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