Bowl Predictions Part One

ncaa football logoIt’s time to bowl again, after a 23-12 record last year, so we’ll jump right into the mad batch of bowl goodies added with the best gift for football fans (a playoff in college football, or at least the start of one).  Let’s get the ball bouncing, or bowling.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Ragin’ Cajun Coach Mark Hudspeth can bench press the goal posts after his Cajuns win a fourth straight New Orleans Bowl.  The squad is preparing to set up a time share down in New Orleans and play in an unprecedented fourth straight SAME bowl game, and should likely win.  Interesting match-up between dual-threat QB’s, and really good coaches at lesser known schools.  Best player on the field is LL QB Terrance Broadway, so Cajuns get the advantage over the Wolfpack.
Record: 1-0
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs. UTEP
One commenter on bowl games suggested this game was like receiving gloves for Christmas.  They are worth having and you really do need them, but nobody really wants that as your gift!  Well summed up.  The Aggies are an under-rated 9 win team and UTEP is better than you think they are.  However, I don’t envision a scenario where the Miners can keep up with Utah State.  The Aggies notch victory #10 rather easily.
Record: 2-0
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Colorado State
This is a match-up that disappoints me for reasons different than you might think.  The Rams are good, though they may be lame ducks, with their head coach leaving for the pastures at Florida.  I think the Utes were on the cusp of being “almost great”, but just seemingly could not get over the hump against several quality Pac-12 teams.  That is not an issue here.  This could be one of the biggest blowouts in the bowl bonanza.  I like the Utes big.
Record: 3-0
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Air Force
The Boise area is scenic, and beyond that, I’m not sure what entices much about this game.  Neither team was in a bowl game last year, so they will be hungry this year.  The key stat line relates to Air Force holding on to the football in their triple option attack.  When it touches the ground, they tend to lose.  When it doesn’t, they don’t.  Tighter game than you might think at first look, but the Falcons win it close.
Record: 4-0
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
First bowl game ever for South Alabama, so that’s a great story.  Bowling Green has some good athletes and I really thought they would have a better season than slightly better than .500 in a so-so league.  This is in the major blowout category in favor of the Falcon squad from Ohio.
Record: 5-0
Miami Beach Bowl: BYU vs. Memphis
The best part of this game is that it’s on Monday afternoon and for a die-hard football fan it can warm up the engine preparing for MNF later that night.  Memphis has not played competition that makes you get very excited.  BYU has rebounded after a gruesome injury to initial starting QB, Taysom Hill.  I really think BYU is far superior, but I just don’t think their game translates into rolling the Tigers.  I take BYU in a close (very close) one.
Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
This one might be fun based on fan base traveling from college locations to Florida.  It also might be fun because the Thundering Herd can score 400 points in about two quarters.  NIU can score as well, though, not at such an alarming clip.  Marshall had been on the “under the radar, not in the power conferences, make some noise, and crash the bigger bowls” discussion until the Hilltoppers crushed those dreams.  Northern Illinois wants to not lay a stinker after their last couple bowls.  I think it’s a shootout, but the Herd have more to prove, and better offensive talent.  Marshall wins (though they do not score 400 in the game).
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State
This one seems easy to consider.  Navy has to travel all the way across the nation and the Aztecs snooze in their own beds (probably not, but this is essentially a home game).  The Middies run the option and the Aztecs have seen and handled the option, beating Air Force by 16.  Air Force thumped Navy by more than a TD.  That probably means Navy breaks a record for most points in a bowl game, but I’m taking the Aztecs…in a comfortable win.
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
Are you kidding me?  Who cares who wins this game?  The kids and fans get to go to the Bahamas for Christmas.  Worth watching?  Maybe or maybe not, but going there and playing in the game….that’s golden.  Stats should easily favor the Hilltoppers (upset Marshall) as CMU gives up big stats and points to so-so teams and QB’s.  Problem is WKU cannot stop anybody either.  This completely feels like a last team with the ball wins type of game.  I’ll be enjoying dinner at my in-laws and catch the three minutes of score highlights in this one.  Slight edge goes to Western Kentucky.
Hawai’i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice
Great location, so-so teams.  This one has the feel of a major snooze-fest to me.  Fresno might be motivated with the “we deserve it” factor as they are the only team in the bowl field with a losing record (6-7).  Rice actually throws the ball as much or more than they run it now, which is of consideration.  Ultimately, the Dogs played better competition than Rice and that’s always important for me to look at.  Fresno State wins an ugly game.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
This is one of those classic examples of games trimmed if we ever actually lose some bowl games and drop from the triple digit numbers we have now.  Decent, but not great, middling team in La Tech, versus a very low tier power five conference team that played to .500 but have marginal wins of value in Minnesota and Penn State (and barely in both cases).  La Tech’s offers little more to get excited about.  Probably a close game, but not from exciting play on either side.  I think Tech is the better team, but an inspired Illini squad might play for Coach Beckman after a strong finish likely saved his job.  I’ll take Illinois, but won’t watch one minute of this game.  And I’m very hesitant with Illinois, because a good high school can move the ball on them.
Quick Lane Bowl: Rutgers vs. North Carolina
In the stretch now of boredom-inducing games, but luckily you might be jacked up on enough tryptophan that you’ll snooze for a while anyway.  If not, some of this game might bring on the Sandman.  These are bad teams, underachieving in the Heels view, and maybe improving a bit from Rutgers’ perspective, but meh?!?  I’ll take the Heels but not surprised how this shakes down either way.  If one team starts out hot and is fired up early, they could roll big over the opposition.
St. Petersburg Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Central Florida
Somehow, UCF still is off peoples’ radar, but this team is pretty solid.  Remember, that Bortles guy drafted high in the NFL?  This is where he played.  George O’Leary has a great defense and this is almost a home game, so UCF could have a strong support group attending.  North Carolina gets to go to Florida and play a bowl game.  I’ll take Central Florida for the victory.
Military Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati
This is an interesting game.  The Hokies greatest talking point is the only well played game they had this year, upsetting Ohio State early.  The Buckeyes probably win by 45 if they play today, or tomorrow, or next week.  Cincy has that local boy, Gunner Kiel, who has transferred 22 times in his short college career.  He likely can throw the ball against this Va Tech defense (remember when that defense was awesome?  It is not anymore.), and no athlete named Vick has eligibility remaining for the Hokies.  It would be nice if Frank Beamer can dial up a good one and sneak away again with a “W”, but I would not count on it, nor expect it.  I’ll take the Bearcats.
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. Duke
Yahoo writer Pat Forde points out that the Sun Devils are the classic recipe for a disaster in this game, as their season trajectory went from a) Final Four possibilities, to b) potential Pac 12 title ideas, to c) Pac 12 south options, to d) the one game that CBS always covers, which is a super-mediocre bowl game.  Duke is an awesome story under David Cutcliffe, but they really keep overachieving.  Can they do so again?  The Sun Devils are the far superior team, and should win with little difficulty.  I think they are a bit flat, though, and just win a close one.
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami vs. South Carolina
The highlight of this bowl has to be the title sponsor, Duck Commander, and I’ll watch some/most of this game to see promo pieces for Duck Dynasty, other memorabilia, and the overall Robertson clan schtick.  Thoughts on the game?  Two teams that likely expected more from their seasons and have some talent and potential.  Miami is on a losing streak, and SC was sub-par, Jekyll and Hyde in conference play.  The team that wants to win this one will.  I’ll take the Gamecocks based on the “far better league” theory.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Penn State
This is the game they play in Yankee Stadium.  Why is that happening again?  Anyway, a mediocre Yankees team from last year can outscore these teams (almost in one game, definitely in a three game series).  I’m not sure specifically how the rules go for when a collegiate bowl game would be determined a tie and called final.  Remember the 2008 Sun Bowl when Oregon State beat Pittsburgh 3-0?  Me neither.  Nor do I remember the 0-0 tie between Air Force and TCU in the 1959 Cotton Bowl.  This game might be on par with those.  Not much excites me about this game from teams to players to really anything.  I do think James Franklin is a pretty good coach, though, so maybe I give Penn State the slightest advantage.  Or I might type this line, take a sip of my soda, and change my mind.
National University Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. USC
Two stories programs with great histories and national titles.  Two programs that want to improve their trajectory back into that modicum.  Two programs that are not there yet.  One of the greatest “non-big bowl” venues, that is a short trip for the Trojans.  Underrated QB play for USC this year and this game should allow Cody Kessler to shine.  The Huskers have played the poor QB action from the Big 10 all year (no, they did not play Ohio State with any of their QB’s), and Kessler will make too many big plays against them, making Bo Pelini go on another cursing tirade from some high school in Ohio.  USC wins.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
This one could be lots of fun on the entertainment meter.  Two teams that can score, one playing down from expectations in the Aggies, and one on an uptick in the Mountaineers.  I think this is a top ten match-up from this bowl schedule and I hope it lives up to it.  The Fighting Holgorsons will score some points and force the Aggies to “keep up”, but A&M is happy with that style as well.  Kevin Sumlin is a better coach, and the one of the best players lines up on the Aggies defensive line in Myles Garrett.  A&M wins a fun game.
We’ve reached the halfway point of our bowl blast.  Check out the second segment next by clicking on the NCAA logo above …

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