Commentary

Picks for January bowl games

Evaluating upset odds and picking winners for BCS games, other January bowls

Originally Published: December 31, 2011
By Will Harris | ESPN Insider
Brandon Weeden, Darron ThomasUS PresswireWill these two favorites come up with wins in their respective BCS bowls?

Every week during the season, Will Harris conspires with the computers (using TeamRankings' game predictor) and the wiseguys to evaluate the upset possibilities in college football's most compelling games and give his picks for who'll come out on top.

Upset Picks finished one game over .500 against the spread this season, and have since turned our attention to the bowls. We'll break down all the matchups in stages as we go through the postseason, looking for mismatches and live dogs.

Below is a breakdown for bowl games Jan. 2 through the BCS title game Jan. 9.

TicketCity Bowl: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Houston Cougars, Jan. 2

Houston is favored by 7 points
TeamRankings win odds for Penn State: 38 percent
Watch | Pick Center analysis

This is a disappointing bowl assignment for both teams. Houston crashed from a Sugar berth to a third straight postseason date in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, while Penn State was jumped in the Big Ten pecking order by three teams the Lions beat. Houston lost a championship -- and its coach -- but Penn State has taken the worst of it in terms of off-field distractions.

This Lions team has been through a lot, and does have the makeup to pull together and deliver a focused showing. If that happens, expect an outright win for the underdog, as Penn State matches up very well here. The Lions are tougher at the line of scrimmage than any team Houston has faced, and the all-senior secondary will be the biggest challenge to date for Case Keenum and his receivers.

On the other side of the ball, Penn State and its utterly disastrous quarterback situation is getting exactly what it needs: a team the Lions can definitely run on. Starting quarterback Matt McGloin is questionable after taking a spill in a locker room scuffle, and backup Rob Bolden was just arrested for a shoplifting prank. No matter who is under center, though, if Penn State can muster some unity and desire, the Lions can handle Houston with their defense and ground game. Silas Redd and Stephfon Green should have a field day against a Houston rush defense that would be rate second-worst in the Big Ten.

The pick: Penn State 31, Houston 28


Outback Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Michigan State Spartans, Jan. 2

Georgia is favored by 3.5 points
TeamRankings win odds for Michigan State: 39 percent
Pick Center analysis


To see the rest of Will Harris' bowl picks, including the BCS matchups and Alabama-LSU, sign up for ESPN Insider.