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