IT'S BOWL SEASON again. You know, the time of year when you get to pay attention to the Central Michigan's of the world thanks to an office pool.
So let's dive right in with the first 10 games, including an odd rematch down in the Bahamas. Don't forget the sunblock.
SATURDAY, DEC. 20
New Orleans Bowl
At New Orleans, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
Line: Louisiana-Lafayette -1. Total: 60 1/2.
Trend: ULL is on a 5-1-1 run against the spread.
Bowl bits: Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo is one of two D-I players with 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards in his career. The other is Colin Kaepernick, who was Nevada's QB immediately before Fajardo . . . Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian, the son of ESPN analyst Bill Polian, is in his second season at Nevada. This is his first bowl bid . . . ULL is playing in this bowl for the fourth consecutive year. In fact, it's the only bowl game the program has ever played. The Ragin' Cajuns are 3-0 here . . . The game kicks off at 10 a.m. locally.
New Mexico Bowl
At Albuquerque, 2:20 p.m. (ESPN)
UTEP (7-5) vs. Utah St. (9-4)
Line: Utah St. -10 1/2. Total: 49.
Trend: UTEP is 9-3 against the spread.
Bowl bits: This game is in University Stadium, where UTEP opened its season with a 31-24 win over New Mexico . . . The Miners have never won a bowl game outside of El Paso, and they haven't won a postseason game of any kind since the 1967 Sun Bowl . . . Utah State's leading tacklers are brothers Zach and Nick Vigil.
Las Vegas Bowl
At Las Vegas, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Colorado St. (10-2) vs. Utah (8-4)
Line: Utah -4 1/2. Total: 58 1/2.
Trend: Eight of Utah's last 10 games have been under.
Bowl bits: Colorado State has won 9 of its last 10 . . . The Rams are operating without coach Jim McElwain, who took the Florida job . . . CSU sophomore wide receiver Rashard Higgins is a first-team All-America. He leads the nation with 17 TD receptions and is second with 1,640 yards. Only Alabama's Amari Cooper (1,656) has more. Higgins' 17 touchdowns average nearly 35 yards in length . . . Utah leads the nation with 52 sacks. Nate Orchard's 17 1/2 leads the Utes. His full name is Napaa Lilo Fakahafua Orchard, but around here we just call him "Nate."
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
At Boise, 5:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)
Line: Air Force -1. Total: 56 1/2.
Trend: WMU had covered six consecutive games before losing by 10 to Northern Illinois, which was favored by eight.
Bowl bits: Air Force was 2-10 last year. Western Michigan was 1-11. Their seven-game turnarounds are tied for best in the nation (along with TCU) . . . Air Force offensive lineman Michael Husar Jr. was first-team all-Mountain West. His goal, after service, is to go to medical school and then operate his own practice . . . WMU's P.J. Fleck, 34, is the youngest coach in D-I . . . Broncos freshman running back Jarvion Franklin ran for 1,525 yards and a school-record 25 TDs to earn MAC offensive player of the year.
At Montgomery, Ala., 9:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Bowling Green (7-6) vs. S. Alabama (6-6)
Line: South Alabama -3. Total: 53 1/2.
Trend: Bowling Green was 4-8-1 against the spread while South Alabama was 4-8. Good luck.
Bowl bits: Bowling Green's coach is Dino Babers. At Eastern Illinois, he developed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots second-round pick who is the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Babers, however, was not at Eastern Illinois when Tony Romo was there . . . This is South Alabama's first bowl game. The school just started competing at the D-I level in 2012 . . . The camellia is the state flower of Alabama.
MONDAY, DEC. 22
Miami Beach Bowl
At Miami, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
BYU (8-4) vs. Memphis (9-3)
Line: Memphis -1. Total: 57 1/2.
Trend: The total has been over in seven of BYU's last nine and five of Memphis' last seven.
Bowl bits: Brigham Young committed to this game long before the season even began. All the Cougars had to do was get to six wins. Such is life when you don't play in a conference and your campus is not located in South Bend, Ind. . . . BYU also has committed to the 2016 and 2018 Poinsettia Bowls, unless it gets picked for the CFB playoff . . . This is Memphis' first winning season since 2007. A victory here would set the school record for wins at the D-I level . . . The game is being played at Marlins Park.
TUESDAY, DEC. 23
Boca Raton Bowl
At Boca Raton (Fla.), 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2)
Line: Marshall -10 1/2. Total: 67.
Trend: These teams went 23-3 straight up this year, but just 14-11-1 against the number.
Bowl bits: Marshall was 11-0 until a 67-66 loss to Western Kentucky the day after Thanksgiving . . . The Thundering Herd beat Louisiana Tech in the CUSA title game . . . Northern Illinois thumped Bowling Green, 51-17, in the MAC title game. The last time the Huskies played a bowl game in Florida was the Orange Bowl following the 2012 season.
At San Diego, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Navy (7-5) vs. San Diego St. (7-5)
Line: SDSU -2 1/2. Total: 54 1/2.
Trend: Eleven of San Diego State's 12 games were under.
Bowl bits: Navy is trying to win bowl games in consecutive years for the second time in program history. The first was 2004-05. In '04, the Midshipmen beat New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl. That New Mexico team was coached by Rocky Long, the current coach of San Diego State.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 24
At Nassau, Noon (ESPN)
W. Kentucky (7-5) vs. C. Michigan (7-5)
Line: WKU -3 1/2. Total: 65 1/2.
Trend: Eight of WKU's 12 games went over, including a 67-66 win over Marshall in their regular-season finale.
Bowl bits: Today's forecasted high for Western Kentucky's campus was 39 degrees. At Central Michigan, it was 31. It's 75 and sunny today in Nassau . . . These teams played 2 years ago in the Little Caesars Bowl, won by Central Michigan, 24-21. That game was in Detroit. Quite an upgrade, eh?
At Honolulu, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Rice (7-5) vs. Fresno St. (6-7)
Line: Rice -1 1/2. Total: 59.
Trend: Rice was 8-4 against the spread, one game better than Fresno State.
Bowl bits: Fresno State is bowling despite a losing overall record by virtue of going 5-3 in the conference and winning a Mountain West division title . . . Both teams started 0-3. From 1980-2013, less than four percent of teams that started 0-3 got off the mat in time to reach a bowl game . . . Fresno State is 6-0 all-time against Rice, though this is their first meeting since 2004.