Week 17 picks: Bowling

In 2018, Alabama head football coach Nick Saban said that the NCAA could not prioritize bowl games and the college football playoffs.

Boy, was he right. 

College football bowl games, except for the three college football playoff games, are dying. If you have watched any of the bowl games so far, most of the time you have seen that there are plenty of good seats available in the stadiums. Just by watching these games at all, you should probably consider what you are doing with your life. Players who believe they can play at the NFL level are sitting out their teams’ bowl games in droves, leaving fans watching, in many cases, JV level games. Coaches are leaving their teams before bowl games because, I guess, they want to get a head start on recruiting, never mind that they were hired to coach the entire season. Last year, while both semifinal games had more than 20 million people watching, the “other” bowls averaged around 3 million viewers. I have read far more about the transfer portal than I have about any of the non-playoff bowl games. 

But the death of all the other bowl games will be a sad day for me, not because of the excitement, but I’ll miss the bowl game names.


If you’re hungry, there’s (or has been) the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the  Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl, The Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, The-Pop Tarts Bowl, The Raisin Bowl, The Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, The Salad Bowl, The Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Of these, the Pop-Tarts Bowl is my favorite, and the trophy is a replica of a toaster with two Pop-Tarts in it! I hope they’re brown sugar cinnamon. My wife, on the other hand, prefers the Salad Bowl. 

If you’re into lawn care, there’s the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl and the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl. It is thought that Gasparilla comes from Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar who was also known as Gasparilla.

Place names are also well represented. We have the Hawaii Bowl, The New Mexico Bowl, the Birmingham Bowl, The New Orleans Bowl, the Alamo Bowl, The Bahamas Bowl, the Arizona Bowl, and the Las Vegas Bowl.

Somehow, we have the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl (should be lots of laughs) and it just doesn’t seem right to pair that with the First Responder Bowl.

Some companies want a game named after them, thus behold the

Tax Slayer (we wish) Gator Bowl, the GMAC Bowl, the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl, and the Eagle Bank Bowl.  

We even have household appliances represented by the Glass Bowl and the Refrigerator Bowl.

If you’re feeling pugilistic, there’s the Military Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl.

I remember when New Year’s Day was a special day for watching college football. The first game started at 8 a.m. PST, and the last game didn’t let the bleary eyed viewer go until around 9:30 that night. It was a tradition to watch, and bet, all the games.

Now, the ignorant bettor really has no idea of what will happen. Who will play? Who will coach? Who will watch? I can’t defend betting the bowl games before, but it just seems stupid now.

The highlight of last week’s NFL action was Packers’ sometime defensive back Jaire Alexander appointing himself captain and joining the other real captains for the coin flip before his team’s game. Better than that, he even incorrectly called what his team wanted as a result of winning the coin toss.

I remember when my son played his first “B” football game for Moapa Valley and he was the captain. The coach told him to defer if we won the toss, and to defend the north end of the field. When we won the toss, my son remembered half of what he was supposed to say and told the ref that his team would defend that end. The ref had to know what he meant, but because my son declared what end of the field he wanted, that’s what we got and we ended up kicking off both halves. Several people in the stands were screaming as we lined up to kick off in the second half, including me. My son told me that he just wanted everyone to shut up because it was his fault.

Well, Jaire Alexander was much luckier than my son, because Packers head coach Matt LaFleur had told the referee what he wanted ahead of time, so the Packers did not have to kick off both halves. But the thought of Alexander appointing himself captain and then stupidly saying the wrong thing astounds me. (Editor’s note: The Packers have suspended Alexander for one game for crashing the captain’s meeting.) Alexander, after the game, did not see the error of his ways, defending his decision to go out there at all with the, “It’s my hometown” defense (Alexander is from Charlotte, where the game was). I guess the good thing about being stupid is that you don’t know you’re stupid. Because if you’re stupid AND know it…

Although I am worried about how they will do in the playoffs, a moment here to shout out the first divisional title for my Detroit Lions since 1993. I wrote last year about how I was emotional after the Lions beat the Packers on the final night of last year, remembering my past and my family’s connections to Detroit. Well, when the Lions won and clinched the NFC North, NFL Network analyst Cynthia Frelund, also from Detroit, had to wipe away tears on live TV. Detroit fans love their teams, but they have not always had good teams to cheer for. Witness the Detroit Pistons incredible 27-game losing streak!!?? But, I can tell you, my phone blows up every time the Lions score at the numerous watch parties around the town I grew up in. Although I am proud of the Lions, after watching 4th string QB (and now benched) Nick Mullins take apart the Lions’ defense I am worried about what a real NFL QB will  be able to do. Still, Go Lions!

Yet another bad week last week. I thought for sure the 49ers were the best team in the NFL, and maybe they will be, but they sure didn’t look like it Monday night. Dallas did not beat Miami. The Jaguars and Bengals both lost. 

Oh, well. I’ll try again. Here are my picks against the point spread for this week. Lines are from on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) vs New Orleans Saints: The Bucs are hot, the Saints are not.

LA Rams (-4 ½) at NY Giants: Tommy DeVito looked at Danny DeVito on Monday, and now he and his agent are back on the bench. The Rams are peaking at the right time.

Houston Texans (-4) vs Tennessee Titans: As of Wednesday, it looks like CJ Stroud will be back.

Baltimore Ravens (-3 ½) vs Miami Dolphins: The Ravens are my new “Best Team in the NFL”

LV Raiders (+3 ½) at Indianapolis Colts: What’s got into the Raiders?

Cincinnati Bengals (+7) at Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are doing what bad teams do…find different ways to lose. I have learned not to write off the Chiefs too early, but this year seems different.

MInnesota Vikings (-2) vs Green Bay Packers: A new week, a new starting QB for the Vikings. Maybe the Packers want to leash and muzzle Jaire Alexander during the coin toss.

Last week: 2-5

Season: 51-52-6

Robert’s picks

Ole Miss (+5) vs Penn St.: As Jim wrote above, betting bowl games is particularly difficult because you never know for sure who will actually be playing and which team actually wants to be there. Everyone talks about bowl games being a reward for a good season, but for many players it’s the trip, the swag bags and the weeklong activities that are the reward, and the game is actually a chore. But Penn St. is the team in this matchup with the most disruption, with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz now the head coach at Duke, and the Nittany Lions also have a new offensive coordinator. Most of the key players for Ole Miss are playing, and I’m not sure Penn St. is better and belongs as the favorite.

Alabama (+2) vs Michigan: Setting aside the argument whether Alabama should be here at all instead of Florida St., Michigan has gotten here by being more physical than everyone they’ve played. But bully ball won’t work against Alabama, which has more dynamic playmakers on offense and can stand up to the Michigan running game.

Colts (-3 ½) vs Raiders:  I was hoping for a lower price on this game, but coming off an upset over the Chiefs and 63 points in the previous game against the Chargers, this is a come-down spot for the Raiders, and they catch the Colts looking to bounce back from a bad loss in Atlanta last week.

Patriots (+14) vs Bills: The Patriots will not go away meekly against a division rival.

Bengals (+6 ½) vs Chiefs: That was an ugly performance by the Bengals last week against the Steelers, but they’ve matched up well with much better versions of the Chiefs in the past couple years and now they badly need a win to stay in the playoff race.

Last week

College: 1-1

NFL: 1-2


College: 31-29

NFL: 26-19-3

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