The Quest for 51%: Bowl Season Has Arrived

USA TODAY Sports

A lot has happened in the world of college football during my brief two-week writing vacation. As I expected, Nick Saban stayed at Alabama, Jameis Winston won the Heisman, and Al Golden continued to dominate on the recruiting trail. It's time to get back to work. The wait is over. Bowl Season is here...

During the college football regular season, I wrote 29 articles on State of the U. I picked 183 games and wrote positive things about Miami as often as possible. If you followed me all season and read all 44,734 words I wrote, I would like to thank you for your support. My overall record finished at 91-91-1, with a winning percentage of exactly 50%. Hopefully my articles were enjoyable to read, because if not, I wasted a lot of time flipping coins. People might read this and think; "well of course he won exactly 50% of his games, that's why Las Vegas is in business." While that is partially accurate, the chances of winning exactly 50% on 182 coin flips is less than 6% mathematically. The 2013 regular season in college football will be forever remembered for my precise mediocrity. Thankfully, by narrowly qualifying for bowl season, I get the opportunity to start anew. Throw the records and stats out the window. I have a clean slate and 35 chances to win. In each article I write during bowl season, I will make at least one Golden Pick. Get your popcorn ready. 

I am very excited about the Russell Athletic Bowl. Beating Louisville would give the Canes momentum heading into 2014. While I am clearly going to pick Miami to win, my other 34 picks will remain a mystery until a few days before each matchup. Some of my colleagues at SOTU will be picking games as well so my reputation is on the line. If this goes as poorly as my bowl picks from 2010 and 2011, I’ll have fans of every major school begging me not to pick their team by New Year’s Eve. Follow me @JPickens15 for the entire bowl journey.

A lot of media members try to educate you on the brands and companies that have secured the naming rights for each bowl game. I have decided to do the same, but with a slightly different spin. I'll share with you the best Wikipedia reference that comes up when searching for each sponsor. Saturday is a terrific way to start the bowl season, with four exciting matchups for your entertainment.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

"Gildan is a village in Sirvan Rural District, Nowsud District, Paveh County, Kermanshah Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its existence was noted, but its population was not reported."

GOLDEN PICK

WASHINGTON STATE -4.5 vs Colorado State   2pm – ESPN

A few weeks ago in Seattle, I saw how excited Washington State fans are to be back in a bowl game for the first time since 2003. Mike Leach is one of my favorite coaches in the nation. His talented QB Connor Halliday impressed me in person at the Apple Cup. Halliday will throw on nearly every down and will be able to take advantage of a Colorado State pass defense that is ranked 99th in the FBS. Washington State played a brutal schedule in 2013, but managed to do just enough to qualify for bowl season. A close loss to Auburn in September now looks like quite an achievement given the run that Gus Malzahn’s team has gone on since. Expect Colorado State’s stud RB Kapri Bibbs to introduce himself to the nation and add to his staggering 28 rushing touchdowns this season. While CSU has improved significantly under Coach Jim McElwain, the Rams won’t be able to slow down the Cougars spread passing attack. I trust Leach and Halliday to start my postseason off the right way. A Golden Pick win is just what the doctor ordered to help improve my fragile confidence.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

"Royal purple, or Tyrian purple, is an ancient dye, or the color of that dye.

Royal Purple may also refer to: Royal Purple Yearbook, the official yearbook of Kansas State University"

Usc vs FRESNO STATE +7 330pm – ABC

USC’s five game winning streak under Ed Orgeron came to an abrupt end in a 35-14 blowout loss to rival UCLA. OC Clay Helton will be coaching the Trojans on Saturday and I’m not sure how motivated his team will be. The players loved Orgeron and were disappointed initially when he wasn’t given the full-time gig. USC’s defense has been impressive at times this season, but injuries have been an issue all season for the Trojans. Fresno State has more to prove in Las Vegas. QB Derek Carr is playing for the chance to move up on draft boards and solidify his status as a potential first round pick. Carr has three very talented receivers in Isaiah Burse, Josh Harper, and Davante Adams. Each of them has the ability to score anytime they get their hands on the football. Fresno State’s pass defense is dreadful, but USC QB Cody Kessler isn’t accurate and consistent enough to truly take advantage. His star WR Marqise Lee will make a few plays to keep USC in position to win the game in the fourth quarter. This game will be decided by a field goal and will be one of the most entertaining games of bowl season.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

"According to conservative estimates, the introduction of the potato was responsible for a quarter of the growth in Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900."

BUFFALO pk vs San Diego State   530pm – ESPN

Weather matters. Possible snow flurries and a temperature of around 30 degrees at kickoff gives Buffalo a clear advantage. SDSU isn’t used to practicing or playing in cold weather, while most Buffalo players have endured brutal winters year after year. SDSU finished the year 7-5, thanks to their ability to win close games. The Aztecs went 6-2 in games decided by 7 points or less, which includes a 3-1 record in Overtime games. Good fortune and some bounces have gone their way this year, but life on the blue turf in Boise won’t be as easy. Buffalo LB Khalil Mack will be the best player on the field on Saturday afternoon. Scouts are drooling over Mack and he won’t disappoint on the national stage. RB Branden Oliver will control the pace of the game for Buffalo and QB Joe Licata will protect the ball like he has all season. I believe in the MAC.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl 

"R+L Carriers is a sponsor of the Roberts Pulling Team that competes in the National Tractor Pullers Association (NTPA), the Pro Pulling League (PPL), and the Ohio State Tractor Pullers Association (OSTPA)"

LA-LAFAYETTE +2.5 vs Tulane   9pm – ESPN

ULL QB Terrance Broadway is the biggest story in this matchup. Broadway was hurt in late November and had surgery to repair a broken arm. He has been throwing this week in practice and is questionable for the game on Saturday. If he is able to play, I think the Ragin’ Cajuns can blowout Tulane. ULL has a better running game and will be able to control the line of scrimmage. This game could come down to turnovers. Tulane is an impressive +12 in turnover margin on the season, the main reason the Green Wave was able to qualify for bowl season. ULL must protect the ball and if Broadway can’t go, I expect a conservative game-plan. Backup QB’s Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon have received more reps in practice the last few weeks and will be ready to play. Tulane expects QB Nick Montana to play despite a shoulder injury, but the Green Wave struggled down the stretch, losing three of their last four games. Tulane is playing at home in New Orleans, but I expect Lafayette fans to pack the building. Mark Hudspeth is one of the most underrated coaches in America and he will lead the Cajuns to a bowl victory.

SOTU STAFF PICKS

Jerry Steinberg – Washington St, USC, San Diego St, Tulane

Josh Maser – Washington St, Fresno St, Buffalo, Tulane

Juan Toribio – Washington St, USC, San Diego State, Tulane

Michael Grunewald – Washington St, USC, San Diego St, LA-Lafayette

Sit back, relax, and enjoy some college football this Saturday.

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