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College Football Bowl Picks: Rose Bowl, Michigan State vs Stanford, Fiesta Bowl, Central Florida vs Baylor

  By Brad Carroll  
Many will dance on the grave of the BCS in less than a week. Heck, everyone but the creators will be celebrating when the college football season comes to an epic conclusion and the controversial points system dies for good. But it doesn't mean we can't enjoy the last crop of BCS games before everything changes with a four-team playoff next season. It starts with a pair of great games New Year's Night. Here we preview and our college football experts pick against the spread the Rose Bowl between No. 4 Michigan State and No. 5 Stanford and the Fiesta Bowl between No. 15 Central Florida and No. 6 Baylor.

Check back throughout the bowl season, and follow us on Twitter, for previews and game picks. Read our recent columns on the Little Caesars Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl here, the Military Bowl, Texas Bowl and Fight Hunger Bowl here, the Pinstripe Bowl, Belk Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl here, the Armed Forces Bowl, Music City Bowl, Alamo Bowl and Holiday Bowl here, the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Sun Bowl, Liberty Bowl and Chick-fil-A Bowl here, the Gator Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl, Outback Bowl and Capital One Bowl here, the Sugar Bowl here and the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl here.

Rose Bowl
No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford, 5 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Michigan State +6.5; Stanford -6.5

Brad's Breakdown: If the BCS bowl system died a year earlier, these two schools would be on the short list of teams possibly getting the opportunity to play for a national championship. A year from now, four teams will take part in a playoff tournament to crown a champion. Florida State and Auburn would be locks if the bracket was in place, while Michigan State, Stanford and Alabama would be candidates for the last two. That's something to think about in the future, however, as the present is pretty darn exciting as well. The Rose Bowl this year features one of the best matchups in a long time, as the Big Ten champ and Pac-12 champ are both ranked in the top 5. It brings back memories of when the Rose Bowl meant everything in college football. Both Michigan State and Stanford play similar styles of football, a ground and pound offense with a smothering, hard-hitting defense that doesn't bend. The Cardinal won the Rose Bowl last year, while the Spartans haven't played in this game since 1987. Michigan State allows just 12.7 points per game on defense, fourth best in the nation. The Spartans held high-scoring Ohio State to just 24 in the Big Ten championship game. The Spartans lone loss was one to forget, a 17-13 defeat to Notre Dame early in the season. Stanford allows 18.6 points per game on defense, 10th best in the nation. The Cardinal were a national title contender coming into the year, and was my preseason picks to win it all, but two losses destroyed any hope Stanford had at playing in the game. Stanford had a bad loss to Utah and then lost to Southern California. The Cardinal closed the season with wins over Notre Dame and Arizona State. Stanford should be able to move the ball with some success on offense, while Michigan State will have a tougher time with a less-heralded offense. So, the Cardinal it is for the second time in a row at the Rose Bowl.

Brad's Pick: Stanford 24, Michigan State 17
Craig's Pick: Michigan State 21, Stanford 17
Glenn's Pick: Michigan State 21, Stanford 20

Fiesta Bowl
No. 15 Central Florida vs. No. 6 Baylor, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Central Florida +16.5; Baylor -16.5

Brad's Breakdown: Both Central Florida and Baylor had the best seasons in school history and will be playing in their first ever BCS game. Central Florida went 11-1 and won the American Athletic Conference. The Knights beat Louisville and Penn State for their signature wins and lost to South Carolina by three early in the year. Baylor rolled to a 9-0 record with a high-scoring offense that scored at least 50 points in five of those wins. But the Bears lost to then-No. 10 Oklahoma State just as they were gaining steam as a national title contender. Baylor rebounded to beat TCU and Texas, but the offense has slowed down since the loss to the Cowboys. The Bears average 53.3 points per game, tops in the nation, but averaged just 29.3 in their last three. Central Florida isn't so bad on offense either, averaging 33.2 points per game. Defense will obviously be key against Baylor, and the Knights are pretty darn good in that area as well, allowing just 19.6 points a game, 12th best in the nation. This game has a similar feel to the Louisville-Florida Sugar Bowl last year, where very few people gave the Cardinals a chance to win, let alone keep the game close. But Louisville was the one who routed the Gators. I don't believe Central Florida has enough fire power to beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, but the Knights will give the Bears everything they can handle.

Brad's Pick: Baylor 35, Central Florida 28
Craig's Pick: Baylor 35, Central Florida 21
Glenn's Pick: Baylor 35, Central Florida 24
Brad's Bowl Record: 12-15 (spread); 16-11 (straight-up); 3-5 (upset picks)
Brad's Season: 102-96-2 (spread); 147-53 (straight-up); 10-17 (upset picks)
Craig's Bowl Record: 13-14 (spread); 16-11 (straight-up); 2-4 (upset picks)
Craig's Season: 97-101-2 (spread); 147-53 (straight-up); 9-17 (upset picks)
Glenn's Bowl Record: 20-7 (spread); 19-8 (straight-up); 4-3 (upset picks)
Glenn's Season: 104-94-2 (spread); 143-53 (straight-up); 14-24 (upset picks)

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