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MAC Bowl Season Preview

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Despite efforts ranging from valiant to here-for-the-free-iPod, no MAC team has won a bowl game since 2006. In comical fashion, they've dropped 10 straight faux-postseason events. So, playoffs? Don't talk to me about playoffs; we're just trying to win a game.

Five more teams from the Mid-American take aim at the world, trying to prove that they're not the second worst conference in the Bowl Subdivision. And three of them open up as underdogs. Eek.

Little Caesar's Pizza BowlDecember 26, 1 p.m.: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
(TV: ESPN)
Marshall (6-6, 4-4 C-USA)
Ohio (9-4, 7-1 MAC)

The most delicious-sounding game in the land has the best shot at breaking the losing streak. Breadsticks may go best with 'za, but in Ford Field it's going to be all about turnovers, which makes me wonder why Arby's didn't hop on the sponsorship mothership.

Despite falling in the MAC Championship to CMU 20-10, the Bobcats retain the sixth best turnover margin in the land, with the former MAC powerhouse Marshall struggling to hold onto that ball like their video game ratings depend on it.

Although considered to have "traded up," Marshall hasn't won jack since moving from the Mid-American to Conference USA in 2005, failing to achieve a winning record. Here's their shot to say, "Look at us! 7-6! Eat that, Rick Chryst or whoever is MAC commissioner now!"

A mere 80 miles separate Athens, Ohio and Huntington, West Virginia, and unfortunately the space of land between the two may be the only demographic interested in this game. Well, that, and the people in Detroit who wandered into the stadium under the false impression that they were giving away free bowls of pizza. Ohio 17, Marshall 10

EagleBank BowlDecember 29, 4:30 p.m.: EagleBank Bowl
RFK Stadium, Washington, DC
(TV: ESPN)
UCLA (6-6, 3-6 Pac-10)
Temple (9-3, 7-1 MAC)

When Temple lost to Ohio in the final week, their dream season was put on hold. But this is still an uncharted space for them, since their last bowl game was 30 years ago. Meanwhile, UCLA's last bowl game was, well, the year before last.

I can imagine Dexter Fishmore's exuberant apathy in this matchup, although the Bruins are somehow favored in this one. Vegas must not factor in time zones. In the few occasions they ventured past the Central time zone, UCLA hasn't won on the Eastern time since 1995, when they throttled the University Miami 31-8. Temple runs the ball like they're feverishly trying to escape their hapless history, and rush defense could be considered UCLA's weak point (7th in the Pac-10, 144 yards/game).

I can see it now. 10 wins for the Owls. And look, skeletons on horses riding through the sky! Temple 28, UCLA 20

Roady's Humanitarian BowlDecember 30, 4:30 p.m.: Roady's Humanitarian Bowl (TV: ESPN)
Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Bowling Green (7-5, 6-2 MAC)
Idaho (7-5, 4-4 WAC)

Like I always say, there is nothing more humanitarian than to play football outdoors in Idaho in December.

It's only natural, unlike the azure ground on which the Humanitarian Bowl will be seen, to compare the Vandals and Falcons based on how badly they were beaten up by the stadium's natural dwellers. Boise State smashed BGSU 49-14 on the road, while Idaho was destroyed by them 63-25. It will be quite the moral victory to win a game on blue turf while the keepers of the dye are away at the Fiesta Bowl, pretending to be a national championship contender. These days, more people have walked across Antarctica in the buff than have conquered Boise State at home.

And so the chase for a much more obscure history shall instead take place. BGSU's star wide receiver Freddie Barnes is oh so close to that NCAA single season receptions record, needing only four more to tie Manny Hazard for 142.

But, alas, this is going to be that much more sweet for Idaho. They edged Northern Illinois (a team slightly better than BGSU) earlier this season, and since they're already acclimated to the high and dry climate of the Big Sky country, they'll have enough Vandal Power, but at least it'll be a fun showing. Idaho 41, BGSU 31

International BowlJanuary 2, 12 p.m: International Bowl
Rogers Centre, Toronto
(TV: ESPN2)
South Florida (7-5, 3-4 Big East)
Northern Illinois (7-5, 5-3 MAC)

 
Bowls are nothing more than glorified postseason invitational games, correct? They don't really have any impact on standings or the future of the program, save for some hurt feelings or moral victories. And furthermore, this game is played north of the fabled Dunkin Donuts-Tim Horton's border.

Why not play this game using Canadian football rules? Rouges! 12 men on the field! Three downs! Chinese fire drill-type men in motion! It will be a refreshing change of pace, and consider that the greatest chance to play pro football for NIU and USF players after they graduate will be in America's Hat.

But, sadly, this will be an American college football type game. The advantage goes to the better team, as it traditionally does. USF 31, NIU 14

GMAC BowlJanuary 6, 7 p.m.: GMAC Bowl (TV: ESPN)
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
Central Michigan (11-2, 8-0 MAC)
Troy (9-3, 8-0 Sun Belt)

For whatever reason, this one takes place a mere night before the BCS National Championship Game. But, hyperbole aside, holy shit is this going to be a fun game. They may as well rename it the BCS Conferences-With-No-Chance-In-Hades-To-Ever-Win-A National Championship.

Traditionally the GMAC Bowl becomes an uproarious woodshed experience very quickly. Ever since Marshall and ECU's epic 64-61 double-overtime shootout between future Jaguars quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and David Garrard in 2001, the closest game was a 17-point "squeaker" by BGSU over Memphis, 52-35, in 2004.

But the stars under center are bound to align for some points in Mobile. Dan LeFevour and Levi Brown may be the best quarterbacks in their respective states of Michigan and Alabama, and how often does one get to say that? Perhaps this means in a few years, Brown and LeFevour may fight on the depth chart of the same NFL team (let's go with, oh, the Browns).

Both teams get about 33 points on the board per game, but CMU's lockdown defense may cramp the Trojans' style just enough to solidify a 12th win for the Chippewas, sealing the end of the Dan LeFevour parable in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. CMU 42, Troy 38

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