Welcome to the college football Bowl Season, the most wonderful time of the year!
If you followed our preview last year, and took the advice to Las Vegas, you would have been rewarded in 12 of the final 14 games. Hopefully this year we can bring even brighter holiday cheer!
Celebration Bowl: Grambling vs. North Carolina A&T
It’s ironic, the first game of the bowl season is the Celebration Bowl. For us college football fans, it the beginning of a month-long party.
Two teams you didn’t watch play all season will square off here when the MEAC champion Grambling State takes on the SWAC champion North Carolina AT&T. These may not be household names, but both schools enter on an 11-game win streak and should make for an entertaining contest.
North Carolina A&T shoots to become the first MEAC team to finish a season undefeated. There is a slight chance you are scratching your head on where you might have heard of this team, and if so, it’s likely because you lost money earlier this season when they defeated the University of North Carolina. Lamar Raynard has been a stud under center this season with 26 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. On defense, they only allow 12 points per game. Yes, you read that right, 12 points per game.
Grambling enters with a dominating defensive front, that led the FCS with 45 sacks. They also finished second with 97 tackles for a loss. They get across the line of scrimmage in a hurry, and don’t back up often. Their only loss was in early September to Tulane, and have been nothing short of dominant since then. Offensively, they have scored over 30 points in their last 10 contests, and have kept opponents under 20 in five of them.
Grambling is getting 9.5 points on the Vegas line, and I’d run with that all day. Both teams have excellent defenses, and I don’t expect either team to run away with the game. Take the points, this should be easy money in your pocket.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas
Troy! Troy! Troy! The Trojans embarrassed LSU so badly, that the fan base in Baton Rouge called for head coach Ed Orgeron to be fired. Fast forward to the New Orleans Bowl and they are still rolling thanks to senior quarterback Brandon Silvers. He has led the team to 6 straight wins, a share of the Sun Belt title, and his 82 career touchdowns are just 2 shy of a school record. Expect him to fire all over the yard.
North Texas enters with a 9-4 record and hope to feature their stud running back Jeffrey Wilson and improve on his 1,200-yard sophomore season, but that is only if he can shed the walking boot for his broken foot in time to put on a pair of cleats. If he misses this game, the Mean Green will be forced to rely heavily on their 11th ranked defense, because as good as quarterback Mason Fine was this season, and he was really, he will not have success with a one-dimensional offense.
With or without Wilson, the Mean Green face a very tough Troy team, and the 5.5 points Las Vegas is spotting them will not be enough. Take Troy giving points.
AutoNation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State
Relax, we are getting to the familiar Universities and Colleges soon, but in the meantime, this game should actually be worth tuning in for. The Georgia State Bulldogs enter with a bowl eligible 6-5 record, and feature gunslinger Conner Manning and 260 yards per game average. Manning and the 31st ranked passing offense relied heavily on Penny Hart, who caught 73 balls for 1,000 yards.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were average this season. 6-6 overall and 4-4 in Conference USA, but here they are in this bowl thanks to Senior quarterback Mike White. He led the conference in most of passing categories, including his 300 yards per game passing average.
This will be a shootout, no two-ways about it. Georgia State has given up over 28-points in 5 contests this season, and neither team really likes to run the football. It will be action packed, with plenty of scoring and lots of head scratching by defensive coordinators. Las Vegas favors Western Kentucky by 6 points. I like the Hilltoppers in this game, but in a shootout like this, take the points and hope it ends with one team gutting it out with a fake extra point for 2.
Las Vegas Bowl: No. 25 Boise State vs. Oregon
The first ranked team of the bowl season, and unfortunately, they can’t take the blue turf with them. The 25th ranked Boise State Broncos battled back from a 2-2 start to end the season on an 8-1 tear with the Mountain West championship being the icing on their cake, however for the Broncos playing in a pre-Christmas bowl game this might mean running back Alexander Mattison will not have enough time to heal his injured ankle. His 1,000-yard rushing season was a highlight for Boise State and will be missed immensely in this offense.
The Ducks are back bowling after missing their first one in 13 years last season. Quarterback Justin Herbert is something to watch. Since he took over under center, Oregon has averaged 52-points per game in their last 7 contests. They he will take the field for the first time without head coach Willie Taggart, who left Eugene for Florida State. Look for Hebert to rely more on halfback Royce Freeman, who needs only a handful of positive carries to eclipse 1,500 yards in his senior season.
Well, Las Vegas, you have us thinking here, giving Boise State 7 points on the board. Oregon can throw it all over, but Boise State can cover everywhere. I expect this game to be north of 60 combined points, and as good as the Broncos have played down the stretch, I don’t trust that they can’t keep pace with Herbert and Freeman. Ducks by 10.
GILDAN New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State
It’s bowl season, as long as your team has 7 wins, they are likely playing in December. Some say it’s a flaw in the system, but here we are, with a pair of 7-5 teams facing off in the New Mexico Bowl.
Marshall is a fun team to watch, and although they finished just 2 wins over .500, that is a 4-game improvement from last year. Their defense has been stellar, with a solid run stopping front that gets to the quarterback quickly. On offense, they are led by Chase Litton, who connected for 23 scores to his 12 interceptions. His two favorite targets Tyre Brady and Ryan Yurachek combined for over 100 catches, 1,200 yards and 16 scores.
Colorado State is now in their 5th straight bowl season but are looking for their first win in 4 trips. They have a pair of monster play makers in Dalyn Dawkins and Michael Gallup to get them there. Dawkins rushed for 1,400 yards and Gallup pulled in an additional 1,350. As a unit, they averaged 500 yards per game.
On the books, Marshall is getting 5.5 points. They forced 15 turnovers this season and meet a Rams team who has lost 3 of their last 4 games in the regular season. With their run defense, Colorado State is going to need to air the ball out, and against a ball hawking secondary like the Thundering Hurd, that isn’t always the best way to win. Take Marshall and the points in an upset.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State
5 weeks ago, Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) was 3-5. The idea of a December bowl game was laughable, but they finished 3-1 down the stretch and put up 36-points per game. During that time quarterback Brent Stockstill returned from injury and surpassed the 1,400-yard mark in just a handful of games. He is confident and motivated, and seems to be peaking at the right time.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves have a lot to prove, or should I say their quarterback Justice Hansen has a lot to prove. He is the one guy in this bowl season who could jump from a, “Who?” on Mel Kiper’s big board come draft day, to a rising stock gunslinger who could make a name for himself on Sundays. This season he has put opposing cornerbacks in a torpedo, torching them for 3,600 yards and 34 scores. He will have plenty of professional scouts in attendance at the Camellia Bowl, and will stretch the MTSU defense up and down the turf.
MTSU held their season ending team meetings before selection Sunday, expecting their 6-6 record was not enough to be bowl eligible, but somehow have found themselves here. The Red Wolves have been thirsty for this spotlight and while the betting line sits at -3.5 in their favor, it should be even higher. Expect a blowout win for Arkansas State in this one.
Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic
It’s the Zips vs the Owls in the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl! What does that mean?
The Akron Zips were a solid MAC East team this year, finishing 6-2 in conference, but concerns over their quarterback play are real. After Thomas Woodson was suspended after 9 games for team violation, freshman Kato Nelson stepped in and went 2-2 down the stretch. Both losses were ugly, and neither wins were inspiring. This is just the wrong time for Akron to be here, and with this being the only game on December 19th, they could be embarrassed in front of the whole country on national television.
Lane Kiffin is back in the bowl season, this time as the head coach of the Florida Atlantic Owls, and he gets to do so from their home state. That means the stadium will be full of FAU supporters. Winners of 9 in a row and a Conference-USA title, Kiffin and company look to show out big time in the CTCBR Bowl. Quarterback Jason Driskel can pass and run effectively out of any formation, and running back Devin Singletary can run through even the smallest of scrimmages holes. He also has 29 touchdowns.
Woodson did appear in the final game of the regular season for the Zips, but the coach has yet to publicly discuss the rotation for the Tart Bowl, which probably means he is trying to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, here comes the fun part, a 22-point spread favoring the Owls. FIU is essentially at home, they have a lot of momentum, and the opponent has struggling quarterback play. Oh, and they have a head coach who this time last season was with Alabama in the CFP. The players have all bought in to FIU football and they will want to win big and make a statement for him. Owls cover and win by whatever score they want to. Don’t expect Kiffin to pull back the reigns at any point either
DXL Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU
It’s the first ever DXL Frisco Bowl! In case you haven’t been keeping up with your bowl history, this is the former Miami Beach Bowl.
The SMU Mustangs enter this contest without head coach Chad Morris, who left Southern Methodist for Arkansas last week. Fun fact about the ‘Stangs, they are one of only two Division-1 schools to feature a 3,000-yard passer, a pair of 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard running back. Only Oklahoma State can boast those numbers as well. Receiver Trey Quinn leads the country with 8 or more catches per game and will be very active in this game.
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs enter with an even 6-6 record on the season and 4-4 in Conference USA. They may not have jaw-dropping stats, but their defense can make plays. Keep an eye on freshman cornerback Amik Robertson, he has four interceptions on the season and can change the momentum of the game on one single route jump.
SMU has allowed over 30-points in the last 6 weeks and lost 3 of those games. Their offense can move the ball well, but against a turnover thirsty defense, it could be a back and forth style game. SMU is favored by 5, and while the Bulldogs can make plays defensively, their offense will not be able to keep up. I like SMU by a touchdown, and confidently give the points.
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International
The Temple Owls meet the FIU Golden Panthers in Florida for the only game on this Thursday night. Don’t expect many points in this one, neither team is in the top 75 in offensive scoring.
Somehow Temple mustered up 43-points in their finale, which was impressive for this 6-6 team out of the American Athletic conference. Signal caller Frank Nutile has two go-to targets in Adonis Jennings and Keith Kirkwood, who combined for 78 catches and 14 touchdowns. They do not have a feature back, but instead run by committee in an offense that will rely on their air attack primarily.
FIU finished 8-4 this season and are coming off a school record 674 yards of offense in their finale against UMass in which they scored 63 points. They did however also let up 45 against the Minutemen, 28 of which came in the air. Quarterback Alex McGough leads the way with 2,800 yards passing and 17 scores.
I know, I wrote neither team has a great offense and followed it up with their high-scoring finales, but those were not the normal games. They each happen to end their campaign on a usually high note.
McGough has been prone to ill-timed interceptions, and this Temple Owls team is plus 6 in the turnover category. Temple is getting 7.5 points in the spread, so we have to fly with the Owls and take the points. Hell, they might even win this game outright.
Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio
Alumni at both schools will love traveling for this destination bowl, as UAB and Ohio meet in Nassau, Bahamas just three days before Christmas.
Ohio finished 8-4 on the season and are in their 8th bowl of the past 9 seasons. They have been scoring at an amazing rate, finishing 14th in the country in points per game. Dual threat quarterback Nathan Rourke headlines the offense for the Bobcats and has racked up 2,000 yards in the air and another 880 on the ground. He also has 37 combined touchdowns.
UAB finished with the same record, but their storyline is so much more intriguing. After the University canceled the football program three years ago, the students on campus were forced to live a life without a football team. That changed this spring and not only are they back on the gridiron, but they even made a bowl game. 24 months without practices, recruitment or even having a roster, and now they find themselves in the Bahamas Bowl. They don’t just deserve to be in the bowl, they deserve an extended vacation after the game. Bravo, UAB!
UAB is a great story, and they will need an even greater game plan against Ohio. If this thing turns in to a shootout, can they keep up? We will find out, because Ohio does not slow down on offense. This will be a high scoring game, and will go over the 57 points predicted by the bookmakers in Las Vegas. The line is set at -7 Ohio, and while I think Ohio does win this game, I’d take the points and UAB. It will be close in the end.
Plus, I’m rooting for you, UAB!
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming
It’s the famously, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Chippewas vs the Cowboys for all the spuds!
The storyline for this one is easy, Mr. Wyoming, quarterback Josh Allen may be playing in his final game as a student-athlete. The junior quarterback began the season with expectations of joining the Heisman race. He has the skills to showcase, but this year his numbers did not live up to expectations. He completed just 56 percent of his passes and had only 13 scores with 6 picks. Not exactly drool worthy for Sundayfranchises. His Cowboys averaged just 22-points per game and had trouble moving the ball against good defensive fronts. Their defense however should be applauded for getting them to a bowl and be worthy of all the mashed potatoes and French fires they serve up at this contest. They allowed just 17 points per game and have a handful of players who earned All-Mountain West awards. That unit is why they are here, not Mr. Wyoming.
Central Michigan enter on a 5-game win streak and look to ride running back Jonathan Ward to a bowl victory. The sophomore put up close to 1,000 yards and 9 scores, and compliments quarterback Shane Morris nicely. Morris finished with 2,900 yards and 26 scores. They can run, they can pass, and they can play action. Against a front like the Cowboys, they need to keep them guessing.
Wyoming is giving a point in this game, and I think Vegas has that all wrong. Central Michigan can score on a multiple of ways, and Josh Allen is going to be in for a long afternoon. I don’t just like Central Michigan with the points, or outright, but find a friend and bet Central Michigan to win by more than a touchdown!
Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida
What a shame. A noon start on Saturday. This should be one of those games you watch and don’t leave your chair until the final whistle, and it is at noon on a Saturday.
Texas Tech is led by senior quarterback Nic Shimonek and an offense that is ranked 17th in yards and 26th in scoring. With a 6-6 however, this season was a disappointment for the Red Raiders, who had high aspirations of a more important bowl game when the season began. Their defense is much the reason for this, as they were slashed weekly in the Big 12 and just barley crack the top 100 defenses in the nation. Granted they were going up against Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph, but even the average Sam Ehlinger from Texas launched for 240 yards.
USF goes as Quinton Flowers goes. This senior quarterback leads the 16th best offense in the country and needs just 47 total yards to become the all-time American Athletic Conference leader. He can do it all, and now is challenged in bringing the Bulls to back-to-back 10-win seasons. With 2,600 yards passing, another 970 on the ground, and 31 combined touchdowns, Flowers should have been more in the Heisman discussion. He shows up in big games, and there is none bigger than his final collegiate game.
USF is good. Really good. And the Texas Tech defense is bad. Really bad. Add that all up, and even the +2.5 points on the table aren’t enough for the Red Raiders. This will be high scoring, but Flowers will take his team where they need to go and win by at least a field goal. Take USF, give the points and don’t be surprised if this gets ugly for Texas Tech early.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army
Army, in the Armed Forces Bowl, it will be a loud and excited crowd for the Black Knights in this one. Fresh off beating Navy last weekend, they have all the confidence and motivation to take the bowl trophy back to campus. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw didn’t even pass for 300 yards this season, but triple-optioned himself to over 1,500 yards on the ground. This is the top running offense in the country, and their game plan is simple and predictable, but seemingly efficient.
The San Diego State Aztecs have won four in a row thanks in large part to the nation’s leading rusher Rashaad Penny and his 2,027 yards. He hit the 200-yard mark in his last four games and can score from any yard line when he takes the carry. On the other side of the ball, they have a top-20 defense that holds the line of scrimmage as well as any other unit in the country.
San Diego State has the 8th best rush defense in the country, and will slow down the Army option. They are giving a full touchdown in the spreads, but will cover that and win by double digits.
Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo
The former GoDaddy.com bowl! Last year, these two teams met in the Camellia Bowl where App State won 31-28. Toledo is out for revenge.
Fresh off a Mid-American Conference Title and an 11-2 record, Toledo boasts Logan Woodside and his 4,000-passing yards and 45 touchdown resume. The Rockets are dynamite on offense, and also feature a 1,000-yard receiver and running back. Look for points out of this group.
Appalachian State counters with Taylor Lamb, a senior signal caller who has won 35 games for the Mountaineers in his career. He has a solid offensive line and will get time in the pocket against the Rockets’ rush. Defensively, they have fixed some early season issues to play much better down the stretch. They are a confident bunch heading into the Dollar General Bowl.
Toledo is giving 7.5 points, which is just too much in this game. Two good quarterbacks looking to show off on national television has the recipe for a game with over 80 points scored. I can’t give more than a touchdown in this, so take App State and the points. If you are feeling frisky, I think they even win this one straight up.
Hawai'i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston
Fresno State and Houston, two teams who don’t really need a Hawai’i Bowl to escape the snow. Maybe Boston College and Iowa should flip flop bowl destinations, and send the Bulldogs and Cougars to Yankee Stadium!
Fresno State heads to Aloha Stadium with a record of 9-4 on the season, and are led by Oregon State transfer quarterback Marcus McMaryion who has passed for 2,300-yard on the season. He has a pair of solid running backs in his backfield, and will be tossing to Jamire Jordan and KeeSean Johnson, his stud receivers who make big plays and run after the catch better than anyone on the field.
The Cougars counter with a 7-4 record and have serious quarterback concerns. Head coach Major Applewhite has yet to decide on who the starter will be. Will it be Sophomore D’Eriq King who connected on 70% of his 96 passes? Or will it be Senior Kyle Postma who is familiar with his playmakers on offense? One thing is for sure, halfback Duke Catalon will have a heavy workload. He has just 620 yards on the season and took less than 10 handoffs in 6 of his 11 games.
Fresno State has the 16th best offense in the country and allow an average of just 17-points on defense. Line them up against marginal quarterback play, and you have a big Bulldogs victory here. Fresno is giving 10 points in the spread, and yes, they win by more than that. Houston likely won’t score more than a pair of a touchdowns here.