Bowl Games 2016: Hitting Stride

A quick preview of the mid-week games. The full schedule can be found here.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Wednesday, December 28
2:00: Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): Pitt is everyone’s favorite transitive conference champion, with wins this season over Penn State and Clemson. They’re also just a darn good football team. They run about as tricky of a rushing offense as you can get without being a, you know, option team. Except for when they did it to us, it’s been fun to watch. The Wildcats, meanwhile, don’t have a lot going for them. I’ve got Pitt all the way here.
Previous meetings: Six! The first was a 16-7 Pitt victory back in 1949. The last was also a 21-14 Pitt win back in 1973, but overall the series is even.
Last bowl game: This is Pitt’s ninth straight bowl game, going back to the infamous 2008 Sun Bowl, which they lost 3-0 to Oregon State. Last season saw a 44-28 route at the hands of the Naval Academy in the Military Bowl. Northwestern did much to generate Tennessee’s preseason hype this year by losing 46-5 to the Vols in last season’s Outback Bowl.
Announcers: Ryan Ruocco, Mike Golic, and Mike Golic Jr.

5:30: Miami vs. West Virginia (Russell Athletic Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): You might remember the Hurricanes from their mid-season 4-game swoon that took them out of ACC contention, but sandwiching that stretch on either side is a four game stretch of pretty good football. They recovered from a bad loss to Notre Dame (who, again, went 4-8) to absolutely shellack Pitt and start the 4-game win streak that closed out the season. WVU, meanwhile, went 10-2. This definitely garners some respect, but the two games they lost to the Oklahoma teams weren’t really even close. That said, I think this still could be a pretty fun and close matchup, so I have the ‘Canes as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: Their first meeting was all the way back in 1942, a 21-13 Miami win. However, the bulk of their 19 meetings were when both were in the Big East from 1991-2003. Miami won the last meeting 22-20 and has a commanding 16-3 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is da U’s fourth straight bowl game, going back to a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. They lost 20-14 in last year’s Sun Bowl to Washington State. WVU has a bunch of gaps in their history, but more often than not they’ve been in bowls since 1993. In their currently active streak, this is their third straight bowl and the eked out a 1-point win in last year’s Cactus Bowl, beating Arizona State 43-42.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy

8:30: Indiana vs. Utah (Foster Farms Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): If not for their end-of-season swoon (losing 3 of their last 4), I’d have the Utes as a much larger favorite here. The problem is that I don’t see Indiana providing much of a threat despite their “CHAOS TEAM” moniker, which scored the all of… zero upsets this season. (At least, with the benefit of hindsight.) So, yeah, I have the Utes.
Previous meetings: I’m going to be honest, I was expecting to say “none” but it turns out this is the third. Indiana’s only win was a 31-7 rout back in 1975. Since then, a home-and-home in 2001 and 2002 produced 28-26 and 40-13 Utah victories.
Last bowl game: The Hoosiers lost last year’s Pinstripe Bowl 44-41. This is the third straight bowl for the Utes. They beat Colorado State 46-10 in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl, and then beat BYU in a Sin City Holy War 35-28.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt

9:00: Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): I have a K-State as a favorite here almost entirely because of the way these teams closed out the season. The Aggies lost three of their last four, including somehow to both of the Mississippi schools and got pounded in what turned out to be DACOACHO’s coronation. K-State turned a narrow loss to Oklahoma State into motivation with wins over Baylor and TCU on the road and taking care of business against the Jayhawks. I like K-state a lot here.
Previous meetings: 15, most of which, as you might imagine, came after the then-Big 8 absorbed the Southwest Conference before the 1996 season. For the first, though, we have to go back to 1912, a 13-10 K-State victory. The last meeting was a cracker of a game as well, a 53-50 K-State overtime win. Overall, TAMU has a slight 8-7 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is K-State’s seventh straight bowl game, going back to a 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl loss in 2010 to Syracuse. They lost to Arkansas 45-23 in last year’s Liberty Bowl. This is TAMU’s eighth straight bowl game, going back to the 2009 Independence Bowl, where they lost 44-20 to Georgia. Last season they lost 27-21 to Louisville in the Music City Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Fleming and Jesse Palmer

Thursday, December 29
2:00: South Carolina vs. South Florida (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): I’d guess the only reason to watch this game is for the schadenfreude of an SEC team getting pounded by a team from the AAC. And if South Carolina does somehow win this game, that means their defense totally shut down USF and the final score will be 9-3. Maybe only reason to watch this one is if you’re a college football degenerate like me. I have USF all the way.
Previous meetings: Just one, a regular season game back in 2004. South Carolina won 34-3.
Last bowl game: South Florida lost last year’s Miami Beach Bowl to Western Kentucky, 45-35. South Carolina saw a respectable bowl streak come to an end last year, so their last bowl game was the 2014 Independence Bowl, wherein they beat Miami 24-21.
Announcers: Eamon McAnaney and John Congemi

5:30: Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): As it turns out, I’m not sure the Razorbacks were “inconsistent” this year, more “just not very good”. The Hokies, barring one upset in Blacksburg (woo!) and a bizarre game in the Carrier Dome, were ahead of schedule in Year 1 of the post-Beamer era and I think they’ll be motivated to keep it going here
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is VPI’s 24th straight bowl game. They have the second longest active streak, dating to the 1993 Independence Bowl. (They beat Indiana 45-20.) Only Florida State has a longer streak. Fittingly, they beat Tulsa in last year’s Independence Bowl 55-52. This is Arkansas’s 3rd straight bowl game. They beat Texas 31-7 in the 2014 Texas Bowl and beat K-State 45-23 in last season’s Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham

9:00: Oklahoma State vs. Colorado (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): If Colorado’s QB is healthy in this game, then the Buffs stand a much better chance here than they did in the Pac-12 title game. I’m basing my pick on that assumption, so it could change at the last minute. Either way, these are both pretty good teams and I hope the margin is as close as I’m predicting.
Previous meetings: These former Big 8 foes have met 46 times. It’d probably be more, except that they wound up in separate divisions when the Big 12 was formed, so after 1997 they only met six times. Otherwise, they played every season from 1960 through 1997. This first matchup was actually in 1920, where Colorado won 40-7. The last was in 2008, which Oklahoma State won 31-28. The Buffs hold a 26-19-1 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma State’s 11th straight bowl game, dating back to a 34-31 victory over Alabama in the 2006 Independence Bowl. They lost 48-20 to Ole Miss in last year’s Sugar Bowl. This is Colorado’s first bowl game as a member of the Big 12. Their last postseason appearance was the 2007 Independence Bowl, where they lost 30-24 to Alabama.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Mack Brown
Fun fact: I just had to close with this series of tweets from ESPN play-by-play man Adam Amin.

Mack: "He sure couldn't."

Uber driver: *turns around….YOU'RE MACK BROWN."

Mack: "Hey there."

— Adam Amin (@adamamin) December 28, 2016

One star review.

— Adam Amin (@adamamin) December 28, 2016

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