Bowl Games 2018: Everything Else

I’m currently sitting at 15-12 in my bowl predictions, which tracks with my historical average. Hopefully, I can get a good chunk of these right and lock this down as a finish above 0.500 after last year’s disastrous performance.

Monday, December 31
12:00: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): Well, these ones are always tough. You’ve got a 10-win G5 team in Cincy versus a power conference team that barely got into a bowl game in the first place. That is, I was conflicted until I remembered that VPI’s defense is terrible, so I’m going with Cicny here.
S&P+ line: Cincy -7.7
Vegas line: Cincy -4.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: They last met in the 2014 edition of this very game, so let’s consult the archives: “The series record is tied at 5-5, with several meetings in the Big East. The first, though, was the 1947 Sun Bowl, which Cincy won 18-6. After that, they met regularly from 1985 to 1991, and then again in 1995. VPI prevailed in the 2008-9 Orange Bowl 20-7, and the last meeting was a regular season contest in 2012. Cincinnati won 27-24.” VPI won that game 33-17, breaking the tie and giving them a 6-5 all-time lead.
Last bowl game: With Florida State going down, the Hokies are now owners of the nation’s longest bowl streak at 26 in a row. I can’t say I recall the 1993 Independence Bowl, which the Hokies won 45-20 over Indiana. Last season they lost 30-21 to Oklahoma in the Camping World Bowl. For Cincy, this is their first bowl game since a 42-7 loss to San Diego State in the Hawaii Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Corey and Rene Ingoglia

2:00: Pittsburgh vs. Stanford (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): This is Pitt’s first trip back to El Paso since possibly the worst bowl game ever, their infamous 3-0 loss to Oregon State in 2008. Presumably, they will score more than 3 points this time, but I still have Stanford here.
S&P+ line: Stanford -9.2
Vegas line: Stanford -6.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just three, all back in the heyday of Pitt football. Pitt won 16-7 in 1922, dropped the 1927-1928 Rose Bowl 7-6, and won 7-0 in 1932.
Last bowl game: This is Pitt’s first bowl appearance since a 31-24 loss to Northwestern in the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl. For the Cardinal, this is their tenth bowl in a row, dating back to the 2009 Sun Bowl, where they lost to Oklahoma 31-27. Last season Oklahoma lost 39-37 to TCU in the Alamo Bowl.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

3:00: Michigan State vs. Oregon (Redbox Bowl @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): Oregon looks revitalized on the offensive side of the ball, whereas Sparty, well, it may be a struggle for them to score points. Nonetheless, revel in the joy here of three different games on at the same time and relax. I like the Ducks here.
S&P+ line: MSU -2.5
Vegas line: Oregon -2.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: These two have met six times in regular-season home-and-home matchups. The first was 1979-80, followed by 1998-99, and most recently 2014-15. Michigan State won the last one 31-28, but the overall series is split 3-3.
Last bowl game: Last season the Spartans won 42-17 over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. Similarly, the Ducks lost 38-28 to Boise State in last season’s Las Vegas Bowl.
Announcers: Joe Davis and Brady Quinn

3:45: Oklahoma State vs. Missouri (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): Mizzou faces another one of its former conference-mates yet again, yet we still can’t get Texas and Texas A&M to play each other, in a bowl game or otherwise. (Then again, I also miss the Border War.) Anyway, two things to watch out for here. First, is that there figures to be plenty of offense, which will likely contrast sharply with the three games before this one during the day. Second, is that Mike Gundy wears an aviation headset on the sidelines. I’m assuming he paid for it in lieu of wearing the more generic looking sponsored headsets most coaches wear. At any rate, I like the Tigers here.
S&P+ line: MU -4.0
Vegas line: MU -7.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Suffice it to say these former Big 8 foes have met plenty of time in history, 52 to be exact. Their first meeting was in 1915, with regular games from 1949 through 1997, followed by a more intermittent period due to the Big 8 becoming the Big 12. Their last meeting was the 2013-2014 Cotton Bowl, which Mizzou won 41-31, and the Tigers lead the all-time series 29-23.
Last bowl game: This is Oklahoma State’s thirteenth bowl game in a row, dating back to the 2006 Independence Bowl, where they beat Alabama 34-31. They beat Virginia Tech 30-21 in last season’s Camping World Bowl. For Mizzou, they lost to another former Big 12 colleague, Texas, in the Texas Bowl, 33-16 last season.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Dan Orlovsky

7:00: Northwestern vs. Utah (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; FS1): As we settle into the evening slate, we get… one of the more lopsided matchups of bowl season. This is broadly assuming that Utah can slough-off their awful performance against Washington in the Pac-12 title game, because hey, at least Northwestern expected to get blown out in the Big Ten title game. Either way, usually Utah posses a functioning offense, which is not something the Wildcats can generally say. If nothing else, this will give you something to flip over to during commercial breaks during the Gator Bowl.
S&P+ line: Utah -15.5
Vegas line: Utah -7.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just two: a 13-6 Northwestern win in 1927, and a 42-0 Utah win in 1981.
Last bowl game: This is Northwestern’s fourth bowl game in a row, dating to a 45-6 loss to Tennessee in the 2015-16 Outback Bowl. Last season they beat Kentucky 24-23 in the Music City Bowl. For the Utes, this is their fifth game in a row, dating to a 45-10 win over Colorado State in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl. They’ve won four in a row, as well, with the most recent being a 30-14 win over West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joe Klatt

7:30: North Carolina State vs. Texas A&M (Gator Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): I might have underrated this game a bit in my watchability tiers. For starters, both these teams are pretty good. NC State was a very sneaky 9-3, and they’ll go up against a ranked yet 8-4 Texas A&M. Mainly, you should be hoping for at least a few overtimes (in fairness to TAMU, I’ll say that I’m not hoping they have to play seven overtimes again for a bowl game) in order to have a reasonably excuse to keep watching football instead of inane New Year’s countdown coverage. (I submit all you really need is a screen showing At any rate, I have no idea which of these good-but-not-that-good teams will win, so I picked the Aggies.
S&P+ line: TAMU -2.8
Vegas line: TAMU -5.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is the fourth bowl game in a row for NC State, dating to the 2015 Belk Bowl, where they lost 51-28 to Mississippi State. Last season they beat Arizona State 52-31 in the Sun Bowl. For the Aggies, this is their tenth bowl game in a row, dating to a 44-20 loss to Georgia in the 2009 Independence Bowl. Last season they lost 55-52 to Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl.
Announcers: Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, and Quint Kessenich

Tuesday, January 1
Noon: Iowa vs. Mississippi State (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): Shake off that hangover and steel yourself for the last full day of college football until Labor Day weekend. Here we have a matchup of a team that lost their eminently winnable division to Northwestern and a team that finished a respectable fourth behind teams like Alabama and LSU. The Bulldogs are a pretty good team stuck in what is probably the hardest division in college football, so I’m going with them.
S&P+ line: MSU -4.8
Vegas line: MSU -6.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: For the Hawkeyes, this is their sixth bowl game in a row, dating back to a 21-14 loss to LSU in the 2013-14 Outback Bowl. Last season they defeated Boston College 27-20 in the Pinstripe Bowl. For the Bulldogs, this is their ninth bowl game in a row, dating back to a 52-14 blowout of Michigan in the 2010-11 Gator Bowl. Last season they beat Louisville 31-27 in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Dusty Dvoracek


  • Pennsylvania State vs. Kentucky (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): I could be wrong about this one. In fact, I could be way wrong. But I don’t see how Kentucky is going to score enough points to win this game. I just don’t.
    S&P+ line: PSU -9.5
    Vegas line: PSU -6.5
    Watchability tier: II
    Previous meetings: There’s been five meetings between these teams. The first four were split evenly back in the 70’s. The most recent was a 26-14 Penn State win in the 1998-99 Outback Bowl.
    Last bowl game: For the Nittany Lions, this is their fifth bowl game in a row, dating to a 31-30 win over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl. Last season they beat Washington 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. For the Wildcats, this is their third consecutive bowl game. They lost 33-18 to Georgia Tech in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl and also lost 24-23 to Northwestern in last season’s Music City Bowl.
    Announcers: Dave Flemming and Brock Huard
  • Central Florida vs. Louisiana State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Here we go again, but this time, the stakes are a bit more, well, they’re a bit more difficult to judge with UCF missing its star quarterback. I’m predicting a UCF win once again, but this will be a much harder road to hoe than last year.
    S&P+ line: UCF -4.8
    Vegas line: LSU -7.5
    Watchability tier: IV
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: For UCF, this is their third bowl game in a row. They lost 31-13 to Arkansas State in the 2016 Cure Bowl and beat Auburn 34-27 in last season’s Peach Bowl. For LSU, this have the fourth-longest bowl streak in the country, with this being their 19th consecutive bowl game. Their streak started with a 28-14 win over Georgia Tech in the 2000 Peach Bowl. Last season, they lost 21-17 to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl.
    Announcers: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Todd McShay

5:00: Ohio State vs. Washington (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): I think the Buckeyes will win this pretty easily, but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s the Rose Bowl, and you’re going to watch it because the grass will be as verdantly green as you can imagine, the lines on the field will be crisp and colorful in the red zones and end zones, half of the crowd of 90,000 will be in purple and the other in red, and the sun will set perfectly over the pleasingly shaped bowl of the one of the best venues in all of sports.
S&P+ line: OSU -2.8
Vegas line: OSU -6.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: These teams have met 11 times, and somewhat surprisingly, this game will their first meeting in the Rose Bowl. Their first meeting was in 1957, a 35-7 Buckeye victory. And that’s mostly been the story of this series, as Ohio State holds a 8-3 all-time lead. Their most recent meeting was a 33-14 Ohio State victory in 2007.
Last bowl game: This is Ohio State’s sixth bowl game in a row, dating back to the 2013-14 Orange Bowl, where they lost 40-35 to Clemson. Last season, they beat USC in the Cotton Bowl 24-7. For UDub, this is their ninth bowl game in a row, dating back to a 19-7 win over Nebraska in the 2010 Holiday Bowl. Last season they lost 35-28 to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

8:30: Texas vs. Georgia (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): And finally, we get to watch Georgia trounce a young Texas squad into oblivion. Oh boy, I can’t wait to hear more about how UGA should’ve been in the playoff over Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Woo, yeah, 2019 is just going to get off to an awesome start. Also, why does this game start at 8:30 but the late New Year’s Eve games start at 7:00 and 7:30?
S&P+ line: UGA -18.3
Vegas line: UGA -11.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Four meetings all-time, and two in bowl games. The first was the 1948-49 Orange Bowl, a 41-28 win. The Longhorns then won both games in a home-and-home in 1957 and 1958. The most recently meeting a 10-9 UGA victory in the 1983-84 Cotton Bowl.
Last bowl game: Texas’s last bowl game was last season’s 33-16 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl. Georgia now owns the second-longest bowl streak in the country, with this being their 22nd consecutive bowl game. Their streak began with a 33-6 win over Wisconsin in the 1997-98 Outback Bowl. Last season, they defeated Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl 54-48 before losing to Alabama 26-23 in the championship game.
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge