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Bowl Previews: The Weekend

The record update: 3-5 after Notre Dame failed to fail for the 10th straight year and I failed to do a preview for the Motor City Bowl. I probably would have gone with Central Michigan, so it would have been a loss one way or the other. I'm now on a five-game losing streak (which is almost Notre Dame-esque). Against the score: 1-7, which is bad even for a mark that's hard to get very high.


Meineke Car Care Bowl, 1 p.m., ESPN

What it is: A bowl named after an auto repair store. Really, that joke writes itself.

The Teams: West Virginia, North Carolina

How West Virginia got here: In about the most convoluted fashion imaginable. Coming into the season as the Big East favorites, the Mountaineers proceeded to win in uninspiring fashion against Villanova, lose to East Carolina and come up a field goal short against Colorado. West Virginia then reeled off five straight wins, including a come-from-behind Thursday night victory against Auburn (it looked decent at the time) and a three-score win at Connecticut. Then the men from Morgantown lost two of their final four to avoid a league crown.

How North Carolina got here: Coming into the year as a potential turn-around team, the Tar Heels did not disappoint. North Carolina started 5-1 and seemed to be the favorites to go to the ACC Championship Game. (Then again, everyone in the ACC was a lock to go to the CG at some point of the season, but I digress.) By the time UNC defeated Georgia Tech, they were 7-2, then lost two of their final three games (at Maryland, vs. N.C. State) to end up here.

College football fans care because: These teams seem to be moving in opposite directions, with North Carolina having a promising future and West Virginia hoping there aren't more Bill Stewart moments like this:


SEC fans care because: After going LOLOLOLOL at the ACC all year and then getting waxed by them in interconference play, it's in the league's interest for the Athletically Challenged Conference to look good.

Watch this game if ... : You want to see Pat White's last game. And you should -- he loves bowl games.

The result: West Virginia 28, North Carolina 21

Champs Sports Bowl, 4:30 p.m., ESPN

What it is: An attempt to make sure that Florida doesn't have a paucity of bowl games. Because that's a real threat, you know.

The Teams: Wisconsin, Florida State

How Wisconsin got here: By giving away its best chance in years to win the Big Ten outright. Michigan was awful, Ohio State was beatable and Penn State wasn't inevitable -- and the Badgers managed to lose to all of them as part of a four-game, season-killing losing streak. Only wins against Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and -- I couldn't make this up -- a one-point overtime victory against Cal-Poly salvaged a winning season for Wisconsin.

How Florida State got here: The Seminoles started 6-1 and seemed to be the favorites to go to the ACC Championship Game. (See? Same sentence as with North Carolina, different numbers, still works.) But, being an ACC team, Florida State regressed to the mean by collapsing down the stretch, losing three of its last five including a 30-point defeat at home against Florida. The rest of the SEC, save Mississippi, feels their pain.

College football fans care because: This is actually a pretty interesting game, and includes Bobby Bowden's ninth attempt in ten years to return to relevance.

SEC fans care because: Again, the ACC looking better makes the SEC look better. Also, it's always fun to laugh at slow Midwesterners.

Watch this game if ... : You don't mind a deluge of sportswear commercials.

The result: Florida State 48, Wisconsin 24

Emerald Bowl, 8 p.m., ESPN

What it is: Holder of the worst tie-in in bowl game history. Because there are so many ACC fans in San Francisco.

The Teams: Miami (FL), California

How Miami got here: Started out 2-3 before, in true ACC fashion, progressing to the mean, winning five in a row to look like a possible league contender, then losing its last two to drop out of the picture entirely. Most fans' enduring memory is probably the 41-23 roasting of the Hurricanes by Georgia Tech, but the following week's ten-point loss to N.C. State wasn't much better.

How California got here: For those who had trouble making heads or tails out of the Golden Bears before the season -- well, the last 12 games didn't help much. Cal easily took care of the dregs of the Pac-10, had a good win against Oregon and lost to practically every other good team on the schedule. And Maryland also defeated the Bears. But such is the Pac-10 that winning when you should will give you an 8-4 record.

College football fans care because: This is actually a case where naming rights produce a bowl name that doesn't sound like blatant sloganeering. (Emerald Nuts sponsors the game.)

SEC fans care because: The ACC looking good, etc. Really, that's all I've got for this one.

Watch this game if ... : It doesn't bother you to watch football games played in baseball stadiums that were obviously not built to host football games.

The result: Cal 32, Miami 14

SUNDAY: But We Wanted an SEC Team

Independence Bowl, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

What it is: The only reason to ever go to Shreveport.

The Teams: Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech

How Northern Illinois got here: Luck and a bad year for the SEC, which usually sends one of its members to the Independence Bowl. So a team whose six wins are Indiana State, Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH), Toledo, Bowling Green and Kent State -- and a team that lost to Tennessee -- gets a bowl bid.

How Louisiana Tech got here: An okay season. At least the Bulldogs beat their SEC opponent -- granted, it was Mississippi State, but the Maroon and White still count as an SEC team. For now, anyway. Their best win might be against Fresno State. Yes, I know Fresno State went 7-6 this year.

College football fans care because: It's a bowl game. What do you want from me?

SEC fans care because: This is our punishment for having a bad year: Watching MAC and WAC teams play in "our" bowl.

Watch this game if ... : You can't stand the idea of watching John Madden broadcast a game between two AFC West teams trying to figure out which one is less mediocre.

The result: Louisiana Tech 34, Northern Illinois 21