Author Archives: ASimPerson

Bowl Games 2018: Epilogue

The bowls are done and dusted. Thanks to Clemson, I wound up going 21-18 overall, good for a 53.8% clip and back on the right side of being better than flipping a coin 39 times. Since 1999, I’m now 357-298, meaning 54.5% of my picks are right.

That about wraps it up for now. Unless I’m struck by some other burst of inspiration, we’ll be dormant until our annual look at out-of-conference scheduling in the summer.

Bowl Games 2018: Final

I’m running at about 53% for my bowl predictions, which means I’ll finish on the right side of 0.500 again this season. Anyway, let’s get to it.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

8:00: Alabama vs. Clemson (College Football Playoff National Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; ESPN): Well, here we go again. And the thing is, we were all right. If you’d asked anyone in the know what the most likely national championship matchup was going to be this season, they probably would’ve said “Clemson and Alabama, and maybe Georgia?” And the thing is, this is going to be close. These teams are obviously the class of college football this year, as between the two of them they have defeated all major challengers.
As I type this on the plane back to the Bay Area (where, for reasons that have nothing to do with college football, this game is being held; also, I live there), I can’t say I really have a very good idea of who will win this one. Both teams have essentially the same strengths and weaknesses. Bama’s offense at peak efficiency is perhaps slightly more dynamic since Tua can run and pass, but Trevor Lawrence is so good for Clemson it doesn’t matter. That said, both defense are suffocating. Clemson got up on Notre Dame because all of their defensive backfield was hurt or otherwise on the bench. While secondaries are not typically where Nick Saban’s defenses make their hay, the Tide will have no such issues with their two-deep. Speaking of depth, though, Clemson’s defensive line play remains the class of college football. Even without Dexter Lawrence, it was just “next man up” and they absolutely suffocated Notre Dame’s offense for four quarters.
I don’t think last season’s semi-final loss will have any actual bearing on this game for Clemson. Also, their offense is just plain better than it was last year, and I think they’ll be able to run (well, let’s be honest, both teams are going to pass a lot) with Alabama and pull out a win in the end.
S&P+ line: Alabama by 1
Vegas line: Alabama by 6.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: These teams have now met 18 times. Despite what it feels like, only three of these meetings took place in the last five years. The series dates to a 35-0 Clemson win 1900. They would go on to record wins in 1904 and 1905, before embarking on a 17 game losing streak with meetings mostly in the 30’s and 60’s. They met in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship in 2016, where Alabama won 45-40. In 2017, Clemson finally broke the streak and won 35-31. Last season, they met in the semi-finals. Clemson lost the Sugar Bowl 24-6.
Last bowl game: On December 29, Alabama defeated Oklahoma 45-34, and Clemson dominated Notre Dame 30-3.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Bowl Games 2018: Everything Else

I’m currently sitting at 15-12 in my bowl predictions, which tracks with my historical average. Hopefully, I can get a good chunk of these right and lock this down as a finish above 0.500 after last year’s disastrous performance.

Monday, December 31
12:00: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): Well, these ones are always tough. You’ve got a 10-win G5 team in Cincy versus a power conference team that barely got into a bowl game in the first place. That is, I was conflicted until I remembered that VPI’s defense is terrible, so I’m going with Cicny here.
S&P+ line: Cincy -7.7
Vegas line: Cincy -4.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: They last met in the 2014 edition of this very game, so let’s consult the archives: “The series record is tied at 5-5, with several meetings in the Big East. The first, though, was the 1947 Sun Bowl, which Cincy won 18-6. After that, they met regularly from 1985 to 1991, and then again in 1995. VPI prevailed in the 2008-9 Orange Bowl 20-7, and the last meeting was a regular season contest in 2012. Cincinnati won 27-24.” VPI won that game 33-17, breaking the tie and giving them a 6-5 all-time lead.
Last bowl game: With Florida State going down, the Hokies are now owners of the nation’s longest bowl streak at 26 in a row. I can’t say I recall the 1993 Independence Bowl, which the Hokies won 45-20 over Indiana. Last season they lost 30-21 to Oklahoma in the Camping World Bowl. For Cincy, this is their first bowl game since a 42-7 loss to San Diego State in the Hawaii Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Corey and Rene Ingoglia

2:00: Pittsburgh vs. Stanford (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): This is Pitt’s first trip back to El Paso since possibly the worst bowl game ever, their infamous 3-0 loss to Oregon State in 2008. Presumably, they will score more than 3 points this time, but I still have Stanford here.
S&P+ line: Stanford -9.2
Vegas line: Stanford -6.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just three, all back in the heyday of Pitt football. Pitt won 16-7 in 1922, dropped the 1927-1928 Rose Bowl 7-6, and won 7-0 in 1932.
Last bowl game: This is Pitt’s first bowl appearance since a 31-24 loss to Northwestern in the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl. For the Cardinal, this is their tenth bowl in a row, dating back to the 2009 Sun Bowl, where they lost to Oklahoma 31-27. Last season Oklahoma lost 39-37 to TCU in the Alamo Bowl.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

3:00: Michigan State vs. Oregon (Redbox Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): Oregon looks revitalized on the offensive side of the ball, whereas Sparty, well, it may be a struggle for them to score points. Nonetheless, revel in the joy here of three different games on at the same time and relax. I like the Ducks here.
S&P+ line: MSU -2.5
Vegas line: Oregon -2.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: These two have met six times in regular-season home-and-home matchups. The first was 1979-80, followed by 1998-99, and most recently 2014-15. Michigan State won the last one 31-28, but the overall series is split 3-3.
Last bowl game: Last season the Spartans won 42-17 over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. Similarly, the Ducks lost 38-28 to Boise State in last season’s Las Vegas Bowl.
Announcers: Joe Davis and Brady Quinn

3:45: Oklahoma State vs. Missouri (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): Mizzou faces another one of its former conference-mates yet again, yet we still can’t get Texas and Texas A&M to play each other, in a bowl game or otherwise. (Then again, I also miss the Border War.) Anyway, two things to watch out for here. First, is that there figures to be plenty of offense, which will likely contrast sharply with the three games before this one during the day. Second, is that Mike Gundy wears an aviation headset on the sidelines. I’m assuming he paid for it in lieu of wearing the more generic looking sponsored headsets most coaches wear. At any rate, I like the Tigers here.
S&P+ line: MU -4.0
Vegas line: MU -7.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Suffice it to say these former Big 8 foes have met plenty of time in history, 52 to be exact. Their first meeting was in 1915, with regular games from 1949 through 1997, followed by a more intermittent period due to the Big 8 becoming the Big 12. Their last meeting was the 2013-2014 Cotton Bowl, which Mizzou won 41-31, and the Tigers lead the all-time series 29-23.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma State’s thirteenth bowl game in a row, dating back to the 2006 Independence Bowl, where they beat Alabama 34-31. They beat Virginia Tech 30-21 in last season’s Camping World Bowl. For Mizzou, they lost to another former Big 12 colleague, Texas, in the Texas Bowl, 33-16 last season.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Dan Orlovsky

7:00: Northwestern vs. Utah (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; FS1): As we settle into the evening slate, we get… one of the more lopsided matchups of bowl season. This is broadly assuming that Utah can slough-off their awful performance against Washington in the Pac-12 title game, because hey, at least Northwestern expected to get blown out in the Big Ten title game. Either way, usually Utah posses a functioning offense, which is not something the Wildcats can generally say. If nothing else, this will give you something to flip over to during commercial breaks during the Gator Bowl.
S&P+ line: Utah -15.5
Vegas line: Utah -7.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just two: a 13-6 Northwestern win in 1927, and a 42-0 Utah win in 1981.
Last bowl game: This is Northwestern’s fourth bowl game in a row, dating to a 45-6 loss to Tennessee in the 2015-16 Outback Bowl. Last season they beat Kentucky 24-23 in the Music City Bowl. For the Utes, this is their fifth game in a row, dating to a 45-10 win over Colorado State in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl. They’ve won four in a row, as well, with the most recent being a 30-14 win over West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joe Klatt

7:30: North Carolina State vs. Texas A&M (Gator Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): I might have underrated this game a bit in my watchability tiers. For starters, both these teams are pretty good. NC State was a very sneaky 9-3, and they’ll go up against a ranked yet 8-4 Texas A&M. Mainly, you should be hoping for at least a few overtimes (in fairness to TAMU, I’ll say that I’m not hoping they have to play seven overtimes again for a bowl game) in order to have a reasonably excuse to keep watching football instead of inane New Year’s countdown coverage. (I submit all you really need is a screen showing time.gov.) At any rate, I have no idea which of these good-but-not-that-good teams will win, so I picked the Aggies.
S&P+ line: TAMU -2.8
Vegas line: TAMU -5.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth bowl game in a row for NC State, dating to the 2015 Belk Bowl, where they lost 51-28 to Mississippi State. Last season they beat Arizona State 52-31 in the Sun Bowl. For the Aggies, this is their tenth bowl game in a row, dating to a 44-20 loss to Georgia in the 2009 Independence Bowl. Last season they lost 55-52 to Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl.
Announcers: Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, and Quint Kessenich

Tuesday, January 1
Noon: Iowa vs. Mississippi State (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): Shake off that hangover and steel yourself for the last full day of college football until Labor Day weekend. Here we have a matchup of a team that lost their eminently winnable division to Northwestern and a team that finished a respectable fourth behind teams like Alabama and LSU. The Bulldogs are a pretty good team stuck in what is probably the hardest division in college football, so I’m going with them.
S&P+ line: MSU -4.8
Vegas line: MSU -6.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: For the Hawkeyes, this is their sixth bowl game in a row, dating back to a 21-14 loss to LSU in the 2013-14 Outback Bowl. Last season they defeated Boston College 27-20 in the Pinstripe Bowl. For the Bulldogs, this is their ninth bowl game in a row, dating back to a 52-14 blowout of Michigan in the 2010-11 Gator Bowl. Last season they beat Louisville 31-27 in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Dusty Dvoracek

1:00:

  • Pennsylvania State vs. Kentucky (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): I could be wrong about this one. In fact, I could be way wrong. But I don’t see how Kentucky is going to score enough points to win this game. I just don’t.
    S&P+ line: PSU -9.5
    Vegas line: PSU -6.5
    Watchability tier: II
    Previous meetings: There’s been five meetings between these teams. The first four were split evenly back in the 70’s. The most recent was a 26-14 Penn State win in the 1998-99 Outback Bowl.
    Last bowl game: For the Nittany Lions, this is their fifth bowl game in a row, dating to a 31-30 win over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl. Last season they beat Washington 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. For the Wildcats, this is their third consecutive bowl game. They lost 33-18 to Georgia Tech in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl and also lost 24-23 to Northwestern in last season’s Music City Bowl.
    Announcers: Dave Flemming and Brock Huard
  • Central Florida vs. Louisiana State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Here we go again, but this time, the stakes are a bit more, well, they’re a bit more difficult to judge with UCF missing its star quarterback. I’m predicting a UCF win once again, but this will be a much harder road to hoe than last year.
    S&P+ line: UCF -4.8
    Vegas line: LSU -7.5
    Watchability tier: IV
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: For UCF, this is their third bowl game in a row. They lost 31-13 to Arkansas State in the 2016 Cure Bowl and beat Auburn 34-27 in last season’s Peach Bowl. For LSU, this have the fourth-longest bowl streak in the country, with this being their 19th consecutive bowl game. Their streak started with a 28-14 win over Georgia Tech in the 2000 Peach Bowl. Last season, they lost 21-17 to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl.
    Announcers: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Todd McShay

5:00: Ohio State vs. Washington (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): I think the Buckeyes will win this pretty easily, but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s the Rose Bowl, and you’re going to watch it because the grass will be as verdantly green as you can imagine, the lines on the field will be crisp and colorful in the red zones and end zones, half of the crowd of 90,000 will be in purple and the other in red, and the sun will set perfectly over the pleasingly shaped bowl of the one of the best venues in all of sports.
S&P+ line: OSU -2.8
Vegas line: OSU -6.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: These teams have met 11 times, and somewhat surprisingly, this game will their first meeting in the Rose Bowl. Their first meeting was in 1957, a 35-7 Buckeye victory. And that’s mostly been the story of this series, as Ohio State holds a 8-3 all-time lead. Their most recent meeting was a 33-14 Ohio State victory in 2007.
Last bowl game: This is Ohio State’s sixth bowl game in a row, dating back to the 2013-14 Orange Bowl, where they lost 40-35 to Clemson. Last season, they beat USC in the Cotton Bowl 24-7. For UDub, this is their ninth bowl game in a row, dating back to a 19-7 win over Nebraska in the 2010 Holiday Bowl. Last season they lost 35-28 to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

8:30: Texas vs. Georgia (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): And finally, we get to watch Georgia trounce a young Texas squad into oblivion. Oh boy, I can’t wait to hear more about how UGA should’ve been in the playoff over Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Woo, yeah, 2019 is just going to get off to an awesome start. Also, why does this game start at 8:30 but the late New Year’s Eve games start at 7:00 and 7:30?
S&P+ line: UGA -18.3
Vegas line: UGA -11.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Four meetings all-time, and two in bowl games. The first was the 1948-49 Orange Bowl, a 41-28 win. The Longhorns then won both games in a home-and-home in 1957 and 1958. The most recently meeting a 10-9 UGA victory in the 1983-84 Cotton Bowl.
Last bowl game: Texas’s last bowl game was last season’s 33-16 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl. Georgia now owns the second-longest bowl streak in the country, with this being their 22nd consecutive bowl game. Their streak began with a 33-6 win over Wisconsin in the 1997-98 Outback Bowl. Last season, they defeated Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl 54-48 before losing to Alabama 26-23 in the championship game.
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge

Bowl Games 2018: Playoff Madness

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

12:00: Michigan vs. Florida (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): Oh, gee, Michigan and Florida are playing in a bowl game again. Especially at Noon on a Saturday, in a game that was traditionally the last game on New Year’s Eve. At any rate, this Michigan team is pretty good, and this Florida team is just… I’m not entirely sure how to feel about them, honestly. I like the Wolverines here.
S&P+ line: UM -6.2
Vegas line: UM -7.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: As you may have heard, these two have met several times in bowl games recently. You may have also heard that Michigan tends to win. They won the 2002-03 Outback Bowl 38-30, the 2007-08 Capital One Bowl 41-35, the 2015-16 Citrus Bowl 41-7, and then decided to meet in an early season game last season, where the Wolverines won 33-17.
Last bowl game: For the Wolverines, this is their fourth straight bowl game. Their streak started with a 41-7 win over Florida in the 2014-15 Citrus Bowl. Last season, they lost 26-19 to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. For the Gators, this is their first bowl game since the 2015-16 Outback Bowl, where they beat Iowa 30-3.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

12:00: Virginia vs. South Carolina (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): I’m going to be honest: I picked South Carolina here entirely because I do not even remotely trust UVA’s offense to be competitive in this game.
S&P+ line: USC -2.5
Vegas line: USC -3.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: These former ACC foes have met 34 times. Their first meeting a 19-0 UVA win in 1912. With the formation of the ACC in 1951, they met regularly, including a few times in the 70’s and 80’s after South Carolina left the ACC. Their most recent meeting was a 31-7 South Carolian win, and the Gamecocks are 21-12-2 all-time against the Cavs.
Last bowl game: UVA lost last year’s Military Bowl to Navy, 49-7. This is the third bowl season in a row for the Gamecocks, going back to the 2016 Birmingham Bowl. They lost that game to USF 46-39. Last season they beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl 26-19.
Announcers: Adam Amin, Anthony Behct, and Rocky Boiman

1:00: Nevada vs. Arkansas State (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; CBSS): Let’s lightning round this so we can get to the playoff games: I picked Arkansas State here.
S&P+ line: ASU -4.9
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Five, surprisingly. Notably, though, the site I use for this info doesn’t actually have the month or day for the 1985 game, but Nevada apparently did win 24-23. Their last meeting was November 13, 1999, which the Red Wolves won 44-28. Nevada leads the all-time series 3-2.
Last bowl game: Nevada last bowled in 2015, when they were forced to play conference-mate Colorado State. They won 28-23. For Arkansas State, this is their eighth bowl in a row. Their streak started with a 38-20 loss to Northern Illinois in the 2010-11 GoDaddy.com Bowl. Last season they lost 35-30 to MTSU in the Camellia Bowl.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor

4:00: Clemson vs. Notre Dame (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): So Clemson and Alabama are big favorites in both fo their games. I suppose the angle here is to try to consider how these games might be competitive. Honestly, I’m having a harder time thinking of reasons why Notre Dame will win. Even with DT Dexter Lawrence suspended for the Tigers, their defensive line is so elite that it’s hard to fathom any offense having success against them. And look, this Notre Dame team is pretty good, but their signature and by far best win is a narrow victory over Michigan back on Labor Day weekend. I like Clemson here, and I like them a lot.
S&P+ line: CU -7.3
Vegas line: CU -11.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Just three. They split a pair of games in 1977 and 1979, and Clemson won the most recent matchup, a 24-22 win in 2015. The Tigers are thus 2-1 all-time.
Last bowl game: This is Clemson’s fourteenth bowl game in a row, last missing one in 2004 despite going 6-5. (If that counted, they’d get to tack on another 5 games.) So their current streak started with the 2005 Champ Sports Bowl, a 19-10 win over Colorado. Last season they lost 24-6 to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. For the Irish, the 4-8 campaign in 2016 wrecked a streak, so their last bowl game was a 21-17 win over LSU in last season’s Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge

8:00: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): So let’s get to the second game, where technically Alabama is a bigger favorite than Clemson is. And, yes, logically I understand that. But in my gut, I’m not sure I do. For starters, this is a matchup of two of the best offenses in college football. Oklahoma defense is… definitely lacking. But that’s not the point. The Sooners are used to shoot-outs, and I think they can hang with Bama. The thing is, though, we will find out if that will be the case very quickly. If Alabama gets up a couple of scores early, then we’ll know that the defense is out-executing Oklahoma and it’ll pretty much be over. I’m not sure that’s the way it’ll go, though, but I still like Alabama in the end.
S&P+ line: UA -7.5
Vegas line: UA -13.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: These traditional powers have met five times, mostly in bowls. The first meeting was the 1962-63 Orange Bowl, a 17-0 Crimson Tide victory. The next, though, was something called the “Astro-Blubonnet Bowl” in 1970, which ended with a 24-24 tie. Since then, it’s been all Sooners, with regular season wins in 2002 and 2003, plus a memorable blowout in the 2013-14 Sugar Bowl, a 45-31 OU win. Regardless of how this one goes, the Sooners will still lead the all-time series as they currently have a 3-1-1 advantage.
Last bowl game: It’s a 15 season bowl streak for the Tide, going back to a 20-16 loss to Minnesota in the 2004 Music City Bowl. Last season Bama beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl 24-6 and won the championship 26-23 over Georgia. For the Sooners, this is their twentieth postseason game in a row, which is now the third longest streak in the nation. That streak goes all the way back to the 1999 Independence Bowl, where they lost 27-25 to Ole Miss. Last season the Sooners lost 54-48 to Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Bowl Games 2018: Weeknight Warmups

The next phase of bowl season kicks off with three games on each day after Christmas. We’ll talk about those nine games here.

As for my picks, I started off pretty strong, going 5-0 on the opening Saturday. However, I then followed it up with a 3-5 performance over the rest of the games heading into Christmas.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Wednesday, December 26
1:30: Boise State vs. Boston College (First Responder Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): Boston College’s offensive issues make it really hard for me to pick them as a favorite here in the Zombie Cotton Bowl. Boise, of course, occasionally has offensive issues of their own, and BC’s defense could pose a problem, but I still like the Broncos here.
S&P+ line: BSU -8.8
Vegas line: BSU -2.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one 13 years ago, back when this game was the MPC Computers Bowl. Boston College won 27-21.
Last bowl game: I’ve almost certainly written about Boise State’s bowl streak before, which is now tied with Wisconsin for the fifth-longest streak in the country at 17 straight postseason appearances. But in addition to the bit where they have been to a bowl game every season since the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl (where they beat Iowa State 34-16), they could have gone bowling at 8-4 in 2001, which would connect them to the 1999 and 2000 seasons where they had a combined record of 20-5. But wait, there’s more, as the Broncos were also eligible in 1998 at 6-5 but not invited. So if you include those four games, that’s actually 21 straight seasons above 0.500. That sustained level of success, across four coaches in freakin’ Boise, Idaho is really kind of amazing. Oh, right, for Boston College this is their third straight bowl game. They beat Maryland 36-30 in the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl and lost 27-20 to Iowa in last year’s Pinstripe Bowl.
Announcers: Lowell Galindo and Ahmad Brooks

5:15: Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): This is a tough one. Obviously, I’m going to miss Paul Johnson and his style of offense. Watching Army obliterate Houston the other day didn’t help. I’m still incredibly upset at how absolutely screwed we got by the bowls and the ACC with this bowl assignment. A game in Detroit the day after Christmas was about the worst case scenario for me in terms of trying to go to Tech’s last game under Johnson. It still doesn’t make any sense to me. Regardless, I hope the coaches and players don’t feel that way and absolutely go out and send CPJ out the right way.
S&P+ line: UMN -2.4
Vegas line: GT -5.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Gophers are rowing the boat to a bowl game for the first time since the 2016 Holiday Bowl, where they beat Washington State 17-12. For the Yellow Jackets, this is the first bowl appearance since the 33-18 beatdown of Kentucky in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Neely and Ray Bentley

9:00: Texas Christian vs. California (Cheez-It Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): It’s hard to find much to recommend in this game beyond “it’s football, it’s on TV, and it features two Power 5 conference teams”. Both teams struggle to score and this figures to be a low-scoring defensive struggle, which definitely favors the Bears.
S&P+ line: TCU -1.4
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: For TCU, this is their fourth straight bowl game, dating to the 2014 Peach Bowl, where they demolished Ole Miss 42-3. They beat Stanford 39-37 in last season’s Alamo Bowl. Cal’s last postseason appearance was the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl, which was a 55-36 win over Air Force.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

Thursday, December 27
1:30: Duke vs. Temple (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): Meanwhile, our new coach’s old team faces Duke over in Shreveport. Yes, I would’ve preferred to go here over Detroit. That said, Duke will presumably recover from their season ending disaster against Wake Forest (seriously, it might have been the most surprising result of the year) and use that motivation to outrun Temple.
S&P+ line: Temple -6.7
Vegas line: Temple -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Duke defeated Northern Illinois in last season’s Quick Lane Bowl 36-15. This is Temple’s fourth straight bowl game, dating to the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl, which they lost 32-17 to Toledo. Last season they beat FIU 28-3 in the Gasparilla Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Kirk Morrison

5:15: Miami vs. Wisconsin (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): Neither team really has a functional quarterback, which is how the Badgers did things like “lose by three touchdowns to Minnesota to end the season”. I think the Canes are just marginally more effective on offense, though.
S&P+ line: UM -0.7
Vegas line: UM -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Wisconsin leads the all-time series 3-2. They first met in 1958, where the Badgers won 20-0. Suffice it to say, the Canes of the late-80’s turned the tables in 1988 and 1989, winning by a combined score of 74-6. The last two meetings were in bowl games: the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl (20-14 in favor of Wisconsin) and the last season’s Orange Bowl (34-24, again Wisconsin).
Last bowl game: For the Canes, this is this their sixth straight bowl game. Their streak started with a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. For the Badgers, this is the 17th straight bowl game, a record that ties them with Boise State for the fifth best streak in the country. As such, their streak began with a 31-28 win over Colorado in the 2002 Alamo Bowl. The most recent game for either was, you guessed it, last season’s Orange Bowl, which as previously noted the Badgers won 34-24.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Mike Golic Jr, and Dan Orlovsky

9:00: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): Vandy seems to be a slight favorite here, but I like Baylor’s offense a lot better here.
S&P+ line: Vandy -3.3
Vegas line: Vandy -3.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Baylor is undefeated against Vandy, winning 47-6 in 1953 and 25-19 in 1954.
Last bowl game: Baylor’s 1-11 season last year snapped a seven game bowl streak, so their last appearance in a bowl was the 2016 Cactus Bowl, where they defeated Boise State 31-12. Vandy’s last postseason appearance was the 2016 Independence Bowl, where they lost 41-17 to NC State.
Announcers: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, and Cole Cubelic

Friday, December 28
1:30: Purdue vs. Auburn (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): After the magical upset of Ohio State back in late October, the Boilermakers have gone 2-3. Auburn hasn’t had a magical, well, anything this season, so the “Fire Gus!” undercurrents are as strong as ever. Naturally, according to the rules of Auburn football, this means Auburn will win in a blowout.
S&P+ line: AU -6.1
Vegas line: AU -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Auburn’s sixth straight bowl game. Their streak started with a 34-31 loss to Florida State in the 2013-14 BCS Championship game. Last season, they also lost to an eventual national champion, falling to UCF 34-27 in the Peach Bowl. The Boilermakers won last season’s Foster Farms Bowl 38-35 over Arizona.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

5:15: Syracuse vs. West Virginia (Camping World Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): This incredibly interesting matchup will be slightly less interesting due to West Virginia quarterback Will Grier forgoing the game. Nonetheless, this matchup of former Big East foes promises to feature offense galore. This game should be the perfect antidote if you haven’t found most of the games interesting so far. I still like WVU, but less than I did back when I made the picks.
S&P+ line: WVU -6.5
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Let’s see, their last meeting was the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, which the Orange won 38-14. What else did I say about this former Big East series at the time? Well: “With both being Northeastern independents at one time or another and then members of the Big East, they’ve met 59 times dating back to 1945. Syracuse has the slight edge all time (32-27) and won their last regular season meeting last year, 49-23.” So the Orange are now 33-27, and, well, let’s just say my prediction of a WVU blowout didn’t come to pass.
Last bowl game: The Orange’s last bowl appearance was the 2013 Texas Bowl, where they beat Minnesota 21-17. This is the fifth straight bowl game for the Mountaineers, dating to the 2014 Liberty Bowl, where they lost 45-37 to Texas A&M. Last season WVU lost to Utah in the Heart of Dallas Bowl 30-14.
Announcers: Dave Flemming, Rod Gilmore, and Quint Kessenich

9:00: Iowa State vs. Washington State (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): Finally, we conclude this slate of bowls with Wazzu in the Alamodome. The bit there is “dome”: any chance Wazzu had against Washington was the terrible weather for a passing offense. I this rated more highly because this will have a unique offense, but I like the Cougars by a lot here.
S&P+ line: WSU -6.9
Vegas line: WSU -3.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Iowa State defeated Memphis 21-20 in last season’s Liberty Bowl. This is Wazzu’s fourth straight bowl game, going back to the 2015 Sun Bowl, a 20-14 win over Miami. Last season they lost 42-17 to Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, and Tom Luginbill