Bowl Games 2020: Opening Slate

Oh, right, the bowl games start today. I should’ve anticipated this since these games were generally announced last week, but here we are. At any rate. I’ve been in this bowl game business since 1999. The last time we had 28 regular bowl games, it was 2005, likely more famously known for Vince Young singlehandedly leading Texas over the pre-anointed Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl, which unlike this year’s Rose Bowl was actually in the Rose Bowl.

Anyway, I’ve got this whole thing put together at pretty much the last minute, at least for these pre-Christmas games. So let’s get crackin’. First, though, let’s also examine a 2020-adjusted version of the Watchability Rankings:

  • I: Something to have on on the background while reading the Wikipedia article about “Timeline of the Far Future” and trying not have an existential crisis while doing so.
  • II: Decidedly less existential, this tier starts to get into stuff that could be interesting, or might just go totally sideways for one team or the other. Either way, it’s worth at least having on for the first half.
  • III: This is a game I will definitely be watching, but isn’t a “mainstream pick”, as in, “yeah man, I knew about Coastal Carolina before knowing what a Chanticleer was was cool”.
  • IV: Playoff games, well, the championship game at least, and anything else of important note.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 21
2:30: North Texas vs. Appalachian State (Myrtle Beach Bowl @ Conway, SC; ESPN): Okay, let’s get this thing started… with a game that kicks at 11:30 AM on the West Coast and one team is heavily favored. Yeah, this is what Watchability Tier I was invented for. But hey, App State is a fun team, and you’ll be free to enjoy your evening.
SP+ line: App State by 21.3
Vegas line: App State -21
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is North Texas’s first bowl game since a 52-13 loss to Utah State in the 2018 New Mexico Bowl. This is the sixth straight bowl game for App State, going back to a 31-29 win over Ohio in the 2015 Camellia Bowl. Last year they bet UAB 31-17 in the New Orleans Bowl.
Announcers: Courney Lyle, Eric MacLain, Marty Smith, Ryan McGee

Tuesday, December 22
3:30: Tulane vs. Nevada (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): This one could actually be pretty cool. Tulane’s offense is just plane fun, and it’s been good to see Nevada be kind of decent again. The forecast this game calls for snow in the morning, but cold and clear by kickoff, so that’s less than ideal, but the blue turf will be a different vibe for your TV. I wonder if Tulane will wear their all-green uniforms… at any rate, I expect the Green Wave to win in the end.
SP+ line: Tulane by 5.7
Vegas line: Tulane -3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Once, back in 1992. The Green Wave washed over Reno 34-17.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl game for the Green Wave. They won the 2018 Cure Bowl over Louisiana, and beat Southern Miss in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl. This is also the third straight bowl game for the Wolf Pack. In the 2018 Arizona bowl they beat Arkansas State 16-13, and last season they lost this very bowl game to Ohio, 30-21.
Announcers: Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, Taylor Davis

7:00: Central Florida vs. Brigham Young (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): UCF looked like world beaters when they played us, and I know we’re not good or anything, but they still dominated in a way that no on else did outside of Clemson against us. At any rate, I expect this game to fun and poinsty, but with BYU playing enough defense to win in the end.
SP+ line: BYU by 9
Vegas line: BYU -7
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Twice, and relatively recently. The first meeting was a 24-17 BYU win in 2011, followed by a 31-24 overtime win for the Knights in 2014.
Last bowl game: This is the fifth straight bowl game for UCF, dating to a 31-13 loss to Arkansas State in the 2016 Cure Bowl. Last season they bulldozed Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl, 48-25. This is the third straight bowl for BYU. They beat Western Michigan 49-18 in the 2018 Potato Bowl, and lost last year’s Hawaii Bowl to Hawaii, 38-34.
Announcers: Dave Neal, DJ Shockley, Lericia Harris

Wednesday, December 23
3:30: Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia Southern (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Start your Christmas Eve Eve off right with… well, okay, this is probably not so great. Southern is favored by multiple scores, and I have no reason to doubt that.
SP+ line: GSU by 11
Vegas line: GSU -6
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Louisiana Tech has a good streak going for themselves, as this is their seventh straight bowl game. They beat Illinois 35-18 in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl, and more recently they shut out the Miami Hurricanes in last season’s Independence Bowl by a score of 14-0. Georgia Southern is making their third straight bowl game. In 2018 they beat Eastern Michigan in the Camellia Bowl, 23-21. Last season they lost to Liberty 23-16 in the Cure Bowl.
Announcers: Matt Barrie, Mike Golic Jr, Dawn Davenport

7:00: Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic (Montgomery Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): This game was originally supposed to be the new Fenway Bowl, but now I sort of wonder if that will come back, pandemic notwithstanding. Fenway’s an awkward fit for a football field and, well, it’s Boston in December. For the game itself, FAU wasn’t really that good this year, and while Memphis has come down from the high of last year, I think they’ve got this game easily.
SP+ line: Memphis by 7.2
Vegas line: Memphis -9
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Once, back in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl. FAU won 44-27.
Last bowl game: Memphis is appearing in their seventh straight bowl game, dating to the legendary (and no, I’m not being sarcastic) 2014 Miami Beach Bowl, where they beat (heh) BYU 55-48. Last season they tried their shot at the big guys, but came up short 53-39 to Penn State in the Cotton Bowl. FAU is making a second consecutive bowl game. Last season they beat SMU 52-28 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Announcers: Clay Matvic, Rock Boiman, Lauren Sisler

Thursday, December 24
3:30: Hawaii vs. Houston (New Mexico Bowl @ Frisco, TX; ESPN): The Rainbow Warriors get the leave the island for a bowl game for the first time in a while (largely because the Hawaii Bowl itself was canceled, but still), and they wind up against a team that sort should eat their lunch. But you know what, if I have to be on the West Coast and watch a game that starts at 12:30 on Christmas Eve, well, I’ll do just that. Besides, Houston still figures to be rusty, anything could happen! (They’re probably going to win easily.)
SP+ line: Houston by 13.7
Vegas line: Houston -13
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Once, in the 2003 Hawaii Bowl. Hawaii won 54-48 in overtime.
Last bowl game: Hawaii’s made three straight postseason contests, but this will be their first outside the state. In 2018 they lost to Louisiana Tech 31-14, and season they beat BYU 38-34. Houston last appeared in a bowl game back in 2018, where they got walloped 70-14 by Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Announcers: TBA

Friday, December 25
2:30: Buffalo vs. Marshall (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): I can’t say that I know much about Marshall this year, but I do know that Buffalo is fun, so once you’re done unwrapping presents over Zoom, grab yourself a beverage and hop over to ESPN. This one could be good by virtue of the two teams apparently being even according to SP+, so I’ll take it, but I still like the Bulls better in the end.
SP+ line: Buffalo by 0.3
Vegas line: Buffalo -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Nine times, going all the way back to 1959. Buffalo won that meeting 37-12, but the Bull have gone 0-6 ever since. The most recent was a 48-14 Marshall win in 2004.
Last bowl game: The Bulls are buffaloing their way to a third straight bowl game. They appeared in the 2019 Dollar General Bowl, where they lost 42-32 to Troy. Last season they beat Charlotte in the Bahamas Bowl, 31-9. Marshall is thundering their way into a fourght straight bowl game, dating to the 2018 New Mexico Bowl, where they beat Colorado State 31-28. Last season they lost the Gasparilla Bowl 48-25 to UCF.
Announcers: TBA

This Weekend in College Football: Week 16

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.


7:00: Alabama-Birmingham @ Marshall (Conference USA Championship; CBSS): Well, UAB hasn’t played much, meanwhile Marshall has. As much as I wanna say “Go Blazers!” I think it’s going to be the Herd here.


  • Nebraska @ Rutgers (BTN): This is certainly a game happening (maybe) on today, Scott Frost day, of all days. Rutgers is probably going to win, right?
  • Buffalo vs. Ball State (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): I have Buffalo all the way here.

8:00: Oregon @ Southern California (Pacific-12 Conference Championship; FOX): So this game might be played, and it might even be played with these teams in this location! So exciting! At any rate, if it’s played as scheduled, I guess I kinda have to go with USC at this point? While they’ve played a bunch of cardiac games, they’ve won, while Oregon’s losses are less understandable.



  • Oklahoma vs. Iowa State (Big 12 Conference Championship @ Arlington, TX; ABC): Oklahoma still young, whereas for the Cyclones it feels like they’ve been waiting a while for this. I have this as pretty even, so I’ll say what the hey (hay?) and pick Iowa State.
  • Northwestern @ Ohio State (Big Ten Conference Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): Northwestern’s defense is…. no, I can’t do it. Shenanigans or not. the Buckeyes are the better team.
  • Texas A&M @ Tennessee (ESPN): Texas A&M in a romp.
  • Florida State @ Wake Forest (ACCN): This is certainly a game that is scheduled to be played less than a week before Christmas. Leaving aside the “why?”, it’s gotta be Wake here.

1:30: Washington State @ Utah (FS1): I have a read on neither of these teams, so I’ll pick Utah.

3:00: Air Force @ Army (CBSS): Man, that Army-Navy game was something, mostly due to the interesting atmospheric conditions. I talked to noted West Point graduate, my Dad, and he said that he didn’t recall anything like that happening up there before. At any rate, fog or no, I like Army here.


  • Louisiana @ Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt Conference Championship; ESPN): This game could be really good, or it could be just Coastal from start to finish. I’m leaning toward the latter.
  • Mississippi @ Louisiana State (SEC): The end of that LSU-Florida game sure was something, eh? So… the Tigers are going to get bombed to death by Ole Miss in this one aren’t they?
  • Missouri @ Mississippi State (SECA): Mizzou seems smart enough to know how to beat 2020 Miss State, and I think they will.


  • Clemson vs. Notre Dame (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): I think this will be a close, tight Clemson win that allows both teams to get into the Playoff.
  • Minnesota @ Wisconsin (BTN): The axe is on the line, y’all! I think Wisconsin is just mediocre enough this year to give the Gophers a chance, but I’ll still call for the Badgers.

4:30: Boise State vs. San Jose State (Mountain West Conference Championship @ Las Vegas, NV; FOX): San Jose State is good, which means their head coach is probably halfway out the door to another job. I don’t think Boise can cream them this year, but I’ll still pick the Broncos until given a reason otherwise.

5:30: Illinois @ Pennsylvania State (FS1): Well, one of these teams already fired their coach, so I’m going with the one that didn’t: Penn State.

7:00: Stanford @ California-Los Angeles (ESPN): UCLA can play offense, sorta, so I’ll give them the edge over Stanford.


  • Florida vs. Alabama (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): I still think Florida is good enough to not get the doors completely blown off, but yeah, they’re not going to win or anything silly like that.
  • Tulsa @ Cincinnati (American Athletic Conference Championship; ABC): Cincy knows that this their last chance to make a statement, and they’re going to make it by paving over Tulsa.

10:30: Arizona State @ Oregon State (ESPN): Well, here ya go, some Pac-12 After Dark to close out the 2020 “regular” season, such as it was. As is my tradition for late-season games in Corvallis, let’s check the forecast. It’s going to be a relatively warm 50 degrees or so, but blustery with winds out of the south-southwest at 15 to 25 miles per hour. There’s also a 61% percent chance of rain. Have fun, Sun Devils! I’ll take the Beavers.


Bowl Predictions 2020: First Update

This is basically impossible this year. It was going to be hard enough with the new bowl contracts, where the conferences and ESPN are now leveraging more control than ever. But removing eligibility requirements takes it to a whole other level. Usually, I make a spreadsheet and predict which teams will wind up 6-6, and then try to judge how the various stakeholders might pick a team. Yeah, not in 2020.

So here they are, my best guesses heading in Championship Weekend. The table still needs some updates, but those likely won’t go up until after all the games have been announced. I will also be utterly shock if anything I predicted is correct, just because it’s almost all guessing due to the reasons mentioned above. But hey, I’ve been doing this since 1999, I can’t stop now.

This Weekend in College Football: Week 15

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.


  • Utah @ Colorado (FOX): Well, I guess a 10am game isn’t as bad as a 9am game, but still, come on Pac-12, are you that desperate? Oh, right, you probably are. Anyway, I’ll take the Utes here.
  • Michigan State @ Pennsylvania State (ABC): Penn… State? Sure, let’s go with that, it’ll make as much sense as anything else.
  • Alabama @ Arkansas (ESPN): Arkansas is having a good year so far, with an emphasis on the “so far”.
  • Illinois @ Northwestern (FS1): I hesitated on this game in the pick ’em I help run because Northwestern is favored by 13.5. I’m almost certain they’ll win, but I’m not sure they’ll score 14 points.
  • Georgia @ Missouri (SEC): Meanwhile, Mizzou is having a really solid season (just don’t look too hard at the schedule) and Georgia’s offense just seems to be not really there. It boggles the mind at how much 5-star talent has been wasted in Athens. Any rate, they’ll probably still win.
  • Rutgers @ Maryland (BTN): Both these teams are not complete trash this season, which maybe says more about 2020 than anything else. At any rate, Rutgers figures to have a slight edge here, by which I mean I’m randomly guessing.
  • Wake Forest @ Louisville (ACCN): Wake’s pretty solid this year, while Louisville is kinda meh, a measurement based almost entirely on whether or not you lost to us.
  • Northern Illinois @ Eastern Michigan (
  • Western Michigan @ Ball State (ESPN+)

1:00: Alabama-Birmingham @ Rice (

2:30: Akron @ Buffalo (CBSS): I got Buffalo all the way here, y’all.


  • Navy @ Army (CBS): It was really, really weird to write this a “@” instead of a “vs.”, though I’m not sure I’ve ever written as “Navy vs. Army” instead of “Army vs. Navy”. So yeah, it’s the first game in this series at a team’s home stadium since the two met at Michie Stadium in 1943. But given that this game usually sells out an NFL stadium, this makes sense. At any rate, even if they’re schedule isn’t that great Army definitely has an edge in this game. But this is also the kind of game where both teams actually do plan for, and look forward to it all year, so it could be interesting. And at rate, you’ll get a heavy dosage of option football, so what more could ask for? (Other than passing.)
  • Central Michigan @ Toledo (
  • Coastal Carolina @ Troy (ESPN+)


  • North Carolina @ Miami (ABC): There are only two matchups featuring ranked teams this week. This is one of them! (I’ll reveal the other at the end of this block of games, so form a guess in your head as to the other right now.) At any rate, Miami is #10 for some reason, I guess purely as a virtue of only having one loss, but they lost 42-17 to Clemson so they’re clearly not in that tier of ACC teams. North Carolina meanwhile has careened into two other losses outside of Florida State (which probably still the weirdest loss of the season), so I guess I’ll go with the Canes?
  • Oklahoma State @ Baylor (ESPN): Ah, I remember the heady days of… September, when the Cowboys were anointed as “The Big 12’s Best Shot at the Playoff”. Well, three loses later and they’re right back where they usually are – a winning record and one of the better teams in the conference, but still not championship material. At any rate, they get to beat up on Baylor as a consolation prize.
  • Wisconsin @ Iowa (FS1): So this week, in a lot of ways, feels more like a rivalry week than Rivalry Week did. Not the least of which is because we’ve got one of the Big Ten’s traditional trophy games on, though it doesn’t figure to be much of a contest. I have Iowa here. Oh, also the other ranked vs. ranked matchup this week is Georgia-Mizzou. Yeah, go figure.

3:45: Houston @ Memphis (ESPN2): I had sort of assumed that the Cougars had played no games this year, but it turns out they’re 3-2. Huh. At any rate, this isn’t as fun of a Memphis team as we’ve had in past years, but this game could actually be pretty good, provided Houston isn’t rusty after a month off. For that reason, I’ll go with the Tigers.


  • California @ Washington State (FOX): Let’s see… Cal lost to UCLA, Oregon State, and Stanford all in a row, and they went out and beat Oregon. Wazzu beat Oregon State, lost badly to Oregon, and got beat by USC. I have no idea what to make of this. It’s on the Palouse, so I’ll go with Wazzu, I guess.
  • Duke @ Florida State (ACCN): These are probably… no, not probably, these are the worst teams in the ACC this year, full stop, and it’s probably for the best that they’re quarantined on the ACC Network. Eesh. I guess I’ll go with FSU simply because they supposedly have better talent than Duke? Oof.


  • Boise State @ Wyoming (CBSS): I have Boise all the way here.
  • Appalachian State @ Georgia Southern (


  • Louisiana State @ Florida (ESPN): 7:00 PM, 6:00 PM Central is apparently the Louisiana Power Hour, with both Louisianas State and Tech heading elsewhere to… probably lose very badly to out-of-state opponents. Well, at least LSU is.
  • Louisiana Tech @ Texas Christian (FS1): LaTech is a respectable 5-3, but there’s nothing that tells me that they’ll be able to hang with a pretty mediocre TCU team.


  • Southern California @ California-Los Angeles (ABC): Get out the colors, both of the jerseys and those incredibly lush end zones at the Rose Bowl. I don’t think I’d go to a UCLA game there, but I really need to go to a Rose Bowl some day. Alas. At least here in 2020, the grand old stadium in Pasadena will be empty, but we’ll get to enjoy this game nonetheless. USC’s early pattern of hanging around and then winning at the end has turned into just outright winning games in dominant fashion, beating Utah and Wazzu by combined 71-30. The Bruins can play a little defense though and I think they can definitely keep this one close. I think USC will win, but with a fair chance of early season shenanigans. This could be a fun one to watch, and if it’s not, well, at least that grass will be real pretty.
  • Auburn @ Mississippi State (SEC): Okay, look, rationally I know Auburn is going to win. But  Miss State has looked better the past couple of weeks, giving UGA all they want and barely losing to Ole Miss. I’m not sure this will be especially aesthetically pleasing to watch, but there could be something to watch.

8:00: Virginia @ Virginia Tech (ACCN): UVA’s had a pretty anonymous 5-4 season, will VPI has had a very loud and noisy disaster of a 4-6 season. That, combined with what would normally be a raucous Lane Stadium being completely quiet, makes me lean toward the Hoos here.


  • San Diego State @ Brigham Young (ESPN2): BYU’s apparently general plan for the season is just to play football. Last weekend, the sent the equipment truck in the general direction of the Carolinas, unsure if they were going to play Liberty or not. When that game was called off, did they turn around? Heck no. They kept rollin’, and parked that truck right in Conway, SC and played probably the game of the year against Coastal Carolina. They lost, but this is a really good team, and I like them over the Aztecs.
  • Stanford @ Oregon State (ESPNU): The Beavers might be favorite 2-3 team ever, and I have them all the way against the Cardinal.

10:30: Fresno State vs. New Mexico (@Whitney, NV; FS1): Well, it’s mid-December. Usually I’d be flying back to the South this weekend; instead, I’m parked in my apartment in California. So these teams may perhaps be glad to get the chance to play in UNLV’s old stadium that is currently painted and decked out in New Mexico State‘s logo and banners. 2020. Also, Fresno all the way here.

11:00: Nevada-Las Vegas @ Hawaii (Team1Sports)