Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: Arriving at the Ballroom

My overall percentage has perked up to 40%, despite a brutal day on Wednesday where I went 0-4. That said, we're in the homestretch now. Today we'll cover today's and tomorrow's game, and a separate post will cover the New Year's Day games. Also, the master bowl page is updated with predictions for all the remaining games.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 29
1:00: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): This is once again a hard to read game because by any reasonable standard, TAMU is more talented than Wake. The problem is, bowl games lean a lot on who's more motivated, and I would think that would go to the Demon Deacons, given the offeseason drama at TAMU. But in this case I can't ignore the talent gap and besides, you can come up with narratives where the Aggies would be motivated (i.e., send out the interim coach with a win, impress Jimbo Fisher, etc.). So I'm going with a narrow Aggie win here.
S&P+ line: Wake by 5.4
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For Wake, this is their second straight bowl. Last season they beat Temple 24-26 in the Military Bowl. This is TAMU's ninth straight bowl game, going back to the 2009 Independence Bowl where they lost 44-20 to Georgia. Last year, they lost 33-28 to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

3:00: North Carolina State vs. Arizona State (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): Okay, speaking of motivation, the tire fire of a coaching situation that Arizona State makes it hard to be optimistic about the Sun Devils' situation. (In case you aren't aware, ASU fired coach Todd Graham after the season, and then bizarrely hired Herm Edwards, who hasn't coach in college in literal decades. The reason cited for this is because they wanted a "CEO type" guy and they wanted to keep their coordinators. Naturally, both coordinators left within a week, which makes the plan look even more bizarre.) At any rate, the Wolfpack offense is potent enough to make Arizona State's awful defense pay, so I'm going with them.
S&P+ line: NCSU by 5.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Back in 1960, ASU won 25-22, and then in 1974 NCSU won 35-14.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Wolfpack, going back to a 2014 Bitcoin Bowl win over UCF, 34-27. Last year they defeated Vanderbilt 41-17 in the Independence Bowl. ASU's last bowl was the 2015-16 Cactus Bowl, where they lost 43-42 to West Virginia.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

4:30: Northwestern vs. Kentucky (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): Kentucky comes in 7-5 and sporting the 91st and 81st ranked scoring offenses and defenses, respectively. Northwestern has a pretty good defense and a much more solid resume at 9-3. Stuff can happen in bowl games, yes, but this opening Big Ten vs. SEC salvo (and Wildcats vs. Wildcats!) should go to the team from the Chicago 'burbs.
S&P+ line: Northwestern by 9.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one, back in 1928. Northwestern won 7-0.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl for the Chicago-based Wildcats, going back to the 2015-16 Outback Bowl, where they lost 45-6 to Tennessee. Last season they beat Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl 31-24. Kentucky lost 33-18 to Georgia Tech in last season's Taxslayer Bowl.
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Andre Ware

5:30: Utah State vs. New Mexico State (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; CBSS): The main reason to care about this game at all is that New Mexico State is about to get the boot from the Sun Belt yet managed to go 6-6 and secure their first bowl bid since 1960. And, well, the Northwestern-Kentucky game figures to be kind of boring and low scoring. This figures not to be low scoring, but mostly in the sense that this is likely to be a Utah State rout, but hey, it's NMSU's first bowl in 67 years, anything can happen! (Also, somehow this game also has two teams with the same nickname, these two both being Aggies.)
S&P+ line: Utah State by 2.2
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Their first meeting of 37 total was back in the 1960 Sun Bowl (more on that in a second). Since, both were in the WAC for a bit, so they've racked up the meetings, but after meeting nearly every year from 1985 through 2012, Utah State has a 30-7 series lead.
Last bowl game: Utah State's last bowl appearance was the 2015 Potato Bowl, where they lost 23-21 to Akron. This is New Mexico State's fourth bowl all-time, and the first one that's not a Sun Bowl. Their last bowl game was the 1960 Sun Bowl against... Utah State. They won 20-13.
Announcers: Dave Ryan and Corey Chavous

8:30: Southern California vs. Ohio State (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): Ohio State has looked like a legitimately great team for most of the season, except for that one time against the guy who won the Heisman and, well, it's well established at this point that Kinnick Stadium is where Big Ten East title contenders go to die. The Trojans also look like a great team (hey, they won the Pac-12), but then you look at their numbers and realize they don't really hold a candle to the Buckeyes. That said, the Trojans are talented enough to keep the game close, but ultimately, I think, not close enough.
S&P+ line: Ohio State by 12.1
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Twenty-three, and as you might guess, there's a handful of Rose Bowls involved. Seven, to be exact. That means, though, the other sixteen were regular season matchups, dating back to the 1937 tilt that USC won 13-12. From 1937 through 1949 they'd play eight times total, with the Buckeyes taking a 4-3-1 series lead. They then met in the 1954-55 Rose Bowl, which Ohio St won 20-7. From there, they met a few more times in the regular season and then played in six Rose Bowls, including consecutive appearances from the 1972-73 and 1974-75 seasons. USC has won seven in a row dating to the 1974-75 Rose Bowl and then regular season matchups in 1989, 1990, 2008, and 2009. The Trojans hold a 13-9-1 all-time series lead.
Last bowl game: This is USC's sixth straight bowl, going back to the the 2012 Sun Bowl, which they lost 21-7 to Georgia Tech. Last season they prevailed 52-49 in a classic Rose Bowl over Penn State. This is the fifth straight bowl game for Ohio State, going back to a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2012-13 Orange Bowl. Last season they got blanked by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, 31-0.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

Saturday, December 30
Noon: Louisville vs. Mississippi State (Taxslayer Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): It's your last chance to watch Lamar Jackson desperately try to keep his team's above water, since he can't really help them play defense. That said, Mississippi State is probably bad enough that it can work, but you really can't count out the Cardinals defense's ability to make anyone look good. I still like them here, though.
S&P+ line: Louisville by 2.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Four, and all in the regular season from 1973-1976. Louisville lost all four.
Last bowl game: This is Louisville's eighth straight bowl game, going back to a 31-28 win over Southern Miss in the Beef 'O'Brady's bowl in 2010. Last season Lamar Jackson and Co. lost to LSU 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl. The Bulldogs are in their eighth straight bowl game going back to the 2010-11 Gator Bowl, a 52-14 win over Michigan. Last season they defeated Miami (the one in Ohio) 17-16 in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Jordan Rodgers
Fun fact: It's not really fun, per se, but remember college football fans: the upside of Lamar Jackson not really getting any NFL draft buzz is that it likely means he'll end up with a good team that knows how to use him and not, you know, the Browns.

12:30: Iowa State vs. Memphis (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ABC): The Cyclones will be right at home defending Memphis's spread passing attack. Additionally, Memphis needs to watch out for the fact that they're actually favored and playing at home, which is a good way to ensure that Iowa State will be both up for this game and completely willing to pull off the upset (see: Oklahoma and TCU). In other words, I'm talking myself into taking this mild upset and picking the Cyclones.
S&P+ line: Memphis by 4.6
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For the Cyclones, this is their first bowl game since the 2012 Liberty Bowl, a 31-17 loss to Tulsa. For Memphis, they've got a four game bowl streak going back to the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl, a 55-48 brawltastic win over BYU. Last season they lost 51-31 to Western Kentucky in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Patrick and Tommy Tuberville

4:00: Washington vs. Pennsylvania State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Washington comes in with a pretty good defense, but Penn State comes in with both a really good offense and a really good defense. I'm figuring the Huskies are going to have a hard time keeping up with the Nittany Lions, but I'm also secretly hoping that we get as good of a game as we did in last season's Rose Bowl.
S&P+ line: UDub by 0.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Two. Penn State won the first one in the 1921 regular season 21-7, and then won 13-10 in the 1983 Aloha Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is UDub's eighth straight bowl, going back to the 2010 Holiday Bowl, a 19-7 win over Nebraska. Last season they lost their playoff game in the Peach Bowl 24-7 in the Peach Bowl. This is the Nittany Lions's fourth straight bowl, going back to a 31-30 win over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy

8:00: Miami vs. Wisconsin (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): Everyone and everything favors Wisconsin. The Badgers are big, beefy, can run the ball and pass pretty competently when they need to. They play an aggressive and dominating brand of defense. And boy howdy, sitting on a .400 winning percentage after 25 games picking winners and losers should motivate me to stick to the chalk. So... I'm picking Miami. Yes, a Miami team that got absolutely destroyed by Clemson in the ACC title game after blowing a playoff shot by losing to an awful Pitt team. Why? The usual reason one favors Florida teams over teams from the Midwest: they're faster. Look, who knows which version of the Canes actually shows up, but I feel like we already saw this movie in Miami's brutal 41-8 win over Notre Dame.
S&P+ line: Wisconsin by 7.6
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Four. Wisconsin won the first back in the 1958 regular season, 20-0. Miami reeled off two straight during their heyday, though. In 1988 they won 23-3 and then in 1989 they delievered a 51-3 walloping. Wisconsin got the last laugh back in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl, though, with a 20-14 win.
Last bowl game: For the Canes, this is their fifth straight bowl, going back to the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl, a 36-9 loss to Louisville. Last season, they beat West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. For the Badgers, this is their sixteenth straight bowl game, going back to the 2002 Alamo Bowl, a 31-28 win over Colorado. Last season, they beat Western Michigan 24-16 in the Cotton Bowl.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Brian Griese

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: Warming Up for the Big Dance

When you see how badly my predictions have gone so far, just remember the below disclaimer:

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Tuesday, December 26
1:30: West Virginia vs. Utah (Heart of Dallas Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): Ah, the Zombie Cotton Bowl gets us back into the swing of things. Anyway, I don't have a very good read on this game, to be honest. WVU is kind of stumbling in after losing their last two, and really it's not like Utah is that much better, though they did at least have the benefit of beating Utah 34-13 in their final game and giving Washington all they wanted. WVU's offense is more potent and Utah's pass defense is kind of mediocre, so I'm going with the 'Neers, barely.
S&P+ line: Utah by 3.8
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one, back in the 1964 Liberty Bowl. Utah won, 32-6.
Last bowl game: West Virginia is on a four game bowl streak, starting with the 2014 Liberty Bowl, which they lost 45-37 to Texas A&M. Last year, they lost 31-14 to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. For the Utes, this is also their fourth straight bowl, going back to the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl where they beat Colorado State 45-10. Last season, they defeated Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl 26-24.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Rene Ingoglia

5:15: Northern Illinois vs. Duke (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): These two teams have similar strengths: kind of mediocre offenses paired with above-average defenses. In that situation, I'll take the Power 5 team every time.
S&P+ line: NIU by 3.6
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: NIU had an eight-game bowl streak snapped last season, so their last appearance was the 2015 Poinsettia Bowl, where they lost 55-7 to Boise State. Duke's last postseason appearance was the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl, where they defeated Indiana 44-41.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Ray Bentley

9:00: Kansas State vs. California-Los Angeles (Cactus Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): Around mid-October, I'd written off Bill Synder's wizardry and the Wildcats. Naturally, K-State rallied to win 4 of their last 5 including an upset on the road at Oklahoma State. UCLA is pretty much... well, I just think K-State will be more motivated.
S&P+ line: K-State by 0.9
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Three of them, and all relatively recently. There was a reguar season series in 2009 and 2010. UCLA won the first 23-9, and K-State won 31-22 in the second. They then met in the 2014-15 Alamo Bowl, where UCLA won 40-35.
Last bowl game: This is K-State's eighth straight bowl game, going back to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, which they lost 36-34 to Sryacuse. Last season they beat Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl 33-28. UCLA's last bowl game was the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl, where they lost 37-29 to Nebraska.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Jordan Rodgers

Wednesday, December 27
1:30: Florida State vs. Southern Mississippi (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): Whether or not FSU is technically eligible for this game is kind of beside the point. The point is that it's incredible hard to predict victory here for a team that just saw their coach voluntarily leave for an arguably worse job (after all, how many BCS bowl/playoff bids does Texas A&M have?) after they had to play a rescheduled game to wind up in Shreveport, of all places. (And no, it's not going to snow.) I'll take USM here based entirely on motivation.
S&P+ line: Southern Miss by 3.7
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Twenty-two! They played 6 times from 1952-1957, and then 4 times between 1960 and 1964, 5 times in the 70's and then 6 times in the 80's. However, after FSU joined the ACC they've met just once, in 1996. Southern Miss led the series 6-3-1 before FSU became, well, FSU in the 70's, and since then FSU has taken a 13-8-1 series lead. FSU won the last meeting in 1996 54-14.
Last bowl game: As we all know, Florida State has the longest active bowl streak in the country, now numbering 36 consecutive postseason appearances. Once again, I'll point that the streak started in the 1982 Gator Bowl, where they beat West Virginia 31-12. And Shreveport probably feels a lot farther away from Miami than it actually is, as that's where FSU defeated Michigan 33-32 last season in the Orange Bowl. For Southern Miss, this is their third straight bowl game. They lost 44-31 to Washington in the Zombie Cotton Bowl two seasons ago and beat UL-Lafayette 28-31 in the New Orleans Bowl last year.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

5:15: Boston College vs. Iowa (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): Boston College's weirdly resurgent offense finally gets a national stage, and it maybe worth watching just to see Iowa fans react to seeing something that looks a lot like what the platonic ideal of Iowa offense is.
S&P+ line: Iowa by 3.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Boston College defeated Maryland in last year's Quick Lane Bowl 36-30. For the Hawkeyes, this is their fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2012-13 Outback Bowl, where they lost 21-14 to LSU. Last season they also lost in the Outback Bowl, 30-3 to Florida.
Announcers: Kevin Negandhi, Mack Brown, and Booger McFarland

8:30: Purdue vs. Arizona (Foster Farms Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): This is pretty much the exact definition of a college football hipster game. You've got Jeff Brohm's new-look Purdue offense versus the most exciting player in college football you've probably never heard of in Khalil Tate. The problem for Purdue this year is that it's been tough sledding for that offense for any defense with a pulse, which unfortunately for them is most of the Big Ten. But! Arizona's defense is awful, so they'll have a chance in this one. I still like the Wildcats, though I could see this one coming down to who has the ball last.
S&P+ line: Purdue by 1.6
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Just two, both in the regular season. Purdue won 59-7 in 2003 and 31-24 in 2005.
Last bowl game: Purdue's last postseason appearance was the 2012-13 Heart of Dallas Bowl, where they lost 58-14 to Oklahoma State. Arizona's was the 2015 New Mexico Bowl, where they beat New Mexico 45-37.
Announcers: Joe Davis and Brady Quinn

9:00: Texas vs. Missouri (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): Mizzou started out 1-5 and was left for dead, so naturally they discovered a passing offense and reeled off six in a row as their schedule got significantly easier. The main problem for the Longhorns is that they aren't particularly good at anything, and their offense has looked downright awful at times this year. That said, I could see Texas getting a lot better... next season. I like the Tigers here.
S&P+ line: Mizzou by 4.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Texas holds an all-time 17-6 series lead, which doesn't seem like a lot until you remember that they were only really in the same conference for about 20 years. The series does go all the way back to 1894, though (Mizzou won 28-0) and the two met in the 1945-46 Cotton Bowl (Texas won 40-27). Since 1931, Texas is 16-2 and was 7-2 when they were both in the Big 12, though Mizzou did win the last meeting in 2011 17-5.
Last bowl game: It's kind of hard to believe, but this is the first bowl game for Texas since the 2014 Texas Bowl, where they lost 31-7 to Arkansas. Mizzou's last bowl was the 2014-15 Citrus Bowl, where they beat Minnesota 33-17.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Dusty Dvoracek

Thursday, December 28
1:30: Virginia vs. Navy (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): This game got a Tier II rating below because, hey, Navy's fun to watch, but less fun is to note that they've lost six of their last seven. Of course, UVA's not that much better in that regard. After getting to six wins against Georgia Tech (ugh), they immediately lost their last three games including a 10-0 clunker to Virginia Tech, meaning the Cavs have lost five of their last six. In a battle of who's probably going to be more motivated and want it more, you have to go with the service academy right? Probably doesn't hurt they're playing at home, either.
S&P+ line: Virginia by 0.4
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Considering the age of their programs and geographical proximity, it's no surprise that they've met 38 times. Navy holds a 27-11 all-time lead that dates back to 1889 (a 22-12 win for the Midshipmen). They haven't met since 1994, when Virginia won 47-10 and is on a 5-game winning streak from 1990 through that 1994 game.
Last bowl game: UVA's last bowl game was the 2011 Chick-fil-a Bowl, where they lost 43-24 to Auburn. This is Navy's sixth straight bowl appearance, starting with a 62-28 loss to Arizona State in the 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl. Last season they lost 48-45 to Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Kirk Morrison

5:15: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (Camping World Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): This could well be a shootout. Oklahoma State sports one of the game's best passing offenses against one of the top defenses in the country, so what I mean by that is that I think the Pokes' offense is just that good. It'll be a shootout in the sense that Oklahoma State's defense, well, leaves a lot to be desired and could allow VPI to stay in the game. Overall, though, if this is high scoring, then that definitely favors State.
S&P+ line: OSU by 5.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Just two, back in the 1971 and 1972 regular seasons. Oklahoma State won the first 24-16 and VPI won the second 34-32.
Last bowl game: Virginia Tech owns the second longest bowl streak in the country, with this being their 25th straight bowl game. The streak started with the 1993 Independence Bowl, where VPI beat Indiana 45-20. Last season, they defeated Arkansas 35-24 in the Belk Bowl. Oklahoma State has a pretty good run themselves, as this is this their twelth straight bowl game, starting with the 2006 Independence Bowl, a 34-31 win over Alabama. (Ah, the good ol' days.) Last year they smoked Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, 38-8.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

9:00: Texas Christian vs. Stanford (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): If Bryce Love's ankle has had a chance to get healthy over the past few weeks off, then Stanford's got a chance here. Otherwise, it's hard to see Stanford generating enough offense to win.
S&P+ line: TCU by 4
Watchability tier: III (provisional, II if Bryce Love isn't appreciably healthier)
Previous meetings: Just two, back in the 2007 and 2008 regular seasons. TCU won both 38-36 and 31-14, respectively.
Last bowl game: This is TCU's fourth straight bowl game, going back to a 42-3 win over Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl in 2014. Last season they lost to Georgia 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl. Stanford's got a nine game streak going themselves, going back to the 2009 Sun Bowl, which they lost 31-27 to Oklahoma. Last season they had a much better Sun Bowl experience, beating North Carolina 25-23.
Announcers: Rece Davis, Joey Galloway, and David Pollack

9:00: Michigan State vs. Washington State (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; FS1): The Spartans have managed to convert a 3-9 season last year into a 9-3 season this year, which is no small feat. However, so many of their wins were so flukey (see: the Michigan and Penn State games) that this team could easily be 7-5. Given that this game is in San Diego, I don't think any monsoons are in the forecast (though Southern California could really use the rain), which means that I think Sparty will be too offensively limited to keep up with the Cougars.
S&P+ line: Sparty by 0.1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Seven, and none of them in a bowl game, surprisingly. The first meeting was a 25-13 Wazzu win in 1942. The Spartans then reeled off 5 straight, only to lose in the last meeting back in 1977, 23-21.
Last bowl game: Sparty's last bowl game was that 38-0 loss to Alabama in the 2015 Cotton Bowl, a playoff game. For Wazzu, this is their third straight bowl game. Two seasons ago they beat Miami in the Sun Bowl 20-14, and last season they lost to Minnesota 17-12 in the Holiday Bowl.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: On the Second Day of Bowlmas...

Well, last Saturday was pretty much a disaster for me, as the only pick I got right was Troy over North Texas. Yet, we soldier on!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Tuesday, December 19
7:00: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): Akron was definitely an okay MAC team, but at least on paper this is the biggest mismatch of bowl season. I expect the Fightin' Lane Kiffins to win and win big.
S&P+ line: FAU by 22
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Akron's first bowl game since the 2015 Potato Bowl, where they beat Utah State 23-21. For the Owls, this is their first bowl since the 2008 Motre City Bowl, where they beat Central Michigan 24-21.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Kirk Morrison

Wednesday, December 20
8:00: Southern Methodist vs. Louisiana Tech (Frisco Bowl @ Frisco, TX; ESPN): The Mustangs pretty much lost to anyone decent they played, but fortunately for them the Bulldogs aren't really decent by any means. I have SMU here.
S&P+ line: SMU by 3.3
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: There's four meetings, back to the brief period when both these teams were in C-USA from 2001-2004. LaTech holds a 3-1 lead in the series, including a 41-10 win in 2004.
Last bowl game: This is SMU's first bowl since the 2012 Hawaii Bowl, where they beat Florida State 43-10. (Yeah, that bowl streak has some low points...) For the Bulldogs, this is their fourth bowl game in a row. Back in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl, they beat Illinois 35-18. Last season, they beat Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl 48-45.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and John Congemi

Thursday, December 21
8:00: Florida International vs. Temple (Gasparilla Bowl @ St. Petersburg, FL; ESPN): If you like points, then this bowl is probably for you. I expect this game to be in the 30's, but I'm going with Temple by a hair.
S&P+ line: FIU by 0.6
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is FIU's first bowl since a previous incarnation of this game, the 2011 Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl, where they lost to Marshall 20-10. To use a phrase that, before 2009 or so I never thought I'd utter, this is Temple's third straight bowl game. They lost 34-26 to Wake Forest in last year's Military Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Mike Golic Jr.

Friday, December 22
12:30: Ohio vs. Alabama-Birmingham (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): The main reason this game is interesting is because UAB, after being killed off by a dumb Alabama power play conspiracy, managed to go 8-4 despite having not played in two years. Maybe on paper the Bobcats should win, but I don't really care, I'm going for UAB because in some small way it might spite the University of Alabama.
S&P+ line: Ohio by 5.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Ohio's thirds straight bowl game. They lost 28-23 to Troy in last year's Dollar General Bowl. For UAB, this is their second bowl game ever. Their previous postseason appearance was in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl, where they lost to Hawaii 59-40.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Desmond Howard
Fun fact: Go Blazers!

4:00: Wyoming vs. Central Michigan (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): Home of the best logo of bowl season, we've got, well, the logo is probably better than this matchup. The hype and focus of the broadcast coverage will likely be Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who for whatever reason was tapped before the season as a potential NFL first round pick and never was able to shake the hype train, despite not even being the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth best passer in his conference. The Cowboys also finished with a bad loss to a terrible San Jose State team, though in fairness Allen missed that game and the one before with a shoulder injury (which is also making him questionable for this game, but I suspect he will dominate the conversation whether he plays or not). So yeah, the Chippewas had themselves a nice little season, reeling off five straight wins to close out the season. If Wyoming is without Allen, then I like CMU; with him I consider this a toss-up. Generally speaking, a Mountain West team should have more talent than a MAC team, but by all means Wyoming has had the more disappointing season, which tends to factor into bowl games.
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: These teams met in 2000 and 2002. Wyoming won the first 31-10 and CMU won the second 32-20.
Last bowl game: Wyoming appeared in the last ever Poinsettia Bowl last year, where they lost to BYU 24-21. This is the fourths straight bowl for Central Michigan. They started the streak with a 49-48 loss to Western Kentucky in the Bahamas Bowl, and last year they lost 55-10 to Tusla in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Tom Ramsey

Saturday, December 23
Noon: Texas Tech vs. South Florida (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): Wake up this Saturday with some points, because boy howdy will they be scored in this one. That said, Texas Tech isn't really, like, that good? Their season started well enough, with a crazy shootout win over Arizona State and the obligatory blowout of Kansas, but then it careened off the rails with losses to everyone else in the Big 12 except Baylor and, crucially, Texas. That said, they'll get there's, but Quinton Flowers and company are pretty good at pointing up the numbers themselves and they can play defense. I expect that ability to get at least one stop to be the difference.
S&P+ line: USF by 8.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For the Red Raiders, this is their first bowl since the 2015 Texas Bowl, where they lost 56-27 to LSU. This is USF's third straight bowl game. They beat South Carolina 46-39 in last year's edition of this game.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Gene Chizik

3:30: San Diego State vs. Army (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): Army is definitely the cool story here, with their 9-3 record propelling them to their best season since 1996, when they went 10-2. Unfortunately, that story ended with a close loss to Auburn in the Independence Bowl. This game may set a bowl record for least pass attempts, as both teams prefer to run the ball. The Aztecs feature a traditional feature back in Rashad Penny, who was the FBS's leader in rushing yards this year. Army nominally features an option attack, but they mostly feature quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (5th in FBS in rushing) making various off-tackle and power runs to either side of the lines. In other words, this will be the complete opposite of the Birmingham Bowl. I think by the nature of these offenses the game will be close, but I think SDSU is slightly better.
S&P+ line: SDSU by 3.4
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: SDSU holds a 2-0 series lead, with a 23-20 win in 2011 and a 42-7 win in 2012.
Last bowl game: The Aztecs just keep on truckin', as this is their eighth straight bowl appearance. The streak started with a 35-14 win over Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, and most recently they beat Houston 34-10 in the Las Vegas Bowl. Army won last year's Heart of Dallas Bowl 38-31 over North Texas. For Army, this is the first they've had consecutive bowl bids since the 1984 Cherry Bowl and the 1985 Peach Bowl.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Mack Brown

7:00: Toledo vs. Appalachian State (Dollar General Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): For the most part, this Toledo team is one that finally broke through and won the MAC, and usually in dominating fashion. That said, they don't really come in with a prestige win, per se; the only Power 5 team they played was Miami and they got shallacked, and they also have an ugly loss to Ohio. Appalachian State finished as co-champions of the Sun Belt, but that's mostly because they dodged the other two good teams in the Sun Belt (Troy and Arkansas State) in conference play. Overall, I think the Rockets are a better team and while this won't get them the prestige win they're looking for, it should be a fun contest.
S&P+ line: Toledo by 3.1
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: These teams met in last year's Camellia Bowl. The Mountaineers won 31-28.
Last bowl game: For the Rockets, this is their fourth straight bowl game, going back to the 2014-15 Bowl (a previous incarnation of this game), where they beat Arkansas State 63-44. For the Mountaineers, this is their third straight bowl game and first appearance in a game other than the Camellia Bowl. In that 2015 game, they beat Ohio 31-29. Maybe next time they can get a bowl game outside the state of Alabama, though if they somehow got a Birmingham Bowl bid I'm sure that would be some sort of unique record.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb

Sunday, December 24
8:30: Fresno State vs. Houston (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): This should be a pretty good Hawaii Bowl, all things considered. Fresno isn't that adept at scoring the ball, but unlike many of Houston's opponents they can actually defend. Of course, that's assuming we're talking about the gun-slinging Houston of old, which we aren't. Given that, I expect Fresno to grind it out and get a close, hard fought win.
S&P+ line: Fresno State by 0.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Fresno State fans would probably prefer not to remember their previous bowl appearance, a 30-6 beatdown at the hands of Rice (of all teams!) in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl. For the Cougars, this is their fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl, where they lost to Vanderbilt 41-24. They lost last year's Las Vegas Bowl to San Diego State, 34-10.
Announcers: Chris Cotter and Rod Gilmore

Friday, December 15, 2017

Bowl Games 2017: Opening Slate

The holiday season? Eh, that's all well and good, but now it's the reason for the season: that's right, bowl games! Why are there 39 of them this year, you ask? Because one of them went out of business! Why were there previously 40, you ask? Well, because live sports are about the only thing that makes money on TV anymore!

This year's preview of all the action includes a new Watchability Rating. I mean, let's face it, you're going to have these games on at least in the background anyway because it's not like anything else is on. But nonetheless, I'm here to help you prioritize. To wit, here's the four tiers:
  • I: Background noise, or maybe just the background thing on TV while you have some Christmas music on.
  • II: You'll at least have the volume turned up, because, hey, it's college football, anything can happen.
  • III: Your family member who likes college football will be actively watching this, telling you about how Mizzou got a lot better in the second half the season as they rediscovered their offense and their schedule got easier.
  • IV: Marquee games, like playoff games as well as quality bowl matchups featuring good teams.
Also new are S&P+ lines, which are based on the differences on the S&P+ ratings produced by Bill Connelly. Since Connelly uses gauges this against Vegas lines, I thought it'd be useful to look at these numbers.

With all that said, let's look over tomorrow's opening slate! The full slate is, of course, here.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

1:00: North Texas vs. Troy (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Troy has made perhaps the best coaching hire of the season, by which I mean they were able to retain rising star Neal Brown for another year. By all rights, with the win over LSU the Trojans should've been 11-1 this year, but they blew that chance by putting up a result even more inexplicable than their win in Baton Rouge: losing a week later at home to South Alabama. North Texas was a respectable 9-4 this year, but they never looked that impressive doing it even though they won Conference-USA West. I'm going with Troy.
S&P+ line: Troy by 3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Ten total meetings, dating to when both were in the Sun Belt. The first was in 2001, an 18-16 win by Troy, and the last was in 2012, a 14-7 win for Troy. Troy leads the overall series 8-2.
Last bowl game: North Texas appeared in last year's Heart of Dallas Bowl, losing 38-31 to Army. Troy defeated Ohio 28-23 in last year's Dollar General Bowl.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

2:30: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; CBSS): Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am young again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am free again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am clean again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you

I've got WKU here.
S&P+ line: WKU by 3.8
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Just one, a 44-28 Western Kentucky victory back in 2013.
Last bowl game: For the Hilltoppers, this is their fourth straight bowl game. They beat Memphis 51-31 in last year's Boca Raton Bowl. This is Georgia State's second ever bowl appearance. Their first appearance was a 27-16 loss to San Jose State in the 2015 Cure Bowl.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor

3:30: Oregon vs. Boise State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): I actually like the Ducks here. It'll be interesting to see how the coaching situation affects them, but they ended their season pretty strong except for a 38-3 faceplant up in Seattle. Boise was back to its old ways in the Mountain West. What this means, ultimately, is that this the game of the day, by far.
S&P+ line: Boise State by 1.6
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Just two, in 2008 and 2009. Boise won both games, but the most infamous moment in either game in the 2009 when, after the game, LaGarrette Blount sucker punched a Boise State defensive linemen right in the jaw. Blount wound up getting suspended and kicked off the team, but has gone on to punch it into the end zone 51 times in the NFL.
Last bowl game: This is the first bowl game for the Ducks since the 2015 season, where they lost 47-41 to TCU in the Alamo Bowl. For the Broncos, this is their 16th straight bowl game, dating back to the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl, a 34-16 win over Iowa State. Last year they were defeated 31-12 by Baylor in the Cactus Bowl.
Announcers: Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit

4:30: Colorado State vs. Marshall (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): This season just never got going for the Rams. After starting 6-2, they'd finish 7-5 including close losses to Wyoming and Boise State. Marshall's season followed a similar trajectory, starting 6-1 before going 1-4 to close out the year. This comes down to how you feel about the relative quality of the Mountain West versus C-USA, which for me makes me lean slightly toward the Rams.
S&P+ line: Rams by 2.8
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Colorado State's fifth straight bowl game dating back to the 2013 New Mexico Bowl, a 48-45 win over Washington State. Last year they lost to Idaho 60-51 in the Potato Bowl. This is Marshall's first bowl since the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl, a 16-10 win over UConn.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

8:00: Middle Tennessee State vs. Arkansas State (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): Arkansas State also boasts a weird loss to South Alabama and a kind of "is this really happening?" loss to Troy which got some Twitter notoriety a couple weekends ago. That said, I like them over MTSU, who may just be happy just to be bowling. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)
S&P+ line: RedWolves by 8.2
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Former Sun Belt foes, MTSU holds a 9-5 all-time lead, including two wins way back in 1948 and 1949. Their last meting was back in 2012, a 45-0 Arkansas State shutout.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl for the Blue Raiders, dating back to a 45-31 loss to Western Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl. Last season they lost 52-35 to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. For the Red Wolves, this is their seventh straight bowl game, dating back to the 2011-2012 Bowl, a 38-20 loss to Northern Illinois. Last season they defeated Central Florida 31-13 in the Cure Bowl.
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Andre Ware

Saturday, December 09, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 15

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon: Wofford @ North Dakota State (NCAA Division I Quaterfinal, ESPN2): Honestly, I don't have many thoughts on this other than I think it'd generally be more interesting if the Bison (pronounced 'Bizon') won, so let's go with them.

3:00: Army vs. Navy (@ Philadelphia, PA; CBS): This is the game of the day, obviously, with the requisite lead-in to the Hiesman ceremony. Look, the main reason to watch here is that it should be a close game, but that I actually like Army to win in the first time since... well, the first time that I can ever recall. Maybe I need to go back through this site's archives, but that's besides the point. Last year's game was a massive upset, this year's won't be.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Bowl Predictions 2017: Final

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to write a post before the bids starting coming out. The full field is now available.

I didn't have a particularly strong opinion in the Alabama vs. Ohio State debate, and I predicted that Alabama would probably prevail. It does, unfortunately, lead to the non-zero chance that there could be a Georgia vs. Alabama national title game, which would pretty much be the most insufferable thing ever.

Some other notes from the field:
  • I was surprised Washington got in the New Year's Six over TCU, but that's way things go sometimes. This likely wrecked a lot of projections.
  • There was a lot of horse trading this afternoon. The Camellia Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, and Army's opponent in the Armed Forces Bowl were the last to be announced, probably to work out getting a better opponent for Army than a low-tier C-USA or MAC team. These bowls are all owned by ESPN, which means that things can happen that are hard to predict.
  • Oregon vs. Boise State on the first day of bowl season in the Las Vegas Bowl should be a lot of fun.
  • I bet the Texas Bowl people want Texas-Texas A&M badly, but I suspect neither school wants to play that game. TAMU wound up going to the Belk Bowl instead.
  • Texas Tech-South Florida is probably going to set a Birmingham Bowl scoring record.
  • TCU-Stanford may be the grittiest Alamo Bowl ever.
That's about it. Our annual preview series will start next week!

Friday, December 01, 2017

This Weekend in College Football: Week 14

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

8:00: Southern California vs. Stanford (Pac-12 Conference Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; ESPN): I'll be at this game! At any rate, it's hard to know what to make of this rematch. USC beat Stanford 42-24 but that was literally back in September. Suffice it to say, things have changed, including the part where USC later got shallacked by a Notre Dame team that the Cardinal just easily beat. USC has since struggled in conference play as well, so I'm going to pick the mild upset and go with Stanford here.

  • Memphis @ Central Florida (American Conference Championship; ABC): Memphis is solid and all, but UCF is pretty dang good. Going with the Knights here.
  • Akron vs. Toledo (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): Saturday early afternoon MACtion? Sure, why not! That said, Toledo is a huge favorite, and for good reason. That's never stopped underdogs in the MAC title game before, but still, this should be a straightforward Toledo win.
  • North Texas @ Florida Atlantic (Conference USA Championship; ESPN2): Roll Owls.
12:30: Oklahoma vs. Texas Christian (Big 12 Conference Championship @ Arlington, TX; FOX): Everyone is saying that Gary Patterson and TCU will have Oklahoma's number in this rematch and ruin Oklahoma's chances at the playoff to prove how dumb the Big 12 having a title game is. Therefore, I'm going against the grain and thinking the Sooners win easily.

4:00: Georgia vs. Auburn (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): It's hard to beat at team twice in the same season, but Auburn is actually pretty good? They've already shutdown Georgia and just shut down Kirby Smart's master in the worst performance anyone has seen out of the Tide in years. It's hard for me to pick against the Tigers here.

7:30: Troy @ Arkansas State (ESPN2): Neal Brown just's sitting here waiting, Tennessee. I mean, he beat LSU! (And will probably beat Arkansas State.)

7:45: Fresno State @ Boise State (Mountain West Conference Championship; ESPN): Fresno won round one down in Fresno, but given home field advantage I like Boise in the rematch.

  • Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (Big Ten Conference Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): I like Ohio State is going to win. There I said it. Now it's time to hedge. For starters, it depends on which version of Ohio State, and more specifically, J.T. Barrett shows up. If it's Good Ohio State/JT then I think they'll win. Otherwise, this Wisconsin team is a pretty dang good version of Wisconsin (I mean, they're undefeated!) and will win if Ohio State is anything less than 100%.
  • Clemson vs. Miami (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): I don't think Miami is that good and that Clemson will win easily.