Bowl Mania: Round 3 Post-Mortem & Round 4 Picks

Hello again everybody...

Another holiday week means more jumbled up scheduling for folks. But not here at Sports Take. The standard 3 columns await you here this week. That's right, we're in the meat of the Bowl Mania schedule, so there will be plenty of college football discussion coming your way this week.

I know there are some of you that are itching for me to talk some more about the Hot Stove League. And trust me, I've got plenty of baseball subjects percolating in the back of my mind (R.A. Dickey a Twin?! Really?! Oof). But in the interest of keeping these columns from turning into novellas, I'm going to hold off until we reach the end of Bowl Mania when I can give them the appropriate attention.

But today, it's time to break down how the Round 3 picks fared (almost all of them anyway, there's a game kicking off in 15 minutes that'll complete Round 2). And then there's a whole new slate of picks that I like to call: Round 4. I know. It's terribly creative. But that's just how I roll.

Off we go!

"It is the mark of the educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
- Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC), Greek philosopher

«Read More...»

Okay. There are a lot of picks to post-mortem and many more to deliver freshly. So forgive me if I keep the descriptions brief. Trust me, I'm doing it as much for you as I am for me.

So here's the Round 3 Post-Mortem:

Motor City Bowl: Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan -7

ST Pick: Central Michigan -7
Hammer's Pick: Central Michigan -7
Dark Star's Pick: Central Michigan -7

Final Score: FAU 24, Central Michigan 21

Ugh. Two things about this game:

One, the announcers were horrible. I mean beyond bad. I know it was Detroit on the day after Christmas, but they had to be able to get somebody better than these two knuckleheads to do the game! It was so bad, I kept a running list on my Facebook page of all the moronic things they said. My friend Dave suggesting finding a way to listen to the game in 5.1 surround sound, so I could disconnect the center channel and eliminate the announcers all together. Unfortunately, my "home theater" system leaves much to be desired, so I was forced to suffer through.

Two, seeing FAU head coach and coaching legend, Howard Schnellenberger, doused in Gatorade was one of the more disturbing images I've seen in a while. A 74-year-old man in a suit and tie dripping in "Frost Rip Tide Rush", being clumsily hoisted onto the shoulders of a couple of linebackers? It just felt like elder-abuse!

Oh yeah, and Central Michigan was bad. They played bad. They coached bad. They were just bad.

Sports Take: 3-5
Hammer: 2-6
Dark Star: 2-6


Meineke Car Care Bowl: West Virginia -2 vs. North Carolina

ST Pick: North Carolina +2
Hammer's Pick: West Virginia -2
Dark Star's Pick: West Virginia -2

Final Score: West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30

This was a key game for me as I was going WAY out on a limb with my next pick. It was a crazy shootout in the first half. The two teams combined for 35 points in the first 13 minutes.

I thought I had this one in the bag as UNC led most of the second half. Things got scary towards the end as WVU got the ball with 3:45 left in the game and a clear desire to extend their lead, but the Tar Heel defense held on long enough for me to cover.

Thank you Heels!

Sport Take: 4-5
Hammer: 2-7
Dark Star: 2-7


Champs Sports Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Florida State -6

Sports Take Pick: Wisconsin +6
Hammer's Pick: Florida State -6
Dark Star's Picks: Florida State -6

Final Score: Florida State 42, Wisconsin 13

Okay, okay, I homered it on this one. I really didn't want to root against Bucky, so I found a way to talk myself into them covering the spread.

Not so much.

Despite the blowout score, the Wisconsin defense played pretty well early on. But the inept Badger offense left the "D" out on the field for FAR too long, and eventually they wore out under the Seminoles' attack.

Wisconsin still had their running attack, but their passing-game was virtually non-existent. And when you can't throw the ball, the opposing defense can stack the line against your running game and stop your offense all together.

It was depressing, but I made myself watch the whole thing. Oh well, at least they made a bowl, right? Oof.

Sports Take: 4-6
Hammer: 3-7
Dark Star: 3-7

Next up...

Emerald Bowl: Miami vs. California -9

Sports Take Pick: California -9
Hammer's Pick: California -9
Dark Star's Pick: California -9

Final Score: Cal 24, Miami 17

I thought this was a mortal lock. Obviously I was wrong. Can't say much more than that, as I didn't watch a second of it. Yes, I was still bummed out from the thrashing of the Badgers.

Sports Take: 4-7
Hammer: 3-8
Dark Star: 3-8

Penultimately (sort of...)

Independence Bowl: Northern Illinois -1 vs. Louisiana Tech

Sports Take Pick: Louisiana Tech +1
Hammer's Pick: Louisiana Tech +1
Dark Star's Pick: Louisiana Tech +1

Final Score: Louisiana Tech 17, Northern Illinois 10

I didn't watch a second of this game either. But in my defense, "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story", "Dr. No" and "National Treasure" were all on at the same time. It took some deft remote control work to make it happen, but I caught significant chunks of all 3.

Compare those to Tech/NIU? Sorry. Even *I* don't love college football that much!

Sports Take: 5-7
Hammer: 4-8
Dark Star: 4-8

Finally... Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Rutgers -7

Sports Take: Rutgers -7
Hammer's Pick: Rutgers -7
Dark Star's Pick: Rutgers -7

This game is currently underway at the time of writing. I'm not feeling particularly good as it's already 10-6 NC State with one minute to go in the first quarter.

So 12 games into the 34 game slate, things aren't going nearly as well as I'd hoped. But there are still a majority of the games yet to be played, so let's kick off Round 4 of Bowl Mania!


Valero Alamo Bowl - Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Monday, 12/29, 7pm CT (ESPN)

Northwestern vs. Missouri -12.5

The Wildcats are 9-3 (5-3). The Tigers are 9-4 (5-4).

I've said since this game was announced that the Wildcats are going to give the Tigers a game, and the bettors agree with me. This game has moved a full point in Northwestern's favor since it opened. And I still think the spread is too high. If Missouri comes out flat, I think Northwestern has a shot at a win here.

ST Pick: Northwestern +12.5
Hammer's Pick: Northwestern +12.5
Dark Star's Pick: Missouri -12.5


Roady's Humanitarian Bowl - Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Tuesday 12/30, 3:30pm CT (ESPN)

Nevada -2 vs. Maryland

The Wolfpack are 7-5 (5-3). The Terrapins are 7-5 (4-4).

This, of course, is the "blue field" bowl. Played on the famed blue turf of Bronco Stadium in Boise, ID, the Humanitarian Bowl is probably the only game people look forward to purely for the field.

These two clubs finished the season in opposite ways. Nevada won 3 of their last 4, while Maryland lost 3 of their last 4. Maryland's losses were against tougher competition as they were beaten by Virginia Tech, Florida State and Boston College. Mixed in there was a win against a solid North Carolina squad.

That being said, I'm going with Nevada. They run a spread which I think will give the Terps trouble. Plus, I have a hard time seeing Maryland get up for this trip.

ST Pick: Nevada -2
Hammer's Pick: Maryland +2
Dark Star's Pick: Nevada -2


Texas Bowl - Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
Tuesday 12/30, 7pm (NFL Network)

Western Michigan vs. Rice -2

The Broncos are 9-3 (6-2). The Owls are 9-3 (7-1).

Tough one. Rice won their last 6 in a row, and are essentially playing at home. But Western Michigan had some solid wins on it's schedule including MAC Champion Buffalo and Illinois.

I'm very tempted to take the dog here. But Rice just scores too many points and the home field advantage has to put them over the top.

ST Pick: Rice -2
Hammer's Pick: Rice -2
Dark Star's Pick: Western Michigan +2

Next up...

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl - Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Tuesday 12/30, 7pm CT (ESPN)

Oregon vs. Oklahoma State -3

The Ducks are 9-3 (7-2). The Cowboys are 9-3 (5-3).

OSU's only 3 losses this year? Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. I think those can be forgiven.

The Ducks lost to Boise State, USC and Cal. Not terrible, but not the tests that OSU had.

This is supposed to be a crazy shootout, so if you're betting, take the over.

Otherwise, I'm going with Oklahoma State and hoping they win by a touchdown rather than a field goal.

ST Pick: OSU -3
Hammer's Pick: Oregon +3
Dark Star's Pick: OSU -3

Are we still going? Yes we are!

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl - Amon G. Carter Stadium, Forth Worth, TX
Wednesday 12/31, 11am (ESPN)

Air Force vs. Houston -3.5

The Falcons are 8-4 (5-3). The Cougars are 7-5 (6-2).

These two teams take different approaches to solid offenses. Air Force runs the ball. Houston throws it. So you'd think they'd have trouble preparing for each other.

That being said, Houston scores more points on average, and when you know nothing about two teams, that's as good a determining factor as any.

Sports Take Pick: Houston -3
Hammer's Pick: Houston -3
Dark Star's Pick: Houston -3


Brut Sun Bowl - Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
Wednesday 12/31, 1pm (CBS)

Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State -2.5

The Panthers are 9-3 (5-2). The Beavers are 8-4 (7-2).

This is the consolation prize for Oregon State, who went into the last week of the season with a shot at the Rose Bowl. Consolation Bowls generally mean the team won't be as inspired to play. And I fear that'll be the case with the Beavers.

Pittsburgh had a sneaky-good year beating West Virginia, Notre Dame and South Florida, who've all won bowl games already this year. And they're getting points? I'll take it!

ST Pick: Pittsburgh +2.5
Hammer's Pick: Pittsburgh +2.5
Dark Star's Pick: Oregon State -2.5

Finally (and I mean finally)...

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl - LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee
Wednesday 12/31, 2:30pm (ESPN)

Boston College -3.5 vs. Vanderbilt

The Eagles are 9-4 (5-4). The Commodores are 6-6 (4-4).

Vandy hasn't been to a bowl game since 1982. Boston College has won 8 straight bowl games.

That not enough for you? BC won 4 of their last 5 games. Vandy lost 6 of their last 7.

If that doesn't make BC the obvious play, I don't know what will. In fact, 3.5 seems a small price to pay. We're taking the Eagles!

ST Pick: Boston College -3.5
Hammer's Pick: Boston College -3.5
Dark Star's Pick: Boston College -3.5

Whew. That was more work than I thought! That gets us through the middle of Wednesday. And there are plenty more to come. In fact, it looks like I have 8 games to pick for Wednesday's column. If I start working now, I should be able to have it done at a decent hour on Wednesday! Oh, and in case you were wondering, it's 17-6 NC State over Rutgers as they start the 2nd half. Looks like we're going down in flames on that one!

Until Wednesday, thanks for reading!


  1. Woohoo! On Wednesday, you get to pick the Huskers to beat Auburn!

    Aaaaand, whatever you think will happen to the Gophers.

  2. If the Huskers were playing Auburn, they'd be my pick for sure...

    But they're playing Clemson. So wait and see!

    Gophers will be the first pick on the Round 5 docket.