Bowl Games 2021: Opening Slate

Oh hey, we’re back on this this thing. I have to admit it snuck up on a me a bit this year, but not only are we here early, we’ve also got eight games to cover! We really need to get crackin’!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 17

12:00: Toledo vs. Middle Tennessee State (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): Toledo happened run into NIU’s luck-driven bandsaw in the MAC Championship game, but fortunately for them here MTSU is both kind of bad and not terribly lucky.
SP+ line: Toledo by 13.2
Vegas line: Toledo by 9.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Toledo’s last bowl game was this game in 2018, where they lost 35-32 to FIU. MTSU also hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2018, where they lost 45-13 to App State in the New Orleans Bowl.
Announcers: Matt Barrie and Booger McFarland

6:00: Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN2):

Yes I know who you remind me of
A girl I think I used to know
Yes I’d see her when the day got colder
On those days when it felt like snow

You know I even think that she stared like you
She used to just stand there and stare
And roll her eyes right up to heaven
And make like I just wasn’t there

And she used to fall down a lot
That girl was always falling
Again and again
And I used to sometimes try to catch her
But I never even caught her name

And sometimes we would spend the night
Just rolling about on a floor
And I remember
Even though it felt soft at the time
I always used to wake up sore

You know I even think that she smiled like you
She used to just stand there and smile
And her eyes would go all sort of far away
And stay like that for quite a while

And I remember she used to fall down a lot
That girl was always falling
Again and again
And I used to sometimes try to catch her
But I never even caught her name

Yes I sometimes even tried to catch her
But I never even caught her name

Ahem. Speaking of the Huskies, here they are! Basically every statistical framework is agreement that they are, indeed, very lucky, but the simplest one is that they won nine games have a negative scoring margin on the season. They are, indeed, the Anti-Nebraska. You will also note that the Chanticleers, despite not being terribly great this year themselves, are 20 point favorites in this game. I’m inclined to agree.
SP+ line: Coastal Carolina by 20.2
Vegas line: Cosatal Carolina by 9.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This is Coastal’s second ever bowl game. The first was a 37-34 last season in the Cure Bowl. NIU was last seen in a bowl game in 2018’s Boca Raton Bowl, where they got beat 37-13 by UAB.
Announcers: Mike Morgan and Kirk Morrison

Saturday, December 18

11:00: Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): Well, the “transplanted offense” thing didn’t help WKU win Conference USA, but by all indications this should be a close one in Boca. I still kinda like App though.
SP+ line: WKU by 1
Vegas line: Appalachian State by 2.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: This will be seven in a row for App State, as one of the group of teams that actually played a bowl game last season. The stream started with a 31-29 win over Ohio in the Camellia Bowl. Last season they beat North Texas 56-28 in the Myrle Beach Bowl. For the Hilltoppers, this makes three in a row. In 2019 they beat Western Michigan 23-20 in the First Responder Bowl, and then lost 39-21 to Georgia State in last season’s Lendingtree Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Rocky Boiman

2:15: Texas-El Paso vs. Fresno State (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): UTEP is a fun, feel-good story this year, and they’re gonna get pasted by Fresno.
SP+ line: Fresno by 15.3
Vegas line: Fresno State by 11.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: These teams have met 9 times, with Fresno owning a 6-2-1 series lead. Their first meeting was in 1992, a 43-18 Fresno win, and the most recent was a 24-21 UTEP win in 2004.
Last bowl game: This will be UTEP’s first bowl game since a 21-6 loss to Utah State in the 2014 New Mexico Bowl. Even beyond their limited bowl game appearances, they also have lost 5 bowl games in a row. Their last win was a 14-7 win over Ole Miss in the Sun Bowl. Given their general competence, I find it somewhat surprising that this will be Fresno’s first bowl game since a 31-20 win over Arizona State in the 2018 Las Vegas Bowl.
Announcers: John Schriffen and Rene Ingoglia

3:30: Alabama-Birmingham vs. Brigham Young (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ABC): Provided they’re motivated, de facto Pac-12 South champs BYU should be able to roll the Blazers.
SP+ line: BYU by 0.2
Vegas line: BYU by 6.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: UAB was last seen in the postseason losing 31-17 to App State in the New Orleans Bowl. BYU has now made is four straight bowl appearances. The streak started with a 39-18 win over Western Michigan in the 2018 Potato Bowl, and they also beat UCF 49-23 in last season’s Boca Raton Bowl.
Announcers: Roy Philpott, Cole Cubelic, and Paul Carcaterra

5:45: Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty (Lendingtree Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): I want Liberty to lose, but they probably won’t.
SP+ line: Liberty by 13.4
Vegas line: Liberty by 9.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: EMU’s last bowl game appearance was the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl, a 34-30 loss to Pitt. Libery, meanwhile, gets a chance to play in a game that isn’t the Cure Bowl. In 2019 they beat Georgia Southern 23-16 and last season they beat Coastal Carolina 37-34.
Announcers: Chris Cotter and Mark Herzlich

7:30: Oregon State vs. Utah State (LA Bowl @ Los Angeles, CA; ABC): The new and (vastly) improved Aggies should pose a big challenge, and I actually feel somewhat weary about picking the Beavers here, but I’m going to go ahead and do so.
SP+ line: Oregon State by 9.7
Vegas line: Beavers by 6.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just twice, and they were both narrow Beaver victories. The first was 24-16 in 1997 and 20-16 in 1998.
Last bowl game: This will be the first bowl game for the Beavers since beating Boise State 38-23 in the 2013 Hawaii Bowl. Utah State’s last bowl apperance was the 2019 Frisco Bowl, where they lost 51-41.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Jesse Palmer

9:15: Marshall vs. Louisiana (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): This game looks like it should be pretty close, but considering the location, I’ll give a pretty solid edge to the Cajuns.
SP+ line: Marshall by 1.2
Vegas line: Cajuns by 4.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: The Herd has has now made 5 bowl games in a row. The streak started with a 31-28 win over Colorado State in the 2017 New Mexico Bowl. Last season they lost 17-10 to Buffalo in the Camellia Bowl. The Cajuns have now also raged into four straight bowls, starting with the 2018 Cure Bowl, a 41-24 loss to Tulane. Last season they beat UTSA in 31-24 in the First Responder Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Mike Golic Jr

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