Bowl Games 2020: Opening Slate

Oh, right, the bowl games start today. I should’ve anticipated this since these games were generally announced last week, but here we are. At any rate. I’ve been in this bowl game business since 1999. The last time we had 28 regular bowl games, it was 2005, likely more famously known for Vince Young singlehandedly leading Texas over the pre-anointed Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl, which unlike this year’s Rose Bowl was actually in the Rose Bowl.

Anyway, I’ve got this whole thing put together at pretty much the last minute, at least for these pre-Christmas games. So let’s get crackin’. First, though, let’s also examine a 2020-adjusted version of the Watchability Rankings:

  • I: Something to have on on the background while reading the Wikipedia article about “Timeline of the Far Future” and trying not have an existential crisis while doing so.
  • II: Decidedly less existential, this tier starts to get into stuff that could be interesting, or might just go totally sideways for one team or the other. Either way, it’s worth at least having on for the first half.
  • III: This is a game I will definitely be watching, but isn’t a “mainstream pick”, as in, “yeah man, I knew about Coastal Carolina before knowing what a Chanticleer was was cool”.
  • IV: Playoff games, well, the championship game at least, and anything else of important note.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 21
2:30: North Texas vs. Appalachian State (Myrtle Beach Bowl @ Conway, SC; ESPN): Okay, let’s get this thing started… with a game that kicks at 11:30 AM on the West Coast and one team is heavily favored. Yeah, this is what Watchability Tier I was invented for. But hey, App State is a fun team, and you’ll be free to enjoy your evening.
SP+ line: App State by 21.3
Vegas line: App State -21
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is North Texas’s first bowl game since a 52-13 loss to Utah State in the 2018 New Mexico Bowl. This is the sixth straight bowl game for App State, going back to a 31-29 win over Ohio in the 2015 Camellia Bowl. Last year they bet UAB 31-17 in the New Orleans Bowl.
Announcers: Courney Lyle, Eric MacLain, Marty Smith, Ryan McGee

Tuesday, December 22
3:30: Tulane vs. Nevada (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): This one could actually be pretty cool. Tulane’s offense is just plane fun, and it’s been good to see Nevada be kind of decent again. The forecast this game calls for snow in the morning, but cold and clear by kickoff, so that’s less than ideal, but the blue turf will be a different vibe for your TV. I wonder if Tulane will wear their all-green uniforms… at any rate, I expect the Green Wave to win in the end.
SP+ line: Tulane by 5.7
Vegas line: Tulane -3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Once, back in 1992. The Green Wave washed over Reno 34-17.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl game for the Green Wave. They won the 2018 Cure Bowl over Louisiana, and beat Southern Miss in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl. This is also the third straight bowl game for the Wolf Pack. In the 2018 Arizona bowl they beat Arkansas State 16-13, and last season they lost this very bowl game to Ohio, 30-21.
Announcers: Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, Taylor Davis

7:00: Central Florida vs. Brigham Young (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): UCF looked like world beaters when they played us, and I know we’re not good or anything, but they still dominated in a way that no on else did outside of Clemson against us. At any rate, I expect this game to fun and poinsty, but with BYU playing enough defense to win in the end.
SP+ line: BYU by 9
Vegas line: BYU -7
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Twice, and relatively recently. The first meeting was a 24-17 BYU win in 2011, followed by a 31-24 overtime win for the Knights in 2014.
Last bowl game: This is the fifth straight bowl game for UCF, dating to a 31-13 loss to Arkansas State in the 2016 Cure Bowl. Last season they bulldozed Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl, 48-25. This is the third straight bowl for BYU. They beat Western Michigan 49-18 in the 2018 Potato Bowl, and lost last year’s Hawaii Bowl to Hawaii, 38-34.
Announcers: Dave Neal, DJ Shockley, Lericia Harris

Wednesday, December 23
3:30: Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia Southern (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Start your Christmas Eve Eve off right with… well, okay, this is probably not so great. Southern is favored by multiple scores, and I have no reason to doubt that.
SP+ line: GSU by 11
Vegas line: GSU -6
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Louisiana Tech has a good streak going for themselves, as this is their seventh straight bowl game. They beat Illinois 35-18 in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl, and more recently they shut out the Miami Hurricanes in last season’s Independence Bowl by a score of 14-0. Georgia Southern is making their third straight bowl game. In 2018 they beat Eastern Michigan in the Camellia Bowl, 23-21. Last season they lost to Liberty 23-16 in the Cure Bowl.
Announcers: Matt Barrie, Mike Golic Jr, Dawn Davenport

7:00: Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic (Montgomery Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): This game was originally supposed to be the new Fenway Bowl, but now I sort of wonder if that will come back, pandemic notwithstanding. Fenway’s an awkward fit for a football field and, well, it’s Boston in December. For the game itself, FAU wasn’t really that good this year, and while Memphis has come down from the high of last year, I think they’ve got this game easily.
SP+ line: Memphis by 7.2
Vegas line: Memphis -9
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Once, back in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl. FAU won 44-27.
Last bowl game: Memphis is appearing in their seventh straight bowl game, dating to the legendary (and no, I’m not being sarcastic) 2014 Miami Beach Bowl, where they beat (heh) BYU 55-48. Last season they tried their shot at the big guys, but came up short 53-39 to Penn State in the Cotton Bowl. FAU is making a second consecutive bowl game. Last season they beat SMU 52-28 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvic, Rock Boiman, Lauren Sisler

Thursday, December 24
3:30: Hawaii vs. Houston (New Mexico Bowl @ Frisco, TX; ESPN): The Rainbow Warriors get the leave the island for a bowl game for the first time in a while (largely because the Hawaii Bowl itself was canceled, but still), and they wind up against a team that sort should eat their lunch. But you know what, if I have to be on the West Coast and watch a game that starts at 12:30 on Christmas Eve, well, I’ll do just that. Besides, Houston still figures to be rusty, anything could happen! (They’re probably going to win easily.)
SP+ line: Houston by 13.7
Vegas line: Houston -13
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Once, in the 2003 Hawaii Bowl. Hawaii won 54-48 in overtime.
Last bowl game: Hawaii’s made three straight postseason contests, but this will be their first outside the state. In 2018 they lost to Louisiana Tech 31-14, and season they beat BYU 38-34. Houston last appeared in a bowl game back in 2018, where they got walloped 70-14 by Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Announcers: TBA

Friday, December 25
2:30: Buffalo vs. Marshall (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): I can’t say that I know much about Marshall this year, but I do know that Buffalo is fun, so once you’re done unwrapping presents over Zoom, grab yourself a beverage and hop over to ESPN. This one could be good by virtue of the two teams apparently being even according to SP+, so I’ll take it, but I still like the Bulls better in the end.
SP+ line: Buffalo by 0.3
Vegas line: Buffalo -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Nine times, going all the way back to 1959. Buffalo won that meeting 37-12, but the Bull have gone 0-6 ever since. The most recent was a 48-14 Marshall win in 2004.
Last bowl game: The Bulls are buffaloing their way to a third straight bowl game. They appeared in the 2019 Dollar General Bowl, where they lost 42-32 to Troy. Last season they beat Charlotte in the Bahamas Bowl, 31-9. Marshall is thundering their way into a fourght straight bowl game, dating to the 2018 New Mexico Bowl, where they beat Colorado State 31-28. Last season they lost the Gasparilla Bowl 48-25 to UCF.
Announcers: TBA

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