Picks for first wave of bowl games

Potential first-round NFL draft picks Marqise Lee and Derek Carr will meet in the Las Vegas Bowl. Getty Images

One of my favorite times of the year is upon us as bowl games give the opportunity for 35 teams to head into the offseason on a positive note. It is also the one time of year where you get unique factors of several teams playing with interim coaches while also seeing some teams unmotivated to be in certain bowls.

After going 101-34 in the regular season (73-61-1 versus the spread), here are my picks for the first set of bowl games that kick off on Saturday. (Games that run from Dec. 21-26.) Keep checking back on ESPN Insider all bowl season, as I'll be giving my picks for every game.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Washington State Cougars versus Colorado State Rams

Saturday at 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

After a disappointing first year in Pullman, Mike Leach has the Cougars back in a bowl for the first time in 10 years. The Cougars' pass-happy offense is led by quarterback Connor Halliday who, despite throwing for 4,187 yards, leads the country in interceptions (21). WSU's defense had an up-and-down year as it allowed just 265 yards per game in the first four games, then allowed 604 YPG over the next five.

I picked the Rams to go to a bowl in my preseason magazine, but things were not looking good for them in the early going as they started the season 2-4. However, a 52-22 win over rival Wyoming turned their season around as they posted five wins in the final seven games. The offense saw quarterback Garrett Grayson set the single-season school record with 3,327 passing yards while running back Kapri Bibbs exploded in the second half of the season and finished with 28 rushing touchdowns.