This Weekend in College Football: Week 0

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:00: Miami vs. Florida (@Orlando, FL; ESPN): I can only imagine that the players in this contest are wondering what deity they wronged in a previous life to be forced to play this game in Orlando a week earlier than the rest of college football plays. The sun may well be below the tops of the stands by the time this one starts, but nonetheless let me tell y’all: humid air holds that heat right in. Also, I’ll take the Gators.

10:30: Arizona @ Hawaii (CBSS): Even though this Week 0 has only two games, I do like that it sort of gives me a proper start of the season since I’ll be otherwise occupied during Week 1, as I usually am. As for this specific contest, well, shucks, I dunno, probably Arizona? Hopefully they’ll run some sort of offense this year that actually utilizes their quarterback properly, which would make me feel a lot better about this pick.

Rating the 2019 Non-Conference Slate

Once again, my brother and I have assigned ratings to every single Power 5 conference team (and a select few Group of 5 teams, more on that in a second). You can view our methodology here.

This year we rated 71 teams, including 23 teams we rated as 0. Group of 5 teams that were rated higher than 0 were Central Florida (0.75), Cincinnati (0.25), Houston (0.5), Brigham Young (0.25), and Boise State (0.5). 11 teams rated as 0.25, 11 also rated as 0.5, 5 rated as 0.75, and 21 rated as 1.

The 21 teams earning a 1 were: Alabama, Auburn, California-Los Angeles, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisiana State, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pennsylvania State, Southern California, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The average ratings for each Power 5 conference were

  1. Pac-12 (0.521)
  2. Big 12 (0.5)
  3. SEC (0.482)
  4. Big Ten (0.446)
  5. ACC (0.392)

The general rule is that since this is an average, the smaller conferences have an advantage since their 1’s count more, in essence. The SEC and Big Ten have five 1’s each, which outranks anyone else, but they’re dragged down by the Vanderbilts and Rutgers of the world.

First, a quick key: “legit” is the sum of all ratings of all the out-of-conference games a team plays; “FCS” is the number of FCS teams scheduled, and each FCS team is indicated in italics; “N-” indicates that the game will be played at a neutral site; “@” indicates the game is an away game, all other games not otherwise indicated are home games.

ACC

  1. Duke (2 legit, 1 FCS): N-Alabama, North Carolina A&T, @Middle Tennessee State, Notre Dame. Even though I don’t usually give ACC teams credit for playing Notre Dame (due to the Irish being quasi-ACC members), this is still a pretty onerous schedule, especially with a potentially feisty trip to Murfreesboro.
  2. Pittsburgh (1.75, 1): Ohio, @Pennsylvania State, Central Florida, Delaware. It’s always nice to see old rivalries dusted off, so bonus points are earned here. Oh, and yeah they play UCF. Have fun with that!
  3. Florida State (1.5, 1): N-Boise State, Louisiana-Monroe, Alabama State, @Florida. Florida State-Boise State is one of the more intriguing Week 1 contests. That’ll be a good milepost for both teams. For FSU, it will indicate whether or not they can field an offensive line this season. For Boise, it’s their only shot at a power conference team all year, and they’ll need the win to make an argument over UCF or Houston for that coveted Group of 5 spot in the New Year’s Day bowls.
  4. Georgia Tech (1, 1): South Florida, Citadel, @Temple, Georgia. This could be very much a Year 0 for my beloved Jackets. The USF game sets up right there in Week 2 after what will surely be a… rough start after Week 1’s ACC Network ritual sacrifice at Clemson. The Citadel looks to be one of the only sure wins on the schedule. Somehow we managed to hire a coach from a school that we would play in his first season, and there’s a fair chance they may beat us. And then there’s UGA. I’m still mildly amazed that not only did Paul Johnson manage to beat them three times, but that all three wins were in Athens. While we did miss seeing the students rush the field and tear down the goalposts, we did get plenty of overwrought press about hedge damage, so I guess it evens out.
  5. Miami (1, 1): N-Florida, Bethune-Cookman, Central Michigan, N-Florida International. I know it really wreaks havoc with their out-of-conference scheduling, but Miami should play Florida every year. Now, whether or not they should play in Week 0 in Orlando is an open question.
  6. Louisville (1, 1): Notre Dame, Eastern Kentucky, N-Western Kentucky, @Kentucky. Props to directional Kentucky schools for consistently being Eastern and Western, unlike certain other states that we’ll get to in a minute. Oh, and Louisville is going to be a tire first this year. But hey, you guys were the only football team in the universe that wanted to hire a Bobby Petrino a second time, so you should’ve known what you were getting into.
  7. Boston College (1, 1): Richmond, Kansas, @Rutgers, @Notre Dame. They’re rated seventh because they managed to schedule the arguably two worst teams in the Power 5 conferences, but somehow that still gets them above Virginia. Look, I don’t make the rules… oh, wait, yes I do, nevermind.
  8. Virginia (1, 1): William & Mary, Old Dominion, @Notre Dame, Liberty. Would UVA fans take a deal wherein they lose to ODU like Virginia Tech did last year in exchange for UVA beating Virginia Tech this year? Seriously Hoos, think about it.
  9. Virginia Tech (1, 2): Old Dominion, Furman, Rhode Island, @Notre Dame. VPI gets to exact revenge on those devious Monarchs, except that, well, the Hokies may be worse this year. Oh, and they get to go to South Bend, that should be fun. Also remember that only one of the FCS teams counts for bowl eligibility. They currently hold the nation’s longest consecutive bowl streak with Florida State bowing out this year, but it could real tough for the Hokies this year.
  10. Clemson (0.75, 1): Texas A&M, Charlotte, Wofford, @South Carolina. Unfortunately for Clemson, South Carolina is just, kinda, well, South Carolina. Otherwise the Texas A&M game would allow them to be rated here, but that’s just the way it goes.
  11. North Carolina State (0.5, 1): East Carolina, Western Carolina, @West Virginia, Ball State. East Carolina and Western Carolina are both in North Carolina. The question is: why is one East and the other Western? The world may never know.
  12. Wake Forest (0.25, 1): Utah State, @Rice, North Carolina, Elon. Wake could well lose two of these games. Oof. Well, then again, UNC may be a trash fire in Mack’s first year, and Utah state is certainly winnable, even if the Aggies are one of the best G5 teams. Rice, though? Yeah, that’s a win.
  13. North Carolina (0, 1): N-South Carolina, Wake Forest, Appalachian State, Mercer. And since I forgot to mention it in the Wake blurb up there: yes, Wake Forest and North Carolina are playing a non-conference game against each other. It’s dumb, yes, but it’s also a good indication of how broken the ACC’s division structure is. The last time the two in-state rivals played was in 2015, and the next time they’ll play is in-conference is 2022. So dumb.
  14. Syracuse (0, 1): @Liberty, @Maryland, Western Michigan, Holy Cross. I’m still more than willing to give some side-eye to scheduling two non-conference road games in the same season. Especially if one of them is frickin’ Liberty.

Big Ten

  1. Michigan (1, 0): Middle Tennessee State, Army, Notre Dame. The Big Ten could be admired for its scheduling ethos of discouraging FCS opponents and matchups against other FBS teams, especially from the Power 5 conferences. However, the actual implementation, at least for 2019, seems to have created a situation where no Big Ten team plays a really, truly exciting non-conference game. Like, the most talked about Big Ten out-of-conference game that I’ve heard about all offseason is Army going to Ann Arbor. Look, I know they took Oklahoma to overtime last year, but I don’t think Michigan will be fooled. 
  2. Purdue (0.75, 0): @Nevada, Vanderbilt, Texas Christian. This schedule, with its three distinct tiers of teams, should provide the Boilermakers with a good indication of where they’re at entering conference play.
  3. Northwestern (0.75, 0): @Stanford, Nevada-Las Vegas, Massachusetts. Northwestern-Stanford is a good series, but I’m not sure the games themselves will be all that exciting. 
  4. Nebraska (0.25, 0): South Alabama, @Colorado, Northern Illinois. One thing that does pop up a couple of times in this Big Ten slate is the rekindling of a couple of old rivalries. Here, we’ve got the Cornhuskers making their first trip to Boulder since 2010. The two teams played every season from 1949 until then, and picked up a home-and-home last year that the Buffs won 33-28. Nebraska has dominated the all-time series, 49-19-2. 
  5. Michigan State (0.25, 0): Tulsa, Western Michigan, Arizona State. Sparty gets a visit from the Sun Devils after losing a 16-13 contest last year. I doubt the return leg will be much more pointsy than the first, but like I said with this Big Ten slate, we’ll take what we can get.
  6. Ohio State (0.25, 0): Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Miami. Cincinnati and Ohio State basically never play, and when they do it hasn’t been competitive. The Buckeyes are 14-2 all time, and those two losses came in the 19th century. So, yeah, it’d be tough to call that a rivalry.
  7. Iowa (0.25, 0): Miami, @Iowa State, Middle Tennessee State. MTSU plays Michigan, Duke, and Iowa non-conference. Get money get paid, I suppose.
  8. Rutgers (0, 0): Massachusetts, Boston College, Liberty. Rutgers is basically at the top of the heap here because BC is a Power 5 team and they don’t play any FBS teams, though UMass and Liberty are probably some of the weakest FBS opponents you could possibly schedule.
  9. Maryland (0, 1): Howard, Syracuse, @Temple. I made the executive decision here to rate teams that play other Power 5 teams ahead of the ones that don’t, even if they play a FBS team. Also, the game at Temple could be kinda spicy.
  10. Pennsylvania State (0, 1): Idaho, Buffalo, Pittsburgh. Penn State played Pitt basically every year before they joined the Big Ten, so always good to see that sort of thing. Of course, right now the two teams are… far apart, with the last two meetings in 2017 and 2018 having a combined score of Penn State 84, Pittsburgh 20.
  11. Wisconsin (0, 0): @South Florida, Central Michigan, Kent State. Wisconsin goes down to Orlando for Week 1. Bring sunscreen, some shorts, and try to stay hydrated, Wisconsinites.
  12. Minnesota (0, 1): South Dakota State, @Fresno State, Georgia Southern. I think it’s way more like the Gophers go 3-0 against this slate than 0-3, but boy howdy this is about as hard as a schedule you could come up with without any Power 5 teams. You have a FCS national title contender, a road trip to Fresno, and you have an option. Have fun!
  13. Illinois (0, 0): Akron, @Connecticut, Eastern Michigan. Even Illinois can probably go 3-0 against this bunch. Oof.
  14. Indiana (0, 1): N-Ball State, Eastern Illinois, Connecticut. And finally, we’ve got the Hoosiers. It’s difficult for me to think of anything to really say about this schedule, it sort of just is. The “neutral site” game is in Idianapolis, for what it’s worth.

Big 12

  1. Oklahoma (1.5, 1): Houston, South Dakota, @California-Los Angeles. I’m sure Sooner fans would like to contrast them playing Houston while Texas plays Rice, but it’s not like Oklahoma plays Houston all the time. USD is probably the least successful of the Dakota schools, and UCLA, well, they’re still rebuilding.
  2. Texas (1, 0): Louisiana Tech, Louisiana State, N-Rice. This past summer was the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the surface of the moon, so I’ll use that as a weak excuse to re-link my preview from 9 years ago. Still applicable and they’re playing once again in Houston’s NFL stadium. In other news, the Longhorns will also play two teams from Louisiana, once of which they should be vastly more worried about than the other.
  3. West Virginia (0.5, 1): James Madison, @Missouri, North Carolina State. I still have to remind myself that WVU-Mizzou is not a repeat of the Wake Forest-UNC situation, as it’s actually a non-conference game. The weirdest part to me, though, is that I can always instantaneously recall that West Virginia is in the Big 12 now, but it always takes me a second to remember that Mizzou joined the SEC. Maybe it’s because WVU’s former home, the Big East, isn’t a football conference anymore? Who knows, brains are weird.
  4. Iowa State (0.5, 1): Northern Iowa, Iowa, Louisiana-Monroe. As per usual, Iowa State’s schedule is filled with as many Iowa teams as they can get credit for playing. Of course, this occasionally backfires, by which I mean Iowa State has lost 3 of their last 5 games against UNI. Even funnier, of course, are the occasions where they lose to UNI and then beat Iowa, which last happened in 2014. El Assico is truly the most underrated rivalry in sports.
  5. Kansas State (0.25, 1): Nicholls State, Bowling Green, @Mississippi State. The post-Synder era gets a relatively soft landing to start off, assuming of course they don’t start 0-3 and immediately bring him back.
  6. Texas Christian (0.25, 1): Arkansas-Pine Bluff, @Purdue, Southern Methodist. I had to look this up: apparently TCU and SMU play every year, even though TCU is now in the Big 12, though apparently the contract runs out after this season. Let’s hope the Battle for the Iron Skillet gets picked back up soon.
  7. Oklahoma State (0, 1): @Oregon State, McNeese State, @Tulsa. I guess maybe there is something to scheduling “winnable” road games, unless of course this is actually THE YEAR OF THE BEAVER and OSU is merely west coast OSU’s first victim.
  8. Texas Tech (0, 1): Montana State, Texas-El Paso, @Arizona. Who knows how good Arizona will e this year, and it’s also entirely possible UTEP may be worse than Montana State this year. Overall a manageable slate for first-year head coach Matt Wells. 
  9. Kansas (0, 1): Indiana State, Coastal Carolina, @Boston College. Still astonished that Les Miles is the new head coach at KU. Hopefully their new-found chestiness will get them at least two wins out of this slate, because, well, they’re Kansas.
  10. Baylor (0, 1): Stephen F. Austin, Texas-San Antonio, @Rice. See Texas, if Baylor can be bothered to play at the Rice Bowl, why can’t you?

Pac-12

  1. Stanford (1.75, 0): Northwestern, @Central Florida, Notre Dame. I’m sure the road game at UCF seemed like a good idea the time, but… yeah, instead Stanford has what may be the most difficult out-of-conference slate for a Power 5 team. Good luck!
  2. California-Los Angeles (1.25, 0): @Cincinnati, San Diego State, Oklahoma. 1-2 or 0-3 is not out of the question for UCLA against this slate. Oof.
  3. Southern California (1.25, 0): Fresno State, @Brigham Young, @Notre Dame. Speaking of 1-2 or 0-3, look at this banger for USC. Yes, they should beat Fresno and BYU, but will they? Or will it finally be enough to get rid of Clay Helton, whose name I have just finally been able to consistently remember?
  4. Colorado (1, 0): N-Colorado State, Nebraska, Air Force. Two in-state schools and an old Big 8 rival. Checks out.
  5. Oregon (1, 1): N-Auburn, Nevada, Montana. I felt bad about rating Oregon’s schedule this low, especially given they have a feisty FCS team on the schedule. But rules are rules, and it’s my job to (arbitrarily) enforce them. 
  6. Oregon State (1, 1): Oklahoma State, @Hawaii, California Polytechnic State. Trying to figure out what to put there for Cal Poly was perhaps the hardest part of this whole preview. As you may have noticed, I prefer using the “full name” of the schools when possible. The Wikipedia article for Cal Poly does say “California Polytechnic State University”, so that’s what I went with.
  7. Arizona State (0.5, 1): Kent State, Sacramento State, @Michigan State.  Well, I already talked about ASU going to East Lansing, so… um, well, Have You Considered Arizona State?
  8. Washington State (0.5, 1): New Mexico State, Northern Colorado, N-Houston. So yeah, Houston plays both Oregon and Wazzu this season. If they want to go for it under Year 1 with Dana Holgorsen, well, they certainly have the schedule to do so.
  9. California (0.25, 1): California-Davis, North Texas, @Mississippi. Well, I don’t know how many Ole Miss fans made it out to Berkeley last year, but boy howdy I hope some of the native California types I know decide to make the trip to Oxford. I’m chuckling quietly to myself just thinking about the culture shock. (Well, imagined culture shock, because being from Alabama it’s a point of pride that I’ve only ever crossed the Mississippi state line for transportation purposes, and also one Boy Scout trip to Vicksburg. After all, when you’re the 49th ranked state in most metrics, you gotta keep up appearances when dealing with the 50th ranked state.)
  10. Utah (0.25, 1): @Brigham Young, Northern Illinois, Idaho State. The Holy War is back once again, thankfully.
  11. Washington (0.25, 1): Eastern Washington, Hawaii, @Brigham Young. One of these days, we gotta figure out how to get a FBS team to visit Eastern Washington’s blood red field, but until then, we’ll just have to settle for them to visit Seattle.
  12. Arizona (0, 1): @Hawaii, Northern Arizona, Texas Tech. 2019: Hawaii tries to beat the entire Pac-12! Well, at least it feels that way. The Bearcats also will try to avoid losing to NAU for the first time since 1932.

SEC

  1. Florida (2, 2): N-Miami, Tennessee-Martin, Towson, Florida State. I felt conflicted on this one. I usually don’t give credit for rivalry games, but Florida-Miami isn’t a regularly scheduled game. On the other hand, the Gators also play two FCS teams. Regardless, playing Miami is enough to vault them to the top.
  2. Georgia (1.5, 1): Murray State, Arkansas State, Notre Dame, @Georgia Tech. The Irish head down to Athens this year, which, well, have fun with that y’all. 
  3. South Carolina (1.25, 1): N-North Carolina, Charleston Southern, Appalachian State, Clemson. Well, the UNC-USC game has a Wiki page, so I guess it’s a real rivalry? Also I would be delighted if they managed to lose to App State.
  4. Texas A&M (1, 1): Texas State, @Clemson, Lamar, Texas-San Antonio. A&M-Clemson is definitely one of the headlining out-of-conference games of the season, but the lack of any other meat on this schedule results in a 4th place ranking.
  5. Louisiana State (1, 1): Georgia Southern, @Texas, Northwestern State, Utah State. LSU gets a bump above Auburn thanks to Georgia Southern, since I consider Texas and Oregon to be a wash. Utah State doesn’t hurt either.
  6. Auburn (1, 1): N-Oregon, Tulane, Kent State, Samford. See above. Like I said about TAMU, there’s not much else here other than Oregon. 
  7. Missouri (0.5, 1): @Wyoming, West Virginia, Southeast Missouri State, Troy. Mizzou goes to Wyoming in Week 0, don’t sleep on that y’all. Also, they somehow guaranteed they would get Neal Brown, thanks to him leaving Troy for… West Virginia.
  8. Mississippi State (0.5, 1): N-Louisiana-Lafayette, Southern Mississippi, Kansas State, Abilene Christian. They’re playing the Ragin’ Cajuns in New Orleans which seems like a… poor idea. I mean, the Bulldogs should win easily, but most of the time when these types of games are scheduled you don’t schedule a Group of 5 team that could actually sell their 50% allotment of the seats. This schedule continues to be pretty feisty with visits from Southern Miss and K-State.
  9. Vanderbilt (0.25, 1): @Purdue, Northern Illinois, Nevada-Las Vegas, East Tennessee State. I’m having a hard time thinking of any particular thoughts or feelings about this schedule.
  10. Alabama (0.25, 1): N-Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Mississippi, Western Carolina. Well, unlike in years past, I probably won’t have to worry about the Labor Day game. Also, you’ll hear a lot about Southern Miss beating Alabama, which is fun and all, but the last time happened was in 2000. Want to feel old? The freshmen on these teams weren’t alive when that happened. You’re welcome.
  11. Tennessee (0.25, 1): Georgia State, Brigham Young, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Alabama-Birmingham. Believer or not, Tennessee beating BYU would probably be a good indicator of how good the Vols will be under new management. Also, watch out for UAB.
  12. Mississippi (0, 1): @Memphis, Southeastern Louisiana, California, New Mexico State. It’s time for your annual reminder that Memphis is in fact in Tennessee, not Mississippi, and that Ole Miss could well lose that game. Also, I already talked about Berkeley-ites going to Oxford, MS, so go read that again and pretend that I also wrote it here.
  13. Kentucky (0, 1): Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Tennessee-Martin, Louisville. This is definitely a list of teams that Kentucky will play this season, no doubt about it. Well, unless there’s some sort of natural disaster, I guess.
  14. Arkansas (0, 1): Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State, Western Kentucky. For being at the bottom of the list, this is actually a delightfully odd schedule. Oh, for sure the Razorbacks will be well and truly favored in all these games, but look at the geography: outside of the Hilltoppers, you’ve got two teams from the Mountain West Conference and a FCS team from Oregon. Wonder if Arkansas has to pay more than usual for a Group of 5/FCS team if they’re that far away.

And now, the requisite epilogue section. First up is the List of Shame, for teams that play more than one FCS opponent. This year, I’ve got two entries, and no good excuses, as far as I know: Virginia Tech and Florida. That’s it! Good job, everyone else.

Next up, the list of teams that play more than one Power Five team:

  • Duke (Alabama, Notre Dame)
  • Louisville (Notre Dame, Kentucky)
  • Boston College (Kansas, Rutgers, Notre Dame)
  • Clemson (Texas A&M, South Carolina)
  • North Carolina (South Carolina, Wake Forest)
  • Stanford (Northwestern, Notre Dame)
  • Florida (Miami, Florida State)
  • Georgia (Notre Dame, Georgia Tech)
  • South Carolina (North Carolina, Clemson)
  • West Virginia (Missouri, North Carolina State)
  • Purdue (Vanderbilt, Texas Christian)

Yeah, maybe Notre Dame shouldn’t count for ACC teams. I’m debating that for next year. 

And finally, here are the conference’s average “legit” ratings:

  1. Pac-12 (0.25)
  2. ACC (0.188)
  3. SEC (0.17)
  4. Big 12 (0.133)
  5. Big Ten (0.083)

For the fourth year in a row, the Big Ten is dead last. As I said last year, and again this year, it seems that the Big Ten’s scheduling guidelines don’t really do a lot to help create interesting matchups. The Pac-12 and Big 12 also have only three out-of-conference games and their teams seem to do a consistently better job scheduling these games. Hopefully this changes soon. 

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