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SMQ Bowl Blitz: The Emerald

The least you should know about the Emerald Bowl...
Emerald Nuts enthusiastically nurtures entertaining nights of, uh, equistrian nougat, or something like that. I energetically nod in respect to any nut company that makes its name on ads as willfully bizarre as this:

Location Inquisitor
This is the one in:

a) San Diego
b) Phoenix
c) Charlotte
d) San Francisco
e) Tampa

If you said d) San Francisco, go on with your bad self, girlfriend! If nothing else, the City by the Bay offers the highest cost of living of any postseason destination, now that the Silicon Valley Bowl is no more. You know your real estate is on another level when D.C. surburbanites feel like they’ve got it cheap.

The Venue
AT&T Park, neé Pac Bell Park, is a baseball field. OSU blog Building the Dam is openly rooting for his own team’s punter to shank a ball over the high school stands on the "McCovey Cove" side of the stadium and into the water, which surely has never been a physical possibility in any other game in bowl history. The only positive element of playing on a baseball field that can’t even bother to offer anything like a traditional stadium alignment is that players for both teams are forced to share the same sideline, like a basketball game, only with no scorer’s table separating them and multiple times the testosterone. This was the setup for my old Pop Warner games – I’ve never seen it anywhere else  – but the hankering for a brawl vastly overwhelms any sense of nostalgia. I’ve repressed most of those memories, anyway, or would have if I believed in such nonsense.
Formerly Known As...
This game debuted in 2002, appropriately, as simply the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl, until the food company decided to give its more attractively-named subsidiary the glory of title sponsordom in 2004. Diamond Walnut Foods, Inc. has been the lead sponsor all six years of the bowl’s existence.
Past Winners Include...
Not only has no team won the San Francisco/Emerald Bowl twice – none have even appeared in it twice. Maryland and Oregon State are both making their virgin journeys here, on the heels of Virginia Tech, Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, UCLA and, perhaps most notably, Navy, which in its 2004 win over New Mexico embarked on the longest recorded drive in college football history: taking over on its own four after a fourth down stop in the third quarter, the Midshipmen marched 94 yards in 21 plays, taking 14:26 off the game clock and culminating in a field goal for a 34-19 lead in the game’s waning minutes.

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

Details: Oregon State (8-4) vs. Maryland (6-6) • 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. Be there or be enjoying the last Friday night of 2007 in memorable and socially irresonsible ways, square.

Tune in for: OSU was quickly written off after a disastrous, six-interception, Thursday night blowout at Cincinnati back in September, but comes in here one of the most improved teams in the country from the start of the season to the end - the fact that alternating quarterbacks Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao cut their collective interceptions from 17 in the first five games against teams not named "Idaho State" to just three over the last six guarantees results in itself, even if neither has taken to putting the ball in the end zone very often (just seven TD passes between them against I-A competition, and only two in the month of November); simply correcting the huge turnover margin that led to losses at Cincy and Arizona State early in the year led to close wins over Cal, Washington and Oregon later on without much tangible improvement in any other aspect. Unspectacular but eerily steady workhorse Yvenson Bernard missed the finale against Oregon but is "probable" tonight, and the usual day's work from him and the second-ranked run defense in the country should result in the usual success - without putting pressure on the mistake-prone passers.

For its part, Maryland delivered two of its best wins of the Friedgen era over Rutgers and Boston College, also beat Georgia Tech and came within a point against Virginia and overtime at Wake Forest from contending for the ACC Atlantic title (yes, two games from "contending").

Just told the postgame meal is crème fraiche, caviar and bean sprout crepes.
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Also: endless opportunities for "the Nuts welcome the Beavers!" jokes, hur hur. They never grow old, do they?

Turn away in disgust when: "Run, lean on the defense and avoid mistakes" is not the recipe for excitement; add to that Maryland's commitment to the same lo-fi gameplan on top of the absence of the most exciting player on either roster, beleaguered OSU receiver Sammie Stroughter, and let the snores wash over your deadened, prostrate soul.

Oregon State, at least, is good at some aspects of the game (kicking; run defense; rushing the passer; time-consuming power running); Maryland, statistically, has truly succeeded at naught but limiting killer mistakes - the Terps are in the bottom half of the country running (64th), passing (78th), scoring (77th), rushing the passer (76th in sacks, 96th in tackles for loss) and protecting the passer (107th with 38 sacks allowed) and have not distinguished themselves against the run (45th) or pass (50th in efficiency D). The only consistent positive for UMD is its solid turnover margin (24th), which has led to a similarly solid scoring defense (28th) despite the yards allowed. Maryland is a decidedly average to below-average team virtually across the board and its record this time - unlike that of last year's utterly mistifying nine-game winner - pretty accurately reflects it.

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

NBC • 9 p.m. ET • Dateline NBC
Stone Phillips oversees a two-year investigation into the blak-market trade of fraudulent passports and ID papers. In addition, Chris Hansen corners alleged Internet stalkers in Bowling Green, Ky., in the 12th edition of "To Catch a Predator." (120 mins.)

He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're a perv...
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Univision • 9 p.m. ET • Pasion
Una mujer regresa a su pueblo natal tras haber sido secuestrada por un pirata en esta novela de época ambientada en el México colonial. (60 mins.)

ABC Family • 10 p.m. ET • America's Funniest Home Videos
A toddler dances to Beyonce's "Crazy In Love"; a baby blinks frantically every time the family dog barks; a teen microwaves an uncracked egg. Host: Tom Bergeron. (TV-PG; 60 mins.)

TNT • 10:30 p.m. ET • Drumline
Nick Cannon stars in this 2002 coming-of-age drama about the world of big-time college marching bands. Devon Miles (Cannon) is a talented percussionist from New York who's recruited by an elite Atlanta university. But the self-absorbed drummer clashes with the band's old-fashioned director (Orlando Jones) and finds he has much to learn about growing up and being part of a team. Despite the somewhat trite inspirational messages, the irreverent humor and thrilling musical sequences make this one a real crowd pleaser. (PG-13; 150 mins.)
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SMQ Watchability Rating: All bowl games are rated on a scale of one TV ("Christmas gifts already returned for refunds? Think of stealing more and returning those 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.

For pitting an uninspriing 6-6 team against a defensive team missing its best offensive weapon, and two offenses generally playing foremost to avoid mistakes rather than create big plays, and for staging this marshmallow on a baseball field that forces both teams to stare each other down on the same bench, the Emerald Bowl decisively earns two boxes:

CAUTION: For obsessed, innoculated fans only.
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The Pick: As stated, Oregon State has a couple things going for it, primarily its defense. Maryland can point to a couple strong performances in upsets of Rutgers, Georgia Tech and Boston College and a strong finish over NC State, but the Terps have not demonstrated consistency and spent most of the season just hanging on defensively (the average-looking numbers are inflated by big games against I-AA Villanova and totally inept Florida International; against offenses with a pulse, the Terps were properly bad). OSU closed strong, winning six of its last seven in the Pac Ten and ought to have its way if the turnover bug doesn't return to its old feeding grounds.
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Oregon State 27 Maryland 17