When Craig Krenzel's 4th down pass fell incomplete in the end zone, I sprinted outside of my house delirious with excitement. Miami had just won the 2003 Fiesta Bowl and back-to-back national championships. All of my hopes and dreams had just come true, for about 90 seconds...I know exactly what it's like to be Miss Colombia. We can relate to each other given our similar experiences. Referee Terry Porter pulled a Steve Harvey and I was called back inside to watch Miami lose in overtime. Even though Miss Philippines graciously served her role as Ohio State in this scenario, I still will root against her country in all athletic endeavors going forward. Random fact - Somehow a country of over 100 million people has never won an Olympic Gold Medal. Hopefully that continues this summer in Rio.
Miami enters the Sun Bowl on Saturday desperately needing to end a five-game bowl losing streak. The Canes haven't won a bowl game since the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl against Nevada. The last time Miami played in the Sun Bowl with an interim coach was an embarassing 33-17 loss to Notre Dame in 2010. This situation is different though, since Larry Scott has been the head coach of his team for months. The hire of Mark Richt has brought a breath of fresh air to the Miami program. A win over Washington State would keep that positivity going and help provide a springboard into the 2016 season. Richt's new staff hires are slowly being announced and we'll be seeing a lot of new faces on the sidelines in Coral Gables. Miami's players have a clean slate to prove their value. Let the competition begin.
Thinking out loud here, but maybe some of Miami's walkons should carry baseball bats onto the field on Saturday afternoon. If that meaningless act somehow "intimidated" Odell Beckham Jr., it could help the Canes gain an edge on the Cougars.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
MIAMI +2.5 vs Washington State - 2pm
This is the first ever meeting between these two programs. Washington State is led by the enigmatic Mike Leach, who will be relying on QB Luke Falk to throw until his arm falls off. The Cougars have a nice group of WR's, led by Gabe Marks and River Cracraft, but the strength of Miami's defense is the secondary. Corn Elder and Artie Burns have been making plays all year for the Canes. Washington State loves to throw screens so it's crucial that Miami stays disciplined and makes tackles in space. Expect this game to be high-scoring. Brad Kaaya and Miami's offense will be up to the challenge. WR Stacy Coley should be able to create big plays in the passing game. When the bowl games were being announced, my biggest fear was Miami facing a team with a dominant offensive line and running game. The Canes match up well with Washington State and should have a talent advantage at the skill positions.
From my travels to Seattle to visit family over the years, I became familiar with the phrase "They Coug'd it." Urban Dictionary has a good definition to describe the meaning.
Coug'd it - "A self proclaimed ironic aberration of the reversal of good fortune attributed to the Washington State University football team. Whereby, a sudden or unexpected mistake causes the team to lose at the end of a game akin to "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." However, the divergence of an apparent victory only temporarily crushes the euphoria felt by Coug fans until the subsequent irony is realized and the loss accepted i.e. Coug fans should have expected it."
Enjoy the holidays with friends and family and watch the Canes capitalize on a few WSU mistakes on the way to a 14-point victory.
St. Petersburg Bowl
UCONN +5 vs Marshall - 11am
Both teams have very good defenses so expect a low scoring game. I love the energy head coach Bob Diaco brings to the Uconn sidelines. Uconn CB Jamar Summers is an underrated playmaker, with seven interceptions this season. Marshall doesn't have the explosive offense we've grown accustomed to seeing in years past. The Thundering Herd win, but the margin is just a field goal.
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
WASHINGTON -8.5 vs Southern Miss - 220pm
The Huskies finished strong with blowout wins over Oregon State and Washington State. UW is a far better team than their 6-6 record shows. Washington's defense gave up just 17.8 points a game, best in the Pac-12. Southern Miss put up big numbers this season led by QB Nick Mullens, but the Golden Eagles' offense will struggle with the strength and speed of UW. Washington lost close games early in the year as freshman QB Jake Browning showed his youth. Browning played much better in the final five games and RB Myles Gaskin is a playmaker for the Huskies' offense. If UW is able to control the line of scrimmage and take an early lead, this game should be a comfortable win for Chris Petersen.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
INDIANA -2.5 vs Duke - 330pm
Duke finished 7-5, but didn't beat a single FBS team that finished with a winning record. David Cutcliffe is still probably whining about "The Return" and his team's loss to Miami. Statisically speaking, Indiana has one of the best offenses in the Big Ten, led by QB Nate Sudfeld and RB Jordan Howard. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, you have to play defense as well. Every game Indiana plays seems to be an exciting shootout. The team with the ball last wins and I expect the Hoosiers to be fired up playing in their first bowl game since 2007. The referees will call back a big play for Duke due to a block-in-the-back and Indiana wins by a field goal.
Camping World Independence Bowl
TULSA +14 vs Virginia Tech - 545pm
This game is Frank Beamer's farewell as the coach at Virginia Tech. The line for this game makes it seem like Tulsa will be significantly overmatched, but I don't see it that way. Tulsa has an explosive offense that produces big plays in the passing game. VT doesn't have their best DB Kendall Fuller and will have trouble dealing with star WR Keyarris Garrett. Tulsa QB Dane Evans will throw for at least three touchdowns and keep this game interesting throughout. Even with the return of QB Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech's offense has trouble stretching the field. The Hokies will run the ball effectively and grind out a close win.
Foster Farms Bowl
NEBRASKA +7 vs Ucla - 915pm
It's almost impossible to accomplish what Nebraska did this season. The Cornhuskers lost seven games by 1, 2, 2, 3, 5, 8, and 10 points respectively. Nebraska could've easily gone 8-4 or 9-3. UCLA has been decimated by injuries all season and the Bruins lack depth on the offensive line. QB Josh Rosen has been great at times this season for UCLA, but if doesn't have protection he could struggle Saturday night. Facing a 5-7 team in a lower tier bowl, UCLA's players might be more focused on the their NFL futures. Nebraska's biggest problem this season was turnovers - 26 in 12 games, 117th in the country. If QB Tommy Armstrong can protect the ball a bit better in the bowl game, don't be surprised if Nebraska pulls the outright upset.