SMU-Army (Noon ET, ESPN): The Armed Forces Bowl is played in Fort Worth and is a virtual home game for SMU. Of greater importance than the crowd is the fact the Mustangs are a better football team. June Jones' calling card has always been his teams' ability to throw the ball and sophomore quarterback Kyle Padron fits that mold. But don't overlook the fact SMU runs the ball very well with Zach Line, so this isn't a contrast-in-styles matchup, with SMU's passing offense against Army's option. It's a contrast between one team who is balanced versus another who is one-dimensional. Army coach Rich Ellerson has done a yeoman's job in bringing this program out of obscurity and into a bowl game, but they are yet to be at a point where they can beat other competitive schools, and their option lacks the explosive capacity that fellow military schools Air Force and Navy have. SMU rolls to a 35-17 win.
Kansas State-Syracuse (3:20 ET, ESPN): It's the first edition of the Pinstripe Bowl, played at Yankee Stadium. I like this idea, both the cold-weather game and playing it at a baseball park. Besides, this game today ensures that at least someone besides the Texas Rangers will have postseason success in Yankee Stadium. There won't be the kind of powerful offenses that Yankee fans are accustomed to seeing in this park. Neither K-State or Syracuse really throws the ball well, although we'd give the Orange an edge. The Wildcats have an elite running back in Daniel Thomas and come from a superior conference. Syracuse was good enough this year to knock off West Virginia on the road, but I'm too hesitant to go with the Big East, especially after the Mountaineers looked so bad on Tuesday night against N.C. State. Furthermore, any home crowd advantage Syracuse has will be negated by the fact they are a dome team playing in what will be less than ideal conditions. Kansas State wins it 24-13.
North Carolina-Tennessee (6:40 ET, ESPN): In Memphis' Music City Bowl, North Carolina tries to end a troubled season on a positive note. A year of great expectation in Chapel Hill was derailed by suspensions from the get-go. Tennessee didn't know what to expect this year, under a new head coach in Derek Dooley and an extremely young team. After a 2-6 start they rallied and won four straight, blowing out bad teams and beating bowl-bound Kentucky to get here. I like the Vols' momentum and I really like Tauren Poole, one of the nation's most underrated running backs. Tennessee wins it 30-24.
Washington-Nebraska (10 ET, ESPN): Nebraska's time as a member of the Big 12 comes to an end tonight in San Diego as they take on Washington, who had to win its last three to become bowl-eligible. After the Cornhuskers' tough loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game there's always the question of motivation and focus for playing a .500 team. If that's not a problem, the Huskies won't be, unless Jake Locker can finally play like the top draft pick he was supposed to be at quarterback. All year long, Washington has been much more effective giving the ball to Chris Polk, so I'd expect Nebraska to focus on stopping the run first. If Locker can make some plays, this will be a game. More likely, the Cornhuskers will get enough pressure on him to force mistakes and win 24-9.
Some big rushing performances were the story of yesterday's games. Illinois' Mikel Leshoure ran all over Baylor for 184 yards, as the Big Ten moved to 2-0 against the Big 12 following Iowa's upset of Missouri the prior night. Maryland's Da'Rel Scott sent Ralph Friedgen home a big winner, racking up 200 yards for the Terps as they blasted East Carolina in a penalty-ridden game that saw a combined 26 flags thrown. Oklahoma State restored some Big 12 pride with a big 36-10 win over Arizona. The pass defense problems the Notebook talked about in yesterday's preview were non-existent, as the Cowboys picked off Nick Foles three times. They finish the season 11-2 and have a shot at making the final Top 10 depending on how things shake out.
Image from huskerlockerroom.com
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in the NFL, coverage of college basketball. and bowl commentary in college football. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.