Easy Pick’ems: Bowl Edition

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Well, The Jug’s first season of bad picks has finally come to a close, and now it’s all over but the shouting. Just kidding – it’s time for the most exciting part of the season; bowl games! And while the regular season’s predictions were highly touch and go (blame the Big 12 becoming the most unpredictable conference with the greatest parity in the land), be ready for much greater accuracy as nine of ten of the conference’s teams travel around the country and soak up some sun while enjoying the fruits of their labors (well, everyone but West Virginia, who gets the pleasure of playing in the wind and snow of New York). How do you ensure accuracy? Pick the Big 12!

Holiday Bowl: Baylor v. #17 UCLA (-1)

Despite UCLA being the number 17 ranked team in the country and having played in the Pac-12 championship game over USC and Arizona, nobody feels comfortable betting against a team that couldn’t even finish the season with a winning conference record. Maybe that’s because Baylor (7-5, 4-5) finished the season in stunning fashion. After upsetting K-State 52-24 and knocking the Wildcats from the National Championship game, Baylor put up 52 again against Texas Tech (though, admittedly, in overtime), and finished the season with a 41-34 victory over #23 Oklahoma State. The Bears are hot at the right moment, and seem to have figured out how to utilize Lance Seastrunk. The transfer from Oregon is averaging 7.6 yards per carry, and should help keep the other Bears (of UCLA) off-balance. With UCLA expecting pass, expect at least one bomb from Nick Florence to stud Terrance Williams, who is averaging 18.6 yards per catch and has 12 TDs on the season. UCLA can score in chunks too, but Baylor gets the league off to a good start with an upset. Prediction: Baylor 43, UCLA 39

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Texas Tech (-13) v. Minnesota

The first of what should be two blow outs over Big 10 opponents, the only reasons for watching this game past the first quarter should be a miraculous fight from Minnesota or the promise of an exciting halftime show. No one is bored enough to want to watch this match up except diehard Red Raiders. The Big 10 was very down this year, so a team that only managed to go 2-6 in the conference probably isn’t very good. Minnesota was such a team. Minnesota averaged 21 points a game, and Texas Tech averaged 38. Sounds like a reasonable line. Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Minnesota 21

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia (-4) v. Syracuse

The first of three Saturday games on the docket, Syracuse started whining before the teams even traveled to their locations. This is not to impugn The Orange as a collection of whiners, but their refusal to put the Schwartzwalder Trophy up for winning the game is a tad petty – it’s one Big East team demonstrating their displeasure for a former Big East team jumping ship. This move wouldn’t be hypocritical at all if Syracuse wasn’t jumping to the ACC next year, but let’s not wallow in who’s pettier. At the end of the day, a trophy that has been awarded to the winner of the Syracuse/West Virginia game every year since 1993 will not be traveling to NYC. Reason enough for WVU to crush Syracuse. Tavon Austin has found some sort of beast mode since moving to running back. Prediction: West Virginia 38, Syracuse 26

Valero Alamo Bowl: #23 Texas v. #13 Oregon State (-2)

In what will likely be the first loss of the bowl season for the Big 12, it’s difficult to put much stock in this Texas team. The Longhorns have managed to climb their way back into the rankings, will have a rested defense that was depleted all year (particularly on the line), and the three-headed running attack that had at least one back sidelined every game should be healthy as well. While Texas underachieved all year, Oregon State was an incredible overachiever after failing all year in 2011. Oregon State ranked second in Pac 12 passing and ninth in rushing. Texas has three players in its secondary capable of playing at the next level: safety Kenny Vaccaro and corners Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom. In fact, Texas has more talent pretty much everywhere but quarterback. Unfortunately, that talent has failed to translate into wins. Prediction: Oregon State 38, Texas 34

Buffalo Wildwings Bowl: TCU (-3) v. Michigan State

One of these games is not like the others. While most games featuring Big 12 teams should offer over/under lines of at least 65, it would be surprising if these teams combine to score over 50 points. Michigan State was a favorite to win their division in the Big 10 this year after a very successful 2011 season, but the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins and other offensive weapons caused the team to be incapable of putting up points. TCU, on the other hand, lost playmakers on both sides of the ball over the course of the summer and even the regular season due to a variety of suspensions. Yet while TCU proved capable of scoring by averaging 29 points, Michigan State’s running back Le’Veon Bell is about the scoring option the Spartans bring to the table. Prediction: TCU 25, Michigan State 17