There are 31 bowl games left to play, and over the next several days we are going to look at each of them. Today we’ll begin by looking at three games, starting with tonight’s potentially brilliant Las Vegas Bowl.
Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon State (-3) vs. BYU
Tuesday, December 22, 8 pm ET
This matchup deserves to be played later than December 22. It has a new sponsor in Maaco, but it might as well have a new name – the BYU Bowl. This is the fifth straight year that the Cougars have played in Las Vegas. They are 2-2 against Pac-10 opponents over that stretch, and will be looking to bounce back from a loss to Arizona last year. Oregon State has been here just once, winning convincingly over New Mexico in 2003.
BYU needs better play from QB Max Hall than they have had in the last two bowl games. He has struggled, and the team has struggled along with him. The same would happen this year, because Hall is the key to this offense. Another concern is that Hall had his two worst games of the year against the two best teams BYU played – TCU and Utah. He’ll need to do better than that against a pretty good Oregon State team, because he’ll need to put up a lot of points. We know that the Beavers can score, with accurate QB Sean Canfield driving the bus, and the dynamic Rodgers’ brothers making magic when they touch the ball. Oregon State is a deserving favorite.
Cal (-3.5) vs. Utah
Wednesday, December 23, 8 pm ET
Cal is the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team. When they are playing well they are as good as any team in the conference. They can also play as badly as any team in the country, though. To really keep it interesting, there is really no way to know which way Cal team is going to show up before the game starts. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.
Utah has won eight straight bowl games, and are always ready to play a big game in December or January. They also have a very strong pass defense, and that makes for an interesting matchup against Cal QB Kevin Riley. The Bears will have a crowd advantage because the game is in San Diego, but Utah will have their share of fans as well. The line opened at 3.5 but can be found in most places now. If I was a Utah backer I’d be looking to grab 3.5 while I still could.
Nevada (-12.5) vs. SMU
Thursday, December 24, 8 pm ET
This one has a good storyline – June Jones returns to Hawaii as coach of SMU and leads them in their first bowl game since 1984. That’s a feel good tale, but it doesn’t mean that it is going to be a particularly good game. Nevada is by far the better team – they have a much more explosive offense, and they have a better record amassed against a better schedule. There will certainly be more interesting games than this one.