Commentary

Arizona, Boise and Notre Dame are early bowl winners

Updated: August 6, 2009, 4:20 PM ET
By Bruce Feldman | ESPN.com

I didn't exactly finish the regular season on a high note, going three under .500 against the line, which puts me 13 over for the season.

The recap: the good -- picking Rutgers to thump Louisville; the bad -- picking Alabama to stay within eight of Florida; the ugly -- picking Ball State to beat Buffalo.

Here is the first batch of bowl game guesses:

Saturday, Dec. 20


Wake Forest 27, Navy 14: Having faced Navy's offense once already (Navy won the first meeting 24-17 in September) should be a big plus for the Wake defense.

[+] EnlargeJim Grobe
Joel Auerbach/US PresswireJim Grobe's Wake Forest offense should score points against Navy.

Wake is 21st in the country against the run (116 ypg), is sound enough and has enough athletes to contain Navy's ground game. Navy's defense hasn't been scored upon in the previous eight quarters, but Jim Grobe's offense has played well in bowls, and I think it will respond well here.

Fresno State 38, Colo. State 27: The Rams don't get any pressure on rival quarterbacks, and they're also one of the country's worst defenses against the pass. Worse still, CSU doesn't consistently run the ball well enough to attack FSU's suspect run defense. Pat Hill's teams have won four of their past five bowl games, and Fresno's Tom Brandstater struggled this season, throwing zero TDs in his final three games of the season. I'm playing the hunch that he finishes on a high note -- although you have to wonder if CSU has more to play for here than Fresno.

USF 35, Memphis 17: Matt Grothe fizzled down the stretch, throwing just one TD against nine INTs as USF lost three of its final four games. Still, I think South Florida has too much talent to lose to Memphis, which surrendered at least 26 points to six of its last seven opponents. USF may have some problems with the big Tigers receivers, but they won't be able to do enough damage to win.

Zona 34, BYU 30: It's a big deal for Mike Stoops to get his team into a bowl, and his Cats have a lot of firepower. Willie Tuitama is streaky, but he should fare well against a Cougars defense that has been very suspect over the second half of the season. Zona has had trouble protecting Tuitama, but that's not a BYU strength.

Sunday, Dec. 21


So. Miss 24, Troy 21: This will be a big test for USM freshman QB Austin Davis, who faces an outstanding Troy D-line and a defense that is fourth in the nation in sacks (38 on the season). However, I like the balance in the Golden Eagles' offense, because I don't see Troy having the ability to neutralize both WR DeAndre Brown and RB Damion Fletcher.

Tuesday, Dec. 23


Boise State 20, TCU 10:

Great matchup between unbeaten Boise State and its potent offense and a ferocious TCU defense.

[+] EnlargeKellen Moore
Daniel R. Harris/US PresswireBoise State QB Kellen Moore will face one of the best defenses in the nation in TCU.

Young Boise QB Kellen Moore is very sharp and poised, and the Broncos' offense matches up fairly well (tied for fifth in the nation in fewest sacks allowed with 11) against Jerry Hughes & Co. Moore was outstanding against a very good Oregon pass rush on the road, and he and his young O-line have a lot more experience since that game at Autzen.

Wednesday, Dec. 24


Notre Dame 44, Hawaii 28:

Getting big Michael Floyd back is a huge boost for the Irish passing attack. He'll take some of the heat off Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen. UH isn't strong against the pass, and unless it can get a lot of heat on Clausen, I expect the Irish to put on an air show. Hawaii also doesn't run the ball well enough to attack Notre Dame's defense.

Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His new book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.