This Saturday marks the greatest time of the year. No, not Christmas week, but the first day of college football bowl season. While the games leading up to the semi-finals are all appetizers for the main course, they are exciting and feature some great match ups. With 40 bowls on the slate, we have broken down our preview into two separate halves, before Christmas day, and after the holiday.
Here are your bowl matchups leading up to Christmas Eve.
New Mexico Bowl: Texas San Antonio vs. New Mexico
The New Mexico Lobos are coming off a thrilling upset win in the season finale over Wyoming in which three players each ran for over 100 yards, and as a team racked up 568 yards and 7 touchdowns. Quarterback Lamar Jordan only had to throw the ball 5 times in this game. No doubt the game plan against UTSA is going to be run, run, run and run the ball. They feature a pair of 1,000 yard backs in Teriyon Gibson and Tyrone Owens, and as a team pick up an average 8 yards per carry.
The motivation is there for New Mexico as they try to win their second bowl game in the last 55 years, but it is even higher for UTSA who makes their first bowl appearance in their program’s history. Led by a pair of stud running backs Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes, their game plan is going to be similar to that of New Mexicos.
This game could be a high scoring affair with both running games having success, however in the end the edge has to lean towards the home team, especially seeing that this home team averages 38 points per game. I expect New Mexico to meet their mark and celebrate in their home state with a 38-28 victory.
Las Vegas Bowl: San Diego State vs. Houston
Remember opening weekend of College Football where Tom Herman’s Houston Cougars upset the 3rd ranked Oklahoma Sooners by 10 points. They then convincingly won their next 4 games and sat on top of the world. They seemed destined for the final four.
Fast forward to December, and Herman has since changed his zip code to live in Austin, Texas and the Cougars missed the big bowl games after losing to Memphis in the finale. Things change quickly in college football, but this 7-week turn around was one of the wildest.
San Diego State heads into this game with one of the most exciting players in the land in Donnell Pumphrey, the 2,018 yard back who notched 16 touchdowns this season. He also had four 200-yard games.
San Diego State is going to run right into the nation’s number 2 rush defense however, and regardless of who the Cougars’ head coach is, they will be able to slow down the run. While the motivation may not be there for Houston, the run defense will make the difference. Aztecs quarterback Christian Chapman had a pedestrian season with 1,800 yards and 19 scores to go along with 6 interceptions, but has had games where all he had to do was hand the ball off and not fumble the snap. Asking him to win the game is going to require a big effort considering he has only thrown over 200 yards three times this season.
Houston’s defense is the difference maker in this one, and the Cougars forget about their abandoning coach for the afternoon thanks to a 23-17 victory in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Camellia Bowl: Toledo vs. Appalachian State
Kareem Hunt had a wonderful 1,300 yard season on the ground, while Logan Woodside impressed with 3,800 passing yards and 43 touchdowns to lead a Toledo offense that also featured three receivers with 10 or more touchdowns. They came up with big plays all season long, with 4 different running backs that had runs over 40 yards, and 7 different players connecting on at least 40 yard receptions. They also converted on over 50% of their third down plays, which is top five in the entire country.
The problem for Toledo, is Appalachian State has been playing the best defense possibly in school history down the stretch, with a 3-17 touchdown to interception ratio in the final 8 games of the season.
Offensively they have had success running the ball with sophomore Jalin Moore scoring 10 touchdowns on 1,367 yards and has rushed for over 100 yards in 8 of the last 9 games. That one game he didn’t hit triple figures, he ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns. The most important thing to know about the Appalachian State offense, is they rarely turn the ball over.
Kareem Hunt rushed for over 250 yards in his last bowl game, and this Toledo team will focus their offense on their ball carrier. I expect Jalin Moore to have an excellent game as well, but with the team’s inability to convert on third down, it might just be one stalled drive that makes the difference in this one. I do expect it to be a high scoring, fun game to watch, and if college football had a fantasy bowl draft, you would want to secure your team some play makers from this bowl game.
Toledo outlasts Appalachian State in a shootout, 46-38
New Orleans Bowl: Louisana Lafayette vs. Southern Mississippi
Playing right in the heard of New Orleans, the Louisiana Lafayette faithful get a treat, seeing their team play a home game, and this time in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. This is the fifth time that the Rajin’ Cajuns have played in a bowl game, and all of them have been right there in New Orleans. They are 4-0 in those previous games.
The difference in this game will come down to the ground game. The Golden Eagles are prone to long runs and give up the line of scrimmage often. Expect Elijah McGuire to prove why he is the Sun Belt’s best running back in this game, as he will also be looking to impress in his final collegiate game. On the other side of the field, the ULL defense has been great against the run, so for Southern Miss to have a shot in this one, they will need to win with the deep ball. Their 30 turnovers this season show that the offense will fold under pressure.
This won’t be the prettiest of bowl games this season, but you can’t mess with ULL in New Orleans. They should move to 5-0 in bowl games in their home state, by forcing turnovers and racking up the yards on the ground, winning by a score along the lines of 34-26.
Check Back for Part II Next Week