So far, I'm 2-3 in my bowl picks, but I've been pretty successful in calling the tone of the games. I went with the favorites by one point margins in Utah State and SDSU and they ended losing by one and two points respectively. Not only that, but I've been fairly spot-on in what the scores have been. So, I'm close; I've just been scared to pull the upset trigger, I guess. Well, not anymore. Below is the bowl slate through New Year's Eve. Most of the spreads are sub-3.5, so we're talking glorified pick 'ems, here. It's been a challenge to my prognostication skills, but I've made picks for each match-up...some of them pretty 'out there' picks, too. By the way, had I been betting against the spread this bowl season, I'd by 5-0...keep that in mind if you're looking for some gambling advice this holiday season.
Independence Bowl - Everett Withers' bags are packed and his caps set for Columbus. Larry Fedora's waiting in the wings. The Tar Heels are somewhere in the middle, most likely distracted. Missouri, on the other hand, has some positive excitement around their team. They're riding in on four straight wins and almost knocked off RGIII and Baylor the week before the streak began. Plus, I like them to make a statement headed into their new conference, Missouri 29, North Carolina 24.
Little Caesar's Bowl - Ah, beautiful Detroit (/dodges stray gunfire). Purdue has had some solid wins this year...but they had some dreadful losses, too. It's always hard to go against the big boy when you get to these kids of match-ups, but I'm not ready to say the Boilermakers have turned the corner yet and Western Michigan can actually be a pretty good team at times, too. Their air raid usually runs like a dream under Alex Carder and their defense should be able to hang with a Purdue offense missing their leading rusher. The Broncos get their first bowl win, Western Michigan 30, Purdue 21.
Belk Bowl - Charlie Strong has done a great job with the Cardinals, taking a team predicted for last in the Big East and almost getting to a BCS game. Tom O'Brien is an idiot who ran-off Russell Wilson but whose team somehow fell ass-backwards into seven wins. Talent wise, the Wolfpack have the edge, but Louisville is the definition of pesky and they love to cover. It's only a 2.5 point spread, so you might want to go all out on the Cardinals. I won't though; call it cowardly, but I'' take the 'Pack, NCSt. 27, Lousiville 26.
Military Bowl - Neither Toledo nor Air Force will meet their ridiculous scoring averages in this game. Triple options are easier to figure out with extra time to prepare, but Tim Beckman already has his ticket punched to Champaign and I don't see his charges being too focused. Not only that, but Air Force should be able to keep the ball away from the Rockets long enough to disrupt Toledo's rhythm. Air Force reps the bowl's namesake well, AF 20, Toledo 16.
Holiday Bowl - All signs here point to Cal: Texas is very young, the 'Horns struggle at QB, the game's in Cali, and the Bears have played well the last four games, including taking Stanford to the wire. But I'm not reading the signs. The young Longhorns and their two new coordinators have had three weeks to prepare and McCoy has emerged as the go-to kid. Cal's simply out of excuses. Tedford has done some great things in Berkeley, but you've got to wonder if it's enough for the new Pac-12. I'll take the mistake prone young 'uns over the mediocre and unmotivated west-coasters, Texas 24, Cal 17.
Champs Sports Bowl - OH MY GOD, THE DREAM MATCH-UP, FSU-NOTRE DAME! Oh yeah, it's not 1992 anymore. Sorry. These teams have become fairly irrelevant the past decade, so it's fitting they'd get matched-up in a bowl. In a showdown to see who's more insignificant, I'll take the better defense. The Noles should hassle Rees and contain Wood en route to a boring win. At least one of the 'Noles few TD's will come of a pick-six, FSU 21, Notre Dame 17.
Alamo Bowl - You know how Heisman winners sometimes lay an egg in the bowl? Well, not this time. Washington is a scrappy team and the Shark has the, at least turned in the right direction, but none of that can make up for the lack of talent in that 115th ranked secondary. RGIII should have a field day. The Bears D isn't great either, but I'll take the man in the Superman socks in a shootout, Baylor 38, Washington 30.
Armed Forces Bowl - Nothing pays homage to our armed forces like Mormons and Okies. I have no real 'feel' for this game. My gut went Tulsa first, but the Hurricane have wilted against any true test this season and BYU's had some impressive wins down the stretch. I know it will be high scoring, but beyond that, I'm very unsure. I'd flip a coin, but I don't have one on me, so I'll go with the 'Cougs no.19 defensive ranking, BYU 31, Tulsa 28.
Pinstripe Bowl - How is Rutgers favored in this bowl? Surely it's not the 'home' field advantage of NYC, is it? Does Rutgers have any real fans who go to games? If so, do they really want to see this game? Despite the time zone, cold weather, 'hostile' crowd, or whatever the bookies dreamed up as the Knights' advantage, I'll go with the battle hardened boys from Ames. They played three ranked teams in a row to end the season (including the upset win over OK State), and will be ready for this bowl. Rutgers does have a solid D, but their resume doesn't hold up. Take the Cyclones and the points, Iowa State 27, Rutgers 17.
Music City Bowl - I don't have much to say about this snoozer other than go with the SEC for the win, but take the seven points, MSU 20, Wake 17.
Insight Bowl - Which Oklahoma team will show up? If it's the focused Sooners, they'll cruise. If Big Game Bob's had too much time to get in their heads, they'll limp to a win. Needless to say, I don't ever put my faith in a Stoops and 16 points is a ridiculous spread with a ground and pound team like Iowa. The Hawkeyes are outclassed, but Marcus Coker could keep them in it at least through halftime. Sooners win, but take the points, OU 30, Iowa 20.
Meineke Car Care Bowl - Kevin Sumlin will give A&M the shot in the arm they need...just not in time for the bowl. Northwestern is not a team to overlook (ask Auburn) and Persa should be completely healthy and ready for the showdown. He's a 70+% passer who takes care of the ball and will keep his team in it late. I will say that I don't see a Sherman-esque second half collapse in this one for A&M, but 11 points is too big for this game. Aggies end on a high-note, but it'll be hard fought, Texas A&M 30, Northwestern 23.
Sun Bowl - Always go against Tech when the opponent gets time to prepare. Utah 20, Georgia Tech 19.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - Is there any motivation here? Illinois fell apart after a good start and they showed Zook the door. UCLA stumbles into a bowl with a 6-7 record and is also newly coach-less. Both programs have made hires to fill their respective voids, but it won't be enough to take effect by NYE. In the end, I like the Illini defense and the play of QB Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois 27, UCLA 19.
Liberty Bowl - I like Vandy in this one. Sure, Cincy has a good defense and a great QB, but they also came too close to a BCS bid to get fired up for this one. The 'Dores, though, don't get that many pre-season shots and they'll be damned if they blow this one. James Franklin has changed the attitude in this program and they'll be ready to show out down the road in Memphis. I'm taking a pumped-up, battle-tested Vandy squad, Vanderbilt 27, Cincinnati 22.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl - I'd like to pick Auburn, but it's a risky call here.Their QB situation is shaky, their best rusher is suspended for the game, their OC is bound for Arky State, their DC is at home in Orlando, and their defense is ranked 80th in cfb. Mix that with a upstart and excited opponent like Virginia, and it could be a long day for the Tigers. BUT, Virginia's not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. They're mediocre in pretty much every category and the last time we saw them play they were torched by VA Tech, 38-0. I know I've touted focus and motivation in a lot of these picks, but this one's a nod to athleticism, of which Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason have tons. Look for long runs and kick/punt returns to boost the Tigers; call me crazy, Auburn 27, Virginia 24.