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Each week, Mike Mitchell examines the computer's picks and selects those which he believes have the best chance of being correct. Lines in parenthesis are the opening lines as reported at Later lines are used in the event of a "pick 'em" opening. The Congrove Computer Rankings' pick is shown outside the parenthesis. The HOME TEAM is in CAPS. An explanation of how the computer's SU and ATS wins and losses are scored can be found at Weekly Picks Help.

The computer likes the favorite with room to spare.
2013 Regular Season: 111-18 SU (.860), 78-51 ATS (.605)
2014 Regular Season: (not including bowls) 85-34 SU (.714), 51-68 ATS (.429)
Previous 3 Weeks: 14-3 SU (.824), 8-9 ATS (.471)
Last Week: 1-0 SU (1.000), 0-1 ATS (.000)
This Week: 3-0 SU (1.000), 1-2 ATS (.333)

Wednesday, December 24
Western Kentucky (-2.5) by 3.76 over Central Michigan (Bahamas Bowl) - The computer trend line is WKU by 9.83. The Hilltoppers rank 6th nationally in total offense, thanks to a prolific passing attack that ranks 3rd nationally. Brandon Doughty has completed 67.5% of his passes for 4,344 yards for 44 TD's and 10 INT's, including 8 TD's in the 67-66 upset win over a Marshall team that was 1 win away from concluding a perfect regular season. Obviously, WKU's problem is a defense that ranks 123rd, but the Chippewas only rank 83rd on offense. CMU's strength is its defense which ranks 16th overall, but 43rd against the pass. Western Kentucky's only other bowl appearance, and Central Michigan's last bowl appearance, was the 2012 Little Caesars Bowl which CMU won 24-21.
Western Kentucky won 49-48. The computer won SU, lost ATS. (WKU blew all but 1 point of 49-14 lead in the 4th quarter).

Saturday, December 27
USC (-5.5) by 6.37 over Nebraska (Holiday Bowl - The computer's trend line says the 'Huskers lose by just 3.01, but the head coach is gone and they've lost at least 7 players for the season since fall practice, plus another 7 are either questionable or out for this game.
USC won 45-42. The computer won SU, lost ATS.

Sunday, January 4
Toledo (-2) by 6.52 over Arkansas State (GoDaddy Bowl) - The Rockets have a rushing attack that ranks 18th nationally and the Red Wolves have allowed 27 rushing TD's while ranking 94th in rushing yards allowed. Toledo's defensive weakness is stopping the pass but ASU only ranks 49th throwing the ball and both starting QB's have a 19-7 TD-to-INT ratio. This is Arkansas State's 4th consecutive GoDaddy Bowl appearance so familiarity with the surroundings is a plus to ASU, but it's the first time ASU has had its official head coach on the sideline. The past 3 years the Red Wolves were led by interim head coaches.
Toledo won 63-44. The computer won SU, won ATS.

The computer likes the favorite, but by fewer points than the oddsmakers.
2013 Regular Season: 70-12 SU (.854), 41-41 ATS (.500)
2014 Regular Season: (not including bowls) 66-10 SU (.868), 31-45 ATS (.408)
Previous 3 Weeks: 4-2 SU (.667), 3-3 ATS (.500)
Last Week: 0-0 SU (.000), 0-0 ATS (.000)
This Week: 3-1 SU (.750), 2-2 ATS (.500)

Saturday, December 27
Arizona State (-8) by 2.61 over Duke (Sun Bowl) - Both schools lost 2 of their final 3 games, playing their way out of conference championship opportunities. Each teams' offensive strength is cancelled out by the other's lack of defensive strength, leaving this contest a virtual toss-up.
Arizona State won 36-31. The computer won SU, won ATS.

Wednesday, December 31
Mississippi State (-7) by 4.94 over Georgia Tech (Orange Bowl) - The computer trend line says GT by 0.27 and I tend to agree that the Jackets are set-up for a narrow victory. In the second half of the season, Georgia Tech clobbered Pittsburgh, Virginia, N.C. State and Clemson, then knocked off rival Georgia and played Florida State to the wire. Mississippi State lost 2 of its last 3, and gave up 31 points or more on 4 separate occasions during the season.
Georgia Tech won 49-34. The computer lost SU, won ATS.

Thursday, January 1
Oregon (-9.5) by 5.62 over Florida State (Rose Bowl - Playoff Semifinal) - Everything seems to point Oregon except that FSU is 29-0 under Jameis Winston and the 'Noles always seem to find a way to win. Why buck a 29-game trend?
Oregon won 59-20. The computer won SU, lost ATS.

Saturday, January 3
Florida (-7.5) by 1.32 over East Carolina (Birmingham Bowl) - Will Muschamp got fired because the Gators went 6-5, but the computer's preseason forecast only had Florida winning 5 games. Had the Idaho game not been cancelled, UF would've been 7-5 and above mathematical expectations. Florida has the defense to win this game, and maybe just enough offense, but 7-1/2 feels like the upper end of the limit.
Florida won 28-20. The computer won SU, lost ATS.

The computer likes the underdog as the outright winner. I don't select the games in this category. Instead, we list every upset projected by the computer.
2013 Regular Season: 47-48 SU (.495), 59-36 ATS (.694)
2014 Regular Season: (not including bowls) 51-48 SU (.515), 59-40 ATS (.596)
Previous 3 Weeks: 8-2 SU (.800), 9-1 ATS (.900)
Last Week: 0-0 SU (.000), 0-0 ATS (.000)
This Week: 9-2 SU (.818), 9-2 ATS (.818)

Saturday, December 20
Air Force by 0.24 over Western Michigan (-2) (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) - Mountain West teams have cruised over the MAC in the last 2 editions of this bowl game. Both of this year's participants have had 7-win turnarounds from finishes of 2-10 (Air Force) and 1-11 (Western Michigan) in 2013. WMU gets nearly 60% of its offense thru the air while the AFA gets 64% of its offense on the ground. WMU ranks 37th stopping the run while Air Force ranks 101st stopping the pass. The Broncos are 0-5 all-time in bowl games. I'd call this game a toss-up with a slight advantage to WMU.
Air Force won 38-24. The computer won SU, won ATS.

Bowling Green by 3.61 over South Alabama (-1.5) (Camellia Bowl) Bowling Green enters this game on a 3-game losing streak, including a 51-17 loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship contest after claiming the East division with a 5-3 conference mark. South Alabama won just 1 of its last 5 games, but two of those were against Navy and South Carolina.
Bowling Green won 33-28. The computer won SU, won ATS.

Tuesday, December 23
Navy by 4.80 over San Diego State (-2.5) (Poinsettia Bowl) - Navy finished 7-5 after being projected in the preseason to go 10-2. SDSU as picked to go 5-7, but comes into this game with a 7-5 record. The Aztecs tied Fresno State for the MWC West division title but the Bulldogs advanced to the championship game by virtue of the head-to-head win.
Navy won 17-16. The computer won SU, won ATS.

Monday, December 29
Texas A&M by 6.80 over West Virginia (-3.5) (Liberty Bowl) - This is 1 of 10 bowl games which feature teams that have never previously met on the gridiron. In the case of A&M and WVU, the back half the season was a certifiable disaster after strong first halves. The Aggies got off to a 5-0 start, and were ranked No. 1 in the Congrove Computer Rankings for 2 weeks in September, before getting outscored by a cumulative 91 points over the next 3 games. The Mountaineers were 6-2 before dropping 3 of their last 4. Now, both teams enter the Liberty Bowl with 7-5 records. By the way, each team has played in this particular bowl just once previously with A&M's last appearance coming in 1975, and West Virginia's in 1964. As for this matchup, both schools are known for their offense but the Aggies only ranked 6th in the SEC and the Mountaineers ranked 4th in the Big 12. Texas A&M's defense ranked last in the SEC, while WVU's defense ranked 6th in the Big 12.
Texas A&M won 45-37. The computer won SU, won ATS.

Wednesday, December 31
Boise State by 0.21 over Arizona (-4) (Fiesta Bowl) - Boise State makes its first major bowl appearance since the 2009 season win over TCU and is 2-0 all-time in this game. The overtime win over Oklahoma at the end of the 2006 season is hailed as one of the best bowl games of all time. Arizona hasn't played in the Fiesta since the '93 season when it blanked Miami (FL) 29-0 and is 1-1 all time with a 1979 season loss to Pittsburgh. The Wildcats went 5-3 in their final 8 games after a 5-0 start while the Broncos enter on an 8-game winning streak after a 2-3 start.
Boise State won 38-30. The computer won SU, won ATS.

Thursday, January 1
Michigan State by 2.57 over Baylor (-2) (Cotton Bowl) - Baylor brings the nation's top offense and highest-scoring team to face the nation's No. 7 team in total defense. Baylor QB Bryce Petty has thrown for 7,505 yards over the last 2 seasons while tossing 58 TD passes and getting picked off just 9 times. In that 2-year period, the Bears have averaged 50.68 points per game. Over the same stretch, the Spartans' defense has allowed an average of just 16.3 points per game.
Michigan State won 42-41. The computer won SU, won ATS.

Minnesota by 0.31 over Missouri (-5.5) (Citrus Bowl) - Minnesota caught a lot of humans off-guard with its success this season, but the computer's preseason forecast had the Golden Gophers going 10-2 over-all so they actually came up a tad short of its expectations. Nonetheless, the 8-4 mark is the school's best since 2003 (9-3). Missouri had a 6-game winning streak snapped with its loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship game. The Tigers have lost 4 conference championship games over the last 8 years between the Big 12 and SEC, and haven't claimed a league crown since tying Nebraska for the 1969 Big 8 title. Minnesota is currently on the nation's 2nd-longest bowl losing streak at 6 games with the last victory coming in the 2004 Music City Bowl. The Tigers are on a 2-bowl winning streak. One telling stat from 2013 is that Missouri was next-to-last in total offense in the SEC.
Missouri won 33-17. The computer lost SU, lost ATS.

Ohio State by 5.51 over Alabama (-9.5) (Sugar Bowl) - Cardale Jones' performance at QB in a 59-0 win over Wisconsin for the Big Ten title was nothing short of unbelievable. The redshirt sophomore's second start is merely a Sugar Bowl matchup with mighty Alabama in a semifinal playoff game for the national championship. According to the computer, Ohio State played the 10th-toughest schedule this year while 'Bama faced the No. 24 schedule (the computer compiles SOS by the average power rating of each opponent). The Buckeyes rank 8th in total offense (after the regular season) while the Tide ranked 16th. The Ohio State "d" ranked 15th while 'Bama ranked 11th. Alabama QB Blake Sims had the 7th-highest pass efficiency rating, and WR Amari Cooper was tops in receiving yards with 1,656. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, the Broyles Award winner as the nation's top assistant, has been hired as the new head coach of Houston but will remain with the Buckeyes through the playoffs.
Ohio State won 42-35. The computer won SU, won ATS.

Friday, January 2
Houston by 2.11 over Pittsburgh (-2.5) (Armed Forces Bowl) - This will be an interim head coaching battle as Houston fired Tony Levine after a 7-5 season and Pittsburgh (6-6) lost Paul Chryst to Wisconsin's head coaching vacancy. Houston will be led by defensive coordinator David Gibbs, while offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph will handle the duties for Pitt. Both teams are known more for defense than offense, with each ranking in the top 29.
Houston won 35-34. The computer won SU, won ATS. (Houston scored 29 points in less than 10 minutes in the 4th quarter to rally for the win after trailing 31-6 when the final quarter began)

Iowa by 2.48 over Tennessee (-2.5) (TaxSlayer Bowl) - The Gator Bowl has become the TaxSlayer Bowl and has lost a lot of its luster in recent years. This year's combatants in Jacksonville are average, at best, with Iowa entering on a 7-5 record and Tennessee limping in at 6-6 after beating mighty Vanderbilt to become bowl eligible in the 11th hour. The Hawkeyes lost 3 of their last 4 after opening 6-2. The Vols beat two decent teams from non-power conferences to start the season and then floundered around for the rest of the year.
Tennessee won 45-28. The computer lost SU, lost ATS.

UCLA by 0.14 over Kansas State (-1.5) (Alamo Bowl) - UCLA's season was major disappointment after the computer projected the Bruins to face Florida State for the national championship. Conversely, the computer's preseason forecast nailed Kansas State's final marks of 9-3 overall and 7-2 in the Big 12. Now, the computer's trend line actually likes the Wildcats by 10-1/2 points.
UCLA won 40-35. The computer won SU, won ATS.

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