LITTLE ROCK — Three vagabonds, a flirt, and a loyalist threw a monkey wrench into the quick and easy approach to a bowl picking contest.
The idea is to select the team most likely to win one of the 35 bowl games and count down to No. 1, the most difficult game. Using the line out of Las Vegas, I start with the double-digit favorites and go from there.
The catch is that five of the seven teams that qualify have coaches who were courted. So, how do goodbyes, maybes, and no thanks affect favored Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and underdogs Northern Illinois and Louisville? Maybe the disparity is so wide that it doesn’t matter, but I am reluctant to put those games at the top in the free contest.
The other two games with double-digit favorites are Fresno State over SMU in Hawaii and Alabama over Notre Dame in the BCS title game.
I know nothing about SMU; I do know first-year coach Tim DeRuyter guided Fresno State to a share of the Mountain West Conference championship, the school’s first conference title since 1999. The Bulldogs did it in style, routing Air Force 48-15 at the end of the season.
Worth 35 points, Fresno is my team most likely to win.
A sucker for a good story line, I think Notre Dame is going to be competitive in the fourth quarter. Yes, one has a sophomore quarterback with a rating of 131.8 and the other has a junior with a rating 40 points higher. Yes, Alabama won the BCS a year ago and Notre Dame hasn’t sniffed the national limelight in years.
But, the Fighting Irish will not be intimidated and defense goes a long way so a couple of other games with smaller point spreads upstage Alabama.
Coach Chris Peterson, along with Jon Gruden, the No. 1 fan choice any time a major job comes open, is the reason Boise over Washington is No. 34.
Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State surfaced at Arkansas and Tennessee because he was cross ways with athletic director Mike Holder over the schedule among other things. He couldn’t ask for an easier assignment than Purdue in Dallas. Make OSU No. 33.
Even though Tommy Tuberville bolted Lubbock for Cincinnati in a move as surprising as Bret Bielema leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas, the Red Raiders should be able to get by Minnesota without a coach. Tech is No. 32.
Stanford is only favored by a touchdown over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, but I am more confident of a Cardinal victory than I am Alabama over Notre Dame, Cincinnati over Duke, Florida over Louisville, or Florida State over Northern Illinois. Stanford is No. 31.
Georgia is No. 30 because I’ll take quarterback Aaron Murray and coach Mark Richt over their counterparts at Nebraska, and Alabama is No. 29 because it’s Alabama.
Florida State is No. 28 and would have been even lower if Dave Doeren had stayed at Northern Illinois instead of moving to North Carolina State. Even though Cincinnati is a solid favorite, Duke is No. 27. Coach Butch Jones has moved to Tennessee and David Cutcliffe has done an amazing job at a basketball school.
Indebted to Louisville for giving him an opportunity to be a head coach, Charlie Strong turned down various schools. His players will appreciate that and I will be surprised if Florida wins big. Still, this is about picking winners so the Gators are No. 26.
Rhett Lashlee sticking around to call the plays for Arkansas State University lands the Red Wolves the No. 25 spot against Kent State.
From there, plug in all six Southeastern Conference teams, Louisiana schools at Monroe and Lafayette, and the Big 12 teams except for Kansas State and defense-challenged Texas. Instead, give the state of Oregon a sweep of those two.
Heads or tails the rest.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.