Bowl Bonanza: Part III

He has already taken us through 18 of the bowl matchups this holiday season, and now Daniel digs into the final 10, including a heaping help of bowls in the New Year. Some are "must watch" affairs, while Daniel is calling others as blowouts. One of the tightest contests of all might be a low-scoring one, on the eve of the national title tilt...

Bowl Bonanza: Part I
Bowl Bonanza: Part II

Note on predictions: The "Vegas" prediction is constructed by combining the over/under and the point spread currently listed by Las Vegas sports books.  My predictions went 17-20-2 against the spread and 23-16 straight up over the regular season.

(All times are Pacific)

Peach Bowl (Atlanta, Ga.) Dec. 30 4:30 PM ESPN

This is easily the best non-BCS game of the bunch – and if you think, as I do, that Florida State, West Virginia and Notre Dame are overrated – this might just be the best game not in Pasadena.  Both squads are stacked with NFL-level talent at every position on the two-deep, but I like LSU (10-2) by a whisker over Miami (9-2).  After all the turmoil of their season, a full month to prepare for the game could finally allow the Tigers to play to their potential.  Bet the under.

Vegas: Off the board
Daniel: LSU 16, Miami 13 (OT)

Car Care Bowl (Charlotte, N.C.) Dec. 31 8 AM ESPN2

On talent, North Carolina State (6-5) and their smothering defensive line should walk all over South Florida (6-5).  However, if the Wolfpack are only as excited to play in this game as the rest of the country is to watch it, watch out for a running of the Bulls - a team that has already shocked Louisville this season.  I think the fact that South Florida controlled its own Big East destiny as late as mid-November speaks volume about the quality of the league.  If South Florida keeps recruiting Florida talent though, they could become a league powerhouses in just a few years.

Vegas: North Carolina State 24, South Florida 18
Daniel: North Carolina State 31, South Florida 17

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tenn.) Dec. 31 10 AM ESPN

How quickly the country forgets Fresno State's potential.  Sure, the defense looked a bit slow (a.k.a. human) against Reggie Bush, but other than that, the Bulldogs hung with the mighty Trojans punch for punch.  Two sloppy Bulldog losses later, and now Vegas expects Tulsa (8-4) to give Fresno State (8-4) a game?  This bowl season appears chockfull of mismatches, and this contest looks to be no exception.

Vegas: Fresno State 35, Tulsa 27
Daniel: Fresno State 41, Tulsa 20

Houston Bowl (Houston, Tex.) Dec. 31 11:30 AM ESPN2

Iowa State (7-4) backed its way into this bowl slot after entering the last week of Big 12 play leading the division.  TCU (10-1), meanwhile, saw its collective skull grow a bit too large after pulling the shocker over Oklahoma, and the letdown against SMU the following week is the only blemish on a season that could have been so much more for the 14th ranked Frogs.  Iowa State fans travel in droves, but TCU is playing in its home state, and I look for the Horned Frogs to win in a defensive struggle.

Vegas: TCU 26, Iowa State 23
Daniel: TCU 20, Iowa State 13

Cotton Bowl (Dallas, Tex.) Jan. 2 8 AM FOX

Between the 8 AM start and a FOX crew that has not broadcast college football since last year's Cotton Bowl, this may be one of the more painful bowl games to watch.  Too bad, because the tilt between Texas Tech (9-2) and Alabama (9-2) may be one of the most compelling this entire postseason.  Half the game – when Alabama's stellar defense meets Texas Tech's stellar offense – will feature two units that combined would give USC a shot for its money.  Avert your eyes for the other half of the game, as Alabama's offense and Texas Tech's defense are the worst offense and defense, respectively, of any Top 25 programs.  As always, defense takes precedence, so the Tide roll in an upset.

Vegas: Texas Tech 25, Alabama 23
Daniel: Alabama 23, Texas Tech 9

Outback Bowl (Tampa, Fla.) Jan. 2 8 AM ESPN

Two of college football's trendiest coaches square off when Iowa (7-4) meets Florida (8-3).  The Hawkeyes are one of the most improved teams on the season, as their glaring weakness – a defensive line that lost all its starters – has gelled into a respectable unit over the course of the year.  Florida, meanwhile, brings a home-field advantage, and more athletic players (especially at skill positions).  The SEC is favored in both its contests with the Big 10, and look for Florida to carry the conference banner in this one.

Vegas: Florida 26, Iowa 22
Daniel: Florida 35, Iowa 24

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Fla.) Jan. 2 9:30 AM NBC

Two of the country's teams in the top 10 on talent (and underachievement) do battle – just not in the BCS, as many had expected preseason.  Both offenses are similarly solid, with Louisville (9-2) atop the offensive statistical leaderboards for yet another year, and quarterback Marcus Vick for Virginia Tech (10-2) simply a gear faster than anyone else on the field.  Virginia Tech, led by an underrated and ferocious defensive front, has a marked edge over Louisville (though Cardinal defensive end Elvis Dumervil is worthy of the hype).  Look for Louisville, up against the toughest defense it has faced in years, to rack up the fewest yards it has in years, and the Hokies to roll easily.

Vegas: Virginia Tech 31 Louisville 23
Daniel: Virginia Tech 35, Louisville 17

Capital One Bowl (Orlando, Fla.) Jan. 2 10 AM ABC

As the Barry Alvarez era draws to an end, Wisconsin (9-3) looks to send off their coach in style.  The task was difficult enough when the Badgers drew an Auburn (9-2) squad that is playing like one of the top five teams in the country, and the mountain just grew taller with the suspension of backup running back Booker Stanley.  Look for the Badgers put forth an inspired effort, but for Auburn's massive lines to prove the difference in the game's final throes.

Vegas: Auburn 32, Wisconsin 21
Daniel: Auburn 31, Wisconsin 28

Sugar Bowl (Atlanta, Ga.) Jan. 2 5:30 PM ABC

The undercard of the BCS features a fundamentally solid, if quiet, Georgia (10-2) team against the plucky upstarts from West Virginia (10-1).  Non-national title BCS games tend to be routs, and this Sugar Bowl looks to be no different.  It features the champion from arguably the nation's strongest conference as a significant favorite over the champion from, arguably, the nation's weakest BCS conference.  Georgia would likely be undefeated against West Virginia's schedule, while the Mountaineers would be staring at a minimum of four losses against Georgia's schedule.  Needless to say, I like the Bulldogs big.

Vegas: Georgia 27, West Virginia 18
Daniel: Georgia 41, West Virginia 14

Orange Bowl (Miami, Fla.) Jan. 4 1 PM ABC

The coach everyone thought was over the hill just last year meets the coach everyone will think is over the hill just next year, given another four-loss season.  As the announcers never tire of telling us, Penn State (11-1) is just one second against Michigan from being undefeated, but with an overtime win over Ohio State and a 4th & 15 conversion en route to a victory over Northwestern, the Lions could just as easily be in the Outback Bowl now. Meanwhile, Florida State (8-4) has weathered an up-and-down season, mainly due to a lack of offense, but perhaps the ACC title victory over Virginia Tech was a positive omen.  Both defenses should keep the opposing offenses in check, so while I dislike Penn State, I like Joe Paterno's squad in a narrow, defensive struggle.

Vegas: Penn State 28, Florida State 20
Daniel: Penn State 17, Florida State 13

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