Miami had high expectations for the 2014 season. I was expecting to pick winners throughout the year and become a minor celebrity. Unfortunately both plans were derailed. Miami finished 6-6 and Al Golden has a career 55-55 record as a head coach. I picked 241 games this season and was 119-119-3, living up to my self-given nickname: Mr. Precise Mediocrity. Let's hope both Al Golden and I can win big in December and bring some momentum with us into 2015.
Blame James gave Al the vote of confidence earlier this month. I was relieved to hear similar news about my own status. State of the U's fearless leader Jerry Steinberg announced internally that I will be returning next season, even if I lose every bowl game by double digits. Like any good executive/AD, Jerry made a run at Jon Gruden first, but when Jon re-signed with MNF, my role was officially secure. My results are on me, but I trust the process, and gotta keep moving forward.
With hackers targeting nearly every important business enterprise, I don't want to be the next Sony. To preempt the news story, I've decided to release a preview of my emails with readers and with State of The U. Nearly every reader email involves me being mocked as an "Al Golden defender" or being mocked for my inability to win Big Ten games. My emails with State of the U have mostly been with our compliance department, begging me not to predict that I would win 55 percent of my games this season. I wish I had listened. My recent internal estimates have me winning at least 23 of 38 bowl games, but SOTU advised me not to rely solely on the 2012 Romney polling staff I hired. With that all out in the open, I've got nothing to hide. Let's go flip coins and win some bowls.
With each team I pick, I include an obscure fact about the school courtesy of Wikipedia.
Saturday December 20th
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
UL LAFAYETTE +1 vs Nevada 11am - ESPN
"A group of ULL engineering students participating in the Cajun Advanced Picosatellite Experiment (CAPE) built a small artificial satellite, known as a CubeSat, that was launched into orbit from the Republic of Kazakhstan in 2007."
ULL has won three straight New Orleans Bowls and this is my last chance to pick my guy QB Terrance Broadway. RB Elijah McGuire and Broadway control games on the ground and ULL will have a significant crowd advantage on Saturday. I know Nevada's been in town for days now, but the 11am EST kickoff still might result in a sluggish start. QB Cody Fajardo has had a tremendous career at Nevada and has dual-threat ability. He'll keep his team in it, but in a game between two evenly matched teams, I expect the Ragin Cajuns to win close.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
UTEP +10.5 vs Utah State 220pm - ESPN
"The Kingdom of Bhutan has honored UTEP's appropriation of their country's style. Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuk has visited the campus, and in 2009 the Kingdom presented UTEP with a hand-carved wooden temple to be erected on the campus."
Utah State has a terrific defense, allowing just 21 points a game, but the Aggies were blown out by Boise State to end the season. Incredibly, Utah State won 9 games despite losing three starting quarterbacks to season-ending injuries. QB Kent Myers has played well down the stretch after taking over the job midway through the season. UTEP finished 7-5, making a big jump from last year's 2-10 record. UTEP relies heavily on their running game (RB Aaron Jones) and doesn't turn the ball over, keeping them in nearly every game. I expect this game to be close and low-scoring. Utah State likely wins, but the final margin will be a touchdown or less. The Aggies only average 27 points a game and will find it difficult to blow out the Miners.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
UTAH -3 vs Colorado State 330pm - ABC
"The university is ranked 3rd by the EPA for annual green power usage among universities, with 31% of its power coming from wind and solar sources."
Colorado State will be coached by OC Dave Baldwin after HC Jim McElwain left for Florida. The interim coach situation is always tricky to figure out during bowl season, but I have to think it hurts the Rams in this matchup. Colorado State has an explosive offense, led by QB Garrett Grayson and WR Rashard Higgins. They'll have a difficult time on Saturday though, facing a Utah defense that is strong up front and leads the nation in sacks. Utah QB Travis Wilson gets the start with Kendal Thompson out with an injury. RB Devontae Booker is one of the best players nobody talks about. The Utes have struggled on offense without WR Dres Anderson, but the bowl layoff gave the Utes time to get healthy on defense. WR Kaelin Clay will make a big play and get his team going early.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
AIR FORCE -1 vs Western Michigan 545pm - ESPN
"The Air Force Academy cadet sabre is carried by first class (senior) cadets in command positions in the Cadet Wing. All graduates are normally entitled to own no more than two sabres: one for personal use and one to be given as a gift. The Plaque and Sabre Award is the highest award given by the Cadet Wing to dignitaries and other honorees."
Air Force has experience playing on the blue field and QB Kale Pearson has been great all year. He has helped the Falcons become multi-dimensional on offense, throwing for 14 TDs and completing 60% of his passes. If teams load up the box and sell out to stop the triple option, Pearson has the ability to make plays with his arm. Western Michigan RB Jarvion Franklin put up huge numbers this season and will be a challenge for Air Force's solid run defense. I'm impressed with the job P.J. Fleck has done at Western Michigan and expect him to get a Power 5 gig in the coming years, but his team will fall just short on Saturday night.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
BOWLING GREEN +3 vs South Alabama 915pm - ESPN
"To build the university, Bowling Green offered four possible sites and became one of four finalists including Fremont, Napoleon, and Van Wert. Despite the town being the home of John Lowry, Napoleon was ruled out because the commission found it had numerous saloons. Fremont was eliminated mainly due to the specific stipulations imposed by the President Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial Commission. Bowling Green was chosen on November 10, 1910 over Van Wert in a 3-2 vote by the commission."
South Alabama limps into this game having lost four of their last five games. The Jaguars average just 22 points a game and won't be able to keep pace with Bowling Green. QB Brandon Bridge has a big arm, but lacks consistency. Bowling Green finished the season with three straight losses so the Falcons don't have any momentum either. That being said, I like the playmaking ability of RB Travis Greene and expect BGSU to look better on offense with an additional few weeks of practice in HC Dino Babers' system. The location of the game favors South Alabama, but look for Bowling Green to earn the MAC a much needed bowl victory.
Monday December 22nd
Miami Beach Bowl
MEMPHIS -1.5 vs Byu 2pm - ESPN
"TOM III, the current Tiger mascot, attends all Tiger football home games and other University events. TOM III travels in a climate-controlled trailer with a police escort. TOM III is housed and cared for by the Highland Hundred Tiger Guard, an alumni booster organization in a $300,000 facility."
After losing his first three starts, QB Christian Stewart took advantage of weaker competition and won four straight games for BYU to close the regular season. His numbers look impressive, but he doesn't threaten the defense in the running game the way Taysom Hill could. Memphis has a very stout defense and allows just 17 points a game. The Tigers won six straight to end the season and never gave up more than 20 points during that stretch. QB Paxton Lynch hasn't thrown an interception since October 11th and his emergence helped the Tigers win a share of the American Conference. Expect both sets of fans to make the trip down to a stadium unlike any other....Marlins Park. The 2pm kickoff is perfect for watching Memphis pull away in the fourth quarter, ensuring limited work is done in offices across the country on Monday afternoon.