championship Game, Texas whiffed against rival Texas A&M, 38-30. To give you an idea of how bad that was, the Aggies fired their head coach immediately after the game. Or "forced him to resign."
Arizona State impact player: QB Rudy Carpenter. Despite likely suffering multiple concussions from the eye-popping 50 times he's been sacked, Carpenter has completed 63.0 percent of his passes (228-of-362) for 3,015 yards, 23 TDs and 8 INTs. So what if he can't remember his own name?
Yeah, the offensive line felt bad about this one.
Texas impact player: RB Jamaal Charles, who returned from hibernation against Nebraska by rushing for 290 yards and 3 TDs -- most of that in the fourth quarter -- before turning in great performances against Oklahoma State (180 yards, 3 TDs), Texas Tech (174, 1) and Texas A&M (92, 1 as well as 81 yards receiving). That's 736 yards in four games.
Prediction: Whenever you're tempted to go with Texas in a big game, just remember: Mack Brown. Arizona State 24, Texas 13