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SMQ Bowl Blitz: The Hawaii

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The least you should know about the Hawaii Bowl...
Sheraton’s Waikiki Beach Resort "ris[es] on the graceful arch of the most famous beach in the world," quietly ruling the island with an iron fist at the behest of the god Kanaloa, Polynesian lord of death, darkness, water and squid (do not forget the squid, trust me). It is also "presented by," in addition to random national sponsors like Chevron, Xerox and Rust-oleum, by Outback Steakhouse and Papa John’s Pizza – businesses, you’ll note, that are title sponsors of their own games in the Southeast. But I guess it doesn’t count in Hawaii, right? Tell that to the jilted citizens of Birmingham and Tampa, two-timers. Own up to your cheating hearts.
Location Inquisitor
This is the one in:

a) Hawaii
b) San Diego
c) Boise
d) El Paso
e) All of the above

If you said a) Hawaii, you’re right! And you can read and/or possess an underveloped sense of irony! I swear on my eternal soul, these will get harder.

The Venue
A game in Aloha Stadium, under the right conditions, can feel on television almost like a game on the surface of the moon, with the distinct overhang and a half ton of trash swirling all over the stadium and a generally otherworldly feel that can’t be replicated on the mainland. It comes across as an eerie, shadowy place, where order only tacitly applies at the whim of the natives, who at any point could, like the savages in Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel who enthusiastically accepted every civilized tenet of baseball but eventually overtook the missionaries who had introduced the game and held them captive in a cannibalistic ritual at the Westerners’ insistence that the men were not allowed to slide into first base. This kind of bloodthirsty drama always seems on the brink during games in Hawaii – What is this "punt"?! Seize them! – but maybe that’s only me.
Formerly Known As...
The Jeep Aloha Bowl was a lazy Christmas Day treat throughout the nineties until, like a dying star, it erupted in a massive supernova with the addition of the gratuitous Jeep Oahu Bowl from 1998-2000 and ceased to be in 2001. The remaining particles of dust from the dual implosion coalesced into the ConAgra Hawaii Bowl we know and love in 2002, before Sheraton took over the mantle in 2003.
Past Winners Include...
Hawaii! The Warriors – who only appeared once in the 19-year run of the Aloha Bowl, which typically welcomed a Pac Ten or Big 8/12 school – have won three of the last four Hawaii bowls, and appeared in five of the six games since it reemerged, only missing 2005 because they lost too many games to qualify. Nevada won the game over UCF that year and Tulane beat the island folk in 2002; otherwise, it’s been a strictly hometown triumph until now.

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

Details: Boise State (10-2) vs. East Carolina (7-5) • 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. Be there or be enjoying the warmth and company of your precious loved ones at this special time of year, square.

Tune in for: Boise State is still cashing in on some residual caché from last year's Fiesta Bowl win - 98 percent of ESPN's online "Bowl Challenge" picked the Broncos to beat ECU, with the highest "confidence points" of any other game - and even if in reality the Pirates would rival Fresno State as the Broncos' best win of the season, the respect is well deserved in context: outside of BSU's two losses to Washington and Hawaii, it played one close game, a four-overtime, 69-67 widowmaker with Nevada, and blew out its other nine opponents by an average of 33 points apiece, a lot of that mitigated by garbage time rallies against the scrubs. The Broncos also finished in the top 30 nationally in every relevant category on both sides of the ball and were ruthlessly efficient on offense, where they wound up in the top ten in total yards, scoring and pass efficiency on top of the threat of Ian Johnson melting the faces of bad angle-taking safeties out of the backfield. If BSU's offense doesn't match Hawaii's or Tulsa's high-wire acts for overwhelming, up-tempo productivity, it easily surpasses any other mid-major attack for balance and versatility. Taylor Tharpe's TD:INT ratio since the start of October is 23:5 and two other backs besides Johnson -  who didn't play against Fresno - average more than 40 yards per game on the ground. The Boise system just rolls and rolls.

Quiet this year, but that's what happens when you tie the old ball 'n chain.
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There is nothing particularly special about rolling and rolling against New Mexico State, Utah State, San Jose State and Idaho, the bottom-dwelling, I-AA-level fodder for the Broncos' most lopsided, stat-padding triumphs. And if you're looking for a close game above a particularly high level of play, East Carolina has a good argument for its own "A-game": the Pirates match Boise's best wins with their own victories over eventual C-USA champ Central Florida and Houston, played Virginia Tech to the wire in the opener and beat North Carolina. Running back/receiver/returner Chris Johnson led the nation in all-purpose yards.

Turn away in disgust when: As for that level of play, there is considerable variability on East Carolina's part - witness, for example, the futility of the Pirates' 19-point loss to 3-9 Marshall, whose usually retrograde offense broke out of its slump with a 477-yard day in early November, the best day for the Herd against any team not residing in a lower division and/or the state of New Hampshire. ECU also allowed 456 passing in a scant overtime win over 4-8 UTEP in October and 484, 495 and 493 total yards, respectively, in its three biggest wins, over Houston, UCF and Memphis, all three of which were salvaged by takeaway-heavy efforts by the defense, which helped Carolina finish sixth in turnover margin at the end of the regular season. Any semblance of such defensive generosity to Boise's aggressive attack, even with the turnovers, certainly foretells of the heavy-handed doom so many predict.

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

CBS • 8 p.m. ET • Amazing Race 12 - "This is Forever, Now" (60 mins.)
The teams travel to Italy and stress takes a toll on one duo; and another pair consider making a permanent change to their bodies to further their position in the race.

Oscars? Rubbish. The real acting is on PBS.
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PBS • 9 p.m. ET • Masterpiece Theatre - "Prime Suspect: The Final Act" (120 mins.)
The gripping conclusion of "Prime Suspect: The Final Act" begins with the police hunting Curtis (Heshima Thompson) and Tennison (Helen Mirren) dealing with two deaths during her last days on the force. Penny: Laura Greenwood. Phillips: Stephen Tompkinson. Sturdy: Gary Lewis. Ruth Sturdy: Katy Murphy. Linda Phillips: Eve Best. (TV-14)

The CW • 9 p.m. ET • Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants - "Momma Needs a New Swimsuit" (60 mins.)
The daughters choose swimwear for themselves and their moms to wear in a swimsuit competition; and the teams design one-minute fitness routines. One team is eliminated.

Oxygen • 9:30 p.m. ET • Snapped - "Amy DeChant" (30 mins.)
Recounting the 1996 murder of Las Vegas bookmaker Bruce Weinstein by his live-in girlfriend. (TV-PG)
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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.

Johnson's unreal acceleration alone is worth the price of admission if he gets into the open field, which East Carolina's history against decent running backs suggest he will on a regular basis. The foreign, exotic vibe of Aloha Stadium is a briefly novel backdrop, if nothing else.

CAUTION: For obsessed, inoculated fans only.
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The Pick: East Carolina at its best can play with Boise, but the Broncos have been much more consistent, have a much better recent history of success against mid-level opponents like ECU (BSU's last loss to an unranked team outside of a BCS conference was against Rice in 2001, three head coaches and six WAC championships ago) and has the best offensive weapons on the field in Johnson and receiver Jeremy Childs, operating behind a vastly superior, veteran offensive line. East Carolina can get every break, and still no trend is on its side. The Broncos probably deserve another test against a stronger opponent, but such is life for the WAC runner-up.
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Boise State 39 East Carolina 24