Bowl challenge: It's time to try to beat the beat writer

2011-12-16T00:00:00Z 2012-01-24T11:11:16Z Bowl challenge: It's time to try to beat the beat writerRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 16, 2011 12:00 am  • 

I challenged readers to the first bowl pick-'em contest in December 2006 with hopes that it would become our little, funny Daily Star tradition.

Now, it might be the only one we have left.

My sixth annual Holiday Bowl Challenge practically qualifies for a pension.

It has outlasted both a conference - the Pac-10 became the Pac-12 last summer - and 11 of its coaches. (We hardly knew ye, Karl Dorrell, Rick Neuheisel, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Ty Willingham, Bill Doba, Paul Wulff, Mike Bellotti, Dirk Koetter, Dennis Erickson and Mike Stoops.)

Since our first bowl contest, Washington has gone from doormat to bowl regular, Washington State has hired America's pirate laureate, Mike Leach, and USC and Oregon have survived - and even thrived - amid NCAA investigations.

Once-lowly Stanford has produced two Heisman Trophy finalists and played one Bowl Championship Series game, with a second scheduled for Jan. 2. A Pac-12 television network, which was once just Barry Tompkins and a standard-definition camera, is closer to reality.

Every program except for Cal and Oregon State has changed leaders at least once, and a handful of big-name outsiders have invaded what was once an old-boys' club.

Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez is on his third job since 2006, and newly minted Arizona State boss Todd Graham is on his 11th one. (OK, his fourth).

Fortunately, the bowl contest remains the same. Go to before the start of Saturday's games, make your picks and see if you can outsmart me.

The grand-prize winner will be profiled in the Star and receive an autographed copy of Greg Hansen's book, "Hustling to Beat Deadline."

Here are my predictions (winners in bold):

Date Game Matchup (predicted winners in bold)

Saturday New Mexico Bowl Temple (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-4)

Saturday Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Utah State (7-5) vs. Ohio (9-4)

Saturday New Orleans Bowl San Diego St. (8-4) vs. La.-Lafayette (8-4) Showdown between two sneaky-great players, SDSU running back Ronnie Hillman and ULL tight end Ladarius Green, goes to the Aztecs.

Tuesday Beef O'Brady's Bowl Florida International (8-4) vs. Marshall (6-6)

Wednesday Poinsettia Bowl TCU (10-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4). Sonny Dykes' first bowl game as LaTech's head coach is a doozy. TCU should roll.

Thursday Las Vegas Bowl Boise State (11-1) vs. Arizona State (6-6)

Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl Southern Miss (11-2) vs. Nevada (7-5)

Dec. 26 Independence Bowl Missouri (7-5) vs. North Carolina (7-5)

Dec. 27 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Purdue (6-6) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)

Dec. 27 Belk Bowl N.C. State (7-5) vs. Louisville (7-5) Fun fact: The Charlotte-based Belk Bowl was formerly known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl, not to be confused with the current Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. And Louisville will win.

Dec. 28 Military Bowl Toledo (8-4) vs. Air Force (7-5)

Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl Texas (7-5) vs. California (7-5) My favorite bowl game is, for the second straight year, a total dud. I'm rooting for an upset.

Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl Florida State (8-4) vs. Notre Dame (8-4)

Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl Baylor (9-3) vs. Washington (7-5) Huskies have no business beating Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III on Texas soil, but I like 'em anyway.

Dec. 30 Armed Forces Bowl BYU (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4)

Dec. 30 Pinstripe Bowl Rutgers (8-4) vs Iowa St. (6-6)

Dec. 30 Music City Bowl Mississippi St. (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)

Dec. 30 Insight Bowl Oklahoma (9-3) vs. Iowa (7-5) The Mike Stoops bowl - he went to Iowa and coached at Oklahoma - is a mismatch on just about every level.

Dec. 31 Meineke Car Care Bowl Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6)

Dec. 31 Sun Bowl Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5) Utes' first bowl game as a Pac-12 school will be a nightmare for their usually stout defense. The option's impossible to prepare for, even with a month of lead-time.

Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl Vanderbilt (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3)

Dec. 31 Fight Hunger Bowl Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7) Call it the Help Wanted Bowl: Two teams thought so highly of this game that they fired their coaches. If I've got to pick a winner, though, it's UCLA.

Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl Auburn (7-5) vs. Virginia (8-4)

Jan. 2 TicketCity Bowl Houston (12-1) vs. Penn State (9-3) Cougars will have a sizable home-state advantage - the game's held in Dallas - but should struggle against the most talented team they've faced all season.

Jan. 2 Capital One Bowl South Carolina (10-2) vs. Nebraska (9-3)

Jan. 2 Outback Bowl Georgia (10-3) vs. Michigan St. (10-3)

Jan. 2 Gator Bowl Florida (6-6) vs. Ohio St. (6-6)

Jan. 2 Rose Bowl Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2) Write it down: Ducks will wear ridiculous uniforms and roll a slower, more staid Sconnie team.

Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl Oklahoma St. (11-1) vs. Stanford (11-1) Best bowl game of the season pits two teams that could have - should have? - been playing for a BCS national title.

Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl Michigan (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)

Jan. 4 Orange Bowl Clemson (10-3) vs. West Virginia (9-3)

Jan. 6 Cotton Bowl Arkansas (10-2) vs. Kansas St. (10-2)

Jan. 7 BBVA Compass Bowl Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. SMU (7-5) Arizona State fans will love this matchup between their new coach's old team and the-guy-who-should-have-been-their-next-head-coach's current team. The rest of us, though, will probably pass.

Jan. 8 Bowl Arkansas St. (10-2) vs. N. Illinois (10-3)

Jan. 9 BCS Championship Game LSU (13-0) vs. Alabama (11-1) Holiday reruns are boring; I'm going with the upset.


Visit, register and pick the winners for each of this season's bowl games. The grand-prize winner receives an autographed copy of Greg Hansen's book, "Hustling to Beat Deadline," and a mention in the Star.

Ryan Finley's annual Holiday Bowl Challenge winners

2010: James Passannanti

2009: John Geiger

2007: Randall Allen

2006: Jerry Kropp

NOTE: 46 contestants won the 2008 bowl challenge by answering all the questions correctly in a bowl quiz.

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