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Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Picks of the week: Mele Kalikimaka


Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

My picks took a hard hit to start the bowl season, but they've been a lot better since. Hopefully, I can keep it going with Hawaii tonight. For those who missed or forgot about my Sheraton Hawaii Bowl pick, I've included it below.

SHERATON HAWAII: Hawaii 24, Notre Dame 21
Notre Dame has not won a road game against a quality team all year, which makes it hard to pick them to win on Hawaii's home field. Although this was the most favorable of all the matchups offered to Notre Dame this bowl season, Hawaii has gotten steadily better both on offense and defense as the season has progressed. The key to this game will be turnovers. Both teams have a lot of giveaways and a lot of takeaways. The game will be decided on defense since both offenses are good, but too erratic to be relied on.

MOTOR CITY: Central Michigan 38, Florida Atlantic 27
The Motor City Bowl should be an offensive display. These teams feature two quarterbacks that were among the most talked about in the preseason. Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour is a dual threat and will tuck and run when needed, and FAU's Rusty Smith struggled early in the season, but has come on the last half. Look for a lot of scoring in this one. The Central Michigan secondary is among the worst in the country and FAU defense gives up over 400 yards per game.

INDEPENDENCE BOWL: Northern Illinois 21, Louisiana Tech 17
This is probably the least attractive matchup of the bowl season, but it's still going to be a close game because these teams are similar. Both have quarterbacks that can make plays and both have defenses that come up in the clutch. Northern Illinois will rely heavily on defensive end Larry English and quarterback Chandler Harnish to carry it, and Louisiana Tech will need Ross Jenkins to have a great game. Like I said, this one will be one of the closer games of the season.

ROADY'S HUMANITARIAN: Nevada 28, Maryland 17
Maryland will have its hands full with the Nevada's running game, which ranks second in the country with 291.42 yards per game. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is part of that rushing offense, averaging 92.92 yards per game. During the last half of the season his throwing game caught up and he started to become more of a dual threat. Maryland has been one of the most schizophrenic teams this season, so there's no telling how they'll play in Boise, a less than attractive destination for the Terps.

TEXAS: Western Michigan 35, Rice 31
This will be one of the more entertaining games of the bowl season because both of these offenses can put up some points. In fact, they have similar quarterbacks, similar tight ends and similar star receivers. The only difference is that Western Michigan has a proven defense. But that won't stop this game from being high scoring. Expect a lot of touchdown passes.

BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES: Houston 38, Air Force 21
This is a rematch of a game earlier this season that was played in a hurricane in Dallas. That limited Houston's ability to run its offense the way it wanted and Air Force capitalized with its ground game. This time weather won't be a factor, but revenge might. Houston really came on in the latter half of the season and was a win away from playing in the C-USA title game. Air Force is still one of the best rushing offenses in the country and that was something Houston didn't handle well in the first meeting.