Bowl Season '11 Preview: Last of the Mediocres

We're wrapping up the last of the non-BCS, non-traditional big bowl games. There are a couple good ones sprinkled in for today, but most of them will just be good background noise as you prepare for tonight's festivities.


Meineke Car Care Bowl
Texas A&M (6-6) vs Northwestern (6-6)
Saturday, Dec. 31 in Houston, TX, at 12 p.m. on ESPN

Watchability Rating (1-10, 10 being "Must watch" and 1 being "Screwdriver to the eyes"): 4

Pertinent Information: Why did I rank this game so poorly? Look at Texas A&M's schedule. The Aggies played one of the tougher schedules in the nation this year. A&M's losses are to Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas. The only two poor losses are to Texas and Mizzou, both bowl teams. On the flip side, Northwestern lost to Army, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Penn State and Michigan State. Make excuses, but losses to Army, Illinois and Iowa aren't giving anyone confidence in the Wildcats' chances in this game. Still, it's a Big Ten team, so we must root for hell to freeze over.

A&M (-9.5), O/U 70

Sun Bowl
Utah (7-5) vs Georgia Tech (8-4)
Saturday, Dec. 31 in El Paso, TX, at 2 p.m. on CBS

Watchability Rating (1-10, 10 being "Must watch" and 1 being "Screwdriver to the eyes"): 5

Pertinent Information: Had Utah not lost to Colorado in the season finale, this game would have been at least closer to interesting. But the Utes aren't what they used to be, and could get rolled in this one. Georgia Tech only had one bad loss this year, to Miami by 17. I'm going to try to watch this one in particular to see how well the Utah rush defense (98 ypg) holds up against the Ramblin Wreck ground attack (317 ypg).

GT (-2), O/U 50

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
UCLA (6-7) vs Illinois (6-6)
Saturday, Dec. 31 in San Fransicso, at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN

Watchability Rating (1-10, 10 being "Must watch" and 1 being "Screwdriver to the eyes"): 4

Pertinent INformation: Any time two brand name teams get together, I won't give the game less than a "3" rating. That doesn't mean this game won't be terrible football. UCLA backed into a bowl game, even with a losing record (lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game after USC was banned from representing the Pac-12 South). Illinois had one of the more memorable late-season collapses in recent memory, earning Ron Zook the boot. Another Big Ten team, so it's another bad game we must hope for our conference's success.

ILL (-2.5), O/U 47

Liberty Bowl
Cincinnati (9-3) vs Vanderbilt (6-6)
Saturday, Dec. 31 in Memphis, TN, at 3:30 p.m. on ABC

Watchability Rating (1-10, 10 being "Must watch" and 1 being "Screwdriver to the eyes"): 5

Pertinent Information: Don't assume Vandy will roll over for the Bearcats in this one. Cincinnati should still be able to win the game, possibly by double digits. But the Commodores are an SEC team that IS able to compete against mid-to-lower level opponents. It's at least something to leave on the TV while you rest up for the long night.

Vandy (-1.5), O/U 49

Chick-fil-A Bowl
Virginia (8-4) vs Auburn (7-5)
Saturday, Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN

Watchability Rating (1-10, 10 being "Must watch" and 1 being "Screwdriver to the eyes"): 7

Pertinent INformation: Virginia couldn't finish out the season with a bang, getting trounced by Virginia Tech. But the Cavaliers could put up a good fight against Auburn. Virginia is mediocre on both sides of the ball, but at least gaining more on offense than giving up on defense. The same can't be said about the Tigers, who are being outgunned by opponents 406-328. That's a 78-yard difference per game.

AU (-3), O/U 49

BBVA Compass Bowl
SMU (7-5) vs Pitt (6-6)
Saturday, Jan. 7 in Birmingham, AL, at 1 p.m. on ESPN

Watchability Rating (1-10, 10 being "Must watch" and 1 being "Screwdriver to the eyes"): 5

Pertinent Information: Pitt returns to Birmingham for another go at some team from a non-AQ conference. Yes, I realize Penn State is playing Houston. You tell me that Houston is the same as SMU, or that Penn State regularly plays against these kinds of opponents, then we'll start comparing PSU and Pitt's bowl history. Anyway, this game could go either way, but Pitt has the special teams edge. SMU is kind of one-dimensional on offense, which could also pose a problem for the Mustangs.

Pitt (-3.5), O/U 47

GoDaddy.com Bowl
Arkansas State (10-2) vs Northern Illinois (10-3)
Sunday, Jan. 8 in Mobile, AL, at 9 p.m. on ESPN

Watchability Rating (1-10, 10 being "Must watch" and 1 being "Screwdriver to the eyes"): 4

Pertinent Information: Neither team is a name brand program, but both Arkansas State and Northern Illinois topped 10 wins this season. That's something most bowl games can't say about their matchups. Look for an even game here, but one that's very entertaining. Both offenses are very good, so it will come down to which defense can come up with a stop or two.

ASU (-1.5), O/U 63

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