NCAA College Football Bowl Week 3 Picks - Early Games

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NCAA College Football Bowl Week 3 Early Games

All times Eastern

Click here for late games.

NCAA Bowl Picks Week 1: Rick: 7-3; Coin: 7-3
NCAA Bowl Picks Week 2: Rick: 4-5; Coin: 5-4
CFP SemiFinals: Rick: 0-2; Coin: 0-2
Cumulative: Rick: 118-109-2; Coin: 121-106-2

Monday, December 30

Servpro First Responders Bowl
12:30 pm Western Kentucky (-3, 54 1/2) vs. Western Michigan - A couple of lower-tier "Western" schools compete for bowl honors.

The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky compiled an 8-4 record, 6-2 in Conference USA. They had the best defense in the conference (20.1 ppg), but were light on offense, scoring just 25.6 points per game. Solid wins against Army (17-8), Arkansas (45-19), and their final regular season game, a 31-26 win over Middle Tennessee shows that the offense was getting better with three straight wins to close out the season.

Western Michigan hails from the MAC West division, where they finished second with a 5-3 mark (7-3 overall). The Broncos' offense can light it up, scoring an average of 34.2 points per outing. The defense is good, but breakable. They allowed 26.2 against. Their last game, at North Illinois, was a 17-14 defeat in which the offense could not get untracked. Look for the Hilltoppers to perform well on offense and their defense to dominate.

Coin Flip: Western Michigan

Prediction: Hilltoppers 34 Broncos 22

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
4:00 pm California (- 6 1/2, 43 1/2) vs. Illinois - Both teams were 4-5 in their respective conferences. The Illini went 6-6 overall, becoming bowl eligible in their 10th game, losing their last two, while the Cal Golden Bears went 7-5.

The Cal offense was one of the weakest in the nation, scoring just 21.9 points per game. The defense was solid, however, allowing 22.1 ppg. The Bears rang up four straight wins, including a huge, 20-19 upset of Washington in week two, but then fell four straight to PAC-12 foes. They rallied to win three of their last four and were competitive in most contests, despite alternating QBs.

Stats for Illinois relate to their 6-6 record, with 273. points scored per game vs. 25-4 allowed. Their standout performance was a 24-23 win over Wisconsin. Wins over Purdue, and Michigan State were downplayed by losses to Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern. They too alternated QBs. Michigan transfer Brandon Peters should start for the Illini. Chase Garbers started the final two games for Cal, both wins, and he's good to go here, giving the Bears an edge.

Coin Flip: California

Prediction: Golden Bears 27 Fighting Illini 13

Redbox Bowl
4:00 pm Mississippi State (-4 1/2, 63 1/2) vs. Louisville - It was a rough season for the Bulldogs, with a 3-5 mark in the SEC and a 6-6 record overall, which they attained in the final two games with a win over Abiline Christian and a 21-20 win over Ole Miss, so they barely qualified. The Miss. St. defense is a weakness, evidenced by losses to Auburn, 56-23, Texas A&M, 49-30, and Alabama, 38-7. Their offense is spotty, but senior Tommy Stevens will start at QB. He was 4-1 as a starter.

Louisville rebounded from a horrible 2-10 record in 2018, to go 7-5, finishing second, behind Clemson in the ACC Atlantic with a 5-3 mark. They don't bring much in the way of defense, but the offense was effective, scoring 32.7 ppg. The Cardinals had some moments with conference wins over BC, Wake Forest and Virginia. The Bulldogs may be happy to be in a bowl, but Louisville still has much to prove and a win over any SEC team is considered a solid accomplishment.

Coin Flip: Louisville

Prediction: Cardinals 38 Bulldogs 24

Capital One Orange Bowl
8:00 pm #9 Florida (-14, 54 1/2) vs. #24 Virginia - The 10-2 Gators were just a few plays away from national championship status, with losses at LSU, 42-28, and against Georgia, 24-17.

The Gators allowed 14.4 points per game, eighth lowest in the country. The offense was solid, scoring an average of 33 points per contest. QB Kyle Trask blossomed as the season progressed.

Virginia comes in with a 9-4 mark (6-2, ACC), but a 62-17 beatdown by Clemson in the conference championship game threw a cloud over an otherwise sunny season. The Cavaliers are not great defensively, but can make plays. QB Bryce Perkins a dual threat, will be the focus of Florida's defense.

Coin Flip: Florida

Prediction: Gators 38 Cavaliers 20

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