The 2010-11 College Football Bowl season is just a week away, featuring 35 nationally-televised bowl games and matchups ranging from Middle Tennessee State vs. Miami, OH in the GoDaddy.com Bowl to Oregon vs. Auburn in the BCS National Championship.
Bowl season also brings with it America's favorite betting event: the Bowl pool. Millions of people nationwide will pull out their checkbooks and dig deep into their minds, making decisions on what is arguably the most fun way to randomly throw around one's hard-earned cash.
With 20 games boasting a spread of just three points or less, this winter is sure to be a season of close games. That will make the betting, however, even harder as small spreads become practically meaningless.
With that said, we're going to take a stab at who we'd choose against the Vegas odds in each and every bowl game. There are no guarantees, but after a fascinating 2010 season, the many climaxes are sure to be just as crazy, whether you win your bet or not.
Note: This is Part Two, making predictions for the final 17 bowl games from December 31st on. For picks on the first 18 games up to December 30th, follow this link to Part One.
Meineke Car Care BowlClemson (6-6) vs. South Florida (7-5)
The annual ACC-Big East showdown will pull a disappointed Clemson team and an excited South Florida team into Charlotte to kick off the final day of 2010. The inconsistent Tigers didn't create many headlines this fall, while the Bulls, led by a new coach, have only lost twice since mid-October and almost played spoiler in a heartbreaking loss to Connecticut last week.
Clemson at -4.5 is baffling to us, therefore we project a 27-20 win for South Florida.
Pick: South Florida +4.5
Sun BowlMiami, FL (7-5) vs. Notre Dame (7-5)
Following a sub-par season and the loss of their coach, the Hurricanes won't have a lot to play for in this one. Notre Dame, on the other hand, took a step in right direction this season after a couple dreary campaigns. With those facts in mind, it's likely that confidence will play as much of a role in this downgraded bowl game as talent will, and the Irish will certainly have the edge in that field.
Notre Dame will also take a three-game winning streak with victories over Utah, Army and USC into the Sun Bowl and has a good chance to actually take complete control of this game. A 31-17 result is very, very plausible.
Pick: Notre Dame +3
Liberty BowlGeorgia (6-6) vs. Central Florida (10-3)
The 'Dawgs recovered from a 1-4 start and beat rival Georgia Tech to find a spot in a bowl game once again, but they'll be stared down by a respectable competitor: 10-3 Conference USA Champion Central Florida. The Knights have won eight of nine and have lost only three overall, with two of those defeats coming against BCS Conference bowl teams N.C. State (lost 28-21) and Kansas State (17-13).
Georgia is favored by 6.5, but they should be given a run for their money just to win the game. In the end, we expect Central Florida to make a name for itself with a last-second 30-27 win.
Pick: Central Florida +6.5 (Upset Special)
Chick-Fil-A BowlSouth Carolina (9-4) vs. Florida State (9-4)
The two championship game losers from the SEC and ACC, also tied with identical 9-4 records, will meet in the much-anticipated Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the end-of-season bookend to the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game which featured North Carolina and LSU.
The Gamecocks only real blemish would be a 31-28 loss to Kentucky the week after their upset of Alabama, as two losses to Auburn and one loss to Arkansas are hard to hold against them. The Seminoles, however, were lucky to be in the ACC championship. South Carolina played the tougher schedule and should be prepared to handle this one, winning 28-20.
Pick: South Carolina -3
Ticketcity BowlTexas Tech (7-5) vs. Northwestern (7-5)
Northwestern has been crashing ever since they lost quarterback Dan Persa in an upset of Iowa, but it's been the defense that has disappointed as they gave up a combined 118 points their last two games in defeats to Illinois and Wisconsin. They'll run into a high-powered roadblock in Texas Tech, a team that didn't make many headlines in 2010 but lost only one game to a team outside the Top 25 at the time (Iowa State).
The Red Raiders passing attack, which averaged 314 yards per game, should chew up the vulnerable Wildcats defense and Tech will roll to a 49-31 victory.
Pick: Texas Tech -9.5
Outback BowlFlorida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5)
This battle between two historic programs that both had underwhelming seasons is one you need to circle on your calendar. The SEC and Big Ten were arguably the two best conferences this year, but uncharacteristic five-loss seasons for the Gators and Nittany Lions will put some edge in their game.
Florida started 4-0 but then crumbled in a three-game losing streak in October. Two weeks ago they were pounded by rival Florida State 31-7, perhaps encouraging successful head coach Urban Meyer to resign. He'll coach his last game right here, but a win is no guarantee as four of Penn State's five losses came to teams in the Top 25 at the time (much like Texas Tech above). We think that Florida can edge out a win, 28-24, but will fall short of covering the spread.
Pick: Penn State +7.5
Capital One BowlAlabama (9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1)
When is a 9-3 team ever favored, by double-digits no less, over an 11-1 team? Apparently in the Capital One Bowl. In what might be the best non-BCS game, the Spartans, whose only loss came against division rival Iowa, are big underdogs to SEC foe Alabama, who had hoped to reach the 10-win plateau in their 10th game as opposed to their bowl game. But they still have a Heisman winner in the backfield and gave Auburn a better game than anyone else (thus far).
This one is very hard to call, despite what Vegas says, but I think Michigan State can surprise the experts and win 23-20.
Pick: Michigan State +10 (Lock Special)
Gator BowlMississippi State (8-4) vs. Michigan (7-5)
The biggest Cinderella team of the SEC in 2010, Mississippi State, will have their solid defense tested by Michigan and QB/RB/Wildcat Denard Robinson in a bowl between two teams that were greatly overlooked by the media. The Bulldogs had a six-game winning streak sandwiched between back-to-back losses to Auburn and LSU and matching losses to Alabama and Arkansas. Going 8-4 in the SEC West, though, is a tough task and it's unlikely that Michigan could have done the same.
Michigan did, however, start the year 5-0, and all five defeats were to legitimate oppoinents (Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State). They'll fall by a touchdown in this one, 34-27.
Pick: Mississippi State -5
Rose BowlTCU (12-0) vs. Wisconsin (11-1)
TCU may feel cheated that they still don't have a chance at the national title despite going undefeated for two consecutive regular seasons, but they'll be on center stage during this appealing Rose Bowl (a.k.a. the third place game). Combining a powerful offense with a stellar defensethey had a six-game streak of scoring 30+ points and limiting opponents to seven points or less the Horned Frogs are suddenly a fearful opponent.
Wisconsin will be prepared, though, as they've won seven in a row, including topping 70 points twice during the stretch and never falling short of the 30 points. The collision between the two powers could result in one of the best Rose Bowls in a long time, but, in the end, the Badgers edge out a 35-34 win for the ages.
Pick: Wisconsin +2.5
Fiesta BowlOklahoma (11-2) vs. Connecticut (8-4)
It's the question everyone's been asking; why does 8-4 Connecticut, playing in the hapless Big East, get into a BCS bowl over, say, 11-1 Boise State, 10-2 LSU, 11-1 Michigan State, 11-1 Nevada or even 10-2 Missouri? Well, whether you agree with the system or not, it's safe to say that Oklahoma vs. UConn was not the game Fiesta Bowl organizers were hoping for.
The Sooners survived losses to Missouri and Texas A&M to beat rival Oklahoma State two weeks ago and earn a berth in the Big 12 Championship, where they recovered from a 17-0 deficit to Nebraska and fought their way into a lopsided Fiesta Bowl matchup. The 25th-ranked Huskies, on the other hand, started 3-4 with wins over lowly Texas Southern, Buffalo and Vanderbilt but have since won five straight. They may be outmatched, but a 17-point bonus, by far the biggest spread, is just to juicy to pass up.
Pick: Connecticut +17
Orange BowlStanford (11-1) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)
A massive step up from the Fiesta Bowl, the 2010 Orange Bowl breaks it's tradition of a Big East-ACC matchup, featuring two very intriguing opponents. If you want to talk about winning streaks, Virginia Tech should be first on the list. The Hokies rattled off eleven straight victories after back-to-back opening losses to Boise State and, of all teams, James Madison.
Meanwhile, Stanford's only defeat came back on October 2nd to Oregon, even leading at halftime of that game. From that point forward, they've won seven straight, all against Pac-10 opponents. This will undoubtedly be a great game, and we see Stanford winning an offensive duel 41-38.
Pick: Push (Virginia Tech +3)
Sugar BowlOhio State (11-1) vs. Arkansas (10-2)
Two at-large BCS teams will play in the Sugar Bowl, with Ohio State, who was in a three-team tie for the Big Ten title but was ranked below Wisconsin, facing Arkansas. The Razorbacks have had two weeks to rest since a win over LSU that was essentially a BCS play-in game. The two teams have won a combined 11 games in a row, a streak consisting of four victories over ranked teams: Iowa, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and LSU.
It's another hard-to-choose matchup, but the SEC's edge over everyone else could really be the difference in this one. Razorbacks win a program-defining 37-35 thriller.
Pick: Arkansas +3.5
GoDaddy.com BowlMiami, OH (9-4) vs. Middle Tennessee State (6-6)
Why Middle Tennessee State got or deserved a bowl berth over 8-4 Temple or 6-6 Pac-10 member Arizona State is beyond us, but it's not like the GoDaddy.com Bowl will have much of a viewing audience anyway.
The Redhawks of Miami, OH were one of the Cinderella teams of the season, recovering from a 1-11 2009 season to go 9-4 this season and win the MAC championship over No. 24 Northern Illinois. It was their first win over a ranked opponent since December 4th, 2003.
Their opponent, the Blue Raiders, began the year 3-6 in the menial Sun Belt Conference, but miraculously won their last three and surprisingly earned a bowl invitation. But not only is this a meaningless game, it's not going to be very close either, as we expect the Redhawks to cruise 31-14.
Pick: Miami, Ohio -1.5
What is the best matchup, other than the National Championship, in Part Two of the bowls?
Cotton BowlLSU (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (9-3)
This year's Cotton Bowl is in the running for the best non-BCS matchup, as two teams that just missed out on the BCS will each get a chance to prove the computers wrong. The Aggies will be LSU's seventh ranked opponent of the yearthey're 4-2 in those games so far and the Tigers will be A&M's fifth (they're 2-2).
Their seasons have also been flipped, as LSU won their first seven games and Texas A&M have now won their last six. Once again, though, it's the SEC edge that'll come into play as LSU wins a 21-17 defensive battle.
Pick: LSU -1
BBVA Compass BowlPittsburgh (7-5) vs. Kentucky (6-6)
The Pitt Panthers came into 2010 with big expectations and did manage a 5-2 conference record, but 7-5 overall and an invitation to the newly-named BBVA Compass Bowl probably wasn't what they had in mind. The disappointing season is probably why head coach Dave Wannstedt was forced to resign after the regular season finale, a win over Cincinnati.
They'll face Kentucky, who had a mid-season slump losing five of six, but relied on a 3-0 opening record and two wins in their last three games to find their way into a bowl game. Pitt won't have a lot going for them coming into this game, and they'll come up short, falling 27-24.
Pick: Kentucky +3
Kraft Fight Hunger BowlNevada (12-1) vs. Boston College (7-5)
The Boston Boys, who had a quiet year, will travel cross-country and face the hyped up Nevada Wolf Pack, who are looking to close out one of their best seasons ever at 13-1. After opening wins over Weber State and Kent State, the Eagles dropped five in a row, and things were looking bleak in Massachusetts. Five consecutive wins to end the year, however, helped bring back some enthusiasm.
For Nevada, only a six-point loss in the middle of the Pacific Ocean kept them away from an undefeated year, sandwiched between six opening wins and six closing wins, highlighted by a crazy 34-31 overtime win over Boise State. They shouldn't have a lot of trouble dispatching Boston College in their half of the country, winning 40-20.
Pick: Nevada -9.5
BCS National Championship Game - Auburn (13-0) vs. Oregon (12-0)
What more could be said about this historic game that hasn't been repeated 100+ times already? Not much. The storylines are endless, the predictions are endless, and, well, the points scored are probably going to be endless. With Auburn averaging a mere 497.7 offensive yards per game compared to Oregon's underwhelming 537.5, it seems as if the defenses might dominate all 60 minutes...or maybe not.
With this outcome being anything but predictable, we think you're not really a true college football fan if you don't have your own thoughts and predictions on this one. So, with that said, there is no pick, no prediction, and no projection on this one. This one's gonna be up to the teams to decide.