Posted by: mdegeorge | December 28, 2010

Bowl Bonanza Picks: Part 3

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Credit card debt and cheesy ESPN commercials aside, the bowl season is one of the most intriguing sporting spectacles of the calendar year.

To celebrate, I’ll be offering game-by-game prognostications all week. I’ve stabilized after a rather poor start (no thanks to Toledo’s defense), and now offer the final installment of picks.

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Landry Jones  of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a touchdown against the Florida State Seminoles in the first quarter at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Rose Bowl Game

TCU (12-0, 8-0 C-USA) vs. Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten)

Pasadena, Calif. Jan. 1 5 p.m.

The Pick: TCU, 42-38

The Reasoning: This is one of the more mouth-watering nuggets on the schedule. So often, we see would-be BCS-busters coming up against lousy teams getting into the bowl by their skin of it’s teeth (see Connecticut), but this time, TCU gets a bona fide contender. Both teams average 43.3 points per game (tied for fourth best in the nation) and have top-12 rushing attacks. The Badgers are led by two-headed running back machine of James White (1,029, 14 TDs) and John Clay (936 yards, 13 TDs) with Scott Tolzien managing the game at qb. The Horned Frogs’ Ed Wesley (1,065, 11) is their primary running threat along with quarterback Andy Dalton (2,638 passing yards, 26 TDs). It should be an epic slugfest in a non-traditional Rose Bowl pairing. Something about this TCU squad and their moxie gives them the edge in my mind. I have some reservations about them matching Wisconsin’s physicality, especially on the lines, but I can’t pick against this team with a Texas-sized chip on its shoulder.

Tostitos Fiesta

Connecticut (8-4, 5-2 Big East) vs. Oklahoma (11-2, 6-2 Big 12)

Glendale, Ariz. Jan. 1 8:30 p.m.

The Pick: Oklahoma, 45-13

The Reasoning: The Sooners have hit a few bumps in the road en route to another Big 12 title, but they still possess one of the nation’s top 20 offenses, thanks in large part to Landry Jones (4,285 yards, 35 TDs), Ryan Broyles (1,452 yards, 13 TDs), and the fourth most prolific passing attack in America. That may sputter a bit in Glendale, with the play-calling duties falling in the hands of Josh Heupel for the first time since offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson took the head coaching job at Indiana. They enter having won their last four, including two straight squeakers against ranked foes in Oklahoma State and Nebraska. UConn is also riding a hot streak, toppling each of its last five opponents behind running back Jordan Todman (1,574 yards, 14 TDs). In the comparison between a two-loss Big 12 team and a two-loss Big East team, I’m going to side with the Big 12 boys nine out of ten times, even if the Sooners have lost five of their last seven bowls games and last two trips to the desert.

Discover Orange

Stanford (11-1, 8-1 Pac 10) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2, 8-0 ACC)

Miami Jan. 3 8:30 p.m.

The Pick: Stanford, 34-31

The Reasoning: Both teams enter on hot streaks, each boasting top 20 offenses and defenses. Heisman finalist Andrew Luck (3,051 yards, 28 TDs) has the Cardinal offense humming through seven straight victories. Tyrod Taylor (2,521 yards and 23 TDs passing, 637 yards and five TDs rushing) has led the Hokies out of their early season doldrums to 11 straight victories. In battles like this, I give the edge to brains over athleticism. Plus, a defense that has pitched three shutouts, all in conference and two away from home, warrants the benefit of the doubt.

Allstate Sugar

Ohio State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) vs. Arkansas (10-2, 6-2 SEC)

New Orleans Jan. 4 8:30 p.m.

The Pick: Ohio State, 31-24

The Reasoning: Ryan Mallett (3,592 yards, 30 TDs) assumes the lead for the third-best passing attack in the nation. But they face the country’s third-best scoring defense and fourth-best pass defense in the Buckeyes. With the exception of their season-ending defeat of LSU, the Razorbacks have struggled against top-flight defenses such as Auburn and Alabama. Ohio State is one of the few Big Ten teams able to nullify the athleticism difference that so often plagues matchups with SEC teams. The major intangible, however, is the manner in which the Buckeyes will react to the suspensions handed out earlier this week to some it’s top players for next season. Has Terrell Pryor decided already that this is his final collegiate game with a five-game suspension hanging over his prospective senior season? And if so, how will this motivate him and his mates? Suspensions aside, the Buckeyes get the edge in my book.

GoDaddy.com Bowl

Maimi OH (9-4, 7-1 MAC) vs. Middle Tennessee State (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt)

Mobile, Ala. Jan. 6 8 p.m.

The Pick: Miami, 26-13

The Reasoning: This is one of the post-New Year’s day duds, and final mid-major tussle of the bowl season. Miami has been rolling with five straight victories, including a big upset of Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. Three of those have been with backup quarterback Austin Boucher at the helm. Middle Tennessee has been not pushover, with the Blue Raiders winning their last three to turn around a 3-6 start. It’ll be interesting to see how the freshman Boucher holds up under the bowl spotlight, and how Miami perseveres in the first game without Pittsburgh-bound head coach Mike Haywood, but I still think the RedHawks will prevail in this chromatic affair.

AT&T Cotton

Texas A&M (9-3, 6-2 Big 12) vs. LSU (10-2, 6-2 SEC)

Arlington, Texas Jan. 7 8 p.m.

The Pick: Texas A&M, 26-19

The Reasoning: I’m almost boycotting this pick, since no game masquerading as the Cotton Bowl should be held outside of Dallas outside of January 1. The promotional B.S. moving this game to the Jerry Jones EgoDome also robs two excellent teams in an interesting cross-conference battle (in terms of physicality and ideology) from its deserved place in the national spotlight. Texas A&M enters red hot, winning its last six since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter; the quarterback has 11 TDs and three INTs during that stretch, which includes wins over Oklahoma, Texas, and Nebraska. The Tigers have struggled offensively this season, but have shown a knack for winning close games, including four of six against ranked opponents. Stevan Ridley (1,042 yards rushing, 14 TDs) and dual threat qb Jordan Jefferson will struggle to move the ball on the ground against the Aggies’ rushing defense, the 14th best in the nation.

Birmingham Bowl

Pittsburgh (7-5, 5-2 Big East) vs. Kentucky (6-6, 2-6 SEC)

Birmingham, Ala. Jan. 8 Noon

The Pick: Pitt, 32-16

The Reasoning: Let’s add another “B” to the title: the Baggage Bowl. Kentucky enters without starting quarterback Mike Hartline after an arrest for a drunken night early in December, while Pitt plays its first game in the post-David Wanndstedt era. Hartline, who presided over the nation’s 21st most prolific passing offense and 29th best scoring offense, gives way to sophomore Morgan Newton, who has only 54 yards of passing this year but started eight games in his freshman campaign. Kentucky struggles against the run, surrendering an average of 170 yards per game, which leaves them vulnerable to Dion Lewis, who blitzed Cincinnati for 261 yards and four touchdowns in the season finale.

Kraft Fight Hunger

Nevada (12-1, 7-1 WAC) vs. Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC)

San Francisco Jan. 9 9 p.m.

The Pick: Nevada, 38-14

The Reasoning: This’ll be a chance for a mid-major to test its mettle against a middleweight big-conference foe (as well as the only bowl that also sounds like an entry on a soup kitchen menu). The Eagles have won their last five after a 2-5 start, but they may be without leading rusher Montel Harris (1,243 yards, 8 TDs). Still, they boast a defense that is among the top 20 in the nation. It will be thoroughly tested by one of the nation’s best offenses, led by dual threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick (2,830 yards and 20 TDs passing, 1,184 yards and 20 TDs rushing) and dynamic running back Vai Taua (1,534 yards and 19 TDs). Nevada won’t have the easiest of time getting its offense going, but eventually they will roll over the Eagles.

Tostitos BCS National Championship Game

Oregon (12-0, 8-0 Pac 10) vs. Auburn (13-0, 9-0 SEC)

Glendale, Ariz. Jan. 10 8:30 p.m.

The Pick: COMING SOON!!!!

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