Updated on 09/17/2011 11:56PM

Bonafide winner loves Ohio State over Irish


LAS VEGAS - The college bowl season kicks off Tuesday and crams 28 games into the two-plus weeks until the USC-Texas battle for the national championship in the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl.

As in years past, I'll be providing analysis of my top bowl predictions in the days leading up to the matchups, as well as listing all my recommendations against the spread at drf.com/football.

But I'm the first to admit I've had a terrible football season. In the colleges, I hovered around the .500 mark most of the year and finished a subpar 28-31. For an advance peek at the bowls, it seemed like a better idea to turn to someone who had a particularly good handle on college football this season.

The winner of the Leroy's College Challenge was a California schoolteacher who went by the handle "Maj Ent." He went 56-28 (67 percent) during the regularly scheduled 12-week contest to tie Fezzik for the top record of the 364 entries, plus 4-3 two weeks ago to win the tiebreaker and the $45,500 top prize. So, his overall documented record is 60-31 (66 percent), or the same number of losses as yours truly had but with many more wins.

Even though he prefers to keep his privacy, he has consented to be called by his nickname, M.J. Despite his phenomenal success, he doesn't claim to be an expert.

"I do this more as a hobby," he said. "My whole thing is, I'm a huge, huge college football fan from way before making picks against the spread. I watch all the games, read about all the teams. I'm not a statistical guy, going more by feel and not putting too much emphasis on one thing over another. I guess you would call me a fundamental handicapper, matching up offenses and defenses, really looking at the physical matchups."

When first contacted, M.J. said the only game he "really, really liked" was Ohio St. minus the points vs. Notre Dame in the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl, but he agreed to put his public record on the line by breaking down three other games. So, without further ado, here's M.J.'s top bowl picks:

Motor City Bowl, Dec. 26

Memphis (-5 1/2) vs. Akron

M.J says: "Memphis boasts one of the best running backs who gets the least amount of pub in superstar Deangelo Williams. He runs behind a big, strong, offensive line, and Memphis also has enough of a passing game to keep defenses honest. Akron had very little success stopping Northern Illinois's Garrett Wolfe in the MAC title game. I see the same thing happening here, but the Tigers' defense [unlike Northern Illinois's] won't fold up like a Coleman tent. In addition, the pure physicality of the Tigers on both sides of the ball is something that the Zips do not see very often in the MAC, and when they see it in non-conference matchups, they don't usually fare very well."

Alamo Bowl, Dec. 28

Nebraska (+11 1/2) vs. Michigan

"The Wolverines have their weakest team in years. They lack the killer instinct and won most of their seven games by single digits. I don't think they play the role of double-digit favorite very well. The young Wolverine offense has suffered somewhat of a sophomore jinx with Chad Henne at quarterback and Michael Hart at running back. Both have found it difficult to live up to expectations after terrific freshman campaigns in 2004. The Cornhuskers and first-year signal-caller Zac Taylor started off the year with a bang, going 5-0 and earning a national ranking. A couple of blowout losses at Missouri and Kansas, respectively, calmed those flames. Since then they have rebounded nicely to win the last two games including a 30-3 woodshed beating of Colorado in Boulder. I like the Huskers and the points."

Cotton Bowl, Jan. 2

Texas Tech (-2 1/2) vs. Alabama

"Talk about two completely contrasting styles. Texas Tech flings the ball all over the field and scores points in bunches. Alabama seems to scratch and claw for every point it can get. Why would things be any different the day after New Year's? Coach Mike Leach has seemingly improved his spread offense every season at Texas Tech. Now the Red Raiders get what they've been aiming for - a big-time bowl game. They'll be ready to play. The Crimson Tide - on the other hand - won their first eight games with solid defense and a running game, but their lack of a passing attack was exposed versus LSU and Auburn. Now, they face a team with several offensive weapons that will spread their defense out and find the weak spots. On offense, the Crimson Tide's weak spots are easy to find so the Red Raiders' average defense will be fine. Laying less than three points here looks like a bargain to me."

Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2

Ohio St. (-4) vs. Notre Dame

"The Buckeyes are one of the most physical teams in the country on both sides of the ball, but the brute strength with which they play sometimes masks the unbelievable athletic talent they possess at the skill positions. They can play at any tempo. If you want to pound it out with them, they can pound it right back. And if you want to spread the ball all over the field, they can play that style, too. Only seven points separates them from a perfect record as they've only lost to the No. 2 [Texas] and No. 3 [Penn State] teams in the country. Yes, the Buckeyes are a very good football team. Enter the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame under first-year head coach Charlie Weis. They have also had a great season, finishing 9-2, but the problem is that they are still a finesse team that has a tough time running between the tackles, and their defense has given up passing yards in bunches. Their nine victories are more the product of a weak schedule than them being a truly great team. The aforementioned weaknesses do not bode well versus the Buckeyes. I see a double-digit win for Ohio State as they cruise to victory in the desert."