Bowl Games 2011: Predicting Picks Against the Spread for Every Bowl
The 2011 bowl matchups have been out for a while, but we're finally almost to the actual games.
In just four days the bowl season will kick off with the New Mexico Bowl, featuring BYU and UTEP.
I know a lot of people, including me, are anxious to see what will go down in the bigger games of bowl season.
But there are a ton of interesting matchups before then, starting with the game between the Cougars and the Miners.
So let's take a look at all 35 bowl games, which I will pick against the spread and offer a few quick thoughts on.
Here we go!
35. New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. UTEP
Both teams are 6-6, but UTEP enters this matchup having lost five of its last six games and not looking so wonderful in the process.
BYU, on the other hand, allows just 21 points per game.
They'll take care of business here.
The Pick BYU (-11.5)
Prediction BYU 37, UTEP 24
34. Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State
Fresno State lost 35-34 to Nevada but got blasted by Boise State, 51-0.
Which team will show up?
I'm guessing somewhere in between, but it won't be enough to take down Northern Illinois, which boasts a top-20 scoring offense and scoring defense.
The Pick Northern Illinois (-1)
Prediction NIU 35, Fresno State 21
33. New Orleans Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy
In its last game of the regular season, Ohio lost by 22 points to a Kent State team that finished 5-7.
Troy on the other hand, won its final two games and has the nation's No. 12 passing attack.
The Pick Troy (-1.5)
Prediction Troy 31, Ohio 20
32. Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Louisville
Louisville's offense is not very good, but the Cardinals do allow just 18.7 points per game.
It'll be interesting to see whether offense or defense wins out in this one—Southern Miss scores 37.6 points per game.
But I just don't see the Cardinals putting enough points on the board. I like Southern Miss straight up.
The Pick Southern Miss (+3)
Prediction Southern Miss 34, Louisville 24
31. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Boise State
Once upon a time, these two teams were ranked in the top five.
They've both fallen out of the top 10 since then, and Boise State is pissed that they're not playing in a BCS bowl game.
The Pick Boise State (-17)
Prediction Boise State 45, Utah 21
30. Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy
San Diego State relies on the throw, but the Aztes are no slouches running the ball.
Navy, on the other hand, lives and dies by the run, which could hurt the Midshipmen if they fall behind early.
The Pick San Diego State (-5)
Prediction San Diego State 35, Navy 27
29. Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Tulsa
It seems like Hawaii plays in this bowl every year.
Anyway, if you want to see two teams air it out all game long, then be sure to tune into this game.
I like the Warriors in this one because they have the nation's No. 1 passing offense and home-field advantage.
But their defense isn't good enough to slow down Tulsa.
The Pick Tulsa (+10)
Prediction Hawaii 45, Tulsa 38
28. Little Caesars Bowl: Florida International vs. Toledo
Neither of these teams' resumes are going to blow you away, as evidenced by that spread.
But Toledo is 8-4 and from the MAC, and Florida International is 6-6 and from the Sun Belt.
The Pick: Toledo (-1.5)
Prediction: Toledo 28, FIU 24
27. Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
This game certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it does feature the nation's top two rushing attacks.
It'll be probably come down to whichever team controls the clock, so this game has the potential to be one of the closest games of the entire bowl season.
I'll lean slightly to the Falcons, though.
The Pick Air Force (-3)
Prediction Air Force 31, Georgia Tech 27
26. Champs Sports Bowl: West Virginia vs. NC State
NC State has a nice passing attack led by two-sport athlete Russell Wilson, but the Wolfpack will struggle to put points on the board in this one.
West Virginia has the nation's No. 2 scoring defense, allowing a staggering 12.9 points per game.
The Pick West Virginia (-3)
Prediction West Virginia 27, NC State 17
25. Insight Bowl: Missouri vs. Iowa
Missouri has won three straight games and has the nation's No. 6 scoring defense.
Iowa has lost three straight games and averaged just 19 point over its last four contests.
I'll go with the hot team here.
The Pick Missouri (-1)
Prediction Missouri 34, Iowa 20
24. Military Bowl: Maryland vs. East Carolina
East Carolina scores a ton of points, but the Pirates have lost four of their last five games.
They also rank 118th in points allowed at 43.4 per game. That's not going to result in a win, but ECU's offense will keep it close.
The Pick ECU (-7)
Prediction Maryland 41, ECU 35
23. Texas Bowl: Illinois vs. Baylor
This game won't really feature too much defense, so it's all about which team steps up with a better offensive performance.
Will it be Illinois' Mikel Leshoure or Baylor's Robert Griffin who shows up?
I think Baylor's waited too long to get here to leave this game with a loss.
The Pick Baylor (-1.5)
Prediction Baylor 45, Illinois 31
22. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
Arizona's lost four straight games and hasn't looked too good in the process.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has Brandon Weeden, Kendall Hunter and Justin Blackmon.
I'd lay the points in a heartbeat.
The Pick: Oklahoma State (-6)
Prediction: Oklahoma State 42, Arizona 24
21. Armed Forces Bowl: Army vs. SMU
Army has the nation's No. 9 rushing attack, but the Black Knights have looked less than impressive lately, losing three of their last five games.
SMU has also struggled as of late as well, losing four of its last seven games.
So on a whim, I'll go with...
The Pick Army (+8)
Prediction SMU 35, Army 27
20. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas St vs. Syracuse
Sorry, Syracuse, but I'm not really expecting many Big East teams to win their bowl games this year.
Kansas State's battle-tested with that difficult Big 12 schedule, so the Wildcats should roll here.
The Pick Kansas State (-2.5)
Prediction Kansas State 31, Syracuse 21
19. Music City Bowl: North Carolina vs. Tennessee
North Carolina hasn't looked great all season, but Derek Dooley's Tennessee team is hot right now—the Volunteers have won four straight games.
They may be young, but they have a lot more to play for than the Tar Heels.
The Pick Tennessee (+2)
Prediction Tennessee 31, UNC 24
18: Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. Washington
If Washington doesn't have Jake Locker, the 6-6 Huskies probably aren't even in this game.
But Nebraska was three points away from a BCS bowl berth and already beat Washington by 35 points earlier this season.
This one's a no-brainer.
The Pick Nebraska (-14)
Prediction Nebraska 49, Washington 24
17. Meineke Car Care Bowl: South Florida vs. Clemson
Clemson's been pretty disappointing this season, struggling to a 6-6 record despite lofty preseason expectations.
But the Tigers have the nation's No. 9 scoring defense while South Florida was 3-4 in the Big East.
That's not very good.
The Pick Clemson (-4.5)
Prediction Clemson 28, South Florida 17
16. Sun Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Miami
If you're Brian Kelly, finishing 8-5 looks a hell of a lot better than finishing 7-6.
And the Fighting Irish will be taking on a 7-5 Miami team that's transitioning to the Al Golden era.
That should work to their advantage.
The Pick Notre Dame (+3)
Prediction Notre Dame 34, Miami 28
15. Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. UCF
UCF ranks in the top 25 in scoring offense and scoring defense, but the Knights lost arguably their three toughest games this season.
I like Georgia in this one because of the maturation of quarterback Aaron Murray and some guy named A.J. Green at the wide receiver position who's pretty good.
But UCF is good enough to keep this game close.
The Pick UCF (+6.5)
Prediction Georgia 31, UCF 28
14. Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Florida State vs. South Carolina
Is Christian Ponder or E.J. Manuel playing in this one? I don't think we know yet.
But if Ponder does, this game should stay close because these two teams are pretty evenly matched.
So what'll be the difference? Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore.
Not by much, though.
The Pick South Carolina (-3)
Prediction South Carolina 35, Florida State 31
13. TicketCity Bowl: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
Texas Tech doesn't play a whole lot of defense, but Northwestern has looked absolutely terrible in recent weeks.
The Wildcats give up more points than they score; they've allowed 118 points over the last two games, and they have lost five of their last seven games.
The Pick Texas Tech (-9.5)
Prediction Texas Tech 38, Northwestern 24
12. Outback Bowl: Penn State vs. Florida
Both of these teams have been disappointing this season, but no one's more disappointed right now than Florida fans after the abrupt departure of Urban Meyer (even though Will Muschamp was a good hire).
I'm just not sure the Gators' heads will be in this one to pull out the victory, although Penn State isn't a good enough team to run away with this win.
The Pick Florida (+7)
Prediction Penn State 28, Florida 24
11. Capital One Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State
I don't know about you, but this is one of those games I really want to see.
Michigan State's worthy of a spot in a BCS game, and Alabama is still one of the nation's most talented teams despite the three losses.
I like the Spartans, but the Crimson Tide just has too many weapons.
The Pick Michigan State (+10)
Prediction Alabama 38, Michigan State 31
10. Gator Bowl: Michigan vs. Mississippi State
The forgotten Denard Robinson is still one of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks, but Michigan plays very little, if any, defense.
On the other hand, Dan Mullen's Mississippi State team can stop the run and run the football.
That bodes well for the Bulldogs.
The Pick Mississippi State (-5)
Prediction Mississippi State 38, Michigan 27
9. Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU
Wisconsin has looked unstoppable in recent weeks—dropping at least 70 points in two of its last three games—and has one of the nation's best rushing attacks to go along with a very good defense.
TCU is much of the same.
The Horned Frogs have the nation's No. 4 scoring offense and No. 1 scoring defense.
I can't decide if this will be a defensive struggle or a shootout, but I guess I'll go somewhere in the middle.
The Pick: Wisconsin (+2.5)
Prediction: Wisconsin 31, TCU 24
8. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma
Connecticut running back Jordan Todman ranks fourth in the NCAA in rushing yards, but that's about all the Huskies have going for them.
Plain and simple, Oklahoma's a much more talented team than UConn.
If the Huskies pulled off the win here, it would be a bigger upset than Boise State beating the Sooners in that epic game a few years ago.
The Spread Oklahoma (-17)
Prediction Oklahoma 42, UConn 20
7. Orange Bowl: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
Stanford's lone loss is to Oregon while Virginia Tech has won 11 straight games.
Translation: These two teams are on fire right now.
This is probably the biggest toss-up for me, but I'll go with the team that has the better quarterback.
The Pick: Stanford (-3.5)
Prediction: Stanford 35, Virginia Tech 31
6. Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State
What a quarterback battle we have here between two big-time recruits whose playing styles couldn't be more different.
Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor will have the better defense backing him up, but Arkansas's Ryan Mallett has the better supporting cast on offense.
This game will stay close, but Mallett wins out in the end.
The Pick: Arkansas (+3.5)
Prediction: Arkansas 34, Ohio State 27
5. GoDaddy.com Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH)
Miami (OH) has won five straight games, but the Redhawks score a measly 20.5 points per game.
Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee finished 6-6 playing in the Sun Belt conference.
Conclusion: There are too many bowl games.
The Pick: Miami (-1.5)
Prediction: Miami (OH) 31, Middle Tennessee 21
4. Cotton Bowl: LSU vs. Texas A&M
Texas A&M has had great quarterback play since Ryan Tannehill took over behind center.
LSU's quarterback situation? Ugh. It's shaky at the absolute best.
The Tigers' No. 9 scoring defense will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game, but the Aggies should play well enough to avoid the loss.
The Pick Texas A&M (+1.5)
Prediction Texas A&M 31, LSU 24
3. Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky
Pittsburgh allows just 19.8 points per game, but Dave Wannstedt is out as head coach.
The Panthers will either rise up to the occasion or fall flat.
I'll go with the former because Kentucky has lost three of five games and six of its last nine overall, and the Wildcats will have to deal with Deion Lewis and Jonathan Baldwin.
The Pick Pittsburgh (-3.5)
Prediction Pittsburgh 28, Kentucky 21
2. Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Nevada vs. Boston College
You have to be rooting for Boston College's Mark Herzlich in this one.
But his team has the unfortunate task of facing Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, who—along with Tim Tebow and Cam Newton—is one of just three quarterbacks in history to throw for 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 more in a single season.
The Wolf Pack will take this game without a doubt.
The Pick Nevada (-9.5)
Prediction Nevada 42, Boston College 24
1. BCS National Championship: Auburn vs. Oregon
You know what this game is all about.
It's a battle of two of the nation's top offenses and the top two players in all of college football, LaMichael James and Cam Newton.
The main difference I see between these two teams, however, is their resumes.
Auburn has knocked off five top-20 opponents—four of which were ranked in the top 12 at the time—and they've won eight of their 13 games after trailing early on.
The Tigers will win this one...but not by much.
The Pick Auburn (-3)
Prediction Auburn 45, Oregon 41