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College Capper: Bowl Picks

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

I can say with absolute certainty that this has been the strangest start to any bowl season that Iíve ever witnessed. It started with a double-digit favorite Fresno State dropping its game in OT. That was followed up by two more favorites losing straight up. The biggest surprise was still in store, however, as not only did double-digit favorite Nevada lose outright, but it was demolished and it was not fluke -- it was domination from beginning to end. That wasnít all, though. A couple days later, a slight favorite, but very popular pick, the Ohio Bobcats needed a furious comeback just to get back into their game, yet they eventually lost by four points anyway. Since that crazy first week, the balance has been restored a bit, so if youíve struggled a bit through the first couple weeks, now is not the time to jump ship. Stick to your guns and the games should start to go yours and my way soon.

DEC. 31

Texas Bowl - Navy vs. Missouri

There has been a misconception about Missouri for most of the season. Sure, the Tigers are a good team, but they are nowhere near the level we were used to with Chase Daniel behind center. This was and still is a rebuilding year and as such, they'll use this game as a springboard to next season. The problem for the Tigers is that the other team in this match-up has become accustomed to playing well in bowl games and I expect the same this year.

Side: Navy +6.5 (1)

Armed Forces Bowl - Houston vs. Air Force

These two teams are getting used to each other. They met in this very same bowl last season after a regular season match-up. Once again, this will be a classic run vs. pass match-up, but this season, Houston has its best attack in years. Air Force has the best pass defense in the country, but it's yet to see anything like the Cougar attack this season. In what should be an up and down affair, the Cougars pull away in the end.

Side: Houston -4.5 (1)
Total: Over 62 (2)

Sun Bowl - Oklahoma vs. Stanford

The motivation edge would appear to be in favor of the Cardinal here, but remember that Oklahoma's expectations were altered very early on and many players on the active roster are not accustomed to BCS bowls yet, so I wouldn't give an edge on motivation to either side in this game. Oklahoma comes into this game off their best effort of the season and if the Sooners bring the same intensity to this game, they should win easy. Stanford had a great season, but as good as the offense was, the defense was equally as bad. The Sooners are more than capable of taking advantage of the weak Cardinal defense and they'll make stopping Toby Gerhardt priority number one, which leaves Stanford punch less.

Side: Oklahoma Ė8 (2)
Total: Over 55.5 (2)

Insight Bowl - Minnesota vs. Iowa State

This could be the worst match-up of the entire bowl season. The Gophers are a horrible watch right now, and I can't even name one player on the Cyclones. Motivation is likely on the side of Iowa State as it hasn't been bowling much lately and motivation could be the only thing separating these two. While I'm not crazy about siding with either team here, I do like the under as ISU has played low scoring games most of the season and the Gophers failed to score in their last regular season game.

Side: ISU +2.5 (1)
Total: Under 48.5 (2)

Chick-fil-A Bowl - Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech

I've already gone back and forth on this one a few times and chances are I'll change my mind again before the game starts. Right now, I am leaning towards the Vols and they seem to be getting better as the season goes along and of the two teams, they should have the edge in motivation. Virginia Tech looked like a national title contender early on and they certainly didn't expect to be here at the end of the year. With that said, I don't think the Hokies will be flat, but maybe not as motivated as the Vols.

Side: Tennessee +4.5 (1)
Total: Under 49.5 (1)

JAN. 1

Outback Bowl Ė Northwestern vs. Auburn

I dislike these types of bowl games; the talent disparity is huge and it all comes down to whether or not the better team shows up. In this case, the better team is not all that great themselves, but none the less, if the Tigers bring their ďAĒ game, they will win with ease. With that said, thereís no guarantee that Auburn shows up, in fact, given their season of inconsistency, I highly doubt that the Tigers will show up for this game. Let me alter that statement a little, they will show up, after all, itís a New Years Day game, but whether their ďAĒ game is part of the show is in doubt. The Wildcats will play hard from beginning to end and theyíll find a way to stay within this numbers.

Side: Northwestern +8 (1)
Total: Under 54.5 (1)

Gator Bowl - Florida State vs. West Virginia

Iíll make this simple, the Mountaineers are in trouble. The Seminoles had plenty of problems this season, but the talent gap between these teams is not that great and when you throw in a huge edge in motivation towards the Seminoles, what you have is a very tough spot for West Virginia. Oh, and did I mentioned the game is being played in the state of Florida? West Virginia has enough talent to neutralize all the advantages that FSU has in this match-up, but the Mountaineers will have to play their best game of the season and thatís something you simply canít bank on. Noel Devine and company will get theirs, they are too good to be held down all day, but in the end, the Seminoles will send Bobby Bowden out as a winner.

Side: FSU +2.5 (1)
Total: Over 60 (1)

Capital One Bowl Ė LSU vs. Penn State

Itís easy to get caught in the numbers in match-up like this. After all, these teams come from different conferences with no common opponents, how else can you handicap this game? One look at the numbers and youíll find that Penn State has the edge in almost every category. What the numbers donít tell you though is that in their only two tests of the season, the Nittany Lions failed miserably. LSU is likely better than both Ohio State and Iowa and I realize that itís not always that easy, but in this case, Iíll believe the results from this past season and take the team from the better conference.

Side: LSU +2.5 (1)
Total: Under 44 (1)

Rose Bowl Ė Oregon vs. Ohio State

The public has learned to fade the Buckeyes this time of year and for the most part, that course of action has been profitable. Last year however, they snuck up on Texas and covered the number when most of the country expected another clunker. I happened to be on the right side of that game last year, which makes it easier to pick against them again this time around. Sure, Terelle Pryor could have a break out game, but whoís to say that would be enough? Weíve learned over the past five years that even though the Buckeyes play solid defense within the conference each year, come bowl season, they donít look so good. The Ducks arenít going to slow down in this spot, theyíll continue to move the ball at will and end up cruising in this one.

Side: Oregon -4 (2)
Total: Over 50.5 (2)

Sugar Bowl Ė Florida vs. Cincinnati

The Gators were the pick the day this game was announced and they are still the pick even though the line has skyrocketed. To be honest, Iíd feel better if all the Urban Meyer drama hadnít gone down last week. The line was sitting in a good spot around 10 points and Florida was going to make this game a route whether Meyer was leaving or not. So why am I so confident? Did you see the Bearcat defense over their final four games? In case you missed it, here were the point totals allowed Ė 45, 21, 36 and 44. Keep in mind that the best offense they faced in that stretch was that of the Pittsburgh Panthers. Now, factor in everything that has happened since their last game vs. Pittsburgh and you have the makings of a blowout.

Side: Florida -13 (2)
Total: Over 57 (1)


International Bowl Ė Northern Illinois vs. South Florida

Sure, itís strange to have a ton of games after January 1st, and itís almost sacrilegious to have a couple teams such as these two play after the Rose Bowl, but heck, thereís a gap between New Years and NFL Sunday and something needs to fill it. What we have here is another random MAC team vs. a team from Florida that canít be happy about visiting Canada this time of the year. This game is similar to the Outback bowl in that you have one team that is clearly better on paper, yet they arenít that good to begin with. The Huskies, much like Northwestern will come to play in this one as any bowl is a treat for them. While I canít imagine South Florida is thrilled to be in Canada right now, the Bulls will get by on their talent edge early and pull away late.

Side: South Florida -7 (1)

Papa Johns Bowl Ė Connecticut vs. South Carolina

The Huskies have fought tooth and nail all season and I see no reason why that stops here. The Gamecocks on the other hand have been hit or miss most of the season and Iím not sure weíll get their best effort in this game. South Carolina has the talent edge, but the Huskies will be determined to end this difficult season on a high note.

Side: Uconn +4.5 (1)
Total: Over 51.5 (1)

Cotton Bowl Ė Mississippi vs. Oklahoma State

A match-up of two solid teams here, but the Rebels should come out on top as OSU has no answer for the Rebel offense when its hitting on all cylinders. OSU peaked week one of the season and never fully recovered after Dez Bryant was suspended.

Side: Mississippi -3 (1)

Total: Over 50.5 (1)

Liberty Bowl Ė Arkansas vs. East Carolina

The Razorbacks have the flashy offense and they hail from the SEC, but do not underestimate Skip Holtzís bunch here. East Carolina is going to make this game as ugly as it can and in the end, theyíll find a way to stay within the number and possibly pull the upset.

Side: East Carolina +7.5 (1)

Total: Under 63.5 (2)

Alamo Bowl Ė Michigan State vs. Texas Tech

Suddenly, this match-up is among the most intriguing of this bowl season. Prior to all the drama of this past week, I was firmly in the Texas Tech camp here, but after all that has happened, how in the world can you side with them? Their coach is gone and nobody expected this to happen. Behind the scenes, the Red Raiders must be scrambling right now. Do they have a game plan? Will they come to play? Yes and yes, but talk about a major distraction. Michigan State remains a touchdown underdog and lost in all of this Red Raider nonsense is the fact that MSU can play well at times and I fully expect them to take advantage of this situation.

Side: MSU +7 (1)

JAN. 4

Fiesta Bowl Ė Boise State vs. TCU

Iíve been firmly in the TCU all season. The Horned Frogs met every challenge this year and often exceeded expectations. With that said, I think laying over seven points in this spot is a little too much to ask. Sure, they destroyed BYU and Utah, but donít kid yourself, this is the best team they will have faced all year. Boise State must feel a little slighted here as they were also undefeated and earned the best win of the two teams this year when they topped Oregon, yet no one considered the Broncos for the national championship game. The Broncos also have more big game experience, which could come in handy.

Side: Boise State +7.5 (1)

JAN. 5

Orange Bowl Ė Iowa vs. Georgia Tech

Iíve learned to be very careful when dismissing the Iowa Hawkeyes under Kirk Ferentz, but I just donít see how they can hang with the Yellow Jackets here. They have the defense to slow down Georgia Tech, but their offense is not capable of exposing the weaknesses on the other side of the ball.

Side: Georgia Tech -3.5 (2)

JAN. 6

GMAC Bowl -- Troy vs. Central Michigan

The Dan Lefevour run finally ends here and what a run it has been. Lefevour and CMU have owned the MAC conference over the past few seasons and the only way this era can end is with a win. Troy brings in a solid squad also, but they wonít be able to stop the CMU offense much, if at all.

Side: CMU -3.5 (1)

BCS National Championship Ė Texas vs. Alabama

If this game were played four weeks ago, the result would be similar to the SEC Championship game and Texas would be on the wrong end of that result. Weíve seen plenty of upsets in this game over the years, but most of the time it was an undervalued SEC team doing the damage. This time around, the favored team is from the SEC, a conference which has owned this game over the past few seasons. Alabama brings in a defense every bit as good as Nebraska and theyíre likely to wreak havoc on Colt McCoy and the Longhorns. I am not completely sold on the Tide offense, and they could struggle to move the ball on a tough Longhorn defense, but in the end, they wonít need to put up many points as their defense will control this game from beginning to end.

Side: Alabama -5 (2)
Total: Under 45 (1)