-Blog is off for a week as I take the last of my use-it-or-lose-it vacation time.
-Andy and I did another podcast on the Hokies. You can listen to it here.
-If you’re heading to the Stagg Bowl tonight, see you there. Dress warmly.
-Below you’ll find the 2012-13 Bowl Guide. The one that comes out in the paper tomorrow will look better than this, but I figured I’d post it here, too, so folks can ridicule the incorrect picks as we go. See any you think are crazy?
Good luck to all gamblers out there. May this be a prosperous bowl season for us all.All picks are made against the Las Vegas point spread. A minus sign indicates the team is favored and must win by more than that number of points for the pick to be correct. A plus sign indicates the team is the underdog and must win outright or lose by fewer than the points shown for the pick to be correct.
Gildan New Mexico
Nevada (+9.5) over Arizona Albuquerque, N.M. Dec. 15 1 p.m. ESPN
The bowl season opens with a potential shootout featuring two of the nation’s top running backs. Neither team plays any defense. Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson averages 141.9 rushing yards per game – second in the FBS to Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey (146.4). Too many points for a fairly even matchup.
(FINAL: ARIZONA 49, NEVADA 48. BOWL GUIDE WINNER!!!)
Utah State (-10) over Toledo Boise, Idaho Dec. 15 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Both teams can score, but the Aggies have a decided defensive edge over a Rockets team that gave up 30.4 points a game over the final seven weeks. USU quarterback Kerwynn Williams is a dual threat who completes 68 percent of his passes. Aggies roll.
(FINAL: UTAH STATE 41, TOLEDO 15. BOWL GUIDE WINNER!! NOW 2-0)
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia
San Diego State (+2.5) over BYU San Diego Dec. 20 8 p.m. ESPN
The Aztecs closed with seven wins in a row to claim a share of the Mountain West Conference title. They’ll face an old league foe in the Cougars, which owned the series in their WAC and Mountain West days. Give the Aztecs a slight edge this time, thanks in part to playing at home.
FINAL: BYU 23, SAN DIEGO STATE 6. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 2-1Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg
UCF (-7) over Ball State St. Petersburg, Fla. Dec. 21 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Ball State’s quarterback situation is unsettled, with starter Keith Wenning and backup Kelly Page both nursing injuries. In an otherwise even matchup, that’s enough to lean heavily toward a UCF team playing just 100 miles from its campus.
FINAL: UCF 38, BALL STATE 17. BOWL GUIDE WINNER!! NOW 3-1.
R+L Carriers New Orleans
Louisiana-Lafayette (-6) over East Carolina New Orleans Dec. 22 Noon ESPN
The Ragin’ Cajuns have won three in a row, and it could have been five had they held a lead with less than two minutes to play at then-No. 7 Florida on Nov. 10. The Pirates have lost three straight bowl games; make it four here.
FINAL: LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 43, EAST CAROLINA 34. BOWL GUIDE WINNER!! NOW 4-1.
MAACO Las Vegas
Boise State (-5) over Washington Las Vegas Dec. 223:30 p.m. ESPN
The Broncos own the MAACO Bowl (which may or may not be a good thing), beating Utah and Arizona by a combined 55 points in the past two editions. The Huskies are still smarting from blowing an 18-point lead to Washington State in their regular-season finale.
FINAL: BOISE STATE 28, WASHINGTON 26. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 4-2.
Fresno State (-12) vs. SMU Honolulu Dec. 24 8 p.m. ESPN
Tough matchup all around for SMU, which has the nation’s 103rd-ranked passing defense against a team that puts up 322 yards per game in the air. The Bulldogs should be able to run it up and improve to a stellar 12-1 record this season against the spread.
FINAL: SMU 43, FRESNO STATE 10. BOWL GUIDE LOSER (RESOUNDINGLY). NOW 4-3.
Little Caesars Pizza
Central Michigan (+5.5) over Western Kentucky Detroit Dec. 26 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Bobby Petrino has taken the Western Kentucky job but won’t steer the Hilltoppers in this game. WKU closed the regular season by losing three of four. Central Michigan played better in the second half of the season, scoring at least 30 points in each of its last six games.
FINAL: CENTRAL MICHIGAN 24, WESTERN KENTUCKY 21. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 5-3.
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman
San Jose State (-7) over Bowling Green Washington, D.C. Dec. 27 3 p.m. ESPN
Bowling Green was an underdog only three times this season (including at Virginia Tech on Sept. 22) and failed to cover in two of those. Two years after going 1-12, San Jose State is rolling behind WAC defensive player of the year Travis Johnson and the nation’s No. 7 passer in David Fales (3,798 yards).
FINAL: SAN JOSE STATE 29, BOWLING GREEN 20. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 6-3.Belk
Cincinnati (-7) over Duke Charlotte, N.C. Dec. 27 6:30 p.m. ESPN
The Blue Devils are a nice story, getting to play close to home in their first bowl game since 1994. Still, they haven’t covered the spread since beating North Carolina to become bowl-eligible on Oct. 20. Cincy has won four of five – most of them handily.
FINAL: CINCINNATI 43, DUKE 34. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 7-3.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday
UCLA (pick) over Baylor San Diego Dec. 27 9:45 p.m. ESPN
This is the UCLA swan song for all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin, who ran for 1,700 yards this year. QB Brett Hundley is a 68.2 percent passer. Baylor leads the nation with 578.8 yards of offense per game but has just seven wins to show for it. Slight edge to the Bruins here.
FINAL: BAYLOR 49, UCLA 26. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 7-4.AdvoCare V100 Independence
Ohio (+7) over Louisiana-Monroe Shreveport, La. Dec. 28 2 p.m. ESPN
Both teams made noise early, with Ohio starting 7-0 and Louisiana-Monroe exposing then- No. 8 Arkansas as a fraud. I don’t like the way the Bobcats dropped three in a row to end the season, but I do like savvy QB Tyler Tettleton (16 TDs vs. three picks) and RB Beau Blankenship (1,500 yards).
FINAL: OHIO 45, LOUISIANA MONROE 14. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 8-4.
Russell Athletic Rutgers (+2.5) over Virginia Tech Orlando, Fla. Dec. 28 5:30 p.m. ESPN
The Hokies have covered the spread only three times this year (vs. Bowling Green, Florida State and Duke), and I don’t know why we should expect them to turn on the jets suddenly. Rutgers stinks offensively but has the nation’s fourth-ranked scoring defense. Also, the Scarlet Knights haven’t lost a bowl game since 2005.
FINAL: VIRGINIA TECH 13, RUTGERS 10. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 8-5.
Meineke Car Care of Texas
Texas Tech (-12) over Minnesota Houston Dec. 28 9 p.m. ESPN
If a dozen points sounds like a lot to give with a 7-5 Texas Tech team that just lost its coach to Cincinnati, well, it is. Still, the Golden Gophers have very few redeeming qualities. Their QBs are pick-prone, their rushing game is tepid and their leading receiver quit the team last month. Grudgingly taking chalk here.
FINAL: TEXAS TECH 34, MINNESOTA 31. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 8-6.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces
Rice (+1) over Air Force Fort Worth Dec. 29 11:45 a.m. ESPN
The second-youngest team in FBS, Rice grew up during the season and closed with four straight wins to make their first bowl since 2008. Neither team will put it in the air much, so expect a quick game decided by the dual-threat playmaking of Owls quarterback Taylor McHargue.
FINAL: RICE 33, AIR FORCE 14. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 9-6.New Era Pinstripe
Syracuse (+4) over West Virginia Bronx, N.Y. Dec. 29 3:15 p.m. ESPN
I bought into West Virginia most of the year (and paid for it in the Fearless Forecasters). No longer Nobody can deny Geno Smith’s numbers (71 percent passing, 4,004 yards, 40 TDs, six picks), but WVU’s defense is woeful. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib is no slouch himself (3,619 passing yards) and should have a big day.
FINAL: SYRACUSE 38, WEST VIRGINIA 14. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 10-6.
Kraft Fight Hunger
Arizona State (-14.5) over Navy San Francisco Dec. 294 p.m. ESPN2
The Midshipmen’s only hope is to shorten the game with their option attack against an ASU defense that allowed four of its final six opponents to rush for more than 200 yards. With the Sun Devils having better athletes and an up-tempo offense, it’s hard envisioning this one not getting out of whack.
FINAL: ARIZONA STATE 62, NAVY 28. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 11-6.
Oregon State (-1.5) over Texas San AntonioDec. 29 6:45 p.m. ESPN
The Longhorns have thrown five interceptions in the past two games – not good news against an OSU defense tied for sixth in the nation with 19 picks. Texas has been a strong bowl team under Mack Brown, but the Beavers have some elite receivers who should find plenty of room to run.
FINAL: TEXAS 31, OREGON STATE 27. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 11-7.
Michigan State (+2.5) over TCU Tempe, Ariz. Dec. 29 10:15 p.m. ESPN
This game features two teams with strong defenses and mostly awful quarterback play. Running back Le’Veon Bell, who rushed for 1,648 yards this year, will lead a Spartans team that’s better than its 6-6 record. MSU dropped five Big Ten games by a combined 13 points and posted a 4-1 mark on the road.
FINAL: MICHIGAN STATE 17, TCU 16. BOWL GUIDE WINNER.NOW 12-7.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City
Vanderbilt (-6.5) over N.C. State Nashville, Tenn. Dec. 31 Noon ESPN
The Commodores hope to do a little (Dana) Bible thumping against N.C. State’s interim coach, and they should have the Nashville crowd in their corner. The Wolfpack can’t run the ball at all, and that’s going to be a problem against a Vandy team that ranks ninth in the nation in pass defense.
FINAL: VANDERBILT 38, N.C. STATE 24. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 13-7
Georgia Tech (+10.5) over Southern Cal El Paso, Texas Dec. 31 2 p.m. CBS
The Yellow Jackets are 0-4 in bowl games under coach Paul Johnson, whose option offense tends to sputter against teams that have extra time to prepare. That said, the Trojans have been a disappointment all year, going 3-9 against the spread. Too many points to give in this spot.
FINAL: GEORGIA TECH 21, USC 7.BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 14-7.
Tulsa (pick) over Iowa State Memphis, Tenn. Dec. 31 3:30 p.m. ESPN
Neither of these teams is particularly attractive; Iowa State played a much better schedule but didn’t inflict much damage to it. The Cyclones rank 90th in the nation in total offense and will need more firepower than that to beat the Conference USA champions.
FINAL: TULSA 31, IOWA STATE 17. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 15-7
Clemson (+4) over LSU Atlanta Dec. 31 7:30 p.m. ESPN
This pick feels wrong – betting ACC teams over SEC squads is a surefire ticket to the bread lines over time – but there are a couple of reasons to side with Clemson. LSU is only 5-7 against the spread this season and 1-3 away from its raucous home stadium. Clemson sports a 5-0 road mark and an 8-4 ledger against the number.
FINAL: CLEMSON 25, LSU 24. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 16-7.
Northwestern (+2.5) over Mississippi State Jacksonville, Fla. Jan. 1 Noon ESPN2
By one measure, the Wildcats have been the biggest overachievers in the country this season, going a robust 11-1 against the spread. The Bulldogs limped home with four losses in their last five games, with the lone victory being over lowly Arkansas. The wrong team is favored here.
FINAL: NORTHWESTERN 34, MISSISSIPPI STATE 20. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 17-7
Heart of Dallas
Purdue (+16.5) over Oklahoma State Dallas Jan. 1 Noon ESPNU
The Boilermakers finished the season on a three-game winning streak, but that wasn’t enough to save the job of coach Danny Hope. There is some hope, though, that Purdue can cover this big number. Former Miami quarterback Robert Marve has completed 66 percent of his passes for 13 TDs and only three picks for Purdue.
FINAL: OKLAHOMA STATE 58, PURDUE 14. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 17-8.
Last hurrah for Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, but this game likely comes down to which defense can take control. The Wolverines have quietly made some nice strides in that department under coordinator Greg Mattison, who’s fashioned the nation’s No. 2-ranked unit against the pass.
FINAL: SOUTH CAROLINA 33, MICHIGAN 28. PUSH. NOW 17-8-1.
Georgia (-10) over Nebraska Orlando, Fla. Jan. 1 1 p.m. ABC
Always one of the most attractive non-BCS games on the slate, this year’s Capital One Bowl is no exception. The Bulldogs are still smarting over missing out on a title shot, but those wounds can’t be as deep as those nursed by Nebraska, which gave up 70 points to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.
FINAL: GEORGIA 45, NEBRASKA 31. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 18-8-1.
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
Stanford (-6.5) over Wisconsin Pasadena, Calif. Jan. 1 5 p.m. ESPN
Bulldozing Wisconsin running back Montee Ball faces one of his toughest tests in a Stanford defense that ranks third in the nation against the run. The Cardinal is certainly battle-tested, having run off five consecutive wins against ranked foes to close the season. Stanford isn’t flashy but can match Wisconsin’s physicality and pull off a victory here.
FINAL: STANFORD 20, WISCONSIN 14. BOWL GUIDE LOSER NOW 18-9-1.Discover Orange
Northern Illinois (+13) over Florida State Miami Jan. 1 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Not saying this’ll be another Boise State-Oklahoma, but the Huskies can keep this one close. They’re 9-2-2 against the spread this season, but this is only the second time all year they’ll enter a game as an underdog. The Seminoles have not been impressive since their trip to Blacksburg on Nov. 8, dropping four straight against the number. If FSU isn’t careful here, the ACC could wind up with a MAC omelet on its face.
FINAL: FLORIDA STATE 31, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 10. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 18-10-1
Louisville (+14) over Florida New Orleans Jan. 2 8:30 p.m. ESPN
The Gators were impressive in dispatching Florida State in the regular season finale, but they failed to cover as hefty favorites in the four games before that. Can Florida score enough points to take care of a two-touchdown spread? The bet here is no. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a 69 percent passer who’s thrown for 3,452 yards this season. His playmaking ability should keep this one closer than the experts predict.
Picking against Oregon – even with a big number – is a good way to wind up looking silly. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner fuel an offense that ranks second in the nation with 51 points per game. As fast as the Ducks play, you’d think they’d rank worse than 26th in scoring defense, but they don’t. Kansas State’s had a great season but won’t be able to keep up here.
FINAL: OREGON 35, KANSAS STATE 17. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 20-10-1.
Texas A&M(-4.5) over Oklahoma Arlington, Texas Jan. 4 8 p.m. FOX
Both teams averaged more than 500 yards and 40 points per game, so this could be an entertaining affair. The difference is that the Aggies rolled up their big offensive numbers in the SEC while the Sooners took advantage of several of the pillowy defenses in the Big 12. TAMU quarterback Johnny Manziel caps a dream season by leading the Aggies to a sixth straight victory and a Cotton pelt.
FINAL: TEXAS A&M 41, OKLAHOMA 13. BOWL GUIDE WINNER. NOW 21-10-1.
Pittsburgh (+3.5) over Ole Miss Birmingham, Ala. Jan. 5 1 p.m. ESPN
The Panthers closed with wins in four of their final six games and nearly knocked off No. 1 Notre Dame during that stretch. Ole Miss, meanwhile, limped home with losses in three of their final four games. Pitt plays decent defense and has a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time in school history.
FINAL: OLE MISS 38, PITT 17. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. NOW 21-11-1.
Arkansas State (-4) over Kent State Mobile, Ala. Jan. 6 9 p.m. ESPN
The Golden Flashes are yet another covering machine from the MAC, going 10-2-1 against the spread this season, but this is a bad matchup for them. Kent State ranks 107th in the nation against the pass. That will be problematic against ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin, who’s thrown for 3,129 yards, 23 TDs and only four INTs.
FINAL: ARKANSAS STATE 17, KENT STATE 13. PUSH. NOW 21-11-2.
Feeling a little Irish magic here. Yes, the SEC has owned the crystal football, but it just doesn’t feel like the Crimson Tide had to go through the typical gauntlet run by SEC champions past. Think about it: Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Auburn – all gimmes for this Alabama club this year. Credit is due for the wins over Georgia and LSU, but both games could have gone either way. Notre Dame has made a habit of grinding out tough victories with defense, and yes, I think they have a good shot to do it again here. Either way, you’ve got to love the 10 points.
FINAL: ALABAMA 42, NOTRE DAME 14. BOWL GUIDE LOSER. FINAL AGAINST THE SPREAD RECORD: 21-12-2 (64 PERCENT)