Bowl Mania: Predictions
By Will Harris
College football fantasy analyst Will Harris takes you through his Bowl Mania picks. Games are in order of the confidence points he's assigned to each.
Konika Minolta Gator Bowl
Jan. 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
The case for West Virginia: Florida State's defense isn't just bad, it's a mind-boggling, record-setting kind of bad. On paper, Noel Devine and Co. should run wild on a stop unit that ranks 110th in total defense, 108th in rush defense, 113th in pass efficiency defense, 104th in 3rd down conversions allowed ... etc, etc. Plus, the Seminole offense is clearly not as effective as it was before quarterback Christian Ponder was lost for the season.
Jan. 7, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for Texas: The Longhorns boast the nation's third-ranked scoring offense and third-ranked total defense. The Colt McCoy-to-Jordan Shipley connection is one of the most successful pitch-and-catch duos in the recent history of the game. Mack Brown is a proven preparer who already has one title to his credit, and having Nick Saban protege Will Muschamp in command of the defense gives the Horns some insight into Bama's methodology.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Dec. 24, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for Nevada: The Wolfpack became the first team in NCAA history to feature three 1,000-yard rushers in the same backfield. While one of those players, Luke Lippincott, will miss the bowl, the other two -- quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua -- will be more than SMU's 86th-ranked rush defense can handle. Coach Chris Ault's Pistol offense has been unstoppable, averaging a staggering 428 rushing yards on 8.3 yards per carry in the team's last three games, a stretch that included tilts with WAC powers Boise State and Fresno State.
Rose Bowl presented by Citi
Jan. 1, 4:30 p.m. ET
The case for Oregon: The Ducks' seventh-ranked scoring offense is averaging a whopping 43 points per game over its past six contests. Decorated quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has an unbelievable array of weapons at his disposal, and now that LeGarrette Blount has returned, the Ducks have the physical, inside-the-tackles presence they'll need against the stout Ohio State defense.
New Mexico Bowl
Dec. 19, 4:30 p.m. ET
The case for Fresno State: The Bulldogs offense is led by Ryan Mathews, who leads the nation with 151 rushing yards per game, but the unit boasts balance with playmakers everywhere. Wyoming is one of the weakest teams in the postseason, with an undersized defense that can't stop Mathews and Co. and a pedestrian offense that won't be able to keep pace in a shootout. Fresno has been to nine bowls in the past 10 years, while no Wyoming player has ever been to a bowl and the Pokes are led by a first-year staff.
Maaco Las Vegas Bowl
Dec. 22, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for Oregon State: Brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers -- the running back/wide receiver duo that accounts for nearly 70 percent of Oregon State's offense -- will have their way with a solid but unexceptional BYU defense that can't match the Beavers' offensive speed. Coach Mike Riley has won five bowls games in as many tries. His Beavers boast excellent special teams units and have turned the ball over fewer times than any other team in the nation.
Champs Sports Bowl
Dec. 29, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for Miami: The Big Ten has been awful in bowls of late, especially against speedy teams from the South. The Champs was a case in point last year, when the Badgers were destroyed 42-13 by Florida State. This will again be a virtual home game for the ACC entrant, and Wisconsin hasn't beaten a ranked team this year.
Brut Sun Bowl
Dec. 31, 2:00 p.m. ET
The case for Stanford: The Cardinal owns the most physical offense in the Pac-10, with Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart carrying the load behind the league's best offensive line. Oklahoma is accustomed to more prestigious postseason digs, but the Cardinal will treat this game like a championship affair.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Jan. 2, 9:00 p.m. ET
The case for Texas Tech: Michigan State is in turmoil, with 10 players suspended and facing charges stemming from an on-campus fight. The Spartans 103rd-ranked passing defense was already in trouble, but now this is a team fighting some serious distractions. Tech is finally healthy at quarterback, with Taylor Potts back under center.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Dec. 23, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for Utah: The Utes have won eight straight bowl games, four in as many years under Kyle Whittingham. This year the Utah boss will have the advantage of familiarity when his defense squares off with former Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who left after last season to call the plays in Berkeley. Cal coach Jeff Tedford has also fared well in bowls, winning five of six, but this is the most disappointing bowl assignment yet for his mentally inconsistent Bears.
Capital One Bowl
Jan. 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
The case for LSU: The SEC's recent track record against the Big Ten is impossible to ignore. LSU has played a far more difficult schedule than the Lions, and emerged with the nation's 12th-ranked scoring defense and an offense that averages just four points per game fewer than Penn State's. Les Miles is an underrated preparer of teams who is a sterling 4-0 in bowl games at LSU.
Dec. 26, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for USC: Rebuilding year or not, the Trojans are one of the most athletically gifted teams in the nation. While they won't move the chains consistently against a tough Boston College defense, there is enough speed on this offense to get the ball in the end zone a few times via the big play. Pete Carroll is a proven postseason performer, and while Boston College has been a bowl terror in recent years, this is Frank Spaziani's first trip as a head coach.
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. ET
The case for Kentucky: This game is not only a rematch of Kentucky's 28-20 win in the 2006 Music City Bowl, it's occurring under similar circumstances. Late-season losses have again dropped the Tigers into a bowl they neither expected nor wanted to attend, while the Wildcats will enjoy the benefits of a familiar venue and a supportive crowd.
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Dec. 28, 5:00 p.m. ET
The case for Georgia: Man-for-man, Georgia is more talented at nearly every position on the field. The Bulldogs aren't quite as statistically accomplished as the Aggies this year, but played a far, far more difficult schedule. Star wideout A.J. Green may return from injury in time to create a matchup nightmare for a struggling A&M secondary. Mark Richt is 6-2 in bowls so far as Georgia boss.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Dec. 31, 12:00 p.m. ET
The case for Houston: The Cougars boast the nation's top-ranked total offense and passing offense. Decorated junior triggerman Case Keenum and his troupe of targets have been unstoppable this year, averaging 44 points and 581 yards per game.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Dec. 20, 8:30 p.m. ET
The case for Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles are a very capable offensive team. Damion Fletcher is the school's career rushing leader, sophomore wideout DeAndre Brown may be the most talented skill player recruited in over a decade and the quarterbacks have combined for 23 passing touchdowns against only three interceptions. Southern Miss has played -- and beaten -- Sun Belt opposition in three of the past five New Orleans bowls, including last year's 30-27 victory over SBC champ Troy. The program has now posted sixteen consecutive winning seasons, along with fourteen straight victories over current Sun Belt schools.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Jan. 2, 5:30 p.m. ET
The case for Arkansas: East Carolina usually has some of the best athletes in Conference USA, and always fields one of that league's few quality defensive units. However, the Pirates are stepping up in class against the Hogs, who have weathered an SEC slate and have seven wins to show for it. Quarterback Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks offense will get the ball in the end zone enough to force a real response from ECU's pedestrian offense.
Jan. 2, 12:00 p.m. ET
The case for South Florida: Northern Illinois is stepping up in class. The Big East squad has been too big, fast and strong for the MAC representative in a pair of I-Bowl blowouts the past two years. The Bulls don't lose to underdog non-conference teams.
Jan. 2, 2:00 p.m. ET
The case for Connecticut: The Huskies have had a roller-coaster season, culminating in a nailbiting win over South Florida in the snow on senior day. The bowl destination isn't good for fans, but the team is anxious to see where it stacks up with a SEC squad. The one-two punch of backs Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon give Connecticut a chance against an inconsistent South Carolina run defense.
Meineke Car Care Bowl
Dec. 26, 4:30 p.m. ET
The case for Pittsburgh: The Panthers have posted what is easily the school's best season since the 2004 Fiesta Bowl team. This season's offensive output has improved by nearly a touchdown and more than 50 yards per game, and the ingredient list is impressive: a senior returning starter under center, a starting five on the line that hasn't missed a single game due to injury and three All-Americans at the skill positions. Pitt also boasts a run-stuffing defense that recorded more sacks that any team in the nation. The team's weakness is the secondary, and North Carolina doesn't have the tools to attack it effectively.
FedEx Orange Bowl
Jan. 5, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for Georgia Tech: The Jackets' offense can be nothing short of unstoppable. Running back Jonathan Dwyer leads ACC starters in yards per carry and quarterback Josh Nesbitt is a truly great competitor and one of the game's unsung warriors. Tech is a very difficult preparation for a vanilla Iowa defense that doesn't see much option football.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
The case for Cincinnati: The Bearcats have a real shot to replicate Utah's win over Alabama in last year's Sugar. Florida's expectations were so lofty that not even a win in the SEC's prize bowl would salvage the season. Cincinnati's offense can score on anyone, and the team is out to prove it can win without departed coach Brian Kelly.
Jan. 1, 11:00 p.m. ET
The case for Northwestern: After some close calls in recent postseasons, the Wildcats are coming to Tampa on a mission to earn the school's first bowl win since 1949. This is a veteran team that knows how to prepare and won't be intimidated by the SEC favorite. Auburn will find the Wildcats surprisingly physical, and the offense will be at full tilt with mobile quarterback Mike Kafka healed up and back into top running shape.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 4, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for TCU: No one but Clemson and Air Force -- both road games -- has even come within striking distance of challenging the Horned Frogs. TCU boasts the nation's top total defense and fourth-ranked total offense, plus the Frogs have an All-American returnman in Jeremy Kerley.
Roady's Humanitarian Bowl
Dec. 30, 4:30 p.m. ET
The case for Idaho: Playing at rival Boise State's Bronco Stadium makes this a virtual home game for the Vandals, whose fans will pack the house at the school's first bowl game since upsetting heavily-favored Southern Miss in the 1998 Humanitarian game. Idaho's big-play offense, averaging 450 yards and 32 points per game, figures to get to the end zone often against a Bowling Green defense that can't claim a single all-conference player.
Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. ET
The case for UCLA: Impotent offensively but excellent defensively, the Bruins resemble their MAC foe, but have compiled their record against a far tougher schedule. In what shapes up as one of the bowl season's lowest-scoring games, Groza winner Kai Forbath is a serious weapon.
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET
The case for Virginia Tech: Tech's offense has gotten stronger and stronger throughout the season with the continued development of quarterback Tyrod Taylor and steadily improved line play. Tennessee's front seven may not be able to stand up to Taylor and freshman running sensation Ryan Williams; the Vols surrendered a whopping 214 yards per game on the ground and 5.3 yards per carry over their past three contests.
Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl
Dec. 26, 1:00 p.m. ET
The case for Ohio: Frank Solich's Bobcats are bowling again after winning the MAC East (and falling to Central Michigan in the MAC title game) for the second time in four years. Ohio isn't a force on either side of the ball, but the Bobcats have a senior-laden offense and a defense that ranks first in the nation in takeaways. Meanwhile the opposing Herd stumbles into this affair without a head coach. Former Cincinnati boss Rick Minter was elevated from defensive coordinator to interim head coach following the resignation of Mark Snyder.
St. Petersburg Bowl
Dec. 19, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for Rutgers: Greg Schiano boasts an impressive bowl resume, and his Scarlet Knights are now stepping down in class against Conference USA entrant Central Florida, which has never won a bowl game and owns just two wins in 43 games against BCS competition. The punchless UCF attack doesn't figure to move the chains much against a tough Rutgers defense.
Jan. 6, 7:00 p.m. ET
The case for Central Michigan: This senior-laden squad is led by the most decorated player in MAC history, dual threat signal-caller Dan LeFevour. The Chippewas also feature tremendous receivers and the school's best defense in several years. This is an accomplished, experienced group that's hungry to send a special senior class out with a bowl win after two straight postseason losses. Even the best Sun Belt defenses don't have much chance to slow LeFevour and his offensive machine.
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET
The case for Missouri: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert operates the nation's 13th-ranked passing attack. The 2009 Navy defense sports a typically tame pass rush and soft secondary. The Mids don't have anyone on the roster who can hope to match up with the Tigers' All-American wideout Danario Alexander. The Missouri defense has also been hurt by passing teams this year, but is 12th in the nation is rush defense, which is what matters most in this matchup.
Dec. 31, 6:00 p.m. ET
The case for Iowa State: This is the Gophers' third straight bowl trip to the Insight, and there's not much buzz around the game this time around. The Cyclones, who jumped two teams ranked higher in the conference standings for this warm-weather berth, are bowling for the first time since 2005. Thanks to a healthy Alexander Robinson at tailback and an experienced offensive line, Iowa State claims the better offense in this matchup between two pedestrian attacks.
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Dec. 30, 8:00 p.m. ET
The case for Arizona: Wildcat Nation is ecstatic as this year's balanced, capable team has turned in the school's best campaign since the 1998 squad wrapped up a 12-1 season by beating Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, are still in a dark mood after barely missing what would have been the school's first Big 12 championship since 1999.
AT&T Cotton Bowl
Jan. 2, 2:00 p.m. ET
The case for Oklahoma State: The dismal loss to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl cost the Rebels status as the SEC's third-best team and a trip to the more desirable Capital One Bowl. Ole Miss didn't really want to return to Dallas this year, and there's not nearly the enthusiasm surrounding this game that there was last year when expectations were much lower.
Will Harris is a fantasy college football analyst for ESPN.com
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