Thole: It’s time to go bowling

Former Stillwater Ponies standout Brian Arnfelt (91) will play his final collegiate game on Jan. 1 when Northwestern faces Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

Well, it’s that time of the year again, sports fans, when the college football season bows out with no less than 35 bowl games. That means that 70 teams, including 12 with mediocre 6-6 records, will get a pay-off — excuse me, Georgia Tech is 6-7.

My friend Brett Bielema has left Wisconsin for Arkansas. Some say that he left for the prestige of the SEC and more chips, but I think the prospect of losing three straight Rose Bowl games was overwhelming.

Here are my predictions for this year’s bowl games, which are named for flowers, fruit, pizza, military, car care, hunger, chicken wings and fowl, credit cards and .coms. There’s something for everybody.

Ponies golf coach John Scanlon is smelling roses after his alma mater Stanford earned a spot in the Rose Bowl, where the Cardinal will face Wisconsin. Joining Scanlon in the rainy conditions as Stanford knocked off UCLA 27-24 in the Pac-12 Championship game were Alyson Illich and Gary Tyrell, the infamous trombone player from the 1982 Stanford-Cal game.

The early winners will be Arizona (7-5) over Nevada (7-5), Utah State (10-2) over Toledo (9-3), San Diego State (9-3) over BYU (7-5), UCF (9-4) over Ball State (9-3) and East Carolina (8-4) over LaLa (7-4).


Saturday, Dec. 22

Las Vegas Bowl — Boise State (10-2) will upset Washington (7-5). The potato boys won’t need the blue turf to win.


Monday, Dec. 24

Hawaii Bowl — Fresno State (9-3) over SMU (6-6) and none will be happier than Glen Thompson.


Wednesday, Dec. 26

Little Caesers Pizza Bowl — Central Michigan (6-6) over Western Kentucky (7-5). They beat Iowa.


Thursday, Dec. 27

Military Bowl — San Jose State (10-2) over Bowling Green (8-4). The Spartans were tough vs. the Persians a few centuries ago.

Belk Bowl — Cinci (9-3) over Duke (6-6). Bearcats win on a buzzer shot.

Holiday Bowl — Baylor (7-5) over UCLA (9-4). Bears humbled K-State and Okie State.


Friday, Dec. 28

Independence Bowl — La. Monroe (8-4) over Ohio (8-4). Bobcats on a three-game losing streak.

Russell Athletic Bowl — Rutgers (9-3) over Va. Tech (6-6). Rutgers looked good until receiving a kicking from Pitt. Tech hasn’t looked good all year.

Meineke Car Care Bowl — Texas Tech (6-6) over Gophers (6-6). The Red Raiders score TDs in bunches and Minnesota doesn’t. Tech led to the demise of Glen Mason in a 44-41 victory a few years back and have a similar team this year. Gophers have a decent defense, but the Phil Nelson, MarQuies Gray offense has been non-existent.


Saturday, Dec. 29

Armed Forces Bowl — Air Force (6-6) over Rice (6-6). Flyboys option will be too much for Owls.

Fight Hunger Bowl — Navy (9-4) over Arizona State (7-5). Middies will upset Sun Devils with triple option and strategy. Besides, I’m partial to the academies.

Pinstripes Bowl — West Ginny (7-5) over Syracuse (7-5). Both teams were underachievers this fall, but Mountaineers have QB Geno Smith, who can motor.

Alamo Bowl — Oregon State (9-3) over Texas (8-4). Beavers knocked off Wisconsin and were a pleasant surprise, but Horns were picked fourth in the preseason.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl — TCU (7-5) over Michigan State (6-6). Frogs impress with teams they beat and Sparty with teams they don’t beat. That’s the difference here.


Monday, Dec. 31

Sun Bowl — Southern Cal (7-5) over Georgia Tech (6-7). It’s about time coach Lane Kiffin gets the job done at USC. Quarterback Matt Barkley was the odds-on favorite for the Heisman at one time with receivers like Marquise Lee and Robert Woods. The Rambling Wreck runs a pretty good triple option, but lacks defense.

Liberty Bowl — Iowa State (6-6) over Tulsa (10-3). The Cyclones have solid linebackers in David Irving and A.J. Klein, plus a tough schedule that included nine bowl teams.

Music City Bowl — Vanderbilt (8-4) over N.C. State (7-5). This will be a good one, and Betsy Galenti will be happy with the outcome.

Chick-fil-A Bowl — LSU (10-2) over Clemson (10-2). LSU Tigers coach Les Miles has speed, depth and athletic ability, but the other Tigers make the same claims.


Note: January bowl games used to be reserved for the big boys, but this is no longer the case.


Tuesday, Jan. 1

Heart of Dallas Bowl — Okie State (7-5) will crush Purdue (6-6). OSU boasts another explosive team in a program that has won 48 games in the last five years. Purdue fired its coach — need I say more.

Gator Bowl — Northwestern (9-3) over Mississippi State (8-4). The Wildcats have the best coach in the Big Ten in Pat Fitzgerald (49-39 in seven years) and also possess a whirling dervish Kain Colter at quarterback, who made me forget Michigan’s Denard Robinson. There’s also Lake Elmo’s Brian Arnfelt (6-foot-5, 300 pounds) at defensive tackle. Should be enough!

Capitol One Bowl — Georgia (11-2) over Nebarska (10-3). Both teams have stout defense, but Huskers’ 70-31 loss to Wisconsin is hard to forget. Georgia got chumped out of BCS game and Huskers ace QB Taylor Martinez is hot and cold.

Outback Bowl — South Carolina (10-2) over Michigan (8-4). Steve Spurrier has running back Marcus Lattimore and a stout defense to counter a Michigan team that was expected to win the Big Ten behind Robinson.

Rose Bowl — Stanford (11-2) will out-smart Wisconsin (8-5). The Badgers can shock like that Huskers game two weeks ago, but they almost lost to Northern Iowa and Utah State. UW can be a factor with Montee Ball and James White busting behind that huge line. The Cardinal are more consistent and list Oregon among their victims. Besides, Bielema (68-24) is gone. SAHS golf coach John Scanlon will be wearing a crown of Stanford roses.

Orange Bowl — Florida State (11-2) over Northern Illinois (12-1). Iowa beat NIU. ’Nuff said.


Wednesday, Jan. 2

Sugar Bowl — Florida (11-1) over Louisville (10-2). The Gators have too many horses, but the Cardinals could surprise.


Thursday, Jan. 3

Fiesta Bowl — Kansas State (11-1) over Oregon (11-1). I’m picking with my heart and not my head on this one. I wanted K-State’s quarterback Collin Klein to get the Heisman and I would like to see 73-year-old coach Bill Snyder get all the honors that he deserves. The Ducks are awesome and have taken offense to a whole new level.


Friday, Jan. 4

Cotton Bowl — Texas A & M (10-2) over Oklahoma (10-2). The Aggies with freshman QB and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and his Sooners counterpart Landry Jones will provide the fireworks in this one.


Saturday, Jan. 5

BBVA Compass Bowl — Ole Miss (6-6) over Pitt (6-6). I think this one is being televised in black and white on a public access station near you.


Sunday, Jan. 6 Bowl — Kent State (11-2) over Arkansas (9-3). KSU coach Darrell Hazell headed to Purdue.


Monday, Jan. 7

BCS National Championship — Alabama (12-1) over Notre Dame (12-0). People usually don’t root for Notre Dame unless they are Irish Catholics like Jerry Foley or graduates like Dr. Paul Quinn. I think the Irish will have their hands full even with guys like LB Manti Te’o and tight end Tyler Eiffert. Bama coach Nick Saban has enough in the cupboard for his third BCS title in four years. I think long-time Tide fan Tom Wilson will be happy.


Note: Northwestern is the only Big Ten team I’ve picked to win…. finis


Today’s rumination #596

Charm is the ability to make someone else think that both of you are pretty wonderful.

• • • •

George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]