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