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College Capper: Bowl Picks -- Part II

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.

Just about a week into bowl season and we've spotted a couple trends. First, points a plenty. That's usually the case as the teams playing within the first week of bowl season have not had enough time off to build up rust. Second, blowouts all over the place. That's not all that rare early on either, but this season has produced more than usual. Expect both trends to fade as bowl season continues. Better teams are getting ready to play, and the games should be more competitive.

One more item, with the number of bowl game still yet to be played, I am going to break up the preview into three parts instead of two. This preview will take us through New Year's Eve.

Bowl Part 1 Recap:

Record: 5-1-1
Record YTD: 96-89-2
Units: +5.9
Units YTD: +0.8

Best Win:
Boise State Only because it was the only game that was ever in doubt. The other four winners were all but over a few minutes into the second half. Boise State on the other hand kept some drama alive all night. In fact, early on it looked like Boise State might lose the game straight up, but that wasn't the case.

Worst Loss:
Navy which was the only loss. Navy made some uncharacteristic mistakes and San Diego State took advantage. To be honest, the Aztecs played so well, I am not sure if Navy could have kept up with them, even without the mistakes.


Dec. 26

Little Caesars Bowl - FIU vs. Toledo

Hmm, well they can't all be great match-ups. Witness the Motor City Bowl, which pits 6-6 FIU from the Sun Belt against 8-4 Toledo from the MAC. This match-up feels similar to the Ohio vs. Troy match-up from earlier this bowl season. Granted, Ohio or Troy run probably run over either of these teams, but you get the point. In that game, I sided with Troy because of the familiar surroundings. I'll do the same with Toledo here in that the Rockets have been here before and they should understand what needs to be done at a bowl game. Proximity to Detroit shouldn't hurt Toledo either.

Side: Toledo -1.5 (1)

Dec. 27

Independence Bowl - Georgia Tech vs. Air Force

This match-up looks even in more ways than one, but where the discrepancy lies is in run defense and as you know, run defense will be critical in this one. Air Force has struggled against solid rushing attacks this season and the Yellow Jackets bring a pretty decent attack into this one. The outstanding question though is the health of their starting QB Josh Nesbitt. If he goes, I could see Georgia Tech pulling away in this game, if not, it will likely be tight the entire way.

Side: Georgia Tech +3 (1)

Dec. 28

Champs Sports Bowl - North Carolina State vs. West Virginia

A battle of two play-making QBs here as Russell Wilson and Geno Smith put their talents on display. West Virginia just missed out on the Big East Championship this year, but it was not a result of how the Mountaineers finished, rather how they started. NC State on the other hand started well, but faded near the end of the season. I'll take the team that playing better coming in, which is West Virginia.

Side: WVU -2.5 (1)
Total: Over 48.5

Insight Bowl - Missouri vs. Iowa

Wow, how much has this match-up changed over the past couple weeks? The line has moved in favor of Missouri as the public is reacting to the suspensions handed down to some key Iowa players, but I am a little worried that they are over reacting at this point. Iowa does its best work when the public doubts them. Add to that, the fact that the Iowa coaching staff has a very solid track record at getting their team ready for a bowl game. I am going to take a chance here and side with the unpopular choice of that Iowa Hawkeyes.

Side: Iowa +3 (1)

Dec. 29

Military Bowl - East Carolina vs. Maryland

Maryland looked like a great pick about a week ago, but with their coach on the way out, who knows how they will react. One this is certain though, East Carolina does not play any defense and Maryland will take advantage. The other question is how productive the Pirate offense can be against the 'Terps. My guess is this game will look similar to the Hawaii game from Christmas Eve, only with a few more runs mixed in.

Total: Over 68 (2)

Texas Bowl - Illinois vs. Baylor

Both of these teams over performed this season and the only question left is, which team will over perform through the end of bowl season. Illinois brings a solid running attack into this game, but their offense is very erratic. Baylor on the other hand brings a fairly consistent attack into this game. It's also a pseudo home game for Baylor as Houston is only a few hours from campus.

Side: Baylor -1.5 (1)
Total: Over 62.5 (2)

Alamo Bowl - Arizona vs. Oklahoma State

OSU is favored by 5.5 here, but I see this game being a little tighter. With that said, it's less than one score and OSU could easily make up that margin late in the game. I'll take what look to be the safe route and take the over in this game as both teams have proven they can light up the score board.

Total: Over 66 (1)

Dec. 30

Armed Forces Bowl - Army vs. SMU

SMU is not exactly Auburn, but the Mustangs are matching up against what has to be the worst bowl team of the season. Army started out well this season, but the Black Nights struggled mightily down the stretch. SMU did not have a great year either, but the same could have been said prior to its bowl game last year and they went on to crush their opponent in the Hawaii Bowl.

Side: SMU -7 (1)

Pinstripe Bowl - Syracuse vs. Kansas State

Of all the coin-flip matches this year, this could be the most difficult to pick a winner. Kansas State has looked really good for stretches this season, but the Big 12 was really down this year, so it's kind of hard to judge just how good that team is. Syracuse played well in conference this season, but the Orange play in the Big East. When all is said and done, there isn't much separating these two teams, so I'll go with the team that's ecstatic to be playing in the post season, which would be Syracuse. Oh, and they'll be close to home in Yankee Stadium.

Side: Syracuse even (1)

Music City Bowl - North Carolina vs. Tennessee

Give the Tar Heels credit, after being decimated early in the year with several suspensions, they could have folded and no one would have blamed them. Instead, they played hard all year and their reward was a bowl game at the end of the season. Tennessee struggled early in the year, but the 'Vols turned a corner mid-way through the year and by the end, they started to resemble the 'Vols of old. Once again we have a case of two teams that I would probably side with if they weren't playing each other, but that's not an option here. I am going to side with the 'Vols who really hit their stride in the second half of the season.

Side: Tennessee +2 (1)

Holiday Bowl - Washington vs. Nebraska

Where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, a few months back, the Cornhuskers went out west and laid a proper thrashing on the Huskies. And oh joy, we get a rematch of that fine game during bowl season this year. All signs point to Nebraska in this match-up, but that's what worries me. There is virtually nothing you can point to, other than Jake Locker on why Washington will be competitive and yet, I am having difficulty with this line. Two touchdowns is a lot to lay when you consider that the Huskers will likely be thoroughly bored with this match-up. I'll take the ugly dog here and hope Nebraska sleepwalks through this game.

Side: Washington +14 (1)

Dec. 31

Meineke Bowl - South Florida vs. Clemson

I've seen better South Florida teams get beat in bowl games before, so I am going to side with Clemson in this match-up. In years past, the Tigers entered a lower-tier bowl with little enthusiasm because of pre-season expectations, but that isn't the case this season. Look for a renewed optimism from Clemson this year and for once, an excited bunch of players.

Side: Clemson -5.5 (1)

Sun Bowl - Notre Dame vs. Miami

Notre Dame sure impressed during its final few games, but before you get too excited, take a look at the competition. Miami didn't exactly sprint to the finish, but there is little doubt that the Hurricanes have the talent edge here. Motivation shouldn't be a problem either as anytime the fighting Irish are on the other side of the field, it's a big deal. Now, with that said, the 'Canes will need the good Jacory Harris to show in this one, otherwise it could be a frustrating day. The injuries the 'Irish have suffered this season have yet to catch up with them, but they will on New Years Eve.

Side: Miami -3 (2)

Liberty Bowl - Central Florida vs. Georgia

Georgia spent the first month of the season spinning its wheels, but after getting star WR A.J. Green back, its season began to move in the right direction, but before you see this game as a stepping stone to a rebuilding program remember that the team on the other side of the ball is pretty strong. UCF won its conference and it brings a very solid defense into this match-up. If Georgia continues to improve, it could turn this game into a route, but UCF's defense is too sound to let this one get out of hand, and as such, this one will come down to the end.

Side: UCF +5.5 (1)
Total: Under 55.5 (1)

Chick-fil-A Bowl - Florida State at South Carolina

I've been a fan of the Gamecocks all season, but I can't explain what happened to them in the SEC Championship game. Check that, SC goes as their QB Steven Garcia goes. If he's on, the Gamecocks look like a top-10 team, if he's not, they look like, well, they look like they did against Auburn in the SEC Championship game. In a year when the Gamecocks have been extremely consistent, they've been very consistent at bouncing back from tough losses. Considering the loss they incurred in their most recent game, I expect a huge bounce back in this bowl game. FSU have been a solid team all year, but the 'Noles can't keep up with South Carolina when the Gamecocks are at their best.

Side: South Carolina -3 (1)