Alabama running back Mark Ingram, scoring on a 40-yard run against Tennessee… (Dave Martin / Associated…)
The best luck I've had with bowl picks, other than randomly drawing out of Bear Bryant's hat, is selecting winners based on the "want to be there" factor.
Roses and poinsettias are both flowers, true, but which stem would you pick?
Be attuned to programs that have an overinflated sense of entitlement and self. Consider the emotional states of 19-year-old sophomores who didn't sign letters of intent intending to play Dec. 26 in Detroit, no matter how you slice it (the title pizza sponsor).
In 2004, UCLA thought it was going to play Notre Dame in the Insight Bowl -- (hey, not a bad matchup) until Texas knocked Cal out of the Rose Bowl, sending UCLA to Las Vegas to play Wyoming (not where the Bruins thought they should be).
Wyoming won, 24-21.
Last season presented a textbook case when Utah walloped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after the Crimson Tide was knocked out of the national title game by Florida.
The science behind this is, well, there is no science behind it. It doesn't work for all matchups, yet it's probably as effective as crunching third-down conversion ratios.
When all else fails, try rock-paper-scissors, or do what most of us "experts" do: guess.
New Mexico: Fresno State (8-4) vs. Wyoming (6-6) -- Pat Hill just received the mother of all pick-me-uppers: a contract extension. Winner: Fresno State
St. Petersburg: Central Florida (8-4) vs. Rutgers (8-4) -- The Big Ten was 1-6 in bowls last year and might invite Rutgers to become its 12th member. Winner: Central Florida.
New Orleans: Middle Tennessee (9-3) vs. Southern Miss (7-5) -- Sun Belt wins unless it blows a fan belt. The Blue Raiders are led by reindeer-fast quarterback Dwight Dasher. Winner: Middle Tennessee
Las Vegas: Brigham Young (10-2) vs. Oregon State (8-4) -- Call this game a "push." BYU is making its fifth straight appearance and has no players left to marry. Oregon State is disappointed not to be playing in the Rose Bowl. Winner: Oregon State
Poinsettia: Utah (9-3) vs. California (8-4) -- Cal hoped to dethrone USC and play in the Rose Bowl but ends up playing the team that beat the Trojans in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl. Winner: Utah
Hawaii: Southern Methodist (7-5) vs. Nevada (8-4) -- Nevada is the better team because it didn't lose to Washington State, but SMU Coach June Jones will not be denied his return moment in the island sun. Winner: SMU
Little Caesars Pizza: Marshall (6-6) vs. Ohio (9-4) -- Ohio team mom tells parents the postseason pizza party will be Dec. 29 at Shakey's. Winner: Ohio
Meineke Car Care: North Carolina (8-4) vs. Pittsburgh (9-3) -- Pittsburgh still shocked after Cincinnati loss. Trip to Charlotte for North Carolina is like going from Mayberry to Mount Pilot. Winner: North Carolina
Emerald: USC (8-4) vs. Boston College (8-4) -- USC failed to win the Pac-10 and a BCS bowl bid for the first time in eight years. Winner: Boston College
Music City: Kentucky (7-5) vs. Clemson (8-5) -- Clemson won the ACC Atlantic Division yet was shipped to the fifth ACC bowl. Talk about insulting. Winner: Kentucky
Independence: Georgia (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (6-6) -- Georgia: "There's another bowl game in Louisiana?" Winner: Texas A&M
EagleBank: UCLA (6-6) vs. Temple (9-3) -- Al Golden thinks UCLA interviewed the right coach but hired the wrong one. Winner: Temple
Champs Sports: Miami (9-3) vs. Wisconsin (9-3). -- Wisconsin players afraid to leave hotel rooms after watching ESPN film on history of Miami football. Winner: Miami
Humanitarian: Bowling Green (7-5) vs. Idaho (7-5) -- If Idaho wins, it can say it won a big game this year at Boise State even though it wasn't against the Broncos. Winner: Idaho
Holiday: Arizona (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-4) -- Nebraska came one clock tick from defeating Texas and winning a BCS trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Winner: Arizona
Armed Forces: Air Force (7-5) vs. Houston (10-3) -- The Pentagon has one team's back. Winner: Air Force
Sun: Stanford (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (7-5) -- Oklahoma had a miserable season by Sooners standards, while Stanford is bowling for the first time since 2001. Possible mitigating injury factor: Andrew Luck. Winner: Stanford
Texas: Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (9-4) -- Missouri got punked by Iowa State in the Big 12 bowl order even though the Tigers finished higher in the standings. Winner: Navy
Insight: Iowa State (6-6) vs. Minnesota (6-6) -- We could give you .500 reasons why neither team deserves to be here. Winner: Iowa State
Chick-fil-A: Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. Tennessee (7-5) -- Would have picked the Vols had the game been sponsored by pastry giant Hostess. Winner: Virginia Tech
Outback: Auburn (7-5) vs. Northwestern (8-4) -- Look, it's the SEC vs. the Big Ten. Winner: Auburn
Capital One: LSU (9-3) vs. Penn State (10-2) -- Look, it's the SEC vs. the Big Ten. Winner: LSU