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College Bowl Picks and Predictions: Post-Christmas Contests

Every College Bowl Game broken down, every matchup examined, every weakness exploited, every strength matched up. It’s College Bowl Season!

Rose Bowl by Sparrowman980 is licensed under CC BY 3.0

College Bowl Picks and Predictions: Post-Christmas Contests


Estimated Reading Time: 16 Minutes

WALK-ON’S INDEPENDENCE BOWL

Who: Louisiana Tech (9-3) vs. Miami (6-6)
When: 4 p.m., Dec. 26
Where: Shreveport, La.

Miami is 2-10 in bowl games since 2004. This season, however, they have a pretty good defense (6th nationally in sacks and 4th in tackles for loss). Louisiana Tech should be able to counter this with Quarterback J’mar Smith, who loves to throw quick passes and averages 8.1 yards per passing attempt.

My thought: It’s sad that Miami football has fallen this far.

Pick: Louisiana Tech 24-14

Player to watch: Whoever starts at quarterback for the Hurricanes.

QUICK LANE BOWL

Who: Pittsburgh (7-5) vs. Eastern Michigan (6-6)
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 26
Where: Detroit

Both of these teams are flawed: Pittsburgh has one of the worst turnover margins in the country at -8 while Eastern Michigan has been terrible on run defense giving up over 230 yards on the ground in the last 4 of 5 games. The game is played in Detroit which SHOULD give Eastern Michigan some sort of advantage.

Pick: Pittsburgh 31-21

Thought: If an SEC team (Auburn? Alabama?) was picked over Penn State by the Cotton Bowl, we would have seen either Michigan State or Illinois face Pittsburgh.

Player to Watch:  Pittsburgh CB Dane Jackson is a Day 3 draft prospect

MILITARY BOWL PRESENTED BY NORTHROP GRUMMAN

Who: North Carolina (6-6) vs. Temple (8-4)
When: Noon, Dec. 27
Where: Annapolis, Md.

UNC should be stoked to play this game for their Coach, Mack Brown. Brown, the former Coach at Texas, has the Tarheels in their first bowl since 2016. Brown also almost won one of the craziest games of the college football season against #3 Clemson:

Temple comes into this game at 8-4 led by new coach Ron Carey, who is a miserable 0-6 in bowl games at his former coaching stops.

Thought: Clemson is still likely in the College Football playoff even if they lost to UNC.

Player to watch: UNC’s true freshman quarterback Sam Howell, the ACC’s Offensive rookie of the year, He led the ACC with 3,347 passing yards and 35 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions. This may be a game that puts him on the map nationally.

NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL

Who: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest
When: 3:20 p.m., Dec. 27
Where: Yankee Stadium`

Michigan State has been averaging less than 20 points per game in 5 of their last seven games. They are 0-6 when losing the turnover margin while 6-0 when winning it. Wake Forest is 12th in the nation in takeaways and is averaging a little more than 32 points per game.

Thought: If you follow the team it’s clear that MSU has not been the same since the 2015 National Semifinal loss to Alabama (38-0).

The pick: Wake Forrest 34-19

Player to watch: Jamie Newman, QB, Wake Forest. On the season, Newman has thrown for 2,693 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is a projected 3rd to 5th round pick.

ACADEMY SPORTS + OUTDOORS TEXAS BOWL

Who: Oklahoma State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)
When: 6:45 p.m., Dec. 27
Where: Houston

This is a matchup between two former Big 12 rivals. The Aggies are 5-0 when running for more than 200 yards. On the other hand, Oklahoma State has given up over 200 yards on the ground against the three toughest teams on their schedule (Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma). .

Thought: Say it with me three times really fast: Chuba Hubbard, Chuuuba Hubbard, CHUBA HUBBARD!

Pick: Texas A&M- 31-24

Player to watch: Unanimous All-American Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard rushed for the second most yards in Oklahoma State history with 1936 yards from scrimmage (Only behind Barry Sanders).

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION HOLIDAY BOWL

Who: USC (8-4) vs. Iowa (9-3)
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 27
Where: San Diego

Admist rumors of a coaching change, USC has quietly finished the season well winning 5 of 6.  Iowa is the definition of consistent: their offense is led by steady senior QB Nate Stanley and their defense has not given up more than 24 points all season. Iowa, however, has not seen a pass catch combination like USC’s Kedon Slovis and Michael Pittman Jr. this year.

Thought: This might be a better Big Ten vs. Pac 12 match up than the Rose Bowl

The pick: Iowa 24-21

Player to watch: Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa is a likely Top 10 pick with 9 sacks on the season. Thedraftnetwork.com advises that he is ” Nearly impossible to stop in one-on-one situations.”

CHEEZ-IT BOWL

Who: Air Force (10-2) vs. Washington State (6-6)
When: 10:15 p.m., Dec. 27
Where: Phoenix

Washington State’s season was could be summed up in 67-63 loss to UCLA which was called the “craziest game of all time”. In brief, Wazzu exploded out of the gate 35-17 only to give out 29 points in the 4th quarter to lose to a 4-8 UCLA team:

This Air Force team is the polar opposite: triple option based ground game that averages 293 rushing yards per game and knows how to dominate the time of possession.

Thought: I want to see Washington State score at least 3 touchdown’s in under 2 minutes.

Pick: Air Force 31-28

Player to Watch: Washington State Quarterback Anthony Gordon has been unbelievable this season. The future NFL QB threw for \5,228 yards, over 70 more yards per game than Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.

CAMPING WORLD BOWL

Who: Notre Dame (10-2) vs. Iowa State (7-5)
When: Noon, Dec. 28
Where: Orlando

The Irish and Cyclones are the opening game of the biggest day of college football this season. Iowa State did not live up to their lofty preseason expectations but a win here would mean everything. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is living up to huge expectations posting his 4th ten-win season in a row.

Thought: It’s insanely frustrating that Notre Dame couldn’t get into the Orange Bowl due to the Bowl’s contract with the ACC. The bowl chose 9-4 Virginia (62-17 loses to Clemson) The Orange Bowl must select the runner up of the ACC as long as they land in the top 25 (Virginia was ranked #24).

Pick: Notre Dame 44-31

Player to watch: Notre Dame edge rusher Khalid Kareem who has 107 total tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 13 sacks on the season.

GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL

Who: Memphis (12-1) vs. Penn State (10-2)
When: Noon, Dec. 28
Where: Arlington, Texas

The first “New Year Six” bowl game and the biggest game in Memphis football history. The team will be without its head coach, however (Matt Norvell left to coach at Florida State). It’s a big opportunity for Memphis to knock off a top-10 foe from a “Power Five Conference.” We must question Penn State’s motivation here: A lot of fans were upset that the team was passed by the Rose Bowl and Memphis isn’t really an “exciting” opponent.

Thought: Both team’s primary play callers left for other jobs. (Memphis Norvell to Florida State and Penn State’s offensive coordinator Ricky Rhane to Old Dominion.) How will that factor in?

Pick: Memphis 24-23

Player to Watch: Memphis’ running back Kenneth Gainwell earned 1,425 rushing yards and 12 scores in his freshman campaign including 8 straight times in the end zone at one point this season.  

SERVPRO FIRST RESPONDER BOWL

Who: Western Kentucky (8-4) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
When: 12:30 p.m., Dec. 30
Where: Dallas

This should be a battle inside the trenches. Western Michigan’s LeVante Bellamy (1,412 yards and 23 touchdowns) faces a stout Western Kentucky defense who only allows 3.7 yards per rush attempt.

Thought: Apparently every Michigan team is making a bowl game this year.

Pick: 16-14 Western Kentucky

Player to watch: Western Michigan’s  DeAngelo Malone has 90 tackles, 21 of them for loss and 11.5 sacks on the season.

FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL

Who: Louisville (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (6-6)
When: 4 p.m., Dec. 30
Where: Nashville

Mississippi State is bowl eligible because of this:

Louisville relies on turnovers: The team is 5-1 when coming up with two takeaways or more – with four of those wins over bowl teams.

Thought: This game is probably the least exciting game between two power 5 conference teams.

Pick: Mississippi State 27-17 (Always pick SEC over ACC)

Player to Watch: Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill has hit the 100-yard mark eight times this season and is a likely mid-round pick.

REDBOX BOWL

Who: California (7-5) vs. Illinois (6-6)
When: 4 p.m., Dec. 30
Where: Santa Clara, Calif.

Cal gets to play this game in their backyard while Illinois fans get to travel thousands of miles for their first bowl game since 2014. Illinois thrives on turnovers (+11 margin on the year), while Cal is -14 in their five losses. Cal been able to manage 400 yards or more in three of the last four games while Illinois offense can’t move the ball downfield.

Thought: I am a closet Illinois fan and Illinois just hasn’t been the same since their close loss at Iowa.

Pick: California 24- 13

Player to watch: Cal’s Evan Weaver who leads the nation in tackles with 172.

CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL

Who: Florida (10-2) vs. Virginia (9-4)
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 30
Where: Miami Gardens, Fla.

Another New Year Six battle: Florida is fighting for their first 11 win season since 2003. Virginia wants to put their 62-17 loss to Clemson behind them. Similar to Penn State, will Florida even care? Don’t expect that to happen as coach Dan Mullen will motivate the team and  Virginia shouldn’t come within two touchdowns.

Pick: Florida 27-10

Player to watch: Virginia QB Bryce Perkins accounted for 35 total touchdowns this year and 3,960 total yards. He is the heart and soul of this team and must carry Virginia if they want to win.

BELK BOWL

Who: Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky  (7-5)
When: Noon, Dec. 31
Where: Charlotte

Writing about this game was harder than I thought so here’s an interesting tidbit about Kentucky from winnersandwhiners.com:

Leading the Wildcats on offense is junior wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr.who has been put in a very unique situation this season. After catching 30 passes for 348 receiving yards through the early part of the season, Bowden Jr. was surprisingly inserted into the starting quarterback spot as Kentucky reinvented its offense to focus more on a unique rushing attack. Since the transition, he has thrown for 330 passing yards and two passing touchdowns while also throwing two interceptions. In addition, he has 1,235 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns so he has been extremely successful in this offensive scheme.

Virginia Tech has won 6 of it’s last 8 games but lost a crushing game vs. Virginia which ended their ACC Championship hopes.

Thought: I want to watch Lynn Bowden Jr.

Player to watch: Lynn Bowden Jr. (See above)

TONY THE TIGER SUN BOWL

Who: Florida State (6-6) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
When: 2 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: El Paso, Texas

Arizona State is without two top offensive weapons: running back Eno Benjamin (10 touchdowns) and receiver Brandon Aiyuk  (eight touchdowns). .Florida State is without star running back Cam Aikers (7 touchdowns) , Who will take advantage?

Thought: Who wouldn’t want to be motivated by Arizona State’s coach Herm Edwards?

Pick: 21-20 Arizona St.

Player to watch: Florida State WR Tamorrion Terry. He led the team with 744 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on just 35 catches.

AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL

Who: Navy (10-2) vs. Kansas State (8-4)
When: 3:45 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: Memphis, Tenn.

Navy is a triple-option team and their top three running backs have over 500 yards on the ground. Malcolm Perry ( 1,804 yards, 21 Td’s), Jamale Carthers (712 Yards, 14 TD’s) and Nelson Smith (570 yards, 7 td’s). This is Kansas State’s first season in 27 without coach Bill Snyder and their season has been characterized by high high’s (Win vs. Oklahoma) and low low’s (Loss vs. West Virginia).

Thought: I want to see these running backs play for Navy.

Pick: Navy 40- 20

Player to watch: Kansas State Offensive Lineman offensive lineman Dalton Risner should be a 1st or 2nd round pick.

NOVA HOME LOANS ARIZONA BOWL

Who: Wyoming (7-5) vs. Georgia State (7-5)
When: 4:30, Dec. 31
Where: Tucson, Ariz.

The only thing I know about Wyoming is that Josh Allen played there. This is a test to see if you are still reading.

Thoughts: Georgia State is actually an FBS school.

Pick: Wyoming 30- 20

Player to watch: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming… Oh. Wait.

VALERO ALAMO BOWL

Who: Utah (11-2) vs. Texas (7-5)
When: 7:30 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: San Antonio, Texas

Utah was 10-1 and #5 before getting whacked in the Pac 12 title game vs. Oregon. The Utes were one of the best defensive teams in the country, holding opponents to 13.2 points per game. They get to play a Texas team who has seriously regresed since they lost a close one to #1 LSU.  Texas Quarterback Sam Ehlinger is the best player in this game and has passed for 3,462 yards, 29 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.

Thought: The fact Utah isn’t in a New Years Six game is a travesty.

PICK: Utah 28-22

Player to watch: Utah QB Tyler Huntley led the Utes in passing, throwing for 2,966 yards, 18 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He also rushed for 257 yards and five touchdowns. He plans to have a big game against Texas’ secondary who has given up 306.4 passing yards per game.

VRBO CITRUS BOWL

Who: Michigan (9-3) vs. Alabama (10-2)
When: 1 p.m., Jan. 1
Where: Orlando

This match up looks great to the casual fan. Michigan, first of all, recovered well after an awful start; none of it mattered as they failed to beat Ohio State again. On the other hand, even though Alabama finally failed to make the College Football Playoff, they are still taking this game seriously by suiting up their top three receivers.

Thought: Sorry, Katie Pierce, the outlook doesn’t look good.

Pick: Alabama 45-24

Player to watch: Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson is only completing 49.4 percent of his passes against top-25 teams, and he has almost thrown as many interceptions (4) as he has touchdowns (5)

OUTBACK BOWL

Who: Minnesota (10-2) vs. Auburn (9-3)
When: 1 p.m., Jan. 1
Where: Tampa

This was Minnesota’s first ten-win season since 1905. Their two losses (Wisconsin, Iowa) were against teams that were defensively strong like Auburn. The problem for Minnesota is that they haven’t exactly been dominant against inferior opponents). Similarly, Auburn’s three loses all came in low-scoring, grind-it-out games against top ten teams (Florida, Georgia and LSU).

Thought: Auburn finished the season with the No. 1 overall strength of schedule ranking in the country. With a win they should jump into top 5 consideration next year.

Pick Auburn 16-13

Player to watch: Alabama Defensive Tackle Derrick Brown. A future top 10 pick who is profiled here:

A physical defender with size, strength and speed, Brown fits the prototype of a three-down interior defensive lineman. He’s still a bit of a work in progress, but his hand usage and his physical attributes should see him get drafted pretty early when the draft rolls around.

ROSE BOWL PRESENTED BY NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL

Who: Wisconsin (10-3) vs. Oregon (11-2)
When: 5 p.m., Jan. 1
Where: Pasadena, Calif.

The Granddaddy of them all!” Two teams with similar paths: Wisconsin’s outlook looked great early on after a 6-0 start but fell apart after a loss at the buzzer to 6-6 Illinois. Wisconsin was also no match for Ohio State in their two meetings. Oregon choked away their chance at a championship with two close losses to Auburn and Arizona State. Oregon possesses the greater Quarterback while the Badgers have the All-American Running back and superior line play

Thoughts; I’m really excited to see if Herbert is another statute QB or the real deal.

Pick: Oregon 27-25

Two players to watch:

Wisconsin’s star running back Jonathan Taylor  has 1,909 rushing yards along with 21 rushing touchdowns and has shown the ability to catch.

Oregon Quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown for 3,333 passing yards along with 32 touchdowns to five interceptions. Here’s a Scout’s opinion on him:

“I’ve never understood the love with this kid. He might look the part, but he’ll get someone fired. He doesn’t have it.”
If you’re a longtime reader here or listener of the Stick to Football podcast, you’ve no doubt heard scouts’ concerns about Justin Herbert’s mental makeup. He’s been called “soft” a lot—and in private conversations with a former member of the Oregon football staff, I’ve heard the same concerns. “He lacks a killer mentality” is how one area scout put it this week

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL

Who: Georgia (11-2) vs. Baylor (11-2)
When: 8:45 p.m., Jan. 1
Where: New Orleans

This bowl game features the losers from the SEC and Big 12 Championship games. Georgia was thoroughly out skilled in every phase of the game in their 37-10 loss to LSU. On the other hand, Baylor was impressive in their overtime loss to Oklahoma but have huge concerns moving forward. Baylor lost both their starting and backup quarterbacks to injuries in that game and are likely prepared to start their third-stringer.

Pick: Georgia 34-20                               

Thought: If Baylor wasn’t starting their 3rd string QB they would have a real shot to win.

Player to watch: Georgia QB Jake Fromm has completed 214 of 355 passes for 2,610 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. Before the season a scout had some interesting pro comparisons for him:

Fromm, to scouts, is more Mitchell Trubisky with his accuracy and body type than someone with boundless athleticism or great arm strength. He’s more Jared Goff as a savvy, experienced, methodical passer than Carson Wentz and his freestyle play. He’s quiet and poised, which doesn’t always lead to the most obvious Baker Mayfield-style leadership, but it works.

TICKETSMARTER BIRMINGHAM BOWL

Who: Boston College (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (10-3)
When: 3 p.m., Jan. 2
Where: Birmingham, Ala.

Following a 10-1 start, Cincinnati lost back-to-back games to Memphis in the AAC regular-season finale and the AAC championship game to end the year. Boston College fired head coach Steve Addazio on December 1 and has since replaced him with Ohio state’s Jeff Hafley. He plans re-energized the program starting in this game.

Pick: Boston College 20-17

Player to watch: Injured Cincinatti QB Desmond Ridder. Over the last three games, Ridder has completed just 34-of-79 passes for 373 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions

TAXSLAYER GATOR BOWL

Who: Indiana (8-4) vs. Tennessee (7-5)
When: 7 p.m., Jan. 2
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.

Tennessee comes into this game with newfound confidence after starting this season 2-5 and finishing 7-5. Second-year coach Jeremy Pruitt appears to have brought some mojo back to the dormant program. It’s been 28 years since Indiana has won a bowl game.

Thought: Never would I ever have thought I would see Indiana Football playing in a game post-new years. Once again, it has been 28 years since the last time the Hoosiers won a bowl game.

Player to watch: Tennesee he bad news for the Volunteers right out of the gates is the fact that star wideout Jauan Jennings will be suspended for the first-half of the game due to a personal foul against Vanderbilt.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL

Who: Ohio (6-6) vs. Nevada (7-5)
When: 3:30 p.m., Jan. 3
Where: Boise, Idaho

Ohio will be making its fifth consecutive bowl appearance and is one of the better offensive team’s in the country averaging 34.7 points per game. Nevada will be short-handed in this game with three defensive starters suspended by their conference due to a brawl. That sucks because they have been giving up 32.1 points per game.

Pick: Ohio 23-10

Thought: I think most people will have better things to do on a Friday afternoon.

Player to watch: Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke who has thrown for 20 touchdowns and rushed for 12.

LOCKHEED MARTIN ARMED FORCES BOWL

Who: Southern Mississippi (7-5) vs. Tulane (6-6)
When: 11:30 a.m., Jan. 4
Where: Fort Worth, Texas

Tulane comes in with no momentum: 1-5 over their last six contests while giving up 35.7 points per game in their last six compared to 19.2 in their first six. Southern Miss will also be looking to end a two-game slide, where their offense was non-existent scoring a total of 27 points in those games (They scored 73 in their previous two games before that).

Thought: Maybe they should cut the bowl schedule by 15 games.

Pick: Southern Miss 27-7

Player to watch: Southern Miss: QB Jack Abraham, 3,329 yards passing, 23 total touchdowns (18 passing, five rushing).

LENDING TREE BOWL

Who: Louisiana (10-3) vs. Miami (Ohio)  (8-5)
When: 7:30 p.m., Jan. 6
Where: Mobile, Ala.

The last bowl game before the National Title. UL Lafayette is averaging roughly 200 more offensive yards per game than Miami (OH) and it is also allowing less yards-per-game on defense.

Thought: Slow clap if you are still watching.

Pick: UL wins 34-13

Player to watch: UL-Lafayette quarterback Levi Lewis who has thrown for 2,804 passing yards along with 24 passing touchdowns to four interceptions.

Tim is a grateful believer, husband to Kristin, Father to Isabelle living in Los Angeles as both an actor and Claims adjuster. He was born and grew up eight blocks from Wrigley Field and is a die hard Chicago fan (Especially Bears). He is incredibly grateful to The Turf for giving him a chance to pursue a passion of his.

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