Bowl Picks, Part III: Hoping for a bigger crowd here than most games

by | College Football Insider

The bowls keep rolling on. And rolling on. And rolling on.

And with a few exceptions, the bowls continue to be played in front of more empty seats than warm bodies. In fact, the first nine bowl games played this year each had a smaller attendance than two different Texas state high school championship games played last month.

Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise that Texas high school football outdraws a pair of 6-6 college teams playing halfway across the country from their campuses on a weeknight.

But attendance -- or lack of it -- doesn't tell the entire story about the importance of bowls, says the Football Bowl Association.

"Everyone knows we're in a tough economy right now and America's bowls are significant economic engines in 28 cities across the country," said Tina Kunzer-Murphy, chairman of the FBA. "These benefits show the importance of bowl games to their communities."

The FBA announced recently that this year's bowl games could generate more than $1 billion among the 28 host communities.

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One billion dollars? Wow, if that's the case, let's add 20 more bowl games. Actually, let's not. But there are still 20 games remaining in this bowl season, including 16 during the next seven days, so buckle up for the third installment of my bowl picks. My final four bowl selections will be published next Thursday.

And a friendly reminder: Each pick, for entertainment purposes only, is for 50 Brett Bucks, except for the best bets, worth 100 Brett Bucks. Point spreads from Wednesday's USA Today.

Texas A&M vs. Northwestern, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Saturday: Two ominous stats for a game between 6-6 teams: Northwestern is seeking its first bowl victory since 1949. Texas A&M is onto to its fifth head coach since 2002. Northwestern +10.

Illinois vs. UCLA, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Saturday: Illinois and UCLA are two of the nation's premier teams. They feature some of the country's finest athletes and are led by two of the nation's best coaches. But enough about the Fighting Illini and Bruins women's volleyball teams, which met in last week's NCAA championship. This bowl game features two teams whose coaches have been fired and combined for 13 losses, most ever for a bowl game. UCLA +2½.

Houston vs. Penn State, TicketCity Bowl, Monday: Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin and wide receiver Curtis Drake were involved in a fight during practice last week. After the fight, Penn State's University police were made aware of the incident. Oh, so now they decide to contact the police. Penn State +6½ is my first best bet.

Georgia vs. Michigan State, Outback Bowl, Monday: At the Outback Bowl's annual welcome luncheon, the teams were served 4,500 pounds of food, including 750 pounds of steak, 750 pounds of chicken and 900 pounds of ribs. In other words, it was just like a night on the town last year with John Junker -- minus the trip to a strip club and a receipt. Michigan State +3½.

South Carolina vs. Nebraska, Capital One Bowl, Monday: Nebraska starting center Mike Caputo was charged with reckless driving after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence earlier this month. Caputo was arrested when a police officer found him sleeping in the driver's seat of a running vehicle. It turns out Caputo had just been reading the Cornhuskers' offensive playbook and couldn't stay awake. South Carolina -2½.

Florida vs. Ohio State, Gator Bowl, Monday: In honor of former Florida coach/new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, the team that is leading the Gator Bowl at halftime will announce their retirement for family reasons. That team will then spend the third quarter working as television analysts before returning, totally rejuvenated, to play in the fourth. Ohio State +2.

Oregon vs. Wisconsin, Rose Bowl, Monday: Wisconsin is the first team in FBS history to have players rush and throw for at least 30 touchdowns (RB Montee Ball ran for 32 TDs, QB Russell Wilson threw for 31). The Badgers also are trying to avoid becoming the first Big Ten team since 2004-05 to lose consecutive Rose Bowls. Wisconsin +6.

Oklahoma State vs. Stanford, Fiesta Bowl, Monday: With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck playing his final college game, the Fiesta Bowl has had no problems selling tickets. Of course, personnel from the Indianapolis Colts have bought up most of them. Oklahoma State -3½.

Michigan vs. Virginia Tech, Sugar Bowl, Tuesday: Two bits of news: A couple of weeks ago, Virginia Tech asked fans to purchase proxy tickets to the Sugar Bowl to help the school's sagging ticket sales. Then last week, Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell was arrested for breaking and entering in an apparent home invasion. Journell had a legitimate excuse @Martinbr7 posted on Twitter: "He was probably just trying to sell Sugar Bowl tickets door to door." Michigan -2½.

Clemson vs. West Virginia, Orange Bowl, Wednesday: Last week, Clemson and West Virginia had combined to sell only 20,000 of their 35,000 tickets as required by each of the BCS bowls. Tickets sales are so slow for the South Florida bowl that even Miami Marlins fans are embarrassed. Clemson -3½ is my second best bet.

"Cover Me": This week "Cover Me" likes Cincinnati +2 vs. Vanderbilt, Liberty Bowl, Saturday; Auburn -3 vs. Virginia, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Saturday; and Utah +3 vs. Georgia Tech, Sun Bowl, Saturday, is his best bet.

Lock of the Week: ShurLok Best Realtor Security Key Storage Lock Boxes, Metal Black

Last week:
McMurphy's picks: 2-3
"Cover Me": 1-1

Season totals:
Bankroll: Up 1,450 for season; 6,450 balance
McMurphy: 150-125; +1,050; (6-10 best bets)
"Cover Me": 27-18; +400 (8-8 best bets)


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