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Bowl picks for Champs Sports, Alamo and Insight

12/24/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to forecast the first three Big Ten bowl games. I finished the regular season with a record of 71-17 (80.7 percent), but the bowls provide a much tougher challenge.

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL -- Wisconsin 27, Florida State 25

This would constitute an upset, given Florida State's purported edge in speed and the game's Seminole-friendly location (Orlando, Fla.). Wisconsin will have its hands full trying to contain dominant pass rusher Everette Brown, star safety Myron Rolle and the Seminoles defense, and the Badgers' offensive line needs to play its best game of the season. But I liked the way Wisconsin's offense played down the stretch behind quarterback Dustin Sherer, and running backs P.J. Hill and John Clay could wear down Florida State. It certainly could go the other way, but I'm not sold on Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. The Badgers' secondary can make plays, and Ponder commits a key turnover that lifts Wisconsin to a much needed win.

VALERO ALAMO BOWL -- Missouri 38, Northwestern 27

Northwestern ended the season playing its best football and continued to make major strides on defense. But this just isn't a good matchup for the Wildcats, who haven't faced an offense resembling the high-powered unit led by Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman. Now there is a legitimate question about Missouri's mind-set. How motivated will the Tigers be after a fairly disappointing regular season? Northwestern will be prepared and if the Wildcats have the mental edge, they could pull off a significant upset. Senior quarterback C.J. Bacher has one final chance to recapture the form he showed midway through the 2007 season, when he racked up 990 passing yards in a two-week stretch against Michigan State and Minnesota. Missouri's secondary is a joke, but Bacher won't be able to avoid interceptions. The Wildcats come up short despite the return of running back Tyrell Sutton.

INSIGHT BOWL -- Kansas 41, Minnesota 24

Teams certainly can make progess during bowl preparation, but Minnesota will have to take a major leap forward after dropping its final four regular-season games. Wide receiver Eric Decker returns to the mix after knee surgery and will provide a nice boost, but Minnesota won't be able to mask its problems against a more experienced Kansas team. It'll be interesting to see how the offensive line responds to new coach Tim Davis, but Minnesota's inability to run the ball and its over-reliance on quarterback Adam Decker make it tough to see the Gophers keeping up with the Jayhawks. Minnesota's upset hopes hinge on a defense that led the Big Ten in takeaways (30). If a Gophers secondary filled with playmakers causes Todd Reesing to make mistakes, Minnesota should hang around in this one.