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

Rick Gagliano | January 1-4, 2011

All times Eastern - Click here for BCS Bowl games

January 1, 2011

Rose Bowl, TCU (-2 1/2, 57) vs. Wisconsin, 5:00 pm ABC or ESPN - Undeniably the one game that everyone will be glued to on New Year's Day pits the undefeated TCU Horned Frogs against the 11-1 juggernaut Wisconsin Badgers. The reason this game is so important is that it pits the Badgers against the only other undefeated team in the country besides Oregon and Auburn, who will play for the national championship on January 10.

TCU has hovered near the top of the rankings all season long, but never got a break as neither Oregon or Auburn tasted defeat. Wisconsin is as worthy an opponent as could be offered, and the feeling in the TCU camp is that, with a win, the Frogs should at least share in national championship honors, though the fatally-flawed BCS - which is set up to choose between two teams, regardless of other teams' records - is the official arbiter of the college football crown.

TCU boasts the top defense in the nation, allowing just 11.4 points per game and 215.4 yards, but the offense is prolific as well, actually tied with Wisconsin at 43.3 points per game, 4th nationally. TCU QB Andy Dalton has been nothing short of spectacular, completing 66% of his passes for 2638 yards, 26 TDs and just 6 picks. A able scrambler, Dalton also rushed for 333 yards, though the majority of the ground game will be handled by Ed Wesley, the Horned Frogs' only 1000-yard rusher, and Matthew Tucker, who piled up 669 rushing yards over the course of the season.

Scott Tolzien, the Wisconsin QB, had modest numbers - 2300 yards passing, for 16 TDs and 6 INTs - because the Badgers run the ball so well. James White, John Clay and Montee Ball rushed for 997, 920 and 847 yards during the regular season. TCU will have to stand firm on defense to slow down the Wisconsin attack, which has scored 70 or more points three times this season. Even if the Frogs stuff the run, Tolzien can burn them through the air. He connected on 74.3% of his throws and has a deep receiving corps.

That leaves Wisconsin's defense as the potential weak link in this game. The Badgers didn't actually have to stop many teams - so too with TCU - as the offense put up so many points. Neither defense will have the luxury of a big lead, but TCU's numbers are skewed a bit because they played a weak schedule, so, the reality may be that Wisconsin, allowing 20.5 points and 323.5 yards per game against such heavies as Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State (their only loss, 34-24), may be up to the task of slowing down the Dalton gang.

Prediction: Badgers 31 Horned Frogs 27

Fiesta Bowl, Connecticut vs. Oklahoma (-17, 55 1/2), 8:00 pm ABC or ESPN - Las Vegas line-makers have installed the Sooners as prohibitive favorites, which is understandable since the Huskies hail from the Big East, which was unrepresented in the Top 25 nearly all season. Connecticut did, however, win the games it had to in order to win the conference championship outright, beating Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse, Cincinnati and South Florida to finish with five straight wins after losing their first two Big East games.

Oklahoma lost just two games this season, going 11-2 and finding its way to the BCS by winning their final three games and then whipping Nebraska, 23-20, in the Big 12 championship game. Neither the Sooners nor the huskies excel in any particular department, though both teams do just about everything well. Connecticut holds a slight edge on defense, allowing 19.8 points per game, compared to Oklahoma's 21.9.

Oklahoma holds a massive offensive edge, however, scoring at a 36.4 ppg pace on an average of 478.1 yards. UConn only scores 26.9 per outing on an average of 325.0 yards.

QB Landry Jones spearheads the offense. He threw for 35 TDs and 11 picks, often looking to Ryan Broyles, who amassed 118 catches for 1452 yards and 13 scores. DeMarco Murray rushed for 1090 yards on 257 carries. Connecticut's defense will be under pressure to contain this three-headed monster.

Highlighting the Husky offense is RB Jordan Todman, who carried the pigskin for 1516 yards, 137.8 per game. He's the one weapon that makes the UConn offense tick. If he can gain five to eight yards on first down carries, QB Zach Frazier may find enough open receivers on short routes to keep drives alive. The Huskies don't have much in the way of quick strikes, preferring rather to control the clock, the ball and field position with its grinding attack.

A win by the Huskies would be a major surprise, but Oklahoma has a history of underperforming in bowl games, so a win by less than the 17 being given is a consideration. Six of Oklahoma's 11 wins were by seven points or less and teams able to play sound defense usually fared well. The Huskies will likely not allow the Sooners to go deep on their secondary and are adept at containing big threat players. Oklahoma will find the end zone enough to win, but the Huskies will hang around enough to keep things interesting.

Prediction: Sooners 34 Huskies 26

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January 3, 2011

Orange Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. Stanford (-3, 58 1/2), 8:00 pm ABC - This game matches up two of the nation's best quarterbacks: Stanford's Andrew Luck and Tech's Tyrod Taylor, though the two are vastly different in style. Luck is more the traditional drop-back passer, whereas Taylor can burn on scrambles and designed runs as well as torching defenses with his rocket arm.

Taylor threw for 2521 yards and 23 TDs, with just 4 picks. He also ran for 451 yards and 5 scores. Luck passed for 3051 yards, 28 TDs and 7 INTs, and was third on the team in rushing, with 379 yards.

Both teams feature solid defenses. Stanford has a slight edge, allowing 17.8 yards per outing, while the Virginia Tech defense yields just 19.1 per game.

The game shapes up as a close call, with field position and turnovers possibly being the determining factors. Even with two strong-armed QBs, either team is capable of grinding out long drives on the ground.

Stanford's only loss was to Oregon, in midseason, while the Hokies went 11-2, winning the ACC title game over Florida State, 44-33. After starting the season with back-to-back losses to Boise State (33-30) and James Madison (21-16), Virginia Tech rolled to 11 straight wins, the closest anyone coming to beat them was Georgia Tech, back in early November in a 28-21 loss.

This looks like a pure toss-up game though Virginia Tech should benefit from playing in the Orange Bowl and having a strong contingent of fans on hand.

Prediction: Hokies 30 Cardinal 27

January 4, 2011

Sugar Bowl, Arkansas vs. Ohio State (-3, 58), 8:00 pm ABC - The Buckeyes had national championship aspirations when the season began, but saw them vanish in a 31-18 loss at Wisconsin on October 16. They managed wins in every other contest, going 11-1 and were only truly put to the test against Iowa, whom they rallied to beat, 20-17.

Arkansas was the biggest surprise besides Auburn in the SEC, riding the arm of Ryan Mallett to a 10-2 record. Their only losses were to Alabama (24-20 and at Auburn (65-43). Since that October 16 loss, they've won ix straight, including wins over South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU, all ranked opponents from the SEC.

Mallett is the key to the Razorback attack. The pro prospect set sail for 3592 yards passing, 30 TDs and 11 interceptions. Mallett is expert at reading defenses and finding the open man. He hit six different receivers for 27 or more completions this season and has Knile Davis (1151 yards) alongside him in the backfield when Arkansas wants to run.

Terrelle Prior is the essential component of the Buckeye offense, throwing for 2551 yards, 25 scores and 11 picks. He is also second on the team in rushing with 496 yards on 120 carries, many of them designed option runs. Daniel (Boom) Herron handles the rushing load, hitting it for 1033 yards on 192 carries.

Defensively, Ohio State looks to have a huge edge, allowing just 250.3 yards per game and 13.3 points, both 3rd nationally. Arkansas is well down the list, at 22.8 points and 339.8 yards per game, but the schedule they played included five ranked teams with potent offenses, so they're actually pretty good. Ohio State will have to stop Mallett, and they have an excellent secondary, but Mallett is an accurate thrower, so they're not going to hold him in check all day. The Arkansas defense has the speed and size to bottle up Pryor and the Buckeyes' attack, and should provide enough stops for Mallett and the offense to pile up points.

Prediction: Razorbacks 27 Buckeyes 23

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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