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NCAA Bowl Previews: Independence, Champs, Insight, Military, Texas

If you missed the first round of bowl predictions just click here to catch up on what you missed.

As of the printing of this blog we have had 5 bowl games and so far Ross is 4-1 in his predictions (only missing on NIU/Fresno) and I'm 3-2.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (12/27 5pm on ESPN 2)
Air Force (8-4) vs. Georgia Tech (6-6)

Kevin's Prediction: AIR FORCE 31 GEORGIA TECH 27
This is a very interesting game as both of these teams present problems for their opponents defense on a weekly basis. Georgia Tech is the #1 rushing attach in the Nation at 327 yards per game and Air Force is #2 at 317. Air Force has a better resume than Georgia Tech does. Air Force beat BYU (35-14), Navy (14-6) and Army (42-22) while Georgia Tech only had one win against a team that finished with a winning record (beat UNC 30-24 and no Georgia Tech fans I'm not counting South Carolina State). From the latest I have read, Joshua Nesbitt will not play in this game. I think that will be the difference but I honestly would not be surprised if either team won this game. This is one to watch as it should be the shortest game of the bowl season due to both teams mashing the ball between the tackles.

Ross's Prediction: AIR FORCE 35, GEORGIA TECH 24

Who better to defend Georgia Tech's vaunted triple-option offense than a team that (a) runs a similar offense themselves, (b) plays multiple teams that run that offense, and (c) is full of smart, disciplined athletes.  Tech's main hope is having vastly superior athletes, but I'm not sure that will be enough.

Champs Sports Bowl (12/28 6:30 pm on ESPN)
West Virginia (9-3) vs. North Carolina State (8-4)

Kevin's Prediction: NC STATE 27 WEST VIRGINIA 24
NC State was one of the most surprising teams this year. West Virginia finished 9-3 and didn't lose a game by more than 6 points all year but their season just felt somewhat underwhelming. The big match-up for me in this game is the West Virginia defense (which only gave up 12.8 ppg this year) versus Russell Wilson and NC State's passing attack (which ranked 19th in the Nation this year). My gut says West Virginia but my heart says NC State).

Ross's Prediction: WEST VIRGINIA 28, NC STATE 24

West Virginia probably was the best team in the Big East this year -- but they stumbled against UConn and (more absurdly) Syracuse and that kept them from making yet another BCS bowl this year.  But it should still be enough to get by a good-but-not-great NC State team, unless the behind-the-scenes turmoil with the coaching staff is too much for the team to handle.  But their defense should be good enough to slow down Russell Wilson and the NC State offense.

Insight Bowl (12/28 10 pm on ESPN)
Missouri  (10-2) vs. Iowa (7-5)

Kevin's Prediction: MISSOURI 27 IOWA 17
The biggest thing that sticks in my mind is how Iowa finished the season. They lost 3 straight games, one to Ohio State, but the other two to Northwestern (a decent team) and Minnesota (an awful team). Iowa is also looking at some key suspensions for the bowl game. I'm not in love with Missouri but I like them in this one.

Ross's Prediction: IOWA 24, MISSOURI 17

Against my better judgment, I'm picking Iowa in this one.  Lord knows, there's plenty of reasons to pick against them -- they ended the year on a three-game losing skid that included a thoroughly pathetic loss to a bad Minnesota team and then lost their best receiver (Derrell Johnson-Koulianos) and best running back (Adam Robinson) for the game in off-field turmoil -- but I think they come out with something to prove and actually win a close game. 

Military Bowl (12/29 2:30 pm on ESPN)
East Carolina (6-6) vs. Maryland (8-40

Kevin's Prediction: MARYLAND 38 EAST CAROLINA 27
Was there a more up and down team than East Carolina this year? They beat NC State and Southern Miss but got bombed by the likes of Rice and gave up 76 points to Navy. That is not a team I can pick to win a bowl game. East Carolina gave up a whooping 43.4 points per game this year. There is turmoil in Maryland but I think they win this one for the Fridge.

Ross's Prediction: MARYLAND 37, EAST CAROLINA 24
This is another game where an unsettled coaching situation could produce thoroughly unpredictable results, but I think Maryland sends Friedgen out with a win -- especially since ECU's defense is purely theoretical.

Texas Bowl (12/29 6pm on ESPN)
Illinois (6-6) vs. Baylor (7-5)

Kevin's Prediction: BAYLOR 34 ILLINOIS 24
I refuse to live in a world where I pick a 6-6 Ron Zook coached team to win a bowl game. Baylor was really good offensively this year and Illinois was known to give up some points this year (see also: back-to-back weeks giving up 67 to Michigan and 38 to Minnesota).

Ross's Prediction: BAYLOR 38, ILLINOIS 31

There's definite potential for Baylor to fall victim to "just happy to be there" disease for making their first bowl game in years... but the same could be said for Illinois to an extent, since most of their players haven't played in a bowl game, either.  When in doubt, it's sometimes useful to go with the best player on the field -- and in this case that's undoubtedly Baylor's do-everything QB, Robert Griffin III.  I think he'll have a big game and carry Baylor to a close win.

Valero Alamo (12/29 9:15pm on ESPN)
Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)

Kevin's Prediction: OKLAHOMA STATE 38 ARIZONA 28
This is a game that looks fun on paper. Okie State's explosive offense (2nd Nationally in Passing, 29th in Rushing, and 3rd in Scoring) against a pretty good Arizona defense. This would have been a much better match-up if it would have happened early in the year when Arizona was 7-1. Arizona played a tough schedule at the end of the year and fell to Stanford, USC and Oregon. But then they also lost to rival Arizona State. I just can't see them coming back to beat an Okie State team with all those weapons on offense.

Ross's Prediction: OKLAHOMA STATE 34, ARIZONA 24

Both teams lost heart-breakers to their hated in-state rivals in their season finales, so both will be trying to rebound here.  But Arizona fell apart down the stretch and Oklahoma State seems to have superior personnel on offense.  Arizona also laid the ugliest of eggs last year in the Holiday Bowl, so I don't really have a lot of faith in Mike Stoops' bowl prep ability right now.

Armed Forces Bowl (12/30 Noon on ESPN)
Army (6-6) vs. SMU (7-6)

Kevin's Prediction: SMU 28 ARMY 21
The most impressive victory Army had all year was a 45-28 win over 5-7 Kent State. I kid you not. As much as a want to pick Army because this is the "Armed Forces Bowl" I simply can't justify it based on their body of work. SMU isn't exactly a Top 25 team but they did beat East Carolina and Tulsa.

Ross's Prediction: SMU 38, ARMY 24

It's great that Army made it to a bowl game, but they're not really very good.  SMU isn't great, either, but they've looked pretty solid at times and held their own against some quality foes (like TCU).  I think June Jones will have the SMU offense ready to shred Army's defense, too.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (12/30 3:20pm on ESPN)
Kansas State (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5)

Kevin's Prediction: SYRACUSE 24 KANSAS STATE 21
Not a real high-profile match-up based on name appeal but I like what Syracuse did this year. They turned around a pitiful program into a team that knocked off a Top 25 opponent (19-14 win over West Virginia). Syracuse had a bunch of cupcakes on their schedule (Akron, Maine and Colgate) and took advantage of some down Big East opponents (Cincy and Rutgers) but I really like their improvement. Kansas State actually played a couple of adequate non-conference foes this year (UCLA and UCF) but folded like a tent once they got into the meat of the Big 12 schedule (losses to Nebraska, Baylor, Okie State, Missouri and Colorado). This one looks like a coin toss to me but I think Syracuse is going to be more up for this game than Kansas State.

Ross's Prediction: SYRACUSE 21, KANSAS STATE 17

On one hand, you could go with the best player on the field -- and that should be Kansas State's Daniel Thomas.  On the other hand, you could go with the team more excited to be there -- which is probably Syracuse, given their long years in the wilderness over the past decade.  Flip of the coin says Syracuse in a close one.

Music City Bowl (12/30 6:40pm on ESPN)
North Carolina (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)

Kevin's Prediction: NORTH CAROLINA 27 TENNESSEE 24
If you asked me about this one half-way through the year I would have picked UNC by about 30. I think Tennessee started to find itself at the end of the season when they inserted Tyler Bray into the starting line-up but it could also have been the closing stretch of Memphis, Ole Miss, Vandy and Kentucky that did the trick (these teams had a combined record of 13-34). So before we anoint Tennessee as "back" under Derek Dooley lets see them actually beat somebody. 

Ross's Prediction: NORTH CAROLINA 31, TENNESSEE 27

Tennessee came on strong at the end of the year, although they mostly did it against so-so competition.  North Carolina was good this year, but not good enough to get by the best teams they played (LSU, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Miami, NC State) -- although they did eke one out against Florida State.  These teams are pretty evenly matched, but I like UNC to win and end their disappointing season on a minor high note.

Holiday Bowl (12/30 10pm on ESPN)
Nebraska (10-3) vs. Washington (6-6)

Kevin's Prediction: NEBRASKA 34 WASHINGTON 14
This one looks like a total no-brainer. Assuming Nebraska's offense shows up they shouldn't have much of a problem in this one.

Ross's Prediction: NEBRASKA 38, WASHINGTON 17

The rematch no one asked for.  Nebraska pulverized Washington when they met earlier this season, and while I don't think the rematch will be quite as lopsided, there's still no reason to pick against Nebraska here.  They're much better, especially on defense.

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