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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

Bowl Games Part 2


Thursday, December 26th

Little Caesars Bowl

PittPitt did not have the type of inaugural ACC season that it had envisioned, it started off kind-of bad getting beat down by Florida State in the first game of the season. They went 3-5 within the ACC but managed a 6-6 overall record and became bowl eligible. The Panthers had two signature wins;- a 28-21 victory over #23 Notre Dame, and a 58-55 shootout over Duke. Yep, this is the year where a win over the Blue Devils in Football is a signature win. Go Figure! The only game the Panthers got blown out in was against the Seminoles, which tells me they can play better. They just need to get over that hump.

Bowling Green is returning to Ford’s field in Detroit, where, in their last visit, they ended Northern Illinois’ bid to be a BCS Bowl Buster by defeating the Huskies, 47-27. They are headed to the same field where they won the MAC Championship, beat NIU (who went to a BCS Bowl last BGyear), so what’s not to like about this? The fact that their Head Coach bolted for Wake Forest after the win over Northern Illinois, that’s what. Can the Falcons get that 11th victory with interim Head Coach Scheier? Before, he was the special teams coach. Now he’s the Head Guy. Bowling Green is 1-2 against Pitt overall. They last played in 2008 where they stunned the Panthers, 27-17.

Pitt is looking for another signature win and a winning record. Bowling Green knows they have a good football team, capable of winning. For some reason I’m picking Pitt to win. They want it more and BG is in a bit of transition.


San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl 

Northern Illinois was tearing through their season schedule, looking to make a second straight NIUtrip to BCS country, and QB Lynch was looking like a Heisman finalist. Something went wrong, very wrong, in Detroit, of all places. Who’d a’ thunk it?  The Huskies did not play well in the MAC game and Bowling Green was ready to take advantage of the Huskies’ lackluster performance. Now they are trying to set the single-season school record for victories- one game later than they planned. NIU is a rush-heavy offense with some good passing for variety. They must to pick the pieces and not let the MAC Championship game define their season. Win here, and they go out winners. Lose, and they’ll consider the whole season a loss.

Utah St. is making their school-record third straight bowl appearance, and it’s their third straight MAC opponent as well. They first lost to Ohio, in 2011, and then the Aggies beat Toledo last year. Utah stNow it’s the rubber game against the MAC. State has a very sound defensive team and they are chomping at the bit for a chance to stop Lynch and the hard-core running of NIU. Utah St. has a good running game as well. With Joey DeMartino as their third straight 1,000 yard rusher, seems like everything this year is coming up in threes for the Aggies. So, they are either going to win by three or lose by three. In the Bowl Chart I picked them to lose. Northern Illinois.



Friday, December 27th

Military Bowl

Maryland started the season like gang-busters, winning four straight and breaking into the Maryland IIInational top 25. Then, they lost to Florida State. The Terps didn’t just lose, they were annihilated, 63-0. That’s a big oops. They recovered enough moxie to win their next game, but then dropped three straight and had to struggle just to become bowl eligible. They won a nail biter against VaTech, but even in that, they blew a 21-point lead. The Boston College game was close but BC kicked a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. In the Military Bowl, they face a high-octane Marshall team. Of all the Terps wins, only two were against teams with a winning record, Old Dominion, who just made the jump up to the Big Boy level, and VaTech, and no one is going to say the Hokies were really all that good this year. Maryland has an opportunity to beat a good team and start next year off on the right foot. They’d better. For all its shortcomings, the Great White North Conference still plays some tough ball, and that’s where the Terrapins are headed.

Marshall is one of those teams that are fun to watch. They like to score and score a lot. When they don’t have their good stuff, the wheels fall off. Either way, it makes for an entertaining game. The Thundering Herd was on a five game win streak when they lost to Rice in the Conference USA Marshallchampionship. All season long, the Thundering Herd was able to put up big numbers, and then, when it looked like they were unstoppable, the Owls stopped them, and stopped them hard. Now they head to Annapolis to face Maryland. The two teams faced some common opponents this year. Maryland defeated VaTech while Marshall fell to the Hokies in triple overtime. Both teams beat Florida International, but, heck, who didn’t? Marshall has too much going for them and Maryland has all the pressure resting on their shoulders. The Thundering Herd pulls out the victory.

Texas Bowl

MinnesotaFor Minnesota, this year’s Texas Bowl is a do-over. Last year they ended their season with a heartbreaking loss in this very Bowl against Texas Tech. With 1:10 left in the game, the Golden Gophers had a seven point lead. The Red Raiders came storming back and won the game, 34-31, Minnesota limped home with a 6-7 record. This is not that same team. Now they enter the Bowl season looking to win that ninth game, making it only the second time in school history they have achieved a nine win season. Not sure if it’s in the game plan for them to throw the ball, the boys from the Land of Lakes are not inclined to throw the ball around. The Gophers will rely on David Cobb to run the ball instead, just as they have all season.

Syracuse makes the trip down to sunny Texas from the frozen north with a 6-6 record. Last year Syracusethese two teams met and the Gophers took the win. But that was under a different coaching staff and a different QB. In Coach Scott Shafer’s first season, the Orange has been mediocre. They entered the ACC and went 6-6. Against traditional winning schools, they lost. Against smaller schools, they won, which places them right in the middle of the pack. The Orange has the same offensive philosophy as Minnesota, run the ball. So if a person is looking for a fast- paced, scoring at will, football game, this is not that game. Both teams want to control the line of scrimmage and shove the ball down the other’s throat. Should be a hard-hitting, low-scoring game, ( now that I’ve said that watch them both score over 50 points) but Minnesota should win.

Fight Hunger Bowl

BYUBYU is making their ninth bowl appearance, and eighth with Coach Mendenhal. To the say the Cougars were a bit sporadic this year might seem like a stretch, but truthfully, it’s not. They began by losing to Virginia (did UVA beat anyone else besides 1AA teams?).  BYU ran all over Texas and looked like champions, only to lose to Utah the next week. They went on a five-game win streak, but lost to Wisconsin and then to Notre Dame. The Cougars should have done better. Losing to Wisconsin, ok, but to Virginia, and Notre Dame? No, who knows what’s going on there?

Washington enters the game with an intern head coach in Marques Tulasosopo, who just happened to be QB for the Huskies back in 2000 when they won the Rose Bowl against a Purdue Washingtonteam led by Drew Brees. Now he gets one shot as the Head Man because as soon as the games is over, Chris Petersen, from Boise State, takes over the reins. Washington is another team that expected to win more, they did fine against schools they should have beaten but against the cream of the crop (ranked) teams, they failed. They get a chance to show they are better than the regular season record. Washington is in too much of a flux and BYU is too much of a stable team. BYU runs the ball like they did against Texas and wins the Bowl.

Saturday, December 28th

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

thumbnailNotre Dame enters this game after dropping two of their last three games. After they made a run to the Championship game last year, they did not have that bad of a drop off. The Irish have some glaring weakness with no true fixes. Nest year the Irish enter the ACC, ok, not a full-fledged member, but, come on, they’ll be a member of the ACC. They would like nothing better than to enter their new conference with a victory. Notre Dame has won all four times they have meet Rutgers going back to 1921.

Rutgers found itself in a dogfight just to become bowl eligible. After a 1-5 stretch, with one game Rutgersleft, against South Florida, it was do or die time against the Bulls. The Scarlet Knights came out determined not to lose, and they played like it.  If they can keep that mind-set, and play as hard as they did in their last game, there is no way Notre Dame can beat them. But that’s the million-dollar question, which Rutgers team is going to show up? If the one that played at the start of the season, they win. If it’s the one that was on the field from Oct. 10th through Nov. 30th, they’ll lose. Without the do or die pressure on the Scarlet Knights, they are just too unpredictable. Notre Dame wins.

Belk Bowl

CincinnatiCincinnati played in this bowl last year and beat Duke, 48-34. Now they are back, only they’re playing North Carolina. The Bearcats, under jumping teams coach Tuberville, made a great run in the middle of the season, ripping off six straight wins. QB Kay did not start the season under center, but had to take over after Legaux went down with an injury. It took a couple of games for him to get his sea legs, but once he did, he played great,capping it off with a 405-yard, four touchdown game, beating Rutgers. They ended up third in the AAC.

North Carolina had a rough start, like, 1-5. Not a way to a winning season. Then something UNCclicked, and they pulled off five straight wins, losing only their last game to ACC powerhouse Duke (yes, it’s fun to say that Duke is a powerhouse in football). Now UNC needs to win this one to make it a winning season. Just because they made it to a bowl does not make a season a success. Granted, it’s better than not going to one, but the Tar Heels were expecting much more out of 2013. They need to win to have something to build on. Lose, and it’ll be like starting over. It’ll be interesting to see how UNC reacts. But I’m picking Cinnci to win it.

Russell Athletic Bowl

LouisvilleMost of this press leading up to this game will be about Teddy Bridgewater and how he’s from Miami and how he was going to go play for the Hurricanes, but didn’t, and how this will be his last college game before he enters the NFL Draft.  Kind-of doubt there will be much talk about his last five games and how he struggled against lesser teams, and, by lesser, I’m talking schools like Memphis, South Florida, and Connecticut. No powerhouses there. The Cardinals won, but not the way you’d expect. Bridgewater and the Cardinals had a great year, record-wise, but hopes of being a BCS participant with a Heisman quarterback went right out the window against Central Florida.

Miami ends it’s suffering by getting to this bowl. For the last two years they have lived under a Miamiself-imposed bowl ban. Now its time to cry, Havoc! and lose the Dogs of War! Miami can make a major statement by beating Louisville. Or they can falter by losing. They’ve been overlooked and the press has had little to do with them. This is not the old Miami. The players are serious and no one is giving the other team locker room material. They’re focused and determined. But they do have a one big weakness. They have an underperforming defense. Against powerful offensives, they fold like a stack of cards. Louisville joins the ACC next year;- coming in a winner would help their reputation. Miami is looking to recapture the glory days.  I picked the Cardinals in the bowl chart because of the poor Hurricanes’ defense, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miami pull the upset.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Kansas StateKansas State has done a great job in turning its season around. They started off by losing to North Dakota State, so that ended any chance of a national championship. They dropped games to Texas, Oklahoma St, and Baylor. Even in those games, the Wildcats had their moments. Now they go into the post-season where Coach Synder does not have a good record. The last bowl game he’s won was the 2002 Holiday Bowl, against Arizona State. Hopefully, he can rediscover that missing element and notch a bowl win.

Michigan enters the game with the same record as K-State, 7-5, although they took different paths to achieve those records. The Wolverines started the season with wins and ended with Michiganlosses. They played well against rival Ohio State, but to say they fought tooth and nail in their other losses would be a stretch. QB Gardner is questionable for the Bowl game. He has been wearing a protective boot because of turf toe and has been unable to practice. That would put Freshman Shane Morris under center. Just as a helpful hint, it’s never a good idea to have a freshman make their first start in a bowl game. That’s what Michigan is facing. If K-State is going to break their bowl drought this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

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