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SMQ Bowl Blitz: The PapaJohns.com

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The least you should know about the PapaJohns.com Bowl...
Sponsor
Not the pizza company, as you might think at first glance, but rather the Web site of the pizza company, a significant step in Papa John’s drive to dominate global communications. Dude, you don’t have Papa John’s Mobile yet? Next thing you’re going to tell me you’ve never even experienced Papa John’s The Weekend...
Location Inquisitor
This is the one in:

a) Louisville
b) Memphis
c) Birmingham
d) Mobile
e) Charlotte

If you said c) Birmingham, you’re right! Sorry to those who guessed Louisville, apparently confusing the bowl game with Papa John’s Stadium in the Derby City. That edifice is named for the actual company, not its Web site. Keep it straight next time, or suffer the delicious, subtly spicy consequences.

For the record, Birmingham holds the record for the high end of the "How many people live there?" award: only 242,800 in Birmingham proper (73.5 percent black), but more than 1.1 million in the greater Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area, about a quarter of the entire population of Alabama and more than post-hurricane New Orleans. I would have guessed like half that, but maybe I’m just really clueless about demographics.

The Venue
Legion Field has played host to champions and legends, barrier-breaking efforts such as Sam Cunningham’s epic night against Bear Bryant’s all-white Crimson Tide in 1970 and unforgettable performances like Ruben Studdard’s unironic rendition of the beloved racist anthem "Sweet Home Alabama" at halftime of a UAB game in 2004. Reclaim it, big man!
Formerly Known As...
NA. The PapaJohns.com Bowl boasts a remarkable tradition of stability, having thrived existed for a whole year. No new bowls came into the picture this season, so, along with the New Mexico and International bowls, the PJ.c is still the youngest game on the block. But they grow up so fast!
Past Winners Include...
South Florida. The Bulls routed East Carolina last December as a launching point for their magical mythical title run over the first month and a half of this season, as seen on VH1’s new hit pop documentary series, "I Love Late September 2007.".

The third edition of an ongoing public service to enlighten readers of their bowl viewing options...

Details: Southern Miss (7-5) vs. Cincinnati (9-3) • 1 p.m. ET, ESPN2. Be there or be enjoying the warmth and company of your precious loved ones at this special time of year, square.


Once more, with feeling.
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Tune in for: Big cascading waves of emotion-like sentiment from the Southern Miss contingent, especially considering the kind of fan likely to make the trip for this kind of game on the Saturday before Christmas - that is, the kind of all-weather partisan not disappointed enough by USM's sixth place finish in C-USA to dissuade them from traveling to a fifth-tier game the Saturday before Christmas, i.e., the kind of partisan who is likely still incensed over the sudden dismissal of Jeff Bower earlier this month and anxious for a fuzzy send-off (and no small amount of told-you-so retribution) via the school's most significant upset in almost four years. Even the momentarily triumphant "time for a change" faction isn't sour enough to wish defeat on the program's grand old man, so nostalgia is the order of the day .

Turn away in disgust when: Sentiment does not even begin to bridge the gap between these two teams, pretty easily the largest in recent bowl memory. That would have never been true before this season (Southern Miss consistently beat Cincinnati when the teams were C-USA rivals, although Cincinnati upset the Eagles in the last meeting, 52-24 in 2004, the most points ever scored by a visitor in Hattiesburg) but the Bearcats' first season under Brian Kelly has been UC's best in decades, and happens to coincide with probably the most underwhelming USM outfit of any in the vaunted 14-year winning streak, with one win over a winning team (East Carolina in September) and a couple bad losses (Rice and Memphis, the team most recently seen completing an 0-3 record against the Sun Belt). The final regular season Sagarin rankings show how far apart they've drifted this year: Cincinnati is 15th, Southern Miss is 92nd. The Bearcats have been a consistent, balanced team with blowouts of Oregon State and UConn and another solid win over South Florida, performances USM has not nearly equalled in years; Ben Mauk has solidified Cincinnati's quarterback position where Southern Miss has been a revolving door of injury-plagued inefficiency for the second year in a row. On paper, this is the most lopsided game of the postseason.

What Else is On
You have no life. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy these actual non-gridiron alternatives:

CBS • 1 p.m. ET • Action Sports World Championship: From Dallas (60 mins.)
Skatebaording, in-line and BMX pros compete for more than $600,000, taped 9-11 in Dallas. Athletes include Pierre Luc Gannon; Takeshi Yasutoko; and Chris Haffney.

The PapaJohns.com Bowl is hard to get, Steve. All you have to do is ask.
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CMT • 1:30 p.m. ET • CMT Insider (30 mins.)
A weekly magazine show that spotlights country music, featuring interviews and news, chart action, new CD releases and new videos. Also: movie previews. (TV-PG)

Spike • 1:30 p.m. ET • Trucks! (30 mins.)
A look at light trucks, including how-to projects, vehicle tests and reports on truck races. (TV-G)

TCM • 2 p.m. ET • To Have and Have Not (105 mins.)
Humprhey Bogart meets his match (and his future wife) in this crackling 1944 World War II adventure, which may remind some of "Casablanca." The setting is the West Indies island of Martinique in the days after the fall of France to the Nazis. There, a cynical charter boat captain named Harry Morgan (Bogart) becomes involved with the French Resistance, and with a sultry American named Marie (Bacall, in her movie debut). Howard Hawks directed William Faulkner's adaptation of an Ernest Hemingway story. Eddie: Walter Brennan. Helene: Dolores Moran. Cricket: Hoagie Carmichael. Paul: Walter Molnar. Coyo: Sheldon Leonard. Gerard: Marcel Dalio. (NR)

SMQ Watchability Rating: All bowl games are rated on a scale of one TV ("Christmas shopping done? Yes? Think of more people. Phone book suggested if necessary.") to five ("Block out a few hours - and possibly the sun, if there's a glare - for this can't-miss classic.") based on completely subjective factors, up to and including potential cheerleader hotness/fulfillment of requisite nubile teen lust fantasies, which are so sadly lacking anywhere else on contemporary television or the Internet.

There is something to a rematch of old conference rivals, and to the last hurrah of a loyal, respected coach, but neither can overcome the likelihood of blowout.


Christmas shopping done? Yes? Think of more people. Phone book suggested if necessary.
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The Pick: If this was a real homer blog, and I was more interested in sentiment than being right, I'd reach deep in the emotional well and pull out some justification - Damion Fletcher is the best player on the field! Cincinnati lacks a true identity on offense! - to pick the ol' alma mater to win one for the Gipper. This is lamebrained wishful thinking. Cincinnati does everything better than Southern Miss, with the exception of the running game on offense, and UC is better enough defensively that even that looks like a wash at best. Some days you just have to swallow the odds.
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Cincinnati 34 Southern Miss 17