Bowl Games 2019: Talking About Playoffs

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Thursday, December 26
4:00: Miami vs. Louisiana Tech (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): Look, I picked Miami to win this game because there is no reason they should lose. But… Miami has also already lost multiple times this season to teams they shouldn’t have lost to. Florida International is the most obvious example, but heck even their loss to us was downright disconcerting if you’re at all concerned with goings-on in Coral Gables. Louisiana Tech, meanwhile, may be the best team this season you haven’t heard of. They sort of blew a shot at the Conference USA title, but they’re 9-3 and beat that FIU team Miami lost to. This one figures, at a minimum, to continue to frustrate Miami fans.
SP+ line: Canes -12.9
Vegas line: Canes -5.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Amazingly, there have been four meetings between these teams, and all in the regular season. Miami won the first one in 1979, a 6-0 win, and then blowouts in 2000, 2003, and 2004.
Last bowl game: For the Canes, this is their seventh bowl in a row, dating back to a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. Last season they got housed by Wisconsin 35-3 in the Pinstripe Bowl. For Louisiana Tech, this is their sixth bowl in a row, dating back to the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl, a 35-18 win over Illinois.
Announcers: Wes Durham and Roddy Jones

8:00: Eastern Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): EMU’s strange path to 6-6 involved a 34-31 win over Illinois that turned out to be the difference, as the Eagles finished 3-1 in out-of-conference play and 3-5 in the MAC, which is not typically how MAC teams get bowl eligible. Suffice it to say, I have Pitt as heavy favorites here.
SP+ line: Pitt -11.2
Vegas line: Pitt -10.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Just two, and EMU lost both them in blowout fashion in 1995 and 2007.
Last bowl game: For EMU, this is their fourth bowl appearance all-time, and the first time they’ve appeared in bowl games in consecutive seasons. Last season they lost 23-21 to Georgia Southern in the Camellia Bowl. Last season, Pitt lost 14-13 to Stanford in the Sun Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Corey and Rene Ingoglia

Friday, December 27
Noon: North Carolina vs. Temple (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): I have this one has being close and low-scoring, so I also have it as a bit of a coin-flip. Temple plays solid defense and UNC is just kinda mediocre. I have UNC as a slight favorite, but I’m not confident about it at all.
SP+ line: UNC -0.9
Vegas line: UNC -4.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Carolina’s first bowl appearance since the 2016 Sun Bowl, where they lost 25-23 to Stanford. This is Temple’s fifth bowl appearance in a row, dating back to a 32-17 loss to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl. Last season they lost 56-27 to Duke in the Independence Bowl.
Announcers: Mike Couzens and Kirk Morrison

3:20: Wake Forest vs. Michigan State (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): For a hot minute there, it looked like Wake was going to be interesting. Even after losing three of their last four they still finished 8-4, which by Wake standards is awesome. As you’ve probably figured out, though, that means they started 7-1, which probably had some in Winston-Salem with visions of a late December vacation to Miami dancing in their heads. Instead, it’s off to New York, to play perhaps the Sparty-est Michigan State team ever. I’m predicting a low-scoring win for MSU.
SP+ line: Sparty -4.4
Vegas line: Sparty -4.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Wake’s fourth bowl appearance in a row, starting with a 34-26 win over Temple in the Miltary Bowl. Last season they beat Memphis 37-34 in the Birmingham Bowl. This is Sparty’s third bowl game in a row, with the previous two being a 42-17 win over Wazzu in the Holiday Bowl and a miserable 7-6 loss to Oregon in the Redbox Bowl.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Matt Hasselback

6:45: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): While not completely historic foes (remember, the Texas schools only started regularly playing the other Big 12 schools in the mid-90’s, after the Southwest Conference collapsed and they sought refuge in what was then the Big 8), they did play each other a lot in the Big 12, and I’m sure everyone is perfectly happy that this is the Big 12 South rivalry that is being renewed in a bowl game. I certainly can’t think of any other game involving Texas A&M that anyone would want to see. At any rate, the narrative is that Texas A&M is the best 7-5 team in the country, and well, they kinda are. Their losses are to Clemson, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, and LSU. Those are all teams that are definitely better than TAMU! They otherwise didn’t get upset by anyone (though they did have to dodge some close calls against Arkansas and Ole Miss). I can pretty safely that OSU would’ve lost to all those teams, and I also feel pretty good about saying they’ll lose to TAMU.
SP+ line: TAMU -5.2
Vegas line: TAMU -7.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: TAMU is 17-10 all-time against their former Big 12 conference mate. They met 12 times before the collapse of the Southwest Conference, beginning with a 3-0 OSU win in 1913. They had regular season meetings off-and-on over the decades and also met in the 1981 Independence Bowl, a 33-16 TAMU win. Overall, TAMU was 8-4 before they met in the Big 12 for the first time in 1996. A&M continued to dominate the series when it was a conference game from 1996 through 2011, compiling a 9-6 record. However, the Cowboys won the last four in a row before the Aggies fled for the SEC.
Last bowl game: This is OSU’s 14th consecutive bowl appearance, dating all the way back to a 34-31 win over Alabama in the Independence Bowl (now those were the days!). Last season they beat Mizzou 38-33 in the Liberty Bowl. For A&M, make it 11 seasons in a row with a bowl appearance, dating to the 2009 Independence Bowl, where they lost 44-20 to Georgia. Last season they beat NC State 52-13 in the Gator Bowl.
Announcers: Kevin Brown and Andre Ware

8:00: Iowa vs. Southern California (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; FS1): Well, I guess the upside of USC retaining Clay Helton is that I finally remember his name and kinda know what he looks like, which is definitely how I think most people who follow college football would call the ideal head coach for USC. After all, what is the glitz and glamor of coaching Los Angeles’s most successful football team (period) for if not shying away from it? That said, when it comes to stodgy and boring football, well, the masters are Iowa, and you’re not going to beat Iowa at their own game.
SP+ line: Iowa -1.6
Vegas line: Iowa -1.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Southern Cal is 7-2 all-time against Iowa. They first met in 1925, a 18-0 USC win. Their only 21st century meeting was a 38-17 USC win in the 2002/3 Orange Bowl.
Last bowl game: For the Hawkeyes, this is their seventh bowl appearance in a row, with the streak starting with a 21-14 loss to LSU in the 2012-13 Outback Bowl. Last season they won the Outback Bowl, with a 27-22 win over Mississippi State. USC’s last bowl appearance was the 2017 Cotton Bowl, a 24-7 loss to Ohio State.
Announcers: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt

10:15: Air Force vs. Washington State (Cheez-It Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): The “III” watchability rating pretty much exists for this exact type of game. You’ve got service academy option football versus a terrible defense and the Air Raid versus an undersized defense. If you need any additional justification, just think of it as practice for staying up late to watch the playoff Saturday night. Anyway, I have Wazzu, but expect points y’all.
SP+ line: Wazzu -0.2
Vegas line: AF -2.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Air Force’s last bowl appearance was the 2016 Arizona Bowl, a 45-21 win over South Alabama. This is Wazzu’s fifth bowl game in a row, dating to the 2015 Sun Bowl, a 20-14 win over Miami. Last season they won 28-26 over Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Ryan Leaf

Saturday, December 28

  • Memphis vs. Pennsylvania State (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): And so the New Year’s Six begins. I want to believe that Memphis has a chance in this game, and with the way they can move the ball they certainly do. But it’s hard to see them prevailing in the end against Penn State.
    SP+ line: PSU -4.4
    Vegas line: PSU -6.5
    Watchability tier: IV
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: This is the sixth bowl appearance in a row for Memphis, dating to a 55-48 win over BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl. Last season they lost 37-34 to Wake Forest in the Birmingham Bowl. Penn State has made six straight bowl appearances, dating to a 31-30 win over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl. Last season they lost 27-24 to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.
    Announcers: Mark Jones and Dusty Dvoracek
  • Notre Dame vs. Iowa State (Camping World Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): A pretty good Iowa State season figures to end in a loss, but hey, at least they got a trip to Orlando out of it.
    SP+ line: ND -3.6 
    Vegas line: ND -3.5
    Watchability tier: II
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: Notre Dame has now appeared in three straight bowl games. Two seasons ago they beat LSU 21-17 in the Citrus Bowl, and last season Clemson tidily disposed of them 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl. Iowa State has also now appeared in three straight. Two season ago they beat Memphis 21-20 in the Liberty Bowl, and last season they lost 28-26 to Wazzu in the Alamo Bowl.
    Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Dan Orlovsky

4:00: Louisiana State vs. Oklahoma (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): And here we go. First up, we have what should be an interesting 1 vs. 4 matchup. Ultimately, I don’t think OU’s defense will be able to get enough stops to put the brakes on LSU’s offense, but this is certainly a chance for the Sooner offense to maybe expose some of the weaknesses in LSU’s defense that, say, Georgia couldn’t. This should be a good, interesting game to watch, but I’m not sure the outcome is in much doubt.
SP+ line: LSU -6
Vegas line: LSU -13.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Unsurprisingly, their only previous meetings have been in the Sugar Bowl. In the 1949-1950 contest, the Sooners won 35-0, but LSU turned in the tables in the 2003-2004 game to win 21-14.
Last bowl game: For LSU, this marks 20 straight bowl appearances, dating all the way back to a 28-14 win over Georgia Tech in the 2000 Peach Bowl. Last season they beat UCF 40-32 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners are doing the Tigers one better, as this is their 21st straight bowl appearance, going all the way back to a 27-25 loss to Ole Miss in the 1999 Independence Bowl. Last season they lost 45-34 to Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge

8:00: Ohio State vs. Clemson (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): And this is what you’re staying up for. Unstoppable force meets immovable object. Two undefeated major conference teams. The defending national champions. Two of the best quarterbacks in the nation (that aren’t playing in the other game). Of course, Justin Fields’s knee is a concern coming into this, but he didn’t seem very limited in the Michigan game, and he’s had a month to heal since then. The difference in this game figures to come down to the defensive lines. Clemson had to replace everyone off their defensive line from last year, and while those replacements are very good, they have also not been tested like this, even if Fields is limited. (This is by far Clemson’s biggest test of the season; their best win is probably over the Greatest 7-5 Team in the World, Texas A&M.) I hate to use phrases like “The ‘X’ Factor'”, but The ‘X’ Factor in this game figures to be Chase Young. He will get loose in the Clemson backfield at least a couple of times. Will those couple of times be enough to generate at least one turnover from Trevor Lawrence, a turnover that could well decide this game? I think so. I have the Buckeyes as slight favorites here, much to my chagrin.
SP+ line: OSU -6.1
Vegas line: Clemson -1.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Clemson is 3-0 all-time against the Buckeyes, and all their previous meetings have been in bowl games, and mostly relatively recently. In the 1978 Gator Bowl Clemson win 17-15, in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl the Tigers won 40-35, and somewhat famously, the Tigers won 31-0 in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl/playoff semi-final.
Last bowl game: This is OSU’s seventh straight bowl appearance, dating back to a 40-35 loss to Clemsin on the Orange Bowl. Last season they beat Washington 28-23 in the Rose Bowl. This is Clemson’s 15th straight bowl appearance, dating to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, a 19-10 win over Colorado. As previously mentioned, they shellacked Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl, allowing them to advance to the CFP Championship Game, where they beat Alabama so badly (44-16) that the Tide elected to use their kicker as a lead blocker.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit