Senior College Football Columnist

First week's bowl picks: Tight wins for Maryland, Washington

BYU will have a tough time stopping Washington running back Bishop Sankey. (USATSI)
BYU will have a tough time stopping Washington running back Bishop Sankey. (USATSI)

More: Full bowl schedule, previews | Expert picks

Bowl season is finally under way, and it's time to roll out the first batch of bowl picks. Heading into the week, I was five games over .500 for the season against the spread. Here are this week's guesses (and updated results):

Today's games

Military: Maryland 24, Marshall 20: I was tempted to pick the Thundering Herd, especially since Marshall is more healthy and has more firepower, but think the Terps' D can hold up with the added prep time for Rakeem Cato. Result: Marshall 31, Maryland 20

Texas: Minnesota 28, Syracuse 17: The Gophers are further along than Scott Shafer's program at this stage in their development. Minnesota's O-line has stepped up and David Cobb has been a force in the second half of the season. He even cracked the 100-yard barrier against the vaunted MSU defense. The Minnesota D also has been solid, only allowing over 23 points one time in the second half of the season while the Orange averaged just 13 ppg in the second half of the season. Result: Syracuse 21, Minnesota 17

Fight Hunger: Washington 28, BYU 27: Despite all of the transition going on around the Huskies, I think with the leadership of QB Keith Price and RB Bishop Sankey, Washington can manage it all and still take down the Cougars. Result: Washington 31, BYU 16

Thursday's games

Little Caesars Pizza: Pittsburgh 20. Bowling Green 13: Bowling Green is another program coping with coaching turnover and now has to face the most disruptive defensive player in the country in DT Aaron Donald. If Pitt, which faced nine bowl teams this season, can give strong-armed QB Tom Savage even a little time (41 sacks), the Panthers should do enough to win this game. | Result: Pitt 30, Bowling Green 27

Poinsettia: N. Illinois 30, Utah State 17: Jordan Lynch won't leave Northern Illinois on a loss. His team has a ton of bowl experience and hung with a loaded FSU team for about three quarters on a bigger stage last season. The Huskies should handle Utah State here. | Result: Utah State 21, Northern Illinois 14

Tuesday's game

Hawaii: Oregon State 28, Boise State 17: I was picking the Beavers to win this even before the news that BSU sent starting QB Joe Southwick home from Hawaii. The Broncos seem like they're just sorting through too much transition in the wake of coach Chris Petersen moving on to Washington. | Result: Oregon State 38, Boise State 23

Monday's game

Beef O' Brady's: East Carolina 37, Ohio 17: ECU has the better offense and a lot more firepower and should be too much for a Bobcats team that averaged fewer than 10 points in November. | Result: ECU 37, Ohio 20

Dec. 21 games

New Mexico: Washington State 38, Colorado State 30: The Cougars haven't been to a bowl in a decade. The Rams haven't played in one in half a decade, but both are delighted to be in this one under their second-year head coaches. Washington State faced a much tougher schedule to get here and barring an INT-filled afternoon from Connor Halliday, the Cougars should be too much for the Rams who really, really struggle against the pass. | Result: CSU 48, WSU 45

Royal Purple: Fresno State 34, USC 24: Hard to gauge how the Trojans will play in this one, given just how much turnover and different messages they've listened to the past three months. Fresno's Derek Carr and his excellent WRs figure to give the suspect Trojan corners some problems ... assuming the Fresno State OL doesn't get overwhelmed by a talented USC front. I think Carr will hold up. He was only sacked 11 times despite 605 pass attempts. | Result: USC 45, FSU 20

Famous Potato: Buffalo 30, San Diego State 24: The Aztecs played in four OT games this season (winning three) and were an impressive 7-2 in games decided by 10 points or less, but their D is really shaky, so I'm playing a hunch going with Khalil Mack's team even though Buffalo has only played in two games decided by 10 or fewer points (1-1). | Result: SDSU 49, BUF 24

New Orleans: Louisiana-Lafayette 35, Tulane 20: Both teams stumbled down the stretch with Louisiana-Lafayette losing its past two games and Tulane dropping three of four in November. I'll go with the more experienced bowl team here. | Result: ULL 24, TUL 21

 
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