Bowl Game Bonanza<br><i>Who's going to win?</i>

Staff photo by Eric Lusk

ARIZONA STATE fans hope that Sun Devil running backs will have as much room to run in the Holiday Bowl as Cornell Candidate had on this play against North Carolina in October. ASU (8-5) will face sixth-ranked Kansas State in the Dec. 27 bowl game in San Diego?

Members of the sports media of course are among the best at second-guessing and coaching from the comfort of newspaper columns and broadcast shows.

So, as college football reaches its climax over the next two weeks we’ve pitted three members of the local sports media against the area’s three high school coaches in a battle of prognostication ability.

Who can predict the bowl madness better – the men who stalk the sidelines or the men who sit in the press box with pencil and/or microphone in hand?

On the coaches’ side we have three good ones – Mingus Union’s Bob Young, Camp Verde’s Luke Steege and Sedona Red Rock’s Jim Cromartie. All three led their respective high schools to the state playoffs and had winning records this fall. Cromartie earned West Region coach of the year honors.

On the media side we have Eric Lusk, the sports editor for this publication, and KAZM AM 780’s Mike Tabback and J.R. Ricketts. Tabback and Ricketts co-host the “Sports Talk” segment on KAZM from 4:15-5 p.m. Monday through Friday with another show from 9:15-10 on Friday mornings.

To spice up the friendly competition, we’ve weighted the games. Most bowls are worth 1 point for a correct pick. The New Year’s Day games count 2 points. The BCS games count 3 points, and the Fiesta Bowl – this year’s so-called national title game – counts 5 points.

Without further ado, the menu of games please:

One point games

New Orleans Bowl • Dec. 17

North Texas 24, Cincinnati 19

Let honesty reign. Even though they had a chance before press time to change their picks, Luke and Eric took the high road and admitted that they predicted a Cincy win. The other four gentlemen knew North Texas would prevail from the start.

GMAC Bowl • Dec. 18

Marshall 38, Louisville 15

All the picks for this game were in before kickoff, and all six prognosticators knew that Byron Leftwich would lead the Thundering Herd to a thundering victory. ‘Nuff said.

Tangerine Bowl • Dec. 23

Clemson (7-5) vs. Texas Tech (8-5)

This game could one of the most high scoring among the early bowl contests. Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury throws for around 250 yards per contest. Clemson finished 3-1 behind QB Charlie Whitehurst’s 1,300 yards passing.

All six pickers say guns up to Texas Tech.

Las Vegas Bowl • Dec. 25

UCLA (7-5) vs. New Mexico (7-6)

The once-proud Bruins fired their coach despite getting into a bowl (not good enough to go to Las Vegas while rival USC heads for the Orange). New Mexico, making its first bowl trip since 1997, likely has more to play for as the unheralded team.

Coaches Young and Steege join Mike and J.R. in picking UCLA, while coach Cromartie and Eric take the Lobos in a surprise.

Hawaii Bowl • Dec. 25

Hawaii (10-3) vs. Tulane (7-5)

Should a team be able to play a bowl game in its home stadium? This game, too, could be a shootout with standout QBs Timmy Chang (Hawaii) and J.P. Losman (Tulane) ready to pull the trigger.

Aloha means goodbye for Tulane as all six pickers take the homestanding Warriors.

Motor City Bowl • Dec. 26

Boston College (8-4) vs. Toledo (9-4)

The Rockets will try to win their 10th game for the third season in a row. Pundits think Toledo has been just as good in the MAC as Marshall the past few years. Boston College isn’t bad either, winning eight games.

All the pickers like the big conference Eagles except for Eric, who thinks Toledo will get win number 10.

Insight.com Bowl • Dec. 26

Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Oregon State (8-4)

The home of the Arizona Diamondbacks could see an intriguing football match-up as two strong clubs from different coasts go at it. OSU won four of its last five. Pittsburgh pushed Miami until the final play.

Mike, Eric, Bob and Luke like Pitt to prevail. Jim and J.R. go with the Beavers.

Houston Bowl • Dec. 27

Southern Miss (7-5) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)

Oklahoma State played giant killer again this year, beating rival Oklahoma and knocking the Sooners out of the national title chase. Southern Miss likely will be without its top running back Derrick Nix due to a kidney ailment.

The Cowboys corral Brett Favre’s old Southern Miss team, according to all six of our pickers.

Independence Bowl • Dec. 27

Nebraska (7-6) vs. Mississippi (6-6)

Nebraska in Shreveport this time of year? My how the mighty have fallen. Mississippi features Peyton Manning’s younger bro, who isn’t too shabby a QB either.

The Nebraska name still carries a lot of weight, and the Huskers get the nod from all six pickers.

Holiday Bowl • Dec. 27

Kansas State (10-2) vs. Arizona State (8-5)

The Sun Devils have been listed as 17-point underdogs, but they’ve played that role before this season and won. K-State will be a tough opponent to beat, however, even if ASU QB Andrew Walter puts up a 400-yard game.

Arizonans are known for liking San Diego and the Sun Devils get the nod from four pickers – Bob, Jim, Eric and Mike.

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