We are back today with our third collection of bowl picks.
Aaron Murray leads Georgia against Taylor Martinez and Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl
Last week, we made our picks on the second group of bowl picks. Three more games are pending from that batch today.
Through Wednesday’s game, I am now 4-2 straight-up and 2-4 against-the-spread on that second batch. I am also 6-2 straight-up and 3-5 ATS so far on the bowls.
For the year, I am now 248-91 SU and 165-170-4 ATS.
In Big Ten games, so far this year I am 77-20 straight-up and 48-41 ATS.
Today, we will focus our attention on the next 18 bowl games that will take us up through the middle of next week (including the biggies on Jan. 1-2). I will be back next Thursday with the fourth and final set of picks.
Here are my picks for the next 18 bowl games:
* Independence Bowl (At Shreveport, La.): Louisiana-Monroe (8-4, -7 1/2) vs. Ohio (8-4), Friday, 2 p.m. (ESPN) – The Independence refused to wait around on Louisiana Tech, so that 9-3 team went without a bowl trip this year. Instead, ULM will make its first-ever bowl appearance. This is becoming old hat for OU, making its fourth straight bowl appearance. The Bobcats got their first-ever bowl win over Utah State last year in the Potato Bowl (24-23). OU was 7-0 before a 1-4 finish brought on by losing 10 starters to injuries. ULM was an instant sensation with a Week 1 win over Arkansas (34-31 in OT) and an overtime loss at Auburn (31-28). Good QB match-up with OU’s Tyler Tettleton and ULM’s Kolton Browning. Louisiana-Monroe 34-29
* Russell Athletic Bowl (At Orlando, Fla.): Virginia Tech (6-6, -2 1/2) vs. Rutgers (9-3), Friday, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN) – These old Big East rivals will meet for the first time since 2003. Tech won the last 11 meetings and holds an 11-3 all-time edge over Rutgers. After a 4-6 start, Tech needed wins at Boston College (30-23) and over Virginia (17-14) to qualify for a bowl. Rutgers earned a share of the Big East title, but lost the league’s BCS bid with losses at Pittsburgh (17-6) and at home to Louisville (20-17) in the last two weeks. (Tech lost 35-17 at Pitt, by the way.) Both quarterbacks (Tech’s Logan Thomas and Rutgers’ Gary Nova) have been up and down this year. Tech is in a bowl game for a 20th consecutive year under Frank Beamer (polite golf clap). Rutgers 27-20
* Meineke Car Care Bowl (At Houston): Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5, -12 1/2), Friday, 9 p.m. (ESPN) – Minnesota coach Jerry Kill should beware: It was a 2006 Insight Bowl loss to Texas Tech (44-41 in OT after the Gophers blew a big lead) that cost Glen Mason his job. Minnesota hasn’t beaten a FBS team with a winning record. Tech’s best wins were over then-unbeaten West Virginia (49-14) and at TCU (56-53). Minnesota has started three different quarterbacks this year. Freshman Philip Nelson and senior MarQueis Gray could split time there in the bowl. Can the Gophers score with the Red Raiders? Tech will be coached by Chris Thomsen after Tommy Tuberville’s dine-and-dash move to Cincinnati. (Kliff Kingsbury takes over at TT after the bowl.) Texas Tech 33-17
* Armed Forces Bowl (At Fort Worth, Texas): Rice (6-6) vs. Air Force (6-6, -2), Saturday, 11:45 a.m. (ESPN) – Air Force is bowling for the sixth straight year, while this is Rice’s third bowl game in 51 years. Rice won five of its last six games, while AFA was 1-3 down the stretch. Rice 32-25
* Pinstripe Bowl (At New York): Syracuse (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5, -3 1/2), Saturday, 3:15 p.m. (ESPN) – More old Big East rivals will meet, this time in the House that A-Rod and Jeter Built in the Bronx. Syracuse got a share of its first Big East title since 2004. WVU was a major disappointment in its first season in the Big 12. The Mountaineers averaged a spiffy 41.6 points per game and opened 5-0 before the wheels fell off with five straight losses. Wins at Iowa State (31-24) and at home over sadsack Kansas (59-10) give WVU some momentum and QB Geno Smith, once a Heisman front runner, had a huge game against the Jayhawks (23 of 24 passing). He and SU’s Ryan Nassib should put on an aerial display if the weather cooperates. (Uh, the forecast is for 35 degrees and light snow … about that outdoor Super Bowl in the Big Apple.) WVU has killed me all year. Why change now? West Virginia 43-34
* Fight Hunger Bowl (At San Francisco): Arizona State (7-5, -14 1/2) vs. Navy (8-4), 4 p.m. (ESPN2) – This will be the first-ever meeting between ASU and Navy. Both teams dispatched their rivals in their season finales as ASU upset Arizona 41-34 and Navy got by Army 17-13. Not sure why, but I think Navy makes a game of it. Arizona State 28-23
* Alamo Bowl (At San Antonio): Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3, -2), Saturday, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN) – Texas was a preseason top-15 team and became a major disappointment. Not much was predicted for Oregon State, but the Beavers were a nice surprise. Oregon State matched two other teams in the biggest turnaround, going from 3-9 to 9-3. It is kind of put-up or shut-up time for Texas. Neither team finished the regular season strongly. Texas, playing 80 miles south of its Austiin campus, should have a good following and could get it done. Texas 31-24
* Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (At Tempe, Ariz.): Michigan State (6-6) vs. TCU (7-5, -2 1/2), Saturday, 10:15 p.m. (ESPN) – Michigan State, 13th in the preseason, needed a Week 12 win at Minnesota (26-10) just to reach a bowl. TCU was great away from home with road wins at SMU (24-16), Baylor (49-21), West Virginia (39-38 in OT) and at Texas (20-13). Two great defenses will go toe-to-toe in Tempe. TCU’s run defense will be tested by MSU RB Le’Veon Bell. MSU QB Andrew Maxwell could really use a breakthrough game here headed into 2013. Michigan State 24-21
* Music City Bowl (At Nashville, Tenn.): Vanderbilt (8-4, -7 1/2) vs. N.C. State (7-5), Dec. 31, Noon (ESPN) – Vanderbilt will take the three-mile trip down Broadway to the Tennessee Titans’ LP Field for this bowl game. Vandy will be in a bowl for the second year in a row for the first time in school history. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible will coach N.C. State in the bowl after the firing of Tom O’Brien. Vandy closed with six straight wins, while the Wolfpack lost three of their last five games. Vanderbilt 31-20
* Sun Bowl (At El Paso, Texas): Georgia Tech (6-7) vs. Southern Cal (7-5, -9 1/2), Dec. 31, 2 p.m. (CBS) – USC QB Matt Barkley is doubtful due to a shoulder injury. Big story out of El Paso Wednesday night as USC coach Lane Kiffin brought his team over an hour late to the bowl banquet. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson grabbed his team and left. My guess is USC wins, but this just made an otherwise mundane game somewhat interesting. USC, the preseason AP No. 1, was probably the nation’s biggest disappointment. Still, the Trojans are in their first bowl since 2009 after two years of NCAA sanctions. Georgia Tech is back in El Paso after losing to Utah there last year. Does anybody else love that CBS sticks with this game every year on New Years’ Eve? USC 29-23
* Liberty Bowl (At Memphis, Tenn.): Iowa State (6-6, -1) vs. Tulsa (10-3), Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) – Tulsa won the Conference USA championship. Iowa State opened 4-1 before a 2-5 finish. Iowa State’s defense was tested in the Big 12 and could give Tulsa some fits here. But I think Tulsa has a lot going for it as well, including emerging QB Cody Green. Tulsa 23-20
* Chick-fil-A Bowl (At Atlanta): LSU (10-2, -4 1/2) vs. Clemson (10-2), Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN) – This will be a nice Battle of the Tigers on New Years’ Eve at the Georgia Dome. LSU is bowling for the 13th year in a row, while it is eight consecutive years for Clemson. Clemson’s seven-game winning streak was snapped with a loss to rival South Carolina (27-17). LSU closed with five wins in its last six games with the loss to Alabama (21-17). Clemson needs QB Tajh Boyd to do the job against LSU’s stingy defense. Over the last 20 years, this game has matched ACC and SEC teams and each conference has 10 wins. LSU 31-28 in a barnburner
* Heart of Dallas Bowl (At Dallas): Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5, -16 1/2), Jan. 1, Noon (ESPNU) – Purdue won its last three games to qualify for a bowl, but it wasn’t enough to save Danny Hope’s job. Patrick Higgins will coach the Boilers in the bowl game before Darrell Hazell takes over. QB Robert Marve finished the year on a nice roll for Purdue, but this is a clear step up in class. Oklahoma State was in the Big 12 race until losses at Oklahoma (51-48 in OT) and Baylor (41-34). Injuries have left the Cowboys to play with their third-string QB, Clint Chelf. Oklahoma State 41-27
* Gator Bowl (At Jacksonville, Fla.): Mississippi State (8-4, -1 1/2) vs. Northwestern (9-3), Jan. 1, Noon (ESPN2) – Northwestern hasn’t won a bowl game in 64 years since beating Cal in the 1948 Rose Bowl. NU has lost nine straight bowl games. Nine wins for NU is somewhat of a breakthrough and the Wildcats finished strong with wins in three of their last four games. (The loss was in overtime to Michigan.) QB Kain Colter can break out at any moment. Mississippi State opened 7-0 before reality struck with losses to Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss down the stretch. The Bulldogs lost those four games by an average of over 23 points a game. This should be a really fun game. Northwestern finally gets it done 35-31
* Capital One Bowl (At Orlando, Fla.): Georgia (11-2, -10) vs. Nebraska (10-3), Jan. 1, 1 p.m. (ABC) – Nebraska completely fell apart with its 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The Huskers desperately need some redemption in the bowl game or it could be a long off-season in Lincoln. But Georgia’s rugged defense could be tough for Nebraska to run on, even without NT Jonathan Jenkins (academically ineligible). Georgia would have been playing in the national title game except for its SEC title game loss to Alabama (32-28) and it will be interesting to see how motivated the Bulldogs will be. Ditto for Nebraska, of course. Over the last 10 years, Georgia is 3-1 against Big Ten schools in bowls. The loss was last year at the Outback, where Michigan State won 33-30. Losses the last two years in bowls have dropped NU’s bowl record to 24-24. Georgia 31-24
* Outback Bowl (At Tampa, Fla.): South Carolina (10-2, -6) vs. Michigan (8-4), Jan. 1, 1 p.m. (ESPN) -- Three of Michigan’s four losses came to the top three teams in the AP poll – Notre Dame (13-6), Alabama (41-14) and Ohio State (26-21). South Carolina’s two losses were back-to-back to LSU (23-21) and Florida (44-11) at midseason. Michigan’s high powered offense, led by QBs Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson, will test South Carolina’s strong defense, led by All-American DE Jadeveon Clowney. This is going to be a fun back-and-forth game. South Carolina gets the last laugh. South Carolina 34-31
* Rose Bowl (At Pasadena, Calif.): Stanford (11-2, -6 1/2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5), Jan. 1, 5 p.m. (ESPN) – Something has to give as Wisconsin brings its devastating run game to the Rose Bowl to face Stanford, third nationally in rush defense (87.7 ypg). Of course, the Badgers will be without coach Bret Bielema, now the head coach at Arkansas. AD Barry Alvarez – the guy who won three Rose Bowls between 1994-2000 – will be UW’s interim coach for this game before Gary Andersen takes over. Did you know that Wisconsin and Oregon are the only two schools to reach a BCS bowl for the third year in a row? Of course, Wisconsin lost the last to Rose Bowls in heartbreaking fashion to TCU (21-19) and Oregon (45-38). Stanford won its last seven games after its tough loss at Notre Dame (20-13). Wisconsin took a 17-9 win over Stanford in the 2000 Rose Bowl. Stanford hasn’t won the Grandaddy of ‘Em All since a 1971 win over Michigan (13-12). The Cardinal will be in their fourth BCS bowl after losing the Fiesta to Oklahoma State last year (41-38 in OT). Call me crazy, but if the Badgers run the ball like they did against Nebraska … Wisconsin 38-33
* Orange Bowl (At Miami): Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Florida State (11-2, -13 1/2), Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN) – Northern Illinois won the MAC and finished 15th in the final BCS standings – and ahead of two AQ conference champions – so they earned their spot in a BCS bowl. Coach Dave Doeren has already bolted for N.C. State, so Rod Carey will make his head coaching debut for the Huskies. NIU played one ranked team (Kent in the MAC title game) and lost to Iowa, which was 2-6 in the Big Ten. FSU got its first ACC title and BCS bid since 2005. If the Seminoles are on (like they were early in the year), it could get ugly. NIU is the first MAC team to ever reach a BCS game, while ACC teams are a combined 2-12 in BCS appearances. Florida State 31-20
* Sugar Bowl (At New Orleans): Florida (11-1, -13 1/2) vs. Louisville (10-2), Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN) – Louisville is coached by former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who was on the sideline for the Gators’ national title runs in 2006 and 2008. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater toughed out the de facto Big East title game win over Rutgers and should be ready to roll against Florida. Florida’s lone loss was a tough 17-9 defeat at the hands of Georgia in Jacksonville. This is Louisville’s first BCS bid since 2007. Florida QB Jeff Driskel and the Gators will be looking for a big showing to send them into 2013 on a high note. Florida will be going for its fourth straight bowl win and fourth 12-win season in seven years. Florida 27-17
We will be back next Thursday with the final batch of bowl picks, including the Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl and the BCS National Championship Game.