With the winter holidays upon us, there are the annual rites of spending awkward moments with family, eating too many desserts, and watching college football.
When you're on the couch eating that third slice of pie with your second cousin, the big decision has to be made - which bowl game to watch?
An expert weighs in
I was able to get five very different opinions on the subject, starting with the man with the plan, Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com. Palm is a noted expert on college football and has been interviewed by major media organizations sea to shining sea, from the New York Times to the Honolulu Advertiser.
His top-10 bowl games are:
1. BCS title game - Ohio State vs. LSU
2. Sugar - Georgia vs. Hawaii
3. Capital One - Florida vs. Michigan
4. Cotton - Arkansas vs. Missouri
LSU's Demetrius Byrd (2) celebrated with teammate Ryan Perrilloux (11) after Byrd scored against Tennessee in the SEC Championship game Dec. 1 in Atlanta. Associated Press
5. Fiesta - Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
6. Champs Sports - Boston College vs. Michigan
7. Holiday - Texas vs. Arizona State
8. Gator - Virginia vs. Texas Tech
9. Liberty - University of Central Florida vs. Mississippi State
10. Insight - Indiana vs. Oklahoma State
While Palm believes the BCS Championship has the signs of a defensive struggle, many bowls could be high-scoring.
"The Cotton Bowl is the only game with two Heisman finalists, Darren McFadden and Chase Daniel," Palm said. "If Mizzou isn't pouting about where they are instead of where they want to be, this could be a real shootout."
Palm also expects an offensive-oriented game in the Insight Bowl between Indiana and Oklahoma State. The Hoosiers are playing a 13th game for the first time in their history, a goal of their late coach Terry Hoeppner. Palm said, "Get the engineers to put more lights on the scoreboard."
The Liberty Bowl has the makings of a run-heavy game as Palm points out that the University of Central Florida's Kevin Smith, "the best back you've never seen," needs only 181 yards to break Barry Sanders' single-season rushing record.
On the subject of rushing, an intriguing game for Palm will be the Champ Sports Bowl as Boston College's top-rated run defense will take on Michigan State's two-man backfield of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick.
What the kids are watching
Turning to former Brainerd Dispatch sports writing intern Corey Hermanson for a youthful opinion, he finds only four bowls worth his time.
His must-watch list is:
2. Capital One
5. TV reruns
"I might be facetious with my fifth pick, but in all seriousness this bowl season could be boring. LSU vs. Ohio State may be the BCS title game, but it is going to be an absolute blowout for LSU," Hermanson explained.
"And Southern California vs. Illinois in the Rose Bowl, are you kidding me? When the Trojans are up 30-0 at halftime, maybe I'll get lucky and a Top Chef marathon will be on."
As for other bowls, Hermanson expects power-charged offenses. He finds that Hawaii will be seeking to go undefeated and compete with "the big boys of the BCS."
"Colt Brennan owns or shares 29 Division I-A records and commands a 12-0 team, but he needs to prove he's not just a system quarterback by beating a real team on the national stage," Hermanson said.
A female perspective
Seeking a female perspective, I turned to my friend Lisa Levine, an Athletic Academic Advisor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Unlike Hermanson, Levine thinks there are plenty of intriguing possibilities in the lesser bowls like the Meineke Car Care Bowl and Alamo Bowl.
"In the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Wake Forest is a quality ACC team, while UConn has been ranked as high as 13 in the BCS," said Levine. "Husky quarterback Tyler Lorenzen is someone to watch.
"As for the Alamo Bowl, viewers will get to see how Texas A&M's rush attack matches up with Penn State's defense. I like the idea of two big time public schools facing off. It is the battle of the endless coaching job against the coaching turnover circus."
Levine, like Palm and Hermanson, is intrigued by the Capital One Bowl, which is Michigan coach Lloyd Carr's last game. The Wolverines, looking to send Carr off with a win, take on Florida and Heisman trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow.
A cynic's view
Talking with my friend Jeremy Kovacevich, a chemical engineer in Anchorage, Alaska and creator of the "Ray Bourque Theory," I found a dissenting opinion on Michigan-Florida.
"Let's see Lloyd Carr get crushed one last time. What chance does Michigan really have vs. the ninth-ranked team (Florida) in the Associated Press poll? They couldn't stop the pass-run quarterback attack of Appalachian State and Oregon, how will they win now?" Kovacevich said.
Kovacevich believes there are only two games worth watching - the BCS title game, "Who has the better bad boys bowl?" and Texas-Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.
"What you have is a game of college coaching genius in Dennis Erickson vs. coaching inadequacy in Mack Brown," Kovacevich said. "Brown, who is like a Lloyd Carr Jr., will be in for a rude awakening against the Sun Devils."
Kovacevich finds the postseason bloated with too many mediocre games, especially the International Bowl in Toronto.
"Ball State vs. Rutgers - that's the way to get Canada on board with college football," Kovacevich joked.
My sister Melanie's thoughts
Besides the BCS title game, the other game to watch this year is the Sugar Bowl between Hawaii and Georgia. I'll be eating some chocolate covered macadamia nuts for this one. Who has the bigger bark - the underdog Warriors or the fierce Bulldogs?
TREVOR WILLIAMS, sports copy editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5866.
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