Bowl Games 2018: You Have One Week Left to Finish Your Christmas Shopping

No, seriously, you do.

Anyway, I did pretty well on the opening day of bowl games, though honestly I spent most of it flying in circles at the Palo Alto airport. Regardless, you can find all of my picks and the schedule right here. This post will get through the rest of the pre-Christmas bowls.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Tuesday, December 18
7:00: Northern Illinois vs. Alabama-Birmingham (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): So after a few days of having to talk about odd NFL playoff scenarios, we’re back to what’s really import this time of year: bowl games. And this should actually be a good one. NIU upset Buffalo to win the MAC earlier this month, and UAB are C-USA champs, so we’ve got a champ versus champ matchup here. That said, it’ll be close and tight, but I think the Blazers can score enough to win the end. (Go Blazers!)
S&P+ line: UAB -2.2
Vegas line: UAB -2.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: NIU went to last year’s Quick Lane Bowl and lost 36-15 to Duke. UAB will go to a consecutive bowl for the first time in its history, though they’re likely hoping for a better result than last year’s 41-6 loss to Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Lamont, Desmond Howard, and Jonathan Vilma

Wednesday, December 19
8:00: San Diego State vs. Ohio (Frisco Bowl @ Frisco, TX; ESPN): I hope you don’t like points, because there won’t be many in this game. I think the Aztecs are the better all-around team, but their offense is, well, it’s not good. I’m picking SDSU, but I also think it’ll be tight.
S&P+ line: SDSU -1
Vegas line: Ohio -2.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Azetcs have a nifty nine-game bowl streak going. Back in 2010 they beat Navy 35-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl. Last year they faced Army and lost 42-35 in the Armed Forces Bowl. This should be Ohio’s tenth bowl game in a row, but they went 6-6 in 2014 and didn’t get invited, so instead this is their fourth. They lost 31-29 to Appalachian State in the 2015 Camellia Bowl, and beat UAB 41-6 in last year’s Bahamas Bowl.
Announcers: Kevin Brown and Andre Ware

Thursday, December 20
8:00: Marshall vs. South Florida (Gasparilla Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN): The more I look at USF’s season, the less I understand it. Especially the part where they manhandled us (well, that and ran what seemed like 50 kicks back for scores) and started 7-0 with increasingly shaky results (like only beating a dreadful UConn team 38-30). USF’s record is now 7-5, where they weren’t even on UCF’s level in the second half that game. Just by talent, USF’s should win this game, and that win over Tech is why I’m picking them. But it’s hard to feel good about it.
S&P+ line: MU – 0.9
Vegas line: MU -2.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Marshall beat Colorado State in last year’s New Mexico Bowl 31-28. This is USF’s fourth straight bowl game, dating back to the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl, where they lost 45-35 to Western Kentucky. Last season they beat Texas Tech 38-34 in the Birmingham Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Dan Orlovsky

Friday, December 21
12:30: Toledo vs. Florida International (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): I haven’t watched either of these teams all year, so I don’t have any strong opinions on this one. Well, other than that I really think Toledo is going to win.
S&P+ line: Toledo -6.5
Vegas line: Toledo -5.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Three. The two met in 2008 and 2009, and as well as the 2010 Little Ceasars Bowl. FIU won that game 34-32 and leads the all-time series 2-1.
Last bowl game: This should be the ninth game in a row for the Rockets, but they didn’t go bowling despite a 7-5 record in 2013. So, instead, their five bowl streak starts with a 63-44 win in the 2014/15 Bowl. They got blanked 34-0 by Appalachian State in last season’s Dollar General Bowl. FIU lost 28-3 to Temple in last year’s Gasparilla Bowl.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Desmond Howard

4:00: Brigham Young vs. Western Michigan (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): WMU’s only two wins of the season over teams above 0.500 are Eastern Michigan (understandable) and Northern Illinois (less so). They also got shellacked by the early season Power 5 teams they played. BYU isn’t a power team, but they can at least kind of hang with Power 5 teams (and have that win at Wisconsin). The Stormin’ Mormons appear to just be a better team.
S&P+ line: BYU -9.4
Vegas line: BYU -11.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Five, all from 1962-1970. WMU won 35-17 in their last meeting, but BYU leads all-time, 3-2.
Last bowl game: BYU’s 12-game bowl streak was broken by least year’s 4-9 record, so they’re starting anew. Their last bowl appearance was a 24-21 win over Wyoming in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl. For the Broncos, they didn’t go to a bowl game last season despite a 6-6 record, so their last bowl game was the 24-16 loss to Wisconsin the 2016/17 Cotton Bowl.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Tom Ramsey

Saturday, December 22
12:00: Wake Forest vs. Memphis (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ESPN): Thanks to the magic of ACC scheduling, Wake Forest is in our conference and we haven’t played them in years, and as a result I haven’t watched a lot of Wake recently. They seem pretty good, but not spectacular. The Tigers, though, whoo boy, when they can get the offense rolling, they can roll. The only real inexplicable loss on their schedule was a 40-24 loss to Tulane. Otherwise, they lost to Navy (limited possessions), Mizzou (just got outscored and couldn’t keep up), and UCF (twice, the first time nearly pulling of the upset and still scoring 41 the second time). So, yeah, I like the Tigers here.
S&P+ line: Memphis -12.1
Vegas line: Memphis -4.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: It’s tied 2-2 all-time, with “all-time” consisting of four games from 1964-1967. Memphis won that last contest 42-10.
Last bowl game: For the Demon Deacons, this is their third bowl game in a row going back to the 2016 Military Bowl, where they beat Temple 24-26. Last season they won an unexpectedly lit Belk Bowl over Texas A&M, 55-52. For Memphis, this is their fifth straight bowl game, dating to the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl which they won 55-48. (A game almost certainly more famous now for the fight that took place afterward, but it was a good game on its own, too!) They lost 21-20 in their own stadium to Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl last season.
Announcers: Dave Neal and DJ Shockley

3:30: Houston vs. Army (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): About Army’s only hope here is that they essentially do the same thing they did to Oklahoma: limit possessions, hold on the ball, and hope for a lucky break. Well, that and the usual “more talented but unmotivated team” thing we sometimes see in bowl season. Generally speaking, I don’t bet on either of those things.
S&P+ line: UH -7.8
Vegas line: Army -2.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Seven consecutive from Army’s ill-fated stint in Conference USA from 1998-2004. The Cougars won the last game 35-21 and lead the all-time series 5-2.
Last bowl game: For the Cougars, this is their sixth consecutive bowl. Their streak dates to the 2013/14 BBVA Compass Bowl, where they lost 41-24 to Vanderbilt. They lost last year’s Hawaii Bowl 33-27 to Fresno State. For Army, this is the first time in their history they have gone to three consecutive bowl games. They beat North Texas 38-31 in the 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl, and then beat San Diego State 42-35 in last year’s edition of this game.
Announcers: Chris Cotter, Emmanuel Acho, and Jim Mora Jr.

7:00: Buffalo vs. Troy (Dollar General Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): Okay, so Troy didn’t beat LSU this year and they somehow lost to Liberty, but this still a good, exciting team. Myself, along with the rest of the college football internet universe, is completed baffled at how Neal Brown hasn’t gotten a bigger job yet despite building Troy into a consistent winner. I like them better than Buffalo, who took a 10-2 season into the MAC title game and blew it against Northern Illinois.
S&P+ line: Troy -1.2
Vegas line: UB -2.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: For the Bulls, this is their first bowl game appearance since the 2013 Potato Bowl, where they lost 49-24 to San Diego State. For Troy, this is their third consecutive bowl game, after 2016’s 28-23 win over Ohio in the Dollar General Bowl and last year’s 50-30 win over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

10:30: Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): Well, it’s not on Christmas Eve this year thanks to the NFL, but the Hawaii Bowl is still basically Christmas Eve in my mind. And also, Santa will definitely be enjoying this one with some milk and cookies because boy howdy that’s a late bowl game kickoff. Anyway, you just about have to take Hawaii in the Hawaii bowl, don’t you? I certainly did.
S&P+ line: LTU -2.3
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Back in the WAC (2003-2011), these teams met seven times, with an additional meeting in 2000 for good measure. Hawaii won the last matchup 44-26 and leads 8-2 all-time.
Last bowl game: Hawaii last bowled in the 2016 edition of this game, where they beat Middle Tennessee State 52-35. For the Bulldogs, they have now gone to five consecutive bowls, dating back to the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl, where they defeated Illinois 35-18. Last season they defeated SMU 51-10 in the Frisco Bowl.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Kirk Morrison