Let’s go ahead and do the last six bowl games before the title game.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Friday, January 2
Noon: Houston vs. Pittsburgh (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): Houston’s defense is pretty good, but they haven’t faced James Connor yet. I like Pitt a lot in this one.
Previous meetings: Two. Houston won the first in 1996, 42-35, and Pitt won the second in 1997, 35-24.
Last bowl game: The Cougars lost last year’s Birmingham Bowl to Vanderbilt, 41-24. This is Pitt’s sixth straight bowl game, with the streak starting with one of the worst games of all time, a 3-0 loss to Oregon State in the 2008 Sun Bowl. They beat Bowling Green in last year’s Little Ceasar’s Bowl, 30-27.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Matt Stinchcomb
3:20: Iowa vs. Tennessee (Taxslayer Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): The Vols are a young team that got better as the season went on. Meanwhile, I just plain don’t like the Hawkeyes, and nothing in their last four games is helping my perception of them at all. In terms of numbers, these teams are basically identically, so I’m going with my gut and picking Tennessee.
Previous meetings: Two. The first was in the 1982 Peach Bowl, which Iowa won 28-22. Tennessee won the second in 1987, 23-22.
Last bowl game: The Hawkeyes won lost last year’s Outback Bowl, 21-14 to LSU. Tennessee’s last postseason appearance was in the 2010 Music City Bowl, a 30-27 loss to North Carolina.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore
6:45: Kansas State vs. California-Los Angeles (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): I just never figured out what the heck to do with UCLA this year. In the second half of the year, it looked they turned the proverbial corner, putting together a solid five game winning streak. Any good feelings in Westwood were promptly destroyed by the Stanford Cardinal and their 31-10 plowing of the Bruins. Kansas State, however, was perfectly predictable in their three loses. So I’m going with the consistent team over one that flashes very occasional flashes of brilliance.
Previous meetings: Two. The Bruins won the first meeting in 2009, 23-9, while K-State won the second in 2010, 31-22.
Last bowl game: This is K-State’s fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2010 loss in the Pinstripe Bowl to Syracuse, 36-34. They beat Michigan in last year’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (the Tempe one), 31-14. This is UCLA’s fourth straight bowl game, dating to a 20-14 loss to Illinois in the 2011 Fight Hunger Bowl. They whipped Virginia Tech 42-12 in last year’s Sun Bowl.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Brock Huard
10:15: Oklahoma State vs. Washington (Cactus Bowl @ Tempe, AZ; ESPN): Neither of these teams have sterling records or great wins, other than the Cowboys’s fluky overtime win over Oklahoma. By the numbers, though, it’s not close: Washington is demonstrably better on both offense and defense, and I expect those indications to carry the day here in this nightcap.
Previous meetings: Two. Washington won the first in 1980, 24-18, and Oklahoma State won the second in 1985, 31-17.
Last bowl game: This is the ninth straight bowl game for the Cowboys, dating back to the 2006 Independence Bowl, which they won 34-31 over Alabama. They lost to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl last year, 41-31. This is Washington’s fifth straight bowl game, starting with a 19-7 win over Nebraska in the 2010 Holiday Bowl. They beat BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl last year, 31-16.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Danny Kannell
Saturday, January 3
1:00: Florida vs. East Carolina (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): Why did I pick East Carolina? I continue to have zero faith in the Florida offense’s ability to anything, ever. ECU wound up having a disappointing season, honestly, but I doubt they’re going to have to worry about the Gators putting up 30 on them, which is about what it appears to have taken to beat ECU this year.
Previous meetings: Just one, a regular season matchup in 1983. The Gators won 24-17.
Last bowl game: The the Gators took a break last year, so this is their first bowl game since that 33-23 loss to Louisville in the 2012-3 Sugar Bowl. This is the third straight bowl game for the Pirates. In 2012, they lost to UL-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl. Last year, they beat Ohio 37-20 in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Andre Ware
Sunday, January 4
9:00: Toledo vs. Arkansas State (GoDaddy Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): I guess I could be accused of having an anti-Sun Belt bias, but well I just couldn’t bring myself to pick the Red Wolves over the Rockets. Apologies to all my readers out in Jonesboro.
Previous meetings: Two. Toledo has won both, with a 43-28 victory in 1990 and a 49-0 win in 1992.
Last bowl game: This is Toledo’s first bowl game since the 2012 Potato Bowl, where they got routed 41-15 by Utah State. This is Arkansas State’s fourth straight(!) GoDaddy Bowl. In 2011, they lost to Northern Illinois 38-20, and last year they beat Ball State 23-20.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick and Ray Bentley