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College Capper: Picking the Bowl Games

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.

Well, that didn't take long. There's always at least one squad that finds itself in a bind because of multiple suspensions, and this year, it's the Iowa Hawkeyes. I for one am a little surprised that the Hawkeyes were the team nailed by suspensions, but perhaps it has something to do with the way they finished the season and a lack of enthusiasm for the upcoming bowl season. Whatever the case, one game has already been dramatically affected, but if history is any indication, it won't be the last, stay tuned.

The bowl preview this season will be broken up into two sections. The first will cover the games Dec. 18-24. The second section will cover the remaining games. Let's hope that all suspensions come down by the 24th.

Since this is the bowl preview, the structure of the preview is a little different. The avoid list, the radar, the weekly rant and the capper angle will be shelved until next season.

Weekly Recap:

Record: 3-7
Record YTD: 91-88-1
Units: -4.8
Units YTD: -5.1

Best Win:
Auburn Over. How do you know when fate is on your side? How about a Hail Mary completion at the end of the first half? Auburn's offense was unstoppable all day, so the Hail Mary probably wasn't the key that put this game over the total, but it sure was nice getting those seven points before the half.

Worst Loss:
Washington State. WSU was trailing the entire way, but the Cougars found a way to tie the game with only a couple minutes remaining. At that point, overtime was the main enemy. Once Washington drove down into FG range, I thought the game was in the bag, but in a strange twist, Washington actually scored a touchdown. Nine times out of 10 in that situation, the coach will bleed the clock and attempt a FG for the win, but that wasn't the case in this one.


DEC. 18

New Mexico Bowl - UTEP vs. BYU

UTEP is undoubtedly more excited to be here, but the talent gap in this game is large, and it basically comes down to one question will the BYU team that played the second half of the season show up in this game? If that version of the Cougars takes the field, then this game will get ugly in a hurry. My guess is the Cougars keep that momentum from a strong finish to the season and roll over the Miners.

Side: BYU -11.5 (1)

Humanitarian Bowl - Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State

The public is likely down on Northern Illinois because its head coach chose to leave for the Golden Gophers, of all teams. That move was purely because of the conference, by the way, because Northern Illinois is in better shape than Minnesota. Anyhow, the Huskies had a solid season but came up embarrassingly short in their regular-season finale against Miami of Ohio. That was a spotlight game, and the nation witnessed the pitiful effort put forth by the 17-point favorites. That is bound to have an affect on the public's perception of this team. On the other side, you have Fresno State, which defeated Illinois just hours after Northern Illinois' loss that same night. Although Fresno State won that game, the Bulldogs did not impress me much. In fact, they haven't impressed me much at all this season. Considering all the above, I expected Fresno State to be favored in this match-up, yet it is not. This tells me that Vegas expects Northern Illinois to put up a fight in this game. In that case, I am backing Vegas on this one.

Side: Northern Illinois pick (1)

New Orleans Bowl - Ohio vs. Troy

This one should be re-labeled, "the coin-flip" bowl. There are several games each bowl season that look impossible to pick, and this is one this year. Unfortunately, among these unpredictable games, there are usually plenty of blowouts, so depending on which side the coin lands, your pick could win with ease or be blown out of the house. One reason this one is so difficult is the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the Ohio Bobcats. One week, they look like the cream of the MAC, the next they lose to Kent State with a spot in the MAC Championship game on the line. Troy's situation isn't much better. The Trojans come from a weak conference yet lost twice within the Sun Belt this season. I am leaning toward Troy, though it's played in this bowl before and you never know how the kids from Ohio will respond to a trip to New Orleans.

Side: Troy -2.5 (1)

DEC. 21

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl - Louisville vs. Southern Mississippi

I can't quite figure out why Louisville is favored in this match-up, but the fact that the Cardinals are three-point favorites is a little scary. They are much improved from previous seasons and they finished well, but they were 3-4 in the Big East this season. My hope is that name recognition is driving this line, because Southern Mississippi is not a bad football team. In fact, the Golden Eagles had a very impressive showing at UCF just a month ago, and their offense is rolling. Louisville is a nice turn-around story this season, but the fact remains that the Cardinals were 6-6 this year while playing in a bad conference. Take the Golden Eagles and the points.

Side: Southern Mississippi +3 (2)

Dec. 22

MAACO Bowl - Utah vs. Boise State

Some may worry about the state of mind of the Boise State players, but something tells me they'll be ready to play in this one. Why? Because they always get up for national spotlight games, and while this isn't exactly the Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos will have the college football spotlight all to themselves on Dec. 22. Utah enters this game on a horrible slide. The Utes were exposed against TCU, and though it seemed impossible at the time, their play has actually regressed the past few weeks. As if that wasn't enough, don't forget about the little competition between TCU and Boise State. TCU crushed Utah, and Boise State will look to do the same. If Boise State shows up for this one, it will be a blowout. If not, the cover might be in danger, but the game won't be.

Side: Boise State -17 (2)

Dec. 23

Poinsettia Bowl - San Diego State vs. Navy

Very tough call here as I would like both of these teams if they were playing different opponents. Navy is always dependable during bowl season, and San Diego State is the up-and-coming team from the Mountain West. Each team will have plenty of support from the stands as this game is being played in San Diego where Navy has a major base. Since the teams appear to be evenly matched, I am going to take the points and the experienced bowl team.

Side: Navy +4.5 (1)

Dec. 24

Hawaii Bowl - Tulsa vs. Hawaii

Points, points and more points. Unless this game gets way off track with rusty offenses, or a wind storm hits the island (which is actually not that uncommon), there are going to be a lot of points scored in this game. Both offenses are solid, and neither team brings much of a defense. Tulsa is certainly good enough to keep up with Hawaii, but things have a way of getting out of hand on the island, and the Warriors don't let up once they get a lead. So, I will make the safe play, which is over a huge number.

Total: Over 73 (2)