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College football predictions and picks from Brett Cianci ahead of Saturday's games. Brett gives us his favorite picks for the first Bowl Saturday

College Football Picks and Predictions: Bowl Game Picks for Saturday

BYU vs. UAB Prediction

BYU vs. UAB odds

BYU took on a Power 5 heavy schedule, posted a strong 10-2 regular season, and has risen all the way to #13 in the final College Football Playoff poll.  That includes a perfect 5-0 record against the Pac-12.

Unfortunately due to their conference independence, they were locked into this bowl game instead of the usual New Year’s bowl game you’d expect to see a Top 15 team playing in.  Look for BYU to overpower UAB on both lines of scrimmage, and for the more complete and more balanced team to win and cover.

Prediction: BYU 30, UAB 20

Pick: BYU -6.5  @ -110

Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky Prediction

Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky odds

It will be strength vs. strength when Western Kentucky has the ball.  WKU is the nation’s top passing offense and the only to average 400+ yards through the air per game. Quarterback Bailey Zappe has thrown 56 touchdown passes which is 13 more than the 2nd place finisher, Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.  It’s not just sheer quantity either.  In the per-play averages, WKU is #3 nationally at 7.1 yards per play.

The high-powered pass offense will face a stout defense.  App State’s defense ranks in the national Top 20 in key categories such as scoring defense, yards per play, and opposing QB Rating.  Cornerback Steven Jones earned All-America honors as the only player in FBS to post three Pick Sixes on the season.

I traveled down to Boone, NC to see App State host a nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina, and was impressed with their physical defense – not to mention the school’s scenic backdrop and passion for football.

Coastal Carolina came into that game as the nation’s top offense, and I am naturally drawing comparisons here.  Look for App State’s defense to secure another bowl win.

Prediction: App State 34,  Western Kentucky 30

Pick: App State -3  @ -110

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Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan Prediction

Liberty vs. Eastern Michigan odds

Eastern Michigan is the lowest-rated bowl team per Pick Six Previews’ Game Grader formula.  They are 7-5 from the MAC, but when you dig in a bit you find three close wins by a total of five points.  Five points away from a 4-8 record.

Liberty is led by dynamic quarterback Malik Willis, who posted 24 passing touchdowns and added another 900 rushing yards and 11 scores on the ground.  The highly-projected NFL prospect Willis is apparently playing in the bowl, and will make this his final statement for pro scouts.  Look for a huge offensive output, and for Liberty to outpace the spread.

Prediction: Liberty 34, Eastern Michigan 20

Pick: Liberty -9.5  @ -110

Louisiana vs. Marshall Prediction

Louisiana vs. Marshall odds

After the season-opening loss to Texas, Louisiana has rattled off 12 straight victories, including a sweep of App State to clinch the Sun Belt title.  Yes, head coach Billy Napier has moved on to Florida, but this team still has enough momentum to finish off a nationally-ranked season.

Quarterback Levi Lewis has posted an efficient passing season, with a 19-4 touchdown to interception ratio.

Both teams are in their conference’s Top 3 of both yards/play offense and defense, demonstrating both are solid, balanced bowl teams.  Pick Six Previews’ Game Grader formula has this as a 5-point win for Louisiana.  So by the narrowest of margins, I’ll take the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Prediction: Louisiana 27, Marshall 21

Pick: Louisiana -4  @ -110

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