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Bowl FEPO: Part Four

Things are coming down to the wire as Jon and Ahearn Alley make their picks for this year's crop of New Year's Day football games

Tevin Reese is back just in time for Baylor's offense to make a mockery of UCF's solid secondary.
Tevin Reese is back just in time for Baylor's offense to make a mockery of UCF's solid secondary.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Remember the good old days, when making a New Year's Day bowl served as a clear indicator that your program had accomplished something, because those games were in a class of their own? Then slowly, the national championship and other games moved away from Jan. 1, and now we've got BCS games on four of the first six days of the year, which doesn't seem like such a bad thing when you say it out loud.

Nonetheless, you've still got six bowl games to watch this Wednesday, and five of them are at least somewhat respectable (why are you here, Heart of Dallas Bowl?!) unless you have no respect for Nebraska. OK, so four of them are somewhat respectable.

Either way, Jon and I are still making picks on all of them, For Entertainment Purposes Only, of course. After briefly forcing a tie (thanks Navy!) I missed 4 of 8 (screw you, GT/VT) to fall to 87-72-6, while Jon did the same to remain one game ahead at 88-71-6. GATOR BOWL Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., ESPN2
GEORGIA (-9) over Nebraska
EverBank Field, Jacksonville FL

AA: Let's SEC team with only one loss outside the top 10 and a great quarterback or a B1G team that lost to Minnesota and Iowa (at home!) by double digits? Yeah, this one's not that hard, especially since Georgia's only loss in its last five games came on the luckiest play of the season at Auburn. The Bulldogs are going to cover easily, and I'm going to enjoy every second of it.

JM: There's a part of me that really feels I should take Nebraska here, what with Aaron Murray being injured and all. But they're just so... not good. They're a Big Ten team in a bowl game against the SEC. They're Nebraska. Look, if we can't make our picks based on entirely irrational feelings, what's the point? Georgia wins and covers (but intellectually I think Georgia's not going to look very good at all today).

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL - presented by Plains Capital Bank, Wednesday, 11 a.m., ESPNU
NORTH TEXAS (-6.5) over UNLV

Cotton Bowl, Dallas TX

AA: That's right. This game is so bad, they're showing it on ESPNU. I really don't understand why they don't play this one before Christmas or maybe on Jan. 4 or 5 so the field doesn't get torn up for the Mizzou-Okie State game on Friday. Both of these teams have some God-awful losses and nothing even resembling a quality win, so it's a tough pick. The main difference I see is North Texas does a much better job of stopping teams from scoring, so that combined with the home-field advantage should be enough to help the Mean Green cover, I guess.

JM: Hey, love the subtle Cotton Bowl joke there. Well played. You're wrong about one thing, though: North Texas has TWO quality wins. They beat Rice, which admittedly may not seem all that impressive after yesterday's CLANGA beatdown, but Rice did stomp Marshall. They also beat Ball State, and we shouldn't let the season-ending collapse by Northern Illinois take away from the Cardinals' quality season. So while you just sort of think North Texas will cover, I'm absolutely certain of it.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL, Wednesday, noon, ABC
SOUTH CAROLINA (+1.5) over Wisconsin

Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando FL

AA: To be honest, I picked South Carolina to win this game and cover before I even looked at the spread because Wisconsin. So, imagine my surprise when I learned the Badgers are actually favored for some reason. The B1G hasn't beaten the SEC in a bowl game since Michigan State topped Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl, and they needed 3 overtimes to do it. Does anyone really think a Wisconsin team that lost by a TD at home to Penn St. in its regular season finale is going to beat the Cocks, who beat Clemson at home by 2 TDs? Not a chance.

JM: What's funny about this game is that while the Peach Bowl was drowning in "Johnny's last game" hype, we're hearing almost nothing about what's sure to be Jadaveon Clowney's attempt at making a major pre-draft statement after a legitimately disappointing regular season. And let's not forget this immortal highlight:


Yeah, the Fighting Chickens are going to win outright.

OUTBACK BOWL, Wednesday, noon, ESPN
LSU (-7) over IOWA

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa FL

AA: Obviously, the same principles apply here as they did with the Capital One Bowl. This one's a little different, because the line makes more sense, but it's still not nearly big enough to pick the Hawkeyes. After all, they lost to Wisconsin by 19 and their biggest win of the season was when they erased a 21-7 halftime lead to beat Michigan in Iowa City. We all know how impressive that isn't. LSU covers and then some.

JM: LSU has been a bit of an enigma this year. They finally developed an offense that works, which has been a real problem for a couple of years now. But the results have been disappointing, as the Bengals had a relatively mediocre season (for them). Still... no, I don't see them having any real issues with Iowa. I think this will probably be a "close" game, but ultimately one in which the yellow and purple win by more than a touchdown.

ROSE BOWL Wednesday, 4 p.m., ESPN
MICHIGAN STATE (+6.5) over Stanford

Rose Bowl, Pasadena CA

AA: So much Big Ten today! At least this one is interesting, especially after Texas Tech proved to us the Pac-12 might not be as good as previously thought. Then again, Arizona and UCLA looked pretty strong against the ACC. Stanford has done well in big games, but Michigan State should be riding high after its upset of Ohio State. This one could be quite the defensive battle, and I think the Spartans will narrowly come out on top. Even if they don't, they'll definitely get within a touchdown.

JM: This is going to be an excellent football game if you love #MANBALL. The Spartans have, and I am not exaggerating in the least, one of the best defenses we've seen in college football in... well, maybe even forever. They're really good. Stanford is one of those teams that can score on a defense with flaws, but the Spartans don't really have any. The absence of Max Bullough may play a role here, and it's going to be just as hard for Sparty to score on Stanford as it will be for the Cardinal to put up points, but I think the game's going to be low-scoring enough that expecting Stanford to cover might be a stretch. Also, Michigan State is probably THE most underappreciated squad of 2013, a four-point loss under the baleful glare of Touchdown Jesus being the only thing standing between them and a date with the Seminoles. Sparty covers. Juggalos rejoice.

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ABC
BAYLOR (-16.5) over Central Florida

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale AZ

AA: A lot of teams might not be too motivated to play this game after seeing their bright national championship hopes dashed in such a devastating fashion. Then they bounced back to win the Big 12 outright, which is clearly more impressive than any win over Central Florida. But this is Baylor, their coach is Art Briles, and they're playing in their first-ever BCS bowl. The Bears will be ready, and they'll destroy a UCF team that gave up 35 points and 341 yards (in a win) the last time it faced a good passing attack. Baylor covers.

JM: Let's not sell Central Florida short here. This legitimately is a good football team, and I don't even need to throw in any qualifiers. But Ahearn is right; this game is matchup hell for the Knights. Their defense is effective against the run, but they're susceptible to the pass, and Baylor is going to attack. Further, although UCF's offense is very good, Baylor actually has a very solid defense to go with their crazy offense. Still... Baylor seems to have slowed down late in the year, their dismantling of the Longhorns notwithstanding. And that line is wide. REALLY wide. If Baylor were to win 42-26, we'd all nod our heads and recognize it as a whippin'... and they still wouldn't cover. We've gotten this far without any disagreement, which doesn't do anything to help Ahearn catch up to me... so while I'm very much on the fence here, I'll go ahead and say Baylor wins big, but not quite big enough. Knights cover.