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'Tis the season for bowl games

VEGAS IS about to be overrun by Broncos, the Fresno State quarterback with the familiar name will try to stay hot and Duke is attempting to do something it hasn't done since the 1960 season.

VEGAS IS about to be overrun by Broncos, the Fresno State quarterback with the familiar name will try to stay hot and Duke is attempting to do something it hasn't done since the 1960 season.

If it's mid-December, it must be bowl season. And if the only thing you knew about Arizona and Nevada was that they bordered one another, that's about to change. Here is part one of our preview package, a look at the first 11 bowl games (point spreads: Page 59).


Nevada (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5)

When: Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.

Bowl bits: Game features the nation's top two leading rushers. Arizona sophomore Ka'Deem Carey led the country with an average of 146.4 yards per game while Nevada junior Stefphon Jefferson was second at 141.9 . . .

Jefferson's dad's name is George. Yep, George Jefferson . . . Nevada has lost five of its last six bowl games. The only win was in Colin Kaepernick's senior year when the Wolfpack beat Boston College in the Fight Hunger Bowl following the 2010 season.

Pick: Arizona, 34-31.


Toledo (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2)

When: Saturday, 4:30 (ESPN)

Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho Bowl bits: Toledo's three losses were to bowl teams (Arizona, Ball State and Northern Illinois) and all were by seven points . . . Six of the last eight Potato Bowls have been decided on the last drive . . . The bar/restaurant For Pete's Sake (Front & Christian) has terrific potato soup . . . Toledo's leader in the secondary is senior safety Mark Singer (Holy Cross H.S.), who is fifth on the team in tackles and carries a 3.5 GPA in communications . . . Utah State, which has been playing since 1912, has won 10 games for the first time in school history. The Aggies went 6-0 in the WAC, highlighted by a win at then-No. 19 Louisiana Tech.

Pick: Utah State, 33-20.


San Diego State (9-3) vs. Brigham Young (7-5)

When: Thursday, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

Bowl bits: San Diego State will join the Big East next season . . . The Aztecs have won seven in a row, including a victory over Boise State, SDSU'S first win over a ranked team in 16 years . . .

Brigham Young hung with Notre Dame before losing 17-14 at South Bend. The three points was the Irish's closest margin of victory all season. ND also beat Purdue by three . . .

Cougars linebacker Kyle Van Noy (10.5 sacks) is one of the best in the nation.

Pick: Brigham Young, 27-16


Ball State (9-3) vs. C. Florida (9-4)

When: Friday, Dec. 21, 7:30 (ESPN)

Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Bowl bits: This game is played at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Last year's bowl game drew 20,072, which is slightly more than the 19,255 the Rays averaged last year . . . Ball State has won six in a row. Its last loss was Oct. 6 to Orange Bowl crasher Northern Illinois. BSU led by nine earlier in the third quarter . . . The Cardinals have never won a bowl game . . . UCF sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles was voted to Conference USA's second-team, the first time a UCF QB has made an all-league squad . . . Beef O'Brady's is a chain of sports bars founded in Florida.

Pick: Cental Florida, 37-20


E. Carolina (8-4) vs. La.-Lafayette (8-4)

When: Saturday, Dec. 22, noon (ESPN)

Where: Superdome, New Orleans Bowl bits: The Pirates were the only team in Conference USA with a 1,000-yard receiver (Justin Hardy) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Vintavious Cooper). Hardy had 16 catches this year against Marshall . . . Louisiana-Lafayette has the best nickname in college football. The Ragin' Cajuns (27.5-point underdogs) nearly shocked Florida, before the Gators won the game on a blocked punt returned for a TD with two seconds left . . . ULL made its first bowl appearance last year and beat San Diego State in this game . . . The Beach Boys will headline a concert the night before the game. How many players do you think can name five Beach Boys songs?

Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette, 24-20


Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2)

When: Saturday, Dec. 22, 3:30 (ESPN)

Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas

Bowl bits: Washington has been 7-6 the last 2 years and will make it three in a row with a loss here . . . UW opens renovated Husky stadium next Aug. 31 with Boise State . . . Who says it's impossible to win in Vegas? The Broncos have won this game handily the last 2 years. They beat Utah, 26-3, in 2010 and Arizona State, 56-24, last season . . . BSU quarterback Joe Southwick has completed more than 70 percent of his passes over the last three games with seven TDs and no picks.

Pick: Boise State, 41-17.


SMU (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3)

When: Monday, Dec. 24, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu Bowl bits: SMU is coached by June Jones, who was at Hawaii from 199-07. Jones is 5-1 in Bowl Games played in paradise. One of those wins was with the Mustangs in 2009 . . .

Mustangs senior running back Zach Line is Conference USA's offensive player of the year and his 4,114 career rushing yards are second only to Eric Dickerson (4,450) in school history . . . Fresno State averages 40 points per game and their defense is 20th in yardage allowed (335.3 per). They are 3-3 against bowl teams. One of those losses was to Oregon, 42-25, when the Ducks led by 29 at half . . .

Junior quarterback Derek Carr has had five games of at least 300 passing yards and four touchdowns. He already has said he will not enter the NFL Draft. His brother, Fresno State alum David Carr, was the No. 1 overall pick in 2002.

Pick: Fresno State, 41-27.


Central Michigan (6-6) vs.

Western Kentucky (7-5)

When: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 7:30 (ESPN)

Where: Ford Field, Detroit

Bowl bits: Central Michigan salvaged its season by winning three of four . . . Running back Zurlon Tipton was second in the MAC with 20 touchdowns and first in the nation among players named Zurlon . . . Western Kentucky was 0-12 in 2009, the Hilltoppers' second season at the D-I level. Willie Taggart, who guided WKy for the last three seasons, took the South Florida job and was replaced by Bobby Petrino (of Arkansas' infamy) on Dec. 10. Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry is coaching the team in the bowl game.

Pick: Central Michigan, 21-20


Bowling Green (8-4) vs. San Jose State (10-2)

When: Thursday, Dec. 27, 3 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: RFK Stadium, Washington Bowl bits: This is the fifth Military Bowl and third where neither team represented a military institution. . .

BGSU's strength is its defense. D-tackle Chris Jones has 12.5 sacks, tied for third nationally . . . Bowling Green coach David Clawson was Villanova's offensive coordinator when Brian Finneran and Brian Westbrook were stars . . . San Jose State's two losses are by three at Stanford and by 22 in a homecoming disaster to Utah State . . . SJSU offensive tackle David Quessenberry was a finalist for the award given to the nation's best player that began his career as a walk-on. Penn State's Matt McGloin won it.

Pick: San Jose State, 21-10


Duke (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3)

When: Friday, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

Bowl bits: Duke was a shaky 6-2 and sure enough got exposed down the stretch in blowout losses to Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech . . . The Devils still deserve credit for reaching the postseason for the first time since losing the Hall of Fame Bowl following the 1994 season. Duke's last bowl win was when it beat Lance Alworth and Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2, 1961 . . . Cincinnati tabbed Tommy Tuberville to replace Butch Jones, who bolted for the Tennessee job. Defensive assistant Steve Stripling will coach the bowl game . . . Belk is the name of a North Carolina-based department store . . . Eagles third-string running back Dion Lewis was the 2009 game's MVP when he ran for 159 yards in Pittsburgh's win over North Carolina.

Pick: Cincinnati, 20-16


Baylor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4)

When: Thursday, Dec. 27, 9:45 (ESPN)

Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

Bowl bits: Nice work by the Bears to get back to a bowl a year after losing superstar Robert Griffin III. Nick Florence, who replaced Griffin at quarterback, led the nation in total offense per game (387.7), about four yards more than Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Florence was first-team All-Academic . . . Baylor won its last three, including a BCS-busting 52-24 win over Kansas State . . .

Jonathan Franklin supplanted Gaston Green (1984-87) as UCLA's all-time leading rusher and finished second to Wisconsin's Montee Ball for the Doak Walker Award given to the nation's best running back . . . Bruins sophomore linebacker Eric Kendricks, the young brother of the Eagles' LB Mychal Kendricks, is fifth in the nation in tackles.

Pick: Baylor, 45-38.