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Fearless Rick's 2013-14 College Football BCS Bowls - Early Games

Welcome to the very best in winning NFL and College Football picks.
Rick Gagliano | January 1, 2014

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA, Jan. 1, 5:00 pm, ESPN
Michigan State vs. Stanford (-6, 42 1/2) - The Grand Daddy of them all reaches 100 years of Rose Bowl festivities with a solid Big Ten - PAC-12 meeting between top ten teams.

Stanford defeated Oregon for the second year in a row, lost to USC, but reached the PAC-12 championship game for the second straight year when the Ducks inexplicably lost to Arizona.

The Cardinal achieved their Rose Bowl berth by virtue of their 38-14 victory over Arizona State in the PAC-12 championship game.

The Cardinal was 10th nationally in points allowed, their defensive unit a strength having held 10 of 13 opponents to 20 points or less, including all of their last seven. No team has scored more than 28 points against Stanford this season. Arizona State (during the regular season) and Washington each socred four TDs on the Cardinal but both ended up losers.

Besides the USC loss (20-17 on November 16 at USC), the only other Stanford defeat was at Utah, when the Utes pulled off a 27-21 upset.

Because of their dominant defense, the Stanford offense didn't have to be great, though they were very, very good, averaging 33.2 points per game. Led by the rushing of Tyler Gafney, the Stanford ground game was one of the best in the country. Gaffney amassed 1618 yards on 306 carries, complemented by QB Kevin Hogan's 20 TDs against nine picks.

As impressive as Stanford's defensive unit may be, Michigan State's was even better, allowing 12.7 ppg, fourth-best nationally. The Spartans were especially adept at stopping the run and forcing teams to rely on their passing game. Michigan State allowed just 1051 rushing yards over the course of the season, second only to Louisville (1035).

The Spartan offense scored 29.8 points per game, spearheaded by QB Connor Cook, who improved remarkably as the season progressed, throwing for 20 TDs while giving up only five interceptions. RB Jeremy Langford was the key rusher, rolling for 1338 yards and an impressive 17 touchdowns.

Michigan State lost just one game all year, a 17-13 upending at Notre Dame back in September. Since that loss, the Spartans have rolled to nine consecutive victories, including knocking off then-unbeaten Ohio State, 34-24, in the Big Ten championship.

In a game that will feature some old time football, with plenty of ground game and hard hitting on defense, it's difficult to separate these two quality teams. Michigan State could, however, be playing for a national championship if the BCS was graded differently, but the team's stated goal at the start of the season was the Rose Bowl, and winning the game will cap off one of the most successful seasons ever in Lansing.

While Stanford may have a slight edge due to the locale of the game - Pasadena - it's not much of one, and the six points being awarded Michigan State by the oddsmakers appear too juicy to pass on. If the Spartans somehow don't win this game, it's not going to be by very much.

Prediction: Spartans 24 Stanford 20

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Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, AZ, Jan. 1, 8:30 pm, ESPN
UCF vs. Baylor (-16 1/2, 69) - Steamrolling through their first nine games without a loss, the Bears met a worthy opponent at Oklahoma State on November 23, when their offense was limited to easily its lowest output of the season and the defense just could not slow down the Cowboys in a 49-17 loss.

Due to losses by Oklahoma State to west Virginia and Oklahoma, Baylor was awarded the conference championship, running up an 8-1 record in the Big 12, culminating in a 30-10 whipping of the Texas Longhorns in their final game, December 7.

With the highest-scoring offense in the country, Baylor scored 70 or more points against four different foes, including conference rivals West Virginia (73-42) and Iowa State (71-7). Against Oklahoma, the Bears proved to be something of a juggernaut, rolling to a 41-12 win in early November.

Baylor edged out Florida State in the scoring department, averaging 53.3 points per game to the Seminoles' 53.0. The Bears were, however, the leading yardage gainer in the nation, with an impressive 624.5 yards per game, a wide margin better than Oregon, which was second at 573.0.

QB Bryce Petty was phenomenal in 2013, throwing for 3844 yards with 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His primary targets were wideouts Antwan Goodley (67 receptions for 1319 yards) and Tevin Reese, who grabbed 33 bals for 824 yards, an impressive 25 yards per catch average. Petty also rushed for 11 TDs.

Complementing the passing attack was Lache Seastrunk, who rumbled for 1060 yards on 141 carries, and Shock Linwood, who rolled up 862 yards on the ground.

Despite the overwhelming success of their offense, the Bears were not deficient on defense, allowing just 21.2 points per outing, and particularly adept at making opponents turn the ball over.

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Central Florida equalled Baylor's 11-1 mark by ripping through the American Athletic conference undefeated (8-0) and throttling all but one non-conference opponent. The Knights missed out on an undefeated season by just three points, falling at home to South Carolina, 28-25, on September 28.

UCF had some close calls, particularly in their most important win of the season, winning at Louisville by a 38-35 score. Three weeks later, they squeezed past Houston, 19-14, and survived a real scare the following week, eking out a 39-36 win at Temple. Their final two games were a 23-20 win over South Florida and a 17-13 road victory over SMU.

Despite the closeness of some of their games, the defensive unit was a true bright spot, allowing 19.6 ppg, and coming up with big plays in pressure situations. The UCF defense has not seen an offense as prolific as Baylor's, though the games against South Carolina, Louisville and Houston provide a solid testing ground.

The Knights were not outstanding on offense, though good enough, averaging a solid 33.2 ppg. Led by QB Blake Bortels, who completed 68% of his passes for 3280 yards and 22 scores, UCF has four receivers with 36 or more catches. Rannell Hall grabbed 53 for 773 yards; Breshad Perriman caught 36 for 763, and has the team's highest per catch average, at 21.2.

Burly running back Storm Johnson will be a key to UCF's success on offense. One of the hardest-hitting backs in the country, Storm rambled for 1015 yards on 193 carries and scored 11 TDs for the Knights. If Baylor is unable to handle Johnson, UCF will be able to play keep-away from the Bears' offense.

Time of possession will be a key factor for UCF. They cannot allow Baylor to dictate pace and run up the score, though it's likely that the Bears will put up at least 40 points against any defense, Central Florida's included.

With the line so extraordinarily high (16 1/2), it makes sense to go with UCF, in their first BCS bowl game. They have upperclassmen leadership and a steely resolve that should allow them to keep this game relatively close and have a chance to pull the upset in the final quarter.

Prediction: Bears 44 Knights 37

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2013, 2014, 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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