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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 12:00 PM


By Jim Hurley

Go ahead and put away the confetti and just hand us the TV remote – New Year’s Day/Night means wall-to-wall College Football Bowl Games and so let’s get started with our 1-1-2014 previews/forecasts:


Here’s a look at the six Bowl Games on the schedule for Wednesday, January 1st:

GATOR BOWL – at Jacksonville, FL
NEBRASKA (8-4) vs. #22 GEORGIA (8-4) – 12 p.m. ET, espn2

It’s a rare bowl rematch as these power conference squads squared off in last year’s Capital One Bowl with Georgia banging out a 45-31 win as 9 ½-point betting favorites, and now here’s Mark Richt’s team back again in the heavy-duty fav role (it’s 8 ½ points at press time), but without star slinger Aaron Murray, who threw for 427 yards and five scores in last year’s bowl conquest.

If the SEC guys are gonna string together back-to-back bowl victories here, then junior QB Hutson Mason (299 yards passing with two TDs in that wild 41-34 two-OT win against Georgia Tech back on Nov. 30th) must make some big “chunk play” throws, and RB Todd Gurley (903 yards rushing and 10 TDs) must stay in one piece for 60 minutes here – while Nebraska’s upset hopes hinge on a defense that’s allowed 21 rushing scores this year including eight in the past three games.

Don’t look now, but this year’s Cornhusker defense allows 161 rushing yards a game and that ranks a middling 59th nationally among 125 FBS schools.

Spread Notes – Georgia is a rotten 3-7-2 ATS (against the spread) this season, but the Bulldogs have covered five of their last seven bowl games. Meanwhile, Nebraska is 6-6 vig-wise overall this year and Big Red’s looking to snap a three-year bowl losing streak to the number (spread setbacks to Washington, South Carolina and, of course, Georgia the past three years).

Extra, extra …

Get all the College Football Bowl Games including all the BCS bowl games beginning here on New Year’s Day plus get all the NFL Wild Card Round games this weekend too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network.

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UNLV (7-5) vs. NORTH TEXAS (8-4) – 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU

No doubt this is not your typical New Year’s Day bowl matchup, but at least you’ve gotta say both schools will be super-amped here as this is UNLV’s first bowl game since 2000, and the first for North Texas in some nine years.

The NT Mean Green’s defense really sparked this year’s squad, which beat bowl teams Middle Tennessee State and Rice along the way. The stop unit held six of its final seven foes to 16 points or less, and now we’ll see if UNLV slinger Caleb Herring (2,522 yards passing with 22 TDs and 4 INTs) can step up at crunch time and deliver the upset win for the 6 ½-point underdog Rebels who scored 38-or-more points on five different occasions.

The player-to-watch on North Texas’ offense is RB Brandin Boyd, who rushed for 1,023 yards with 11 TDs and he averaged 5.6 yards a pop.

Spread Notes – North Texas was one of the country’s best-kept spread secrets this year with a snazzy 9-3 ATS mark, and the Mean Green’s covered five of its last seven away games since late 2012. UNLV is a rock-solid 8-4 against the odds this season, and did you realize the Rebels covered four-of-five road games this year after going 4-20-1 ATS away from 2009-thru-2012?

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#19 WISCONSIN (9-3) vs. #9 SOUTH CAROLINA (10-2) – 1 p.m. ET, ABC

Let’s hope South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t get any more speeding tickets while heading to this Big 10 vs. SEC tilt!

Clowney’s made plenty of news the past couple of weeks with his pair of speeding tickets – there are still many in-the-know folks who believe he’ll still speed to the head of the next NFL Draft class even though he didn’t have a particularly good year for the Gamecocks (and he sure seemed winded in a bunch of games, too) – but on the field here we’ll see if Clowney can be a major factor against a Wisconsin offense that pounds the rock to the tune of 283 rushing yards a game (or eighth-best among FBS teams) with RBs Melvin Gordon (1,466 yards rushing and an 8.1 ypc average) and senior James White (1,337 yards rushing and team-best 15 total TDs) the major cogs here.

If South Carolina boss-man Steve Spurrier is banking on besting a third straight Big 10 bowl foe (see wins against Nebraska and Michigan the past two years in the Capital One and Outback Bowls, respectively), then forcing the hand of Wisky QB Joel Stave (12 INTs) is key here.

Plus, Carolina QB Connor Shaw (21 TDs and 1 INT) got better as the season wore on, and note the Gamecocks didn’t commit a single turnover in their final four regular-season games.

Spread Notes – South Carolina is 6-6 odds-wise this season, and the Gamecocks are just 2-5 ATS in their bowl history under 9th-year boss Spurrier. Wisconsin’s 9-3 against the prices this year under rookie boss Gary Andersen, and the Badgers are looking to cover their first bowl game since 2010 (a 21-19 loss-but-cover against 3-point fav TCU in the Rose Bowl).

IOWA (8-4) vs. #16 LSU (9-3) – 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

If the LSU Tigers – a solid 8-point betting favorite here – needs a motivating factor to play hard in this game, then how about the fact these SEC guys have lost three of their past four bowl tilts, including that wild 25-24 last-second loss to Clemson in last year’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

No question that Les Miles’ squad had a could’ve/should’ve season save for a 44-41 loss at Georgia and the 27-24 setback at Ole Miss – wins in those two conference games surely would have put LSU into a higher-profile BCS bowl game but a defense that often betrayed the Bengals (their 20th-place ranking was a bit deceiving) was the major culprit and now that defense must step it up here with LSU forced to go without star QB Zach Mettenberger (3,082 yards passing with 22 TDs).

The former Georgia transfer suffered a season-ending left knee injury in the day-after-Thanksgiving win against Arkansas, and the kid that saved LSU there – true freshman QB Anthony Jennings – will now look to put his stamp on this bowl clash against an Iowa squad that played seven different bowl teams (went 3-4 SU and 3-4 ATS against said bowl squads).

The Hawkeyes had their own quarterback scare late in the year, but starter Jake Rudock (2,281 yards passing with 18 TDs and 12 INTs) is roarin’ to go for an Iowa team that really made its bones on “D” this year with an 11th-place ranking against the pass and a 16th-place ranking versus the rush.

Spread Notes – LSU is 5-6-1 ATS this 2013 season and the Bayou Bengals are just 9-12 as betting favorites since the start of last year. Iowa is 7-5 versus the vig this season but did you know the Hawkeyes are just 6-9-1 ATS as underdogs since the start of the 2010 season?

ROSE BOWL – at Pasadena, CA
#4 MICHIGAN STATE (12-1) vs. #5 STANFORD (11-2) – 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

Heck, the way this Rose Bowl game matchup is being discussed you almost expect an in-their-prime Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson to step into the ring and duke it out!

True, these two teams are blue-collar squads who favor the old-fashioned way of running the ball until you “cry uncle” but the fact of the matter is you could see both teams loosen things up here as Michigan State’s gotten more comfortable with QB Connor Cook (2,423 yards passing with 20 TDs and 5 INTs) and he was a true savior in Sparty’s 34-24 back-and-forth win against 5 ½-point fav Ohio State in the most recent Big 10 Championship Game. Still, when State gets down to brass tax time, then junior RB Jeremy Langford (1,338 yards rushing and 17 scores) is the bell-cow, and there’s a shot he could get 30 carries here providing M-State’s playing from in front.

Stanford, meanwhile, knows its offense – one that’s scored 134 total points in its final three tilts this year – will go against a Michigan State defense without suspended LB Max Bullough (team rules violations), and so maybe Cardinal QB Kevin Hogan (2,487 yards passing with 20 TDs and 9 INTs) will test the middle of the field more and not leave everything up to active RB Tyler Gaffney, who heads into this game after averaged nearly 145 rushing yards in his last eight games.

These are a couple of hard-nosed teams that didn’t have to win many close games this year – Michigan State bested all 12 of their victims by twin-figure margins while Stanford beat seven teams by 10-or-more points, but can’t see this being anything but a tight fit here in Pasadena providing Spartans CB Darqueze Dennard is at the top of his game and ditto for Stanford super-defender LB Shayne Skov, who tends to force important turnovers at the most critical moments.

Spread Notes – Michigan State’s 8-4-1 vig-wise this season and Sparty enters this Rose Bowl bash at 9-2-1 ATS as point-grabbers the past three years. Conversely, Stanford is 7-6 against the Las Vegas price tags this season and the Cardinal’s covered all four of its bowl games these past four seasons.

FIESTA BOWL – at Glendale, AZ
#15 UCF (11-1) vs. #6 BAYLOR (11-1) – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Surprise, surprise … here’s the far-and-away highest totals price on this New Year’s Day/Night board as this UCF vs. Baylor has a totals price tag of 71 points and, quite frankly, we’re wondering whether that’s a bit conservative:

Baylor enters this BCS bowl blast having scored 40-plus points on nine different occasions this year, and the Bears had a legit Heisman Trophy candidate till a late-season stumble as QB Bryce Petty threw for 3,844 yards with 30 TDs en route to leading his crew to wins in four-of-five games played against fellow bowl squads, while UCF slinger Blake Bortles – called by some as the #2 quarterback on the NFL Draft hit list behind Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater – is fresh off a scintillating season in which he threw for 3,280 yards with 22 TDs and 7 INTs, and he’s Ben Roethlisberger-like when enemy defenders try to take him down, so keep an eye on the 6-foot-4 Bortles and let’s see if he makes some plays with his legs here too.

No doubt you won’t see 100 passes apiece here, and so that’s where16 ½-point pup UCF hopes to make hay: RB Storm Johnson (1,015 yards rushing) plays with a fierceness to his game, but he must hold onto the rock in the red zone where he experienced some problems this year while the Baylor ground game – one that ranked 12th nationally – with chatty RB Lache Seastrunk fresh off his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.

If Seastrunk guts the Knights’ interior rush defense here and the Petty-to-WR Tevin Reese combo gets cookin’ after the latter missed four games with a wrist injury, there is run-away-and-hide potential for the Big 12 champs, who are hoping to put a smile on head coach Art Briles’ face before he possibly heads off to the Washington Redskins.

Spread Notes – Baylor is a nifty 9-3 against the odds overall this season and the Bears enter this prime-time bash having covered eight of their last nine non-league games. UCF, meanwhile, is 7-5 ATS overall this season and note the Knights are a perfect 3-and-oh spreadwise as dogs this year with covers against Penn State, South Carolina and Louisville.

Note: There’s NFL Wild Card Notes plus more College Bowl coverage in the next Jim Sez!

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