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Fearless Rick's 2010-11 College Football Bowl Games Week 3 Picks

Rick Gagliano | December 31, 2010 - January 1, 2011

All times Eastern - Click here for BCS Bowl games

December 31, 2010

Meineke Car Care Bowl, South Florida vs. Clemson (-4 1/2, 40), 12:00 pm ESPN - If you're confused on this game, it's with good reason. Both the Bulls and the Tigers have had up-ad-down seasons, alternating between no offense and no defense to potency on either side of the ball.

Here's why 7-5 South Florida and 6-6 Clemson are so difficult to differentiate: Offense: Clemson, 23.8 ppg; South Florida, 23.5 ppg. Defense: Clemson, 17.8 ppg; South Florida, 19.5 ppg.

The similarities of the two teams are so closely aligned that one would have to assume a tie, possible overtime and therefore take the Bulls and the points. There's also the case of having played one similar opponent - the Miami Hurricanes. South Florida topped the 'Canes, in Miami, 23-20, on November 27. The Tigers lost to the very same team back in October, 21-30, at home. Edge to the Big East Bulls.

Prediction: Bulls 20 Tigers 13

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Notre Dame vs. Miami (-3, 47), 2:00 pm CBS - Both teams finished their regular seasons with 7-5 records, but how they got there was vastly different. The Irish won their last three games, all without Dane Christ, their opening day starting QB. Notre Dame dumped Utah, Army and USC in succession to gain bowl eligibility, while Miami fell out of the Top 25 rankings after a 24-19 loss at Virginia, which put them at 5-3. They beat Maryland and Georgia Tech, but dropped their last two games, to Virginia Tech and South Florida.

The Hurricanes will start either Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris at QB. Both can be liabilities. Harris makes bad decisions throwing into coverage. Morris has limited experience. Starting at QB for the Irish will be freshman Tommy Rees, who is 3-0 as a starter.

Vegas linemakers must be thinking the Notre Dame money is no good, otherwise, why would the Irish be underdogs? They seem to have everything going their way, while the 'Canes have already fired their head coach, Randy Shannon and are unsure about which QB will start. Notre Dame's defense has improved over the course of the season and will make moving the ball difficult, if not impossible.

Prediction: Fighting Irish 31 Hurricanes 17

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Central Florida vs. Georgia (-6 1/2, 55), 3:30 pm ESPN - As usual, the SEC entrant is the favorite over the Conference-USA championship squad from UCF, and it looks like the Bulldogs, not necessarily proficient on the defensive side of the ball will have their hands full containing the multi-faceted Central Florida attack.

While Georgia went 6-6 overall, they were only 3-5 in the SEC, so giving them the nod here just because they're from a "better" conference is silliness squared. The underdog Knights went 10-3, scored 35 or more points eight different times (all wins) and won the C-USA championship by topping SMU, 17-7, so, they play defense too. Their losses were 31-21 to Southern Miss, 17-13 to Kansas State and 28-21 to NC State, all bowl teams. Georgia may be able to score a load of points, but so will the Knights, ensuring at least a close call. Central Florida has been exceptional for the past few seasons and should be taken very seriously.

Prediction: Knights 34 Bulldogs 30

Chick-fil-A Bowl, Florida State vs. South Carolina (-3, 54) 7:30 pm ESPN - If you like hard-hitting, wild struggles, the Chic-fil-A Bowl is right up your alley. The Seminoles allowed 19.8 ppg and 349.1 yards per game, while the Gamecocks gave up 22.9 and 357.9. While those numbers may not be shocking, taken in context that both teams play in highly-competitive conferences the perspective is that neither offense will be able to dictate play and move the ball with alacrity.

Offensively, the two are virtually even, with South Carolina scoring at a 32-points-per-game clip, and Florida State checking in at 31.8. This game is another handicapping nightmare. Both teams closed out their seasons with a loss, then three straight wins and a loss in their conference championship games. Both offenses play into the opposing defense's weakness. Florida State loves to throw the ball and the Gamecocks are better defending the run. South Carolina can move it on the ground, but the 'Noles are better against the pass.

Both beat Florida, the Seminoles by 24 points, the Gamecocks by 22. Looks like a close call, but give the edge to Florida State because they've overachieved and have a little better defense and may get pressure on SC QB Stephen Garcia.

Prediction: Seminoles 28 Gamecocks 26

--- Story continues below ---

January 1, 2011

Dallas FootBall Classic, Northwestern vs. Texas Tech (-9 1/2, 60), 12:00 pm ESPNU - Texas Tech has some significant advantages over the Wildcats. First, note the name of the bowl. The game will be played in the Red Raiders' back yard, ensuring plenty of fan support. Second, Tech has the offensive edge, scoring 32.1 ppg to Northwestern's 25.4. Third, the Red Raiders, while allowing 30.3 ppg to Northwestern's 27.7 (not a big difference), they didn't give up 70 points to Wisconsin, as the Wildcats did in their final game of the season. Additionally, Texas Tech is coming off back-to-back wins while the Wildcats lost their final two games.

The Red Raiders have more experience on offense and a balanced attack, plus, the defense can often stiffen to stunt drives, as witnessed in their 24-17 win over Missouri. They can beat you in a variety of ways and if they get out to a lead, may be able to stymie the Northwestern offense significantly.

Prediction: Red Raiders 42 Wildcats 24

Outback Bowl, Penn State vs. Florida (-7, 47 1/2), 1:00 pm ABC - After waving goodbye to Tim Tebow at the end of last season, the Gators are now seeing the end of the coaching reign of Urban Meyer, who has announced his retirement for "family reasons."

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno has long since seen his kids grow up, and his family largely consists of his coaching staff and his players. This hasn't been an outstanding year for the Nittany Lions, but their 7-5 record matches that of the Gators and JoPa, who turned 84 on December 21st, is coming back for at least one more year. Also, Penn State started their season just 3-3, but finished up 4-2. Florida began the season 4-0, and went 5-3 after that, ending their season with blowout losses to South Carolina (36-14) and Florida State (31-7) with a "who cares" win over Appalachian State (48-10) in between. Penn State has quality and a bright future. Florida is just going backwards.

Prediction: Nittany Lions 28 Gators 14

Capital One Bowl, Michigan State vs. Alabama (-11, 51 1/2), 1:00 pm ESPN - The Crimson Tide had everything going for it this season except maybe a thoroughly-dominating defense, coming off a national championship with a returning Heisman Trophy winner, a 4th-year QB and a solid offensive line. Their Waterloo was an October 9th meeting at South Carolina, where the Gamecocks kicked them sideways-down in a 35-21 defeat which toppled them from their #1 perch in the national rankings and led them out of the BCS bowl running. Alabama finished an uncharacteristic 9-3, with additional losses at LSU (24-21) and Auburn (28-27).

Michigan State was one of the bright spots in college football this season, coming from nowhere to post an 11-1 record and tie Wisconsin and Ohio State for the Big Ten title, losing the tie-breaker to both of those teams on BCS rankings even though they beat the Badgers, 34-24. They did not play Ohio State. Their only loss was a 37-6 thrashing by Iowa midseason, when QB Kirk Cousins had his worst game of the season, throwing three interceptions. The Spartans finished up with three straight wins over Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State and will compete with the bruising Crimson Tide.

It's tough to figure a way for Alabama to lose this game, but unless the Spartans completely fall apart, they will keep it close enough to cover and maybe even win it late.

Prediction: Crimson Tide 31 Spartans 27

Gator Bowl, Michigan vs. Mississippi State (-6, 59 1/2), 1:30 pm ESPN2 - This is not going to be pretty for Wolverine fans. The Bulldogs were one of the better SEC teams, losing only to LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas, all favorites in their respective bowl games. They lost by just three points to Auburn (17-14) early in the season and by seven to Arkansas late in the year, but finished up in good fashion by beating in-state rival Mississippi, 31-23.

Michigan got off to a hot 5-0 start on the wheels of QB Denard Robinson, but injuries slowed down the freshman play-maker and tough Big Ten opposition sent them to a 2-5 record the rest of the way. Michigan, despite their 7-5 mark, was just 3-5 overall in the conference, posting wins over Indiana, Illinois and Purdue, teams with a combined record of 12-24. Their last two losses - to Wisconsin and Ohio State - were crushers, losing by 20 points to the Badgers and 30 to the arch-rival Buckeyes.

A slaughter would be putting this game into the proper perspective, and the howls for firing Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez will only grow louder.

Prediction: Bulldogs 38 Wolverines 21

All times Eastern - Click here for BCS Bowl games

Copyright 2010, 2011, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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