NCAA College Football Bowl Week 3 Picks - Early Games

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NCAA College Football Bowl Week 3 Early Games

All times Eastern

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Bowl Week 2 results: Rick: 5-4; Coin: 5-4
Cumulative: Rick: 109-102-1; Coin: 92-119-1

Thursday, December 31

Armed Forces Bowl
12:00 pm #22 Tulsa (-2 1/2, 48) vs. Mississippi State - Tulsa's Golden Hurricane finished the regular season with a 6-0 conference record (American Athletic) and went 6-2 overall, losing only to Oklahoma State, 16-7 in its season opener and 27-24 to Cincinnati in the conference championship. All but one of their wins (South Florida, 42-16) were by 13 points or fewer, with four settled by eight or fewer points. They know how to in close games against solid teams.

Losing seven of ten games on their all-SEC schedule, it's a travesty that Mississippi State even gets to play in a bowl game. After beating LSU in a flukey opener, 44-34, the Bulldogs went on to beat only Vanderbilt (0-9) and Missouri (5-5). Other than Vandy, the Bulldogs had the lowest-scoring offense in the SEC, 20.7 points per game.

Coin Flip: Tulsa

Prediction: Golden Hurricane 27 Bulldogs 13

Arizona Bowl
2:00 pm (CBS) Ball State vs. #22 San Jose State (-9 1/2, 63) - Going 6-1 overall and 5-1 in the MAC, Ball State finished first in the MAC West division and captured the conference title with a 38-28 win over Buffalo. Their nondescript defense gets the job done well enough to allow the offense, led by QB Drew Plitt, to employ a precision passing attack which will be key to how well they do against the unbeaten Spartans of San Jose State.

The 7-0 Spartans completed their dream season by downing Boise State in the Mountain West championship game on December 19. Playing their final three games on the road due to oppressive COVID requirements in their home of Santa Clara county (no contact sports), State can finish with a flourish with a victory here. Their defense has been rock solid all season, allowing no more than 24 points in any contest. QB Nick Starkel has two prime targets, Bailey Gaither and Tre Walker, who should shred the Ball State secondary.

Coin Flip: San Jose State

Prediction: Spartans 38 Cardinals 20

Liberty Bowl
4:00 pm West Virginia (-7, 42) vs. Army - Army's Black Knights should avail themselves well against a middling West Virginia team that finished 5-4 overall and just 4-4 in the Big 12. Oklahoma State and Iowa State each blew out the Mountaineers. Losses to Texas and Texas Tech were closer, 17-13, and, 34-27, respectively.

Army was one of the leading rushing teams in the country, averaging 281.3 yards per game (4th) over an 11-game schedule, going 9-2. Army's sole losses were to Cincinnati and Tulane. Over the past two games, their defense has been somewhat impenetrable, shutting out Navy, 15-0, and downing Air Force, 10-7, earning the Commander-in-Chief Trophy.

While the West Virginia offense should find some opportunities, they're likely to be rare against a disciplined secondary and run-stopping front. The Black Knights held seven of nine opponents in wins under 17 points. Only Abilene Christian (23) and Georgia Southern (27) scored more.

Coin Flip: Army

Prediction: Black Knights 23 Mountaineers 17

Texas Bowl
8:00 pm Arkansas vs. TCU (-4 1/2, 57) - The Horned Frogs went 6-4 overall while the Razorbacks were a lowly 3-7 in an all-SEC schedule.

Arkansas scored an average of 25.7 points per game; TCU averaged 30.8, giving the Razorbacks a slight edge due to a slightly tougher conference schedule. Trouble with Arkansas is that they have a virtual defense, meaning virtually none. They lost their last four games allowing Florida to put up 63, Alabama, 52, Missouri, 50, and LSU, 27. Wins over Mississippi State (21-14), Ole Miss (33-21), and Tennessee (24-13) were unimpressive, those teams having a combined record of 10-19.

TCU finished well, winning five of its last six games and the last three straight, including a 29-22 victory over Oklahoma State. They should absolutely hammer the Razorbacks.

Coin Flip: TCU

Prediction: Horned Frogs 50 Razorbacks 17

Friday, January 1

Peach Bowl
12:00 pm #11 Georgia (-7, 50) vs. #6 Cincinnati - Here's yet another game with the SEC team favored, even though Cincinnati went 9-0, won the American Athletic conference championship with a 27-24 win over Tulsa, and has the seventh-best scoring defense in the country, allowing just 16 points per game.

Even though Georgia will essentially be playing at home in Atlanta and their defense was solid, allowing 19.9 points per outing, making them 7-point favorites is a slap in the face to the Bearcats, who are likely to direct their anger at the Georgia offense.

JT Daniels replace QB Stetson Bennett after the November 7, 44-28 loss to Florida. Bennett was also the QB in Georgia's only other loss, 41-24, at Alabama. The three wins - over Miss. State, South Carolina, and Missouri - aren't impressive. Cincinnati would have done the same or better. This game should be closer to even, and maybe favor the Bearcats, who will be playing for the prestige of a 10-0 season.

Coin Flip: Cincinnati

Prediction: Bearcats 31 Bulldogs 21

Citrus Bowl
1:00 pm (ABC) Auburn vs. #15 Northwestern (-3 1/2, 43 1/2) - Northwestern was the surprise of the Big Ten, plowing through the West division with a 6-1 mark, the only loss a fluke at Michigan State, 29-20. The other loss on their 6-2 resume was a 22-10 defeat at the hands of Ohio State in the conference championship.

While the Wildcats aren't killers offensively, their defense is top-shelf, allowing just 15.5 points per game, good for 5th nationally. Auburn doesn't have the offensive weapons to compete well or sustain drives against Northwestern and are likely to turn the ball over a few times in this game.

The Tigers went 6-4, with three of those losses to ranked teams - Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama - the SEC's cream of the crop. Another loss was at South Carolina and their wins were all over teams with records under .500, except LSU, which went 5-5. Look for a low score and a Wildcat win.

Coin Flip: Auburn

Prediction: Wildcats 24 Tigers 10

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