Bowl Games 2021: Teeing Up the New Year

It’s been pretty even for me so far with the bowl predictions. For the latest on that and what games are going to be played, see here.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 27

11:00: Nevada vs. Western Michigan (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): I’m mostly just basing this prediction on the general idea that MWC > MAC, and assuming that Nevada will take care of business.
SP+ line: Nevada by 6.9
Vegas line: WMU by 3.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Wolfpack. While most aren’t excited about going to Detroit, this team has been to two straight Potato Bowls, so at least this is in a dome. The first game of their streak was the 2018 Arizona Bowl, a 16-13 win over Arkansas State. Last season they beat Tulane 38-27 in the Potato Bowl. Western Michigan’s last bowl game was the 2019 First Responder Bowl, a 23-20 loss to Western Kentucky.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Dustin Fox

Tuesday, December 28

12:00: Houston vs. Auburn (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): I maybe could’ve gone a “III” on the Watchability Tier for this one, but let’s face it, I can’t imagine Auburn is super motivated to go to UAB’s stadium and play a Houston team that probably wants it way more than them. Could definitely be another UCF-over-Florida scenario.
SP+ line: Cougs by 0.2
Vegas line: Auburn by 2.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: There’s been 11 meetings between these two teams. They met for the fisrt time in 1956, a 12-0 Auburn win. The most recent was a 7-0 Auburn win in 1973. Overall, Auburn leads the series 5-1.
Last bowl game: The Tigers are on a 9 game bowl streak. It started back in the 2013 BCS Championship Game, a 34-31 loss to Florida State. Last season they were whooped 35-19 by Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl. Houston’s last bowl appearance was last season’s New Mexico Bowl, a 28-14 loss to Hawaii.
Announcers: Wes Durham and Eric Mac Lain

3:15: Air Force vs. Louisville (First Responder Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): This one could well be pretty close. Louisville did well to get here, but these AF teams are always tough to play. I have the Cardinals by a smidge.
SP+ line: Louisville by 0.7
Vegas line: Louisville by 1.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Air Force’s last bowl appearance was the 2019 Cheez-It Bowl (the Arizona version), a 31-21 win over Wazzu. For the Cardinals, it was the 2019 Music City Bowl, a 38-28 win over Miss State.
Announcers: Chris Cotter and Mark Herzlich

6:45: Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): SP+ likes the Bulldogs way more than I do, so I’ll take them over the coachless Texas Tech. (And isn’t kind of wild that a team that makes a bowl for the first time since 2017 fired their coach? Maybe that’s just me.)
SP+ line: Bulldogs by 5.3
Vegas line: Miss State by 8.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: There’s been 7 previous meetings between these teams. The first was a 27-20 Tech win in 1953. The most recent was a 20-16 Miss State win in 1970. Overall, Miss State leads the series 4-2-1.
Last bowl game: This is the 12th-straight bowl game for the Bulldogs, which is really kind of amazing considering their historical lot in life. The streak started with a 51-14 win over Michigan in the 2010-11 Gator Bowl. Last season, they beat Tulsa 28-26 in the Armed Forces Bowl. For the Red Raiders, their last bowl appearance was a 38-34 loss to South Florida in the 2017 Birmingham Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Deuce McAllister

8:00: North Carolina State vs. California-Los Angeles (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; FOX): Add this one to “bowl games in baseball stadiums” because San Diego State’s new stadium isn’t ready yet. Until then, unlike almost every San Diego-based football event, this game will actually be played in San Diego. At any rate, I think this game could be fun, but ultimately I think NCSU is just a plain better team.
SP+ line: NCSU by 6.8
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: There’s been just two previous meetings between these teams, which were back-to-back UCLA victories in 1959 and 1960. They won the first 21-12 and the second 7-0.
Last bowl game: NC State’s last bowl game was a 23-21 loss to Kentucky in the 2020-21 Gator Bowl. UCLA’s last bowl appearance was a 35-17 loss to Kansas State in the 2017 Cactus Bowl.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt

10:15: Minnesota vs. West Virginia (Guaranteed Rate Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): I gotta say, I could use some late-night weirdness here. I don’t think Minnesota is as good as SP+ does, but they did beat Wisconsin at the end of the season, so there may be some sizzle there.
SP+ line: Gophers by 12.6
Vegas line: Gophers by 3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For the Golden Gophers, this is their first bowl appearance since the 2019-20 Outback Bowl, a 31-24 win over Auburn. The Mountaineers beat Army 24-21 in last season’s Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Rod Gilmore

Wednesday, December 29

2:15: Virginia Tech vs. Maryland (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): VPI fired their coach and Maryland is just… not very good. Hence the low watchability rating. That said, I do like Tech here but I don’t feel super great about it.
SP+ line: VPI by 2.2
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: As one might guess from their proximity and a couple of stints of being in the same conference (the Southern Conference from 1921 through 1953, and the ACC from 2004 through 2014), they’ve met 31 times. The first was back in 1919, a 6-0 VPI win. The teams played yearly from then until 1936, and then reumed the series from 1945 through 1950. They then played some one off games in the early 90’s and 5 games as ACC members. The last one of those was their last meeting in 2013, a 27-24 Maryland win. The overall series is tight, with the Terps holding a 16-15 edge.
Last bowl game: For the Terps, this is their first bowl appearance since the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl, a 36-30 loss to Boston College. For the Hokies, they missed a bowl for the first time since 1992 due to the pandemic.They lost 37-30 to Kentucky in the 2019 Belk Bowl.
Announcers: Matt Barrie and Roddy Jones

5:45: Clemson vs. Iowa State (Cheez-It Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): Now we’re going. These teams both fell short of expectations this season, and in the closing month of the season Clemson definitely figured some things out on offense while maintaining their usual high standard on defense. The Cyclones have been wreaked by injuries, but this is still a talented, well-coached team that can give DJ and Co. fits. I’m still going with the Tigers, but what I’m really rooting for is a fun game.
SP+ line: Clemson by 5.3
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: The Tigers have apperaed in 17 straight bowl games, dating to a 19-10 win over Colorado in the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl. Last season they lost 49-28 to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The Cyclones have appeared in 5 straight bowl games, dating to a 21-20 win over Memphis in the 2017 Liberty Bowl. Last season they beat Oregon 34-17 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek, and Tom Luginbill

9:15: Oklahoma vs. Oregon (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): And if the above game is going to be fun, well, turn on the afterburners here because this one could be great. Both these teams love speed and offense. Expect a shootout. I like the Sooner’s mass on the lines in the end, though.
SP+ line: Sooners by 2.7
Vegas line: Sooners by 4.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: These teams have met 7 times. The first was a 6-0 Sooners win in 1958, with the most recent featuring the infamous botched onside kick call in 2006. Aided by the call the Ducks stormed back and won 34-33. The Sooners, though, have the last laugh: the lead the overall series 6-1.
Last bowl game: The Sooners have been to 23 (twenty-three!) straight bowl games. The streak started with a 27-25 loss to Ole Miss in the 1999 Independence Bowl. Last season, they beat Florida 55-20 in the Cotton Bowl. Oregon has been to 5 straight bowl games, dating to a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl. Last season they lost 34-17 to Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Announcers: Jason Benetti, Andre Ware, and Paul Carcaterra

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