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