You might think it would be fairly easy to predict the outcomes of college football's bowl games, at least to correctly guess the winners with no concern for the point spreads.
But that's not the case, as regular readers have seen with the annual ritual in this space. Last year my picks added up to 16 right, 18 wrong, including a paltry 2-3 in the Bowl Championship Series games (down from 4-1 two years ago).
Surprisingly, I did hit one 2009 game with exactly the right score, nailing Georgia's 44-20 victory against Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl. Don't expect a repeat, because this time the Independence has one of the tougher matchups, Air Force vs. Georgia Tech.
In fact, this batch of bowls looks more difficult to forecast than any in recent memory, with no fewer than 19 of the games having a point spread of a field goal or less.
Still, I'm compelled to provide predictions, including at least one annual upset special. This year's special is Northwestern (a 9.5-point underdog) beating Texas Tech in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 1 in Dallas, though it's also tempting to take Utah (a 17-point underdog) over Boise State in Las Vegas. Boise probably will prevail, but it should be close.
With that, let's tackle the full listof bowl games, starting this weekend ...
New Mexico, Dec. 18, BYU 31, UTEP 10. Cougars' finale as a Mountain West member.
Humanitarian, Dec. 18, Fresno State 37, Northern Illinois 34. NIU just lost coach Jerry Kill to Minnesota. Letdown time.
New Orleans, Dec. 18, Troy 27, Ohio 20. The better offense prevails.
St. Petersburg, Dec. 21, Louisville 41, Southern Mississippi 30. L'ville has been rolling at the end.
Las Vegas, Dec. 22, Boise State 34, Utah 31. Welcome to the Mountain West, Broncos.
Poinsettia, Dec. 23, San Diego State 24, Navy 20. Home game for the Aztecs.
Hawaii, Dec. 24, Hawaii 48, Tulsa 41. Offensive show in Honolulu.
Little Caesars, Dec. 26, Toledo 19, Florida International 17. Nobody will be watching on NFL's next-to-last Sunday.
Independence, Dec. 27, Air Force 24, Georgia Tech 19. Going against my first instinct because the Falcons will be healthy.
Champs Sports, Dec. 28, West Virginia 28, North Carolina State 17. Mountaineers deserved better than Orlando's No. 2 bowl.
Insight, Dec. 28, Missouri 26, Iowa 17. Hawkeyes stumbled down the stretch.
Texas, Dec. 29, Baylor 35, Illinois 31. BU's Robert Griffin III puts on a show.
Alamo, Dec. 29, Arizona 24, Oklahoma State 23. Late loss to Oklahoma hurt Cowboys.
Military, Dec. 29, Maryland 33, East Carolina 24. Close to the Terps' campus.
Armed Forces, Dec. 30, SMU 39, Army 20. Mustangs on their home field.
Pinstripe, Dec. 30, Syracuse 16, Kansas State 13. Yankee Stadium joins bowl family.
Music City, Dec. 30, Tennessee 23, North Carolina 21. Volunteers are back on track.
Holiday, Dec. 30, Nebraska 32, Washington 22. Huskers' happy Big 12 farewell.
Chick-fil-A, Dec. 31, Florida State 23, South Carolina 17. The other USC fades out.
Liberty, Dec. 31, Georgia 38, Central Florida 24. Hard to believe UGA lost to Colorado.
Meineke, Dec. 31, Clemson 20, South Florida 10. Bulls don't have enough speed.
Sun, Dec. 31, Notre Dame 27, Miami (Fla.) 14. Two teams going in opposite directions.
TicketCity, Jan. 1, Northwestern 29, Texas Tech 28. Upset spoils Red Raiders' trip.
Outback, Jan. 1, Florida 17, Penn State 13. Gators send Urban Meyer out with a boring win.
Capital One, Jan. 1, Alabama 31, Michigan State 19. Tide didn't slip far after national title.
Gator, Jan. 1, Michigan 26, Mississippi State 24. Mild upset with Big Blue improving.
Rose, Jan. 1, TCU 30, Wisconsin 23. TCU has a point to make, could finish No. 2.
Fiesta, Jan. 1, Oklahoma 35, Connecticut 7. Hard to imagine this game being close.
Orange, Jan. 3, Virginia Tech 32, Stanford 29. Should be one of the best battles.
Sugar, Jan. 4, Ohio State 41, Arkansas 37. Terrelle Pryor outduels Ryan Mallett.
GoDaddy.com, Jan. 6, Miami (Ohio) 34, Middle Tennessee 21. Lots of empty seats in Mobile.
Cotton, Jan. 7, LSU 21, Texas A&M 17. Healthier Tigers will be harder to stop.
Compass, Jan. 8, Kentucky 16, Pittsburgh 6. Bad ending for Pitt's Dave Wannstedt.
Fight Hunger, Jan. 9, Nevada 38, Boston College 26. It means much more to Nevada.
BCS, Jan. 10, Auburn 37, Oregon 33. As long as Cam Newton's legal, Tigers are the best.