By Brad Carroll
It's amazing to believe the college football season is less than three weeks away from ending, with the best teams playing for the big hardware, especially Florida State and Auburn, who will play for the national championship, and others taking part in bowl games across the country. Playing in a bowl game isn't exactly an exclusive club reserved for the best teams anymore, but it's a thrill nonetheless for those involved in each game, especially the lesser-known schools.
While most fans, us included, would like the bowl lineup reduced (as 70 teams play in 35 bowl games), it does mean one thing - there will be plenty of football to watch over the next three weeks. We start our postseason edition of our college football picks column with four bowl games to be played Saturday, highlighted by No. 20 Fresno State taking on No. 25 Southern Cal in the Las Vegas Bowl.
We also preview and our three college football experts pick against the spread the New Mexico Bowl (Washington State vs. Colorado State), the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Buffalo vs. San Diego State) and the New Orleans Bowl (Tulane vs. LA-Lafayette). Be sure to check back here for all the bowl game picks.
Las Vegas Bowl
No. 20 Fresno State vs. No. 25 Southern Cal, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Fresno State +6.5; Southern Cal -6.5
Brad's Breakdown: Steve Sarkisian is the new head coach at Southern Cal, getting the job after doing solid work in getting Washington back into the national spotlight, but his era starts after the Las Vegas Bowl. He will be the fourth head coach the team has had or hired this season, as Ed Orgeron took over on an interim basis after Lane Kiffin was fired in late September and now offensive coordinator Clay Helton will coach this game. Under Orgeron's guidance, the Trojans won six of their last eight games, but the last one, a 35-14 home loss to UCLA, likely ended whatever chance (which was slim at best anyway) he had at taking over the job full-time. Orgeron quit after he was passed over for the job, which is understandable. But it does create more upheaval and havoc with the players, who have had to deal with it this entire season. If the players can respond to it all and play well on the field, they should be able to beat Fresno State, but it won't be easy. Fresno State was two wins away from playing in a BCS game, but lost to San Jose State in the regular season finale. The Bulldogs bounced back to beat Utah State in the Mountain West championship game. Quarterback Derek Carr leads a Bulldogs offense that scores 45.3 points per game. This is Fresno State's BCS game, while USC won't care much playing the Bulldogs, making for a close game. In the end, USC squeaks out a win with its superior talent.
Brad's Pick: Southern Cal 27, Fresno State 24
Craig's Pick: Fresno State 27, Southern Cal 24
Glenn's Pick: Southern Cal 38, Fresno State 27
New Mexico Bowl
Washington State vs. Colorado State, 2 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Washington State -5; Colorado State +5
Brad's Breakdown: This will be the first bowl game for Colorado State since 2008. It will be the first bowl game for Washington State since 2003. Both schools are working their way back into national prominence under second-year head coaches, with Jim McElwain leading the Rams and Mike Leach in charge of the Cougars. Colorado State is 7-6 but hasn't had any marquee victories this season. The Rams lost to No. 1 Alabama (31-6) and Boise State (42-30) in its two biggest games. Washington State is 6-6 but has won two of its last three, against Arizona and Utah. The Cougars beat Southern Cal and could have easily beat Auburn, which is playing for the national championship, in their season opener. Both teams will be motivated, a big factor in bowl games, so the better team should prevail. That's Washington State.
Brad's Pick: Washington State 38, Colorado State 31
Craig's Pick: Colorado State 31, Washington State 27
Glenn's Pick: Washington State 38, Colorado State 27
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Buffalo vs. San Diego State, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Buffalo -1; San Diego State +1
Brad's Breakdown: Both of these teams played Ohio State early in the season and both lost those games big. Buffalo stayed relatively close most of the way before ultimately falling 40-20 in the season opener. San Diego State, the next week, didn't stand much of a chance, losing 42-7. Buffalo finished the season 8-4 with two of the losses coming to the Buckeyes and Baylor. The Bulls won seven in a row after opening with those two defeats but struggled down the stretch, losing two of three, to Toledo and Bowling Green. San Diego State had a horrible start to the season, losing its first three games, including a blowout loss to a Division I-AA team. The Aztecs won seven of their next eight, though, with the lone defeat to Fresno State, before losing big at UNLV in the regular season finale. San Diego State's defense isn't very good, allowing an average of 32.3 points per game, so Buffalo should be able to move the ball. San Diego State's offense has been shut down in its last two games, and hasn't been anything special the entire year, and the Bulls should be able to continue that trend.
Brad's Pick: Buffalo 31, San Diego State 28
Craig's Pick: Buffalo 33, San Diego State 31
Glenn's Pick: San Diego State 28, Buffalo 24
New Orleans Bowl
Tulane vs. LA-Lafayette, 9 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Tulane -3; LA-Lafayette +3
Brad's Breakdown: Louisiana-Lafayette has won the last two New Orleans Bowls and will be looking for its third against a team that plays in New Orleans. Tulane hasn't played in a bowl game since 2002, but is the favorite in the nightcap on the first night of the postseason. The Ragin' Cajuns are 8-4 this season with an eight-game win streak in the middle of a pair of two-game skids to open and close the regular season. Lafayette averages over 200 rushing yards and 34.6 points per game on offense. Tulane is 7-5 but comes into this game losing three of its last four. The Green Wave doesn't have much of an offense, averaging a little over 300 yards per game and 25.1 points. Tulane makes up for those shortcomings with defense, allowing just 21.2 points per game, 19th in the nation. Lafayette should continue its New Orleans win streak.
Brad's Pick: LA-Lafayette 24, Tulane 21
Craig's Pick: LA-Lafayette 24, Tulane 20
Glenn's Pick: LA-Lafayette 35, Tulane 34
Brad's Bowl Record: 0-0 (spread); 0-0 (straight-up); 0-0 (upset picks)
Brad's Regular Season: 90-81-2 (spread); 131-42 (straight-up); 7-12 (upset)
Craig's Bowl Record: 0-0 (spread); 0-0 (straight-up); 0-0 (upset picks)
Craig's Regular Season: 84-87-2 (spread); 131-42 (straight-up); 7-13 (upset)
Glenn's Bowl Record: 0-0 (spread); 0-0 (straight-up); 0-0 (upset picks)
Glenn's Regular Season: 84-87-2 (spread); 126-47 (straight-up); 10-21 (upset)