Bowl Games 2016: Indulgence

Friday, December 30th is the only day other than the first of bowl season that there are five games in one day, thanks to the separation caused by New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday. (And somehow, only three of them are on ESPN!) So check the schedule and read up below to see what to expect.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 30th
Noon: Texas Christian vs. Georgia (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): I’m almost certainly biased, but I haven’t really seen anything out of Georgia that shows they have the offensive aptitude to keep up with a Big 12 team. But hey, who knows, maybe Kirby and Co. will have figured it out by now! (Probably not.)
Previous meetings: Three, and they’re all Georgia wins, unfortunately. The first was in the 1941-42 Orange Bowl, 40-26 win for UGA. This was followed by regular season meetings in 1980 and 1988, again easy Georgia wins.
Last bowl game: This is TCU’s third straight bowl game. They beat Ole Miss 42-3 in 2014’s Peach Bowl. Oregon lost to them last season in the Alamo Bowl, 47-41. This is Georgia’s 20th consecutive bowl game, dating to the 1997-98 Outback Bowl, a 33-6 win over Wisconsin. They beat Penn State in last season’s Taxslayer Bowl, 24-17.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

2:00: North Carolina vs. Stanford (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): The Cardinal closed the season with five straight victories, but it’s hard to say whether that was due to Christian McCaffrey getting healthier or the schedule drastically easing up. (See the fun fact below.) However, they won’t have their star for this game and Carolina represents by far the biggest challenge for them since October. And indeed, without McCaffrey, it’s hard to see how the Stanford offense will be able to keep up with the Tar Heels.
Previous meetings: Just a home-and-home back in 1997-98. Carolina won the first 28-17, but the Cardinal took the second 37-34.
Last bowl game: This is UNC’s fourth straight bowl game. They beat Cincinnati 39-17 in the 2013 Belk Bowl and lost to Baylor in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, 49-38. This is Stanford’s eight consecutive bowl game, going back to a 31-27 loss to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl. They demolished Iowa in last season’s Rose Bowl 45-16.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson
Fun fact: The Cardinal had a seriously front-loaded schedule. In their first seven games, they played six teams that made bowl games (the lone exception being Notre Dame, which went 4-8 this season). Stanford also lost by a combined 86-22 score to teams from the state of Washington this year. 

3:30: Nebraska vs. Tennessee (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): So for various reasons, I do the predictions you see in the page way before I do any of these writeups. Sometimes that gets me in trouble, such as for this game where I picked the Vols to win by 10 points. I would have to think my main argument would involve Tennessee barely losing to Vandy by Nebraska getting blown out by Iowa.
Previous meetings: Just two, and only in bowl games. The first was the 1997-98 Orange Bowl, which the Huskers won 42-17. They followed up with another win in the 1999-2000 season with a 31-21 win in the Fiesta Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is Nebraska’s ninth straight bowl game. They started things off by beating Clemson 26-21 in the 2008-09 Gator Bowl. More recently, they defeated UCLA in last year’s Foster Farms Bowl 37-29. This is Tennessee’s third straight bowl game. The Vols beat Iowa in the 2014-15 Taxslayer Bowl 45-28, and then beat Northwestern 45-6 in last season’s Outback Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Andre Ware

5:30: Air Force vs. South Alabama (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; CI/ASN): First, this game doesn’t have a real TV deal, so see the link below to figure out where you can watch it if you’re so inclined. Second, South Alabama may have had the oddest season of team FBS team this year. Get this: they started the season with an upset win over Mississippi State. Okay, sure, that happens sometimes. Then they lose in pretty convincing fashion to two other Sun Belt teams and beat FCS Nicholls State by a point. Naturally, they follow this up by laying a 42-24 beatdown on a pretty good San Diego State team. The Jaguars then went on to have a thoroughly mediocre Sun Belt season and wound up going 6-6 and getting in thanks to a lack of bowl teams, since they have two FCS wins. At any rate, this game is going to be a blowout: the one I predicted with Air Force as the winners or the one that makes no sense but, hey, they did it to a Mountain West team once already…
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Air Force’s third straight bowl game. They beat Western Michigan 38-24 in the 2014 Potato Bowl and lost 55-36 to Cal in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl. This is South Alabama’s second ever bowl appearance. Their first was a 33-28 loss to Bowling Green in the 2014 Camellia Bowl.
Announcers: See here for more broadcast information.
Fun fact: This barely even feels like a bowl game. I appreciate trying new things as well as not being controlled by ESPN, but not having a real TV deal and a matchup permanently involving a Sun Belt team doesn’t seem to be a winning formula? If I had to guess which bowl game was closest to the chopping block, it’d be this one.

8:00: Florida State vs. Michigan (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): I think FSU is pretty good and I also think this game will be close. But I still think Michigan is one of the best teams in the country and I expect them to prove it tonight.
Previous meetings: Just two, and neither in bowl games. The first was a 20-18 Michigan win back in 1986. Second was a 51-31 win for FSU back in 1991.
Last bowl game: I get to say this once again: Florida State has the nation’s active longest bowl streak, with this being their 35th straight postseason appearance. In 1982, Florida State beat West Virginia 31-12 in the Gator Bowl. With a modern amount of bowls, the streak would actually be 40 games, but a 6-5 season in 1981 and an 8-3 record in 1978 didn’t get them into a bowl. Last season, they lost 38-24 to Houston in the Peach Bowl. Michigan beat Florida 41-7 in last season’s Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Brian Griese
Fun fact: I’m sure this won’t come up on the broadcast at all, but the starting quarterback for Michigan in that 1986 game? A one Jim Harbaugh.

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