NCAA Bowl Week 3 Picks - Early Games

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NCAA Bowl Week 3 Early Games

All times Eastern

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Bowl Week 1 Results: Rick 6-5; Coin: 8-3
Bowl Week 2 Results: Rick 7-2; Coin: 4-5
Cumulative: Rick: 119-122-5; Coin: 123-118-5


Wednesday, December 29

Fenway Bowl
CANCELED
11:00 am SMU vs. Virginia (-2 1/2, 71 1/2) - Flying very much under the radar, the Cavaliers compiled a record of 6-6 (4-4 ACC), losing their final four games after a 6-2 start. BYU, Notre Dame, Pitt, and Virginia Tech were too much for them to handle down the stretch. QB Brennan Armstrong leads a pass-oriented offense, throwing for more than 300 yards in 10 games this season. Consequently, Virginia does not run the ball much. They had no 100-yard rushers during the regular season.

SMU was ranked for part of the season as they started 7-0, prior to losing four of their last five games, falling to Houston, Memphis, Cincinnati and Tulsa, sandwiching a 55-28 win over UCF in between. The Mustangs are also a pass-happy bunch, making for an aerial free-for-all in Boston, weather permitting. Unless it's windy and/or snowing, expect one of the highest-scoring games of bowl season in Boston as neither team is noted for defense.

Coin Flip: Virginia

Prediction: Mustangs 48 Cavaliers 35
CANCELED


Pinstripe Bowl
2:15 pm Maryland (-3 1/2, 55) vs. Virginia Tech - From the Big Ten comes Maryland, 6-6, with a 3-6 mark in conference play, to meet the 6-6 Hokies, from the ACC.

Four of Maryland's six conference losses came against powerhouse ranked teams: Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, and Michigan. The others were to Minnesota and Penn State. All of those teams are playing in bowl games. The Terrapins should do well against the defense of Virginia Tech, which isn't anywhere near what they're used to facing.

Virginia Tech managed to beat North Carolina and Middle Tennessee in its first two games of the season, then went 4-6. They'll likely want to run, especially with RB Raheem Blackshear (5.9 yards per carry), but the defense isn't sound.

Coin Flip: Virginia Tech

Prediction: Terrapins 34 Hokies 24


Cheez-It Bowl
5:45 pm #19 Clemson (-1, 44) vs. Iowa State - It seemed like a whole nation of football fans gave up on Clemson after it's 27-21 double overtime loss at NC State, which left them at 2-2, the other loss their 10-3 opener vs. Georgia.

As it turned out, the Tigers finished 9-3, and are one of the teams nobody really wants to be playing at this juncture. They lost one more game, 27-17, at Pitt, and have won five straight and seven of their last eight, capping off their season with a 48-27 rout of Wake Forest and a 30-0 blanking of South Carolina.

The Cyclones had visions of a Big 12 title, but an early, 31-29, loss to Baylor, atop a 27-17 non-conference loss to Iowa, shelved those plans. They turned out to be just average, going 5-4 in conference and 7-5 overall. The defense was OK, the offense the same, but they'll be without All-American RB Breece Hall (1,472 yards), who is skipping his senior year to enter the NFL draft (hint: he'll go high; he's very good). With that dent to the Iowa State offense, Clemson should hammer them.

Coin Flip: Clemson

Prediction: Tigers 31 Cyclones 17


Alamo Bowl
9:15 pm #14 Oregon vs. #16 Oklahoma (-4 1/2, 61) - The Sooners were 9-0 with three games left to play. They had a good possibility to go to the championship playoffs, but lost two of their final three games, to Baylor, 27-14, and then at Oklahoma State, they fell, 37-33, missing out on the championship game of their conference as well.

That's not to say they're a bad team; just not championship caliber.

Oregon isn't either. Back in September, the Ducks knocked off Ohio State, in what was quite the stunner. They cruised through the PAC-12 with a 9-1 mark until running into Utah, who turned them into Duck soup in a 38-7 rout. Oregon managed to stay atop the North division, only to face the Utes again in the championship game, which they lost, 38-10.

With question marks over which team will be motivated to play this game, taking Oregon with the points may prove prudent.

Coin Flip: Oklahoma

Prediction: Ducks 31 Sooners 27



Thursday, December 30

Duke's Mayo Bowl
11:30 am North Carolina (-9 1/2, 58 1/2) vs. South Carolina - It's difficult to take a team which surrendered 379 points (North Carolina) against any SEC squad, but the Gamecocks had the second-worst offense in the conference, scoring just 167 points to go 3-5 in the SEC and 256 points for their 6-6 overall record. Yes, SC scored 46 points against Eastern Illinois, but was held to 28 or fewer in its next 11 games.

The Gamecocks have been unstable at QB all season, losing Zeb Noland after just two games, then they lost Luke Doty after another five. Jason Brown started four games and produced wins over Florida and Auburn, but Noland returned to finish the season against Clemson. It did not go well as Noland went 11-for-22 for just 99 yards in a 30-0 loss. It appears that Noland will get the nod, as Brown has entered the transfer portal. He'll have extra practice in preparation for the Tar Heels.

Despite having little to no defensive ability, the Tar Heels do possess an explosive offense with QB Sam Howell, RB Ty Chandler, and receivers Antoine Green and Josh Downs. If the Gamecocks can keep the scoring to a reasonable level, their own offense should find a good deal of success, making for a possible upset special and another reason to believe the SEC is a far superior conference than any other.

Coin Flip: North Carolina

Prediction: Gamecocks 30 Tar Heels 24


Music City Bowl
3:00 pm Tennessee (-4 1/2, 63 1/2) vs. Purdue - With QB Hendon Hooker returning for the Vols next season, he's sure to start against Purdue and that virtually guarantees a win. Hooker threw for 2,567 yards, 26 TDs and just three picks in 2021, and ran for another 561 yards and five TDs on 148 carries.

Tennessee's lightning offense will give Purdue's defenders no rest. The Tennessee offense finished at #9 in scoring nationally, averaging 38.8 points per game. They were the third-highest scoring offense in the conference, behind Alabama and Georgia. The Vols improved throughout the year, going 7-5 overall and 4-4 in conference play. All of their losses were to ranked opponents.

Purdue enters with an 8-4 record, and a 6-3 mark in the Big Ten. Their notable wins over Iowa and Michigan State were overshadowed by defeats at the hands of Notre Dame (27-13), Minnesota (20-13), Wisconsin (30-13) and, especially, Ohio State (59-31). It's apparent that the Boilermakers can't keep up with serious offense-mined opponents.

Coin Flip: Purdue

Prediction: Volunteers 41 Boilermakers 24


Peach Bowl
7:00 pm #12 Pittsburgh vs. #10 Michigan State (-2 1/2, 56 1/2) - With QB Kenny Pickett opting to skip the Peach Bowl and focus on the upcoming NFL draft, the offense will be in the hands of Nick Patti, a junior with limited experience. Pickett led the Panthers to an 11-2 record, an ACC championship (45-21 over Wake Forest), and five straight wins. Pitt played only one ranked team all season, Wake Forest, but they are a talented bunch, even without their star QB.

Pickett's absence should bode well for the Spartans, but they will be without their best player as well. All-American running back, Kenneth Walker III opted out of the game to focus, like Pickett, on the draft. Jordon Simmons and Elijah Collins will handle most of the rushing duties, and the Spartans may have another weapon - wideout Jalen Nailor - who has been out due to injury since the 37-33 win over Michigan. Nailor is the team's best receiver. The Spartans went 10-2, with a 7-2 mark in the conference.

Without Pickett, Pitt is at a serious disadvantage.

Coin Flip: Pittsburgh

Prediction: Spartans 35 Panthers 20


Las Vegas Bowl
10:30 pm Wisconsin (-7, 42) vs. Arizona State - A 1-3 start, with losses to Penn State, Notre Dame, and Michigan, wasn't how Wisconsin planned their 2021 season, but they recovered to win seven straight before losing to Minnesota, 23-13, a defeat that knocked them out of the Big Ten championship.

While the Badger offense is no great shakes, their defense was the best in the country, allowing 240.8 yards per game (Georgia was #2, at 253.9). The badgers allowed 16.4 points on average, sixth-best in the country.

Arizona State quietly amassed an 8-4 record (6-3, PAC-12), but their four losses - BYU, Washington State, Utah, Oregon State - were all by double digits. Their offense is limited to whatever QB Jayden Daniels can produce. They've proven largely ineffective against good defenses and that's going to be a problem against Wisconsin. Could be seeing a lot of punts and field goals in this one.

Coin Flip: Arizona State

Prediction: Badgers 27 Sun Devils 13


Click here for late games.


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