Auburn will take part in the best bowl game of the season. (Hyosub Shin / MCT )
You can try this cold turkey, but picking bowl-game winners is my job. While you're at work solving world problems, I'm doing full time what you do in your spare time. Some years are better than others. The general rule is to look for motivation in each bowl matchup. The best example was UCLA in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl against Wyoming. One team wanted to be there and the other went by the nickname "Bruins."
BOWL TIMELINE: Matchups, schedule and picks
My other theory is to stay away from schools led by "interim" or distracted coaches. This year, though, some choices were extremely tough. Is Fresno State less motivated to play in Las Vegas because the Bulldogs wanted to play in the Fiesta Bowl? Yes, but that factor is offset by USC being the opponent. Fresno State will be highly motivated to defeat the Trojans, an interim-coached team that is emotional mystery meat in the aftermath of the Ed Orgeron saga. The most important adage in bowl picking, however, is this: when in doubt, just guess.
The annual worst-to-best bowl rankings:
35. Texas Bowl, Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4), Dec. 27, 3 p.m. PST, ESPN: This is Syracuse's first Texas-based bowl trip since the 1960 Cotton. Minnesota will find cotton gym socks it left in the locker room at last year's Texas Bowl.
34. Heart of Dallas, Las Vegas Nevada (7-5) vs. North Texas (8-4), Jan.1, 9 a.m., ESPNU: UNLV recovered from opening losses to Minnesota and Arizona by a total score of 109-36. North Texas' season was approved by the USDA even though the Mean Green lost to Texas San Antonio.
Winner: North Texas
33. Beef 'O' Brady's, Ohio (7-5) vs. East Carolina (9-3), Dec. 23, 11 a.m., ESPN: Tom '0' Brady will love this game that features two of the nation's top quarterbacks in East Carolina's Shane Carden and Ohio's Tyler Tettleton.
Winner: East Carolina
32. New Orleans, Tulane (7-5) vs. Louisiana Lafayette (8-4), Dec. 21, 6 p.m., ESPN: Bobby Boucher serves as honorary "Waterboy" and Ed Orgeron provides Cajun commentary in this all-Louisiana bowl bottle of Red Rooster hot sauce.
31. Famous Idaho Potato, Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5), Dec. 21, 2:30 p.m., ESPN: The most impressive terrain-coverage meeting in a wide-open space since the transcontinental train track hookup at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869.
Winner: San Diego State
30. Military, Maryland (7-5) vs. Marshall (9-4), Dec. 27, 11:30 a.m., ESPN: After careful analysis we're going with the team that lost to Florida State, 63-0, over the team that allowed 51 points to Middle Tennessee.
29. Armed Forces, Middle Tennessee (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4), Dec. 30, 8:45 a.m., ESPN: This is an even game between the Mid-Shipmen and the Mid-Tennessee men. Navy, in the end, has more triple-options on offense.
28. Little Caesars, Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3), Dec. 26, 3 p.m., ESPN: Bowling Green's reward for beating Northern Illinois in Detroit was a bowl game in Detroit? That's like giving your kid broccoli as a reward for eating spinach.
Winner: Bowling Green
27. GoDaddy, Ball State (10-2) vs. Arkansas State (7-5), Jan. 5, 6 p.m., ESPN: This bowl, played the night before Florida State-Auburn, should make everyone appreciate just how good the Bowl Championship Series title game might be.
Winner: Ball State
26. Liberty, Rice (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (6-6), Dec. 31, 1 p.m., ESPN: Common denominator: Both teams lost at Texas A&M this year and, afterward, asked Johnny Manziel to sign their sweatbands.
Winner: Mississippi State
25. New Mexico, Colorado State (7-6) vs. Washington State (6-6), Dec. 21, 11 a.m., ESPN: Colorado State played Alabama tough in Tuscaloosa and Washington State nearly defeated Auburn. Never forget, though, the Southeastern Conference is king.
Winner: Washington State
24. Pinstripe, Rutgers (6-6) vs. Notre Dame (8-4), Dec. 28, 9 a.m., ESPN: Rockne's "Win one for the Gipper" speech at Yankee Stadium in 1928 helped inspire a win over Army. FWIW: The following week, Notre Dame lost at home to Carnegie Tech.
Winner: Notre Dame
23. Hawaii, Oregon State (6-6) vs. Boise State (8-4), Dec. 24, 5 p.m., ESPN: People still don't get it: Chris Petersen loves Boise and has no intention of leaving any time soon. What's that, he just bailed out for Washington?
Winner: Oregon State
22. Belk, North Carolina (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3), Dec. 28, 12:30 p.m., ESPN: Cincinnati played Duke in last year's Belk and is hoping to play NC State next year to complete its ACC "research triangle" bowl fulfillment.
Winner: North Carolina
21. Music City, Georgia Tech (7-5) vs. Mississippi (7-5), Dec. 30, 12:15 p.m., ESPN: First meeting since Ole Miss made Georgia Tech look like the pits in the 1971 Peach Bowl. But the rosters have turned over several times since then.
Winner: Georgia Tech