the losses associated with traveling to Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl. Others, like UTEP and Northern Illinois on Saturday, will certainly eat financial losses for the sake of getting additional reps in practice in hopes of getting a win to end their season. Three bowl games will be played on Saturday (none on Sunday). These three are previewed below.
- Brigham Young v. UTEP [New Mexico Bowl] (ESPN, 2:00pm ET). Ohio State shooty hoops will be on simultaneously, with the Buckeyes leading the charge against the South Carolina Gamecocks. I do not advise watching this game as you must support Ohio State basketball’s march to glory this weekend (men v. South Carolina, women v. Connecticut). Nevertheless, this game does offer some intrigue. I’m surprised Brigham Young is even at this game. For a team that started 2009 with a stunning upset of Oklahoma and a KO of defending Heisman winner Sam Bradford, the Cougars started off poorly in 2010. Sure, they beat Washington (few of consequence didn’t), but lost their next 4 games. They weren’t even close. Air Force beat them in-conference, followed by destructions in Tallahassee, at home by Nevada and, the capper, on the road at traditional in-state doormat Utah State. The losses were so bad that BYU’s defensive coordinator was fired after the Utah State game. It was their worst start since 1973. Since that loss, the Cougars have won 5 of their last 7 and are (barely) bowl eligible at 6-6. Sure, Texas Christian demolished them, but they did beat Mountain West up-and-comer San Diego State and narrowly lost to rival Utah on a furious rally by the Utes and a game-saving blocked FG attempt. The Cougars play UTEP, who I do not have particularly well scouted. UTEP gave ArKansas a run for its money early, but ultimately fell to a crushing defeat. Both the Miners and the Cougars are 6-6, but are on much different trajectories. Whereas BYU started 1-4 and won 5 of their last 7, the Miners won 5 of their first 6, but lost 5 of their next 6. Ostensibly, BYU is the hotter team and may win going away. Worth watching: BYU’s offense is beyond impotent. If they struggle to score, move the ball, or not throw picks, they’re capable of losing to damn near anyone. They had 10 points against 4-win Utah State before getting a garbage time touchdown with 31 seconds left. That’s Utah State, the 102nd ranked defense in the country1. Utah State.
- Northern Illinois v. Fresno State [Humanitarian Bowl] (ESPN, 5:30pm ET). The problem with having so many non-AQs in bowl games is that there are bound to be a few without head coaches. Such is Northern Illinois. The Huskies had a great season under third year man Jerry Kill. Though they lost the MAC Championship Game to Miami of Ohio, they were undefeated in conference play through the regular season and enter the Humanitarian Bowl at 10-3. In fact, it was so great of a season that Minnesota decided they want some. Kill is in the Twin Cities right now, looking to rebuild the Gophers in the post Tim Brewster era. Kill is taking his coordinators (Tracy Claeys, Matt Limegrover) with him, leaving the linebackers coach — Tom Matukewicz — to lead the Huskies to battle against Fresno State. Fresno State is 8-4, 5-3 in the WAC. With Dave Wannstedt’s removal at Pitt, Fresno State’s Pat Hill must solemnly accept the honor of the best mustache in college football. He must wear it well and faithfully execute all duties and functions associated with it. The best mustache in college football is coming off a victory over the Zookers in the season finale. They can add to this season, which saw them thoroughly embarrassed in their last trip to Boise, by avenging their 1990 loss to Northern Illinois. Fresno State was undefeated, ranked #24 in the AP and, seriously, this got ugly in a hurry. Really ugly. NSFW ugly.
- Ohio v. Troy [New Orleans Bowl2] (ESPN, 9:00pm ET). Your nightcap is some hot, steamy MAC on Sun Belt action. You may remember the Bobcats as a tasty cupcake we enjoyed before conference play. They were very tasty. Well, that cupcake was en route to winning the MAC East and appearing in the MAC Championship Game opposite Jerry Kill’s Northern Illinois team. All they needed to do was beat Kent State. Kent State had 4 wins, was bowl ineligible and on the verge of firing its coach. Kent State thumped the Bobcats for the lulz, catapulting Miami of Ohio to Detroit. Ohio’s consolation prize is a trip to New Orleans whereas Miami of Ohio plays its bowl game in, well, Mobile, Alabama. That’s right, the MAC Champion goes to Mobile and the division’s runner up goes to Bourbon Street. That’s fair, no that’s totally fair. Troy, Ohio’s opponent, plays in a screwy Sun Belt Conference. Florida International won the conference championship despite being 6-6 on the season. Troy got a share of the Sun Belt, though not the first pick as a result of getting hammered by FIU in the regular season. The Trojans and Bobcats have one mutual opponent: Bowling Green (v. Ohio, v. Troy). Both have contrasting offenses. Troy is 12th nationally in passing offense and Ohio can’t throw (105th nationally). You may have to look away when the Bobcats are in clear passing situations, though the Trojans are 101st nationally in pass defense.