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SMQ Bowl Blitz: The Car Care

        
The least you should know about the Carquest Bowl...
Sponsor
Meineke, obviously, though the game was begun by Charlotte-based Raycom Sports. You might recognize the car maintenance giant primarily through its humanoid celebrity George Foreman, but click here to let the real star of the Meineke media empire, Master Mechanic Joe, lead you on an interactive guide of your cars inner workings. Just like those guys on the radio, except not funny. At all. Master Mechanic Joe is more of a guilt trip, really, though I’d be disappointed if we didn’t see an MMJ mascot of some kind on the field.
Location Inquisitor
This is the one in:

a) Charlotte
b) Phoenix
c) Orlando
d) Miami
e) Tampa

If you said a) Charlotte, you’re right! The Queen City was chosen for its emerging technology industry and proximity to the headquarters of the aforementioned Raycom Sports, corporate head behind the retro Lincoln Financial broadcasts SEC and ACC fans in the South have come to know and mock. Now bringing limp, outdated production values to the postseason! Well, no, ESPN handles the slick production end. But they’re fightin’ fer it!

The Venue
Bank of America Stadium embodies in every way the glossy, soulless sheen of the modern NFL: the corporate naming rights, the cookie cutter, overhanging, 21st-Century-gladiator-in-the-arena architecture, anonymous symbols of generic metropoli looming nearby, the totally tealest seats anywhere, the better to emphasize their emptiness when the Panthers are struggling or, say, BOAS hosts a third tier bowl game.
Formerly Known As...
"Car Care" – not to be confused with the old Carquest Bowl – seems like a particularly bad choice for a bowl title, until compared to its oft-mocked predecessor, which left fans breathless with wonder re: their team’s fate in the Continental Tire Bowl. This game had a chance, briefly, when it was originally dubbed the "Queen City Bowl" in 2002. But Continental Tire swooped in and got its name unaccompanied on the first game that December, leaving That One Bowl in Charlotte with the same problem as That One Bowl in Florida: every time the sponsor changes, the name changes, and whatever familiarity it achieved under whatever ludicrous name it had held is lost.
Past Winners Include...
The game has enjoyed a geographically sensible tie-in with the ACC and Big East, though the latter has won only once in five years, and that winner – Boston College in 2004 – immediately leapt to the ACC. Four of the five games have been won by two teams: Virginia in 2002 and 2003 and B.C. in 2004 and 2006, including the first really good game in this locale, the Eagles’ last-second, fumble-aided comeback win last year over Navy.

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

Details: Wake Forest (8-4) vs. Connecticut (9-3) • 1 p.m. ET, ESPN. Be there or be enjoying the warmth and company of your friends and loved ones on the final Saturday of the year, square.

Tune in for: Both offenses are built around all-conference running backs who more or less came out of the woodwork: Josh Adams at Wake Forest, who filled in for star-crossed Micah Andrews at midseason after the senior was stricken with another season-ending injury, had a career game (18 carries, 140 yards) at Florida State and finished two yards shy of 1,000 in total offense for the season; and Andre Dixon for UConn, he of the wild, bleached dreds, who split carries and yards almost right down the middle with Donald Brown. Together, they racked up 1,644 yards on 5.2 per carry, which makes them basically Ray Rice.


Riley Skinner is the winningest quarterback in the ACC. This is not such a compliment to the ACC.
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Both teams also have quality starters who double as dangerous return men: Wake got punt and kick return touchdowns from Kenneth Moore and Kevin Marion, and Travon Branch brought back two kickoffs for UConn (no, I'm not counting this).

Turn away in disgust when: Yeah, none of that was very exciting. Wake Forest and UConn are identical teams in many ways, most notably in their lo-fi blandness. Perhaps no team in history has carried turnover-driven opportunism as far as Wake over the last two years - the Deacons finished 97th in total offense this fall, after coming in at 96th in their BCS run last season, and have managed the only back-to-back eight-win seasons in school history despite being outgained on average in both seasons. Such is life for the team that plays in a generally offensively-challenged conference (Wake is only one of an amazingly awful seven ACC teams in the bottom 25 nationally in total offense) that can hang onto the ball; the Deacons are +10 in turnover margin this year after finishing +13 last year. They put five players on the all-ACC team and still seem to have all the marks of mediocre overachievers with the fortune of playing in a conference that embraces that style of play - the rare team that didn't, like Boston College or Clemson, for example, by far the top two offenses in the league, blitzed Wake pretty convincingly.

It's the same formula for UConn: the Huskies won nine games and were playing for the Big East title at year's end despite the 84th-ranked offense and a sketchy run defense (five of six offenses had run for over 150 even before West Virginia's unreal 517-yard day in the finale) mainly by not screwing up - no team in the nation threw fewer interceptions (just five, matched by Navy only because Navy never throws) and the Huskies finished +13 in turnover margin.

Hope you're down with a lot of contented punting - there's about a 1 in 33 chance one might come back.

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

Animal Planet • 1 p.m. ET • Ferocious African Crocodiles
Crocodiles are examined. Incuded: hunting techniques; diet; preferred environments; mating habits. Also: migrating zebra and wildebeest attempt to cross the Masai Mara River, which is full of hungry crocodiles. (TV-G; 60 mins.)

A&E Biography • 1 p.m. ET • Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman
A history of the fictional superhero who first appeared in comics in 1938 examines his portrayal in television and films, including the 1950s TV series starring George Reeves; the Christopher Reeve films; and the TV series "Smallville" and "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." (120 mins.)


Another three-and-out? I'll save you!
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Comedy Central • 2 p.m. ET • The Royal Tenenbaums
An all-star cast and a quirky script distinguish wrier-director Wes Anderson's 2001 comedy-drama about an exentric New York family. Gene Hackman is a delight as the clan's estranged patriarch, the conniving Royal Tenenbaum. When he loses his home and learns that his ex-wife (Anjelica Houston) plans to remarry, he pretends to be dying to win back his family. Although his ex lets him move back in, his three children - uptight businessman Chas (Ben Stiller), former tennis star Richie (Luke Wilson) and sulking novelist Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) - don't react well to dad's return. (R; 150 mins.)

VH1 • 2:30 p.m. ET • Scott Baio is 45...And Single
The season ends with Scott deciding whether he's ready to make a commitment to Renee. Scott also helps his friend Cuccio make arrangements for his wedding. (TV-PG; 30 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.

Wake and UConn clearly are winners, and winners from major conferences at that, which carries a certain caché after a week of games you'd hardly give a second thought in the regular season, but for bringing two of the most boring, inexplicably successful teams in the country in one not-so-enthralling place, the Car Care Bowl is downgraded to a meager two boxes:


CAUTION: For obsessed, innoculated fans only.
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The Pick: UConn is better at pounding away with its tough backs on a consistent basis and is about as efficient in the passing game, but Wake is outstanding at manufacturing a functional running game and has a couple players - Marion and Moore - who can make the big play that decides the game, potential explosiveness UConn completely lacks. This punt-and-turnover business was the Deacons' turf first.
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Wake Forest 20 UConn 18