College Football Bowl Projections: B/R Sets the Line on All 35 Bowl Games
With only one week left in the college football regular season, bowl season is fast approaching. Because of a logjam of undefeated teams at the top of the rankings, the placement of the nation's top teams in the nation's top bowls is still up in the air.
With many important matchups in the coming weekend and conference championships still to be decided, these projections could, and most likely will change before the season is over.
But for now, here is our best guess at which teams the 35 college football bowl games will feature and what the line will be for each contest.
New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State Vs. Toledo
The 2010-2011 bowl season kicks off with a battle of mid-majors. San Diego State has been a pleasant surprise this season in the solid Mountain West, and nearly knocked off TCU. The Aztecs will likely be 8-4 by the season's end and will get rewarded with their first bowl game since 1998.
Toledo, which had a shaky start to the season--Arizona drilled the Rockets in Toledo--will also likely end the season 8-4, riding a hot streak.
Both teams are hot heading into this game and it should be a very even-matched game to begin the bowl season.
Line: San Diego State -7
Prediction: San Diego State 38, Toledo 35
UDrove Humanitarian Bowl: Temple Vs. Fresno State
The uDrove Humanitarian Bowl isn't typically considered one of the top games of the bowl season and most non-diehard college football fans haven't even heard of it. There's probably a reason for that most years, considering it doesn't host teams from power conferences and is played on December 18 in Boise, Idaho.
But this year, the Humanitarian Bowl could be special. Temple is a program on the rise while Fresno State always has electrifying teams. Expect a good battle between middle-to-upper-tier non-Big Six teams.
Line: Fresno State -6
Prediction: Temple 27, Fresno State 24
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss Vs. Florida International
After a miserable stretch between 2006 and 2008, Florida International now has a chance to win the Sun Belt conference.
Southern Miss is 8-3 and faces a tough battle with 8-3 Tulsa this weekend that will help work out bowl positioning. But regardless of the result, expect the New Orleans Bowl to take its home state team to help sell tickets.
Line: Southern Miss -9
Prediction: Southern Miss 34, Florida International 21
Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl: Connecticut Vs. East Carolina
Connecticut is one of many teams muddled at the top of the Big East. But when the dust settles, expect the Huskies to end up in St. Petersburg.
East Carolina finds itself bowling again and should match up well against UConn. The Pirates typically play well against major conference teams and even upset Virginia Tech in 2008. Although it won't be highly publicized, the St. Petersburg Bowl should be a good Big Six vs. non-Big Six showcase.
Line: Connecticut -3
Prediction: Connecticut 21, East Carolina 17
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl: TCU Vs. Army
It's all or nothing for TCU this year. Right now the Horned Frogs are third in the BCS standings and could reach the National Championship with an Auburn loss. However, a Boise State win over Nevada could push the Broncos ahead in the rankings. TCU doesn't travel that well and likely would be left out of a BCS bowl if jumped by Boise.
The Horned Frogs won't even have the luxury of beating up on a Pac-10 team since the conference isn't expected to have enough bowl eligible teams. That leaves Army to grab the vacant spot, and the Black Knights could take advantage of TCU's possible letdown because of its bowl slotting.
Line: TCU -27
Prediction: TCU 31, Army 10
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Utah Vs. Navy
In one of the better lower-tier bowls, Navy, which has already accepted a Poinsettia bid, will pit its high-powered rushing offense against the second best team in the Mountain West.
After being blown out by TCU, Utah will likely finish second in the Mountain West standings and would be a good pick for both entertainment value and ticket sales. Expect a wild game in this intriguing Poinsettia Bowl matchup.
Line: Utah -5
Prediction: Navy 24, Utah 23
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Southern Methodist Vs. Hawaii
Not surprisingly, Hawaii will play in its home bowl game once again, which it does every year that it isn't being blown out in the Sugar Bowl.
The Warriors will face former coach June Jones, who led them to that Sugar Bowl against Georgia, as Jones returns to his former employer with the SMU Mustangs. Both teams overachieved in conference play this year and have taken a positive step forward with their programs. Expect Hawaii to get revenge on its former coach as the Warriors get yet another Hawaii Bowl win.
Line: Hawaii -3
Prediction: Hawaii 31, Southern Methodist 24
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Louisville Vs. Northern Illinois
Although the Big Ten holds a spot in this game, it rarely has enough bowl eligible teams to fill that spot. The story will be the same this year as the Detroit-based bowl pits the MAC Champions--Northern Illinois--against Louisville, who will fill in as the Big Ten's replacement.
A win in this game would be big for both conferences, as the Big East is trying to hold on what is left of its reputation and the MAC is trying to turn itself into one of the better non-Big Six conferences.
Line: Northern Illinois -4
Prediction: Northern Illinois 27, Louisville 24
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Clemson Vs. Air Force
Like the Big East, the ACC will use this bowl season to try to save its reputation. This game would be a good starting point.
Many fans believe that the Mountain West is a better conference than the ACC, and if Clemson beats Air Force, the ACC could claim that one of its teams beat a Mountain West team that was ranked higher in its conference. Expect a good Big Six-non Big Six matchup.
Line: Air Force -5
Prediction: Clemson 34, Air Force 31
Champs Sports Bowl: Florida State Vs. Notre Dame
Better known as the "Used to Be Good Bowl," the 2010 version of the Champs Bowl probably would have been better if it had been played in a different decade.
Florida State has been a pleasant surprise this year, but still hasn't reached an elite level. Notre Dame's turnaround under Bryan Kelly hasn't come as fast as most Irish fans had hoped, but the Irish are bowl eligible and will actually accept a bid this year.
This is a good game for the Champs Sports Bowl, which gets a good national fan base along with an in-state school, which should help sell out the stadium
Line: Florida State -6
Prediction: Florida State 31, Notre Dame 28
Insight Bowl: Michigan Vs. Missouri
No matter what its matchup is this year, the Insight Bowl shouldn't have a problem filling seats. The Big Ten candidates for the game figure to be either Michigan, Penn State, or Iowa, all of which travel very well.
Missouri, which looked to be on course for a BCS bowl, may be disappointed by its fall, but it should needs to make sure it avoids a letdown and prove it deserves a better game.
This should be an exciting game to watch--although nobody will see the NFL Network broadcast--in a matchup of two electrifying teams, even if Rich Rodriguez isn't on the sidelines.
Line: Missouri -4
Prediction: Michigan 38, Missouri 31
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman: Georgia Tech Vs. UTEP
A year removed from playing in the Orange Bowl, Georgia Tech finds itself in a game of relatively less importance. It has been a mediocre year of ups and downs for the Yellow Jackets, who lost to Kansas early in the season, and a win in a bowl game could make the season not seem like a total failure.
The Jackets will face a Conference USA team in the Military Bowl, and we project UTEP to be selected.
Line: Georgia Tech -8
Prediction: Georgia Tech 24, UTEP 13
Texas Bowl: Illinois Vs. Texas
Illinois is bowl eligible for the first time since 2007 thanks to the superb play of running back Mikel LeShoure and the surprising rise of freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illini have had some great performances this year, such as knocking off Northwestern at Wrigley, but there have also been some bad performances, including a loss to Minnesota. Expect the good side of the Illini to show up for many of the players' first bowl game.
Texas didn't expect to be here and the Longhorns didn't expect to be sitting at 5-6 and last in their division. But if UT can't get its act together soon and beat Texas A&M at home this weekend, Bevo and company will be staying home this bowl season. Look for Texas to pull out a win and do just enough to get picked for a home state bowl.
Line: Texas -3
Prediction: Illinois 28, Texas 24
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State Vs. Arizona
Thanks to its moving up in the Big 12 pecking order, the Alamo Bowl should feature a fairly exciting matchup for years to come. This game should be an offensive showcase, which is to be expected from a Big 12 and Pac-10 battle.
Both teams have outstanding offenses and national award caliber players--Justin Blackmon for OSU and Nick Foles for 'Zona.
The Alamo may be a letdown for the 10-1 Cowboys, and Okie State could be headed to the BCS if it wins in Bedlam on Saturday. However, we're projecting a loss to Oklahoma, sending Oklahoma State down in the pecking order.
Arizona has been strong at points this year, particularly in its win over Iowa, but the Wildcats have dropped of a bit since that game and need to make sure they avoid another meltdown like their 33-0 demolition at the hands of Nebraska in last year's Holiday Bowl.
Line: Oklahoma State -5
Prediction: Arizona 42, Oklahoma State 41
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Tulsa Vs. BYU
After a disastrous start to the year, BYU has played its way back into bowl eligibility with a solid 5-2 conference record.
At 8-3, Tulsa is in contention for the Conference USA Championship, but expect the Golden Hurricanes to end up third in the pecking order.
Tulsa knows how to play in tough games, knocking off BYU's soon-to-be independent counterpart Notre Dame, so the Cougars must be careful to avoid a letdown.
Line: BYU -6
Prediction: Tulsa 27, BYU 23
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas State Vs. Syracuse
The Pinstripe Bowl will make its debut this year, pitting teams from the Big East and the Big 12 in Yankee Stadium's second college football game this season.
This may not be the classic that the Yankees were hoping for, but it should provide for a good game. Getting Syracuse would also be a big plus for the Pinstripe Bowl. The Orange are bowl eligible for the first time in six years, and their fan base, which travels well in general for a Big East team, has a large number of alumni living in New York City.
Line: Kansas State -1
Prediction: Kansas State 27, Syracuse 20
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Maryland Vs. Tennessee
After a strong start to the season, Maryland quickly dropped back to reality and a 7-4 record. However, the Terps will be going bowling this year, which should be welcomed by a fan base that saw its team win two games in 2009.
Tennessee's season has been a disappointment so far and the Vols still need to beat Kentucky this weekend to become bowl eligible. If they do, expect them to head to Nashville.
Line: Maryland -4
Prediction: Maryland 24, Tennessee 17
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Texas A&M Vs. Washington
Even though it isn't that high in the pecking order, the Holiday Bowl typically produces outstanding Big 12-Pac-10 matchups. This game has potential to join the list of classics as well.
A&M has a chance to make the Cotton Bowl this year if it can end the season with a win against Texas. However, even a win probably wouldn't be enough to beat out the Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Oklahoma State for that spot. I'm projecting a win against the Longhorns and a trip to the Holiday Bowl.
Sitting at 4-6, Washington needs to win out to secure a bowl berth. Luckily, the Huskies play Cal and Washington State to close out the season, so bowl eligibility is a reasonable goal. And since the lower part of the Pac-10 is awful, Washington can actually end up with a pretty good bowl slot. If Cal beats the Huskies, the Bears will end up here, but I'm projecting a Washington win, ending Jake Locker's career on a high not.
Line: Texas A&M -6
Prediction: Texas A&M 31, Washington 30
Meineke Car Care Bowl: North Carolina Vs. Pittsburgh
This could have been a special season for North Carolina, had its best players not all been suspended. But, given the circumstances, a Meineke Car Care Bowl berth is a success for the Tar Heels.
Like all of the Big East teams, barring maybe Syracuse, Pittsburgh has been a disappointment in 2010. However, the Panthers are still very much alive in the Big East title race and could make a BCS bowl with a win over West Virginia this weekend.
Line: Pittsburgh -3
Prediction: North Carolina 20, Pittsburgh 17
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Miami (Fla) Vs. Texas Tech
The Pac-10 isn't projected to have enough teams eligible to fill its Sun Bowl slot, so the Big 12's Texas Tech will be invited as a replacement game.
Miami will be the fourth pick from the ACC and will head to El Paso sporting either a 7-5 or 8-4 record.
While the Sun Bowl didn't get its traditional ACC-Pac-10 matchup, this should be a good game for how low it is in the pecking order.
Line: Miami -8
Prediction: Miami 34, Texas Tech 30
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Georgia Vs. UCF
At Georgia to the list of "didn't think we'd be here" teams. After a miserable start that included a loss to Colorado, the Bulldogs have gotten somewhat back on track, but still need a win against rival Georgia Tech to reach bowl eligibility.
Central Florida is going bowling once again, and this time should have the opportunity to take down a traditionally good SEC team.
Line: Georgia -1
Prediction: Central Florida 17, Georgia 14
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: NC State Vs. Mississippi State
Recently, the Chick-fil-A Bowl has been fortunate enough to receive matchups featuring traditional powerhouses from both the ACC and SEC. This year, however, the game will have a slightly different taste.
Neither NC State nor Mississippi State is a powerhouse, but both programs have started a turnaround and were competitive in their respective conferences. Expect an even-matched game between two solid overachievers.
Line: Mississippi State -3
Prediction: Mississippi State 21, NC State 17
TicketCity Bowl: Northwestern Vs. Baylor
Northwestern's upset of Iowa was a good win for the program, but in the process the Wildcats lost star quarterback Dan Persa, who has been a key ingredient to their success.
Persa's absence was an obvious blow to Northwestern in its loss to Illinois and expect a 7-5 finish for the Wildcats, who will lose to Wisconsin this weekend.
Baylor, led by star quarterback Robert Griffin III, has been a pleasant surprise this season, and has the opportunity to win a bowl game to end a successful year.
If Northwestern still had Persa, this game would be n exciting showcase of two high-powered offense. But without their quarterback, the Wildcats just aren't the same team.
Line: Baylor -10
Prediction: Baylor 34, Northwestern 17
Outback Bowl: Iowa Vs. Florida
Neither team expected to be spending their holidays in Tampa this year, as both looked like probable BCS teams for the second straight year. Nevertheless, the Outback Bowl will end up with a classic Big Ten-SEC matchup that has given it many great games before.
Penn State could have ended up here if it were Joe Paterno's final game, but JoePa announced that he is coming back next season, meaning the Nittany Lions will likely slip down in the bowl pecking order. If Penn State beats Michigan State on Saturday, Iowa could move up to the Capital One Bowl, but the Outback Bowl is the most likely landing spot for the Hawkeyes.
There are a number of SEC teams that could end up in Tampa as well, namely Arkansas and South Carolina. But I expect Arkansas to already be off the board, and in order to protect against a rematch of the 2009 game, the Outback bowl will choose the Gators over the Gamecocks.
Line: Iowa -5
Prediction: Iowa 30, Florida 20
Capital One Bowl: Michigan State Vs. Alabama
A win in their respective games will likely send each team to Orlando. Alabama is projected to end the season third in the SEC West, meaning Auburn and LSU will both go to the BCS.
A Michigan State win this Saturday likely will send the Spartans to Orlando, but a loss could mean they slip even more. A loss would mean a 10-2 record for the Spartans, who would end with only one more Big Ten win than Iowa. Iowa demolished MSU 37-6 and travels better than the Spartans. Plus, Iowa-Alabama has the makings of a classic. If LSU ends up here, the Capital One Bowl could also go with the Hawkeyes, as the Iowa-LSU Capital One Bowl in 2005 was one of the best bowl game finishes in history.
I see Michigan State losing the weekend and possibly slipping to the Outback Bowl, but the Capital One Bowl is typically good about following the conference standings and not picking teams based off of ticket sales. Therefore, Michigan State ends a surprising season in Orlando for the second time in three years.
Line: Alabama -13
Prediction: Alabama 31, Michigan State 17
Gator Bowl: Penn State Vs. South Carolina
There's a chance that this could be the Outback Bowl matchup as well, and it would have been a very good possibility had Joe Paterno not announced that he's coming back next season. Expect the Outback to take Iowa, meaning the Gator Bowl will need to choose against Penn State and Michigan. I expect Rich Rodriguez to be fired after this weekend, which will cause the Gator Bowl to take Penn State.
South Carolina could also end up in the Outback Bowl, or even the Sugar Bowl if it wins the SEC Championship, but I expect the Gamecocks to lose the SEC Championship Game, and, in order to avoid a rematch of its 2009 game, the Outback Bowl will take Florida, sending South Carolina to the Gator.
Line: South Carolina -1
Prediction: Penn State 28, South Carolina 20
GoDaddy.com Bowl: Ohio Vs. Troy
In one of the final games of the college football season, we project Ohio to face Troy in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Ohio is fighting for a MAC Championship, while Troy is 5-5 and still in the fight for a Sun Belt Championship. Both teams will likely end up short in their respective conference races, but they will be rewarded with bowl berths for their solid seasons.
Line: Ohio -6
Prediction: Ohio 28, Troy 27
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Nebraska Vs. Arkansas
The Cotton Bowl is one of the more unpredictable bowl matchups this season, but I predict that Arkansas will lose to LSU this week, sending the Tigers to the BCS and the Razorbacks to the Cotton Bowl.
In the Big 12, I predict Oklahoma will beat Oklahoma State and represent the South in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Sooners will beat Nebraska and head to the Fiesta Bowl, while the Cornhuskers will be scooped up by the Cotton Bowl.
An Oklahoma-Arkansas game would be an intriguing border-rivalry game, but a Nebraska-Arkansas matchup should be exciting as well. The game would feature two great quarterbacks in Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Arkansas's Ryan Mallett and will provide fans with added excitement after an outstanding New Year's Day.
Line: Nebraska -4
Prediction: Arkansas 27, Nebraska 26
BBVA Compass Bowl: South Florida Vs. Kentucky
Not to disrespect either team, but this doesn't seem like a game between two Big Six conference teams. Kentucky, as usual, will barely hold on to bowl eligibility.
South Florida is muddled into the mess that is the Big East, and, you guessed it, still could win the conference. However, I expect the Bulls to lose at least one of their last two games, sending them to Birmingham to meet Kentucky in the BBVA Compass bowl.
Line: South Florida -2
Prediction: South Florida 17, Kentucky 14
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Boston College Vs. Nevada
Nevada is likely locked into the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl no matter how it finishes the season. A win against Boise State would likely land the Wolfpack in San Francisco. Since Hawaii will go to its home state bowl, a loss against Boise State will also mean a trip to the Bay Area.
Boston College may be left out of the ACC's bowl tie-ins, but thanks to the mediocrity of Pac-10 teams not named Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona, the Eagles will likely end up in San Francisco for the second straight year.
Line: Nevada -5
Prediction: Nevada 34, Boston College 21
Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO: Wisconsin Vs. Stanford
Both Stanford and the Rose Bowl will be cheering for an Auburn loss this weekend, as that would likely send a non-BCS team to the National Championship, meaning the Rose Bowl wouldn't be forced to take a team from a non-power conference. That way, the "Grandaddy of Them All" can preserve its traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup. If a non-BCS team ends up in Glendale, expect the Rose Bowl to take Stanford as a replacement pick for Oregon.
Ever since its upset of Ohio State, Wisconsin has been on fire. It holds the edge in the three-way logjam of teams on top of the Big Ten. If all three teams stay tied, the highest team in the BCS standings--likely Wisconsin--will head to Pasadena. The Badgers will also be Rose Bowl bound if Michigan State loses. If just Ohio State loses, Michigan State will get the conference's automatic BCS berth, but that is the least likely scenario. Wisconsin has the clearest path to Pasadena and will likely play in its first Rose Bowl since 2000.
Line: Stanford -1
Prediction: Wisconsin 42, Stanford 38
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma Vs. West Virginia
In a rematch of the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, West Virginia will head west face Oklahoma in Glendale. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, this year's team isn't nearly as good as the 2007-2008 team and there isn't the added motivation of playing after being abandoned by a head coach.
This game will almost certainly pit the Big 12 Champion and Big East Champion, but each conference's top team has yet to be determined.
I project Oklahoma to beat Oklahoma State this weekend, then beat Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game.
The winner of West Virginia-Pittsburgh this weekend will likely win the Big East. And although the conference has been virtually unpredictable this year, I predict the Mountaineers will come out victorious.
Line: Oklahoma -17
Prediction: Oklahoma 38, West Virginia 17
Discover Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech Vs. LSU
After starting the season with losses against Boise State and James Madison, Virginia Tech is back on track and will likely win the ACC.
I'm prediction Auburn to lose to Alabama, sending the Tigers to the Sugar Bowl. LSU will grab the other at-large spot. I was very tempted to put Alabama in this slot, and that could very well happen, but the Orange Bowl will respect the head-to-head result of the LSU-Alabama game and invite the Tigers to Miami.
A high profile matchup will finally give the Orange Bowl solid TV ratings. A later game date has typically hurt the bowl's attendance as well, because even teams with great traveling fan bases can't bring more than 35,000 (Iowa's approximate attendance last year) during the middle of a work week. Because of a better date this year, the Orange Bowl may finally sell out.
Line: LSU -4
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, LSU 24
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Auburn Vs. Ohio State
Auburn could very well end up in the National Championship, but I predict that the Tigers' undefeated run will end this Saturday against Alabama. A loss in the Iron Bowl isn't the end of the world for Auburn, which will still win the SEC West and will likely win the SEC Championship.
With the first at-large pick, the Sugar Bowl will select Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will likely end the season at 11-1 and will bring their massive fan base to the Sugar Bowl for a classic Big Ten-SEC matchup.
Line: Auburn -2
Prediction: Ohio State 31, Auburn 28
BCS National Championship: Oregon Vs. Boise State
With Auburn's loss to Alabama, the door will open for a non-Big Six team to play in the BCS National Championship. TCU is ranked ahead of Boise State in the latest BCS rankings, but the Broncos' strength of schedule will be boosted with a win against No. 19 Nevada. Boise needs to win with style to convince voters, too, and although Nevada is a solid team, I think the Broncos will do enough to gain the No. 2 spot in the BCS Standings.
Oregon has looked unstoppable so far this year, and I don't see that ending against Arizona or Oregon State. The Ducks have the clearest path the the title and should be playing in Glendale on January 10.
In a rematch of last year's season opening game, Oregon will get its revenge. The new look Ducks are just too good for Boise State's defense, and the Oregon defense, while not the best, will be able to hold Kellen Moore and the BSU offense enough for its own offense to win the game.
After years of parading for this moment, Boise State will fall short and the non-BCS rebellion will not be nearly as strong of a movement as it has been in the past few years. And four years after its legendary Fiesta Bowl win against Oklahoma, the Broncos' "cry for justice" will fall short.
Boise State will get the big stage. It will get it's shot in the "corrupt system" that has actually helped it so much. And on January 10, it will fall short under the spotlight.
Line: Oregon -5
Prediction: Oregon 42, Boise State 34