Well, folks, I've got some good news for you: Bowl season is about to begin in earnest.
Yes, we’ve had some minor bowl action to enjoy over the past few days, but all due respect to such classics as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, let’s just say that best of bowl season is yet to come.
We’ll take a look at some of the best upcoming matchups here, in Part I of our 2012 College Football Bowl Preview. Look for Part II over the weekend.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Baylor vs. No. 17 UCLA (9:45 p.m., Thursday, ESPN): What a job Jim Mora Jr. has done (so far) at UCLA. It’s easy to forget now just how lost in the wilderness this program was before Mora’s arrival, and easy to forget, too, that the better part of a decade, the Bruins weren’t just mediocre; they also completely lacked anything approaching aggressive and more often than not looked like the weaker, more passive team on the field. Though this team hit some bumps in the road this season, the victory that stands out to me is the early-season thumping of Nebraska. Granted, this was hardly a great Huskers team, but the extent of the Bruins’ dominance that day was eye opening. I expect more good things to come from Mora. Including wins in bowls like this one. UCLA 27, Baylor 21
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Duke (6:30 p.m., Thursday): A sneaky-interesting matchup here. Yeah, the Blue Devils lost five of six to end the season, and yeah, they got their doors blown off by the better teams in the ACC down the stretch. But Cincy has its own problems—most notably, the fact that they’ve just seen another successful coach move on to greener pastures. The Dukies aren’t used to bowling, so you can figure they’ll be fired up for this one. The Bearcats? Not so much. Duke 24, Cincinnati 14
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Ohio vs. Louisiana Monroe (2 p.m., Friday, ESPN): I know people like to complain that there are “too many” bowl games. But those people aren’t college football people. If they were, you see, they would be able to see the beauty in a match-up like this one—a game that will pit two better-than-you-think-they-are teams from better-than-you-think-they-are conferences. Both the Bobcats and Warhawks had some great moments this year, and both will be hoping for at least one more. But I like the Warhawks, who figure to get another impressive display from quarterback Kolton Browning, who has thrown for 27 touchdowns (against just 7 interceptions) this season. UL-Monroe 38, Ohio 28
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Minnesota vs. Texas Tech (9 p.m., Friday, ESPN): I don’t think this will be much of a game. But I wanted to include it just to make clear once more how awful the Big Ten was this season. Minnesota is a mostly awful football team with an entirely awful offense. The Gophers went 2-6 in conference play. And for this, they get rewarded with a decent/not terrible bowl trip. Because the Big Ten didn’t really have anyone else to send. Texas Tech 41, Minnesota 14
Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 23 Texas vs. No. 13 Oregon State (6:45 p.m., Saturday, ESPN): Hey, look at that—something resembling a “big” game. Mike Riley, who was rumored to be a candidate for the Wisconsin job (question: Why on earth would he have left Oregon State for Wisconsin?), has not left for Wisconsin, and so will lead his troops into battle against one of Mack Brown’s increasingly mediocre Longhorn squads. This Texas team is giving up nearly 30 points a game, which is entirely inexcusable given the talent Brown has at his disposal. The slide continues. Oregon State 34, Texas 24