Commentary

Dashing through the bowl season

Originally Published: December 16, 2010
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news this college football bowl season (Whizzinator sold separately in Iowa City):

[+] EnlargeMiranda Kerr
AP Photo/Jennifer GraylockIf you're only here for Dashette Miranda Kerr, that's fine with the Dash.

Well, it hasn't been a dull December. Since we last met, Urban Meyer (1) retired again. Will Muschamp (2) got his second Cadillac head-coaching job before the age of 40 -- and this one he can start right away. Rich Rodriguez (3) outed himself as a sappy Josh Groban (4) groupie -- and a very insecure coach.

Then the Big Ten took corporate lameness to unimagined lows with its new logo, trophy monikers and division names. "Legends" and "Leaders" are the division winners in what The Dash is told was a close vote over the commissioner's recommended choices: Jim and Delany.

But that's not why you're here. You're here for The Dash's witheringly insightful, uncannily prescient and painstakingly researched annual bowl picks -- this season with vital mascot and uniform data you simply won't get anywhere else.

Feel free to use these picks wholesale in your bowl pool. Just don't come back complaining when you finish last.

You're also here for a glimpse of Dashette Miranda Kerr (5), of course. It's OK to admit that.

New Mexico Bowl (6)

BYU vs. UTEP, Dec. 18, Albuquerque, N.M.

Why Watch: Because if you don't watch the first one, you can't watch them all. Also, nostalgic WAC fans -- there have to be a few out there, right? -- get a rekindling of a massively one-sided rivalry. (From 1971 through '96, BYU beat UTEP 24 out of 25 meetings.)

Mascot Edge: UTEP's Paydirt Pete over BYU's Cosmo the Cougar. Paydirt Pete has a pickax, a big belt buckle, a "Magnum, P.I." mustache and some spunky alliteration on his side. As for Cosmo: If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: To the Miners for the blue-and-orange color scheme. Nothing wrong with BYU's traditional blue-and-white look and "Y" helmet, but they're fairly bland.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Two teams going different directions. The Miners lost five of their past six, while the Cougars won four of their past five. UTEP's five Football Bowl Subdivision victories came against teams with a combined record of 15-46. The only bowl team the Miners beat was SMU, whereas BYU beat two: Washington and San Diego State.

Dash Pick: BYU 31, UTEP 14.

uDrove Humanitarian Bowl (7)

Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State, Dec. 18, Boise, Idaho

Why Watch: To see two national top-20 rushers, Chad Spann of Northern Illinois and Robbie Rouse of Fresno State. And to see Pat Hill's biker mustache.

[+] EnlargePat Hill
AP Photo/Gary KazanjianPat Hill won 112 games and made 11 bowl appearances in 15 seasons at Fresno State.

Mascot Edge: Now this is an interesting one. The clever folks at Northern Illinois have named their mascot Victor E. Huskie. He will be facing off with Fresno State's Victor E. Dog. Both also have live dogs -- Fresno's has a pregame tradition of chewing up a stuffed mascot of the opposition, while NIU has a handsome critter named Diesel. Call it a draw -- but either way, to the Victor (E.) goes the spoils.

Uniform Edge: Whole lot of red involved here. Slight edge to Northern Illinois for the red-and-black scheme and black helmets over Fresno's red-intensive look.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: The Bulldogs are at least playing with their regular coach, Hill, and not an interim guy. But they need to hang onto the football -- they're 111th nationally in turnover margin, while the Huskies are 17th.

Dash Pick: Fresno State 27, Northern Illinois 24.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (8)

Ohio vs. Troy, Dec. 18, New Orleans

Why Watch: To see two solid old coaches, Larry Blakeney of Troy and Frank Solich of Ohio, who keep winning well off Broadway. And to check out Troy jack-of-all-trades Jerrel Jernigan, who has scored touchdowns this season rushing, receiving, passing and on punt and kickoff returns.

[+] EnlargeRufus vs Brutus
Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMIBeware T-Roy the Trojan: Rufus the Bobcat takes no prisoners, as Brutus Buckeye learned in September.

Mascot Edge: Rufus the Bobcat over T-Roy the Trojan. You don't want to mess with Rufus -- not after he went into The Horseshoe and assaulted Brutus Buckeye earlier this season in front of 100,000 enemy fans. Ohio changed Rufus guys after that incident, but the threatening aura remains.

Uniform Edge: Troy's maroon is mildly more aesthetically pleasing than Ohio's green with white helmets.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Neither coach is exactly a bowl master; Solich is 2-5 in bowl games, Blakeney 1-3. The Bobcats had won seven straight until mailing in the last game of the regular season, a 28-6 loss to Kent State. The teams had two common opponents this season, Bowling Green and Louisiana-Lafayette. Ohio's combined winning margin in those games was 31, Troy's 10.

Dash Pick: Ohio 24, Troy 22.

Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl (9)

Southern Miss vs. Louisville, Dec. 21, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Why Watch: To see strength (Southern Miss has the No. 15 offense in the nation) against strength (Louisville has the No. 12 defense). And to catch the Cardinals' Charlie Strong, a guy completing one of the best first-year coaching jobs in the nation.

Mascot Edge: Seymour d'Campus wins over the Cardinal bird in a lackluster battle of guys in costumes. If Louisville cannot bother to actually name its bird, it loses out -- even to a hokey name like Seymour d'Campus.

Uniform Edge: Louisville has the more versatile color scheme, and its jerseys distinguish themselves with the school's slang name, The Ville, on the front.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Southern Miss is averaging 45 points over its past eight games. Louisville has allowed just 15.7 points over its past six games. As defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong shut down high-powered offenses (Oklahoma and Cincinnati) in his past two bowl games.

Dash Pick: Louisville 35, Southern Miss 27.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas (10)

Utah vs. Boise State, Dec. 22, Las Vegas

Why Watch: When two teams with a combined 21-3 record meet in a pre-Christmas bowl, it's must-see TV.

[+] EnlargeBoise Mascot
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty ImagesThe Dash was pleased to see Boise State integrate an authentic equine element into its mascot display.

Mascot Edge: Willy the Bronco over Swoop. Boise State has an uninspiring, furry-costumed horse named Buster that walks the sideline, but this season, it implemented a real equine element. Willy is a 17-year-old white gelding who leads the team out every game and will make the road trip to Vegas. Utah is further hurt by the disconnect between its politically incorrect nickname (Utes) and the red-tailed hawk that serves as mascot.

Uniform Edge: Both teams can crush you with their monochromatic looks -- Boise's all-blue and Utah's all-red. When in doubt, take blue over red. Advantage Boise.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: This all boils down to the Broncos' level of motivation after plummeting from national-title contention to this matchup with yet another Mountain West Conference opponent (third straight in a bowl game). If Boise is on task and angry, it will win easily -- even if the Utes have won nine straight bowl games. If Boise is sulking -- or needs a clutch kick -- look out.

Dash Pick: Boise State 28, Utah 10. Bus.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (11)

Navy vs. San Diego State, Dec. 23, San Diego

Why Watch: There is some freshness to the game with the Aztecs making their first bowl appearance since 1998. And there is a major contrast in offensive style -- Navy's option offense ranks fifth nationally in rushing while San Diego State's vertical passing attack ranks 11th.

Mascot Edge: Bill the Goat wins an intriguing man-versus-beast showdown with the Aztec Warrior. Goats are inherently humorous, and even more so when their horns are painted/taped with the school colors. The Aztec Warrior gains points for often carrying flaming objects but remains politically incorrect.

(If you were wondering how Navy wound up with a goat for a mascot, it apparently dates back to the 19th century. According to the always reliable Internet, a goat named El Cid was a gift to the Midshipmen for the 1893 Army-Navy game, and Navy won. After dalliances with cats, a bulldog and a carrier pigeon -- what fun that must have been -- the goat became the full-time mascot in 1904.)

Uniform Edge: Navy has a classic look, from the no-logo gold helmet on down. San Diego State might have been the first to go all-black. The Dash gives a slight nod to the trendsetting Aztecs.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Neither team is good defensively where the other team is strong offensively, so there should be a lot of points scored. Navy has a big advantage in turnover margin (plus-8 to SDSU's minus-7), which could be the deciding factor.

Dash Pick: Navy 37, San Diego State 35.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (12)

Hawaii vs. Tulsa, Dec. 24, Honolulu

Why Watch: Because nothing says Christmas Eve quite like the Hawaii Bowl. Your family will love it once you sell them on two of the nation's top 10 offenses. Besides, they'll be transfixed by the odd annual sight of debris blowing across the Aloha Stadium field.

[+] EnlargeVili Fehoko
Kent Nishimura/Getty ImagesVili the Warrior brings the fight to the Hawaii Bowl.

Mascot Edge: Vili the Warrior wins in a haka-dancing rout over Captain Cane. Vili has been terrifying young children for years as Hawaii's screaming, bare-chested mascot. Captain Cane -- a guy in a blue-and-yellow suit who carries a lightning bolt -- at least comes with an ambitiously constructed backstory. Tulsa actually distributed a comic book when it unveiled the Captain last year, saying he was mutated into superhero form by a lightning strike upon a computer he was working on. But if you have to try that hard to explain your mascot, you lose to the grass-skirted dude in the eye-black.

Uniform Edge: Hawaii's uniforms are cool enough to win most matchups, this one included.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Two hot teams. Tulsa has won six straight (four by six points or fewer). Hawaii has won nine of 10, with the only loss at Boise State. Big problem for the Golden Hurricane is that they rank 119th out of 120 in passing yards allowed -- and the Warriors lead the nation in passing yards.

Dash Pick: Hawaii 56, Tulsa 41.

Little Caesars Bowl (13)

Florida International vs. Toledo, Dec. 26, Detroit

Why Watch: Because it beats being there. And by the day after Christmas, you'll be tired of your relatives and need an escape.

Mascot Edge: Rocky the Rocket in a beatdown of Roary the Panther. Rocky isn't the world's greatest mascot, but … if you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: If you like blue and gold, we have the bowl for you. If you don't, well, suck it up. Slight edge to FIU for a more muted and classy gold.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: FIU figures to have its hands full with Toledo triple threat Eric Page, who had more than 1,000 receiving yards, returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and completed three passes -- all for TDs. FIU also figures to be fighting holiday depression, going from Miami to spend Christmas in Detroit. In addition, a 6-6 Sun Belt team has no business winning a bowl game -- even against an 8-4 MAC team.

Dash Pick: Toledo 31, FIU 23.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (14)

Air Force vs. Georgia Tech, Dec. 27, Shreveport, La.

Why Watch: If you're fatigued by shotgun snaps and five-wide sets and no tight ends or fullbacks, and you're ready to revisit the coolness of option football, this is the ideal game for you. The No. 1 rushing offense in America (Georgia Tech) takes on the No. 2 rushing offense in America (Air Force).

Mascot Edge: This could be a matchup for the ages -- if both schools bring their A-list mascots. Air Force has a performing falcon who circles the stadium, and Tech has a restored 1930 Model A car that is its "Rambling Wreck." Dash spies say the falcon will make the trip to Shreveport, but the car remains to be seen. The B-list matchup is less compelling: The Bird, a standard-issue guy in a blue costume for Air Force; and Buzz, a guy in a black-and-gold bee costume for Tech.

Uniform Edge: Both good looks. The Dash gives a slight edge to Georgia Tech, although it would be nice to see the Jackets wear something other than their white uniforms for a change.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: The Falcons are weak against the run, ranking 100th nationally. Bad stat facing this opponent.

Dash Pick: Georgia Tech 28, Air Force 27.

Champs Sports Bowl (15)

West Virginia vs. NC State, Dec. 28, Orlando, Fla.

Why Watch: To see dynamic Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson (averaging 307 yards per game total offense) against a West Virginia defense that ranks third nationally in yards allowed and second in points allowed.

West Virginia D
Mark Zerof/US PresswireNC State QB Russell Wilson will have to contend with West Virginia's stout defense, preferably in its Dash-approved gold uniforms.

Mascot Edge: This is a BCS-quality matchup: The Mountaineer versus Tuffy, a Tamaskan dog who looks a lot like a wolf and was introduced by NC State this season. But the edge goes to The Mountaineer -- when it doubt, go with the mascot wielding a firearm.

Uniform Edge: That goes to West Virginia as well. Especially if the Mountaineers break out the gold jerseys.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: The Wolfpack have scored 27 or more points in 11 of 12 games. The Mountaineers haven't given up more than 21 points all season. Quarterbacks beware: Both teams rush the passer with enthusiasm -- WVU is third nationally in sacks and NC State is fourth. And both give up a fair amount of sacks -- WVU allows 2.1 sacks and NCSU 2.8.

Dash Pick: West Virginia 21, North Carolina State 17.

Insight Bowl (16)

Missouri vs. Iowa, Dec. 28, Tempe, Ariz.

Why Watch: NFL scouts will want to see Hawkeyes end Adrian Clayborn chase Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert. You should, too.

Mascot Edge: Herky the Hawk over Truman the Tiger. Herky at least has an interesting, helmeted head. If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: All the black and gold you can tolerate here. Missouri's are better because they're less Steelers-derivative.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Iowa can't win the close ones, going 1-5 in games decided by seven points or fewer. Mizzou played only two close games and split them. Fair to wonder whether the Hawkeyes are in the tank after going 1-3 in November and averaging just 19 points in those games. The Tigers have their best defense in years.

Dash Pick: Missouri 27, Iowa 20.

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman (17)

[+] EnlargeDominique Davis
John Korduner/Icon SMIEast Carolina QB Dominique Davis is one of the best offensive players in the nation.

East Carolina vs. Maryland, Dec. 29, Washington, D.C.

Why Watch: To see the nation's No. 6 player in total offense (ECU quarterback Dominique Davis) against the nation's No. 9 pass efficiency defense.

Mascot Edge: Tepid advantage to Pee Dee the Pirate over Testudo the Diamondback Turtle. There is nothing to fear about this particular turtle.

Uniform Edge: Maryland has more colors and more options.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Significant turnover margin advantage to the Terrapins. They're a plus-13 while the Pirates are a minus-5. East Carolina also brings the nation's worst defense to the party, surrendering 479 yards per game.

Dash Pick: Maryland 47, East Carolina 31.

Texas Bowl (18)

Illinois vs. Baylor, Dec. 29, Houston

Why Watch: To catch the rare glimpse of the Bears in a bowl game. It's their first since 1994.

Mascot Edge: Judge the Bear versus, um, nothing. Pretty easy call here going with the live bear over vacant space formerly filled by Chief Illiniwek. (Don't even bring up the demise of the chief to Illinois fans, unless you have a free hour to listen to boring mascot-related outrage.)

Uniform Edge: Illinois wins. The Illini almost always look better than they play.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Neither team finished the season with distinction. Illinois lost three of its last four, but that looks good compared to Baylor's swan dive. The Bears lost their last three by a combined 68 points -- albeit against high-caliber competition. Baylor was just 1-5 against bowl teams.

Dash Pick: Illinois 34, Baylor 32.

Valero Alamo Bowl (19)

Oklahoma State vs. Arizona, Dec. 29, San Antonio

[+] EnlargeMike Stoops
Chris Coduto/Icon SMIMike Stoops was left searching for answers after Arizona's late-season swoon. Maybe brother Bob has some answers for how to contain Oklahoma State?

Why Watch: Deluxe receiver matchup between Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon (leads the nation in receiving yards) and Arizona's Juron Criner (eighth). Also a couple of underappreciated quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden and Nick Foles. Plus, you want to be watching just in case the Wildcats' Alex Zendejas drills his own lineman again with a line-drive placement kick.

Mascot Edge: Pistol Pete, the shotgun-toting Cowboys mascot with the menacing fake head, crushes Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat. If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: Poor helmet logo dooms Arizona to defeat.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Mike Stoops won't have to work too hard to get a definitive scouting report on Oklahoma State -- brother Bob at Oklahoma should be happy to assist. He'll need the help after watching his team snorkel to the finish, losing its last four games of the regular season.

Dash Pick: Oklahoma State 47, Arizona 28.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (20)

Army vs. SMU, Dec. 30, Dallas

Why Watch: It's Army in a bowl game. Doesn't happen every decade. Do your patriotic duty and check it out.

Mascot Edge: Equine mania! Army's three mules (Raider, Ranger II and General Scott) take on SMU's two mustangs (Liberty and Justice). Give the edge to Army on sheer numbers.

Uniform Edge: If the Cadets wear their camo, they win in a walkover.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Nice to have Army in a bowl game, but it has beaten absolutely no one to get here: Eastern Michigan, North Texas, Duke, Tulane, VMI and Kent State. Unless the Cadets win the turnover battle big (they're seventh nationally in turnover margin, while SMU is 108th), they face long odds -- even against mediocre competition.

Dash Pick: SMU 25, Army 14.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (21)

Kansas State vs. Syracuse, Dec. 30, Bronx, N.Y.

[+] EnlargeOtto the Orange
Andrew Weber/US PresswireAfter a long hiatus, The Dash would like to welcome Otto (and Syracuse) back to bowl season.

Why Watch: Yes, it would be better as a basketball game -- but it's still a good matchup of 1,000-yard rushers Daniel Thomas of Kansas State and Delone Carter of Syracuse. The Orange are playing in their first bowl game since 2004.

Mascot Edge: Otto the Orange mauls Willie the Wildcat. Otto at least brings some comedic value to the proceedings. If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: All Cuse, all the time.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Syracuse wheezed to the finish line offensively, averaging 11.5 points in its past four games. The Orange should be happy to see a K-State team that surrendered an average of 41 points in its past three games. Conference strength could be key indicator here.

Dash Pick: Kansas State 20, Syracuse 16.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (22)

North Carolina vs. Tennessee, Dec. 30, Nashville, Tenn.

Why Watch: This would be a better basketball game, too. But you do get to see the Volunteers forced into playing an opponent they paid to drop from their schedule.

Mascot Edge: Smokey the Bluetick Hound of Tennessee barely beats Rameses the Horned Dorset Sheep. Volunteers are not dogs and Tar Heels are not rams, but live mascots beat the furry-costumed alternative.

Uniform Edge: Two nice looks. But it's very hard to beat North Carolina's powder blues.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: The Vols closed with a characteristic November flurry to gain bowl eligibility, winning their last four games by a total of 98 points. Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates was a pleasant surprise this season, and so was Tennessee QB Tyler Bray, who keyed the late-season surge. Anticipated semi-home-field edge for the Vols could be the difference.

Dash Pick: Tennessee 24, North Carolina 23.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (23)

Nebraska vs. Washington, Dec. 30, San Diego

Why Watch: To see whether the Huskies can stay on the field in this rematch of a 35-point beating in the regular season. And to see whether the Cornhuskers can be roused to take this game seriously.

[+] EnlargeBo Pelini
Brett Davis/US PresswireWill Bo Pelini and Nebraska be motivated for another round with Washington in the Holiday Bowl?

Mascot Edge: Dubs the Alaskan Malamute beats Herbie Husker. Dash rule of thumb: live mascot beats dude in big-head costume. Herbie needs a John Deere to ride around the field. Or a pitchfork to carry. Or Pistol Pete's rifle.

Uniform Edge: Solidly in favor of Washington.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: After a deflating loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game and reports of a conversation between Bo Pelini and Miami about its opening (which he refuted), it's fair to question Nebraska's motivation level. But Washington isn't good enough to beat even a half-stepping Huskers team.

Dash Pick: Nebraska 35, Washington 11.

Meineke Car Care Bowl (24)

USF vs. Clemson, Dec. 31, Charlotte, N.C.

Why Watch: Because if USF is playing, it's going to be close. The Bulls' last six games of the regular season were decided by a total of 25 points, with two of those going to overtime.

Mascot Edge: Rocky the Bull defeats The Tiger in an uninspiring matchup. Rocky is your stereotypical mascot, but at least he has a name. And if you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: Clemson wins in dominant fashion -- its only dominant victory of the season. (Alert readers might have noticed by now that The Dash likes orange uniforms.)

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Da'Quan Bowers is the premier pass-rusher in college football and will be turned loose against a South Florida line that surrenders two sacks a game. In other words, B.J. Daniels, duck. Both teams have struggled offensively, so a big special teams play or timely turnover could decide this one.

Dash Pick: Clemson 13, USF 10.

Hyundai Sun Bowl (25)

Notre Dame vs. Miami, Dec. 31, El Paso, Texas

[+] EnlargeMiami v ND
Jonathan Daniel /AllsportThe Sun Bowl probably won't come close to matching Miami and Notre Dame's 1988 clash, but The Dash can hope.

Why Watch: To see whether Lou Holtz and Jimmy Johnson leg wrestle at midfield at halftime, for old times' sake. Nostalgia Game of the Year -- even if this is light years removed from being the actual Game of the Year.

Mascot Edge: Give Miami quirkiness points for having an Ibis named Sebastian, but he's got no chance against The Leprechaun. The wee bearded man ranks among America's best in the Live Human Not Wearing A Fake Head Dept.

Uniform Edge: Tough call. Love the timelessness of Notre Dame's look, but impressed by most of the modern iterations of the Miami unis. Slight edge to the Hurricanes.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: The Hurricanes are in a state of flux with an interim coach and toting a two-game losing streak into this bowl. Notre Dame finished a rocky season on an upbeat note, winning its last three games and surrendering just 22 points in that stretch. The Irish love to throw, and the Canes' defense is good against the pass and at getting to the quarterback.

Dash Pick: Notre Dame 31, Miami 30. Hat tip to 1988.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (26)

Georgia vs. UCF, Dec. 31, Memphis, Tenn.

Why Watch: A.J. Green makes one more stop on his way to the NFL draft to take on a pretty stout defense. Green is free to sell his jersey upon conclusion of the game.

Mascot Edge: UGA VIII embarrasses Knightro, who really should save himself the humiliation and stay home.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesA.J. Green and the Dawgs routed Tennessee a year ago, but Mark Richt is wary of the Vols.

Uniform Edge: The Knights' uniforms are fine, but they somewhat resemble Georgia Tech's and the Bulldogs gouged Tech for 42 points last month. Edge has to go to the silver britches of Georgia, unless the Bulldogs get stupid and wear black helmets again.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: George O'Leary has constructed a team that is rock-solid in the basics -- a good running attack and a very good defense. But that defense will be tested by a Georgia team that has averaged 41 points over its past seven games behind rising star quarterback Aaron Murray. Losing to a C-USA team will not help Mark Richt's shaky support, so you have to assume he and his staff are taking this game seriously.

Dash Pick: Georgia 30, UCF 21.

Chick-fil-A Bowl (27)

South Carolina vs. Florida State, Dec. 31, Atlanta

Why Watch: Steve Spurrier against the Seminoles. That was good stuff in the 1990s; why not a reprise?

Mascot Edge: Chief Osceola on horseback with flaming spear is tough to beat, despite the political incorrectness. The Dash likes Carolina's live rooster, hates its costumed one. Go with the Noles.

Uniform Edge: The Dash has never liked the Gamecocks' white helmets. FSU's helmets are great, but they get cluttered with all the little tomahawk stickers awarded for big plays. Slight edge to Florida State.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: South Carolina has flat-out stunk in three of its four bowl appearances under Spurrier. You expect more from this team given its accomplishments -- but are the Gamecocks deflated by the SEC title-game blowout? FSU quarterback Christian Ponder's health could be the deciding factor in this game.

Dash Pick: South Carolina 23, Florida State 21.

TicketCity Bowl (28)

Northwestern vs. Texas Tech, Jan. 1, Dallas

Why Watch: The Wildcats have a history of playing memorable bowl games under Pat Fitzgerald. Memorably agonizing. They lost in overtime as huge underdogs to Missouri in 2008 and Auburn in '09.

Mascot Edge: Tech's Masked Rider routs Willie the Wildcat. If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: Northwestern's purple beats Texas Tech's red-black combo.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: The Wildcats are without do-everything quarterback Dan Persa, but they've had a few weeks to adjust to that fact. And they catch a break: Their porous run defense is matched up against an opponent much more adept at throwing the ball. Northwestern shouldn't win, but it's due some bowl luck.

Dash Pick: Northwestern 30, Texas Tech 27.

Outback Bowl (29)

Florida vs. Penn State, Jan. 1, Tampa, Fla.

Joe Paterno
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarJoe Paterno will be 84 years young when he takes Penn State to the Outback Bowl against Florida.

Why Watch: To see worn-out Urban Meyer off into retirement, while spry Joe Paterno coaches on.

Mascot Edge: Albert the Alligator wins a pillow fight with the Nittany Lion. This is pretty much lame versus lame, but if you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all. (Although The Dash will award the lion minor bonus points for jaunty scarf wearing.)

Uniform Edge: Please. Florida wins by default unless it shows up in those horrific white helmets.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: The Gators played 10 bowl teams and went 5-5 against them. The Nittany Lions played seven bowl teams and went 2-5 against them. Florida's defense is the best unit of the four in this game, and Penn State should have difficulty scoring. Unless Florida is thrown into chaos by Meyer's retirement, it should win.

Dash Pick: Florida 25, Penn State 14.

Capital One Bowl (30)

Alabama vs. Michigan State, Jan. 1, Orlando, Fla.

Why Watch: The Saban Bowl matches one of the SEC's biggest disappointments against one of the Big Ten's biggest surprises.

Mascot Edge: Sparty and his chin handily beat Bama's non sequitur elephant.

Uniform Edge: Numbers on the helmets have always struck The Dash as bottom-level creativity. Points to Michigan State for the Spartan logo.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Biggest question here could be motivation level. Do the Crimson Tide want to be here after starting the season with national-title aspirations and playing in BCS bowls the past two seasons? Are the Spartans sulking after being snubbed for a BCS bowl at 11-1? If both teams are fully engaged, the Tide should win. But that remains a question mark.

Dash Pick: Michigan State 25, Alabama 24.

Progressive Gator Bowl (31)

Mississippi State vs. Michigan, Jan. 1, Jacksonville, Fla.

Why Watch: To see whether they sneak some Josh Groban onto the PA system in pregame warm-ups in an attempt to make Rich Rodriguez tear up. Might also be worth checking to see whether Dan Mullen is in tears over still being in Starkville instead of Gainesville.

Mascot Edge: Bully, Mississippi State's live bulldog, wins this one rather easily over Michigan's non-existent Wolverine. But The Dash believes no wolverine is better than a lame wolverine.

Uniform Edge: If there were a scoreboard on this, it would read Michigan 100, Mississippi State 0.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Once again, there is reason to wonder whether the Wolverines left their best football behind way back in September, when they were beating UConn and Notre Dame. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, were 1-4 against the SEC West and 7-0 against everyone else. They were the last team not to get torn apart by Cam Newton, which might bode well for defending Denard Robinson.

Dash Pick: Mississippi State 28, Michigan 26.

Rose Bowl Game Presented By VIZIO (32)

Wisconsin vs. TCU, Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.

Why Watch: To see the Horned Frogs get their statement opportunity against a power team from a power conference. And to see the matchup of Wisconsin's steamroller offense (43 points per game, fourth-best nationally) versus TCU's immovable defense (11 points allowed per game, fewest in the nation).

[+] EnlargeSuperfrog
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesAn alien from outer space? No, it's TCU's SuperFrog, ready for action when the Horned Frogs face Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Mascot Edge: Bucky Badger wins over SuperFrog on alliteration and turtleneck alone. SuperFrog looks like something from a Disney alien movie. The Dash would prefer a live badger, simply for the added element of sideline danger.

Uniform Edge: In a word, ick. Even in its most recent garish incarnations, TCU wins over Wisconsin and its visible-from-space "motion W" on the helmets. Thankfully, all uniforms look good with the Rose Bowl grass as background.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Strong as TCU has been up front, it hasn't played many teams that know how to run the ball. Average NCAA rushing offense rank of the Frog's 11 FBS opponents: 70th. If Job 1 is standing up to Wisconsin's huge line and powerful backs, it will be a tough job.

Dash Pick: Wisconsin 26, TCU 23.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (33)

Connecticut vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 1, Glendale, Ariz.

Why Watch: Just in case the Sooners decide they want to be on the losing end of a third shocking Fiesta Bowl upset. And to see whether the Huskies really are the worst BCS bowl team ever.

Mascot Edge: The Sooner Schooner, pulled by horses Boomer and Sooner, easily outpoints Jonathan the Husky. If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: Blue is naturally more appealing than red, so UConn beats Oklahoma.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: UConn running back Jordan Todman is a stud, its defense is solid and Randy Edsall is still coaching the Huskies after his annual run through the rumor mill for other jobs. But if you think a team that lost by 26 points to Louisville, three points to Rutgers and 14 points to Temple is going to beat Oklahoma without the benefit of a blizzard or mass Sooners suspensions, you need to lay off the nutmeg.

Dash Pick: Oklahoma 34, Connecticut 13.

Discover Orange Bowl (34)

Stanford vs. Virginia Tech, Jan. 3, Miami

Why Watch: The quarterback play should be riveting. Andrew Luck was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Tyrod Taylor was the ACC player of the year. And they'll both be challenging capable defenses.

Mascot Edge: The Tree, standard-bearer for mascot silliness, wins by every conceivable measure over the turkey costume that is the Hokie Bird.

Uniform Edge: Virginia Tech has found some creative looks to overcome its naturally repulsive maroon-and-orange color scheme. The Dash recommends a return to the all-black unis and helmets from the opener against Boise State. Stanford's black jerseys were cool; the reds are pretty generic.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Both teams have made a living off turnovers -- Tech is a nation-leading plus-18, while Stanford is plus-14. The Hokies must find holes in a defense that has surrendered less than nine points per game the past five outings.

Dash Pick: Stanford 27, Virginia Tech 22.

Allstate Sugar Bowl (35)

Ohio State vs. Arkansas, Jan. 4, New Orleans

Why Watch: Ryan Mallett takes on the nation's No. 2 defense. Terrelle Pryor goes for a second straight breakout bowl performance. Will the Buckeyes finally beat an SEC team?

[+] EnlargeTusk
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesThankfully for Brutus, Tusk doesn't make road appearances.

Mascot Edge: Tusk, the live (and massive) Razorback, could and probably would kill Brutus Buckeye if let out of his cage. Alas, he doesn't do road games. So Brutus gets the edge over the costumed version of a wild hog.

Uniform Edge: As long as Ohio State doesn't wear the red-helmet eyesore ensemble from the Michigan game, it wins this matchup. Although The Dash does like the hard-charging pig on the Arkansas lid.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Neither team has lost since mid-October, although Arkansas has played the stiffer competition in that time. The Razorbacks' defense has been successful at putting pressure on the passer, but that could be dangerous against an accomplished scrambler like Pryor. Whichever star quarterback plays best could well decide the outcome.

Dash Pick: Arkansas 23, Ohio State 20.

GoDaddy.com Bowl (36)

Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (Ohio), Jan. 6, Mobile, Ala.

Why Watch: To catch Mike Haywood, an intriguing coach after taking Miami from 1-11 his first season to 9-4 and the MAC title in his second. And to see whether MTSU quarterback Dwight Dasher can rebound from a horrible senior season to reprise his spectacular bowl performance of 2009 (361 total yards, four touchdowns).

Mascot Edge: In what is arguably the worst matchup of all the bowls, Swoop the Redhawk wheezes past Lightning, the blue-winged horse. Really: blue-winged horse. Is it that difficult to come up with a human raider of some sort?

Uniform Edge: Give it to Middle Tennessee.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: If turnovers are the most important statistic in football -- and The Dash believes they are -- MTSU is in trouble. It is last in the nation in turnover margin. Then again, only one team with a winning record ranked among the 14 worst rushing teams in America -- that would be Miami, which was 114th at just 97 yards per game.

Dash Pick: Miami 21, Middle Tennessee 14.

AT&T Cotton Bowl (37)

LSU vs. Texas A&M, Jan. 7, Arlington, Texas

Why Watch: To see what "The Hat" will come up with next.

Mascot Edge: Mike the Tiger beats the dog out of A&M's collie, Reveille -- but Mike doesn't travel, so the Aggies win by default. Lacking the real beast, you know the truth: If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: LSU"s gold pants and helmets never get old. Although it would be nice to see the purple every once in a while.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: The Tigers do everything reasonably well but throw the football. The Aggies do everything reasonably well but protect the quarterback. By season's end, A&M was probably the best team in the Big 12.

Dash Pick: Texas A&M 24, LSU 19.

BBVA Compass Bowl (38)

Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky, Jan. 8, Birmingham, Ala.

Why Watch: To see Dion Lewis run. And Randall Cobb do a little bit of everything. And to see whether crumbling Legion Field is still standing.

Mascot Edge: If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all. And this game has two. Ugh.

Uniform Edge: Pitt keeps it classy, edges out Kentucky's blueberry look.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Lots of upheaval here. This game is more about who has left or is leaving than who is playing. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt was forced out but will coach the bowl. Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline will not play after being arrested on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct. And Kentucky coach Joker Phillips is in the middle of a staff shakeup.

Dash Pick: Pitt 16, Kentucky 10.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (39)

Nevada vs. Boston College, Jan. 9, San Francisco

Why Watch: To see the nation's No. 3 rushing offense (Nevada) try to find holes in the nation's No. 1 rushing defense (Boston College). And to catch the disorienting sight of both teams sharing one sideline in this odd baseball-park setup.

Mascot Edge: Baldwin the Eagle defeats Nevada's student in wolf's clothing. If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

[+] EnlargeOregon Duck
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesThe duck gets to kick back and put up his feet until Jan. 10 when Oregon plays Auburn for all the marbles.

Uniform Edge: The Dash likes Nevada's navy blue more than the boring BC look.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Neither team has lost since October, although BC has nothing on its résumé that compares to Nevada's takedown of undefeated Boise State. The Eagles are 2-5 against bowl teams while the Wolf Pack are 3-1. Major edge at quarterback for Nevada with Colin Kaepernick.

Dash Pick: Nevada 24, Boston College 12.

Tostitos BCS National Championship (40)

Auburn vs. Oregon, Jan. 10, Glendale

Why Watch: If you don't know why, you haven't been paying attention.

Mascot Edge: If Auburn's live eagle makes the scene, we've got a show. If not, and it's Oregon's Puddles the Duck against Aubie the Tiger, it bears repeating one more time: If you've seen one student in a furry feline/canine costume, you've seen them all.

Uniform Edge: Oregon's much-anticipated title-game uniform announcement amounted to another "Yuck" moment, with lime-green socks and cleats the primary assault upon dignity this time around. Auburn wins this matchup by miles.

Moderately Useful Dash Fact: Game could turn on which defense is able to produce stops and/or turnovers against the juggernaut opposing offense. Oregon ranks higher defensively in yards and points allowed and turnovers forced (15 more than the Tigers). It also is No. 1 in the nation in punt returns -- but that's a factor only if you can force a punt or two. It says here that Oregon will.

Dash Pick: Oregon 49, Auburn 45.

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