Monday, December 21, 2015

Bowl Games 2015: Four Days 'Til Christmas

Let's take a look at the seven(!) games that remain before Christmas.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 21
2:30: South Florida vs. Western Kentucky (Miami Beach Bowl @ Miami, FL; ESPN): On October 31, the Bulls were 2-4 and appeared headed toward oblivion. Then, they discovered they had an offense, and thus won their last four games, including a comprehensive 44-23 win over then-ranked Temple. Proving that wasn't a fluke, they then inflicted a 65-27 drubbing on Cincinnati. I don't think I need to get into what they did against a Central Florida team that went 0-12. The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, needed no such miraculous season-ending streaks. They simply dominated their C-USA foes. Their only two losses on the season are a late-FG loss to Indiana and a 28-point loss to LSU, because, well, LSU is LSU and WKU is WKU. At any rate, their extended run of domination and consistency is what is making me lean toward Western Kentucky.
Confidence: 12
Previous Meetings: Six, actually, with four them occurring between 1997 and 2000, and then again in 2009 and 2010. USF is 4-2, having won the last four in a row, including 24-12 in the 2010 game.
Last bowl game: For the Bulls, it was the 2010 Car Care Bowl, in which they beat Clemson 31-26. (Oof.) The Hilltoppers won last year's Bahamas Bowl 49-48 after surviving one of the craziest plays of the 2014 season.
Announcers: Dave Lamont and Desmond Howard

Tuesday, December 22
4:30: Akron vs. Utah State (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): I have the Aggies in a slight upset, but I feel pretty good about it. Why? Well, at least three of their six wins are better than any of Akron's wins, and they don't figure to give up a lot of points to the Zips. As for the chance of snow at this game, the forecast is currently clear with temperatures in the mid-30's around kickoff, so it's not looking good.
Confidence: 23
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: The Zips's last taste of the post-season was the 2005 Motor City Bowl, which they lost to Memphis 38-31. This is their second ever bowl game. For the Aggies, their fifth straight game returns to the roots of their streak, where they went to both the 2011 and 2012 Potato Bowls. They beat UTEP in last year's New Mexico Bowl 21-6.
Announcers: Mark Neely and Mike Bellotti

7:00: Toledo vs. Temple (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): Suffice it to say, no chance of snow here, with temperatures in the 80's at kick-off. I never really bought into the Owls at any point this season, and I'm continuing not to in this game. Toledo, to me, appears to be about as good on defense and is a little better at moving the ball. Going with the Rockets.
Confidence: 13
Previous Meetings: My sources are a bit contradictory on this one. I'm going to discount the 1962 meeting and say Toledo is 5-3 against the Owls, and won their last meeting in 2011 36-13.
Last bowl game: The Rockets would have a six-game bowl streak had they gone bowling with a 7-5 record in 2013, but alas, we can only say this is their second straight. They beat Arkansas State in last year's Bowl 63-44. Temple's last bowl game was the 2011 New Mexico Bowl, in which they beat Wyoming 37-15.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick and Dan Hawkins

Wednesday, December 23
4:30: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): If the Boise States of the world can have rebuilding years, this certainly qualifies as one for the Broncos. Their offense has been especially inconsistent as they try to find their next quarterback. The Huskies started running into trouble once they got into the meat of their MAC schedule, and their offense deserted them in loses to Ohio and Bowling Green to close out the season. Going with Boise, but only by a bit.
Confidence: 14
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is the Broncos's fourteenth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl. They beat Arizona in last season's Fiesta Bowl, 38-30. This is NIU's eight straight bowl game, dating to a 17-10 loss to Louisiana Tech in the 2008 Independence Bowl. They lost 52-23 to Marshall in last year's Boca Raton Bowl.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and David Diaz-Infante

8:00: Bowling Green vs. Georgia Southern (GoDaddy Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): Bowling Green comes in as the MAC champions, and other than a loss to a game Toledo squad, it was never really in doubt. Georgia Southern, meanwhile, somehow just lost to Georgia State. (Still trying to process that one.) The ranking systems love BGSU as well, and I'm inclined to agree with them.
Confidence: 24
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Bowling Green's fourth straight bowl game. They beat South Alabama 33-28 in the inaugural Camellia Bowl last year. This is Georgia Southern's first ever bowl game.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Andre Ware

Thursday, December 24
Noon: Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee State (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): On record alone, these 7-5 teams look even. That's pretty much it, though. The Broncos played a tougher schedule in a tougher conference, but was able to hang with some of those teams. The Blue Raiders lost to every superior team they played, usually by a lot, and mainly feasted on C-USA's bottom of the barrel teams. As long as Western Michigan isn't too tired from rowing to the Bahamas, they should be okay in this one.
Confidence: 25
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Western Michigan lost 38-24 to Air Force in last year's Potato Bowl. MTSU last appeared in the 2013 Armed Forces Bowl, where they lost 24-6 to Navy.
Announcers: Steve Levy, Mack Brown, and Mark May
Fun fact: As of this writing, Popeye's does not have any locations in the Bahamas.

8:00: Cincinnati vs. San Diego State (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): One of these teams doesn't play offense. The other doesn't play defense. Combine them into a game that no one wants to be in, and you get… well, I have no idea really. I like the Aztecs, though: they've won nine straight, riding the streak all the way to the Mountain West title. The biggest stumbling block for them is that this is reward they got for winning the conference, instead of the MWC's customary Las Vegas Bowl bid (which went to BYU instead).
Confidence: 15
Previous Meetings: Just one, back in 2007. Cincy won 52-23.
Last bowl game: This is the fifth straight bowl game for the Bearcats, dating to the 2011 Liberty Bowl. The lost to Virginia Tech in last year's Military Bowl 33-17.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Greg McElroy

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