You can attempt to pick this year's bowl winners by studying the down-and-distance charts, or do what I've come to do in recent years: examine the critical do-they-really-want-to-be-there factor.
This theory wasn't hatched from hash-mark chalk.
* 1992 Freedom Bowl: Fresno State wanted to be in Anaheim, USC wanted to be anywhere else.
Winner: Raisin Bran.
* 2001 Las Vegas Bowl. This game was deemed to be beneath the dignity of USC's pedigree.
Utah won, 10-6.
* 2003. Texas was so angry it had been snubbed by the bowl championship series that it got even by losing to Washington State in the Holiday Bowl.
* 2004. California was bounced from the Rose to the Holiday Bowl and protested with a loss to Texas Tech.
* 2004. UCLA thought it was playing Notre Dame in the Insight Bowl until Texas butted Cal out of the Rose Bowl.
UCLA played Wyoming in Las Vegas ... and went boots up.
Applying the theory to this season's bowl games, excluding the four marquee bowl championship series games:
* New Orleans: Arkansas State is playing in its first Division I-A bowl game; Southern Mississippi isn't even getting a trip to New Orleans (game moved to Lafayette, La.).
Winner: Arkansas State
* GMAC: Texas El Paso Coach Mike Price returns to Alabama (Mobile), where he was once chased out of the state after a regrettable night in a strip bar not far down the Gulf Coast.
* Las Vegas: Brigham Young players will be told to enjoy the city but make sure they note that nightly bed check is at 9:30.
* Poinsettia: Colorado State has a nice fan base but not enough backup battleships in San Diego harbor.
* Fort Worth: Kansas hasn't had a star worth watching since Gale Sayers; Houston hasn't won a bowl game since 1980.
Winner: Houston, in a tough call.
* Hawaii: Nevada beat Fresno State but got a worse bowl slot; Central Florida lost the Mid-American Conference title game but still earned an expenses-paid vacation.
Winner: Central Florida.
* Motor City: Akron going to Detroit for a bowl game has to be as thrilling as touring a tire plant.
* Champs Sports: Colorado has been outscored, 100-6, in its last two games.
* Insight: Arizona State thought it was going to win the national title this year; every living Rutgers graduate is expected to attend the school's first bowl appearance since 1978.
* MPC Computers: Are you frigid kidding us? Boston College leaves Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, goes 8-3 and gets farmed out west to play on blue turf?
Winner: Boise State/Weather Channel.
* Alamo: Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr is so miffed that Iowa got the Outback bid he is now in favor of a 16-team playoff.
* Emerald: Georgia Tech thought it was Music City-bound until Virginia made Nashville a better offer and pushed the Yellow Jackets to the Tony Bennett Bowl.
* Holiday: Oregon is the latest Pacific 10 Conference school to complain about getting a raw BCS deal.
* Music City: Minnesota has been to Nashville so often -- three trips in the last four years -- the players know the words to most of Dolly Parton's songs.
* Sun: UCLA gave up only 118 points in its two losses, is really closer to challenging USC than some people think, and probably deserves a little bit better than a post-Christmas trip to El Paso.
* Independence: Never in a million yards would South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier think this is a good bowl destination for a Southeastern Conference school.
* Peach: Miami thought it was Gator Bowl-bound until Florida State won the ACC.
Winner: Louisiana State.
* Meineke: North Carolina State is a basketball school.
Winner: South Florida.
* Liberty: Fresno State came within minutes of upending top-ranked USC and rebounded with two more losses.
* Houston: Had Texas Christian finished 10-1 \o7next\f7 season, it would have qualified for a BCS bowl under new rules and people would come to respect this as the top-drawer program it is.
Winner: Iowa State.
* Cotton Bowl: Alabama was unbeaten and considered a national-title contender until key injuries, biased officials and sports talk radio in Birmingham wrecked a perfectly fine season.
Winner: Texas Tech.
* Outback: Some pundits had Iowa playing in the Rose Bowl this year for the national title.
* Gator: Virginia Tech had only to beat four-loss Florida State to earn an Orange Bowl date against Penn State.
* Capital One: How is it two-loss Notre Dame gets to play two-loss Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl while two-loss Auburn, which plays in the powerful SEC, in which no-way-in-Helena could USC ever win 34 straight games, gets dropped to the Capital/Orlando/DisneyWorld bowl?
And the BCS picks:
* Fiesta: Notre Dame vs. Ohio State.
Winner: Anyone who opens a bratwurst stand on Mill Avenue.
* Sugar: West Virginia vs. Georgia.
Winner: The Louisiana Superdome, if it can be repaired in time for next season's Sugar Bowl.
* Orange: Penn State vs. Florida State.
* Rose: USC vs. Texas.
Winner: Blue state defeats Lone Star.