Friday, December 30, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Riding Out 2016

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 31st
  • Louisville vs. Louisiana State (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): This game is a tough assignment, if you ask me. Louisville, of course, still has their all-everything player, and while the LSU offense certainly showed signs of life later in the season, missing Fournette is still big. Furthermore, Louisville did somewhat inexplicably lose to Kentucky, a loss that could provide a blueprint for LSU. Despite all this, I still like the Cardinals a lot here.
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: This is Louisville's seventh straight bowl appearance, dating to the 2010 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. They beat Southern Mississippi 31-28. They defeated Texas A&M 27-21 in last season's Music City Bowl. This is LSU's 17th straight bowl appearance, which is the nation's fifth longest streak. The streak started with a 28-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl, and the most recent addition was a 56-27 win over Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl.
    Announcers: Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy
  • Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky (Taxslayer Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): Speaking of Kentucky, here we are. In a season characterized by uneven offensive performances and a horrid defense, Georgia Tech kept going and wound up making enough plays to beat Georgia. This matchup would seem to be pretty good for us, but the defense just remains so incredibly suspect that I have to remain nervous.
    Previous meetings:
    19, and none since Tech left the SEC in the early 60's. Remember that in the early day of college football conferences, teams had a lot more flexibility to set their own schedules. and Kentucky was not one of Tech's major opponents. The longest streak of consecutive games was 1935 through 1942. Anyway, the first meeting was a 3-3 tie in 1923. The last meeting was a 23-13 Tech win in 1960, and the Jacket have an 11-7-1 overall series lead.
    Last bowl game: GT, of course, used to own the third longest bowl streak in the nation. Unfortunately, last year's 3-9 disappointment ended the streak with the 2014 triumph in the Orange Bowl, a 49-34 lead over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. This is Kentucky's first bowl game since a 27-10 loss to Pitt in the 2010-11 BBVA Compass Bowl, which was the last in a five-year streak of their own.
    Announcers: Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore
3:00: Alabama vs. Washington (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): And so it begins. For the first game of the playoff, we have a game that pretty much everyone assumes will be a blowout. And frankly, if Alabama doesn't win a national title it'll be a huge upset. They are simply bigger, stronger, and deeper than the rest of the field, where "the rest of the field" is the entire FBS. The only other team Washington played that approached Alabama's talent level was Southern Cal, and the Huskies wound up losing 26-13. Don't get me wrong. I think it'd be great of UDub pulled this off and I will be rooting for them. I just... don't see it happening.
Previous meetings: Four. The most famous, of course, was the first: the 1925-26 Rose Bowl, where Alabama hung on for a 20-19 win. They met in the regular season in 1975 and 1978, and the last was the 1986 Sun Bowl, all Alabama wins. The Tide are 4-0 overall.
Last bowl game: Bama has the eight largest streak in the nation, at 13 straight games. Indeed, you'll need to go back to the 2004 Music City Bowl to find the start of that run, a 20-16 loss to Minnesota. Yeah, the Tide doesn't really go to bowls like that anymore. Last season, they blasted Michigan State 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl and then beat Clemson 45-40 to win the college football playoff. This is Washington's seventh straight bowl game. The game that started that run was the 2010 Holiday Bowl, a 19-7 win over Nebraska. Last season, they beat Southern Mississippi 44-31 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge

7:00: Clemson vs. Ohio State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): I think this game will be as close as the other game will be a blowout. I see the matchups across the board as strength-on-strength, with maybe the only edge being at quarterback (that is, with Watson being better). Thing is, this Clemson team is not nearly as dominate as last year's version was, with a tendency to play up or down to their competition. Even if that holds up here, I still see the Buckeyes doing what Louisville and FSU couldn't do to this Tigers, and that is put them away.
Previous meetings: Two, and both in bowl games. Clemson won 17-15 back in the 1978 Gator Bowl as well as 40-35 in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl.
Last bowl game: Yep, at this point in bowl season, you start getting into streak territory. Clemson has a 12 game streak, going back to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, where they beat Colorado 19-10. Clemson's streak would be six games longer in the modern bowl landscape, but back in 2004 there just wasn't room for a 6-5 Clemson team. Last season, of course, saw a 37-17 win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and a 45-40 loss to Alabama in the college football playoff. The Buckeyes would also have a long streak, but the sanctions on the 12-0 2012 team prevented that. And so, their current four game streak dates to the 2013-14 Orange Bowl, mentioned above. Last season, they beat Notre Dame (which went 4-8 this year) 44-28 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Bowl Games 2016: Indulgence

Friday, December 30th is the only day other than the first of bowl season that there are five games in one day, thanks to the separation caused by New Year's Day falling on a Sunday. (And somehow, only three of them are on ESPN!) So check the schedule and read up below to see what to expect.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 30th
Noon: Texas Christian vs. Georgia (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): I'm almost certainly biased, but I haven't really seen anything out of Georgia that shows they have the offensive aptitude to keep up with a Big 12 team. But hey, who knows, maybe Kirby and Co. will have figured it out by now! (Probably not.)
Previous meetings: Three, and they're all Georgia wins, unfortunately. The first was in the 1941-42 Orange Bowl, 40-26 win for UGA. This was followed by regular season meetings in 1980 and 1988, again easy Georgia wins.
Last bowl game: This is TCU's third straight bowl game. They beat Ole Miss 42-3 in 2014's Peach Bowl. Oregon lost to them last season in the Alamo Bowl, 47-41. This is Georgia's 20th consecutive bowl game, dating to the 1997-98 Outback Bowl, a 33-6 win over Wisconsin. They beat Penn State in last season's Taxslayer Bowl, 24-17.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

2:00: North Carolina vs. Stanford (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): The Cardinal closed the season with five straight victories, but it's hard to say whether that was due to Christian McCaffrey getting healthier or the schedule drastically easing up. (See the fun fact below.) However, they won't have their star for this game and Carolina represents by far the biggest challenge for them since October. And indeed, without McCaffrey, it's hard to see how the Stanford offense will be able to keep up with the Tar Heels.
Previous meetings: Just a home-and-home back in 1997-98. Carolina won the first 28-17, but the Cardinal took the second 37-34.
Last bowl game: This is UNC's fourth straight bowl game. They beat Cincinnati 39-17 in the 2013 Belk Bowl and lost to Baylor in last year's Russell Athletic Bowl, 49-38. This is Stanford's eight consecutive bowl game, going back to a 31-27 loss to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl. They demolished Iowa in last season's Rose Bowl 45-16.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson
Fun fact: The Cardinal had a seriously front-loaded schedule. In their first seven games, they played six teams that made bowl games (the lone exception being Notre Dame, which went 4-8 this season). Stanford also lost by a combined 86-22 score to teams from the state of Washington this year. 

3:30: Nebraska vs. Tennessee (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): So for various reasons, I do the predictions you see in the page way before I do any of these writeups. Sometimes that gets me in trouble, such as for this game where I picked the Vols to win by 10 points. I would have to think my main argument would involve Tennessee barely losing to Vandy by Nebraska getting blown out by Iowa.
Previous meetings: Just two, and only in bowl games. The first was the 1997-98 Orange Bowl, which the Huskers won 42-17. They followed up with another win in the 1999-2000 season with a 31-21 win in the Fiesta Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is Nebraska's ninth straight bowl game. They started things off by beating Clemson 26-21 in the 2008-09 Gator Bowl. More recently, they defeated UCLA in last year's Foster Farms Bowl 37-29. This is Tennessee's third straight bowl game. The Vols beat Iowa in the 2014-15 Taxslayer Bowl 45-28, and then beat Northwestern 45-6 in last season's Outback Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Andre Ware

5:30: Air Force vs. South Alabama (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; CI/ASN): First, this game doesn't have a real TV deal, so see the link below to figure out where you can watch it if you're so inclined. Second, South Alabama may have had the oddest season of team FBS team this year. Get this: they started the season with an upset win over Mississippi State. Okay, sure, that happens sometimes. Then they lose in pretty convincing fashion to two other Sun Belt teams and beat FCS Nicholls State by a point. Naturally, they follow this up by laying a 42-24 beatdown on a pretty good San Diego State team. The Jaguars then went on to have a thoroughly mediocre Sun Belt season and wound up going 6-6 and getting in thanks to a lack of bowl teams, since they have two FCS wins. At any rate, this game is going to be a blowout: the one I predicted with Air Force as the winners or the one that makes no sense but, hey, they did it to a Mountain West team once already...
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Air Force's third straight bowl game. They beat Western Michigan 38-24 in the 2014 Potato Bowl and lost 55-36 to Cal in last season's Armed Forces Bowl. This is South Alabama's second ever bowl appearance. Their first was a 33-28 loss to Bowling Green in the 2014 Camellia Bowl.
Announcers: See here for more broadcast information.
Fun fact: This barely even feels like a bowl game. I appreciate trying new things as well as not being controlled by ESPN, but not having a real TV deal and a matchup permanently involving a Sun Belt team doesn't seem to be a winning formula? If I had to guess which bowl game was closest to the chopping block, it'd be this one.

8:00: Florida State vs. Michigan (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): I think FSU is pretty good and I also think this game will be close. But I still think Michigan is one of the best teams in the country and I expect them to prove it tonight.
Previous meetings: Just two, and neither in bowl games. The first was a 20-18 Michigan win back in 1986. Second was a 51-31 win for FSU back in 1991.
Last bowl game: I get to say this once again: Florida State has the nation's active longest bowl streak, with this being their 35th straight postseason appearance. In 1982, Florida State beat West Virginia 31-12 in the Gator Bowl. With a modern amount of bowls, the streak would actually be 40 games, but a 6-5 season in 1981 and an 8-3 record in 1978 didn't get them into a bowl. Last season, they lost 38-24 to Houston in the Peach Bowl. Michigan beat Florida 41-7 in last season's Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Brian Griese
Fun fact: I'm sure this won't come up on the broadcast at all, but the starting quarterback for Michigan in that 1986 game? A one Jim Harbaugh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Hitting Stride

A quick preview of the mid-week games. The full schedule can be found here.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Wednesday, December 28
2:00: Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): Pitt is everyone's favorite transitive conference champion, with wins this season over Penn State and Clemson. They're also just a darn good football team. They run about as tricky of a rushing offense as you can get without being a, you know, option team. Except for when they did it to us, it's been fun to watch. The Wildcats, meanwhile, don't have a lot going for them. I've got Pitt all the way here.
Previous meetings: Six! The first was a 16-7 Pitt victory back in 1949. The last was also a 21-14 Pitt win back in 1973, but overall the series is even.
Last bowl game: This is Pitt's ninth straight bowl game, going back to the infamous 2008 Sun Bowl, which they lost 3-0 to Oregon State. Last season saw a 44-28 route at the hands of the Naval Academy in the Military Bowl. Northwestern did much to generate Tennessee's preseason hype this year by losing 46-5 to the Vols in last season's Outback Bowl.
Announcers: Ryan Ruocco, Mike Golic, and Mike Golic Jr.

5:30: Miami vs. West Virginia (Russell Athletic Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): You might remember the Hurricanes from their mid-season 4-game swoon that took them out of ACC contention, but sandwiching that stretch on either side is a four game stretch of pretty good football. They recovered from a bad loss to Notre Dame (who, again, went 4-8) to absolutely shellack Pitt and start the 4-game win streak that closed out the season. WVU, meanwhile, went 10-2. This definitely garners some respect, but the two games they lost to the Oklahoma teams weren't really even close. That said, I think this still could be a pretty fun and close matchup, so I have the 'Canes as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: Their first meeting was all the way back in 1942, a 21-13 Miami win. However, the bulk of their 19 meetings were when both were in the Big East from 1991-2003. Miami won the last meeting 22-20 and has a commanding 16-3 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is da U's fourth straight bowl game, going back to a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. They lost 20-14 in last year's Sun Bowl to Washington State. WVU has a bunch of gaps in their history, but more often than not they've been in bowls since 1993. In their currently active streak, this is their third straight bowl and the eked out a 1-point win in last year's Cactus Bowl, beating Arizona State 43-42.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy

8:30: Indiana vs. Utah (Foster Farms Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): If not for their end-of-season swoon (losing 3 of their last 4), I'd have the Utes as a much larger favorite here. The problem is that I don't see Indiana providing much of a threat despite their "CHAOS TEAM" moniker, which scored the all of... zero upsets this season. (At least, with the benefit of hindsight.) So, yeah, I have the Utes.
Previous meetings: I'm going to be honest, I was expecting to say "none" but it turns out this is the third. Indiana's only win was a 31-7 rout back in 1975. Since then, a home-and-home in 2001 and 2002 produced 28-26 and 40-13 Utah victories.
Last bowl game: The Hoosiers lost last year's Pinstripe Bowl 44-41. This is the third straight bowl for the Utes. They beat Colorado State 46-10 in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl, and then beat BYU in a Sin City Holy War 35-28.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt

9:00: Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): I have a K-State as a favorite here almost entirely because of the way these teams closed out the season. The Aggies lost three of their last four, including somehow to both of the Mississippi schools and got pounded in what turned out to be DACOACHO's coronation. K-State turned a narrow loss to Oklahoma State into motivation with wins over Baylor and TCU on the road and taking care of business against the Jayhawks. I like K-state a lot here.
Previous meetings: 15, most of which, as you might imagine, came after the then-Big 8 absorbed the Southwest Conference before the 1996 season. For the first, though, we have to go back to 1912, a 13-10 K-State victory. The last meeting was a cracker of a game as well, a 53-50 K-State overtime win. Overall, TAMU has a slight 8-7 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is K-State's seventh straight bowl game, going back to a 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl loss in 2010 to Syracuse. They lost to Arkansas 45-23 in last year's Liberty Bowl. This is TAMU's eighth straight bowl game, going back to the 2009 Independence Bowl, where they lost 44-20 to Georgia. Last season they lost 27-21 to Louisville in the Music City Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Fleming and Jesse Palmer

Thursday, December 29
2:00: South Carolina vs. South Florida (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): I'd guess the only reason to watch this game is for the schadenfreude of an SEC team getting pounded by a team from the AAC. And if South Carolina does somehow win this game, that means their defense totally shut down USF and the final score will be 9-3. Maybe only reason to watch this one is if you're a college football degenerate like me. I have USF all the way.
Previous meetings: Just one, a regular season game back in 2004. South Carolina won 34-3.
Last bowl game: South Florida lost last year's Miami Beach Bowl to Western Kentucky, 45-35. South Carolina saw a respectable bowl streak come to an end last year, so their last bowl game was the 2014 Independence Bowl, wherein they beat Miami 24-21.
Announcers: Eamon McAnaney and John Congemi

5:30: Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): As it turns out, I'm not sure the Razorbacks were "inconsistent" this year, more "just not very good". The Hokies, barring one upset in Blacksburg (woo!) and a bizarre game in the Carrier Dome, were ahead of schedule in Year 1 of the post-Beamer era and I think they'll be motivated to keep it going here
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is VPI's 24th straight bowl game. They have the second longest active streak, dating to the 1993 Independence Bowl. (They beat Indiana 45-20.) Only Florida State has a longer streak. Fittingly, they beat Tulsa in last year's Independence Bowl 55-52. This is Arkansas's 3rd straight bowl game. They beat Texas 31-7 in the 2014 Texas Bowl and beat K-State 45-23 in last season's Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham

9:00: Oklahoma State vs. Colorado (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): If Colorado's QB is healthy in this game, then the Buffs stand a much better chance here than they did in the Pac-12 title game. I'm basing my pick on that assumption, so it could change at the last minute. Either way, these are both pretty good teams and I hope the margin is as close as I'm predicting.
Previous meetings: These former Big 8 foes have met 46 times. It'd probably be more, except that they wound up in separate divisions when the Big 12 was formed, so after 1997 they only met six times. Otherwise, they played every season from 1960 through 1997. This first matchup was actually in 1920, where Colorado won 40-7. The last was in 2008, which Oklahoma State won 31-28. The Buffs hold a 26-19-1 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma State's 11th straight bowl game, dating back to a 34-31 victory over Alabama in the 2006 Independence Bowl. They lost 48-20 to Ole Miss in last year's Sugar Bowl. This is Colorado's first bowl game as a member of the Big 12. Their last postseason appearance was the 2007 Independence Bowl, where they lost 30-24 to Alabama.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Mack Brown
Fun fact: I just had to close with this series of tweets from ESPN play-by-play man Adam Amin.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Let Us Begin

Yes, there's been several bowl games already, but this week will contain the bulk of the games, and we'll start to see teams from the power conferences. All in all, it's starting to get exciting (well, sort of). Again, if you'd like to see my current progress and also just the TV information, see here.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 26
11:00: Miami vs. Mississippi State (St. Petersburg Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): I don't like applying the "OH" or "FL" tags for the two Miamis, generally hoping that context clues will provide what you need to know. Unfortunately, this bowl does have an ACC affiliation, so to be clear: it's the one from Ohio. Anyway, Miss State is 5-7, but let's face it, they should beat all but one, maybe two, MAC teams everyday and twice on Sundays. Miami is not one of those MAC teams.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Miami's first bowl game since the 2010-11 Godaddy Bowl, where they beat Middle Tennessee State 35-21. This is Miss State's seventh straight bowl game, going back to a 52-14 win over Michigan in the 2010-11 Gator Bowl. The Bullldogs beat NC State 51-28 in the Belk Bowl last year.
Announcers: Dave LaMont and Rene Ingoglia

2:30: Maryland vs. Boston College (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): No, remember that Maryland is in the Big Ten now. (I occasionally still have trouble with this, but more so for Nebraska.) Anyway, these two teams are pretty even: occasionally good defense and not a whole of offense. I have BC as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: These teams have met 11 times, which seems low until you remember that BC only joined the ACC in 2004. Indeed, the two had only met twice before being conference mates from 2005-2013. BC has won the last 3 straight and is 8-3 overall, the most recent being a 29-26 win.
Last bowl game: This is the first bowl for the Terps since the 2014 Foster Farms Bowl, a 45-21 loss to Stanford. BC also last went to a bowl in 2014, losing 31-30 to Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Neely and Ray Bentley

5:00: North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN2): Well, this is probably the most fun game of the day just by default. For starters, I count Shreveport, Louisiana as one of college football's more ridiculous bowl venues. Secondly, these are both teams that are coming in hot, winners of two of their last three, including season ending victories over bitter rivals. So if you're taking advantage of Boxing Day sales, then you may want decompress with this one on. Also, it'll probably rain a lot in the second half. Fun! I've got the Wolfpack as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: Just two. The first was in 1946, a 7-0 Vanderbilt win. The last was the 2012 Music City Bowl, which Vandy also won, 38-24.
Last bowl game: This is the Wolfpack's third bowl game in a row. They lost last year's Belk Bowl to Mississippi State 51-28. This is Vandy's first bowl since the 2013-14 Birmingham Bowl, where they defeated Houston 41-24.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Cole Cubelic

Tuesday, December 27
12:00: Army vs. North Texas (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): I have a mental block about this game. Army is like a 10 point favorite. Yeah, sure, North Texas isn't good or anything, but Army lost to this team by 17 points at home! Look, I'm a stats-oriented person and I know that head-to-head isn't the best indicator of the quality of these two teams two months later. But, still, 17 points! I have the Mean Green here.
Previous meetings: Five, beginning in 1996-7, 2009-10, and then earlier this season. Army had won the first four, but UNT won back in October 35-18.
Last bowl game: This is Army's first bowl game since the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl, wherein they defeated SMU 16-14. UNT's last bowl game was this very game, back in the 2013-14 season. They defeated UNLV 36-14.
Announcers: Allen Bestick and Mike Bellotii

3:30: Temple vs. Wake Forest (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): Yes, Virginia Maryland, Wake Forest did actually qualify for a bowl game! Unfortunately for them, Temple is actually pretty good. I have the Owls all the way here.
Previous meetings: Just one, way back in 1930. Temple won 36-0.
Last bowl game: This is the second straight bowl game for the Owls. As far as I can tell, this is the first ever set of back-to-back bowls for them. They lost last year's Boca Raton Bowl to Toledo 32-17. This is Wake's first bowl game since the 2011 Music City Bowl, where they lost 23-17 to Mississippi State.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

7:00: Minnesota vs. Washington State (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): I find Wazzu to be one of the most vexing teams in college football, right down to how to spell their nickname. Regardless, it seems likely that they'll run through and throw over Minnesota while the Gophers will be unable to return fire.
Previous meetings: Five, and all in the regular season, somewhat surprisingly: 1965, 1971, 1976, 1982, and 1988. Wazzu holds the 3-2 advatnage and won the last matchup 41-9.
Last bowl game: This is Minnesota's fifth straight postseason game, going back to the 2012 Car Care Bowl, which they lost 34-31 to Texas Tech. They beat Central Michigan in last year's Quick Lane Bowl 21-14. Washington State beat Miami (the one from the ACC) in last year's Sun Bowl, 20-14.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

10:15: Boise State vs. Baylor (Cactus Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): Boise.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is the seventh straight bowl for the Bears, going back to a 38-14 loss to Illinois in the 2010 Texas Bowl. They beat North Carolina 49-38 in last year's Russell Athletic Bowl.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Joey Galloway, and David Pollack

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: No Stopping Until Christmas Day

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 19
2:30: Tulsa vs. Central Michigan (Miami Beach Bowl @ Miami, FL; ESPN): Something to watch if you're working this week, I guess? I don't really see CMU standing much of a chance against the Golden Hurricane.
Previous meetings: Two. In 1986, Tulsa won 42-6, but a year later the tables were turned with a 41-18 Central Michigan win.
Last bowl game: Tulsa lost last year's cracker of an Independence Bowl 55-52 to Virginia Tech. This is CMU's third straight bowl game. They lost last year's Quick Lane Bowl 21-14 to Minnesota.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick and Mike Bellotti

Tuesday, December 20
7:00: Memphis vs. Western Kentucky (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): This should be a fun game. Both of these teams like to score, all else be damned. Main factor may be the weather: there's a chance of rain and both of these teams prefer to move through the air. Unlike, say, most of the rest of the country, temperatures won't be an issue: expect the upper-70's at kick-off. I'm very slightly leaning toward the Tigers.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl for the Tigers. They lost to Auburn 31-10 in last year's Birmingham Bowl. The Hilltoppers are now on a three game streak. They beat South Florida 45-35 in last year's Miami Beach Bowl.
Announcers: Dave LaMont and Desmond Howard

Wednesday, December 21
9:00: Wyoming vs. Brigham Young (Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, CA; ESPN): I found this game really hard to call. Yeah, BYU is 8-4, but they don't have an real notable wins, that is, they don't have any wins over Boise State or San Diego State. Wyoming's resume is not exactly sterling, either. As is often the case in this situation, I have a feeling it'll be close. I'm leaning toward Wyoming.
Previous meetings: This one goes back a ways, to 1922 specifically when the teams met twice. Later, of course, both teams would be in the WAC and the Mountain West, but they haven't met since BYU's 25-20 win in 2010. The Cougars lead the overall series 44-30-3.
Last bowl game: Wyoming's last bowl game was the 2011 New Mexico Bowl, which they lost to Temple 37-15. This is the 12th bowl game in a row for the Cougars, dating back to 35-28 loss to Cal in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl. Last season, the Holy War was renewed in Sin City, but the Cougars lost 35-28.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

Thursday, December 22
7:00: Colorado State vs. Idaho (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): POTATO BOWL! Long-time fans (uh, let's pretend fans should be plural and move on) of this site know about my deep-seating affection for this game. And who knows, this one could be best one since the last time Idaho played in this game (see below)! Unfortunately, I'm predicting a sort-of easy victory for Colorado State. The Rams have really come on as the season progressed and while this season has been wildly successful by Idaho standards they're still, well, Idaho. (That said, if the Vandals win they should get a Mountain West invite. Seriously.)
Previous meetings: Seven relatively sporadic meetings. These teams first met in 1969, with the Rams winning 31-21. The series was renewed again in 1971, 1973, 1976, 1992, 2009, and finally 2010, with the Rams winning 36-34. Overall CSU holds a 4-3 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is CSU's fourth straight bowl game, going back to a 48-45 victory over Washington State in the 2013 New Mexico Bowl. Last year, they lost 38-23 in the Arizona Bowl to Nevada (the ultimate "too many bowls" bowl game, seeing as how both teams are in the Mountain West). This is Idaho's first bowl game since a memorably crazy 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb
Fun fact: This is Idaho's third ever bowl game, and they've never played in anything other than the Humanitarian/Potato Bowl. Less fun is the potential for this to be Idaho's less ever bowl game. The Vandals have faced difficulty finding a conference since the dissolution of the WAC for football, and next season will be their last before dropping back down to FCS.

Friday, December 23
1:00: Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): I wonder if there's any prop bets on the amount of time Steve Levy and Mack Brown actually spend talking about this game. Either way, bowl games a novel concept for both of these teams, much less leaving the country, so maybe this one could be fun? I have ODU as a slight favorite.
Previous meetings: Surprisingly, these two teams should be pretty familiar with each other. Old Dominion won 17-3 in 2014 and 38-34 in 2015.
Last bowl game: This is Eastern Michigan's first bowl game since the 1987 California Bowl, where they beat San Jose State 30-27. This is EMU's second ever bowl appearance. This is Old Dominion's first ever bowl game, though the school has only been a full FBS member since last season.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Mack Brown

4:30: Louisiana Tech vs. Navy (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): For most of the season, Navy accumulated wins and brought their game to all-comers. But then the last few games of the season happened, especially the loss to Houston. If there's a team that I'd think could regroup coming into bowl season, it'd be these guys, but nonetheless I keep seeing LaTech receivers running 4-verts right past too slow Navy defenders. 
Previous meetings: Just two. Navy won 32-14 in 2009 and 37-23 in 2010.
Last bowl game: This is LT's third straight bowl game, going back to a 2014 win over Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Last season, they beat Arkansas State 47-28 in the New Orleans Bowl. This is Navy's fifth straight bowl game, going back to 62-28 loss to Arizona State in the 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl. Last season they beat Pittsburgh 44-28 in the Military Bowl. Navy's streak would be 14 straight bowl games but for a 5-7 campaign in 2011.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Tom Ramsey

8:00: Ohio vs. Troy (Dollar General Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): Troy may have been the best team in the Sun Belt this year, but I don't know what to make of their chances against a MAC team. That said, Ohio is pretty milquetoast, so I've got Troy, but barely.
Previous meetings: Just one, back in the 2010 New Orleans Bowl. Troy won 48-21.
Last bowl game: The Bobcats lost last year's Camellia Bowl to Appalachian State 31-29. This is Troy's first bowl appearance since the 2010 New Orleans Bowl, where they beat Ohio 48-21.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Dusty Dvoracek

Saturday, December 24
8:00: Hawaii vs. Middle Tennessee State (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): Maybe sip on a daiquiri and pretend your fireplace actually sounds like the sound of rolling waves as you watch this game? And since Hawaii's playing in it, maybe there'll actually be people there this year? Also, since when did Mark May do games anymore? I thought he was a studio guy for ABC's coverage now? Maybe his name came up in the "gets to go to Hawaii" in the ESPN company lottery this year. Either way, I have MTSU has a pretty clear favorite here.
Previous meetings: Just one, back in 1993. The Rainbow Warriors won 35-14.
Last bowl game: It's been awhile for Hawaii. Their last bowl game was a 62-35 loss to Tulsa in the 2010 edition of this game. MTSU lost 45-31 to Western Michigan in last year's Bahamas Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Cotter and Mark May

Friday, December 16, 2016

Bowl Games 2016: Opening Slate

Predictions are being gradually updated on the site, but they may not be complete by the time games kick-off on Saturday. Nonetheless, let's get this thing started.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 17
2:00: New Mexico vs. Texas-San Antonio (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): Bowl season kicks off featuring good ol' Bob Davie's option-lovin' Lobos facing off against what figures to be an outmatched team somewhat ironically nicknamed the Roadrunners. (We'll overlook at that New Mexico lost to Rutgers earlier this year.) I like Davie and Co. at home.
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is New Mexico's second straight bowl game. They lost last year's edition of this game 45-37 to Arizona. For the Roadrunners, this is the first bowl game in the school's history at FBS, dating back to 2012.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Mack Brown

3:30: Houston vs. San Diego State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): Look below, and yes sir, that's Brent Musberger released from his SEC Network house arrest and let loose in Vegas. If you need to get wasted during the middle of a Saturday afternoon, take a swig anytime there's an on-air gambling reference. As for the game, this is basically going to come down to whether not Houston shows up. If we get Oklahoma or Louisville Houston, then the Cougars win this one going away. If we get SMU Houston, well, it could get interesting. It's easier to predict the former scenario than the latter scenario.
Previous meetings: Two, back in 1972 and 1973. Houston won both games, 49-19 and 14-9.
Last bowl game: This is Houston's fourth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2013-14 Birmingham Bowl. With some 1-year gaps filled in, the streak would go all the way back to 2003, but alas. They defeated Florida State 38-24 in last season's Peach Bowl.
Announcers: Brent Musberger and Jesse Palmer

  • Toledo vs. Appalachian State (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): If it weren't for that pesky bunch to the north and west of them, Toledo would be the team we'd be talking about out of the MAC this year. Alas, the Rockets have to settle for second best, and, as I'm predicting, a win over a potentially feisty Appalachian State team.
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game:
    This is Toledo's third straight bowl game. They beat Temple in last year's Boca Raton Bowl 32-17. The Mountaineers beat Ohio in last year's Camellia Bowl, 31-29.
    Eamon McAnaney and John Congemi
  • Central Florida vs. Arkansas State (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; CBSS): I don't care if Monday's blue, Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too
    Thursday I don't care about you, it's Friday I'm in love
    Monday you can fall apart, Tuesday Wednesday break my heart
    Thursday doesn't even start, it's Friday I'm in love

    Saturday wait, and Sunday always comes too late
    but Friday never hesitate...
    I don't care if Monday's black, Tuesday Wednesday heart attack
    Thursday never looking back, it's Friday I'm in love
    Monday you can hold your head, Tuesday Wednesday stay in bed
    or Thursday watch the walls instead, it's Friday I'm in love
    Saturday wait, and Sunday always comes too late
    but Friday never hesitate...
    Dressed up to the eyes, it's a wonderful surprise
    To see your shoes and your spirits rise
    Throwing out your frown and just smiling at the sound
    and as sleek as a shriek spinning round and round
    Always take a big bite, it's such a gorgeous sight
    to see you in the middle of the night
    You can never get enough, enough of this stuff
    It's Friday I'm in love

    I've got UCF here.
    Previous meetings: Just one, back on October 5, 1991. UCF won 31-20.
    Last bowl game:
    UCF had a pretty solid streak going before last year's season-long debacle. Their last bowl game was the 2014 Bitcoin Bowl, where they lost 34-27 to NC State. This is Arkansas State's sixth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2011-12 Bowl. They lost last year's New Orleans Bowl to 47-28 to Louisiana Tech.
    Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor
9:00: Southern Mississippi vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): For reasons elaborated on below, this is essentially the Ragin Cajun Bowl. They'll get 30,000 folks there easy, but Hattiesburg isn't too far away either (just up I-59!) and if there's an early season bowl destination that sells itself, it's New Orleans. Hopefully the on-the-field action will live up to the action off of it. I'm also predicting some temporarily bummed out Cajuns.
Previous meetings: This depends on how you definite it, but counting only games where both teams are considered "major" (i.e., equivalent to FBS), they've met 20 times since 1974, and Southern Miss is 16-4 in that time. When one or both of the teams was non-major, though, you can also include around 30 games between 1923 and 1974. So, basically, it depends on who you ask, but either way the Golden Eagles hold a sizeable lead.
Last bowl game: The Golden Eagles appeared in last year's Heart of Dallas Bowl, losing 44-31 to Washington. The Ragin' Cajuns had a nifty four-year bowl game streak snapped last season, their last appearance was a 16-3 win over Nevada in the 2014 New Orleans Bowl. They have never appeared in any other bowl game.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Rod Gilmore

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Final

At least, the final edition of the predictions are available. I'll note that they're not neccessary set in stone. After I wake up this morning, I will begin scanning my newsfeeds for any updated information as the dominoes of the bowl games fall into place. So let's hit the highlights:
  • I redid a lot of the ACC's bowl games to reflect two things. First, it seems likely that Georgia Tech will get a bid to the Taxslayer Bowl, 10 years after our previous appearance in what was then the Gator Bowl. (Hopefully it goes better this time.) I was also persuaded by the arguments for the Backyard Brawl in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but if the RAB isn't then Virginia Tech probably slides up into that slot.
  • I'm sticking to my guns with regards to the top-4 for the playoffs: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Washington. I think the only argument is for Penn State over Ohio State. Even if this gets weird later today, the damage will only be contained to the CFP-controlled bowls, unless Washington winds up in the Rose. 
  • I made some other changes based off rumors, like Houston playing San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl. They came form ESPN folks, though, and they own almost all the bowl games, so if anyone has an inside track, it's them.
That's all I have for now. I've explained my process before, and I'm out of things to explain. All that's next is to wait.

Friday, December 02, 2016

This Weekend in College Football: Week 14

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:00: Ohio vs. Western Michigan (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): By any reasonable measure, Western Michigan should win easily. However, I can't help but think back to the 2013 MAC title game, where an unranked Bowling Green beat an undefeated Northern Illinois 47-27. That said, yeah, you can't reasonably pick against the Broncos here.

9:00: Washington vs. Colorado (Pac-12 Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): Strangely, an upset here probably results in overall less intrigue, since Colorado will just slide right into the Rose Bowl. Instead, all the drama is in the Huskies winning. That said, a win here would give Washington a pretty solid victory for the ol' strength-of-schedule, and they would be a conference champion. Would that be enough to ensure their spot? I think so. And while I think these Buffs are pretty good, I think Washington is just a bit better.

  • Temple @ Navy (American Athletic Conference Championship; ABC): If you like keeping the ball on the ground, this is the game for you. Featuring two of the best rushing attacks in the country, passing will be at a premium. That said, I think the Owls are better matchup for Navy than South Florida would've been, and I think they'll be able to prevail at home.
  • Louisiana Tech @ Western Kentucky (Conference USA Championship; ESPN): If you like to see the pigskin spending most of the afternoon in the air, well then good news! Featuring two attacks that absolutely like to fling out it around, consequences be damned, this game figures to be a rollicking good 62-58 kind of time. In that scenario, I like the Hilltoppers.
  • Troy @ Georgia Southern (ESPN2): Southern enters this game on a four game losing streak that doesn't figure to stop there.
  • Kansas State @ Texas Christian (FS1): With the two teams otherwise through the rest of the Big 12 schedule, they enter pretty darn close when it comes to most statistical categories, so I figure this a coin flip. In that case, I like K-State's chances.
12:30: Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (FOX): It's Bedlam! And honestly, I don't figure this one to be especially crazy. Oklahoma has been pretty good this year! While Oklahoma State is 8-1 in conference, they haven't exactly dominated the way the Sooners have (seriously, as fluky as that Central Michigan loss was, they should've also lost to Texas Tech). I've got the Sooners all the way here.

3:30: Baylor @ West Virginia (FS1): West Virginia.

4:00: Alabama vs. Florida (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): Seriously, SEC, just move Alabama (and Auburn) to the East and be done with it. Bama should roll.

7:30: Arkansas State @ Texas State (ESPN2): Texas State is basically the Rutgers of the Sun Belt, so the Red Wolves should roll easily.

7:45: San Diego State @ Wyoming (Mountain West Conference Championship; ESPN): the Aztecs ventured up to Laramie two weeks ago and had a chance to tie with the clock expired with an extra point. Instead, they opted for the two point conversion, which failed. Since then, both these teams have fallen backward into the game. SDSU's position as West champs was never in any doubt, but they lost to Colorado State last week kinda badly (63-31!). Wyoming, meanwhile, is here mainly because Boise State had the courtesy to lose to Air Force the day before they got bowled over by New Mexico. So, basically, I don't know what to expect here, except that the San Diego State players are probably going to be very, very cold, with the temperature expected to be somewhere around 20 degrees (Fahrenheit!) at kickoff. So good luck with that, and I like Wyoming here.

  • Clemson vs. Virginia Tech (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Orlando, FL; ABC): Hey, remember that time North Carolina totally recovered an onside kick to have a chance at beating Clemson in the ACC title game last year? All I'm saying is that, for maybe only the third or fourth time all year, the Tigers need to come to play, lest they need to get bailed out again. It's not a good look.
  • Wisconsin vs. Pennsylvania State (Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): So, yeah, this is totally the Big Ten title game we all expected a few weeks ago. Well, okay, it half is, since Wisconsin is pretty good and was a pretty expected pick to win the Big Ten West at that point. Instead, it was the East not holding up its end of the bargain, the circumstances of which we're all familiar with at this point. So who's going win this game? I have to say, I'm still skeptical on Penn State. Yes, they beat Ohio State, but (for the umpteenth time) the transitive property does not apply to college football. Also, it wasn't like the Nittany Lions went out there and dominated the Buckeyes: they were outgained by over 200 yards and needed some special teams luck to win the game. On the balance, the Badgers' defense was second only to Michigan's in the Big Ten. They're a force to be reckoned with, and in a different year Wisconsin would be coming into this undefeated. I like the Badgers here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Bowl Predictions 2016: Week 7

First, a link.

And now, business. First off, many of these predictions are not as accurate as I'd like for the week after Thanksgiving. While all the controversy is closer to the top of the College Football Playoff rankings, the real uncertainty is due to two teams: Western Michigan and Navy.

Western Michigan, as you may know, are currently undefeated heading into their MAC title game tilt with Ohio Friday night. Navy will play in the AAC title game against Temple on Saturday. CMU is currently ranked 17th, while Navy is ranked 19th. The Playoff rankings are relatively opaque, which is sometimes a good thing (they seem more willing to move teams around based on new data, unlike the traditional polls), but also a bad thing because it makes it harder for us to predict. (And, frankly, we should know what their criteria are instead of having to guess at it.) I don't think it's especially likely that a 2-loss Navy would jump an undefeated Western Michigan, but the point is no one knows for sure. The result, currently, is chaos. The worst-case scenario is that the Committee decides that they need more data, thus meaning we all have to wait for Navy to play Army next weekend. In essence, it's entirely possible that almost every MAC, AAC, or bowl with at-large slots will be unable to fill its spots until December 11th, possibly affecting the bowls that kick off the following Saturday.

In other words, there's probably a lot of bowl officials going "I love our country, but... it'd really work out out if Navy lost on Saturday" right now. 

  • I just re-shuffled some of the Sun Belt bids, so the these predictions are fresh as of about 10 minutes ago.
  • Fun times in the ACC bowl hierarchy, where some unexpectedly 6-6 teams and a Louisville loss to Kentucky have shuffled things up. Let's just go down the list:
    • Clemson's in the playoff if they beat Virginia Tech, nothing's changed there. They'll be either a 2 or 3 seed if they're in, I think.
    • Me, and just about everyone else, is now putting Florida State in the Orange Bowl over Louisville. Look, I don't agree with it, but maybe the Cardinals just should've taken care of business at home.
    • Since four Big Ten teams are going to get into the CFP-controlled bowls, one of them is going to be in the Orange Bowl. And if one of them is in the Orange Bowl, then an ACC team gets in the Citrus Bowl. So that's where Louisville will wind up if they miss out on the Orange Bowl.
    • The Russell Athletic Bowl gets the first ACC selection after that mess, and I think they'll take the top team on the board, Virginia Tech.
    • Next up is the ACC mid-tier consisting of the Taxslayer Bowl (probably no Music City this year), Belk Bowl, Sun Bowl, and Pinstripe Bowl. Right now, I'm going with the obvious geographic fits for the Pinstripe (Pittsburgh), Belk (North Carolina) and Taxslayer (Miami). So that leaves the Sun to pick from 8-4 Georgia Tech and the ACC's three 6-6 teams. I'm going with the Jackets for that one. About the only thing that I think could change is Tech to the Taxslayer and Miami to the Sun, but that's about it.
  • As with last year, it's basically impossible to predict where the 5-7 teams will end up. We can, however, pretty safely say a bowl eligible 6-7 Hawaii will end up at the Hawaii Bowl, but it's not official yet. Here are your potential APR 5-7 teams, in priority order:
    • North Texas
    • Texas/Mississippi State
    • Northern Illinois
That's about it for now. Stay tuned Saturday night, when the last predictions will go up before we transition to game previews. (Hopefully.)