By Brad Carroll
Before we get to college football's epic conclusion in the form of the BCS national championship game Monday night between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn, there are two weekend games to keep the bowl season in vogue. Here we preview and our college football experts pick against the spread the Compass Bowl between Houston and Vanderbilt Saturday and the GoDaddy Bowl between Arkansas State and Ball State Sunday.
Houston vs. Vanderbilt, 1 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Houston +3; Vanderbilt -3
Brad's Breakdown: Vanderbilt has completely changed the course of the program over the last two seasons. The Commodores won eight games this year, the second straight year they accomplished that. Before last season, Vanderbilt hadn't had eight wins in a season since 1915. Now, Vanderbilt is playing in its third straight bowl game and is trying to win back-to-back bowl games for the first time ever. The Commodores will have to do it without starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, who underwent knee surgery after the regular season and is out for this game. Patton Robinette should start in his place. Robinette started two games this season, losing to Texas A&M and beating Florida. Vanderbilt's big win this season came against Georgia. Houston won eight games as well this year and brings a big offense to the Compass Bowl. The Cougars average 33.9 points and just over 284 passing yards per game. Freshman quarterback John O'Korn threw 26 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Houston limps into this game, however, losing three of four, but finished with a win over SMU. Both teams would love to make a statement with a bowl win, so in that case, you have to go with the better team from the better conference.
Brad's Pick: Vanderbilt 38, Houston 31
Craig's Pick: Houston 31, Vanderbilt 28
Glenn's Pick: Vanderbilt 35, Houston 31
Arkansas State vs. Ball State, 9 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Arkansas State +8.5; Ball State -8.5
Brad's Breakdown: Arkansas State will be playing in its third straight GoDaddy Bowl and, amazingly enough, the head coach that got the Red Wolves here each time won't be the coach in the game. Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and now Bryan Harsin have all left the school for bigger jobs. Malzahn is coaching Auburn in the national championship game Monday night. Arkansas State went 7-5 this year and won the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves average 29.7 points on offense and allow 26.7 points per game on defense. Arkansas State won four of its last five games, but dropped the regular season finale to Western Kentucky. Ball State went 10-2 this year and 7-1 in the MAC. The Cardinals average 40.1 points per game, 12th best in the nation, and allow 24.8 points on defense. Quarterback Keith Wenning is the school's all-time leader in touchdown passes, yards, completions and attempts. He guides an offense that averages 333.3 passing yards per game, 10th best in nation. Ball State has never won a bowl game, but that will change Sunday night.
Brad's Pick: Ball State 38, Arkansas State 28
Craig's Pick: Ball State 35, Arkansas State 24
Glenn's Pick: Ball State 42, Arkansas State 31
Brad's Bowl Record: 14-18 (spread); 17-15 (straight-up); 3-5 (upset picks)
Brad's Season: 104-99-2 (spread); 148-57 (straight-up); 10-17 (upset picks)
Craig's Bowl Record: 16-16 (spread); 17-15 (straight-up); 3-5 (upset picks)
Craig's Season: 100-103-2 (spread); 148-57 (straight-up); 10-18 (upset picks)
Glenn's Bowl Record: 23-9 (spread); 21-11 (straight-up); 5-3 (upset picks)
Glenn's Season: 107-96-2 (spread); 147-58 (straight-up); 15-24 (upset picks)