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Fearless Rick's 2010-11 College Football Bowl Games Week 4 Picks - Early Games

Rick Gagliano | January 2-9, 2011

All times Eastern - Click here for BCS Bowl games

January 6, 2011

GoDaddy.com Bowl, Middle Tennessee State (-2, 49) vs. Miami (OH), 8:00 pm ESPN - With the BCS bowls complete, college football sadly winds down with the first of four non-BCS bowl games to whet the appetite before the national championship on January 11.

This contest pits Miami, champions of the Mid-America conference against the 6-6 Blue Raiders of the Sun Belt. While the MAC hasn't done well against the Sun Belt, losing two bowl games in December (Troy over Ohio, 48-21; Florida International over Toledo, 34-32), this one takes on a bit of a different flavor with the MAC champs facing a mid-level team.

Middle Tennessee had some ugly losses against conference foes, particularly a 42-13 home loss to Troy and a 51-24 road defeat at the hands of Arkansas State, though they did finish with three straight wins. They depend highly on the running and passing of QB Dwight Dasher, and, as his name implies, he's a better runner than passer, with 6 TDs and 14 INTs.

The RedHawks have done everything right and will deploy a stifling defense, which held powerhouse Northern Illinois to 21 points in the MAC championship game, which equalled the highest any team had scored in any of their nine wins. This team's done everything right and a bowl win to go 10-4 would be a fitting end to their remarkable season.

Prediction: RedHawks 27 Blue Raiders 17

January 7, 2011

AT&T Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M vs. LSU (-2, 49), 8:00 pm FOX - Ranked in the Top 15 all season, LSU stands ready to affirm dominance of the SEC, something that hasn't quite been established, as SEC teams are 3-4 in bowl games thus far, and just two of those wins were by ranked teams, Alabama and Mississippi State, so the Tigers have to beat up the Aggies in order for the SEC to have a shot at being better than .500 when Auburn lines up against Oregon.

LSU struggled with an inconsistent offense in the first half of the season, but began playing more like a team as the season progressed. The 10-2 Tigers lost only to Auburn and Arkansas, so they're as good as the conference can produce, they're hidden strength in a defense that held six different opponents to 14 points or fewer. LSU ranks 9th in both passing yards and points allowed (17.8) and 8th in yards per game, at 301.7. By contrast, the Aggies are allowing 20.3 points and 357.5 yards per game.

LSU's defensive strength gives them an edge over the pass-oriented Aggie offense, led by Ryan Tannehill, who stepped into the starting role mid-season and produced six straight wins down the stretch, including Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. At 9-3, A&M is a worthy opponent which will test the LSU secondary and that's where the battle may be won.

Obviously, the oddsmakers consider this one too close to call, but the Aggies should come away with a win, ending a three-game bowl skid against the SEC.

Prediction: Aggies 27 Tigers 24

--- Story continues below ---

January 8, 2011

PapaJohns.com Bowl, Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh (-3 1/2, 53), 12:00 pm ESPN - Head coach Dave Wannstedt is gone and will not coach Pitt in this game, replaced by defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, which doesn't bode well for the Panthers, since they need help with a sputtering offense. Adding to the confusion in Pittsburgh, Mike Haywood, the man hired as Wannstedt's replacement, has already been fired after he was jailed on a domestic violence charge over the New Year's weekend.

Pitt is a team that doesn't need any more distractions, and players are now pondering their futures rather than the plays diagrammed for this game. Finishing up 7-5 and losing two of their last four games - including a revealing 35-10 pounding by West Virginia - the Panthers need stability and aren't about to find any.

Their biggest problem is at QB, where Tino Sunseri put up decent stats (15 TDs, 8 INTs), but failed to deliver in key situations all season. Pitt has a nice ground game in Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. The duo combined for over 1700 rushing yards, but they're almost the whole offense and both can't carry the ball at the same time.

Kentucky is about the right opponent for the Panthers, 2-6 in the SEC, though it should be noted that they lost by seven in road games against Mississippi and Miss. St., and pushed Auburn to the limit in a 37-34 loss. While Kentucky's defense may be good enough to manage a somewhat vanilla Pitt offense, the Panthers will have to contain the combination of QB Mike Hartline to leading receiver Randall Cobb, who needs just 45 yards to pass the 1000-yard mark for the season. The 3 1/2 looks like a bonus for Kentucky fans.

Prediction: Wildcats 31 Panthers 24

January 9, 2011

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Boston College vs. Nevada (-7 1/2, 55) 9:00 pm ESPN - While the sponsor of this bowl game, Kraft, may implore us to fight hunger, ESPN will be waging a war to keep up from changing channels if Nevada - the 7th-highest scoring team in the country (42.6 ppg) gets off to a fast start. The Wolf Pack is the only team in America to beat Boise State in the past two years, and they're not likely to consider this game a walk-over after going 12-1.

Nevada will be facing the nation's top rushing defense in Boston College, allowing just 80.1 yards per game, but they haven't seen anything like the Wolf Pack ground game (3rd nationally at 305.9 yards per game) or QB Colin Kaepernick who threw for 2830 yards and ran for another 1091, accounting for 40 TDs in all. BC will also have to try to stop Vai Taua, the 7th-ranked rusher in the nation, with 1522 yards.

Taua needs just 126 yards to surpass Illinois' Mikel LeShoure for the lead, though Oregon's LaMichael James is also right there, just 70 yards behind LeShoure.

Boston College began the season 0-2, then lost five straight and finished up with five consecutive victories, but the losses were to quality teams like Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Florida State, while the wins came against Clemson, Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia and Syracuse, not exactly power run offenses. Besides, the troika of Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest were a combined 10-26 and only 3-21 in the ACC. BC won those games by a combined 18 points, so the stats are subject to quite a bit of interpretation.

BC won't be able to hold back Taua and Kaepernick and Nevada's defense will produce a blowout.

Prediction: Wolf Pack 38 Eagles 13

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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