Bowl season opens with four straight

Published 11:53 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

EagleBank Bowl – Washington, D.C.

Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Navy (9-4) – ESPN – 11 a.m.

Navy and Wake Forest already met this season back in September in Winston-Salem and that game turned Navy’s season around.

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The Midshipmen, after losses to Duke and Ball State (which proved to not be embarrassing at all as the rest of the season played out), beat No. 16 WF 24-17 for Navy’s first win against a ranked team since 1985. The victory was No. 2 in Navy winning seven of its last nine, including a 34-0 rout of Army.

The Demon Deacons were 3-0 until the loss to the Middies. Unlike Wake’s ACC championship team only two seasons ago, which lived with its running game, this year WF’s 101st in the NCAA in rushing yards.

Navy, as always, leads the nation in rushing (298.3 yards per game). Shun White averages 8.7 yards per game and Eric Kettani, at fullback, averages 5.3 yards per carry.

Line – WF by 3

My pick – Navy 31-21

New Mexico Bowl – Albuquerque, N.M.

Colorado St. (6-6) vs. Fresno St. (7-5) – ESPN – 2:30 p.m.

There aren’t tons of great things to say about teams which finish .500 in the Mountain West and the WAC. Both the Rams and Bulldogs came close to pulling off upsets during the season.

Colorado St. lost to No. 17 BYU 45-42 on Nov. 1. Fresno St. lost to then-No. 10 Wisconsin (which did wind up 7-5 and far from No. 10) 13-10 in September.

More recently, Fresno’s given up 30 or more points in seven of its last 10 games and Fresno lost its regular season final 61-10 to Boise St.

All six of Colorado St.’s losses came to teams now in bowls. The Rams had to win their last two, 20-6 vs. New Mexico and 31-20 at Wyoming, to get to six wins.

Line – Fresno St. by 3

My pick – Fresno St. 28-21

Magicjack St. Petersburg Bowl – St. Petersburg, Fla.

Memphis (6-6) vs. South Florida (7-5) – ESPN2 – 4:30 p.m.

After nine wins each of the last two seasons, South Florida hoped to be going to a bigger postseason game. Instead, the Bulls at least get a practical home game for their fans as the Tropicana Dome is 30 miles from USF.

Memphis started out 0-3 before winning six of its last nine. Memphis had its third-string quarterback win two games. Its starter, Arkelon Hill, returned for the last game, a 45-6 win over Tulane.

South Florida was 5-0 and ranked No. 10 in the nation on Sept. 29. The Bulls went on to a 2-5 Big East record. South Florida lost 56-21 to Oregon in last season’s Sun Bowl.

Line – USF by 11.5

My pick – Memphis 40-17

Las Vegas Bowl – Las Vegas

No. 17 Brigham Young (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5) – ESPN – 8 p.m.

Anyone who remembers the Arizona “Desert Swarm” teams of the 1990’s would find it tough to believe this is Arizona’s first bowl game in a decade.

The Wildcats got their most important win of the season already, regardless of what happens in the bowl, by beating Arizona St. 31-10. Arizona had been relegated to second place in its own state, so beating the Sun Devils is a big step for turning around UA.

BYU’s glory days go back to the 1980s, but the Cougars are completely back. Say what you will about “BCS conferences” but if BYU is the third-place team in the Mountain West (behind Utah and TCU), maybe someone in charge of the MWC has a beef.

BYU’s season includes a 59-0 demolition of UCLA. Max Hall is a junior QB with a pro future.

This game is a renewal of a fairly good rivalry as Arizona has an 11-9-1 record all-time vs. BYU.

Line – Arizona by 3

My pick – BYU 42-36