College Football Pick'em: New Year's Eve Games

Dumont WalkerSenior Analyst IDecember 30, 2008

It’s New Year’s Eve, and that means plenty of alcohol and good times. But before you get too drunk to remember, sit down and pregame while watching a couple of great college bowl games. Besides, what better way to get ready for a night on the town than throwing back a few beers while watching gridiron? Like you have anything better to do anyways.

Sun Bowl: Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh

The Oregon State Beavers were one game away from a memorable season. Sure, they beat USC earlier this season, and playing in the Sun Bowl is nothing to sneeze at. But when you have a chance to wrap up the Pac-10 and play in the Rose Bowl, and all you need to do is win on your home turf against your in-state rival, and you lay an egg in that game, the season just seems to be a bit of a letdown.

However, despite a horrible performance in the season finale, the Beavers will actually be stronger going into their bowl game. Freshman running back Quizz Rodgers looks to be back in the lineup after missing the Oregon game with a shoulder injury. Reintroducing him to the Beavers offense should provide a level of balance and some explosion in their rushing game that they were desperately missing in November.

Over the course of the season, the Beavers transformed into a pretty good defensive team, as they managed to lead the Pac-10 in overall defense for the final two months of the season. Oregon State has a tendency to struggle against teams that run the spread offense and have mobile quarterbacks, but luckily for the Beavers, Pitt does not have either.

The Pitt Panthers may be one of the toughest teams in college football. Not because they are the hardest-hitting or the hardest-running team in the country—Pitt is tough because they were able to withstand the onslaught of doubters and critics they faced after losing the season opener to Bowling Green.

One reason for the renewed success of the Panthers program is the shake and bake skills of running back LeSean McCoy. All McCoy did this season was record 21 touchdowns, leaving him one short of NFL Hall of Famer and Pitt alum Tony Dorsett. There is no doubt if Pitt wants to have any measure of success in this game, it will come with a healthy dose of LeSean McCoy.

On defense the Panthers will turn to middle linebacker Scott McKillop. Currently McKillop leads the nations in solo tackles, and he is the only player in the Big East to average more than 10 tackles a game. It will be up to Scott McKillop to keep Oregon State’s Quizz Rodgers in check.

The spread on this game favors Oregon State by three points. Considering the makeup of these two teams, that seems fairly accurate. I expect this to be a tight contest, with a special teams play being the deciding factor. With that being said, Pitt has made more plays on special teams this year than just about anyone in the nation. Look for the Pitt Panthers to pull the upset and win the game.

Music City Bowl: Boston College vs. Vanderbilt

Yes, you read that correctly—Vanderbilt is playing in a bowl game. It has been 26 years since the Commodores last reached a bowl game; even the mighty Jay Cutler could not get them over the hump into the postseason Promised Land.

Unfortunately for Vandy, they are matching up against a very good Boston College team. If it was not for the fact that the Boston College faithful do not travel well, BC would not even be in the Music City Bowl. Boston College is a very good team with a defense that has been ranked in the top 10 nationally all season. That spells trouble for a Vanderbilt program that has struggled to get anything going on offense all season.

The spread favors Boston College by four points, and I love those odds. It’s great to see Vanderbilt in a bowl game, but they will not be able to match up against Boston College.

Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Air Force

If this seems like a familiar matchup to some of you, that’s because we saw these two team play each other back on Sept. 13. Air Force emerged victorious in that meeting. Since then, the Air Force Falcons have seemingly turned over their entire roster in an effort to jumpstart their offense. Air Force replaced their quarterback and their tailback midway through the season in an effort to jump-start their triple-option attack.

Despite losing to Air Force earlier in the season, the Houston Cougars are a very good football team. They were implementing a new spread offense in the early part of the season, and it took the players several weeks to adjust to the new scheme. How effective was the new offense? The Cougars racked up over 600 yards in each of their last four games.

The spread favors Houston by three-and-a-half points. While Air Force is a good team, I don’t believe they can keep pace with Houston.

Insight Bowl: Kansas vs. Minnesota

The Minnesota Gophers were a much improved 7-5 team this season. Minnesota used a new spread offense to work their way to a postseason bid. Perhaps the new look caught some teams off guard.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, they became a little too addicted to their spread attack. Minnesota basically abandoned their rushing attack this season, and it caused them some problems. This is why a new offensive line coach was brought in, and this why the focus of the winter practices has been running the ball.

As a reward for their improved play on the field, the Gophers will take on a strong Big 12 North team in the Kansas Jayhawks. Last year Kansas took the nation by storm and rode their success to a BCS Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. This season the Jayhawks returned to earth, but they are still a solid team.

Todd Reesing may be the second coming of Doug Flutie, and that is in no way meant as an insult. When given weapons, he is a very accurate and an extremely dangerous quarterback.

The spread on this game favors Kansas by 10 points. While I believe Kansas will win the game, I think that Minnesota has what it takes to keep things interesting and keep it a close game.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Georgia Tech

This is not where LSU wanted to be when they began their season in August. There is no other way to put it: The 2008 season was a disappointment. LSU head coach Les Miles already admitted there will be changes in Baton Rouge next season. The first change the Tigers should make is finding some stability at the quarterback position, but that’s next season—let’s talk more about the Peach Bowl (yes, that’s what this bowl used to be).

Georgia Tech was a pleasant surprise in the ACC this season. New head coach Paul Johnson wasted no time implementing his triple-option attack. The Yellow Jackets proved to the nation that the triple-option works in major college football. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Georgia Bulldogs how well the option attacks works.

The spread on this game favors Georgia Tech by four-and-a-half points. While LSU may be a more athletically talented team all around, they are a team in disarray right now. Les Miles has already turned his focus to next season, and many of his players have little interest in traveling to Atlanta to play in a bowl game just one year after playing for a national title. LSU’s disinterest will be a blessing for the Rambling Wreck as they march to victory.