Apologies to eager New Orleans Bowl revelers who missed SMQ's preview of Friday night's Omar Haugabook Fest in a cavernous and likely freezing Superdome (remember, even during Tulane games, the air conditioning is calibrated to account for the body heat of at least 50,000 raving humans), which was two-thirds in the can when he was jettied to an undislosed rural location with no Web access. That's okay - the most fun part of bowl previewin' is witnessing early exuberance quickly evolve into gripping panic as things heat up (eight games from Dec. 28 to 29, folks) and then shellshocked indifference as the pace laps the twitching previewer. The ones before Christmas barely count, anyway, so SMQ minds not the holiday breather before resuming normal operations on the twenty-sixth.
Until then, quick thoughts on the weekend fare cheap, dirty and dismissable:
Papajohns.com Bowl Noon Central Today, ESPN
SMQ assumed from the Big East tie-in this was a fallback in case of massive Louisville disappointment to allow indifferent Card fans to just walk across the street to Papa John's Stadium, but it's actually in Birmingham for no good reason. This manufactured TV game in the service of technology in service of delivering pizzas pits old C-USA South Florida and East Carolina, only one of which moved on to bigger things in the Big East and beat a potentially BCS-bound top ten power for the second straight season last month. ECU is thrilled, SMQ is sure, to be back in a bowl after a long, blowout-filled hiatus, but it couldn't beat the Bulls when the two were in the same league, and won't now.
South Florida 26, East Carolina 13
New Mexico Bowl 3:30 Central Today, ESPN
SMQ's designated dog of the season for the quadruple crown of postseason crimes: it's new and completely manufactured, is played in a stadium no one outside of Albuquerque can name, cobbles together a boring matchup of lackluster mid-majors and, as if there weren't enough lackluster mid-majors to go around, lazily plucked the most boring possible option in the hometown New Mexico Lobos, 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the Mountain West, to jog over from the athletic dorm. SMQ can't support that. Also: San Jose State, along with boasting a relatively deserving 8-4 mark, comes to town for its first bowl game in more than a decade with a productive backfield combo sporting the names "Tafralis" and "Yonus." The difference is the "Yonus Bonus."
San Jose State 30, New Mexico 21
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces 7 p.m. Central Today, ESPN
Formerly known as the less patriotic but also less confusing Fort Worth Bowl. What, TCU wasn't available to support the troops? Tulsa-Utah is a respectable sort of matchup, reminescent of an old C-USA-Mountain West Liberty Bowl that never occurred but could have, if Tulsa had been in Conference USA when its champion faced the MWC winner in Memphis. And also was competitive in those years. The Hurricane are a decent outfit now, at least, judging from the nationally-televised whippin' it laid on Southern Miss in October, and baffling late-season slide or no, SMQ is pulling his one C-USA homer card for the season right here.
Tulsa 31, Utah 27
Sheraton Hawaii 7 p.m. Sunday, ESPN
Newly-appointed figurehead Dennis Erickson "leads" the People's Republic of Arizona State, the first of two Independent Football Units in the 2006 postseason, into unfortunate slaughter in his debut. Colt Brennan is the quarterback Rudy Carpenter thought he would be, the model for peacefully transfer from an undesirable situation to a perfect one rather than tumultuous conflict that doomed a teammate and, quite possibly, a coach. SMQ can, however, support tumultuous conflict, especially when doubt linger about Hawaii's legitimacy against opponents from PAC Ten territory after its defeat at the hands of Oregon State. Watch for reams of loose Christmas wrapping chaotically swirling on the Aloha Stadium turf to be key factor in the Sun Devil victory.
Arizona State 38, Hawaii 34