Thole: March madness can wait, it’s time to go bowling

This year’s Rose Bowl features Big Ten champion Michigan State vs. Stanford in a terrific match-up out in Pasadena, Calif., which is also hosting the BCS National Championship Game.
This year’s Rose Bowl features Big Ten champion Michigan State vs. Stanford in a terrific match-up out in Pasadena, Calif., which is also hosting the BCS National Championship Game.

Well, it’s here sports fans, the long-awaited 14th Annual Let’s Go Bowling bonanza. The background information you need to pick winners is here for your study.

There are 36 bowl games, a schedule that began on Dec. 21 and will conclude on Jan. 6 with the BCS title game in Pasadena. No less than 72 — out of just 125 — teams are bowl bound, which means there is more still playing than staying at home. Only six 6-6 teams made it this year, however.

There is a full slate of games starting tonight, sports fans.


Friday, Dec. 27

Texas Bowl at Houston — Our Golden Gophers (8-4) will handle Syracuse (6-6). The Gophers have not scored an offensive TD in 10 quarters, but they will get their offense rolling with QB Phil Nelson, RB David Cobb and Mahtomedi’s OT Ed Olson leading the way. Ra’Shede Hageman will lead our hard-nosed defense. Coach Jerry Kill closes the year 9-4.

The Minnesota Gophers defeated UCLA 21-3 in the 1962 Rose Bowl, which is the program’s most recent trip to this prestigious bowl game.
The Minnesota Gophers defeated UCLA 21-3 in the 1962 Rose Bowl, which is the program’s most recent trip to this prestigious bowl game.

Military Bowl at Annapolis, Md. — Maryland (7-5) will prevail over Marshall (9-4).

Fight Hunger Bowl at San Francisco — Washington (8-4) over BYU (8-4). This will be close and high scoring.


Saturday, Dec. 28

Pinstripe Bowl in the Bronx, N.Y. — Notre Dame (8-4) will have too much offense for Rutgers’ (6-6) defense. I think the Scarlet Knights will be fodder in the Big Ten.

Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. — Cincinnati (9-3) will knock off North Carolina (6-6) and prove that dropping the Tar Heels was a bad move for the Gophers.

Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla. — Look for Miami (9-3) to upset Louisville (11-1) in a game that I think might be a stone-rocker. The Canes have a massive tackle in Cretin’s Seantrel Henderson (6-foot-8, 340 pounds). Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is exciting to watch.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Tempe, Ariz. — I hope Kansas State (7-5) beats Michigan (7-5) for two reasons. First of all, their coach Bill Snyder is older than I am and, second, my beloved NDSU Bison beat the Wildcats 24-21 in the season opener. Michigan outplayed the Buckeyes so this game will be worth watching.


Monday, Dec. 30

Music City Bowl at Nashville, Tenn. — Georgia Tech (7-5) over Ole Miss (7-5) in a high-scoring contest. I love watching the Jackets run their option offense with QB Vad Lee and LB Jeremiah Attrochu. The Rebels can beat anybody, but haven’t.

Armed Forces Bowl at Forth Worth, Texas — Navy (7-4) will run the triple option well enough to handle Middle Tennessee (8-4). I love watching Navy run the option — it reminds me of something.

Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas — The Oregon Ducks (10-2) have too much speed and skill with QB Marcus Mariota and RB De’Anthony Thomas for Texas (8-4) in coach Mack Brown’s 230-112-1) final game with the Longhorns.

Holiday Bowl at San Diego, Calif. — Arizona State (10-3) will beat Texas Tech (7-5) in an exciting track meet. Every Holiday Bowl is a thriller, and that’s a fact.


Tuesday, Dec. 31

Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas — UCLA (9-3) over Virginia Tech (8-4). The up-and-down Bruins will be up this time.

AdvoCare Bowl at Shreveport, La. — Arizona (7-5) will nip Boston College (7-5). Rich Rod has the Wildcats purring in this win. The winners have a better ‘D’.

Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn. — Going with my heart on this one so I’m picking Rice (10-3) over Mississippi State (6-6). The Owls have made gigantic strides under coach David Bailiff, but the Bulldogs have held their own in the tough SEC.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl at Atlanta, Ga. — Texas A & M (8-4) will handle Duke (10-3) with ease. Johnny Manziel is the best player in the nation and should be a two-time Heisman Trophy winner. The Aggies will pull away in the second half, even though they have a porous defense.


Wednesday, Jan. 1

Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, Fla. — This is the game I wanted for our Gophers, but we don’t travel well according to the bowl brass. Georgia (8-4) will send Nebraska (8-4) home with a loss and coach Bo Pelini with a headache.

Heart of Dallas Bowl at Dallas, Texas — UNLV (7-5) over North Texas (8-4). The Mean Green is coached by old pal Dan McCarney, who recruited former Ponies all-staters Jeff Nelson to Iowa, plus Ben Beaudet and Adam Runk to Iowa State where he was head coach. I’ll be pulling for North Texas, however, for old times sake.

Capitol One Bowl at Orlando, Fla. — Wisconsin (9-3) over South Carolina (10-2). Both teams have solid defenses, but the Badgers have the 1-2 rushing punch with James White and Melvin Gordon. The Gamecocks counter with Jadeveon Clowney — need I say more?

Outback Bowl at Tampa, Fla. — LSU (9-3) over Iowa (8-4) in a hard-hitting encounter!

BCS Fiesta Bowl at Glendale, Ariz. — Baylor (11-1) with super speed will outscore UCF (11-1).

BCS Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. — Stanford (11-2) will stop Sparty (12-1). This will be the best bowl game of them all. I’ll bet Ponies golf coach John Scanlon will be there pulling for Stanford. Michigan State ruined Ohio State’s dream.


Thursday, Jan. 2

BCS Sugar Bowl at New Orleans, La. — Bama (11-1) will show the Sooners (10-2) why they won back-to-back BCS titles. Alabama 42, Oklahoma 17.


Friday, Jan. 3

BCS Cotton Bowl at Arlington, Texas — Okie State (10-2) will put a whipping on Mizzou (11-2).

BCS Orange Bowl at Miami, Fla. — Ohio State (12-1) will defeat Clemson (10-2). The Buckeyes are still smarting from that loss to Sparty and QB Braxton Miller will get it done.


Saturday, Jan. 4

BBVA Compass Bowl at Birmingham, Ala. — Vanderbilt (8-4) over Houston (8-4). I’ll be pulling for Cougars coach Tony Levine, who I coached at a couple football camps in St. Paul, but Vandy has more talent.


Sunday, Jan. 5

GoDaddy Bowl at Mobile, Ala. — Ball State (10-2) over Arkansas State (7-5).


Monday, Jan. 6

BCS National Championship Game at Pasadena, Calif. — I’m pulling for Auburn (12-1) over Florida State (13-0) because I don’t think Jameis Winston deserved the Heisman and Auburn was lightly regarded from the get-go.


I’ve spent more time on the couch watching college football games than anyone in this town so I’ve watched all 72 teams play. Here’s a bonus game:


Saturday, Jan. 4

FCS National Championship Game at Frisco, Texas — My beloved NDSU Bison (14-0) will win their third straight national title at the expense of Towson (13-2), who slipped past Eastern Washington 35-31 in the semifinals. The Bison ripped New Hampshire 52-14 to gain a spot in the finals.


Today’s rumination #648

People who wake up famous haven’t been asleep.

• • • •

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 Fridays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]