Three top 10 teams play today

Published 10:45 pm Friday, January 2, 2009

Cotton Bowl, Dallas

No. 20 Mississippi (8-4) vs. No. 8 Texas Tech (11-1) – 2 p.m. – WVBT

On the surface, this seems to be the biggest mismatch of the bowl season. An Ole Miss fan would disagree, saying the Rebels have defeated the last two national champions, as well as the team which could do it again in a few days, in Florida and LSU.

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Texas Tech clearly had a BCS caliber season, but got hosed by the system. The ACC had to have its spot, then Utah qualified, then the TV execs and Fiesta Bowl bigwigs chose Ohio St. for better ratings and tourism dollars.

At the start of the season, Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree were products of coach Mike Leach’s offense. Now, they are two of the best college football players in the nation. With two TD passes, Harrell becomes the all-time NCAA leader.

Line – Texas Tech by 4.5

My pick – Texas Tech 52-21

Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn.

Kentucky (6-6) vs. East Carolina (9-4) – 5 p.m. – ESPN

Nansemond River graduate Darryl Freeney is a redshirted freshman wide receiver for the Pirates, who are Conference USA champions. Freeney contributed more as the season progressed, winding up with 17 catches, 240 yards, 1 TD and 13 punt returns for a 7.3 yard average.

ECU is led by QB Patrick Pinkey, who completed 62.7 percent of his passes. Freeney is one of seven receivers with 16 or more catches.

ECU started the season with wins against then-No. 17 Virginia Tech and then-No. 8 West Virginia and can end its season with a conference championship game win and a bowl win over an SEC team. The Pirates haven’t beaten an SEC team since 1999.

Line – ECU by 3

My pick – ECU 34-17

Sugar Bowl, New Orleans

No. 7 Utah (12-0) vs. No. 4 Alabama (12-1) – 8 p.m. – WVBT

It’s another big stage for a “mid-major” of college football. Boise State was great on the stage, Hawaii flopped last bowl season.

Alabama’s 13 Sugar Bowls and 56 bowl appearances are records. Even with the loss against Florida taking the Crimson Tide out of the title game, this is a resurgent program under Nick Saban.

Alabama’s defense was good enough through the SEC schedule until the fourth quarter versus Florida. Bama’s 13.0 points allowed per game is sixth in the nation.

Getting through the Mountain West undefeated was hardly an easy task for the Utes. Utah beat six teams which have been in bowl games and in a normal year, a win at Michigan would’ve helped, not hurt, Utah’s BCS standing.

Line – Alabama by 9.5

My pick – Utah 17-10