Our weekly college football shame index previews the pre-Christmas bowls.
What's my answer when people want to know why I'm wasting a perfectly good Saturday afternoon on the New Mexico Bowl? If you're an ACC fan, tell people you're scouting Rich Rodriguez and Chris Ault as potential coaching hires for your school. If you're a Big 12 fan, say you fell asleep on the couch drunk, as this also has the virtue of likely being true. Otherwise, absent some connection to either of these teams, you're just avoiding holiday chores.
Is there a mismatch waiting to be exploited in this game? There is! It's Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, second in the nation in rushing yards despite being only seventh in carries, versus the Nevada run defense, 112th in yards per carry allowed at 5.09.
So Nevada has no chance? We didn't say that. One thing the Wolfpack does very well is stay on the field; they're No. 3 in the nation in third-down conversions, moving the chains 53 percent of the time. Meanwhile, Arizona ranks 90th in opponent third-down-conversion percentage, having held only one FBS opponent under 40 percent all year.
Does the winner get some sort of tacky, regionally appropriate gewgaw? Naturally. The winning team takes home an authentic piece of Native American pottery, complete with an image of a goofy white football player. It makes a lovely gift for someone with terrible decorating taste who also doesn't want to think about any dark periods in American history.
Isn't this sort of early for a ranked team to be playing its bowl game? Rankings have nothing to do with it. Bowl games are scheduled and arranged so as not to interfere with academics, which is the cornerstone of collegiHEY STOP ALL THAT LAUGHING RIGHT NOW.
But a ranked team is always going to beat an unranked team, because otherwise people might get the idea that our system of selecting a top 25 is hopelessly flawed, right? Maybe not. This is an interesting strong-offense-against-strong-defense matchup. Toledo has two productive wide receivers in Alonzo Russell and Bernard Reedy, while Utah State has let only two opponents throw for 250 yards or more, both of whom needed 50-plus attempts to do it. The Rockets also feature running back David Fluellen, who ran for 100 yards in six straight games this year before getting hurt in the penultimate game and missing the last one entirely. He'll face a Utah State defense that is sixth in the country in yards per carry allowed and fourth in rushing touchdowns yielded.
This game is really held on Boise State's blue turf? Yes, because blue is the color one most naturally associates with potatoes, which grow in the ocean and are poisonous to sharks.
Does "famous" modify "Idaho" or "potato?" Neither. Famous Idaho, for whom this game is named, was a legendary lawman best known for escorting a bison 1,800 miles under the mistaken belief that it was a federal circuit judge.
Didn't BYU already lose this game? You're thinking of San Jose State, San Diego State's more successful but less attractive cousin.
OK, so what does BYU do well, then? Refuse to allow other teams to score. The Cougars rank fifth in points allowed, and only two BYU opponents put up more than 20 points in a game this year.
Is it true that poinsettia plants are poisonous and, if so, how many would it take to kill Bronco Mendenhall? According to the Mayo Clinic, no. Even if they were, no poison can kill Bronco Mendenhall, who will die only when he feels like it.
Aren't you obligated to say something about San Diego State, too? Yes, and I'll say TWO somethings. First, the Aztecs are one of only four FBS teams to run for at least 150 yards in every game they played this year. Secondly, Carl Weathers was a linebacker at San Diego State. Yes, that's the same actor who played beloved hero FORTUNE DANE.
He's after your butt.
Is it fair that George O'Leary gets to coach in an Irish-themed bowl? You would think this would be an unfair advantage, but he's already coached UCF to a loss in this game before, in 2009. This is probably a sign that he should change his name to George 'O'Leary, or just retire altogether because he's a crusty old asshole.
Who will make or break this game for the Golden Knights? Quarterback Blake Bortles, who was a very different passer at home, where he completed 68 percent of his passes and threw only one pick. On the road, he connected only 57 percent of the time and had six interceptions. This is also just an excuse to say Blake Bortles.
Should Ball Staters be disappointed that they have to spend a Friday night at a terrible baseball stadium in St. Petersburg? Probably, but when your program has never won a single bowl game ever, you don't really get to be picky.
Anyone on the Cardinals I should care about? Punter Scott Kovanda, even though he had only 44 attempts on the year. (For purposes of comparison, Illinois had 51 punts by the end of October.) Ball State's punting game was still lethal, as opponents tallied only four return yards when Kovanda kicked it away. Not averaged four yards. Totaled four yards.
Does "Beef 'O' Brady" imply the eating of human flesh, as in "this beef of Brady is delicious and his family will never find the body?" Yes. Again, it's Tampa/St. Pete.
Eight wins is pretty good for ECU. What was the Pirates' best victory? It's either Marshall or Memphis. The seven FBS teams the Pirates beat won a combined 22 games this season. The four FBS teams they lost to won 35. (Sorry, Middle Tennessee.)
Aren't power schools like the Ragin' Cajuns getting too much benefit of the doubt in modern college football? Boy, you really hit the nail square on the head. Louisiana-Lafayette's opponents averaged 7.4 penalties per game this season, eighth-most in the nation. If the refs weren't propping them up for no justifiable reason, the Cajuns probably wouldn't have come within a last-second punt block of beating scrappy underdog Florida. CALL IT FAIR, ZEBRAS.
So what, if anything, do these teams do well? When they make it to the red zone, the Pirates and the Cajuns are very efficient at putting up points, scoring on over 91 percent and 94 percent of those possessions, respectively. They're also not settling for a ton of field goals there; ECU's 71 percent touchdown rate in the red zone topped West Virginia's, Oklahoma's, and Louisville's rate, and Louisiana-Lafayette is even higher at 76 percent.
That means I can a take snack break once a team gets inside the 20, right? It's the New Orleans Bowl, man. You should have this on in the background while you're making waffles or something.
This is the third year in a row a double-digit win Boise team has gotten stuck in the Las Vegas Bowl. Is there any motivation here for them? Um, only the prospect of TYING BYU FOR THE MOST LAS VEGAS BOWL WINS IN HUMAN HISTORY. The stakes couldn't be bigger!
Isn't it a little odd for the NCAA to allow a bowl game in a city best known for activities only available to those 21 and older? Certainly not. Sure, Las Vegas is the kind of town where people apparently said, "Yes, we need slot machines in grocery stores," but it's also the home of world-class entertainment like BLUE MAN GROUP, which both teams will get to see the night before the game. Here are some phrases the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl uses to describe Blue Man Group: "mega-enhanced," "energy-infused," "turbo-charged." Because they're on steroids, you see.
Give me something I can say at a party to make it look like I know something about why Boise will win. The Broncos forced 33 turnovers this year while giving the ball away only 18 times, good for the fourth-best turnover margin in FBS. They're also one of only five defenses in the nation that have held every opponent they've played below 30 points.
Who is the best Washington player I may not know about? Sophomore Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the nation's second-most productive tight end. We almost said Bishop Sankey here, but you're more likely to know who he is and the NCAA does not collect statistics on Most Touchdowns By Someone Who Sounds Like A Louisiana Bond Villain.
Isn't it a little sad to spend Christmas Eve watching the Hawaii Bowl? Not if you live in Ukraine, where Christmas is celebrated on Jan. 7. Always gotta be different, that Ukraine.
Wait that Fresno State quarterback. The one with "CARR" spelled out across his shoulders. Did we just travel back in time, or are the New York Giants openly flouting eligibility rules? No, that's David's younger brother, Derek, a junior who's eighth in the nation in passing yards and fourth in passing touchdowns. Your savior is coming, Jets fans!
This is a homecoming of sorts for June Jones. Is he the greatest coach in Hawaii AND SMU history? Quite possibly! He's still the winningest coach in Warriors history, and he has won more bowl games with Hawaii than the program has even attended with anyone else, and a victory here would give Jones the most bowl wins of any SMU coach. Suck on that, Hayden Fry.
Can the Mustangs win this game on a thrilling touchdown bomb? Considering they throw a touchdown on only one pass out of every 32, probably not. But it is Christmas Eve, when miracles are possible! (Except in Ukraine.)
Celebrity Hot Tub is a college football fan who lost the ability to truly love thanks to three years of Florida head coach Ron Zook. He writes for Every Day Should Be Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @celebrityhottub.