Fearless Rick's 2016 College Football Picks - Bowl Games Week 3 early games

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WEEK 3 NCAA Football Bowl Game Picks

All times Eastern

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Thursday, December 29

Birmingham Bowl
South Florida (-10 1/2, 62 1/2) vs. South Carolina, 2:00 pm, ESPN, Legion Field, Birmingham, AL
- How good is South Carolina? Perhaps the question should be, how bad are the Gamecocks?

Limping into bowl season with a record of 6-6, South Carolina finished up the regular season with their traditional tilt with in-state rival Clemson, the result, a humiliating, 56-7, defeat.

By contrast, the Bulls of South Florida ripped through their schedule with a 10-2 mark, including wins over some very good teams such as Navy, Memphis, and East Carolina. The losses came against Florida State, 55-35, and Temple, 46-30. There's plenty of quality on both sides of the football for the Bulls. The Gamecocks are still rebuilding following the forgotten footsteps of former head coach Steve Spurrier. It's very possible that South Florida, which was 7th in the nation in scoring, at 43.6 ppg, can cover the line by halftime. The Gamecocks were tied for 121st in scoring, a mere 19.3 ppg and allowed 24.8 points per game (45th); the Bulls were 86th, giving up an average of 31.0. None of this means anything in bowl games. Take the points.

Coin Flip: South Carolina

Rick's Pick: Bulls 32 Gamecocks 24

Belk Bowl
Arkansas vs. #18 Virginia Tech (-7, 61 1/2), 5:30 pm, ESPN, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
- Having won the Coastal division of the ACC with a 6-2 mark, the Hokies played Clemson on December 3rd for the conference championship and gave the Tigers a tussle, finally losing by a 42-35 score. Of the four teams in the national championship playoff, Clemson is probably the weakest, but that does not diminish the accomplishments of Virginia Tech through the seaosn, which ended with a 9-4 mark overall.

While not quite elite, Tech's numbers are respectable, scoring an average of 34.8 ppg (35th), while allowing 22.7, a spread of 12.1, which is excellent. Arkansas finished just 7-5 and were 3-5 in the SEC, but the majority of their losses were to ranked opposition, such as Texas A&M, Alabama (49-30), Auburn (56-3), and LSU (38-10). The Razorbacks lost their mojo down the stretch, alternating wins and losses after a 3-0 start against fair competition (LA Tech, TCU, Texas State).

Arkansas was 56th in scoring (30.8) and 84th defensively (30.8), absolute even, but they get consideration just for playing in the SEC. Still, the Tech defense looks too good for the Razorbacks to find much success, though getting over the generous spread will be a problem.

Coin Flip: Arkansas

Rick's Pick: Hokies 42 Razorbacks 38

Valero Alamo Bowl
#13 Oklahoma State vs. #11 Colorado (-3 1/2, 62 1/2), 9:00 pm, ESPN, Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
- Call this the mini-Rose Bowl. Colorado lost the PAC12 title game to Washington, 41-10, their worst loss of the season, while the Cowboys were defeated, again, by Oklahoma, 38-20, in a regular season finale that determined the champion of the Big 12.

9-3 Oklahoma State has a very strong offense (38.7 ppg, 18th), but their numbers are belied by the mere fact that most of their conference games were against teams that simply did not measure up to defensive national standards. The Big 12 is plagued by teams that cannot play steady defense.

On the other hand, the Buffaloes came from out of the blue to capture the South division in the PAC-12 with a solid combination of offense and defense (20.5 ppg, 18th) that propelled them to a 10-3 record. They're good, but the Cowboys are playing close to home and getting some points.

Coin Flip: Oklahoma State

Rick's Pick: Cowboys 34 Buffaloes 24

Friday, December 30

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Georgia (-1, 48 1/2) vs. TCU, 12:00 pm, ESPN, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN
- The Horned Frogs had a very rough year, unusual for a team that usually is among the ranked. They were just 6-6, most of their games played in the sub-par Big 12. Their last two losses, which sandwiched a 31-9 win at Texas, were particularly ugly, 31-6 to Oklahoma State and 30-6 to Kansas State, both on TCU's home field.

Georgia had plans for something bigger, but they didn't do well enough in the SEC to really scare anyone. They did notch some big wins, like their 33-24, season-opening win over North Carolina and a late-season, 13-7 triumph over Auburn. They won three of four road games and should be good enough to trip up TCU.

Coin Flip: TCU

Rick's Pick: Bulldogs 27 Horned Frogs 19

Hyundai Sun Bowl
#16 Stanford (-3 1/2, 54) vs. North Carolina, 2:00 pm, CBS, Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX
- One of the more difficult teams to figure this year was North Carolina, losers to Georgia and Virginia Tech, they also tasted defeat at the hands of Duke and NC State while running up an 8-4 mark.

The issue for the Tar Heels is that they have to play a Stanford squad at full strength, with Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love making the Cardinal backfield probably the best in the nation. The Cardinal fell out of contention in the PAC-12 early on, when McCaffrey was injured, losing to Washington Washington State and Colorado over a 3 1/2 week span, but finished up by winning their last five straight for an impressive 9-3 mark. With the two studs in their backfield, Stanford should run the Tar Heels down to their soles.

Coin Flip: Stanford

Rick's Pick: Cardinal 38 Tar Heels 14

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
#24 Nebraska vs. Tennessee (-3, 61) , 3:30 pm, ESPN, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
- Early in the season, the Tennessee Vols were the darlings of the SEC, running up a 5-0 mark including back-to-back wins over Florida (38-28) and Georgia (34-31). But then came consecutive losses to Texas A&M, Alabama and South Carolina, all but ending their quest to capture the flag in the SEC East.

The Cornhuskers also started fast, winning their first seven games, but lost to Wisconsin, 23-17, in overtime, and were plowed under by Ohio State, 62-3, but they still managed a 9-3 record, despite losing their season finales to Iowa, 40-10. This one really comes down to whether Nebraska can handle Tennessee's potent offense. The Vols put up 36.3 points per outing, 24th in the country. Nebraska's defense is usually solid, allowing 22.8 ppg (31st), and they should be able to keep this one close enough to have a shot for the win at the end. A minor upset is in store for the Big Ten.

Coin Flip: Nebraska

Rick's Pick: Cornhuskers 31 Volunteers 28

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
South Alabama vs. Air Force (-13, 57 1/2), 5:30 pm, Campus Insiders, Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
- The classic mismatch. The Falcons went 9-3, mostly in the Mountain West conference, which had some solid teams this season, and they ended the season by whipping Boise State, 27-20, so they're a quality bunch.

Coming out of the Sun Belt, South Alabama was none too impressive, registering a 6-6 mark against often dubious opponents, though somehow, they managed wins over Mississippi State (21-20) and San Diego State (42-24). The Jaguars aren't exactly bad, but they may be a good fit against the Falcons, who have an incentive for 10 wins.

Coin Flip: Air Force

Rick's Pick: Falcons 38 Jaguars 31

Capital One Orange Bowl
#6 Michigan (-7, 54) vs. #10 Florida State, 8:00 pm, ESPN, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
- Taking the points has been the way to go in most of the bowl games and this one is no exception. There's plenty of rivalry between coaches to translate into a close game, one which the Seminoles may be able to win.

Coin Flip: Michigan

Rick's Pick: Seminoles 28 Wolverines 24

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