RANKMAN's Annual Bowl-A-Palooza

Chris Dufresne

Just so you know: sitting out this bowl-pick season was never an option even though the risk of pulling a vowel or dangling a participle may risk future earnings in the 2019 NCAA bracket challenge. There is no (i) in TEAM or RANKMAN and also no USC or UCLA in this year’s bowl lineup. The locals have ceded the California post-season to San Diego State, Cal, Stanford, Fresno State and Mater Dei. The rules at Bowl Central remain the same: These picks are for entertainment purposes only. No punching, gouging, poking or thumb wrestling. We have added ATS (Against The Spread) this year as an added bonus.

40: Quick Lane*, Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech (-4), Dec. 26, Detroit.*

General Motors announces first 14,000 fans in attendance will be laid off. Next year’s game will be moved to a new factory in China. GM blames move on sagging sales for 2018 model “Rambling-Wreck.”

Straight up winner: Georgia Tech

Winner ATS: Georgia Tech

39: Potato,Western Michigan vs. BYU (-12), Dec. 21, Boise

True story: One year, at the pregame dinner featuring Boston College and Boise State, the host-city bowl ran out of…potatoes. It’s one reason the new bowl in Yankee Stadium always orders extra pinstripes.

Straight up winner: Brigham Young

Winner ATS: Western Michigan

38: New Orleans, Middle Tennessee vs. Appalachian State (-7), Dec. 15, New Orleans

It’s difficult to imagine a New Orleans bowl game without these two institutions being part of the local traditions, which is a sarcastic way of wondering why Louisiana and Tulane are playing in Orlando.

Straight up winner: Appalachian State

Winner ATS: Appalachian State

37: Boca Raton, Northern Illinois vs. UAB (-2.5), Dec. 18, Boca Raton

Bill Clark deserves major coach of the year kudos for resurrecting an Alabama-Birmingham program that was shuttered a few years ago, with all its furniture sold at an estate sale. NIU deserves credit for being part of a city, Dekalb, that was once known as “the barbed wire capital of the world.”

Straight up winner: UAB

Winner ATS: UAB

36: Camellia, *Eastern Michigan vs. Georgia Southern (-1), Dec.*15, Montgomery

Rejected Camellia matchups included: Western Michigan vs. Georgia Northern, Northern Michigan vs. Georgia Eastern, Southern Michigan vs. Georgia Western, Spaghetti Western vs. Kodak\Eastman.

Straight up winner: Georgia Southern

Winner ATS: Georgia Southern

35: Hawaii, Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii, Dec. 22, Hawaii (60)

Game has been inexplicably moved so far off its traditional near-Christmas Day spot the halftime show will feature Adam Sandler singing the Hanukkah Song. This is Hawaii’s seventh trip to its own bowl—which really saves on canoe oars.

Straight up winner: Hawaii

O\U pick: Over

34: Gasparilla*, South Florida vs. Marshall (-2.5), Dec. 20, Tampa*

This is a home game for USF at Raymond James Stadium but let me tell you, here and now, that Marshall will have the last Thundering Word.

Straight up winner: Marshall

Winner ATS: Marshall

33: Camping World*, Syracuse vs. West Virginia (-7), Dec. 28, Orlando*

WVU quarterback Will Grier and left tackle Yodny Cajuste will be skipping this game to save themselves for the NFL draft. Rankman will be skipping the game to go camping.

Straight up winner: Syracuse

Winner ATS: Syracuse

32: Frisco*, San Diego State vs. Ohio (-3), Dec. 19, Frisco*

Fossil coaches Rocky Long and Frank Solich used their combined years of experience to keep both teams from mutiny after players learned they will not be able to visit Alcatraz or eat clam chowder in "Frisco" Texas.

Straight up winner: San Diego State

ATS: San Diego State

31: Air Force ReserveCelebration, Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T (-7.5), Dec. 15, Atlanta.

If you can’t get excited about this game on the first day of bowl season skip to our special section on Martha Stewart’s “10 ways to enjoy a holiday fruit cake without actually eating it.”

Straight up winner: North Carolina A&T


30: Texas,Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (-3.5), Dec. 27, Houston

Baylor has overcome Art Briles, former president Ken Starr's "Whitewash" investigation, a salacious scandal and decades of being located in Waco. The Bears have never been so happy to be 6-6 underdogs to the SEC's "Grand Old Offensive Opry." .

Straight up winner: Baylor

ATS winner: Baylor

29: AutoNationCure, Louisiana vs. Tulane (-3), Dec. 15, Orlando.

Schools bands created after the Louisiana Purchase treat Floridians to a reenactment of Johnny Horton’s Battle of New Orleans…“Old Hickory said we could take them by surprise if we didn’t fire our muskets till we looked them in the eyes…”

Straight up winner: Louisiana

Winner ATS: Louisiana

28: New Mexico, North Texas vs. Utah State (-9), Dec. 15, Albuquerque.

Dr. Pepper halftime show features spelling contest in which students jot down their best stab at “Albuquerque.” Winner receives $10,000 and a dictionary signed by Merriam Webster. Hosted by Petros Papadakis.

Winner straight up: Utah State

ATS: North Texas

27: Bahamas*, Florida International vs Toledo (-6), Dec. 21, Nassau*

Bowl has produced some of the most exciting results the past few years—remember WKU vs. Central Michigan? Best part of game remains Tommy Bahama’s annual T shirt-gun blasts into the upper deck. Only bowl game played outside the U.S. unless a Sun Bowl quarterback really overthrows a pass in El Paso.

Winner straight up: Toledo

Winner ATS: Toledo

26: Birmingham, Wake Forest vs. Memphis (-5), Dec. 22, Birmingham

Memphis should have defeated UCF (twice) while Wake Forest really lost once to Clemson, 63-3. Memphis RB Darrell Henderson is a threat every time he touches the ball or talks about player compensation for half-filled bowl games in landlocked Alabama.

Winner straight up: Memphis

Winner ATS: Memphis

25: Armed Forces, Houston vs. Army (-3), Dec. 22, Fort Worth

All three service academies have played in this game but, thankfully, never in the same year. Army averages 303 yards per game. “Thank you for your service” will be said a lot during the course of the game, although maybe not by Houston coach Major Applewhite to Ed Oliver.

Winner straight up: Army

Winner ATS: Houston

24: Dollar General*, Troy vs. Buffalo (-2.5), Dec. 22, Mobile*

Former Miami of Ohio quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, now the multi-million Dollar General for Pittsburgh of Pennsylvania, is a former MVP in this game.

Winner straight up: Troy

Winner ATS: Troy

23: First Responder, Boston College vs. Boise State (-3), Dec. 26, Dallas

First responders for Boston College are practicing the Heimlich maneuver to save a choking Eagles team that has collapsed after a promising start.

Straight up: Boise State

ATS: Boise

22: Cheez-It*, Texas Christian vs. Cal, Dec. 26, Phoenix. (40.5)*

Receivers tell refs before game any suspicious-looking orange goo on their hands can be blamed on snack packs provided by the bowl’s title sponsor.

Winner straight up: Cal

Over\Under: Over

21: Independence, Duke vs. Temple (-3), Dec. 27, Shreveport

Temple coach Geoff Collins recently announced he would be skipping the Independence Bowl to begin immediately preparing for his new contract with Georgia Tech.

Winner straight up: Temple

Winner ATS: Duke

20: Outback*, Iowa vs. Mississippi State (-6), Jan. 1, Tampa*

If you like defense you’ll want record this game and watch it right after “The World Sumo Wrestling Finals.” First team to 20 wins; everyone else loses.

Winner straight up: Mississippi State

Winner ATS: Iowa

19: Pinstripe*, Wisconsin vs. Miami (-3.5), Dec. 27, New York*

Only months ago these schools were ranked No. 4 and No. 8 in the preseason polls and possibly on track to meet a College Football Playoff stadium. Soon they'll be face-to-face with "No Pepper" warning signs at a Major League Baseball Park.

Winner straight up: Miami

Winner ATS: Miami

18: Music City, Purdue vs. Auburn (-4), Dec. 28, Nashville

Purdue fans are thrilled Jeff Brohm turned down an offer at Louisville and will remain with the Boilermakers. Auburn fans are going to get sloshed on boilermakers.

Winner straight up: Auburn

Winner ATS: Auburn

17: Alamo, Iowa State vs. Washington State (-4), Dec. 28, San Antonio

Mike Leach, after watching Iowa State struggle to a three-point win over Drake, turned off his projector and started reading a book about Davy Crockett.

Winner straight up: Washington State

Winner ATS: Washington State

16: Belk*, Virginia vs. South Carolina (-4), Dec. 29, Charlotte*

Virginia is a university founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. South Carolina is a university founded in 1801 by an act of the South Carolina General Assembly. Belk is an American department store founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk.

Winner straight up: South Carolina

Winner ATS: South Carolina

15: Las Vegas*, Arizona State vs. Fresno State (-4.5), Dec. 15, Las Vegas*

One school looks to make huge national statement by pulling off upset versus superior team from a better conference. The other team is Fresno State.

Straight up Fresno State

ATS: Fresno State

14: Arizona*, Nevada vs. Arkansas State (-1), Dec. 29, Tucson*

A very exciting non-Pac 12 matchup, in a Pac 12 stadium, involving non-Pac 12 teams. The non-Pac 12 winner will also match the Pac 12’s mark for bowl wins last season.

Winner straight up: Nevada

Winner ATS: Nevada

13: Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman,Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati (-5), Dec. 31, Annapolis

A huge U.S. arms transaction, recently negotiated near a laundry hamper in visitor’s locker room, leads to a late sponsorship change: “Military Bowl Presented by Saudi Arabia.”

Winner straight up: Cincinnati

Winner ATS: Virginia Tech

12: Sun*, Pittsburgh vs. Stanford (-6.5), Dec. 31, El Paso*

Critics of players sitting out post-season games note that Christian McCaffrey isn’t playing in this Sun Bowl, either.

Winner straight up: Stanford

Winner ATS: Pittsburgh

11: Rebox*, Michigan State vs. Oregon (-2.5), Dec. 31, Santa Clara*

Come see Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott get booed as he awards the championship trophy after a 10-3 game before a crowd of 35,134. Wait, sorry, that was last month’s game at Levi’s Stadium.

Winner straight up: Oregon

Winner ATS: Oregon

10: Holiday******,*** Northwestern vs. Utah (-6.5), Dec. 31, San Diego*

Multi-loss divisional winners from power 5 conferences that did not qualify for the College Football Playoff vie for respect, gift baskets and plates of enchiladas suizas and pitchers of Micheladas.

Winner straight up: Utah

Winner ATS: Northwestern

9: Liberty*, Oklahoma State vs. Missouri (-7.5), Dec. 31, Memphis*

Former regular-season Big 12 game gets night out on the town all dressed up as a bowl game. Schools first met in 1915, second-met in 1921, third-met in 1949 and last met in 2014.

Winner straight up: Missouri

Winner ATS: Oklahoma State

8: Gator******,*** North Carolina State vs. Texas A&M (-4.5), Dec. 31, Jacksonville*

This bowl is bad news for NC State if Texas A&M scores as many points as it did the last time it played. Unless NC State scores 75.

Winner straight up: Texas A&M

Winner ATS: TAMU

7: Citrus*, Kentucky vs. Penn State (-6), Jan. 1, Orlando*

Both schools came close to playing in bigger, less-acidic bowls but complaining about it to the citrus community at this point would just be sour grapes*.*

Straight up winner: Penn State

Winner ATS: Penn State

6: Peach, Florida vs. Michigan (-7.5), Dec. 29, Atlanta

Gators are thrilled to be playing NY6 game given they own three losses by 51 total points. Harbaugh is thrilled to be playing an Urban Meyer-coached school he can actually beat.

Straight up winner: Michigan

Winner ATS: Florida

5: Sugar, Texas vs. Georgia (-11), Jan. 1, New Orleans

The team that still can’t believe it lost to Maryland takes on the team that still can’t believe it lost to Alabama. Played in the city that still can’t believe some people don’t like deep-fried butter.

Straight up winner: Georgia

Winner ATS: Texas

4: Rose*, Washington vs. Ohio State (-6.5), Jan. 1, Pasadena*

Washington’s top-notched defense, led by top-drawer coordinator Jimmy Lake, hopes to sink Ohio State's Rose Bowl float in retiring Urban Meyer's last game until he returns to coach USC in 2020.

Straight up winner: Ohio State

Winner ATS: Washington

3: Fiesta, Central Florida vs. LSU (-7.5), Jan. 1, Glendale

Another chance for UCF to prove it can beat an SEC team in a New Year’s Six bowl that only one team really cares about now since the other team got shut out at home by Alabama.

Straight up winner: Central Florida

Winner ATS: UCF

2: Cotton, Notre Dame vs. Clemson, (-11), Dec. 29, Arlington

Some people say Notre Dame is not deserving because it isn't in a conference and doesn’t play enough ACC games. Other people say Clemson isn’t deserving because it IS in a conference and plays too many ACC games.

Straight up winner: Clemson

Winner ATS: Notre Dame

1: Orange*, Oklahoma vs. Alabama (-14), Dec. 29, Miami Gardens*

The Oakland A’s, in a shocking move, announce Heisman winner Kyler Murray can only play national semifinal game if he is encased in bubble-wrap.

Straight up winner: Alabama

Winner ATS: Oklahoma

Comments (5)

Lots of work put in there, Chris. I couldn’t even read the entire list. You managed to keep it interesting. When flat-picking one plucks the guitar string with a “plectrum”.

No. 1-4

Pure entertainment as usual

Herb Gould
Herb Gould


Duf's usual excellent and humorous work. You are in-Dufatiguable, as always. . . . You could have mentioned, though, that Barry Alvarez called former employer in South Bend to see if the Badgers could borrow Notre Dame's pinstripe pants. Because times are tough in Big Ten without playoff windfall.


This was a lot of work, Chris. Thanks for your usual wry slant on these ridiculously overdone bowls. One question: I didn’t follow what the asterisks represented.

Chris Dufresne