In Louisiana (wish I was there) it's gumbo weather, not that you should need any excuse to eat some. There are three bowl games chock-a-block with mediocrity on Saturday. Therefore I'm hoping that the effect of having watched all of the games is that the individual parts will come together into an entertaining whole. Look at some of the storylines before I get to the games themselves:
In 2009, Pete Carroll and the Trojans had their worst year since he started in 2001 and they went 6-6, including a 10-6 Las Vegas Bowl loss to Utah when the Utah bowl game buzzsaw was only getting cranked up.
Both UNC and Pitt should be in better bowl games but blew it in their final game of the season and are playing each other.
Marshall started out the season 4-2 and floundered to a 2-4 finish to end up 6-6.
Starting temporally, the first game is Marshall v. Ohio in the Little Caesar's Bowl (formerly the Motor City Bowl) in Detroit. This is the first of the two pizza bowls (the other is the Papajohns.com Bowl) and shouldn't be confused with the Caesars Windsor (formerly Casino Windsor) across the border where some of the fans will undoubtedly end up. Marshall, as I already mentioned, stumbled into this game. They finally went belly up in El Paso, they certainly aren't the first, by losing to UTEP 52-21. The Thundering Herd come into the game headless as their Coach, Mark Snyder, resigned following the UTEP loss. Ironically, this was Snyder's best season (he was 22-37 overall) record wise. Frank Solich for Ohio is only 7 years removed from the raw deal of the decade (being fired at Nebraska after a 9 win season and Alamo Bowl birth). Solich was 58-19 over six years, Nebraska has been 46-30 since (19-8 under Bo Pelini the last two seasons). I really like Ohio to win the game. They've only had one bad loss (at home to Kent State). The Bobcats lead the FBS in producing turnovers and Marshall turns the ball over too much. The leading threat for the Thundering Heard is running back Darius Marshall who hasn't played in two games because of injury. He will try to play on Saturday. Ohio has a better defense than Marshall. Ohio also scores more points per game than Marshall. It is hard to imagine Solich not getting a 10th win this season.
UNC and Pitt meet in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in the second game of the day. Both teams were victims of their failed NFL coaches' conservatism in the final games of the year. For Pitt, Coach Wannstache decided to pack it in at half thinking Cincinnati was going to quit. Perhaps Wannstache was unaware of Mardy Gilyard's story? Gilyard used to live in his car and work 4 jobs while trying to get his scholarship back, a big first half deficit in a football game wasn't going to worry him...and it didn't. This Wannstache meltdown was reminiscent of a great Monday Night game between his Dolphins and the New York Jets in 2000. A Vinny Testaverde TD pass to Jumbo Elliott tied the game and finished off a 23 point 4th quarter comeback. The Jets won that game in OT. The Bearcats didn't need OT to win. On the UNC side, Butch Davis expected NC State to go away quietly after they found themselves down 24-14 at half. They did not and went on to win 28-27. As the Browns head coach in 2002, Davis ruined not one but two wins by espousing the premature "fire up the bus" mentality. Fittingly enough, these losses bookended the Browns 2002 season. Pitt's Frosh RB Dion Lewis only needs 46 yards to break the Pitt freshman rushing record set by Tony Dorsett. I think Lewis will shatter the record in the game against the number 9 rush defense in the country, but it won't be enough to beat UNC. Davis lost a shootout to West Virginia in this bowl game last year and Wannstache couldn't manage to put up a point in last year's Sun Bowl. Neither coach has won a bowl game so something has to give. I'm picking UNC in this contest and hoping Butch Davis doesn't find himself with a big early lead.
The "premier" matchup of the day (based on the timeslot only) is the Emerald Bowl with One-Pete's Trojans v. the Boston College Eagles. The Eagles have overachieved all year long and Pete Carroll absorbed the two worst losses of his coaching career in getting stomped by Oregon and Stanford. I think BC is going to get crushed in this game. The Trojan defense is a shadow of past teams but Boston College still won't be able to find enough offense to win. The Joe McKnight distraction won't bother Carroll's team and the anemic offense of the Trojans will outscore the even worse offense of Boston College. The Eagles have the better defense by the numbers but Pete Carroll's bowl preparation is solid. He is 6-2 in bowl games. The first loss was to the aforementioned buzzsaw, the latter loss was to an unstoppable Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl. This years' BC team sizes up more along the lines of the six opponents who were easily handled by Carroll's Trojans rather than the two teams which came away with a win.
After the resurrection of SMU my bowl picks evened out to 1-1. I've was dead right or dead wrong in those two games so I expect the Saturday slate of picks to be a make or break kind of deal.