Commentary

Dashing through the bowl season

Updated: December 23, 2007, 11:18 PM ET
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (special bowl edition, broken curfew excuses sold separately):

Before we begin Bowl-der-Dash 2007, it's only proper that we extend condolences to the 56 I-A teams that are no longer playing football. More than half of the big league membership of 120 received bowl bids. In a sport that rewards mediocrity, that officially makes the rest of you sub-mediocre.

[+] EnlargeMelissa Keller
AP Photo/Chris PizzelloDashette Melissa Keller would bring her Entourage out to watch Chase and D-Mac light up the Cotton Bowl scoreboard.
But here's the good news for the fellowship of the miserable: Fifteen of this year's 64 bowl teams didn't make the postseason in 2006. One of them, Illinois (1), jumped all the way from 2-10 to the Rose Bowl. Deservedly or not.

The Dash is hoping for one other major upgrade from last season, in its bowl predictions. Trying to pick the winners of games after weeks off from competition -- and, in many cases, after coaching changes or key suspensions have gutted a program -- is dumber than giving Bill Callahan (2) a preseason contract extension, then firing him four months later. But because predictions make the sports world go 'round -- and because the boss wanted the column -- The Dash is climbing back on the horse that bucked it, stomped it and left it for dead a year ago.

Because this is not a George O'Leary (3) production, The Dash will not embellish the past. The record last season: 17-15. You, your grandmother, your dog and everyone on your Christmas card list did better.

If The Dash doesn't do better this time around, there will be a New Year's resolution: no more predictions.

San Diego County Credit Union
Poinsettia Bowl (4)

Utah vs. Navy
Dec. 20, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: Because if you miss the first, you can't see them all.

40-second analysis: Somewhat mystifyingly, the Utes have become December's Team. They've won six straight bowl games under three different coaches, covering the spread in the last five. They're solidly favored over the Midshipmen in a game that matches strength (Navy's offense) on strength (Utah's D). Utes allowed only 9.5 points per game the last half of the season. Middies led the nation in rushing offense and averaged 40 points per game, but were just 1-3 against bowl teams this season. And their coach is leaving for Georgia Tech.

Dash pick: Utah 38, Navy 28.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (5)
Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic
Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Why watch: Because there's a certifiable coaching legend on one sideline (and no, we're not referring to Tommy West [6]). And because you've never seen the FAU Owls play in a bowl game before. Most of you have never seen the FAU Owls, period. Bonus points to anyone outside the Sun Belt who knows their colors.

40-second analysis: Nobody made the postseason by a skinnier margin than 7-5 Memphis, which won five games by three points or less. The Tigers were 0-2 against Sun Belt teams, while Howard Schnellenberger's Owls went 6-1 in winning that league. Quarterbacks Martin Hankins and Rusty Smith shouldn't have too much to worry about in the pocket, facing defenses that rank 107th (Florida Atlantic) and 111th (Memphis) nationally in sacks.

Dash pick: Florida Atlantic 45, Memphis 38.

Papajohns.com Bowl (7)
Southern Miss vs. Cincinnati
Dec. 22, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Why watch: Old-school Conference USA fans (all six of them) can get nostalgic about a rematch of former league rivals. And the Big East gets a chance to run its bowl winning streak to seven, starting with West Virginia's upset of Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl and continuing through last year's 5-0 showing.

40-second analysis: Bearcats have a hot coach in Brian Kelly. Southern Miss has a lame-duck coach in Jeff Bower. Oh, yeah, and Cincinnati has the better team anyway, ranking 77 spots higher in the Sagarin Ratings. If Cincy isn't sulking about taking a 9-3 team from a BCS league to a lower-tier bowl game against an off-Broadway opponent, this shouldn't be close. If Cincy is sulking, it still might not be close.

Dash pick: Cincinnati 28, Southern Miss 13.

New Mexico Bowl (8)
Nevada vs. New Mexico
Dec. 22, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: Because you'd never forgive yourself if you missed the Lobos' first bowl victory since the 1961 Aviation Bowl. Plus, Nevada has a history of cliff-hanger bowl games, with its last two decided by one point apiece.

40-second analysis: New Mexico coach Rocky Long has been consistent if unspectacular, winning at least six games for the seventh straight season. This Lobos team fits that mold perfectly, racking up an 8-4 record despite ranking 84th in total offense. Nevada has an intriguing freshman quarterback in Colin Kaepernick (9), who took over the team eight games ago and now ranks fifth nationally in pass efficiency. He's thrown 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions. New Mexico's chances were crippled with the news Tuesday that leading rusher Rodney Ferguson is ineligible for the game.

Dash pick: Nevada 23, New Mexico 17.

Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl (10)
UCLA vs. BYU
Dec. 22, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: Cross pollination. They've already played this year (UCLA 27, BYU 17 in September). Bruins quarterback Ben Olson started his career as a Cougar. UCLA reportedly has interviewed two old BYU assistants: Norm Chow (27 years with the Cougars) and current interim coach Dewayne Walker (BYU secondary coach in 1994).

40-second analysis: Yes, BYU lost to UCLA this season, but the past two years the Cougars have undergone radical makeovers after mid-September. Last year they won 10 straight after a 1-2 start, and this year they're on a nine-game winning streak after beginning 1-2. The 6-6 Bruins, meanwhile, have gone the other way. They've lost four of their past five while making an unspirited run at Dog of the Year honors. The Dash is unconvinced that UCLA will show up in any meaningful fashion for this game.

Dash pick: BYU 30, UCLA 18.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (11)
Boise State vs. East Carolina
Dec. 23, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: If precedent matters, there will be points on the board. Winner has scored at least 41 in the past four Hawaii Bowls.

40-second analysis: One coach (Skip Holtz) has expended time and energy chasing other jobs. The other coach (Chris Petersen) has expended time and energy telling other schools he's not interested in their jobs. As it relates to bowl prep, The Dash likes Petersen's approach better. Broncos should find Honolulu more enjoyable when the opposing quarterback isn't Colt Brennan.

Dash pick: Boise State 42, East Carolina 28.

Motor City Bowl (12)
Purdue vs. Central Michigan
Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: It's not very often you get a clash of nicknames totaling seven syllables, but here it is (Chippewas vs. Boilermakers). You also get to see the other 3,000-yard passer/1,000-yard rusher quarterback besides Tim Tebow, Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour.

40-second analysis: Purdue is trying to stop a three-game losing streak on the season and a three-bowl losing streak dating back to 2002. Boilers WR Dorien Bryant wraps up what seemed like a seven-year college career. Same with Central Michigan linebacker Red Keith, who has led the Chippewas in tackles four straight seasons. This is a rematch game of a Purdue blowout win in September -- the Boilers' only victory in six games against teams that made bowls.

Dash pick: Purdue 42, Central Michigan 31.

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (13)
Arizona State vs. Texas
Dec. 27, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: If you want to see the first elite matchup of bowl season, this is it.

40-second analysis: Rejuvenated under first-year coach Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils are the latest Pac-10 school griping about being left out of the BCS bowls. The league was left without two teams in the big-money games again. With Vince Young, Mack Brown is a BCS-level coach. Without Vince Young, Mack Brown is a Holiday Bowl-level coach.

Dash pick: Arizona State 27, Texas 23.

Champs Sports Bowl (14)
Boston College vs. Michigan State
Dec. 28, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: You'll see a big-time quarterback on one side (BC's Matt Ryan) and a big-time receiver on the other (Michigan State junior Devin Thomas, ninth nationally in receiving yards per game and sixth in all-purpose yardage).

40-second analysis: Sparty's defense opened the year by holding four nonconference opponents to fewer than 20 points. Then it allowed 24 or more points in every Big Ten game. Matchup of the Eagles' sixth-ranked passing offense against the Spartans' No. 43 pass defense looks like advantage Ryan -- but BC didn't light up scoreboards in the second half of the season (23.5 ppg) like it did in the first (35.8 ppg).

Dash pick: Boston College 31, Michigan State 22.

Texas Bowl (15)
TCU vs. Houston
Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ET (NFL Network)

Why watch: To prove you're really a college football fan -- if you go out of your way to find this game on television.

40-second analysis: Classic strength-on-strength matchup of Houston's No. 4 offense against TCU's No. 16 defense. Houston RB Anthony Alridge has three 200-yard rushing games this year, but none against a defense like the Frogs'. Cougars have lost seven straight bowls dating back to 1980 and went 0-4 this year against bowl teams. TCU was scantly better at 1-4.

Dash pick: TCU 30, Houston 24.

Emerald Bowl (16)
Maryland vs. Oregon State
Dec. 28, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: Last chance to see underrated Beavers running back Yvenson Bernard in a college uniform -- provided he's 100 percent after having his knee scoped a month ago. Also an opportunity to see what creative Terps coach Ralph Friedgen has added to the trick bag since the regular season ended.

40-second analysis: The Beavers made their customary late-season surge, losing only to USC in their final seven games. The Terrapins went the other way, losing four of their final six. One thing is certain: Oregon State's defense will create a lot more negative plays (tied for third nationally in sacks, and tied for sixth in tackles for loss) than Maryland's (76th in sacks, 96th in TFL).

Dash pick: Oregon State 33, Maryland 17.

Meineke Car Care Bowl (17)
UConn vs. Wake Forest
Dec. 29, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: To see whether the ACC can continue its undefeated run in the five-year history of this bowl. And to see whether the Huskies try any more fake-fair-catch shenanigans.

40-second analysis: If you want fireworks, there are plenty of other bowl games to watch. Expect punts here, with the nation's No. 83 total offense (UConn) against the nation's No. 98 total offense (Wake). On the plus side, there should be some slobberknocking going on from two defenses that like to hit. The joy of bowl season should not be lost on either side, since the Huskies have been to one bowl game in their history and the Demon Deacons have been to seven in 106 years of football.

Dash pick: Wake Forest 14, Connecticut 10.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (18)
UCF vs. Mississippi State
Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: To see the nation's leading rusher, UCF's Kevin Smith (19), chase Barry Sanders' single-season rushing record. Smith needs 180 yards to break it, but he'll be facing a defense that held Darren McFadden to just 88 yards last month.

40-second analysis: Yeah, C-USA is a touch-football league, but it's still impressive for the Golden Knights to score 32 or more points in 11 of 13 games -- including 32 against Texas in September. The Bulldogs' rickety offense will be severely challenged to keep pace. Sylvester Croom did a great job getting State to its first bowl game in seven years, but the program isn't back to top-25 status yet.

Dash pick: UCF 30, Mississippi State 21.

Valero Alamo Bowl (19)
Penn State vs. Texas A&M
Dec. 29, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: Penn State's Anthony Morelli or A&M's Stephen McGee -- ends 2007 with something to smile about. Both played well down the stretch: Morelli threw five TDs passes and just one interception in his last three games; McGee had an 8-3 TD-pick ratio in his last five games.

40-second analysis: Two of the nation's best and proudest fan bases should make the Riverwalk a lively place. Nittany Lions have won eight of their last 10 bowls, including a 24-0 skunking of the Aggies in this game eight years ago. Texas A&M is much better at running than throwing, but it won't be easy on the ground against the No. 6 rushing defense in the country.

Dash pick: Penn State 21, Texas A&M 18.

PetroSun Independence Bowl (20)
Alabama vs. Colorado
Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: To see which 6-6 team suffers its second consecutive losing season. That hasn't happened to the Buffaloes since 1983-84. Hasn't happened to the Crimson Tide since 1956-57.

40-second analysis: Even after blowing up for 65 points on rival Nebraska to end the regular season, the Buffs are only 63rd nationally in scoring offense. The Tide are only 65th. Bama coach Nick Saban has never lost five straight in 12 years as a college head coach, but he will with a defeat in this game. Alabama will have to wait until 2008 (at least) to start getting its money's worth out of the game's highest-paid coach.

Dash pick: Colorado 22, Alabama 21.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (21)
California vs. Air Force
Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: Because train wrecks are impossible to ignore. And Cal (6-6 after a 5-0 start) definitely qualifies as a train wreck.

40-second analysis: Sulk meter should be off the charts for the Golden Bears  let's just say Fort Worth, Texas, was not the dream destination for a team that was ranked No. 2 in October. Sulk meter should be at zero for the Falcons; no one their roster has played in a bowl before. Jeff Tedford did some damage to his esteemed reputation by losing for the first time in six years as a head coach to Stanford, Washington and Arizona State. Air Force still runs enough option under first-year head coach Troy Calhoun to present a major preparation headache to Cal.

Dash pick: Air Force 34, Cal 31.

Roady's Humanitarian Bowl (22)
Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Why watch: To see how two warm-weather teams enjoy winter in Boise on the blue turf.

40-second analysis: Fresno coach Pat Hill relishes the chance to put a BCS-league skin on his wall. He's got nine of them in 11 years at Fresno, including beating ACC member Virginia in this same bowl game three years ago. Yellow Jackets will be feeling their way through this with interim head coach Jon Tenuta, plugged in to replace fired Chan Gailey until Paul Johnson takes over post-bowl.

Dash pick: Fresno State 29, Georgia Tech 24.

Brut Sun Bowl (23)
South Florida vs. Oregon
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why watch: To see which freakish uniform combination the Ducks come up with next. And besides, afternoon football is one more reason not to work on New Year's Eve.

40-second analysis: The Ducks haven't won a game since Dennis Dixon injured his knee against Arizona. They also haven't won a bowl since Joey Harrington was the quarterback six seasons ago. This could be Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart's last college game, but he'll have to work for his yards against a USF defense that did not allow anything near 100 to UCF's Kevin Smith, Pitt's LeSean McCoy or West Virginia's Steve Slaton.

Dash pick: South Florida 24, Oregon 14.

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (24)
Kentucky vs. Florida State
Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: To see whether the game's winningest all-time coach can pull off a minor miracle without a ton of suspended players.

40-second analysis: Kentucky wouldn't figure to be that thrilled about going back to the same bowl for the second straight year, especially after starting the season 6-1 and sliding to a 7-5 finish. But the Wildcats have a chance to win back-to-back bowls for the first time since the 1950-51 seasons. Seminoles fans are spoiled enough not to be excited about this game, but the players shouldn't be. Matchup of UK receivers Keenan Burton, Dicky Lyons and Jacob Tamme against FSU's talented secondary should be good stuff.

Dash pick: Kentucky 25, What's Left Of Florida State 14.

Insight Bowl (25)
Indiana vs. Oklahoma State
Dec. 31, 6 p.m. ET (NFL Network)

Why watch: To see how the Hoosiers do in fulfilling their dying coach Terry Hoeppner's wish to play a bowl game for the first time since 1993. Also to see two underrated athletes, Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis and Oklahoma State wide receiver Adarius Bowman.

40-second analysis: The Cowboys went just 2-5 against '07 bowl teams and gave up 35 or more points to seven of 12 opponents. The Hoosiers will pressure Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson with end Greg Middleton, who leads the nation in sacks per game at 1.3. And Indiana should have the advantage if it comes down to a clutch field goal with All-American Austin Starr.

Dash pick: Indiana 30, Oklahoma State 28.

Chick-fil-A Bowl (26)
Clemson vs. Auburn
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: To see which Tommy the Tiger (Tuberville or Bowden) coming off a contract extension ends the season happiest.

40-second analysis: Matchup of top 10 defenses should make this a low-scoring game, with the winner possibly being the team that can come up with more turnovers. That figures to be Clemson, which tied for 10th nationally in turnover margin. Or the edge could come in special teams: Hidden yardage matchup favors Auburn in the punting game and Clemson in the kickoff return game.

Dash pick: Auburn 19, Clemson 14.

Outback Bowl (27)
Wisconsin vs. Tennessee
Jan. 1, 11 a.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: To see who wins the battle of big initials on white helmets, and to perhaps get some insight into another Big Ten-SEC showdown on Jan. 7.

40-second analysis: The Volunteers don't stop the run very well, which could be trouble against the No. 19 rushing attack in the country. But they do protect quarterback Erik Ainge to an exceptional degree, and if offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe isn't too busy making the transition to Duke, he should be able to find some vulnerable spots in the Badgers' defense. Wisconsin QB Tyler Donovan is a gritty guy who makes a lot of plays with his feet, but he won't be able to outrun the Vols' defense.

Dash pick: Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17.

AT&T Cotton Bowl (28)
Missouri vs. Arkansas
Jan. 1, 11:30 a.m. ET (Fox)

Why watch: A game featuring two Heisman Trophy finalists -- Missouri QB Chase Daniel and Arkansas RB Darren McFadden -- is almost as much fun to look at as Dashette Melissa Keller (29).

40-second analysis: Tigers got a royal screwing from the BCS but should still be enthusiastic about their first January bowl game since 1970. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, are in coaching transition turmoil with interim coach Reggie Herring and a staff that's been splitting time between coaching the Hogs and its new duties with Houston Nutt at Mississippi. Oklahoma is the only team to hold Missouri to fewer than 36 points all season, and Arkansas won't be the second.

Dash pick: Missouri 41, Arkansas 22.

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl (30)
Texas Tech vs. Virginia
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why watch: First time a team from Texas has played in this bowl in 34 years. And if you saw the Red Raiders' unbelievable comeback to beat Minnesota (and get Glen Mason fired) last year in the Insight Bowl, you know anything can happen with Mike Leach coaching.

40-second analysis: Great matchup of the nation's No. 2 total offense (Tech) against the No. 17 total defense (UVA). Deluxe pass-rusher Chris Long should get 50 attempts to sack Graham Harrell, but the Red Raiders use wide splits in the offensive line and quick throws to keep Harrell upright. With an offense that only averages 24 points and 329 yards it's hard to see the Cavaliers keeping up.

Dash pick: Texas Tech 35, Virginia 21.

Capital One Bowl (31)
Michigan vs. Florida
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ABC)

Why watch: Can Lloyd Carr end his bowl jinx and go out a winner? Can Tim Tebow end the Heisman jinx and play well after winning the little stiff-armer?

40-second analysis: Don't look now, Wolverines, but here comes another mobile quarterback. And he's bringing a lot of other SEC speed with him, most notably Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell. Michigan should be able to move the ball and score some points, but it also could surrender field position and big plays to explosive Florida return man Brandon James. One other thing: Urban Meyer is undefeated in bowl games.

Dash pick: Florida 35, Michigan 24.

Rose Bowl presented by Citi (32)
Illinois vs. USC
Jan. 1, 4:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Why watch: Because it's the Rose Bowl, and it would be un-American not to. Still the prettiest game to watch, every year.

40-second analysis: The Trojans figure to load up to stop Illini running back Rashard Mendenhall, putting the game in the hands of quarterback Juice Williams. He won't be able to win it with his arm, but could make things interesting with his feet. However, he hasn't seen a defense with the speed and ferocity of USC's. The Trojans have a whole lot more experience on a stage like this than the Illini, none of whom have played in a bowl game before.

Dash pick: USC 31, Illinois 10.

Allstate Sugar Bowl (33)
Hawaii vs. Georgia
Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET (Fox)

Why watch: Last time an unbeaten WAC team played in a BCS bowl, it was only the greatest game The Dash has ever seen in person.

40-second analysis: Bulldogs' offense cranked it up the second half of the season, and the Warriors' offense stays cranked up at all times. So expect pinball action on the Superdome carpet. But Hawaii hasn't seen anything like the speed and size Georgia will put on the field. Its defense is underappreciated but still probably overmatched. Just don't expect Colt Brennan and all those receivers to lose their undefeated season quietly.

Dash pick: Georgia 47, Hawaii 41.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (34)
West Virginia vs. Oklahoma
Jan. 2, 8 p.m. ET (Fox)

Why watch: Because the Sooners are playing better than anybody right now.

40-second analysis: This figured to be a tough assignment for the Mountaineers before they lost their coach. Already disconsolate over blowing a shot at the National Championship Game, their small, speed-based backs are facing a physical defense that figures to pound Pat White & Co. Speaking of which: The Dash was tempted to put out its first-ever APB for a current player, given the disappearance of West Virginia running back Steve Slaton. Sooners rank in the top 10 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

Dash pick: Oklahoma 42, West Virginia 17.

FedEx Orange Bowl (35)
Kansas vs. Virginia Tech
Jan. 3, 8 p.m. ET (Fox)

Why watch: Just to see the incredibly rare sight of the Jayhawks in a major bowl game. Last time it happened was Jan. 1, 1969.

40-second analysis: Kansas has played one quality opponent and, not coincidentally, has one loss. Battle-tested Tech is 6-2 against '07 bowl teams. The Hokies are far from pretty offensively, but their customarily excellent defense and special teams should be the difference. Both teams have made a living off turnovers, especially the Jayhawks, who are tied with Florida Atlantic for the best turnover margin in the nation (1.58).

Dash pick: Virginia Tech 26, Kansas 13.

International Bowl (36)
Rutgers vs. Ball State
Jan. 5, Noon ET (ESPN2)

Why watch: To see coaches Greg Schiano and Brady Hoke stand around at midfield before the game talking about their brushes with the Michigan job.

40-second analysis: Rutgers will match its excellent pass defense and pass rush against the underrated Ball State pass-and-catch duo of quarterback Nate Davis and receiver Dante Love. The Cardinals shouldn't be intimidated, having played Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois respectably this season. But the No. 99 rushing defense in the country could give up 250 yards to Ray Rice.

Dash pick: Rutgers 37, Ball State 24.

GMAC Bowl (37)
Bowling Green vs. Tulsa
Jan. 6, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why watch: Because it's Jan. 6 and you're seriously running out of games until next September.

40-second analysis: Two volcanic passing games, two vulnerable defenses. Tulsa has scored 35 or more points nine times, Bowling Green has scored 31 or more eight times. First team to force a punt might be the winner.

Dash pick: Tulsa 51, Bowling Green 45.

Allstate BCS National Championship Game (38)
LSU vs. Ohio State
Jan. 7, 8 p.m. ET (Fox)

Why watch: Does The Dash need to spell out the painfully obvious?

40-second analysis: The Tigers are seeking to cap the most melodramatic season in recent (or even non-recent) memory. The Buckeyes are trying to purge the humiliation of last year's title-game blowout at the hands of an SEC opponent. This game should be predicated on and dictated by defense: The Buckeyes lead the nation in total D, while the Tigers are third. LSU has had time to heal a lot of battered bodies, perhaps most importantly that of defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who has been dragging himself through the last half of the season on a bad leg. His matchup against star Buckeyes tackles Kirk Barton and Alex Boone will make the trenches well worth watching. But it's on the perimeter where LSU should have the edge with a similar speed advantage to what Florida enjoyed last year. Hard to see Ohio State QB Todd Boeckman (four interceptions, zero touchdowns his last two games) making enough plays to beat LSU.

Dash pick: LSU 27, Ohio State 14.

Point After

For hungry and thirsty football fans attending any (or all) of the three bowl games in New Orleans, The Dash recommends a visit to a cool new restaurant called Cochon (39). Try the alligator appetizer, and don't overlook an after-dinner drink list that, along with the standard bourbons and scotches, features four varieties of moonshine (40) -- something The Dash has never seen on a restaurant menu before.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.