Bowl Games 2018: Weeknight Warmups

The next phase of bowl season kicks off with three games on each day after Christmas. We’ll talk about those nine games here.

As for my picks, I started off pretty strong, going 5-0 on the opening Saturday. However, I then followed it up with a 3-5 performance over the rest of the games heading into Christmas.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Wednesday, December 26
1:30: Boise State vs. Boston College (First Responder Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): Boston College’s offensive issues make it really hard for me to pick them as a favorite here in the Zombie Cotton Bowl. Boise, of course, occasionally has offensive issues of their own, and BC’s defense could pose a problem, but I still like the Broncos here.
S&P+ line: BSU -8.8
Vegas line: BSU -2.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one 13 years ago, back when this game was the MPC Computers Bowl. Boston College won 27-21.
Last bowl game: I’ve almost certainly written about Boise State’s bowl streak before, which is now tied with Wisconsin for the fifth-longest streak in the country at 17 straight postseason appearances. But in addition to the bit where they have been to a bowl game every season since the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl (where they beat Iowa State 34-16), they could have gone bowling at 8-4 in 2001, which would connect them to the 1999 and 2000 seasons where they had a combined record of 20-5. But wait, there’s more, as the Broncos were also eligible in 1998 at 6-5 but not invited. So if you include those four games, that’s actually 21 straight seasons above 0.500. That sustained level of success, across four coaches in freakin’ Boise, Idaho is really kind of amazing. Oh, right, for Boston College this is their third straight bowl game. They beat Maryland 36-30 in the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl and lost 27-20 to Iowa in last year’s Pinstripe Bowl.
Announcers: Lowell Galindo and Ahmad Brooks

5:15: Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): This is a tough one. Obviously, I’m going to miss Paul Johnson and his style of offense. Watching Army obliterate Houston the other day didn’t help. I’m still incredibly upset at how absolutely screwed we got by the bowls and the ACC with this bowl assignment. A game in Detroit the day after Christmas was about the worst case scenario for me in terms of trying to go to Tech’s last game under Johnson. It still doesn’t make any sense to me. Regardless, I hope the coaches and players don’t feel that way and absolutely go out and send CPJ out the right way.
S&P+ line: UMN -2.4
Vegas line: GT -5.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Gophers are rowing the boat to a bowl game for the first time since the 2016 Holiday Bowl, where they beat Washington State 17-12. For the Yellow Jackets, this is the first bowl appearance since the 33-18 beatdown of Kentucky in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Neely and Ray Bentley

9:00: Texas Christian vs. California (Cheez-It Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): It’s hard to find much to recommend in this game beyond “it’s football, it’s on TV, and it features two Power 5 conference teams”. Both teams struggle to score and this figures to be a low-scoring defensive struggle, which definitely favors the Bears.
S&P+ line: TCU -1.4
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: For TCU, this is their fourth straight bowl game, dating to the 2014 Peach Bowl, where they demolished Ole Miss 42-3. They beat Stanford 39-37 in last season’s Alamo Bowl. Cal’s last postseason appearance was the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl, which was a 55-36 win over Air Force.
Announcers: Jason Benetti and Kelly Stouffer

Thursday, December 27
1:30: Duke vs. Temple (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): Meanwhile, our new coach’s old team faces Duke over in Shreveport. Yes, I would’ve preferred to go here over Detroit. That said, Duke will presumably recover from their season ending disaster against Wake Forest (seriously, it might have been the most surprising result of the year) and use that motivation to outrun Temple.
S&P+ line: Temple -6.7
Vegas line: Temple -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Duke defeated Northern Illinois in last season’s Quick Lane Bowl 36-15. This is Temple’s fourth straight bowl game, dating to the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl, which they lost 32-17 to Toledo. Last season they beat FIU 28-3 in the Gasparilla Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Kirk Morrison

5:15: Miami vs. Wisconsin (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): Neither team really has a functional quarterback, which is how the Badgers did things like “lose by three touchdowns to Minnesota to end the season”. I think the Canes are just marginally more effective on offense, though.
S&P+ line: UM -0.7
Vegas line: UM -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Wisconsin leads the all-time series 3-2. They first met in 1958, where the Badgers won 20-0. Suffice it to say, the Canes of the late-80’s turned the tables in 1988 and 1989, winning by a combined score of 74-6. The last two meetings were in bowl games: the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl (20-14 in favor of Wisconsin) and the last season’s Orange Bowl (34-24, again Wisconsin).
Last bowl game: For the Canes, this is this their sixth straight bowl game. Their streak started with a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. For the Badgers, this is the 17th straight bowl game, a record that ties them with Boise State for the fifth best streak in the country. As such, their streak began with a 31-28 win over Colorado in the 2002 Alamo Bowl. The most recent game for either was, you guessed it, last season’s Orange Bowl, which as previously noted the Badgers won 34-24.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Mike Golic Jr, and Dan Orlovsky

9:00: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): Vandy seems to be a slight favorite here, but I like Baylor’s offense a lot better here.
S&P+ line: Vandy -3.3
Vegas line: Vandy -3.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Baylor is undefeated against Vandy, winning 47-6 in 1953 and 25-19 in 1954.
Last bowl game: Baylor’s 1-11 season last year snapped a seven game bowl streak, so their last appearance in a bowl was the 2016 Cactus Bowl, where they defeated Boise State 31-12. Vandy’s last postseason appearance was the 2016 Independence Bowl, where they lost 41-17 to NC State.
Announcers: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, and Cole Cubelic

Friday, December 28
1:30: Purdue vs. Auburn (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ESPN): After the magical upset of Ohio State back in late October, the Boilermakers have gone 2-3. Auburn hasn’t had a magical, well, anything this season, so the “Fire Gus!” undercurrents are as strong as ever. Naturally, according to the rules of Auburn football, this means Auburn will win in a blowout.
S&P+ line: AU -6.1
Vegas line: AU -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Auburn’s sixth straight bowl game. Their streak started with a 34-31 loss to Florida State in the 2013-14 BCS Championship game. Last season, they also lost to an eventual national champion, falling to UCF 34-27 in the Peach Bowl. The Boilermakers won last season’s Foster Farms Bowl 38-35 over Arizona.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Ahmad Brooks

5:15: Syracuse vs. West Virginia (Camping World Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): This incredibly interesting matchup will be slightly less interesting due to West Virginia quarterback Will Grier forgoing the game. Nonetheless, this matchup of former Big East foes promises to feature offense galore. This game should be the perfect antidote if you haven’t found most of the games interesting so far. I still like WVU, but less than I did back when I made the picks.
S&P+ line: WVU -6.5
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Let’s see, their last meeting was the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, which the Orange won 38-14. What else did I say about this former Big East series at the time? Well: “With both being Northeastern independents at one time or another and then members of the Big East, they’ve met 59 times dating back to 1945. Syracuse has the slight edge all time (32-27) and won their last regular season meeting last year, 49-23.” So the Orange are now 33-27, and, well, let’s just say my prediction of a WVU blowout didn’t come to pass.
Last bowl game: The Orange’s last bowl appearance was the 2013 Texas Bowl, where they beat Minnesota 21-17. This is the fifth straight bowl game for the Mountaineers, dating to the 2014 Liberty Bowl, where they lost 45-37 to Texas A&M. Last season WVU lost to Utah in the Heart of Dallas Bowl 30-14.
Announcers: Dave Flemming, Rod Gilmore, and Quint Kessenich

9:00: Iowa State vs. Washington State (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): Finally, we conclude this slate of bowls with Wazzu in the Alamodome. The bit there is “dome”: any chance Wazzu had against Washington was the terrible weather for a passing offense. I this rated more highly because this will have a unique offense, but I like the Cougars by a lot here.
S&P+ line: WSU -6.9
Vegas line: WSU -3.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Iowa State defeated Memphis 21-20 in last season’s Liberty Bowl. This is Wazzu’s fourth straight bowl game, going back to the 2015 Sun Bowl, a 20-14 win over Miami. Last season they lost 42-17 to Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, and Tom Luginbill