Big Game Fever
I have to get one thing straight up front: Bowl season is awesome. I know there’s a Stigma of Hate that comes along with “bowls,” but — real talk — it’s still a ton of football.
Half of these teams I don’t watch all year (to be fair, it’s not like I’m clamoring for a good Middle Tennessee State game), but I’m glued to these motley teams hoping for some kind of crazy ending, watching college seniors storm a field after beating a sub-par Toledo team, becoming the biggest Air Force fan because my pride rides on an ESPN Confidence Pool, loving the fact that I can grab a college football game almost every night of the week for a month.
But as the days pass and the first of the big games arrive with New Year's Day, it’s about time we start to pick winners and figure out which games you should be watching.
With a flurry of games coming at you like a Northeastern snow storm, let me guide your remote. Here are four games you can’t miss — and why you need to make time for them.
The Game You Should Put All Your Money On and Watch It Stack Paper
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut
I don’t even want to talk about the fact that the Big East is an automatic qualifying conference, but it has to be said: The 8-4 Huskies can’t shake a stick at the Big 12 and almost any team in freaking Conference USA could give any Big East team a run for its money.
Oklahoma will roll. I’m not even a Sooner fan, but Connecticut’s solid loss to Buffalo isn’t intimidating. Connecticut’s solid shutout against Louisville? Next.
I cannot wait to watch this game and count my money.
Line: Oklahoma -17
Take: Laying 17 is tough anywhere, especially on a national stage, but I’m still rolling Oklahoma. Money where my mouth is, all my confidence points are on this one. Good luck, Connecticut.
The Game I Can’t Really Figure Out No Matter How Hard I Try
The Rose Bowl: TCU vs. Wisconsin
If watching Boise State crumble in their final game of the season was hard, you just have to start pulling for undefeated TCU here. Any non-automatic-qualifying school needs them to win; it’s finally a chance where David gets a good, clean shot at Goliath.
Does TCU have a chance? Absolutely. They’re a quick team with plenty of experience. Does that translate to a big stage win against a team who beat Ohio State and Iowa? I have no freaking clue.
Line: TCU -3
Take: Wisconsin plus the points in a closer, lower scoring game than you would expect.
The For Real You Should Actually Watch This Bowl Game
AT&T Cotton Bowl: LSU vs. Texas A&M
Being somewhat impartial to either of these teams, Houston is going to be a glorious day on January 7. A good middle-point between Baton Rouge and College Station (at least in rooters), I guarantee you have at least one friend from each school throwing a party for their respective side. I only wish I could find a way to get all of my friends from both sides to get together to watch the carnage.
A&M finished the season on a six-game winning streak — sparked in part by a change in gunslinger to Ryan Tannehill — with solid wins over Nebraska, Baylor, and most importantly, Oklahoma. LSU’s Louisiana magic continued to impress all season with the Tigers pulling out improbable wins like the one over Alabama.
Seriously: The line below is off by one point. This is a pick-’em game. I cannot wait to watch it — and my friends yell at each other all game.
Line: LSU -1
Take: LSU. The Hat (aka coach Les Miles) seems to pull these types of wins out of his ass, and I can’t help but feel like A&M’s going to find a way to choke.
The Bowl Game You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Watch But Probably Should
Discover Orange Bowl: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
It’s almost a joke that the Hokies are even in a BCS bowl, but I suppose that’s the way the mountain crumbles. Virginia Tech got beat squarely by BCS wrench-throwers Boise State. Not only that, but Virginia Tech also dropped a game to Division II James Madison where they were favored by 33 points.
Aside: Boise’s only loss was to Nevada, a somewhat-proven foe, and Boise ends up in a toilet Bowl. Virginia Tech loses twice — once to Boise — and the other to a D-II school and it gets a BCS bid?
Either way, here’s the rub: Virginia Tech starts with those two losses, but it goes on to win every other game it plays, winning the ACC. Flip the coin, and you’re looking down the barrel of junior quarterback Andrew Luck, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. But rumor has it Luck's leaning towards staying another year at Stanford (Who wants to play for the Carolina Panthers? Or sit through an NFL lockout?) and forgoing the historical No. 1 status.
If Luck has an incredible game, though, he could be convinced to go into the draft as his stock will have only been raised.
Don’t forget about JaMarcus Russell. His junior year in the Sugar Bowl, he racked up 350 yards of total offense, routed Brady Quinn and the Fighting Irish 41-17, was named the Sugar Bowl MVP and changed his mind, declaring for the draft. Now, he’s getting paid a ton of money to chug codeine and move slower than he already did.
It may be unfair that Luck’s fortitude is being compared to one of the greatest draft flame-outs of all time, but you don’t get drafted No. 1 overall without some promise of hope. Luck: I’ll see you next year leading the Cardinal to a BCS bid.
Line: Stanford -3.5
Take: Stanford minus the points. Andrew Luck’s day solidifies him as the number one pick in the 2011 Draft — if he decides to go.
Editor's note: Don't miss David Stagg's quick guide to all the college football bowl games.