Bowl Games 2014: Opening Slate

Welcome to the opening of Bowl Season 2014-2015. This year’s slate is larger than ever with 38 games, and it also features the first ever play-off in major college football. As usual, I’ve got all my predictions available here, and I’ll be publishing these previews in chunks. (Getting the scores in for all the games may take a bit, but I assure you as of this writing I’ve at least picked all my winners.) Get a fire going (if you’ve got a fireplace and stuff), sit down in your favorite chair, enjoy a warming beverage, and get ready for a ton of football.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 20
11:00: Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): This is effectively a home game for UL-Lafayette, but Nevada plays in a tougher conference, has done better against Power 5 foes, and otherwise has numbers comparable to the Ragin’ Cajuns, so I’m going with the Pack.
Previous meetings: Just one, in 1995. The Wolfpack won 38-14.
Last bowl game: Nevada snapped an 8 consecutive bowl streak last year by going 4-8, so their last appearance was the 2012 New Mexico Bowl, where they lost 49-48 to Arizona. This the Ragin’ Cajuns’ fourth straight appearance in the New Orleans Bowl. They beat Tulane 24-21 last year.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Mack Brown

2:20: Utah State vs. Texas-El Paso (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): Despite the loss of their star quarterback, Utah State has managed to find a way this year, going a respectable 9-4. UTEP has had a good year, but all things considered Utah State looks like a stronger team.
Previous meetings: Two, way back in 1960 and 1961. Utah State won 20-7 and 21-6, respectively.
Last bowl game: This is the Aggies’ fourth straight bowl game. They beat Northern Illinois 21-14 in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl. This is the Miners’ first bowl appearance since the 2010 edition of this game, where they got blown out 52-24 by BYU.
Announcers: Mark Neely and David Diaz-Infante

3:30: Utah vs. Colorado State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): Colorado State was one of the darlings of the mid-majors this year, and with their wins over Boston College and Colorado I still think they were one of the best. However, their loss to Boise and an upset by Air Force left them in the cold. Utah, meanwhile, enters ranked. While this isn’t their first bowl as a Pac-12 member, things have to feel like they’re on the up-and-up. That will be but to the test against a very tough foe. I like the Utes, but not by much.
Previous meetings: These former conference foes have played 79 times going back to 1902. They met regularly from 1926 until Utah joined in the Pac-12 in 2011 (though there was a gap between 1965 and 1971). Utah won the last five meetings in a row and holds a pretty good edge overall, 55-22-2.
Last bowl game: This is Utah’s first bowl game since the 2011 Sun Bowl, where they beat Georgia Tech 30-27. The Rams broke a bowl-less streak last year with a 48-45 win over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer
Fun fact: Provided you don’t care for your liver, take a shot every time Uncle Brent makes an oblique (or not-so-oblique) gambling reference during the course of the game. This game should be pretty good anyway, but this definitely adds an additional layer of intrigue.

5:45: Western Michigan vs. Air Force (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; EPSN): This is a toss-up for me. Going with Air Force, but I can’t say I have a whole bunch of confidence.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Western Michigan was last seen in the 2011 Little Ceasars Bowl, where they lost 37-32 to Purdue. Last year’s 2-10 debacle snapped a pretty good bowl streak for the Air Force Academy. Back in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl, they lost 33-14 to Rice.
Announcers: Eamon McAnaney and Dan Hawkins

9:15: Bowling Green vs. South Alabama (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): South Alabama is rapidly turning into a refuge for UAB’s cast-offs, but that’s not immediately relevant to this game. What is relevant is me finding scant reasons to pick a 7-6 MAC team over a 6-6 Sun Belt team, but that’s what I’m doing anyway.
Previous meetings: this is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Bowling Green’s third straight bowl game. Last year they lost 30-27 to Pittsburgh in the Little Ceasars Bowl. As you might’ve guessed, this is South Alabama’s first ever bowl game.
Announcers: Dave Lamont and Joey Galloway