Yearly Archives: 2015

Bowl Games 2015: Playoffs?!?

So my last-minute switch to North Carolina didn’t quite work out, but it was mostly a fun game nonetheless. Watching a team that normally will get 600 years in the air do it on the ground was kind of amazing, really.

Anyway, let’s cover today’s games as well as the New Year’s Eve playoff slate which ESPN is desperately hoping you watch instead of Ryan Seacrest and company.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Wednesday, December 30
Noon: Auburn vs. Memphis (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): Okay, I’m sure Memphis is probably slightly bummed about their season, even though it managed to propel their head coach to the Virginia Tech job. That said, they already managed to beat a pretty good SEC team this year (at least, one that is definitively better than Auburn) and Auburn’s offense is basically kind of a disaster this year. This game could be high scoring, but I’m thinking Memphis will win by double-digits.
Confidence: 34
Previous Meetings: Just two meetings of these two Tigers, in 1975 and 1976. Memphis won both, 31-20 and 28-27, respectively.
Last bowl game: Auburn’s three game bowl streak is a study in contrasts but also similarities. It dates to the 2013-2014 BCS Championship Game, where they lost 34-31 to Florida State. Last season, they lost… 34-31 to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. (If Auburn scores 31 in this game with their current offense, well, I’d be surprised.) Memphis beat BYU 55-48 in last season’s Miami Beach Bowl, but perhaps the real victory was getting the Stormin’ Mormons mad enough to spark a brawl afterward.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

3:30: North Carolina State vs. Mississippi State (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): The Wolfpack’s schedule this year was an exercise in the fine art of ensuring bowl eligibility. They lost to every superior team they’ve played, and I expect that to continue here. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are not exactly juggernauts, but they’re a solid, middle-of-the-pack SEC. Given their respectively schedules, Miss State’s 8-4 is way more impressive than NC State’s 7-5.
Confidence: 39
Previous Meetings: Five, but none terrible recent. The series dates to 1930,and was followed up on again in 1931 and 1940. The two would then meeting again in the 1963 Liberty Bowl, and most recently in the 1995 Peach Bowl, which the Wolfpack won 28-24. Overall, they also hold a 3-2 lead in the series.
Last bowl game: NC State won last year’s St. Petersburg Bitcoin Bowl 34-27 over Central Florida. Miss State is currently riding a six game streak which dates to the 2010-2011 Gator Bowl, where they beat Michigan 52-14. They lost 49-34 in last year’s Orange Bowl to Georgia Tech.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and John Congemi

7:00: Louisville vs. Texas A&M (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): This is a battle of teams that never quite got it going this year, and two teams that I’ve probably failed to predict correctly multiple times. Louisville lost their first three games, but no one (at the time, anyway) would blame them, as those teams were Auburn (ranked sixth in the pre-season!), Houston, and Clemson. From there, they managed to go 5-3 in the ACC overall but lack any signature wins. TAMU is in the same boat, though. Their best win is probably over Arizona State, and while they did beat Arkansas and Miss State they lost to Alabama, Mississippi, (somehow) Auburn, and LSU. And then it seems like all their quarterbacks have transferred in the weeks since the regular season ended. Is something rotten in College Station? I don’t know, but I still have the Aggies here.
Confidence: 28
Previous Meetings: Three of ’em, from 1992-1994. Louisville lost all of them, with the most recent score 26-10 in TAMU’s favor.
Last bowl game: Louisville is also riding a six game bowl streak, dating to 2010’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, which they won 31-28 over Southern Mississippi. TAMU is doing them one better, though. Their current run started in the 2009 Independence Bowl with a 44-20 loss to Georgia. They beat West Virginia in last year’s Liberty Bowl 45-37.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Andre Ware

10:30: Wisconsin vs. Southern California (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): It’s the mini-Rose Bowl! Much like Iowa, the Badgers managed to dodge all the good teams from the Big Ten East, so while they went 6-2 in conference, it’s not exactly an inspiring slate. (The two losses were to Northwestern and, of course, Iowa.) USC is a team that has some of the marks of a team that “figured it out” as the season went on. After losing a close game to Notre Dame, the Trojans went out and knocked Utah off their bandwagon and went on a bit of a run before getting beat by a healthy Vernon Adams (and his Oregon teammates). However, they then beat the tar out of their crosstown rivals and gave Stanford all they wanted in the Pac-12 title game. USC should be able to do enough on offense to get past the Badgers, who I think will have a hard time keeping up, literally and figuratively.
Confidence: 38
Previous Meetings: Southern Cal holds a robust 6-0 lead in this series. The first meeting was in the 1952-1953 Rose Bowl. They followed that up with regular season meetings in 1955 and 1956, and then it was back to Pasadena to kick off 1963, followed again by meetings in 1965 and 1966. (I sense a pattern here, perhaps?)
Last bowl game: For Wisconsin’s 14-game bowl streak, we have to flash all the way back to the 1993-1994 Rose Bowl, where they beat UCLA 21-16. They beat Auburn in last season’s Outback Bowl 34-31. This is USC’s fourth straight bowl game, dating to the 2012 Sun Bowl, which they lost 21-7 to Georgia Tech. They beat Nebraska 45-42 in last year’s edition of this game.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Kelly Stouffer

Thursday, December 31
Noon: Houston vs. Florida State (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): This is the least confidence I have in any game that doesn’t have any weird or otherwise extenuating circumstances. For starters, how good is Houston actually? Their Power Five wins are over an okay Louisville team and an abysmal Vanderbilt squad. Their record is unblemished except for a disaster suffered at UConn, in which the otherwise potent Cougar offense imploded with four turnovers. The Seminoles, meanwhile, did basically everything right this season. Their two losses are to a Clemson team that was clearly better than them and my favorite fluke of the season. But other than that, none of FSU’s win truly inspire. They beat Florida by 25, yes, but the Gators essentially had no offense by the end of the season. Will FSU’s defense be able to shut Houston down? Will Houston’s passing offense be the difference against FSU’s Dalvin Cook-based offense? I have no idea, but I picked FSU anyway.
Confidence: 5
Previous Meetings: Sixteen of ’em, and a record that would shock you until you remembered that, as per EDSBS, football in the state of Florida didn’t really exist before 1980. Indeed, Houston holds a 12-2-2 advantage, but all the games took place between 1960 and 1978. The Cougars won the most recent edition 27-21.
Last bowl game: Houston had a three game bowl streak going. They beat Pitt 35-34 in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl. Florida State, of course, owns the largest active bowl streak in the country (and it’s not especially close). It’s now at 34 straight seasons, dating back to the 1982 Gator Bowl where they beat West Virginia 31-12. However, they also went 6-5 in 1981 and 8-3 in 1978, so suffice it to say under the modern bowl regime they’d be able to add five more games to that list. The lost last season’s Rose Bowl (and playoff semifinal) 59-20 to Oregon.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Brian Griese

4:00: Clemson vs. Oklahoma (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): SO IT BEGINS. The Tigers are undefeated, and while their schedule wasn’t great, they did beat Notre Dame and Florida State, so it’s legitimate. Oklahoma beat all the contenders in the Big 12, they just, well, I still have no real idea how they lost to Texas. But if that’s what the Sooners needed to light a fire under them, then it worked, as they absolutely torched the opposition they played next, outscoring Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas, and Iowa State (two good to okay teams, two bad teams) 232-50. They then cleared the dual hurdles of Baylor and TCU and resumed the clobbering against Oklahoma State. Baylor and TCU are definitely much closer to Clemson than any other team on their schedule, and so while the Sooner defense rates highly due to several shutouts or near-shutouts, they definitely tend to give some points to an offense with a pulse. The Tigers definitely have a pulse. I think Clemson’s defense can do the job here. I have the Tigers headed to Arizona.
Confidence: 6
Previous Meetings: The first two were in 1963 and 1972, both Clemson losses. The Tigers won the 1988-1989 Citrus Bowl 13-6, as well as last season’s meeting in the Russell Athletic Bowl 40-6.
Last bowl game: Both is an 11-game bowl streak, dating to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, where they beat Colorado 19-10. (And if they’d gone to a bowl in 2004 at 6-5, they’d be able to add 6 more to the list.) This is Oklahoma’s seventeenth straight bowl, dating to their 27-25 loss to Mississippi in the 1999 Independence Bowl. The Sooners got pasted by these very Clemson Tigers in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, 40-6.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge

8:00: Alabama vs. Michigan State (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): The Spartans are about the closest Alabama can come to playing their own defense, basically. Indeed, this game will probably hinge on the Tide’s offense, and I don’t see a lot of scoring either way. The closest things the Spartans have probably seen to the Crimson Tide in terms of potency are probably Michigan and Ohio State. Assuming that Nick Saban won’t criminally underuse his best player (a la Urban Meyer), I’m giving a slight edge to Alabama here.
Confidence: 7
Previous Meetings: Just once, in the 2010-2011 Capital One Bowl. Alabama won 49-7.
Last bowl game: Alabama’s twelve game bowl streak mostly takes me back to happier times, when they were terrible and doing things like going 6-6 and losing to Minnesota 20-16 in the 2004 Music City Bowl. The Tide lost 42-35 to Ohio State in last season’s Sugar Bowl (and playoff semifinal). Sparty’s nine-game streak dates to the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl, which they lost 24-21 to Boston College. They beat Baylor 42-41 in last season’s Cotton Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Bowl Games 2015: Raising Arizona

During Saturday’s binge, I went 4-2, bringing my overall record to 10-8. Let’s talk about the next couple of days.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 28
2:30: Navy vs. Pittsburgh (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): It’s been a season of lost opportunities for both teams. Pitt suffered one of the season’s biggest losses before the season had really even begun with All-American running back James Conner was lost for the season. Then in Week 3, they missed a chance to nip the Iowa hype-train right in the bud with a 27-24 loss on the road. Their other losses were also understandable, but their eight wins lack any oomph. The Midshipmen, of course, had a shot to make a conference title game their first year in a conference, but blew the opportunity with a loss at Houston. Though they barely scraped by Army a couple weeks ago, I still like them and I think Pitt’s ability to defend their offense hasn’t necessarily gotten better with time.
Confidence: 27
Previous Meetings: These two have met 39 times in the regular season, and usually for long stretches, including every year from 1961 through 1979. The first meetings, however, go back to 1912-1916. The most recent was a 24-21 Navy win in 2013. Overall, Pitt holds a 22-14-3 advantage.
Last bowl game: I’ve probably said this each of the past few years, but if not for a 5-7 season in 2011, the Midshipmen would be riding a 13 game postseason streak. As it stands, though, their current streak dates to the 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl, where they lost 62-28 to Arizona State. They beat San Diego State 17-16 in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl. Pitt’s eight-game streak dates to the (previously referenced) worst game ever played, the 2008 Sun Bowl where they lost 3-0 to Oregon State. They lost to Houston 35-34 in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl.
Announcers: Eamon McAnaney and Rocky Boiman

5:00: Central Michigan vs. Minnesota (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): Central Michigan isn’t bad or anything, and I think they’re more than capable of winning this game. Also, it’s not like I feel great about picking a 5-7 team to win. I just think that Gophers are probably just a tad better, despite their record.
Confidence: 20
Previous Meetings: Just once, in 1987. Minnesota won 30-10.
Last bowl game: Central Michigan were the darlings and/or villains of last year’s bowl season, as their tremendous fourth quarter comeback in the Bahamas Bowl came up just short on a two point conversion attempt, resulting in a 49-48 loss to Western Kentucky. This is Minnesota’s fourth straight bowl game; they lost last season’s Citrus Bowl 33-17 to Missouri.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb

Tuesday, December 29
2:00: California vs. Air Force (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): I have this as one of the largest mismatches of the bowl season. The main question is which version of Cal we’ll get. If it’s the version with the offense firing on all cylinders, then I don’t think their atrocious defense will cost them against the Falcons.
Confidence: 40
Previous Meetings: Eight meetings, dating back to 1961. The two met occasionally in the 60’s and 70’s, and then again in 2002 and 2004. Their last meeting was in this game back in 2007. Cal won 42-36. The Bears have a 6-2 overall record in the series.
Last bowl game: This is Cal’s first bowl game since the 2011 Holiday Bowl, which they lost 21-10 to Texas. Air Force played in and won last year’s Potato Bowl with a 38-24 win over Western Michigan.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Mike Bellotti

5:30: North Carolina vs. Baylor (Russell Athletic Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): Now this, this might be one of the best bowls of the season. Two very evenly matched teams with high powered offenses and mediocre defenses mean that, if nothing else, you should probably take the over. Of course, the problem for Baylor is if they’ll have a quarterback, after all, the only reason they’re here is because they lost to Texas due to not having a quarterback in the first half. (The Bears eventually abandoned any pretense of passing and just started running the single wing in the second half.) Their third string quarterback (who was unavailable for the Texas game) is back, but they’re also missing their best receiver and running back. North Carolina is still fully functional on offense, though, with Marquise Williams and the high-flying Tar Heel attack ready to go. Given Baylor’s injury situation, I’ve revised this pick at the last minute, downgraded the confidence, and changed my pick to the Heels.
Confidence: 3
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Carolina’s third straight bowl game. They lost 40-21 to Rutgers in last year’s Quick Lane Bowl. This is Baylor’s sixth straight bowl, dating to the 2010 Texas Bowl, which they lost 38-14 to Illinois. They lost last season’s Cotton Bowl 42-41 to Michigan State.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham

7:30: Colorado State vs. Nevada (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; see website): I’m not sure why this game exists. As you may or may not know, the driving force behind the creation of most of the new spate of college football bowl games is ESPN, as they need live content to continue to justify their existence. Even if there’s no one in attendance, ESPN is still pulling in viewers (like me) to their live content that they can actually still sell advertising for. The Arizona Bowl is not going to be on ESPN. In many areas, it’ll be on a digital subchannel of some sort (see the website link), or on the American Sports Network if you get that. Otherwise, it’ll be streamed live online. While online streaming is probably they way everything is going, this isn’t the sort of venture that will really serve as a justification for it. Matching up two teams from the same conference is also not doing a very good job of justifying this game’s existence. As I noted before, the game did not try to get one of the Pac-12’s extra teams because they would be too expensive. As though a matchup featuring two teams from the same conference on hard-to-find channels would really do much to help the game not go broke.
I guess they did succeed at one thing: I’ve probably written more about this game than any of the other bowls. Ugh.
As for the game itself, these were not exactly the best teams in the Mountain West, and this game might feature the lowest average rated teams in any bowl. I’m picking Colorado State to win in obscurity.
Confidence: 4
Previous Meetings: Seeing as how these two are in the same conference, they have met often since the formation of the Mountain West back in 1997. (The first game was in 1974, though.) They met last year, and the Rams won 31-24, and hold an 11-2 advantage in the series.
Last bowl game: This is Colorado State’s third straight bowl game. They lost to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl last year, 45-10. Nevada lost to Louisiana-Lafayette 16-3 in last year’s New Orleans Bowl.
Announcers: Ron Thulin and Doug Chapman

9:00: Texas Tech vs. Louisiana State (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): In quite possibly the most horrifically botched public relations move the year, LSU essentially did everything but fire Les Miles. Thankfully for those of us who need funny quotes from coaches with personality (especially in this dark, post-Spurrier era), the Bayou Bengals decided to retain The Hat. At any rate, the game itself is a giant mismatch in total favor of LSU. The Red Raiders do have hope, though. It’s a tall order against this defense, but if they can figure something out they’ll be able to outscore LSU. That said, I’m not betting on that happening.
Confidence: 29
Previous Meetings: Just two, and LSU won them both, in 1954 (20-13) and 1957 (19-14).
Last bowl game: The Red Raiders’s last postseason appearance was the 2013 Holiday Bowl, wherein they beat Arizona State 37-23. LSU’s 16-game streak dates to the 2000 Peach Bowl, where they beat Georgia Tech 28-14. Last season, they lost to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl 31-28.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack

Bowl Games 2015: Bowl Season Truly Begins

Right now, I’m sitting at a cool 6-6, but there’s still 28 games ahead of us. While you’re still sweating out that Christmas dinner, sit back, grab a seasonally appropriate beverage (even if your weather isn’t cooperating), and enjoy today’s healthy slate of six games as we enter the heart of bowl season.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 26
11:00: Connecticut vs. Marshall (St. Petersburg Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): I’m probably not as confident about this one was the value below would indicate, and I may be confusing this year’s Marshall with last year’s Marshall, but nonetheless UConn is one of the worst teams in a bowl game this year and I don’t like their chances at all. The only reason they’re here at all is that they got lucky against Houston (to the tune of the Cougars turning the ball over four times) and managed to eke out a 20-17 win.
Confidence: 41
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: UConn was last seen in the 2010-2011 Fiesta Bowl, which they predictably lost to Oklahoma by four touchdowns, 48-20. This is Marshall’s third straight bowl game. Last year, they beat Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl 52-23.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Anthony Becht

2:00: Miami vs. Washington State (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): This one is tough to call, and I think it could go either way. For Miami, it’s a question of motivation as per usual. I’m not sure what Mark Richt’s disposition is toward the rest of the remaining staff at the U, but still the players and coaches could see this as an audition. Or, they could see a trip to El Paso as something to do before getting this season over with. Wazzou had an appropriately weird season, considering. They started off with a loss to Portland State, but then won eight of their next ten games, with no real bad losses in there. They were probably overrated, but hey, it was fun. Of course, then they went out and got pasted by Washington in the Apple Cup. Nonetheless, I still have the Cougars here, but not by much.
Confidence: 16
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Miami’s third straight bowl game. They lost to South Carolina in last year’s Independence Bowl 24-21. This is Wazzou’s first bowl game since the 2013 New Mexico Bowl, where they lost 48-45 to Colorado State.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Gary Danielson
Fun fact: The weather has run the gamut in this game over the years. I’ve seen frigid cold, I’ve seen reasonably warm, and I’ve seen the wind that lead to possibly the worst game ever played. On this day, look for temperatures in the mid-40’s and rain, conditions that probably benefit Miami if anyone.

2:20: Southern Mississippi vs. Washington (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): The Zombie Cotton Bowl lurches back to life, much like the Southern Miss program this season. Sure, it ended with a bit of a down note in the C-USA Championship loss to Western Kentucky, but nonetheless getting back to 9 wins is good for anyone. Washington comes in 6-6 after a roller coaster season featuring some good wins (Southern Cal, Washington State) and some mystifying losses. I have the Huskies as a slight favorite here due to their defense, but (at the risk of stating the obvious) they’ll still need to score some points.
Confidence: 22
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: After an almost-magical 12-2 2011 season that saw them wind up in the Hawaii Bowl, where they beat Nevada 24-17, Southern Miss had four wins in the next three seasons. Meanwhile, this is UDub’s sixth straight bowl game, dating to the 2010 Holiday Bowl. They lost last year’s Cactus Bowl to Oklahoma State, 30-22.
Announcers: Mike Corey and Ahmad Brooks

3:30: Duke vs. Indiana (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ABC): Indiana scores a lot of points, but also gives up a lot. Duke does neither particularly well, though their defense is okay. However, if this game gets to a shootout, the Hoosiers have a clear advantage. I like them here.
Confidence: 26
Previous Meetings: These two have meet three times before, in 1980, 1983, and 1984. Indiana won the first two, but Duke won the last one 31-24.
Last bowl game: This is Duke’s fourth straight bowl game. They lost last year’s Sun Bowl to Arizona State, 36-31. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, were last seen bowling in the 2007 Insight Bowl, which they lost 49-33 to Oklahoma State.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Danny Kanell, and Joey Galloway

5:45: Virginia Tech vs. Tulsa (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): Okay, there is a worse team than UConn on a bowl game: this Tulsa team. Virginia Tech should be able to give Frank Beamer an appropriate send-off.
Confidence: 42
Previous Meetings: Four! Back in 1970, 1971, 1976, and 1978. The Hokies won the first won, but the Golden Hurricane won the last three, the last by just a 35-33 margin.
Last bowl game: This is VPI’s 23rd straight bowl appearance, dating all the way back to this very game, in 1993. They beat Indiana 45-20. Last season they beat Cincinnati 33-17 in the Military Bowl. This is Tulsa’s first bowl game since the 2012 Liberty Bowl, where they beat Iowa State 31-17.
Announcers: Dave Lamont and Ray Bentley

9:15: Nebraska vs. California-Los Angeles (Foster Farms Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; ESPN): You’d think this would be obvious, what a 5-7 Nebraska team versus an 8-4 UCLA team. And indeed, I do have the Bruins, as this Nebraska team is incredibly flawed and has some inexplicable, heart-rending losses. But the Huskers were game against Michigan State (whom they beat) and Iowa (whom they lost by eight to). UCLA’s season, though, might be remembered for not really ever getting off the ground and concluding with an ugly, 40-21 loss to Southern Cal at the end of the season. This feels like a game that could be pretty lackluster, to be honest, but given these teams I wouldn’t mind being wrong.
Confidence: 18
Previous Meetings: Twelve, and somewhat surprisingly, none in bowl games. Overall, the series tied at 6-6. The first two meetings were in 1946 and 1948, both losses for the Huskers. They lost again in 1972, but started a four game win streak 1973 that then was renewed in 1983, 1984, 1987. They met again in 1988, 1993, and 1994. The most recent meetings were in 2012 and 2013, both UCLA wins, the last by a 41-21 margin.
Last bowl game: This is Nebraska’s eight straight bowl appearance, dating back to the 2008-2009 Gator Bowl, where they beat Clemson 26-21. Last season, they appeared in the Holiday Bowl and lost to Southern Cal 45-42. This is UCLA’s fifth straight bowl game, dating to the 2011 Fight Hunger Bowl, which they lost 20-14 to Illinois. Last season, they beat Kansas State 40-34 in the Alamo Bowl.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Rod Gilmore

Bowl Games 2015: Four Days ‘Til Christmas

Let’s take a look at the seven(!) games that remain before Christmas.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 21
2:30: South Florida vs. Western Kentucky (Miami Beach Bowl @ Miami, FL; ESPN): On October 31, the Bulls were 2-4 and appeared headed toward oblivion. Then, they discovered they had an offense, and thus won their last four games, including a comprehensive 44-23 win over then-ranked Temple. Proving that wasn’t a fluke, they then inflicted a 65-27 drubbing on Cincinnati. I don’t think I need to get into what they did against a Central Florida team that went 0-12. The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, needed no such miraculous season-ending streaks. They simply dominated their C-USA foes. Their only two losses on the season are a late-FG loss to Indiana and a 28-point loss to LSU, because, well, LSU is LSU and WKU is WKU. At any rate, their extended run of domination and consistency is what is making me lean toward Western Kentucky.
Confidence: 12
Previous Meetings: Six, actually, with four them occurring between 1997 and 2000, and then again in 2009 and 2010. USF is 4-2, having won the last four in a row, including 24-12 in the 2010 game.
Last bowl game: For the Bulls, it was the 2010 Car Care Bowl, in which they beat Clemson 31-26. (Oof.) The Hilltoppers won last year’s Bahamas Bowl 49-48 after surviving one of the craziest plays of the 2014 season.
Announcers: Dave Lamont and Desmond Howard

Tuesday, December 22
4:30: Akron vs. Utah State (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): I have the Aggies in a slight upset, but I feel pretty good about it. Why? Well, at least three of their six wins are better than any of Akron’s wins, and they don’t figure to give up a lot of points to the Zips. As for the chance of snow at this game, the forecast is currently clear with temperatures in the mid-30’s around kickoff, so it’s not looking good.
Confidence: 23
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: The Zips’s last taste of the post-season was the 2005 Motor City Bowl, which they lost to Memphis 38-31. This is their second ever bowl game. For the Aggies, their fifth straight game returns to the roots of their streak, where they went to both the 2011 and 2012 Potato Bowls. They beat UTEP in last year’s New Mexico Bowl 21-6.
Announcers: Mark Neely and Mike Bellotti

7:00: Toledo vs. Temple (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): Suffice it to say, no chance of snow here, with temperatures in the 80’s at kick-off. I never really bought into the Owls at any point this season, and I’m continuing not to in this game. Toledo, to me, appears to be about as good on defense and is a little better at moving the ball. Going with the Rockets.
Confidence: 13
Previous Meetings: My sources are a bit contradictory on this one. I’m going to discount the 1962 meeting and say Toledo is 5-3 against the Owls, and won their last meeting in 2011 36-13.
Last bowl game: The Rockets would have a six-game bowl streak had they gone bowling with a 7-5 record in 2013, but alas, we can only say this is their second straight. They beat Arkansas State in last year’s Bowl 63-44. Temple’s last bowl game was the 2011 New Mexico Bowl, in which they beat Wyoming 37-15.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick and Dan Hawkins

Wednesday, December 23
4:30: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): If the Boise States of the world can have rebuilding years, this certainly qualifies as one for the Broncos. Their offense has been especially inconsistent as they try to find their next quarterback. The Huskies started running into trouble once they got into the meat of their MAC schedule, and their offense deserted them in loses to Ohio and Bowling Green to close out the season. Going with Boise, but only by a bit.
Confidence: 14
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is the Broncos’s fourteenth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl. They beat Arizona in last season’s Fiesta Bowl, 38-30. This is NIU’s eight straight bowl game, dating to a 17-10 loss to Louisiana Tech in the 2008 Independence Bowl. They lost 52-23 to Marshall in last year’s Boca Raton Bowl.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and David Diaz-Infante

8:00: Bowling Green vs. Georgia Southern (GoDaddy Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): Bowling Green comes in as the MAC champions, and other than a loss to a game Toledo squad, it was never really in doubt. Georgia Southern, meanwhile, somehow just lost to Georgia State. (Still trying to process that one.) The ranking systems love BGSU as well, and I’m inclined to agree with them.
Confidence: 24
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Bowling Green’s fourth straight bowl game. They beat South Alabama 33-28 in the inaugural Camellia Bowl last year. This is Georgia Southern’s first ever bowl game.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Andre Ware

Thursday, December 24
Noon: Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee State (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): On record alone, these 7-5 teams look even. That’s pretty much it, though. The Broncos played a tougher schedule in a tougher conference, but was able to hang with some of those teams. The Blue Raiders lost to every superior team they played, usually by a lot, and mainly feasted on C-USA’s bottom of the barrel teams. As long as Western Michigan isn’t too tired from rowing to the Bahamas, they should be okay in this one.
Confidence: 25
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Western Michigan lost 38-24 to Air Force in last year’s Potato Bowl. MTSU last appeared in the 2013 Armed Forces Bowl, where they lost 24-6 to Navy.
Announcers: Steve Levy, Mack Brown, and Mark May
Fun fact: As of this writing, Popeye’s does not have any locations in the Bahamas.

8:00: Cincinnati vs. San Diego State (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): One of these teams doesn’t play offense. The other doesn’t play defense. Combine them into a game that no one wants to be in, and you get… well, I have no idea really. I like the Aztecs, though: they’ve won nine straight, riding the streak all the way to the Mountain West title. The biggest stumbling block for them is that this is reward they got for winning the conference, instead of the MWC’s customary Las Vegas Bowl bid (which went to BYU instead).
Confidence: 15
Previous Meetings: Just one, back in 2007. Cincy won 52-23.
Last bowl game: This is the fifth straight bowl game for the Bearcats, dating to the 2011 Liberty Bowl. The lost to Virginia Tech in last year’s Military Bowl 33-17.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Greg McElroy

Bowl Games 2015: Opening Slate

We’ll start off with an overview of Saturday’s games, but of course I’ve updated the schedule page with my predictions for all of the games. Confidence values for ESPN’s bowl pick ’em are tentative, as I’m writing this ahead of time.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 19
2:00: New Mexico vs. Arizona (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): Bob Davie’s back in a bowl game! His hometown Lobos have basically no chance, though.
Confidence: 30
Previous Meetings: Being from neighboring states and in the same conference a long time, these two have met 46 times. Unsurpsingly, though, Arizona holds a 43-20-3 advantage, amassed mainly when the two teams met every year from 1920 through 1977. The last two meetings, in 2007 and 2008, went New Mexico’s way, however.
Last bowl game: This is New Mexico’s first bowl game since their 23-0 win over Nevada in the 2007 New Mexico Bowl. This is Arizona’s fourth straight bowl game. They lost to Boise State 38-30 in last season’s Fiesta Bowl.
Announcers: Eamon McAnaney and Rocky Boiman

3:30: Utah vs. Brigham Young (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): The Holy War is back ahead of schedule, and naturally these two teams are meeting in… Sin City. Hey, at least they’ll still sell the hotel rooms (and the game is sold out). As for the game, Utah would seem to have the advantage, but there’s a large “don’t want to be here” factor in play for the Utes, as they played in this game last year and also probably deserved a better bid with their record. Also, there’s a lot of bad blood in this rivalry these days, which the Utes going off to a Power 5 conference and gaining talent, money, and prestige while the traditional power in the state, BYU, languishes. I have the Utes, but only by a bit.
Confidence: 8
Previous Meetings: Despite what I said above, the Utes actually hold a 54-31-4 advantage all time (though the Cougars are 30-33-1 since 1950). The two previously met every year from 1922 through 2013.
Last bowl game: This is BYU’s tenth straight bowl game, and their first appearance in this one since they appeared in four straight from 2005 through 2009. They lost to Memphis in the Miami Beach Brawl Bowl 55-48 last year. Utah won last year’s Las Vegas Bowl 45-10 over Colorado State.
Announcers: Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer
Fun fact: Ol’ Brent loves him some sly on-air gambling references, which I’m pretty sure could be the basis of a pretty solid drinking game. On a related note, as of this writing “our friends in arid regions” (as Rece Davis would say) have the Utes by 2.5 or 3.

5:30: Ohio vs. Appalachian State (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): Spoiler alert, but this is Appy State’s first ever bowl game. So, yeah, welcome to FBS guys. Wasn’t winning national titles more fun? But hey, at least they’ll get a win.
Confidence: 9
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: As spoiled above, this is Appalachian State’s first ever bowl game, since this is the first “real” season of FBS play. The Bobcats had a nice little bowl streak going from 2009 through 2013, but last season they missed a bowl despite going 6-6. They lost the 2013 Beef O’Brady’s bowl to East Carolina 37-20.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Anthony Becht
Fun fact: The camellia, native to East Asia, is the state flower of Alabama. There have also been two other Camellia Bowls. The first, in 1948, pitted Hardin-Simmons against Wichita State in Lafayette, Louisiana. The Shockers lost 49-12 and the game folder after only pulling 5,000 at the game. The Camellia Bowl was then a small-school bowl in Sacramento, California (the “Camellia City”) bowl between 1961-1975 and 1980.

7:00: San Jose State vs. Georgia State (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; CBSS): “Show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream” she said
“The one that makes me laugh” she said
And threw her arms around my neck
“Show me how you do it
And I promise you I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you”
Spinning on that dizzy edge
I kissed her face and kissed her head
And dreamed of all the different ways I had
To make her glow
“Why are you so far away?” she said
“Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you
That I’m in love with you”

Soft and only
Lost and lonely
Strange as angels
Dancing in the deepest oceans
Twisting in the water
You’re just like a dream

Daylight licked me into shape
I must have been asleep for days
And moving lips to breathe her name
I opened up my eyes
And found myself alone alone
Alone above a raging sea
That stole the only girl I loved
And drowned her deep inside of me

Soft and only
Lost and lonely
Just like heaven

I’m going with the Panthers.
Confidence: 10
Previous Meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is the Spartans’s first bowl since the 2012 Military Bowl, where they beat Bowling Green 29-20. After going 1-23 in their first two seasons, this is Georgia State’s first ever bowl game.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor
Fun fact: I was so hoping ESPN’s Robert Smith would be around for this, but alas, the game is on CBS Sports Network. As for what the game is trying to cure, proceeds from the game will go toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

9:00: Louisiana Tech vs. Arkansas State (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Louisiana Tech cruised through a lot of their C-USA schedule, but it was perphaps a sign when they lost 17-15 to UTEP, as they got thumped 58-24 by Souther Mississippi the last week of the season. Arkansas State had a pretty solid season in the Sun Belt, by which I mean they ran the table in the conference and won most of those games pretty thoroughly. I’m giving the Red Wolves a slight edge here.
Confidence: 11
Previous Meetings: 38 of ’em, if you can believe it. They met most every year from 1956 through 1998, and the Bulldogs are 26-12 all-time. They also two, with 1998’s 69-21 win being the most recent.
Last bowl game: Louisiana Tech beat Illinois in last year’s Zombie Cotton Bowl 35-18. This actually caught me a bit by surprise, but this is Arkansas State’s fifth straight bowl game. They lost to Toledo in last season’s GoDaddy Bowl, 63-44.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Kelly Stouffer