Viewers Guide, Picks: Bowls Part 3

Through the Iowa State-Rutgers game on Friday, I was 7-3 straight-up and 5-5 against-the-spread in the second set of bowls. There were two more games pending Friday to add to these totals.

Oregon's LaMichael James, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Montee Ball

I am now 11-5 straight-up and 8-8 against-the-spread for the bowls.

So, for the year I am now 266-77 straight-up and 178-149-4 against-the-spread.

This has been an amazing bowl season already and we’re only about halfway done. Now we get to the real good stuff with five games on Saturday and six on Monday.

I will supply picks for the next 13 bowl games (through Wednesday) here today, saving the last few (including the national title game) for later in the week.

OK, here we go with the third group of bowl game picks through Wednesday.

* Meineke Car Care Bowl (At Houston): Texas A&M (6-6, -10) vs. Northwestern (6-6), Saturday, Noon (ESPN) – This has high scoring shootout written all over it as the starting quarterbacks, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill and Northwestern's Dan Persa, are each capable and I’m not sure the respective defenses are. A&M dropped four of their last five and fired coach Mike Sherman. NU had to win four of its last five (including an upset win at Nebraska) just to get to 6-6 and qualify for a bowl. The Wildcats have not won a bowl since the 1949 Rose Bowl, although they gave Texas Tech a run last year at the TicketCity Bowl. Should be a good one. Texas A&M 37-34

* Sun Bowl (At El Paso, Texas): Georgia Tech (8-4, -2 1/2) vs. Utah (7-5), Saturday, 2 p.m. (CBS) – Utah usually does well in bowl games, while Tech does not. The Yellow Jackets also were a dismal 1-5 down the stretch. But they do have that running game. Georgia Tech 26-20

* Liberty Bowl (At Memphis, Tenn.): Vanderbilt (6-6, -1 1/2) vs. Cincinnati (9-3), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) – UC figures to have QB Zach Collaros back from injury for this game and that should make a big difference for the Bearcats. Vandy is playing in its home state, though. Vandy was 2-10 last year and improved to 6-6 this year. Cincinnati 31-23

* Fight Hunger Bowl (At San Francisco): UCLA (6-7) vs. Illinois (6-6, -3), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) – Two schools that fired their coaches square off at the home of the San Francisco Giants. The best player on the field will be Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus. Illinois opened 6-0 and then lost its last six --- the first time that’s ever happened in I-A football. UCLA lost three of its last four. Illinois 25-17

* Chick-fil-A Bowl (At Atlanta): Virginia (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5, -3), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN) – Auburn won the national title last year, but stumbled to 7-5 this year. Virginia was an ACC contender until a 38-0 home loss to Virginia Tech in the season finale. This is Virginia’s first bowl bid in four years, so they should be enthusiastic. I don’t know why but I’ll take the Cavs. Virginia 33-27 in a good one.

* TicketCity Bowl (At Dallas): Penn State (9-3) vs. Houston (12-1, -7), Monday, Noon (ESPNU) – Penn State will be without QB Matt McGloin after he was injured in a scuffle at the team’s practice facility. That really hurts because former starter Rob Bolden hasn’t shown he can move the team. And the Lions will need points going against QB Case Keenum and a Houston offense that averages 50 points a game. My guess is that Penn State’s stingy defense holds Houston to 27 points, but the Lions won’t even be able to match that point total – unless RB Silas Redd has a real big day. Houston also had BCS/Sugar Bowl dreams ripped away with its loss to Southern Miss, but Penn State is a big name – regardless of the circumstances. Houston 27-17

* Capital One Bowl (At Orlando, Fla.): Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2, -2 1/2), Monday, 1 p.m. (ESPN) – A nifty match-up at the Cap One sends the Huskers against the Gamecocks. Nebraska wants a third straight 10-win season, while USC wants to snap a three-game bowl losing streak. The key is whether Nebraska can run the ball with QB Taylor Martinez and RB Rex Burkhead against a stout USC defense. The Huskers are dealing with myriad injury issues after a tough first year in the Big Ten. South Carolina has never won 11 games in a season … until the Gamecocks win this one. South Carolina 27-22 in a good one

* Outback Bowl (At Tampa, Fla.): Georgia (10-3, -3 1/2) vs. Michigan State (10-3), Monday, 1 p.m. (ABC) – This can be a signature moment for MSU and coach Mark Dantonio after past foibles – a 2008 Cap One Bowl loss to Georgia, last year’s embarrassing Cap One bowl loss to Alabama and the stunning 42-39 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Georgia won 10 straight to capture the SEC East, but was thrashed by No. 1 LSU 42-10 in the SEC title game. MSU has been riffed out of BCS bids two years in a row, but I think Dantonio gets them back up for this one. It ought to be one heck of a game. If QB Kirk Cousins and WR B.J. Cunningham can continue their string of hot play in their final game in the Green and White, I think MSU (finally) gets it done. Michigan State 31-27

* Gator Bowl (At Jacksonville, Fla.): Florida (6-6, -2) vs. Ohio State (6-6), Monday, 1 p.m. (ESPN2) – Two offensively challenged teams square off in Jacksonville, which is a second home for Florida. The Gators play their annual rivalry game against Georgia in EverBank Stadium and are also 6-2 all-time in the Gator Bowl. OSU gets LB Andrew Sweat, LB Ryan Shazier and DB Christian Bryant back from injuries. They will be key in containing dynamic Florida RBs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. This could come down to OSU QB Braxton Miller and his freelance ability. He had 335 yards total offense and three TDs in OSU’s season-ending loss at Michigan (40-34). OSU lost its last three games and hasn’t lost four in a row since 1943. Florida opened 4-0 for first-year coach Will Muschamp but went 2-6 after that. Ohio State 23-18 in a game that could well be bowling shoe ugly

Bowl Championship Series Games

* Rose Bowl (At Pasadena, Calif.): Oregon (11-2, -5 1/2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2), Monday, 5 p.m. (ESPN) – Somebody gets a breakthrough moment as the last two Rose Bowl-losing teams square off in Pasadena. This figures to be a high scoring game as the offenses take turns trying to outdo one another. Oregon has QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James, while Wisconsin counters with QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball. This will be a smash-mouth must-see game. Oregon coach Chip Kelly is the only coach in a BCS bowl for the third year in a row, although he is 0-2. Bret Bielema led UW to a second straight Big Ten title. Sit back and enjoy all the pretty greens, yellows and reds because ESPN’s HD treatment of this American classic will probably blow your mind. And the game should be a good one, too. Wisconsin 41-38

* Fiesta Bowl (At Glendale, Ariz.): Stanford (11-1) vs. Oklahoma State (11-1, -3 1/2), Monday, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN) – Don’t change the channel after the Rose Bowl because No. 3 Oklahoma State (the Big 12 champion) and No. 4 Stanford square off in the desert. Great QB battle with Ok-State’s Brandon Weeden and Stanford’s Andrew Luck. To me, this is a conference pick. I just thought the Big 12 was better than the Pac-12 this year and I think that should help the Cowboys, who are in their first-ever BCS game. Stanford has the better defense, though --- at least statistically. Get some caffeine in you because you’re gonna be up late and hating life when you go back to work Tuesday when this day is complete. Oklahoma State 42-35

* Sugar Bowl (At New Orleans): Michigan (10-2, -2 1/2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2), Tuesday, 8 p.m. (ESPN) – The Sugar Bowl, by all rights, should be Kansas State against Boise State. Heck, Baylor would have been a better choice, too. But ESPN and the Sugar Bowl committee cooked the books here to get two better TV draws in Michigan (with dynamic QB Denard Robinson) and Virginia Tech (led by run/pass QB Logan Thomas). Virginia Tech has the better defense, but UM’s defense improved throughout the year. Tech won seven in a row before it was routed by Clemson 38-10 in the ACC title game. Both of Tech’s losses were at the hands of Clemson. Michigan ended on a high note with three straight wins, including its first victory over rival Ohio State since 2003. Something tells me Robinson digs into his bag of tricks and pulls this one out at the end. Michigan 35-30

* Orange Bowl (At Miami): West Virginia (9-3) vs. Clemson (10-3, -3), Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ESPN) – This ought to be another good one pitting the Big East champion Mountaineers against the ACC champion Tigers. Clemson was a national title contender until it lost three of its last four games in the regular season. But they redeemed themselves by thrashing Va. Tech in the ACC title game. WVU was in a three-way tie for the Big East title and got the nod as the highest ranked team in the BCS standings. First-year coach Dana Holgorsen can put his stamp on the WVU program with a BCS win in his first year on the job and as WVU endeavors to move to the Big 12 next year. But I like Clemson’s pedigree with with wins over Auburn, Florida State, North Carolina and two over Va. Tech a little better. Clemson 30-23

We will be back Thursday or Friday with the last batch.

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