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Viewers Guide, Picks: Bowls Part 4

OK, we are down to four bowl games left, including the biggie on Monday night.

It is a national title game rematch as Alabama (led by RB Trent Richardson) meets LSU (and DB Eric Reid). LSU won the first meeting 9-6 in overtime on Nov. 5 at Alabama.

I was 9-6 straight-up and 7-8 against the spread in the third batch of bowl games. For the entire bowl schedule, I am 20-11 straight-up and 15-16 ATS.

So, for the year I am now 276-84 straight-up and 186-158-4 against-the-spread.

OK, here we go with the fourth and final group of bowl game picks. (You better enjoy these games because this is all you get until Aug. 30.)

* Cotton Bowl (at Arlington, Texas): Kansas State (10-2) vs. Arkansas (10-2, -9), Friday, 8 p.m. (FOX) -- This is not officially a Bowl Championship Series game, but it definitely has that kind of look and feel. It’s in prime time on network TV at the best football stadium in the country (the Jerry Jones Dome). And this year it’s a top-10 match-up as BCS left outs No. 6 Arkansas and No. 8 Kansas State match up. Arkansas won seven straight to get in position for a BCS national title game berth before a 41-17 loss at LSU ended those hopes. Kansas State bounced back from midseason losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to also finish 10-2. Arkansas is 3-7-1 all-time in the Cotton Bowl, while K-State has lost its last three bowl games. K-State leads the all-time series with Arkansas 3-1, although the teams have not played since 1967. It looks to me that QB Tyler Wilson (throwing for 285 yards a game for the Hogs) is the difference as K-State ranks 104th vs. the pass. Run/pass QB Collin Klein (26 rushing TDs, 12 passing TDs) leads K-State. Should still be a good one. Arkansas 38-33

* BBVA Compass Bowl (at Birmingham, Ala.): Southern Methodist (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6, -3 1/2), Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN) -- This is the warm-up before NFL playoff football takes over later in the day. The Panthers will play in the BBVA Compass Bowl for the second straight year. Pitt dropped last year’s game to Kentucky 27-10. The Panthers qualified for a bowl game by winning 33-20 over Syracuse in their last game. SMU started out 5-1, but limped to the finish by losing four of their last six games. Pitt hopes to get some of its injured players – namely RB Zach Brown – back. Pitt will be led by interim coach Keith Patterson, who replaced Arizona State-bound Todd Graham. His next gig will be as Gus Malzahn’s defensive coordinator at Arkansas State as Paul Chryst takes over at Pitt. I don’t know why but I’ll take Pittsburgh 29-22

* Bowl (at Mobile, Ala.): Northern Illinois (10-3) vs. Arkansas State (10-2, -1 ½), Sunday, 8 p.m. (ESPN) -- This is a nice match-up of 10-win teams. Northern Illinois won its last eight games, including a come-from-behind win over Ohio U. in the MAC title game (23-20). QB Chandler Harnish (over 4,300 yards total offense) leads the Huskies. Northern Illinois will be playing in a bowl game for the fourth consecutive year and sixth time in the past eight years. The Huskies have won 10 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. Arkansas State, the first Sun Belt team to ever post a 10-win season, enters the game under the direction of interim head coach David Gunn. Gunn is coaching in place of outgoing coach Hugh Freeze, who left to become the head coach at Ole Miss. Malzahn takes over after the bowl game. Northern Illinois 42-38

* BCS National Championship Game (at New Orleans): LSU (13-0) vs. Alabama (11-1, pick’em), Monday, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN) -- Everybody saw the first match-up on Nov. 5 as LSU squeaked by Alabama 9-6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa. The SEC is guaranteed a sixth straight national title, breaking the Big Ten’s record of five straight in the Depression era. This marks the first time in the BCS era that two teams from the same league will play for the title. Alabama was No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (8.8 ppg), while LSU was second (10.5 ppg) so points should again be at a premium. (LSU did average 38.5 points per game offensively, while Alabama averaged 36.0 points per game.)

Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU 45-25-5, but the Tigers have won the last two as well as seven of the last nine. The last five games have been decided by nine points or less. This will be a virtual home game for LSU with Baton Rouge just 81 miles away. LSU won national titles at the Superdome in January 2004 (over Oklahoma) and January 2008 (over Ohio State). Moreover, LSU is 4-0 in BCS games at the Superdome. Alabama is 1-2 in BCS games with the lone win coming over Texas at the Rose Bowl in January 2010. The winner is guaranteed the coaches poll title, but AP voters could still opt for LSU or even Oklahoma State if LSU loses.

There are stars on both sides with Alabama RB Trent Richardson and LSU CB-kick returner Tyrann Mathieu. Jordan Jefferson, who split time with Jarrett Lee at quarterback this year, figures to start for LSU. In the history of the BCS, the No. 1 team is 7-6 in the championship game. The No. 1-ranked team has faced the No. 2 team 46 times since the inception of the AP Poll in 1936. The No. 1 team is 27-17-2 against the No. 2 team.

I liked Alabama the first time around. They did outgain LSU in the first match-up (295-242 in total offense), but the missed field goals were too much to overcome. I am going with the Crimson Tide once again, possibly on a last-second field goal that goes between the uprights this time.

My prediction: Alabama 20, LSU 17

As I said, enjoy these last four games – 12 more hours of football – because this is all we have for a long time! Thanks for following my picks and viewers guide this year.

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