By Brad Carroll
As we get closer to the BCS national championship game between Florida State and Auburn the matchups get bigger in bowl games across the nation. That's no different with the four games slated for Monday. Here we preview and our college football experts pick against the spread the Armed Forces Bowl between Middle Tennessee and Navy, the Music City Bowl between Ole Miss and Georgia Tech, the Alamo Bowl between No. 10 Oregon and Texas and the Holiday Bowl between No. 14 Arizona State and Texas Tech.
Armed Forces Bowl
Middle Tennessee vs. Navy, 11:45 a.m., ESPN
The Spread: Middle Tennessee +6; Navy -6
Brad's Breakdown: This, surprisingly enough, will be the first time Navy plays in the Armed Forces Bowl, which has been in existence for a decade. The Midshipmen come into the game winners of the Commander-in-Chief trophy and four straight games overall. Navy beat Army for the 12th straight time in the season finale. Middle Tennessee has won five straight games, including an impressive win over Marshall. Other than that, there isn't much to brag about for the 8-4 Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee lost its two biggest games of the year, to North Carolina and BYU by an average of 23.5 points. Navy doesn't have a much better resume, but did beat Pittsburgh and lost by four to Notre Dame. The Midshipmen should be able to run the ball at will against the Blue Raiders, who allow over 400 yards per game on defense. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who has scored 29 rushing touchdowns this season, breaking the NCAA single-season record for quarterbacks, leads the way on offense. Middle Tennessee can score points, too, averaging 30.9 points per game, but Navy should be able to slow it down enough to win a bowl game it's meant to win.
Brad's Pick: Navy 34, Middle Tennessee 24
Craig's Pick: Navy 31, Middle Tennessee 20
Glenn's Pick: Navy 35, Middle Tennessee 24
Music City Bowl
Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech, 3:15 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Ole Miss -3.5; Georgia Tech +3.5
Brad's Breakdown: Both of these teams have gone down similar paths this season. Both are 7-5, including losses in their regular season finales. Georgia Tech lost in double overtime to rival Georgia. Ole Miss lost its last two games, to Missouri and Mississippi State. Both teams run the ball, with the Yellow Jackets averaging 311.7 yards per game and the Rebels 187.4 on the ground. The difference on the field between the two will come down to how well Ole Miss can stop the triple option offense of Georgia Tech. The Rebels haven't had much success stopping the running game against good teams, so the Yellow Jackets could have a field day on the ground. Ole Miss could do its damage through the air, where it passes for 285.6 yards per game. Georgia Tech allows 243.5 on average through the air, which was second to last in the ACC. Ole Miss has struggled to score the last two weeks, scoring just 10 points in each loss to Missouri and Mississippi State. The Rebels did beat LSU this season, but lost to every other ranked team it played. Georgia Tech beat Duke for its best win of the season. The Yellow Jackets will control the game on the ground and pull the upset in Tennessee.
Brad's Pick: Georgia Tech 33, Ole Miss 28
Craig's Pick: Ole Miss 27, Georgia Tech 17
Glenn's Pick: Georgia Tech 28, Ole Miss 25
No. 10 Oregon vs. Texas, 6:45 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Oregon -14; Texas +14
Brad's Breakdown: Oregon got great news when quarterback Marcus Mariota said he would bypass the NFL draft and return to the team next season, giving the Ducks another great chance to make a run at a national championship. Texas will be starting over next year, as longtime coach Mack Brown will step down after the bowl game. It should lead to a game where both sides are motivated to win and go into next season with some momentum. Neither team has it right now, as Oregon lost two of its final four games and Texas lost two of its last three. Oregon was in position to play for a national championship, but lost to Stanford in early November. The Longhorns had a chance to win the Big 12 title, but lost big to Baylor in the regular season finale. The Ducks may have been slowed down by an injury to Mariota toward the end of the year. The high-powered Ducks offense runs through Mariota, so with him hobbled, it limits what can be done. Oregon averages 46.8 points per game, third best in the nation. The defense allows just 21.6. Texas had its biggest win against Oklahoma this year, but lost big to Baylor, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss, all ranked teams when they played. Oregon is just too good to lose this game, even with Texas players wanting to send Brown out on top in his final game.
Brad's Pick: Oregon 45, Texas 24
Craig's Pick: Oregon 35, Texas 24
Glenn's Pick: Oregon 38, Texas 23
No. 14 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech, 10:15 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Arizona State -14.5; Texas Tech +14.5
Brad's Breakdown: After losing two of its first five games, Arizona State reeled off seven straight victories to host the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford. But the Sun Devils couldn't keep momentum and lost for the second time to the Cardinal, this time by 24 points. Texas Tech won its first seven games of the season and reached No. 10 in the rankings, but ended up losing its last five games. In the last four, the Red Raiders allowed at least 41 points in each game. Texas beat Texas Tech 41-16 on Thanksgiving Day. So, needless to write, the Red Raiders are limping into this matchup a lot more than the Sun Devils, despite the latter losing their conference title game. When the two teams play each other Monday night, it will be all about offense. Texas Tech scores 35.7 points per game and allows 31.2 on defense. Arizona State scores 41 points per game and allows 25.8. Texas Tech has the second best passing offense in the nation, while Arizona State is 29th. The over/under on the game is 71.5 points, which could even be low. The half-point in the spread is huge in this one, as Texas Tech can still win by staying within two touchdowns. Arizona State is by far the better team, but the shootout should be close enough for the Raiders to stay within shouting distance.
Brad's Pick: Arizona State 49, Texas Tech 35
Craig's Pick: Arizona State 38, Texas Tech 31
Glenn's Pick: Arizona State 35, Texas Tech 28
Brad's Bowl Record: 6-9 (spread); 8-7 (straight-up); 2-3 (upset picks)
Brad's Regular Season: 90-81-2 (spread); 131-42 (straight-up); 7-12 (upset)
Craig's Bowl Record: 8-7 (spread); 8-7 (straight-up); 2-3 (upset picks)
Craig's Regular Season: 84-87-2 (spread); 131-42 (straight-up); 7-13 (upset)
Glenn's Bowl Record: 12-3 (spread); 11-4 (straight-up); 3-1 (upset picks)
Glenn's Regular Season: 84-87-2 (spread); 126-47 (straight-up); 10-21 (upset)