USC has too much D, while the crystal ball belongs to the Gators
Bowl season has started out pretty well. I'm 13-4 against the line through the Dec. 30 games, putting me 22 over .500 for the season. The recap for the past week: The good: picking Oregon to win by double digits; the bad: picking West Virginia to win with a bit more room to spare; the ugly: Nevada to handle Maryland. Here is the final batch of guesses for the season.
Thursday, Jan. 1
Iowa 27, South Carolina 13: Shonn Greene has had a phenomenal season and now he faces a solid run defense (36th in the country), but Carolina floundered down the stretch, surrendering 87 points in the final two games of the season. I like Iowa to roll through Carolina, which is one of the worst teams in the country along the O-line and too inconsistent at quarterback.Georgia 31, Michigan State 21: The Dawgs' defense has been atrocious over the final five games of the season, having yielded almost 37 ppg and over 226 rushing yards and that doesn't bode well facing a horse like MSU's Javon Ringer, who should be sharp after more than a month off. Still, I think UGA is the more balanced team and will have too much firepower for State, but it'll be interesting to see how Mark Dantonio tries to handle Matt Stafford & Co. Nebraska 35, Clemson 27: Both teams come in here having won three straight. Nebraska has an underrated offense, but the Cornhuskers can get sloppy with the ball (105th in turnover margin). I think they win this game because they will be more physical and the Clemson O-line is still very shaky (94th in sacks allowed). USC 24, Penn State 7: The Trojans have dominated Big Ten teams of late and while Penn State has a solid O-line and some experienced receivers, Joe Paterno's team has not seen anything like the talent it'll face in the USC D. The Nittany Lions' front seven could give the young USC O-line some trouble and losing reliable FB Stanley Havili (academics) hurts the Trojans, but unless they turn it over more than four times, I think they cruise here. Cincinnati 13, Virginia Tech 10: It won't help the Bearcats' chances if star CB Mike Mickens isn't 100 percent (knee). He's outstanding, but UC does still have a terrific D-line that will keep the heat on a shaky Tech offense. I was tempted to pick Tech, but the Hokies have had so many problems in the red zone, I'm going with a hunch and taking Cincy.[+] EnlargeGregory Shamus/Getty ImagesJavon Ringer and the Spartans will test the Bulldogs' run defense.
Friday, Jan. 2
Texas Tech 35, Ole Miss 31: Jevan Snead can play with any of those great Big 12 quarterbacks and the Rebels' receivers will show that Michael Crabtree's not the only big-timer out there, but I think Tech pulls it out late after the Ole Miss secondary runs out of gas. East Carolina 17, Kentucky 6: The Pirates rallied to win six of their final seven games, while UK lost four of its last five and probably won't have slick QB Randall Cobb (knee). That'd be a huge blow for a team that doesn't have much firepower already. Unless the UK D-line totally dominates this game, I think ECU wins fairly easily. Alabama 20, Utah 7: Losing Andre Smith will hurt the Tide, but they're still going to be able to run the ball pretty well and should wear down Utah. The Utes, who have been outstanding of late in bowl games, can be physical in their own ground game with Matt Asiata, but this will be the toughest defense they've seen this season.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Tim DunnMichael Crabtree won't be the only player to catch in the Cotton Bowl.
Saturday, Jan. 3
UConn 35, Buffalo 20: Even though the Huskies lost five of their last seven, I still like them here because of their outstanding running back, Donald Brown, against the nation's 83rd-ranked run defense. Turner Gill's team has some dangerous weapons, but it'll be matched up against a very underrated secondary (eighth in the country in pass D).
Monday, Jan. 5
Texas 28, Ohio State 20: Expect the Buckeyes to come out fired up and move the ball well, but eventually the UT D-line will make some big plays and force a couple of mistakes from Terrelle Pryor. I do expect the OSU secondary to do a solid job of slowing down the UT offense, though.
Tuesday, Jan. 6
Ball State 48, Tulsa 38: I don't see Tulsa's defense slowing down Nate Davis enough to win a shootout. Tulsa is one of the nation's worst pass defense units while BSU is a little more formidable on defense. Tulsa also is a lot sloppier taking care of the ball (96th in turnover margin).
Thursday, Jan. 8
Florida 38, Oklahoma 31: I think Florida's back seven will be as good as OU has seen all season and should be good enough to hold OU below 35 points for the first time this season. I expect Tim Tebow and the UF speed to hit on a few big plays and also to capitalize on a few mistakes from the Sooners' shaky kickoff coverage unit (105th in the nation).
Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.
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