Bowl Schedule 2010-2011: Vegas Lines and Predictions on Who'll Cover Every Game
With the bowl schedule being finalized late Sunday night, gamblers everywhere were eagerly anticipating the release of the point spreads in Las Vegas.
The lines don't necessarily have to be used for wagering purposes either—it's a good indicator of which games will be the closest and most competitive.
For example, four of the five BCS games have lines that are three points or less. In games like that, it's virtually a coin-flip trying to determine who will come out on top.
Each game will have its own unique and compelling storyline, but it will be tougher to predict the outcome of a few certain games than others. So let's go through each bowl game and make some early predictions—not necessarily who will win but who will cover the Vegas lines.
Starting with the first bowl game...
New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. UTEP
For the first time since '05, BYU won less than 10 games and were relegated to a lesser-tier bowl game after finishing just 5-3 in the Mountain West.
Meanwhile, UTEP is making their first bowl appearance since '05 but dropped five of their final six to end the regular season.
Both teams are middle of the pack in terms of total offense, but BYU's defense has been strong, giving up just 10.5 points in their final six games. Since the Miners struggled down the success, and BYU has enjoyed bowl success in the past. I'll take the Cougars.
Prediction: BYU (-12)
uDrove Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State
The Huskies finished the season undefeated in MAC play but lost to Miami (OH) in the conference championship game. They have a stout defense and one of the best rushing attacks in the country, racking up 264.8 yards per game on the ground.
Fresno State is used to playing in the postseason under Pat Hill. After tough back-to-back losses to Nevada and Boise State, the Bulldogs closed the season with wins over Idaho and Illinois.
On paper, it appears that Northern Illinois should dominate, but it all depends on how they respond after losing their head coach, Jerry Kill, to Minnesota. If they come out strong and remain focused, they should roll against a weak Bulldog defense.
But I like FSU in a minor upset.
Prediction: Fresno State (+3)
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy
The Trojans have won the Sun Belt conference for the fifth consecutive season and once again find themselves in a familiar surrounding in the postseason—the New Orleans Bowl.
Led by quarterback Corey Robinson and standout receiver Jerrel Jernigan, Troy put up some points on the scoreboard this season, averaging nearly 33 per game.
OU dropped three straight at the beginning of the season but came on strong, winning seven in a row before falling in their season finale to Kent State.
The Bobcats defense is a good unit, but in the end, they won't be able to consistently slow down Troy's passing attack. The Trojans win in a shoot-out.
Prediction: Troy (-1.5)
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville
The Golden Eagles were known for their strong defense a few years ago, but it was their explosive offense that led them to an 8-4 record and appearance in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
They have a very balanced offense, averaging 254.8 yards through the air and 203.4 yards on the ground.
Louisville struggled at times to score points this season but had the No. 15 ranked scoring defense in the country, giving up just 18.7 points per game.
Defense typically wins in bowl games but three of Southern Mississippi's four losses came by six points or less. They're used to playing close games, and I wouldn't be surprised if they hung with the favored Cardinals.
Prediction: Southern Mississippi (+3.5)
MAACO Bowl: Boise State vs. Utah
A little over a month ago, this bowl game would have been a disappointment for both teams.
The Broncos had hopes of a Rose Bowl appearance when they traveled to Nevada on Nov. 26 to take on the Wolfpack. At the very least, they would have finished No. 4 and clinched a BCS berth.
But they blew a 17-0 lead and missed two field goals (one in regulation, one in overtime) that wound up costing them a game and an outright WAC championship.
Utah was at one point ranked No. 6 in the country when they hosted No. 4 TCU but were demolished at home by 40 points to the vaunted Horned Frogs. They then lost at Notre Dame the following week before rallying to get to 10 wins.
The Broncos have made a habit of beating up on inferior teams. Utah has some talent, but they won't be able to run with Boise State for an entire game. Don't expect the Broncos to have a let down in this one.
Prediction: Boise State (-16.5)
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy
The line for this game hasn't been announced yet since the Midshipmen still have to battle Army in their season finale this Saturday.
This game will present an ultimate contrast of styles—the Aztecs were led by quarterback Ryan Lindley (No. 6 in the nation in passing yards) and Navy loves to run the option and control the clock.
Both defenses are evenly ranked so this will come down to which team can enforce their style on the other. Because of Navy's prior bowl game experience, I like them in a close, close game.
Prediction: Navy (PK)
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Tulsa
If you like points, this is the game for you.
Both teams rank in the top 10 nationally in terms of total yards—Hawaii is No. 8 (496.8 per game) and Tulsa is No. 5 (503.5).
The Warriors boast the country's best passing attack at over 400 yards per game, but the Golden Hurricanes have a bit more balance, passing for about 295 yards while rushing for nearly 220.
Hawaii's lone conference loss came at the hands of Boise State. Tulsa ended the season on fire, winning six straight—four were decided by six points or less.
Thirteen points seems like a lot, even though it is a home game for Hawaii. When in doubt, take the points.
Prediction: Tulsa (+13)
Little Ceaser's Bowl: Florida International vs. Toledo
Florida International had won just nine games in the past four seasons but finished 6-2 in the Sun Belt this season to earn their first bowl appearance.
On the other side, Toledo overcame a 3-3 start by winning five of their final six with the lone loss coming to Northern Illinois (who finished 8-0 in the conference in the regular season).
The Rockets have gotten a spark from Terrance Owens in the final four games, who has thrown for 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. They'll continue to ride his hot hand and send FIU home disappointed.
Prediction: Toledo (-2)
AdvcoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
The top two rushing attacks in all of college football with meet in Louisiana on Dec. 27 when the Air Force Falcons take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Independence Bowl.
It was a down year for Georgia Tech after they won the ACC title last season and went to the Orange Bowl. Injuries really plagued them, and they succumbed to a tough stretch to finish the season, with losses to Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami (FL) and Georgia.
This is the fourth straight bowl appearance for the Falcons, but it's their first time away from the Armed Forces Bowl.
GT coach Paul Johnson owned Air Force when he coached at Navy (6-0 vs. the Falcons) and, between two pretty even teams, that's the kind of stat you're looking for.
Prediction: Georgia Tech (+2.5)
Champs Sports Bowl: West Virginia vs. NC State
The Wolfpack were hoping to represent their division in the ACC Championship Game but slipped on the final game of the regular season to Maryland, and instead, it was Florida State who earned that right.
Russell Wilson led a high-powered NC State offense that consistently scored points but struggled to stop opponents in losses. In their four defeats, opponents averaged 31.5 points—almost 10 more points per game than their season average.
Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, the Mountaineers can put up some points if given ample opportunities. Junior quarterback Geno Smith threw for 23 touchdowns with only six interceptions, and WVU still has playmakers Noel Devine and Jacque Sanders on offense as well.
But what's most impressive about West Virginia is the defense—they gave up more than 20 points in just one game this season. That unit will lead them to victory in this game.
Prediction: West Virginia (-2.5)
Insight Bowl: Missouri vs. Iowa
This game features two teams going in opposite directions: Missouri won three straight at the end of the season to finish with 10 wins while Iowa dropped three straight to finish with five losses.
The Hawkeyes have struggled to stop spread offenses this year, and Missouri's defense is better than advertised. Kirk Ferentz's teams typically play well in bowl games but not this year—the Tigers have too many weapons, and Iowa hasn't been able to generate any big plays on offense down the stretch.
Prediction: Missouri (-1)
Military Bowl: East Carolina vs. Maryland
The Terps quietly won eight games and finished with a 5-3 mark in ACC play. Danny O'Brien was the ACC Rookie of the Year, throwing for 2,257 yards, 21 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
East Carolina boasts a pretty good quarterback of their own: Dominique Davis. Davis finished at No. 4 in the country in passing yards with 3,699 to go along with 36 touchdowns in the air.
This should be a shootout but the ECU defense is giving up a whopping 43 points per game. They gave up over 40 points in each of their final games—I just can't trust a defense like that.
Prediction: Maryland (-7.5)
Texas Bowl: Illinois vs. Baylor
Illinois was all over the place this year, and it's tough to figure out which team will show up for the bowl game.
Will it be the one that was defeated by Fresno State and Minnesota? Or the one that ran all over Northwestern, Penn State and Northern Illinois?
The Bears were one of the surprise teams coming out of the Big 12, with a balanced offense led by quarterback Robert Griffin III. They lost three in a row to end the season but those games were against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma—all nine-win teams.
They are simply more battle tested and consistent than the Illini...plus they'll likely have home-field advantage to boot.
Prediction: Baylor (-2)
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
Both teams ended the season with a sour taste in their mouths.
Oklahoma State was in perfect position to win the Big 12 South and go to their first ever conference championship game before they were beaten at home by Oklahoma. Instead of possibly looking at the Fiesta Bowl, they're now in the Alamo Bowl.
Arizona had a promising start to the season at 7-1, but it derailed quickly after back-to-back losses to No. 4 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon. Four straight defeats to end the season and a potential Pac-10 championship quickly went down the drain for the Wildcats.
This will come down to whoever wants it more. Last year Arizona was humiliated by Nebraska in their bowl game—they'll bounce back and hang in there with a Cowboy team that still has the loss to the Sooners hanging over their heads.
Prediction: Arizona (+6)
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Army vs. SMU
The line for this game has yet to be announced because Army still has a game remaining, a showdown this Saturday with Navy.
Army will be making their first bowl game (and just sixth ever) since 1996 this season when they take on SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Much like San Diego State and Navy, this game will feature a serious contrast of styles. The Black Knights want to run the option and control the clock while SMU will look to make quick strikes through a potent aerial assault.
June Jones has the Mustangs on the right track and, while Army is definitely a feel-good story, they won't have enough for SMU.
Prediction: SMU (PK)
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas State vs. Syracuse
The first ever bowl game at Yankee Stadium features two 7-5 teams—the Kansas State Wildcats and the Syracuse Orange.
Both teams struggled down the stretch, with the Wildcats going 2-4 in the second half of the season and the Orange going 1-3.
The Orange are going to its first bowl game since '04 and looking for its first win since '01 when they beat Kansas State in the Insight Bowl. They were one of the positive stories in the Big East this season and they'll find a way to upset the favored Wildcats.
Prediction: Syracuse (+2.5)
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: North Carolina vs. Tennessee
North Carolina survived one of the more tumultuous seasons in recent memory to win six of seven in the middle of the year and finish with a 7-5 record...very impressive considering the way the year began with back-to-back losses to LSU and Georgia Tech.
T.J. Yates led a passing attack that came on strong as the year progressed. He threw eight interceptions, but four of those came in one game (Virginia Tech). Other than that, he did a nice job of hanging on to the ball and limiting mistakes—and the Heels needed to be perfect to win several games.
The Volunteers somehow wound up with a 6-6 record in Derek Dooley's first season despite starting the year with two wins in their first eight games.
Tennessee is the ultimate good bad team: they beat the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to ones they should lose to. UNC should beat them...so they probably will.
Prediction: North Carolina (-2.5)
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. Washington
Washington needed a win over lowly Washington State in the regular season finale to get to 6-6 and become the Pac 10's fourth bowl-eligible team.
Jake Locker had a relatively disappointing senior season—he turned the ball over more times than anticipated, and the Huskies just weren't quite ready to make the leap this season.
Nebraska is probably still reeling from blowing a 17-point lead in the Big 12 Championship against Oklahoma, but we saw last year in the Holiday Bowl what they can do to outmatched teams.
Prediction: Nebraska (-13)
Meineke Car Care Bowl: South Florida vs. Clemson
Neither offense is particularly flashy or fancy and both teams will probably struggle to score against one another.
Clemson finished at No. 9 in the country in giving up just 17.8 points per game, giving up more than 20 points one time in their final eight games.
South Florida is very solid on that side of the ball as well, yielding only 19.5 points and slowed down some of the Big East's better offenses.
A game like this could easily come down to turnovers, and USF's quarterbacks have made too many mistakes throughout the season.
Prediction: Clemson (-5)
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Miami (FL) vs. Notre Dame
Twenty years ago, this was a game that could have had the entire country buzzing with anticipation.
Instead, it's a matchup of two former greats in the Sun Bowl that people could easily forget about on New Year's Eve.
Miami has more talent, but they've had such a perplexing season capped off with the firing of Randy Shannon. Do they come out inspired or flat?
Notre Dame actually hasn't been awful (aside from the loss to Tulsa and blowout loss to Navy) in the final half of the season. They've showed progress, and I think they'll wrap up the first year of the Brian Kelly era successfully with an upset win over the 'Canes.
Prediction: Notre Dame (+3)
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. Central Florida
George O'Leary squares off against his former rival once again, this time as coach of the UCF Knights instead of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Georgia struggled to make their 14th straight bowl game while UFC rolled through Conference USA, finishing 7-1 and winning the championship game over SMU.
This will be a great game to determine how strong the SEC really is. Can a middle-of-the-pack team that barely made a bowl beat up on the best team from a non-power conference?
The answer? Yes.
Prediction: Georgia (-7)
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina vs. Florida State
In another matchup of coaches facing off against their former rivals, Steve Spurrier will once again game plan against the Florida State Seminoles—this time as coach of South Carolina instead of Florida.
Both the Gamecocks and Seminoles had a chance to make a BCS bowl but lost in their conference championship games.
This game could come down to the health of the quarterbacks. Stephen Garcia has been nicked up and didn't play his best against Auburn while Christian Ponder missed the ACC Championship game. His status for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl is still unknown.
This pick depends a lot on Ponder's health but, if he plays, I like the way the 'Noles have been playing down the stretch.
Prediction: Florida State (+3)
TicketCity Bowl: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
Both teams had significant injuries this season, but Northwestern's season went down for good when Dan Persa tore his Achilles while making a game-winning TD run against Iowa.
The Wildcats simply haven't had enough to put up a fight the past couple of weeks, and this game probably won't be much different.
Prediction: Texas Tech (-9.5)
Outback Bowl: Florida vs. Penn State
Two teams have been BCS contenders for the past five years took a small step back this season with equal 7-5 overall and 4-4 conference records.
The Nittany Lions showed plenty of feistiness throughout the season, especially in a 21-point comeback win for Joe Paterno's victory No. 400. They took a three-game winning streak into Ohio State and held a 14-3 halftime lead before falling in the second half.
Florida really struggled in conference play during the second half of the season, losing three straight games to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State and barely beating a 6-6 Georgia team.
They then were blown out by South Carolina and Florida State by a combined score of 67-21.
Florida generally beat up on the teams they were supposed to beat this year, but with the way they're playing down the stretch, they shouldn't be getting seven points in any bowl game.
Prediction: Penn State (+7)
Capital One Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State
I believe Alabama is going to win this game, but I'm not sure they do it by double-digits.
Both teams are very similar in their approach and game plans. They'll run the ball primarily but still can effectively throw it and use great defense to wear teams down.
My only concern with 'Bama is how they'll react after the Auburn loss...and a disappointing three-loss season, for that matter. Michigan State will be motivated to show the country they should have been in a BCS bowl—can the Tide match that intensity?
Prediction: Michigan State (+10.5)
Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Michigan
In the third straight Big Ten vs. SEC bowl matchup, Denard Robinson's Michigan Wolverines take on Dan Mullen's upstart Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Michigan has a dynamic offense capable of putting points on the board, mostly due to the big-play threat of Robinson.
But the Bulldogs were in the top three in the SEC in points and rushing yards allowed. So something has to give.
We've been waiting for Rodgriguez's teams to get it together pretty much all season. But they still keep making the same costly mistakes (penalties, turnovers, missed blocks) that have cost them during his tenure.
This will be his final game as head coach at Michigan.
Prediction: Mississippi State (-6)
The Rose Bowl Game: Wisconsin vs. TCU
I never thought I'd be excited for a Rose Bowl game featuring TCU, but I'm sure I'm not the only one eager to see what the Horned Frogs can do against a tough power conference team like the Badgers.
TCU's got a fast, quick defense that's No. 1 in several statistical categories. But they've never gone against an offensive line like Wisconsin's.
The Badgers bully opponents off the line and create several gaps for their running backs. All three backs (John Clay, James White, Montee Ball) have different styles that they can burn you with as well—they all had more than 800 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground this season.
On the flip side, Wisconsin hasn't faced too many offenses similar to TCU's. They've played high-powered teams like Ohio State and Michigan and shut them down, but they'll need a big game from their defensive line (especially J.J. Watt) to keep the Horned Frogs from matching them point for point.
In the end, the Badgers are just too big and too physical for TCU.
Prediction: Wisconsin (+3)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: UConn vs. Oklahoma
It's a fantastic story that UConn was able to win the Big East and earn their first ever BCS bid after moving up to this level of college football about 10 years ago.
That said, they haven't played a team anywhere near as good as Oklahoma. They were torched by Michigan in the first game of the season, and the Sooners have just as many weapons offensively.
Granted, the Huskies are a much better team right now than they were in September. But they'll be no match for Oklahoma, who finally snap a five-game BCS slide.
Prediction: Oklahoma (-17)
Discover Orange Bowl: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
Stanford had a fantastic season, finishing 11-1 and in second place in the Pac 10, good for an at-large invite to the Orange Bowl.
They have one of the hottest coaches (Jim Harbaugh) and quarterbacks (Andrew Luck) in the country. They have a balanced offense, an above-average defense and their lone loss was to a team playing for a national championship.
I don't know what it is about Virginia Tech, but I like their chances in this game. They play great defense, their offense has been clicking in the second half of the season and there is a lot of hype surrounding whether or not Harbaugh and Luck will be back in Palo Alto next year.
Every year there's always one BCS upset that no one really sees coming. I don't really have a basis for this pick other than that and gut instinct.
Prediction: Virginia Tech (+3)
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Arkansas
I could break down a bunch of key points for this game, but you should probably know that I'm a Buckeye and a gigantic homer. So there's no way I could pick against them.
I do believe they can put up points on Arkansas' defense and slow down the Razorbacks enough to win in a 28-24, 31-27 type of game.
If the Buckeyes don't turn the ball over, they're too disciplined and too good on defense to get torched by any offense in the country. And if Terrelle Pryor has a performance like he did in last year's Rose Bowl, this is a foregone conclusion.
Prediction: Ohio State (-3)
GoDaddy.com Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH)
Miami went from 1-11 in '09 to 9-4 and MAC champions in '10—a pretty impressive turnaround.
The Redhawks are a team that statistically doesn't make any sense—they average less points than their opponents, they're No. 114 in rushing yards and they can't seem to consistently score.
And that's why I'm taking them to win. Because when it's your year, it's your year.
Prediction: Miami (OH) (-2)
AT&T Cotton Bowl: LSU vs. Texas A&M
The Tigers survived several close calls throughout the season and appeared to be Sugar Bowl bound when they ran into Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas buzzsaw in the final game of the season.
Now they'll look to bounce back in the Cotton Bowl against a Texas A&M team that's on the rise in the Big 12.
The Aggies were No. 12 in the country in overall passing yards and will provide a tough test for an LSU defense that ranked near the top of the SEC in most categories.
A win for A&M could go a long way in climbing back up to consistently be one of the Big 12's top teams, but LSU just has too much working for them. Patrick Peterson and the defense find a way to slow down the Aggies.
Prediction: LSU (-1)
BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky
Kentucky went 2-6 in the SEC and still made a bowl game thanks to a weak non-conference schedule that included wins over Louisville, Akron, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern.
Pittsburgh's Dion Lewis appears to have his legs back underneath him after an impressive performance in the finale against Cincinnati, and that could be bad news for a struggling Wildcat defense.
Prediction: Pittsburgh (-3)
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Nevada vs. Boston College
In the final game before the national championship, WAC champion Nevada takes on 7-5 Boston College out of the ACC.
While the Wolfpack are one of the best offenses in the country, Boston College is one of the worst. The Eagles have a strong defense that keeps them in games, but Colin Kaepernick will do enough to make sure that his record-breaking college career ends on a positive note.
Prediction: Nevada (-9.5)
BCS National Championship Game: Oregon vs. Auburn
In a national championship game between two similar, evenly-matched teams, there's always one or two X-factors that decide the outcome.
One X-factor is obviously Cam Newton. Enough said.
The second is how many close games Auburn has played in. They had to rally early in the season to beat Mississippi State and Clemson.
They had to hold on to second-half leads against Arkansas and LSU.
They had to come back from a 24-point first-half deficit against their biggest rivals on the road.
To me, they just seem a little more battle tested. And in a close game, I want the team that's been through it all and that has the best player.
Prediction: Auburn (-3)