Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for those of you that simply can not get enough college football, this is your time of the season. The Bowl Season is upon us, and things will get underway today with a trio of interesting match-ups for your viewing pleasure.
The game that's probably of the most interest to most of us that follow the Gophers involves the team that, up until a couple of weeks ago, new Gophers' head coach Jerry Kill was in charge up. The 2010 Humanitarian Bowl will serve as the "sandwich" game of the bowl trifecta that ESPN will be broadcasting today, and it involves the Northern Illinois Huskies doing battle with the Fresno State Bulldogs. This one will be played on the "Smurf Turf" of exotic Boise, Idaho, and will kick off at 4:30 PM Central time.
Northern Illinois comes into this game with a 10-2 record, having gone undefeated in the Mid American Conference before losing to Miami of Ohio in the MAC Title Game. Fresno State, out of the Western Athletic Conference, finished the 2010 season with an 8-4 mark. Look for a big dose of Chad Spann, the MAC's Offensive Player of the Year, to help the Huskies to a victory in this one over the Bulldogs.
SB Nation Minnesota Prediction: Northern Illinois 34, Fresno State 24
The first game of the afternoon, and of the bowl season, will be the New Mexico Bowl, kicking off at 1 PM Central time from Albuquerque, New Mexico. This game will see the Cougars of Brigham Young taking on the Miners of the University of Texas-El Paso, and it's a story of two teams going in opposite directions. BYU started off the season with a 1-4 record, but managed to gut out five wins over their final seven games to get themselves to 6-6 and become bowl eligible. And, to be honest, while Albuerquerque might not be the most exotic of locales, BYU is just happy to be going anywhere but Las Vegas for the post-season, as they had appeared in the Las Vegas Bowl in each of the past five seasons.
UTEP, on the other hand, is heading the opposite way, having started off fast with five victories in their first six ball games. However, the wheels have come off for the Miners as of late, and rather than competing for a Conference USA title, they dropped five of their final six to end up with a 6-6 record. Also working against the Miners is the fact that they haven't won a bowl game since before yours truly enlisted in the United States Air Force. The last post-season victory for UTEP was in 1997 when they upset. . .you guessed it. . .BYU in the Sun Bowl by a score of 14-3.
However, I wouldn't expect the Miners' winless drought to end in this one. BYU has significantly more balance on offense than UTEP does, as the Miners have really no rushing attack to speak of. I'd look for BYU to win this one fairly easily.
SB Nation Minnesota Prediction: Brigham Young 34, Texas-El Paso 17
The last game of the evening will be the New Orleans Bowl. Man, I bet you have no idea where this one's going to be played, huh? Yes, indeed, it will take place in the Superdome, and the match-up will be between the Troy Trojans, representing the Sun Belt Conference with an overall record of 7-5 (5-2 in conference) and the Ohio Bobcats out of the Mid American Conference with a record of 8-4 (6-2 in the MAC). This is the Trojans' third trip to the New Orleans Bowl, having defeated Rice in 2006 and losing to Southern Miss in 2008, while this is the first time a MAC team has participated in the New Orleans Bowl. Normally, the game is between a team from the Sun Belt and a team from Conference USA.
This is going to be a match-up of opposites. The Bobcats are pretty good on the defensive side of the ball, allowing only 21.8 points per game on the season, but they've had their struggles offensively, having the 94th-ranked offense in the nation in terms of total yardage. They run the ball well offensively, but their passing attack is pretty awful, ranking 105th in the NCAA. The Trojans, on the other hand, are capable of throwing the ball all over the yard, as they have the 24th-ranked offense in the country. However, their defense has let them down on numerous occasions this season, as they have allowed 419.2 yards per game, "good" for 94th best in the NCAA.
Though Troy should have a bit of a home field advantage in this one, I'm going to take defense over offense in this one and predict a mild upset.
SB Nation Minnesota Prediction: Ohio 28, Troy 24
And there you have it, folks. . .as some television station's advertising used to say a few years back, this is the most wonderful time of the year for college football fans. It kicks off this afternoon, so pull up some couch and enjoy!