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Fearless Rick's 2011-12 College Football Bowl Week 4 - Early Games

Rick Gagliano | January 2-8, 2012

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Monday, January 2

TicketCity Bowl, Dallas, TX
12:00 pm Penn State vs. Houston (-5 1/2, 56 1/2) - Here is a classic match-up of offense (Houston) versus defense (Penn State).

The Cougars lead the nation in scoring at 50.8 points per game and were 12-0 before losing the Conference-USA championship game to Southern Miss, 49-28. QB Case Keenum set numerous NCAA career passing records, capping an outstanding college campaign with 5099 yards passing with 45 TDs and just 5 picks this season.

Penn State is much more challenged on offense, but they make up for it on defense, ranking fifth in the country on scoring defense at 15.7 points per game.

The Nittany Lions suffered through a season of horrific scandal, but managed a 9-3 record. This will be Penn State's first bowl game without Joe Paterno as head coach since 1968.

While the Penn State defense will almost surely slow down Keenum and the Houston offense, their own offense will not be able to put up many points, as Houston only allowed an average of 23.1 points per game.

Houston, playing in its own back yard in Dallas, will go out in style with a convincing win.

Prediction: Cougars 38 Nittany Lions 24

Outback Bowl, Tampa, FL
1:00 pm Michigan State vs. Georgia (-3 1/2, 50) - Both the Spartans and Bulldogs were just a few wins away from challenging for the national championship, as each finished the regular season with 10-3 records.

Georgia, which has relied on a rejuvenated defense and sharp passing game from Aaron Murray, ran off 10 straight wins after opening the season with back-to-back losses to Boise State and South Carolina before falling in the SEC championship to LSU, 42-10.

Likewise, the Spartans enter this game off a loss, a 42-39 heartbreaker in the inaugural Big Ten championship to Wisconsin, missing out on the chance of playing in a BCS bowl.

Both teams have Top 20 defenses and offenses which average a little more than 30 points per game. Many fans will opt for the SEC entrant, in the belief that the conference has the best programs, top to bottom, but Michigan State will keep this one low-scoring and close, possibly winning with a late score.

Prediction: Spartans 29 Bulldogs 27

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Capital One Bowl, Orlando, FL
1:00 pm Nebraska vs. South Carolina (-2 1/2, 46) - Another SEC-Big Ten affair pits the 10-2 Gamecocks against the 9-3 Cornhuskers, who fared well in their first season in a new conference.

South Carolina's bowl record under Spurrier is a sub-par 1-4, but despite losing leading rusher Marcus Lattimore mid-season, the Gamecocks finished strong, winning six of their last seven - the lone loss a 44-28 defeat at Arkansas - with Connor Shaw replacing Stephen Garcia at quarterback.

The Gamecock defense improved over the course of the season, holding eight opponents under 21 points.

Shaw gives Carolina a downfield presence, especially when throwing to all-SEC receiver Alshon Jeffery, which the Cornhuskers will have trouble handling all day.

Nebraska sports a solid defense with a spotty, mistake-prone offense. They suffered losses in two of their final four games. to Northwestern, 28-25, and Michigan, 45-17. Nebraska doesn't seem to handle wide open offenses, and Spurrier is sure to pull out all the plays to keep Nebraska defenders on the heels.

Prediction: Gamecocks 31 Cornhuskers 17

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Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, FL
1:00 pm Ohio State vs. Florida (-2, 44) - The Gator Bowl is a far cry from what both Florida and Ohio State - two perennial Top 10 national championship contenders - are used to in January, but both teams are adjusting to new realities, and Ohio State also had to deal with the departure of head coach Jim Tressel and suspensions of various players in the first half of the season.

Both teams finished with identical 6-6 records, making this the weakest pairings of the January 2 slate of games.

Florida had injury problems and failed to impress offensively, despite the presence of speedy Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, but the Gators have enough firepower and defense to take a narrow win in a game that figures to be a close call and include more than a few miscues and turnovers.

Prediction: Gators 20 Buckeyes 17

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2011, 2012, 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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