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College Bowl Picks (Dec. 24-Dec.27)

Hawaii Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon State

The Hawaii Bowl is always a treat an that will not change this year. Although both Boise and Oregon St. were pretty disappointing both had numerous high points and low points this season. Boise had one of their worst years in recent memory, going 8-4 and losing by 32 to Washington. Chris Petersen took the opportunity to ditch farther west to Washington and Boise hired Arkansas State's Bryan Harsin. Harsin and the Broncos will rely heavily on sophomore back Jay Ajayi, who has ran for 1,328 yards, averaging nearly 6 yards a carry. Senior quarterback Joe Southwick is expected to play after missing a lot of time with a broken ankle. But, he will have his work cut out for him against the Oregon State secondary and cornerback Rashaad Reynolds. The Boise defense will have its work cut out trying to stop the lethal combination of QB Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks. Mannion's start to the season was crazy but he has cooled off a lot lately, throwing 11 interceptions in the past five games. Boise's secondary is young and still inexperienced meaning Mannion and Cooks could embarrass them. It is a new era for Boise football without Chris Petersen. Unless Ajayi can carry them to victory they will have another pretty new thing: losing bowl games (they have won 4 straight).
Oregon State, 34 Boise State, 28

Little Caesars Bowl: Pitt vs. Bowling Green

Matt Johnson
It has been one heck of a year for QB Matt Johnson and the Bowling Green Falcons and they hope to
cap it all off with a victory over 6-6 Pitt at Ford Field. On December 6th, the Falcons spoiled Northern Illinois' perfect season, thanks to a fantastic showing by Johnson and the defense. The win was one of the biggest in school history and it helped them improve to 10-3. Unfortunately, head coach Dave Clawson used that opportunity to move to Wake, meaning former special teams coordinator Adam Scheier will take over the helm. NIU struggled to contain the mobile Johnson but they didn't have Aaron Donald. The massive linemen has been fantastic this year for Pitt, recording 10 sacks and won the Outland Trophy, Nagurski award, Lombardi Award and Bednarik Award to end his senior season with the Panthers. Pitt has had a decent year on the offensive end, helped out by Rutgers transfer Tom Savage at quarterback. He had 2,834 yards and 21 touchdowns this year, much of them to receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. Though, a huge issue for Pitt has been keeping him from getting sacked, he had been sacked 41 times this year. Bowling Green has an aggressive defense that could exploit that issue. The Falcons only allow 14.8 points per game and could really hold Pitt from doing much.
Bowling Green, 24 Pitt, 15

Poinsettia Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Utah State
Northern Illinois hopes to recover from a tough MAC Championship loss to Bowling Green against Utah State and hopes to set a school-record for wins in a season. Senior Jordan Lynch had an amazing senior season, passing for 2,676 yards and rushing for 1,881 more. Though, he struggled against the best defense he has seen this year against Bowling Green. It is actually amazing that Utah State managed to get to the Mountain West Championship game and this bowl game. They were 3-4 when dual threat QB Chuckie Keeton went down with a season-ending injury but freshman Darrell Garretson was fantastic in his absence. The tough news for the Aggies is that he could be out as well after getting hit in the Fresno State matchup. If he can't play Utah State will rely even more on senior back Joey DeMartino to help the offense move. Containing Lynch has proven to be one heck of a challenge but Bowling Green managed it and Utah State could as well. The Aggies are only allowing 17.3 points per game on the defensive end and their rush defense is one of the better in the nation. It will be a clash between the Huskies who are averaging nearly 43 points  a game this year and this Aggies' defense. The key is Lynch: if stopped, this offense doesn't look very good at all and the defense is average. But if he isn't Northern Illinois could win their 13th game of the year.

Northern Illinois, 38 Utah State, 24

Military Bowl: Marshall vs. Maryland

After a 4-0 start it looked like big things were coming for Maryland but after getting beat down by Florida State 63-0, the Terrapins struggled through their ACC schedule, going 3-5 in the conference. Sophomore receiver Stefon Diggs was lost for the year against Virginia and the Terps will miss him a ton, they needed him to hang with Marshall's high-octane attack. Senior QB C.J. Brown has struggled with injuries this year but when healthy he is a great leader. Brown has an accurate arm and also can help extend plays with his legs. Marshall has been great this year and much of that can be credited towards senior quarterback Rakeem Cato and their passing attack. Cato has thrown for 36 touchdowns and 3,579 yards, distributing the ball to athletes down the field like Gator Hoskins and junior receiver Tommy Shuler. Junior linebacker Cole Farrand is a tackling machine, including 23 in their loss to Clemson. They will need him to also get pressure on Cato, who will make mistakes when the defense is in his face. Maryland does have one key advantage over Cato and the Herd, they basically have home-field in this matchup. This one will be played in Annapolis, Maryland and the Terrapins' fan base will be excited to see them in a bowl game after two straight dismal years under Randy Edsall previously. Even with that it is going to be awfully hard to slow down the Herd's offense even if Brown is healthy and ready to play and back Brandon Ross plays well.
Marshall, 44 Maryland, 27

Texas Bowl: Minnesota vs. Syracuse
It has been a surprising year for Minnesota, who went 8-4 and won 4 straight conferences games for the first time in three decades. They hope to cap things off nicely against Syracuse, who had a solid first year in the ACC. These teams are pretty similar on offense, both lean heavily on their ground games with Minnesota using David Cobb and the Orange using Jerome Smith. The Gophers hope that their two-quarterback system of sophomore Phillip Nelson and redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner can produce. In wins, the offense has looked pretty good, against Nebraska and Penn State but in some losses it has looked dismal, like their Big Ten-opening loss to Iowa. In order for Syracuse to hang Smith must be a monster and their defense must contain Cobb. Head coach Scott Shafer really needs Terrell Hunt to continue to mature. Minnesota's defense has shown real signs of improvement. Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman has been a beast all year and has been rising up a lot of draft boards. Based on their recent bowl struggles, it might be wise to pick against Minnesota in this one, even if they look a lot better on paper. But, I think that they have the talent on this roster to finish off 9-4.
Minnesota, 21 Syracuse, 12

Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU vs. Washington
Expect a lot of offensive fireworks as two teams that love to score and get off as much plays as possible square off in San Francisco. Washington will have a ton of issues trying to stop sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill and back Jamaal Williams. Hill has run crazy against some big teams including Texas and the Huskies could be next. If they can find their passing game with Cody Hoffman, the Cougars could really put some points on the board. The Huskies have their fair share of offensive playmakers including junior back Bishop Sankey and senior QB Keith Price who looks to end his fantastic career with Washington with a bang. It won't just be these two teams chucking the ball all over the field. The Cougars have senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who had a fantastic showing in BYU's bowl game last season and should put some pressure on Price off the edge. Although their offensive line has improved, the Huskies still have not helped Price out enough, struggling to protect him. It will be key for Washington to slow down BYU: Cougars' head coach Bronco Mendenhall is 73-8 when his teams score 24 or more. This one could well be a shootout and a couple of key turnovers or plays on special teams could decide this one.
Washington, 45 BYU, 40

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