THE BIGGEST crime of the bowl season is at hand as Boise State, one of the top teams all year with a sterling 11-1 record, gets a yawner tonight against 6-6 Arizona State in the MAACO. Only the BCS could take the fun out of a Vegas trip.
Elsewhere in Round 2 of our bowl previews, Purdue has an intriguing offensive lineman, N.C. State has an interception machine and Cal finally gets a chance to scratch a 7-year itch of revenge.
Here's a look at the next group of bowl games:
MAACO LAS VEGAS
Boise St. (11-1) vs. Arizona St. (6-6)
When: Tonight, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Where: Las Vegas
Bowl bits: This is one of the games people point to as an example of the top conferences and BCS monopoly. Boise State is ranked seventh in the BCS and deserves a better and more lucrative bowl. The Sugar Bowl comes to mind . . . BSU quarterback Kellen Moore has 41 touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season, so it could be a long evening for the Sun Devils' 107th-ranked pass defense . . . Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson was fired following a season-ending four-game losing streak, but will coach this game. Pitt coach Todd Graham will replace Erickson, who won national titles with Miami in 1989 and 1991.
The pick: Boise State, 48-14
Nevada (7-5) vs. Southern Miss (11-2)
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Bowl bits: Southern Miss pulled one of the biggest upsets of the year when they thumped Houston, 49-28, in the Conference USA championship game . . . USM quarterback Austin Davis has broken a number of Brett Favre's school passing records . . .
As Conference USA champs, the Golden Eagles would prefer to have gone to the Liberty Bowl, which is on New Year's Eve in Memphis, but had to settle for a trip to Hawaii for Christmas. Life is so unfair . . . Nevada's Rishard Matthews (6-2, 210) averages 113.7 receiving yards per game . . . This is the 10th anniversary of the Hawaii Bowl and Nevada's third trip. The most exciting of the previous nine was when Nevada beat Brandon Marshall's Central Florida team, 49-48, in 2005.
The pick: Nevada, 39-38
Missouri (7-5) vs. N. Carolina (7-5)
When: Monday, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Where: Shreveport, La.
Bowl bits: Missouri closed the season 4-1 with the only loss by three at Baylor . . . Mizzou's Dominique Hamilton is one of the best defensive tackles in the Big 12 . . . The Independence Bowl wasn't enough for Everett Winters to keep his job as UNC's coach. Withers took over as an interim when Butch Davis was fired in July, but was passed over for the permanent position when the Tar Heels hired Southern Miss' Larry Fedora . . . UNC freshman running back Giovani Bernard won the ACC's Brian Piccolo Award for the conference's most courageous player. Bernard ripped up his knee in 2010 spring practice but returned to lead all freshmen with 1,222 rushing yards in 2011. And how crazy is this? Bernard played at the same Fort Lauderdale high school as Piccolo.
The pick: Missouri, 24-23
Purdue (6-6) vs. W. Michigan (7-5)
When: Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Bowl bits: This is the first of the Big 10's record 10 bowl games. The only schools in the league that didn't get invites are Indiana and Minnesota . . . Massive left tackle Dennis Kelly (6-8, 306) was named Purdue's offensive MVP . . . Western Michigan wide receiver Jordan White leads the nation in catches (127) and yards (1,646). The sixth-year senior had 12 for 119 against Michigan.
The pick: Western Michigan, 31-21
N.C. State (7-5) vs. Louisville (7-5)
When: Tuesday, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Where: Charlotte, N.C.
Bowl bits: N.C. State sophomore David Amerson leads the nation with 11 interceptions, a school record for picks in a single season. At 6-3, he's got next-level size . . . Louisville's quarterback is Teddy Bridgewater, the Big East's rookie of the year. Bridgewater went 5-4 as a starter and is the Cardinals first true freshman quarterback in 35 years . . . Belk is a North Carolina department store chain.
The pick: N.C. State, 21-17
Air Force (7-5) vs. Toledo (8-4)
When: Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Bowl bits: Air Force is (top) gunning for its first three-game bowl winning streak since the mid-80s . . . Tailback Asher Clark needs 33 yards to break the school career rushing record of 3,612 held by Dee Dowis (1986-89) . . . Matt Campbell has taken over as Toledo's coach after Tim Beckman took the Illinois job. Beckman wanted Campbell to follow him to Illinois, which led Toledo's administration to quickly hire the 32-year-old Campbell permanently . . . Toledo has the unusual distinction of being 1-1 in games in which they've allowed 60 points or more. On successive weeks in November, the Rockets lost to Northern Illinois, 63-60, and beat Western Michigan, 66-63.
The pick: Toledo, 45-38
California (7-5) vs. Texas (7-5)
When: Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Where: San Diego
Bowl bits: Cal and Texas haven't played since 1970, but they had an interesting encounter in 2004 when the Longhorns jumped over Cal in the final BCS voting to nab a berth in the Rose Bowl opposite Michigan. Cal, which had been 10-1 with only a close loss at No. 1 USC, instead went to the Holiday Bowl where then-QB Aaron Rodgers lost his final college game . . . Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs is the younger brother of longtime Chargers d-back Quentin Jammer and told the Austin American Statesman that he knows Qualcomm Stadium "inside and out" . . . The Longhorns dropped three of their last four and their 12 losses over the last two seasons is as many as they had in the preceding seven years.
The pick: Cal, 21-10