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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 9:35 AM

Okay, so the furor hasn't quite died down just yet - there are still TV talking heads (mostly on the ESPN "family of networks") that wish to verbally bludgeon the Northern Illinois Huskies for getting that BCS bowl berth opposite Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

But guess what?

All Northern Illinois (12-1) did was play by the rules as they won the Mid-American Conference championship - by virtue of that thrilling 44-37 double-OT win against Kent State last Friday night in Detroit - and than finished inside the top 16 in the BCS Standings.

What, the likes of 8-5 Wisconsin really deserve the Rose Bowl berth?

And ditto for a slew of other "name" teams that lost multiple games and yet find themselves playing in January bowl tilts?

Let us ask you the following question:

Why does an Oklahoma team that lost twice at home deserve a BCS bowl berth more than Northern Illinois ... or how about a Clemson team that truly played only two big games this year and lost 'em both (to Florida State and South Carolina)?

All that Sunday night chatter on ESPN -- where only the level-headed Mark May made any real sense to us - was downright ridiculous because analysts Jesse Palmer and David Pollack sounded like two old fogies from the NCAA Tournament days where critics wanted the majority of the 68-team hoops field filled with "power conference" teams.

Good for the BCS that it did this one thing right and rewarded a high-ranking non-automatic qualifier conference/team.

Heaven knows otherwise the BCS is a downright mess - heck, we're not even really sure Alabama should get the spot opposite unbeaten Notre Dame in the Jan. 7th BCS Championship Game (why not one-loss Kansas State or one-loss Oregon?).

Can't wait for the four-team playoff in 2014!


Saturday, Dec. 15

NEW MEXICO BOWL - at Albuquerque, NM
NEVADA (7-5) vs. ARIZONA (7-5)
- Year One in the Rich Rodriguez Era was a mixed bag in Tucson but star RB Ka'Deem Carey (1,757 yards rushing to rank second nationally) is a major hit and could blow up for a 200-plus yard game here against a leaky Nevada defense that allowed 32-or-more points on six different occasions.

UTAH STATE (10-2) vs. TOLEDO (9-3)
- The U-State Aggies covered their first 11 consecutive games till that 45-9 non-cover triumph over lowly Idaho and all eyes here on RB Kerwynn Williams who zooms into this tilt with 1,277 yards rushing and 663 yards receiving and a grand total of 17 TDs. Hey, hats off to Toledo as this is the school's third consecutive bowl trip.

Thursday, Dec. 20

SAN DIEGO STATE (9-3) vs. BYU (7-5)
- Count us among the folks who believe this BYU team was one of the country's real overrated sides (and note the Coogs are 3-point betting favs here) as quarterback merry-go-round didn't help the cause although we expect lefty Riley Nelson under center here ... but who knows!

Friday, Dec. 21

BEEF O'BRADY'S BOWL - at St. Petersburg, FL
UCF (9-4) vs. BALL STATE (9-3)
- Fact of matter is this whole 2012 season would have had a different feel to it for George O'Leary's UCF bunch had it been able to beat Tulsa just once (losses by two points in the regular season and by six points in OT in last weekend's Conference USA Championship Game).

Saturday, Dec. 22

NEW ORLEANS BOWL - at New Orleans, LA
- Very quietly the ECU Pirates won 7-of-8 league games this year and it's about time the world got to know about QB Shane Carden who threw for 2,838 yards with 21 TDs and 9 INTs as he helped the Buccos score 40+ points in four of his team's final six regular-season affairs.

- Not your typical Boise State season since the Broncos lost that season-opening "name" game against Michigan State but Chris Petersen's squad sure can play defense as they rank ninth nationally in total "D" while do-it-all back D.J. Harper (1.065 yards rushing and 15 TDs) is a stud.

Monday, Dec. 24

HAWAII BOWL - at Honolulu, HI
SMU (6-6) vs. FRESNO STATE (9-3)
- You could say that the Fresno State Bulldogs were one of the country's biggest secrets this year en route to a spiffy 11-1 ATS (against the spread) mark that included an underdog cover at five-TD favorite Oregon but you should know all about QB Derek Carr (his big brother once starred for Fresno, remember!) who threw for 3,742 yards with 36 TDs and only 5 INTs and he's already announced he'll be back next year.

Wednesday, Dec. 26

- Hope the pizza's good 'cause the matchup stinks ... just sayin'! The CMU Chippewas couldn't stop a soul running the ball this year as the Mid-Am club ranked 98th nationally (allowed 198.3 yards per game rushing) and so here's hoping Chip QB Ryan Radcliff (20 TDs and 9 INTs) is on his game in this Motown "thriller".

Thursday, Dec. 27

MILITARY BOWL - at Washington, D.C.
- Hope you got an opportunity to eyeball this San Jose State squad that bested the likes of bowl-bound San Diego State, Navy and BYU this year (plus beat Louisiana Tech too) as third-year head coach Mike MacIntyre is a true on-the-rise boss and keep an eye peeled here for State WR Noel Grigsby who caught 73 balls and scored 9 TDs. If Bowling Green doesn't cash in with some well-timed blitzes here, than Grigsby's gonna smoke 'em deep!

BELK BOWL - at Charlotte, NC
CINCINNATI (9-3) vs. DUKE (6-6)
- It appears the rumors of Cincy coach Butch Jones going here-or-there will continue right until game time and so you wonder all about the "distraction" factor here for the Big East 'Cats who dropped from a 10-point betting favorite to a 7 ½-point choice faster than you can say Oscar Robertson! Duke QB Sean Renfree (2,755 yards passing with 18 TDs and 8 INTs) has his starter's job back and we're wondering why he lost it in the first place!

HOLIDAY BOWL - at San Diego, CA
BAYLOR (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4)
- It's a dead-even, pick 'em matchup here and Bruins must be on their toes from the get-go against Baylor offense that has country's third-best pass offense (353.3 ypg) and red-hot QB Nick Florence who may not win a Heisman Trophy like predecessor Robert Griffin III but does sport the following 2012 stats: 4,121 yards passing with 31 TDs and 13 INTs and wins against Okie State and at-the-time #1 Kansas State filling out his resume quite nicely ... right?



DENVER (9-3) at OAKLAND (3-9) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Let's face it: In the here-and-now AFC West, you need binoculars to even find the front-running Denver Broncos when you take a quickie glance at the standings as San Diego's a five games back, the Oakland Raiders are six games behind and the woe-it-me Kansas City Chiefs are seven games behind and it's not out of the question for Peyton Manning and Company to "run the table" on the remainder of this 2012 season as a road game in Baltimore follows (the Ravens ain't what they used to be) and than home tilts against Cleveland and KayCee.

So, long-story-short here the Broncos have plenty to play for as they're gunning for home-field advantage through the AFC Playoffs or more likely a #2 seed that would give John Fox's crew a bye in the opening week of the post-season.

The Broncos are a heady 10-point road favorite for this tilt - remember Denver easily covered the 6 ½-point home price in that 37-6 win against Oakland way back in Week 4 - and you might recall in that matchup the aforementioned Manning completed an eye-popping 30-of-38 passes for 338 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs as TE Joel Dreesen, WR Eric Decker and RB Lance Ball snagged scoring strikes that covered 22, 17 and 14 yards, respectively.

Toss into the mix the fact that in Round I the Broncos had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher (RB Willis McGahee ran for 112 yards) and a 100-yard receiver (WR Demaryius Thomas had 103 yards receiving) all in the same game for the first time since Week One of the 2007 campaign plus the Broncos never punted the ball in that first meeting this year. Wow!

Spread Notes - Denver is 7-5 versus the vig overall this season but the Broncos are an ugly 13-26-1 ATS in divisional games since the start of the 2006 season (that's a putrid .333 winning rate). Meanwhile, Oakland is 3-8-1 against the odds this year and staggers into this prime-time affair having registered an 0-4-1 spread mark the past five weeks. Still, the Raiders do own a 9-4 spread log in head-to-head matchups with the hated Broncos since the start of '06.

NOTE: We roll on with more College Football December Bowl Game Previews in the next Jim Sez - don't forget we'll have detailed game previews the closer we get to all the matchups plus be sure to check out our NFL coverage too and our Heisman Trophy prediction later in the week!

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