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Originally published Tuesday, December 19, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Bud Withers

Football fans, prepare to be bowled over

Let's see, can we do without that conjunction? Is that a needless preposition? In past years, the space allotted to this bowl preview has...

Seattle Times colleges reporter

Let's see, can we do without that conjunction? Is that a needless preposition?

In past years, the space allotted to this bowl preview has been taken by a treatise on the creative majors of some college football players — you know, residential property management, family studies — many of whom are actually majoring in pounding blocking sleds and inhaling prime rib at the training table.

Or, we've pondered the evolution of the Sun Bowl, from its halcyon days as the John Hancock Bowl, to the Norwest Bank, to Wells Fargo, to Vitalis, and now to the Brut Sun Bowl.

This year, no room for that. There are an unprecedented 32 bowls. There's no playoff, but there's a 64-team field. Space considerations mandate this be (a) an eight-part series, which seemed dubious, or (b) stripped of every extraneous adjective and adverb.

The whole honkin' thing begins tonight with the Poinsettia Bowl. Gentlemen, start your excess:

Poinsettia, San Diego, Texas Christian (10-2) vs. Northern Illinois (7-5), tonight — Garrett Wolfe of NIU has 1,900 yards rushing. TCU, with 10-win seasons four times in the past five years, is a big favorite.

Las Vegas, Oregon (7-5) vs. BYU (10-2), Thursday — UO offensive coordinator Gary Crowton meets the school that fired him as head coach. BYU's John Beck leads the nation in pass efficiency. Fact you should know: Two of BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's sons are named Cutter and Breaker.

New Orleans, Troy (7-5) vs. Rice (7-5), Friday — It's the first bowl game since 1969 for Rice, which has a big-time receiver in Jarett Dillard.

Papajohn's.com, Birmingham, Ala., South Florida (8-4) vs. East Carolina (7-5), Saturday — True story: If you go to the Web site, there's a countdown clock to the game. QB Matt Grothe of USF is Big East rookie of the year.

New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M., New Mexico (6-6) vs. San Jose State (8-4), Saturday — How convenient for the Lobos: A first-year bowl on their field, rewarding a team that beat opponents with a combined 25-47 record. Ex-Arizona good guy Dick Tomey coaches SJS.

Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas, Utah (7-5) vs. Tulsa (8-4), Saturday — Utes' Eric Weddle might be the best all-around player in the country. He played safety, ran for 147 yards, threw four passes, led Utah in interceptions and returned seven punts. Utah has won five straight bowls.

Hawaii, Honolulu, Arizona State (7-5) vs. Hawaii (10-3), Sunday — Fired Dirk Koetter will coach ASU, perhaps because Sun Devils couldn't be sure new hire Dennis Erickson would still be on the job next week. Hawaii is No. 1 in scoring offense (47 ppg) and QB Colt Brennan has thrown 53 TD passes.

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Motor City, Detroit, Central Michigan (9-4) vs. Middle Tennessee State (7-5), Dec. 26 — Out of sight, out of mind: When CMU announced assistant Jeff Quinn as the interim coach, it didn't mention the name of Brian Kelly, who took the Cincinnati job.

Emerald, San Francisco, UCLA (7-5) vs. Florida State (6-6), Dec. 27 — Unofficial slogan of this bowl: "Blind Hog Finds Acorn." It gets the team that beat USC, led by defensive linemen Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis, against offensively challenged (but recognizable) FSU.

Independence, Shreveport, La., Oklahoma State (6-6) vs. Alabama (6-6), Dec. 28 — Nice going, Independence, you've got the only bowl without a winning record. Watch Oke State receiver Adarius Bowman. Interim coach for Bama is Joe Kines.

Texas, Houston, Rutgers (10-2) vs. Kansas State (7-5), Dec. 28 — When it lost the Big East title game in triple OT to West Virginia, the Scarlet Knights fell from a BCS game all the way to something that used to be the EV1.net Bowl. KSU's Ron Prince did a nice coaching job in his first year.

Holiday, San Diego, Texas A&M (9-3) vs. California (9-3), Dec. 28 — Cal owes the Holiday one, having been blistered by Texas Tech in San Diego in 2004. Bears, not USC, had the Pac-10's offensive and defensive players of the year, Marshawn Lynch and Daymeion Hughes. A&M's only other Holiday trip was a 65-14 win over BYU in 1990.

Music City, Nashville, Tenn., Kentucky (7-5) vs. Clemson (8-4), Dec. 29 — It's Rich Brooks' first bowl since he led Oregon to the Rose in 1994. Clemson's Gaines Adams is a beast at defensive end, making various All-America teams.

Sun, El Paso, Texas, Missouri (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-4), Dec. 29 — Beavers authored one of 2006's more remarkable turnarounds. Mizzou offered students a four-day package of a bus trip and hotel to the game for only $100. Then again, it didn't say what kind of bus or hotel room.

Liberty, Memphis, Tenn., Houston (10-3) vs. South Carolina (7-5), Dec. 29 — Please, somebody win: Houston hasn't won a bowl game since 1980, Carolina is 3-9 all-time in the postseason. Houston QB Kevin Kolb has gaudy numbers.

Insight, Tempe, Ariz., Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5), Dec. 29 — Here's a Bowl That Ought to Have a Pac-10 Affiliation. Coaches Glen Mason and Mike Leach appeared at the ceremonial NASDAQ opening bell in New York on Dec. 11, which no doubt enlivened trading.

Champs Sports, Orlando, Fla., Purdue (8-5) vs. Maryland (8-4), Dec. 29 — Perfect pairing of a team (Purdue) that's 114th in total defense and one (Terps) that's 95th in offense. Maryland's last two bowls (2002, 2004) were blowouts of Tennessee and West Virginia.

Meineke Car Care, Charlotte, N.C., Boston College (9-3) vs. Navy (9-3), Dec. 30 — Defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani is the Eagles' interim coach, trying to keep alive nation's longest streak (six) of bowl victories. Navy has run 705 times, passed 104.

Alamo, San Antonio, Texas (9-3) vs. Iowa (6-6), Dec. 30 — Iowa went 2-6 in the Big Ten, so it looks like a mismatch, precisely the situation Horns coach Mack Brown has been known to screw up. QB Colt McCoy has been ailing with a pinched nerve in his neck.

Chick fil-A, Atlanta, Virginia Tech (10-2) vs. Georgia (8-4), Dec. 30 — There's no Peach Bowl anymore; Chick fil-A bought naming rights, proving that it's a Chick fil-A world and we're all just leasing space. Since the start of 2004, Tech has allowed only 43 offensive TDs. Nobody else is within 11.

MPC Computers, Boise, Idaho, Miami (6-6) vs. Nevada (8-4), Dec. 31 — Blue turf, snow-dusted mountains ... the Canes may think they've been kidnapped and landed on Neptune. Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon is the new coach at Miami, which decided Larry Coker's 59-15 record wasn't good enough.

Outback, Tampa, Fla., Penn State (8-4) vs. Tennessee (9-3), Jan. 1 — Thursday, Joe Paterno turns 80. This is what it is to be Joe Paterno: You've been on the PSU staff 57 years. You're the only coach to have won the four traditionals (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton), plus the Fiesta. You've helped the school to a 24-12-2 bowl record, best percentage nationally.

Cotton, Dallas, Nebraska (9-4) vs. Auburn (10-2), Jan. 1 — Best state-bred player you haven't heard of: End Adam Carriker, Nebraska's two-time defensive MVP from Kennewick. Auburn has amends to make, both for a big Capital One upset loss to Wisconsin last year and '06 blowouts by Arkansas and Georgia.

Gator, Jacksonville, Fla., Georgia Tech (9-4) vs. West Virginia (10-2), Jan. 1 — Check out 6-foot-5, 235-pound Biletnikoff winner Calvin Johnson, Tech's wideout. QB Pat White, Big East offensive player of the year, hopes to return after sprained toe for Mounties.

Capital One, Orlando, Fla., Arkansas (10-3) vs. Wisconsin (11-1), Jan. 1 — The Hogs' regular season began with Darren McFadden's toe injury in a barfight, a 50-14 loss to USC, and ended with parents of three freshmen meeting with coach Houston Nutt about their roles. In his first year, Badgers coach Bret Bielema was quietly boffo.

Rose, Pasadena, Calif., Michigan (11-1) vs. USC (10-2), Jan. 1 — This is the Chagrin Classic; both were jilted at the title altar on the last weekend. USC's scoring offense averages 30.3, Michigan's 30.2. Trojans' scoring defense is 14.9, Wolverines' 14.6.

Fiesta, Glendale, Ariz., Oklahoma (11-2) vs. Boise State (12-0), Jan. 1 — Consider this a barometer of the new, relaxed entry rules for non-BCS leagues. Adrian Peterson returns for Oklahoma, while BSU standout Ian Johnson tries to come back after a collapsed lung.

Orange, Miami, Wake Forest (11-2) vs. Louisville (11-1), Jan. 2 — Wake's leading rusher, Kenneth Moore, has 434 yards. The passer, Riley Skinner, has eight touchdown throws. The Deacons are 98th in total offense. All they do is beat you. If Louisville hadn't blown a 25-7 lead at Rutgers, it would be playing Ohio State in the title game.

Sugar, New Orleans, Notre Dame (10-2) vs. Louisiana State (10-2), Jan. 3 — Try not to titter at this: The Irish, losers of eight straight bowls, have an all-time 13-14 postseason record. LSU, playing in its 13th Sugar Bowl, will track Irish QB Brady Quinn with All-America defenders Glenn Dorsey and LaRon Landry.

International, Toronto, Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Cincinnati (7-5), Jan. 7 — This is likely to give the concept of outsourcing a bad name. It's the first bowl played outside the United States since the Bacardi Bowl of 1937. You might need a nip or two of Bacardi to get through it.

GMAC, Mobile, Ala., Southern Miss (8-5) vs. Ohio (9-4), Jan. 7 — Well, it's every program's dream to play in a January bowl game, isn't it? Frank Solich's Bobcats had their first winning season since 2000.

BCS title game, Glendale, Ariz., Ohio State (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1), Jan. 8 — Ohio State has the Heisman winner, Troy Smith. Florida has a chance to win two mega-titles — men's basketball and football — within nine months. But the Buckeyes can get those two in a mere 84 days. They should cover the first half of it, oh, about 30-17, and leave the rest to Greg Oden and friends.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Bowl season schedule
A look at college football's 32 bowl games this season:
Date Bowl (city) Matchup Time, TV
Today Poinsettia (San Diego) Northern Illinois (7-5) vs. TCU (10-2) 5 p.m., ESPN2
Dec. 21 Las Vegas BYU (10-2) vs. Oregon (7-5) 5 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 22 New Orleans Rice (7-5) vs. Troy (7-5) 5 p.m., ESPN2
Dec. 23 Papajohns.com (Birmingham, Ala.) South Florida (8-4) vs. East Carolina (7-5) 10 a.m., ESPN2
Dec. 23 New Mexico (Albuquerque) San Jose State (8-4) vs. New Mexico (6-6) 1:30 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 23 Armed Forces (Fort Worth, Texas) Tulsa (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5) 5 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 24 Hawaii (Honolulu) Hawaii (10-3) vs. Arizona State (7-5) 5 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 26 Motor City (Detroit) Middle Tenn. St. (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (9-4) 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 27 Emerald (San Francisco) Florida State (6-6) vs. UCLA (7-5) 5 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 28 Independence (Shreveport, La.) Oklahoma State (6-6) vs. Alabama (6-6) 1:30 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 28 Holiday (San Diego) Texas A&M (9-3) vs. California (9-3) 5 p.m. ESPN
Dec. 28 Texas (Houston) Kansas State (7-5) vs. Rutgers (10-2) 5 p.m., NFL Network
Dec. 29 Music City (Nashville) Clemson (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5) 10 a.m., ESPN
Dec. 29 Sun (El Paso, Texas) Oregon State (9-4) vs. Missouri (8-4) 11 a.m., Ch. 7
Dec. 29 Liberty (Memphis) Houston (10-3) vs. South Carolina (7-5) 1:30 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 29 Insight (Tempe, Ariz.) Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6) 4:30 p.m., NFL Network
Dec. 29 Champs Sports (Orlando, Fla.) Maryland (8-4) vs. Purdue (8-5) 5 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 30 Meineke Car Care (Charlotte, N.C.) Navy (9-3) vs. Boston College (9-3) 10 a.m., ESPN
Dec. 30 Alamo (San Antonio) Texas (9-3) vs. Iowa (6-6) 1:30 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 30 Chick-fil-A (Atlanta) Georgia (8-4) vs. Virginia Tech (10-2) 5 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 31 MPC Computers (Boise, Idaho) Miami (6-6) vs. Nevada (8-4) 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 1 Outback (Tampa, Fla.) Penn State (8-4) vs. Tennessee (9-3) 8 a.m., ESPN
Jan. 1 Cotton (Dallas) Nebraska (9-4) vs. Auburn (10-2) 8:30 a.m., Ch. 13
Jan. 1 Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.) Georgia Tech (9-4) vs. West Virginia (10-2) 10 a.m., Ch. 7
Jan. 1 Capital One (Orlando, Fla.) Arkansas (10-3) vs. Wisconsin (11-1) 10 a.m., Ch. 4
Jan. 1 Rose (Pasadena, Calif.) USC (10-2) vs. Michigan (11-1) 2 p.m., Ch. 4
Jan. 1 Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.) Boise State (12-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-2) 5:30 p.m., Ch. 13
Jan. 2 Orange (Miami) Wake Forest (11-2) vs. Louisville (11-1) 5 p.m., Ch. 13
Jan. 3 Sugar (New Orleans) Notre Dame (10-2) vs. LSU (10-2) 5 p.m., Ch. 13
Jan. 6 International (Toronto) Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Cincinnati (7-5) 9 a.m., ESPN2
Jan. 7 GMAC (Mobile, Ala.) Ohio (9-4) vs. Southern Miss. ( 8-5) 5 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 8 BCS title game (Glendale, Ariz.) Ohio State (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1) 5 p.m., Ch. 13

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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