39 bowl games and a reason to watch every one
Over the next three weeks, 38 bowl games and a national championship game will be played from Boise to the Bahamas and various points in between. You should watch them all. Here's why:
Saturday, Dec. 20
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada (minus 1) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Why watch? Someone thought it would be fun to start a football game at 10 a.m. in New Orleans. Wait for the crowd shots and try to spot the fans who went straight from Bourbon Street to the Superdome.
Pick: LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 28-24.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque
UTEP (plus 10 1/2) vs. Utah State
Why watch? Brothers Zach and Nick Vigil play linebacker for Utah State and have combined for 181 tackles. Every time a Vigil makes a tackle, take a sip of your favorite beverage. We would suggest Dr Pepper if you plan to watch the second half.
Pick: UTAH STATE 31-14.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Colorado State (plus 3) vs. Utah
Why watch? Your last memory of Utes star receiver/returner Kaelin Clay should not be of him absent-mindedly dropping the football a yard short of the end zone against Oregon. One of the most exciting special teams players in the country plays his last college game.
Pick: UTAH 30-21.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise
Western Michigan (plus 1 1/2) vs. Air Force
Why watch? The winning team will be the owner of the biggest turnaround season in the country. Both the Broncos (8-4) and Falcons (9-3) have already won seven more games than they did last year.
Pick: WESTERN MICHIGAN 27-23.
Raycom Camelia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama
Bowling Green (plus 3) vs. South Alabama
Why watch? Do you like hockey? South Alabama QB Brandon Bridge was born in Toronto. His nickname is ''Air Canada.'' Close enough.
Pick: BOWLING GREEN 42-24.
Monday, Dec. 22
Miami Beach Bowl
BYU (plus 1) vs. Memphis
Why watch? By next season Memphis' Justin Fuente will be the coach you want your school to hire.
Pick: MEMPHIS 30-28.
Tuesday, Dec. 23
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall (minus 10) vs. Northern Illinois
Why watch? Outside of the College Football Playoff semifinals, this is the only bowl game matching conference champions.
Pick: MARSHALL 45-38.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy (plus 3) vs. San Diego State
Why watch? Every time Navy QB Keenan Reynolds scores a touchdown you get to reminisce about a college football star from the past. Remember how great Ron Dayne was? Reynolds' next TD will be No. 63, matching the Wisconsin Heisman Trophy winner. Two more touchdowns pulls Reynolds even with Indiana great Anthony Thompson and Texas star Cedric Benson.
Pick: NAVY 28-24.
Wednesday, Dec. 24
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl in Nassau
Western Kentucky (minus 3 1/2) vs. Central Michigan
Why watch? It's a football game on a tropical island, with the possibility of limitless access to fried chicken. This is paradise.
Pick: Three-piece spicy with a biscuit and Cajun rice. And WESTERN KENTUCKY 38-28.
Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu
Rice (minus 2) vs. Fresno State
Why watch? What else are you going to do while putting together that doll house or bicycle on the night before Christmas?
Pick: RICE 27-21.
Friday, Dec. 26
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois (plus 6) vs. Louisiana Tech
Why watch? It's the day after Christmas. Haven't you spent enough time with your family?
Pick: ILLINOIS 35-24.
Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit
Rutgers (plus 3) vs. North Carolina
Why watch? Great player you probably don't know: Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo, who averages more yards per catch (19.68) than any 1,000-yard receiver in the country.
Pick: RUTGERS 42-38.
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
UCF (minus 2) vs. N.C. State
Why watch? Maybe UCF coach George O'Leary can explain what Bitcoin is.
Pick: UCF 28-23.
Saturday, Dec. 27
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman in Annapolis, Maryland
Virginia Tech (plus 3) vs. Cincinnati
Why watch? Virgina Tech's offense is terrible. Cincinnati's defense is awful. Let's see what happens.
Pick: VIRGINIA TECH 33-24.
Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas
Duke (plus 7 1/2) vs. Arizona State
Why watch: Lots of great freshmen running backs around the country this season. Two that didn't get a lot of attention face off: Duke's Shaun Wilson (8.0 yards per carry) and Arizona State's Demario Richard (5.6 per carry).
Pick: ARIZONA STATE 38-21.
Duck Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Miami (minus 3 1/2) vs. South Carolina
Why watch? What if I told you the next ESPN 30-for-30 on The U. could start in a Bossier City, Louisiana, casino?
Pick: SOUTH CAROLINA 24-17.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York
Boston College (minus 2 1/2) vs. Penn State
Why watch? Get a look at the most under-appreciated coaching job this season. BC's Steve Addazio won seven games in what even he thought might be a rebuilding year.
PICK: BOSTON COLLEGE 21-14
National University Holiday Bowl in San Diego
Nebraska (plus 6 1/2) vs. Southern California
Why watch? Your friends who only casually follow college football will think this is a huge game.
Pick: USC 31-21.
Monday, Dec. 29
Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee
West Virginia (minus 3 1/2) vs. Texas A&M
Why watch? Get a glimpse of two promising young quarterbacks: Texas A&M will start freshman Kyle Allen. West Virginia's Skyler Howard might only get spot duty, depending on the health of starter Clint Trickett.
Pick: TEXAS A&M 42-35.
Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Florida
Clemson (plus 3) vs. Oklahoma
Why watch? Former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables now leads the Clemson D. It's the `Vena-bowl!'
Pick: CLEMSON 20-17.
Texas Bowl in Houston
Texas (plus 6) vs. Arkansas
Why watch? Do you long for the days when football teams only passed when absolutely necessary? Then Longhorns-Razorbacks is for you. Only two SEC teams have thrown fewer passes than Arkansas. Only one Big 12 team averages fewer yards passing per game than Texas.
Pick: ARKANSAS 21-13.
Tuesday, Dec. 30
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee
Notre Dame (plus 7 1/2) vs. LSU
Why watch? Notre Dame QB Everett Golson (22 turnovers) embraces the spirit of giving that makes the holiday season special.
Pick: LSU 34-21.
Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Louisville (plus 7) vs. Georgia
Why watch? We were deprived of a full season of Louisville WR Devante Parker, who played in only five games because of a broken foot and still caught 35 passes for 735 yards. Get one last look him in a Cardinals uniform.
Pick: LOUISVILLE 28-24.
Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, California
Stanford (minus 14) vs. Maryland
Why watch? The season is almost over and you probably need another reminder that Maryland is now in the Big Ten.
Pick: STANFORD 31-14
Wednesday, Dec. 31
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta
Mississippi (plus 3 1/2) vs. TCU
Why watch? Land sharks (Ole Miss defense) vs. Air Frogs (TCU offense).
Pick: TCU 34-27.
Vizio Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona
Boise State (plus 3 1/2) vs. Arizona
Why watch? Boise State returns to the site of its greatest triumphs, trying to score another victory for the little guys.
Pick: ARIZONA 45-28.
Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami
Mississippi State (minus 7) vs. Georgia Tech
Why watch? The theory is that given time several weeks to prepare, bowl opponents figure out Georgia Tech's triple-option offense. Hence, the Yellow Jackets' 1-5 bowl record under coach Paul Johnson. Watch the Bulldogs test that theory, and then watch Johnson get testy with the first person who asks him about it in the postgame.
Picks: MISSISSIPPI STATE 38-28.
Thursday, Jan. 1
Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida
Wisconsin (plus 6 1/2) vs. Auburn
Why watch? Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon needs 293 yards rushing to break Barry Sanders' FBS single-season record. Totally doable.
Picks: AUBURN 38-30.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at Arlington, Texas
Michigan State (plus 3) vs. Baylor
Why watch? Baylor wanted to be in the playoff. Last chance to show the selection committee it was wrong.
Pick: MICHIGAN STATE 38-31.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida
Minnesota (plus 5) vs. Missouri
Why watch? Flip over from the Cotton Bowl every once in a while. Maybe you'll find out why Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams, a second-team All-American, has that extra `x.'
Pick: Minnesota 23-20.
Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual in Pasadena, California
Playoff semifinal: Oregon (minus 9) vs. Florida State
Why watch? Sure a spot in the championship game is on the line, but this matchup between Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston also kicks off ESPN's nonstop, four-month NFL draft coverage. Winston throws a pick. That'll cost him five spots on the big board. Mariota stays in the pocket to throw a TD. Stock up!
Pick: FLORIDA STATE 34-29.
Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans
Playoff semifinal: Alabama (minus 9 1/2) vs. Ohio State
Why watch? Two heavyweight programs with superstar coaches that most fans love to hate, and somebody has to win. Look on the bright side haters, somebody also has to lose. Enjoy the misery.
Pick: ALABAMA 28-17.
Friday, Jan. 2
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas
Pittsburgh (minus 3) vs. Houston
Why watch? Because interim coaches - both teams have one - are people, too.
Pick: PITTSBURGH 23-17.
TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida
Iowa (plus 3) vs. Tennessee
Why watch? To see Iowa All-America tackle Brandon Scherff. Trust us. There won't be much else to watch offensively from the Hawkeyes (79th in the country in yards per play) and Volunteers (115th in ypp).
Pick: TENNESSEE 17-14.
Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio
UCLA (plus 1) vs. Kansas State
Why watch? You never know which UCLA team will show up. The one that crushed Arizona State and USC? Or the one that was crushed by Oregon and Stanford?
Pick: UCLA 31-23.
Ticketcity Cactus Bowl in Tempe, Arizona
Oklahoma State (plus 5 1/2) vs. Washington
Why watch? Shaq Thompson at linebacker for the Washington. Shaq Thompson at running back. Wonder what kind of arm he has?
Pick: WASHINGTON 24-14.
Saturday, Jan. 3
Birmingham (Alabama) Bowl
Florida (minus 7) vs. East Carolina
Why watch? Find out why Florida just agreed to pay $5 million to hire Colorado State's coach.
Pick: FLORIDA 31-21.
GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Toledo (minus 3) vs. Arkansas State
Why watch? It's the fourth straight appearance for Arkansas State and the first time you'll actually get to see their coach in Mobile. The past three years the Red Wolves have had interim coaches by the time they played in the postseason.
Pick: Toledo 28-20
College Football Playoff Championship in Arlington, Texas
Florida State (projected line: plus 7) vs. Alabama
Why watch? Can the Tide bring the national title back to the Southeastern Conference or will Florida State repeat as champions?
Pick: Alabama 31-23.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP