Enough, already, with all of the “Southern Mississippi is an amazing football team” talk. The Golden Eagles are a good football team. Nothing more. They beat a ton of horrible football teams this year in a horrible conference (Conference USA) and did a nice job of upsetting a vastly overrated Houston team in the league championship. OK, fine. Congratulations. But let's not make this into an impossible task for the Wolf Pack in the Christmas Eve Hawaii Bowl. If Southern Miss is so amazing, why are they less than a touchdown favorite? That's because Las Vegas knows that the difference between Southern Miss and Nevada is, well, almost nothing. Two good offenses, two mediocre defenses, two teams that beat a ton of bad teams. The Pack can win this bowl game. Southern Miss wanted to go to the Liberty Bowl and is disappointed to be going to Hawaii. The Golden Eagles' underclassmen are feeling betrayed by their head coach, Larry Fedora, who has already signed on to coach North Carolina next year. The Golden Eagles will be distracted by Hawaii's beaches and bikinis. The Pack has been there, done that. Pick the Pack.…All things considered, the Pack ended up sitting pretty in this bowl season. Had they won the Western Athletic Conference, they'd likely be in the Poinsettia Bowl against TCU. And TCU, well, now that would have been a challenge. The other WAC bowl team, Utah State, has to go to Boise (yikes!) to play Ohio (snore!). There are LPGA, WNBA and C-SPAN matchups more interesting than that. The Pack gets to go to Hawaii and beat a very beatable Top 25 team (the Golden Eagles are No. 22) and end the year on a positive note.…Are the Los Angeles Clippers really an NBA title contender now that they have Chris Paul? Chris Paul is a great point guard, but what did he ever win with the New Orleans Hornets? Unless Paul and Blake Griffin can hook up on 25 or so alley-oop dunks each game, the Clippers don't seem to be anything more than another second-round-and-out, 50-win team. Losing Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman in the Paul trade is a big loss.…It might become a little difficult for the Wolf Pack football team to recruit in the Fresno area from here on out. Fresno State hired former Pack defensive coordinator (2005-06) Tim DeRuyer to replace Pat Hill as head coach, and the first thing DeRuyter promised was to recruit from Bakersfield to Sacramento and then he declared the Bulldogs to be “the Valley's team.” The Pack has done very well stealing players (Colin Kaepernick, for example) from under Hill's nose the past decade. That could change from here on out. One thing is certain. Under DeRuyter, who coached the Denver Broncos' Von Miller at Texas Aandamp;M, the Bulldogs will finally play a little defense. DeRuyter's Wolf Pack defenses were the reason the Pack started its current seven-year bowl run in 2005 and 2006.…Excited about the bowl season yet? Well, you better get excited soon. It all starts Saturday with three games: Temple-Wyoming, Ohio-Utah State and San Diego State against Louisiana-Lafayette. You couldn't create three more boring, meaningless games if you tried to do it on purpose. There hasn't ever been a No. 1 versus No. 16 matchup in the history of the men's college basketball tournament as mundane as those three games. The only thing that saves the bowl season from being a total disaster is that there is absolutely nothing else on television worth watching in late December. It is amazing that these teams get gigantic trophies and rings for winning these games.…A year ago the Wolf Pack football and men's basketball teams each won 13 games. That's the first time since the 1971-72 school year that the football team (5-5 in 1971) won as many or more games than the hoops team (2-24 in 1971-72). This year the basketball team and football teams have each won seven games. Will the basketball team break the tie? Is it even allowed for the basketball team to win more games than the football team? Just kidding. We think. The basketball team will break the tie Saturday night against UC Riverside and clinch the Football-Basketball Wolf Pack Championship by beating Portland on Dec. 22. Hey, don't laugh. It's as much of a championship as beating Southern Miss in the Hawaii Bowl.— Joe Santoro writes a weekly sports column for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.
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