35 Bowls in 24 Days: Day 16

Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno fields questions before the TicketCity Bowl (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Georgia fans — it’s your turn to get your bowl preview today! I will preview the TicketCity Bowl, Outback Bowl and Capital One Bowl in this installment of my bowl series; all three should be exciting games that fill your Jan. 2 with great football. Tomorrow, I’ll get to the Gator Bowl, Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl … we’re finally getting to the big bowls!

I hope you’re having a Happy New Year. Now, on to the bowls.

More: See the other bowl games

TicketCity Bowl: No. 22 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 19 Houston Cougars (12-1, 8-0 C-USA), Monday, Noon [ESPNU]

I was a little shocked to see that this game had been relegated to an ESPNU broadcast, but that might be a good call if this game turns into a blowout. And there’s a very good chance that it won’t be close.

Houston was so close to an undefeated regular season, but it’s probably a good thing they lost to Southern Miss in the final week of the season. They might have been thrown into a BCS bowl, where they would have been way over their heads against a team like Stanford or Oklahoma State. The Cougars boast an awesome passing attack, but not much defense to speak of. This will be a huge problem when they face the best team they’ve seen all year — Penn State.

There will likely be a large contingent of Penn State fans in town for the game, and despite all the madness surrounding this program, a win would give the Nittany Lions a 10-win season. In a game between a great offense (Houston is best in the country in total yards, passing yards and points per game) and a great defense (PSU is No. 5 in the nation with only 15.7 points allowed per game), always bet on the great defense.

My prediction: Penn State 37, Houston 17

Outback Bowl: No. 16 Georgia Bulldogs (10-3, 7-1 SEC) vs. No. 17 Michigan State Spartans (10-3, 7-1 Big Ten), Monday, 1 p.m. [ABC]

Two teams that ran roughshod through their conference schedule and wound up finishing second in their conference will meet in Tampa for one of the best Outback Bowl matchups I can remember. Both teams were inches from a BCS bowl, so the quality of this ballgame should be high.

I’m very interested to see how UGA holds up against the MSU defense. They’re as SEC-like as any SEC defense — quick, mean and capable of taking control of a game at any time. The Spartans’ defense gave their offense plenty of cushion, allowing only 17.5 points per game while the offense scored over 30 points on average.

Georgia’s defense only allowed two more points per game, but the Dawgs’ offense also scored two points per game more than the Spartans (19.6 and 32.2, respectively). UGA can be stopped — LSU showed us that, holding them to 10 points in the SEC title game. If Isaiah Crowell can stay healthy in this game and the running game gets rolling, the Dawgs will win. If quarterback Aaron Murray is forced to do it all on his own, the Spartans will feast on him.

My prediction: Michigan State 24, Georgia 23

Capital One Bowl: No. 20 Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) vs. No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2 SEC), Monday, 1 p.m. [ESPN]

In 118 years of football, no South Carolina team has ever won 11 games. The Gamecocks are without a doubt playing their best football under head coach Steve Spurrier, but with Nebraska looming in Orlando, there’s just one problem.

Steve Spurrier has never beaten Nebraska.

South Carolina hasn’t, either.

Despite the loss of running back Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks are continuing to run the ball and win games. Their average of 198 rushing yards per game ranks 26th in the nation, and it’s a large part of why they were able to sustain the loss of quarterback Stephen Garcia when he was kicked off the team.

The Cornhuskers have an even more potent running game, ranking No. 14 with 223.9 yards per game. It’s their lifeblood, and it’s not going to be pretty when it runs into that South Carolina defensive line. I don’t see any reason to believe this will be a high-scoring game, and that benefits South Carolina. Seemingly every facet of this game seems to benefit the Gamecocks … expect them to win this edition of the Capital One Bowl.

My prediction: South Carolina 17, Nebraska 14

Past Days: Day 15 | Day 14 | Day 13 | Day 12 | Day 11 | Day 10 | Day 9 | Day 8 | Day 7 | Day 6 | Day 5 | Day 4 | Day 3 | Day 2 | Day 1

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