By Brad Carroll
As we get closer and closer to the BCS national championship game between Florida State and Auburn the matchups get bigger and bigger in bowl games across the nation. That's no different with the three games slated for Friday. Here we preview and our college football experts pick against the spread the Military Bowl between Marshall and Maryland, the Texas Bowl between Syracuse and Minnesota and the Fight Hunger Bowl between BYU and Washington.
Marshall vs. Maryland, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Marshall -2; Maryland +2
Brad's Breakdown: Maryland started the season with four straight wins and came into its game against Florida State with a top 25 ranking and all the momentum in the world. The Seminoles then routed the Terps 63-0 in one of the most embarrassing losses ever for a ranked team. Maryland went on to finish 7-5, which actually represented progress for coach Randy Edsall. The Terps won just six games in Edsall's first two seasons with the team. They got bowl eligible by beating Virginia Tech with two weeks to go in the season. Their reward is a bowl game at Navy Memorial Stadium, a short drive from campus. Maryland doesn't do anything special, scoring 26.7 points per game while allowing 24.8. Marshall's offense is special, however, scoring 43 points per game, seventh best in the nation, and gaining 502.3 yards per game, 12th best. The Thundering Herd would reach 10 wins if they can beat Maryland, which would be a first for the school since the Byron Leftwich days. Quarterback Raheem Cato has thrown 36 touchdown passes and has big targets in receiver Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins. With Maryland playing so close to home it makes for an interesting backdrop, but the Thundering Herd's offense should be enough for the Conference USA team to beat the ACC's representative.
Brad's Pick: Marshall 35, Maryland 28
Craig's Pick: Maryland 28, Marshall 27
Glenn's Pick: Marshall 28, Maryland 24
Syracuse vs. Minnesota, 6 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Syracuse +5; Minnesota -5
Brad's Breakdown: Of all the bowl matchups to this point, the Syracuse-Minnesota game is the one I haven't had to think twice about. Minnesota should be a lock to win this game with plenty of room to spare when it comes to the point spread. The Golden Gophers are 8-4 and have marquee victories over Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State. Minnesota lost its last two games, but both were close against great teams, Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Gophers are a program on the rise and can reach nine wins for the second time in 108 years. Syracuse, on the other hand, is 6-6 and lost to Northwestern and Penn State this year. The Orange's best win came in the season finale against Boston College, which got them bowl eligible. This game will be all about the rushing attack, as Minnesota averages 200.9 yards per game, while the Orange pick up 193.8. Neither passing game has made much of an impact this season. Minnesota scores 26.4 points per game and allows 22.3. Syracuse averages just 22.8 points on offense and allows 26.1 on defense. This is an easy win for the Gophers.
Brad's Pick: Minnesota 33, Syracuse 20
Craig's Pick: Minnesota 31, Syracuse 20
Glenn's Pick: Minnesota 27, Syracuse 23
Fight Hunger Bowl
BYU vs. Washington, 9:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: BYU +3; Washington -3
Brad's Breakdown: This is one of the best matchups of the early bowl schedule, as both teams won eight games this year. Washington is under a cloud of change, however, as Steve Sarkisian has left to coach Southern Cal and the school's new head man, Chris Petersen, the former Boise State coach, will take over after the season. In the meantime, quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo takes over on an interim basis for the Fight Hunger Bowl Friday night. BYU, on the other hand, will have stability in this game and at least into next season. This game should feature a ton of scoring, as both teams combine to average 1,009.6 yards of total offense. Washington averages 38.5 points per game while BYU scores 31.3. The Huskies are led by quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey. The Cougars counter with quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams, who have both rushed for over 1,200 yards this season. BYU beat Texas for its biggest win of the season. The Cougars also beat Boise State and lost to Wisconsin and Notre Dame in the final month of the season. Washington beat Boise State in the opener, but lost its four biggest games, to Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA. The two teams should go back and forth, but Tuiasosopo should have the Huskies offense humming and he'll get a victory in his short tenure as a head coach.
Brad's Pick: Washington 42, BYU 35
Craig's Pick: Washington 35, BYU 28
Glenn's Pick: Washington 42, BYU 38
Brad's Bowl Record: 3-5 (spread); 4-4 (straight-up); 2-1 (upset picks)
Brad's Regular Season: 90-81-2 (spread); 131-42 (straight-up); 7-12 (upset)
Craig's Bowl Record: 4-4 (spread); 4-4 (straight-up); 2-1 (upset picks)
Craig's Regular Season: 84-87-2 (spread); 131-42 (straight-up); 7-13 (upset)
Glenn's Bowl Record: 6-2 (spread); 6-2 (straight-up); 3-0 (upset picks)
Glenn's Regular Season: 84-87-2 (spread); 126-47 (straight-up); 10-21 (upset)