Bowl Games 2019: Opening Slate, or, Oh, Right, Bowl Season Starts on Friday This Year

So we had a late Thanksgiving this year, which means that the whole college football calendar is out-of-whack. As a result, we’ve got FRIDAY BOWLS. I’ll be on airplane during the first one most likely, but such is life. Also, my full predictions are here.

I’m back once again with all the other information you need for bowl games, including the idea I totally didn’t rip off from anyone else: the Watchability Rating. It’s easy:

  • I: Before Christmas, have it on while you’re wrapping presents. After Christmas, maybe have it on in the background while you do something else, possibly like interacting with your family, but I’m not here to judge if that’s a problem for you.
  • II: This could be interesting, but it could also be a blowout at halftime. Worth having on just in case.
  • III: The College Football Geek Special, i.e., if you the equivalent of me hanging around, I’ll probably make you watch this.
  • IV: Obvious must-see games between marquee teams or playoff games.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 20
2:00: Buffalo vs. Charlotte (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): Look, y’all, 2019 has been tough. And not half as tough for me as it’s been for others I know; all I’ve got to complain about are the usual things like work and whatnot, which means I’m barely getting these predictions out in time. Anyway, the 49ers (the North Carolina edition, as the nickname doesn’t have anything to do with gold or when the school was founded; instead, it dates to when the school was saved from being, um, unfounded) are making their first ever bowl game, which is real good for them, you know? And it’s in the Bahamas which… oh, right 2019 wasn’t real great there. Um, Buffalo will probably win.
SP+ line: Buffalo -2
Vegas line: Buffalo -6.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Bulls lost to Troy 42-32 in last year’s Dollar General Bowl. This is Charlotte’s first ever bowl game.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Greg McElroy

7:30: Kent State vs. Utah State (Frisco Bowl @ Frisco, TX; ESPN2): I like Utah State here, sorry to any Golden Flashes fans out there.
SP+ line: Utah State -8.2
Vegas line: Utah State -5.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Two. In 1973, Kent State won 27-16, and a year later the Aggies won 27-24.
Last bowl game: This is Kent State’s first bowl game since the 2012 season, where they lost 17-13 to Arkansas State in the Bowl. The Aggies have been to three straight bowl games, dating to 2017’s Arizona Bowl, a 26-20 loss to New Mexico State. Last season they beat North Texas 52-13 in the New Mexico Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and John Congemi

Saturday, December 21
2:00: San Diego State vs. Central Michigan (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): Eventually, we’ll get to the games where I know anything about the teams involved. This isn’t one of them. I have the Aztecs here.
SP+ line: SDSU -4
Vegas line: SDSU -3.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This season makes it 10 straight for the Aztecs, dating to the a 35-14 victory over Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl. Last season they got blanked 27-0 by Ohio in the Frisco Bowl. CMU lost the 2017 Potato Bowl 37-14 to Wyoming.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Ryan Leaf

2:30: Liberty vs. Georgia Southern (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; CBSS): A serious note before I do the silly thing I usually do for this game: this game benefits the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a less famous but much more efficient cancer charity than certain other ones. Onward.

I’ve waited hours for this
I’ve made myself so sick
I wish I’d stayed asleep today
I never thought that this day would end
I never thought that tonight could ever be
This close to me

Just try to see in the dark
Just try to make it work
To feel the fear before you’re here
I make the shapes come much too close
I pull my eyes out
Hold my breath
And wait until I shake

But if I had your faith
Then I could make it safe and clean
If only I was sure
That my head on the door was a dream

I’ve waited hours for this
I’ve made myself so sick
I wish I’d stayed asleep today
I never thought that this day would end
I never thought that tonight could ever be
This close to me

But if I had your face
I could make it safe and clean
If only I was sure
That my head on the door
Was a dream

I like Georgia Southern here because I find the idea of having to root for Liberty completely unpalatable.
SP+ line: Liberty -0.2
Vegas line: GSU -4.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Liberty’s first ever bowl game. Georgia Southern won last year’s Camellia bowl 23-21 over Eastern Michigan.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor

3:30: Florida Atlantic vs. Southern Methodist (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ABC): Well, the Fightin’ Lane Kiffins are no more, thanks to their namesake’s departure to Oxford, MS. If SMU shows up to this game motivated at all I think they will roll.
SP+ line: EVEN
Vegas line: SMU -2.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: FAU won the 2017 Boca Raton Bowl 50-3 over Akron. SMU lost 51-10 to Louisiana Tech in the 2017 Frisco Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Joey Galloway

5:30: Florida International vs. Arkansas State (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): I have FIU here, because, well, I probably misread the lines below when I was making the picks on my webpage. But that’s what I got.
SP+ line: ASU -4.2
Vegas line: ASU -2.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: These former conference mates have had 8 meetings all time, and Arkansas State leads the series 8-2. They won 66-24 back in 2005 and 34-20 in their last meeting in 2012.
Last bowl game: FIU has now made bowls in three consecutive seasons. They lost 28-3 to Temple in the 2017 Gasparilla Bowl, but won last year’s Bahamas Bowl 35-32 over Toledo. Arkansas State has eight consecutive postseason appearances, dating to a 38-20 loss to Northern Illinois in the 2011-12 Bowl. Last season they lost 16-13 to Nevada in the Arizona Bowl.
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Matt Stinchcomb

7:30: Washington vs. Boise State (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ABC): This is a true outlier in these early games, a compelling game with good teams and a good storyline. Chris Peterson is a true anomaly among college coaches, and it’s kind of appropriate that the only two jobs he’s been tied in the past almost two decades are the teams involved in his final game. I have Washington here, but I think this game could go either way.
SP+ line: UW -8.3
Vegas line: UW -3.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Just four for these two Pacific Northwest foes. They first met in a 24-10 UDub win in 2007. In 2012, the Broncos beat the Huskies 28-26 in the Las Vegas Bowl. Less than a year later, they kicked off the 2013 regular season and the Huakies got a 38-6 win. In 2015, Boise won 16-13, resulting in an evenly split series.
Last bowl game: UDub has been to ten straight bowl games, dating to the 2010 Holiday Bowl, a 19-7 win over Nebraska. Last season they lost 28-23 to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. I’m not sure how to count Boise’s streak. Last season they were due to play in the First Responder Bowl, but the game was canceled due to weather. I’d say that still counts, though, so they’ve got 18 straight postseason appearances now, dating to a 34-16 win over Iowa State in the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl. As previously noted, they were supposed to play Boston College in the First Responder Bowl last season.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Kirk Herbstreit

9:00: Alabama-Birmingham vs. Appalachian State (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Oddly, the New Orleans Bowl features no Louisiana teams this year, and also, “Go Blazers!” and all but App State is going to roll y’all.
SP+ line: AppSt -14.1
Vegas line: AppSt -16.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: UAB has appeared in three straight bowl games after coming back to life. In 2017, they lost 41-6 to Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl. Last season, they beat Northern Illinous 37-13 in the Boca Raton Bowl. App State has appeared in five straight bowl games, dating to the 2015 Camellia Bowl, where they beat Ohio 31-29. Last season they beat MTSU 45-13 in this very bowl game.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

Monday, December 23
2:30: Marshall vs. Central Florida (Gasparilla Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN): UCF, not even close.
SP+ line: UCF -21
Vegas line: UCF -17.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: UCF leads the all-time series 8-3. Marshall won the first three metings from 2002-2004, but UCF reeled off 8 in a row before departing for the AAC.
Last bowl game: The Thundering Herd have stampeded their way into three straight bowl games, beating Colorado State 31-28 in the 2017 New Mexico Bowl and South Florida in the 38-20 in the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl. UCF has now appeared in four straight bowl games, dating to the 2016 Cure Bowl, a 31-13 loss to Arkansas State. Last season they lost 40-32 to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.
Announcers: Roy Philpott and Kelly Stouffer

Tuesday, December 24
8:00: Hawaii vs. Brigham Young (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): It’s Christmas Eve. Get the fire going, spike some eggnog, get some cards going, and have this on in the background, live from Hawaii. Sounds pretty good to me. Also, I have BYU here.
SP+ line: BYU -4.5
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: There have been 31 meetings all-time between the Stormin’ Mormons and the Rainbow Warriors, and the former hold a 23-8 lead. They first met in 1930, a 49-13 Hawaii win. They met a few more times in the 50’s and 60’s, but in 1978 they played every year until 1998 as members of the WAC. Notably, the Warriors gave the Cougars a game in their 1984 title season, as BYU escaped with a narrow 18-13 win. Since 2002, these two have met four times in the regular season, all BYU wins. Last season BYU won 49-23.
Last bowl game: Hawaii lost 31-14 to Louisiana Tech in last season’s Hawaii Bowl. BYU beat Western Michigan 49-18 in the 2018 Potato Bowl.
Announcers: Joson Benetti and Rod Gimore