Bowl season is upon us! There are certainly some dud matchups here early, but I’ve always loved bowl season. A chance to sit down with friends and family and watch some of the best teams in the country get up (or not) for some playoff action! Let’s take a look at the bowl matchups leading up to the New Years Day games:
Gildan New Mexico Bowl – Saturday at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT on ESPN (Mark Jones, Brock Huard, Jessica Mendoza)
Washington State Cougars (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) vs. Colorado State Rams (7-6, 5-3 MWC) at University Stadium in Albuquerque, NM
What you need to know: It’s taken a couple of years, but Mike Leach has Wazzu playing a high-powered, pass-first offense led by Connor Halliday at quarterback. Halliday’s 4,187 passing yards rank 4th in the nation and he’s willing to throw to anyone. That said, WSU is still very weak defensively and will face a tough test in Rams’ running back Kapri Bibbs who has put up monster numbers on the ground this season (28 TDs – 2nd in NCAA & 1,572 yards – 8th in NCAA).
Dylan’s pick: Washington State
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET/12:30 PM PT on ABC (Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack, Samantha Ponder)
20 Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1 MWC) vs. 25 USC Trojans (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12) at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, NV
What you need to know: USC had what can only be described as a tumultuous season, coming in with very high expectations and – after a mid-season firing of Lane Kiffin – finishing with a loss to arch rival UCLA at the Coliseum. Sophomore QB Cody Kessler (16 TDs, 6 INT, 2,623 yards) will represent USC in this battle of quarterbacks against senior Derek Carr. Carr is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, leading FBS in passing TDs (48), passing yards (4,866) and finishing 3rd in completion percentage (70.1%).
Dylan’s pick: Fresno State
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Saturday at 5:30 PM ET/2:30 PM PT on ESPN (Clay Matvick, Matt Stinchcomb, Dawn Davenport)
Buffalo Bulls (8-4, 6-2 MAC) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (7-5, 6-2 MWC) at Bronco Stadium in Boise, ID
What you need to know: The Bulls feature senior RB Branden Oliver who ranks 12th in the nation in both rushing TDs (15) and rushing yards (1,421). UB will draw upon their early season losses to both Baylor and Ohio State as they head to Boise. For the Aztecs, the key is junior RB Adam Muema whose 1,015 rushing yards this season put him over 1,000 for the second consecutive season.
Dylan’s pick: Buffalo
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Saturday at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT on ESPN (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards)
Tulane Green Wave (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4, 5-2 Sun Belt) at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA.
What you need to know: It’s an All-Louisiana battle as the Ragin’ Cajuns (essentially) visit Tulane with both teams battling injuries to their quarterbacks, ULL’s Terrance Broadway and Tulane’s Nick Montana (formerly of the University of Washington and son of a great quarterback named Joe). When they played in 2012 the Ragin’ Cajuns won 41-13, and this one may not come out too differently.
Dylan’s pick: Louisiana-Lafayette
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg – Monday at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT on ESPN (Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway, Paul Carcaterra)
East Carolina Pirates (9-3, 6-2 C-USA) vs. Ohio Bobcats (7-5, 4-4 MAC) at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL
What you need to know: Shane Carden (32 TDs, 3,866 yards), a 6’2″ junior quarterback out of Houston, TX leads the Pirates’ high-scoring offense against a Ohio squad that saw i. Their star quarterback Tyler Tettleton struggle this season ii. A 49-7 loss to Louisville in their only game against a ranked opponent and iii. Losses in 3 of their last 4 games, managing a total of 16 points in those losses.
Dylan’s pick: East Carolina
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – Christmas Eve at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT on ESPN (Steve Levy, Lou Holtz, Mark May, Maria Taylor)
Boise State Broncos (8-4, 6-2 MWC) vs. Oregon State Beavers (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI
What you need to know: When people have thought Boise State over the last decade, they’ve thought of Chris Petersen, of trick plays and of huge upsets like their win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Now, Petersen is gone and taking on and Oregon State squad that features 6’5″ QB Sean Mannion who put up 36 passing TDs (3rd in NCAA) and 4,403 passing yards (2nd in NCAA).
Dylan’s pick: Oregon State
Little Caesars Bowl – Dec. 26 at 6 PM ET/3 PM PT on ESPN (Dave Lamont, Ray Bentley, Niki Noto)
Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6, 3-5 ACC) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (10-3, 7-1 MAC) at Ford Field in Detroit, MI
What you need to know: Bowling Green returns to the site of a triumphant win over Northern Illinois that secured them the MAC Championship. BGSU is led offensively by QB Matt Johnson (3,195 yards, 23 TDs) and RB Travis Greene (1,555 yards, 11 TDs). The Panthers went 1-2 vs. current Top 25 teams this season and failed to successfully run the ball en route to losing 4 of their last 6 games.
Dylan’s pick: Bowling Green
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – Dec. 26 at 9:30 PM ET/6:30 PM PT on ESPN (Joe Davis, Mike Bellotti, Cara Capuano)
Utah State Aggies (8-5, 7-1 MWC) vs. 23 Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA
What you need to know: Let’s give Utah State some credit. The Aggies won 5 of their last 6 and on the season, they allowed the 7th fewest points per game (17.3) and 10th fewest rushing yards per game (107.3). That said, they face a very tall task and his name is Jordan Lynch, a 6’0″ Heisman Trophy Finalist from Chicago, IL who put together his second consecutive season with 2,600+ passing yards, 23+ TDs, 1,800+ rushing yards and 19+ rushing TDs. With the win, NIU will set the program record for most wins in a season.
Dylan’s pick: Northern Illinois
Military Bowl – Dec. 27 at 2:30 PM ET/11:30 AM PT on ESPN (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards)
Marshall Thundering Herd (9-4, 7-1 C-USA) vs. Maryland Terrapins (7-5, 3-5 ACC) at Navy Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD
What you need to know: This is another case of one team playing very close to home, what with Maryland playing in Annapolis. This is also Maryland’s first bowl game under Randy Edsall, and the Terps can give credit to winning their first four games this season and 5 of the first 6 – the only loss coming at Florida State. Marshall won 7 of their last 8 before losing to Rice in the C-USA Championship game, their victories fueled by the 7th highest scoring offense in FBS (43.0 points per game).
Dylan’s pick: Marshall
Texas Bowl – Dec. 27 at 6 PM ET/3 PM PT on ESPN (Mark Jones, Brock Huard, Jessica Mendoza)
Syracuse Orange (6-6, 4-4 ACC) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4, 4-4 Big Ten) at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX
What you need to know: These are two northern teams that are used to playing in cold weather who head south lacking passing offenses worth a darn. Minnesota does however possess 5’11” junior RB David Cobb who put up 1,111 rushing yards and 7 TDs on the ground in his first full season. Syracuse fared worse than Minnesota vs. Top 25 opponents in their first season under Scott Schafer, including losses to Northwestern, Clemson and Florida State.
Dylan’s pick: Minnesota
Fight Hunger Bowl – Dec. 27 at 9:30 PM ET/6:30 PM PT on ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)
BYU Cougars (8-4) vs. Washington Huskies (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA
What you need to know: The Cougars of BYU bring a potent dual-threat ground game featuring sophomores QB Taysom Hill and RB Jamaal Williams, who combined for 2,413 yards and 16 TDs on the ground this season. BYU also has a Top 25 defense (21.3 points allowed per game) that led them to winning 7 of their last 9 games including wins at Utah State and Houston and at home over Boise State. For UW, the last time they took the field was a big Apple Cup win, their fourth victory in their last five contests. The Huskies started the season strong and finished strong, but it was three straight losses – away to Stanford, home vs. Oregon and away to Arizona State – that marked their downfall. This will be the last game in the career of UW QB Keith Price, who put together a quality legacy but did fall short of expectations this season. In the backfield however will be 5’10” junior RB Bishop Sankey, a First-Team All-Pac 12 & Second-Team All-American selection who 1,775 yards and 18 TDs on the ground this season.
Dylan’s pick: Washington
New Era Pinstripe Bowl – Dec. 28 at Noon ET/9 AM PT on ESPN (Chris Fowler, Jesse Palmer, Paul Carcaterra)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-6, 3-5 American) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4) at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY
What you need to know: This game has developed into a bit of a joke, but it does give NYers a taste of college football, including a local team and a national powerhouse. For Rutgers, this is their last game before the daunting task of joining the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights are a poor defensive team that can’t stop the pass and don’t do anything on offense very well, which is why they lost three of four and five of their last seven. As for the Fighting Irish, senior Tommy Rees (2,938 passing yards, 27 TDs, 13 INTs) allows Notre Dame to work well through the air while the Notre Dame defense can at least shut down aerial threats.
Dylan’s pick: Notre Dame
Belk Bowl – Dec. 28 at 3:20 PM ET/12:20 PM PT on ESPN (Carter Blackburn, Danny Kanell, Allison Williams)
Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3, 6-2 American) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4 ACC) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC
What you need to know: Bearcats coach Tommy Tubberville – you may have heard of him – is out to lead his team to their 10th win of the season and a win in this year’s Belk Bowl would mark the second consecutive season that Cincinnati had taken down a team from North Carolina in the game after defeating Duke last season 48-34. UNC has won five of their last six and returns to the postseason after a bowl ban last year. The Tar Heels are led under center by 6’2″ sophomore Marquise Williams who got the nod starting in October and finished the season with more than 2,000 yards and 20 TDs (passing and rushing combined).
Dylan’s pick: Cincinnati
Russell Athletic Bowl – Dec. 28 at 6:45 PM ET/3:45 PM PT on ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich)
Miami Hurricanes (9-3, 5-3 ACC) vs. 18 Louisville (11-1, 7-1 American) at Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL
What you need to know: Some had picked the Cardinals to make the BCS Championship game at the start of the season and though they came up short, NFL prospect Teddy Bridgewater (3,523 yards, 28 TDs, 4 INTs) and the Louisville Cardinals can finish the year 12-1 with a win. This is Louisville’s last game before joining the ACC, home to the disappointing Miami Hurricanes who rattled off seven wins to start the year before dropping three straight (at Virginia Tech, vs. Florida State and at Duke). Miami will look to hit 10 wins for the first time since 2003 without leading rusher Duke Johnson (920 yards, 6 TDs).
Dylan’s pick: Louisville
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – Dec. 28 at 10:15 PM ET/7:15 PM PT on ESPN (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake)
Michigan Wolverines (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, AZ
What you need to know: Some are calling this the best matchup of seven win teams this bowl season, but it’s certainly a far cry from where the Wolverines wanted to be at the start of the year. Michigan won six of their first seven, the one loss coming in four overtimes in Happy Valley. It was downhill from there though as Brady Hoke’s boys lost four of six, finishing the regular season with a heartbreaking loss against archrival OSU in Ann Arbor. All eyes will be on Devin Gardner, the 6’4″ 210 lbs senior who put up a combined 3,443 yards and 32 TDs. It’s a different story for K-State who finished the year winning five of six including at Texas Tech and against archrival Kansas. Keep your eyes out for 5’11” junior WR Tyler Lockett who had 1,146 receiving yards and 8 TDs in the regular season.
Dylan’s pick: Michigan
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl – Dec. 30 at 11:45 AM ET/8:45 AM PT on ESPN (Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway, Paul Carcaterra)
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) vs. Navy Midshipmen (7-4) at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, TX
What you need to know: This marks MTSU’s 10th bowl appearance in the last 11 years and the Blue Raiders enter riding a five game winning streak, averaging over 42 points through those five games. The Blue Raiders rushing game is balanced between Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley, both totaling over 600 yards and three touchdowns this season. Navy brings their signature triple option rushing attack, led by Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds – a 5’11” sophomore out of San Antonio, TX – set the record for most rushing TDs by a quarterback in a season with 29, adding 1,260 rushing yards and 1,038 passing yards.
Dylan’s pick: Navy
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Dec. 30 at 3:15 PM ET/12:15 PM PT on ESPN (Mark Jones, Brock Huard, Jessica Mendoza)
Ole Miss Runnin’ Rebels (7-5, 3-5 SEC) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-5, 5-3 ACC) at LP Field in Nashville, TN
What you need to know: Ole Miss looks to earn a school record sixth consecutive postseason victory, and to do that they’ll have to shake off losses to Missouri and rival Mississippi State in which they failed to score more than 10 in either game. Among those looking to shake off the losing ways is Rebels’ junior QB Bo Wallace who threw zero touchdowns and four INTs in the last two contests. Georgia Tech on the other hand does not throw the ball; they average only 129.5 passing yards per game, 118th in FBS. They do however run the ball for 311.7 yards per game (5th in FBS) as part of a rushing attack that features four backs each with at least 450 yards and six TDs each. This is the 17th straight season the Yellow Jackets have gone bowling, but they’ve lost seven of their last eight bowls.
Dylan’s pick: Georgia Tech
Valero Alamo Bowl – Dec. 30 at 6:45 PM ET/3:45 PM PT on ESPN (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
10 Oregon Ducks (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) vs. Texas Longhorns (8-4, 7-2 Big 12) at Alamodome in San Antonio, TX
What you need to know: Texas has been in the news a lot lately, but really for one reason, and his name is Mack Brown. The Alamo Bowl will likely mark Brown’s last game on the sideline as a head coach after 16 seasons at the helm of the Longhorns. Brown’s quarterback – 6’2″ senior Case McCoy, younger brother of Colt – has not been stellar this season, throwing for only 1,885 yards, 11 TDs and 11 INTs. Texas’ dual threat running game though could prove key, as both Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown ran for over 750 yards in the regular season. With two losses in conference, Oregon missed out on a BCS berth, no thanks to star quarterback Marcus Mariota (3,412 passing yards, 63.1 completion percentage, 30 passing TDs and 4 INTs). The Ducks possess a whole host of weapons all over the offense, leading to an average of 46.8 points per game (3rd in FBS).
Dylan’s pick: Oregon
National University Holiday Bowl – Dec. 30 at 10:15 PM ET/7:15 PM PT on ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Matt Millen, Maria Taylor)
14 Arizona State Sun Devils (10-3, 8-1 Pac-12) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA
What you need to know: There have certainly been occasions in recent years when the Holiday Bowl has been a more intriguing matchup, but there is at least one quality team here. Arizona State is 0-3 all-time in this game, but with a win would hit 11 for only the sixth time in school history. For Texas Tech, it’s been a tale of two seasons; after starting the year off with seven wins (including at TCU), the Red Raiders have finished with five losses. If you like passing, this is the game for you; the two teams average a combined 668 yards per game through the air and a combined 77 points per game between the two offenses. Defensive backs, beware.
Dylan’s pick: Arizona State
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl – New Year’s Eve at 12:30 PM ET/9:30 AM PT on ESPN (Tom Hart, John Congemi, Niki Noto)
Arizona Wildcats (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) vs. Boston College Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC) at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, LA
What you need to know: The Wildcats head to Shreveport having lost three of their last four, though that run did include a 42-16 thumping of Oregon. Throw in victories in six of their first eight games and with a win, U of A could certainly be proud of their season. BC comes in having won four of their last five in large part due to their half of the running back battle on display in this game. The Eagles’ 6’0″ senior RB Andre Williams was a Heisman Trophy finalist after amassing 2,102 yards and 17 TDs in his first four-digit rushing yard season. For Arizona, it’s 5’10” junior RB Ka’Deem Carey who put up the spectacular numbers, accruing 1,716 yards and 17 TDs one year after totaling 1,929 yards and 23 TDs as a sophomore. This serves as the flip side of the game featuring the other Arizona school; if you love seeing great running backs, this one’s for you.
Dylan’s pick: Arizona
Hyundai Sun Bowl – New Year’s Eve at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT on CBS
Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4, 5-3 ACC) vs. 17 UCLA Bruins (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, TX
What you need to know: After falling to Alabama in their season opener 35-10, the Hokies rattled off six straight wins and established themselves as a tough defensive team, allowing only 17.4 points per game this season (8th fewest in FBS) and 269 yards per game (4th fewest in FBS). UCLA also started their year off strong with five straight wins including at Nebraska, but were brought down to earth with losses at Stanford and Oregon. The Bruins will counter the Hokies defense with a couple of dynamic weapons. The first is 6’3″ sophomore QB Brett Hundley whose passing (2,845 yards, 67.8 completion percentage, 22 TDs and 9 INTs) and rushing (587 yards, 9 TDs) numbers were both stellar. The second weapon is a 6’1″ freshman named Myles Jack who not only had 72 total tackles as a linebacker, but also ran the ball for 267 yards and 7 TDs.
Dylan’s pick: UCLA
AutoZone Liberty Bowl – New Year’s Eve at 4 PM ET/1 PM PT on ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich)
Rice Owls (10-3, 7-1 C-USA) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6, 3-5 SEC) at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, TN
What you need to know: The Bulldogs had a decent season, though it was marred by three games in November – losses at South Carolina, at Texas A&M and vs. Alabama – and it took two overtime wins at the end of the season to make Mississippi State bowl eligible. The Bulldogs offense ranks 11th in FBS in time of possession and is led by 6’2″ sophomore QB Dak Prescott (Passing: 1,657 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs, 58.2 completion percentage; Rushing: 751 yards, 11 TDs). On the other side of the field, the Rice Owls lost only two games following a season opening defeat at Texas A&M and finished with the 16th most rushing yards per game (240.2) in FBS, led by 6’1″, 235 lbs senior Charles Ross who had 1,252 yards and 14 TDs on the ground.
Dylan’s pick: Rice
Chick-Fil-A Bowl – New Year’s Eve at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT on ESPN (Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack, Samantha Ponder)
24 Duke Blue Devils (10-3, 6-2 ACC) vs. 21 Texas A&M Aggies (8-4, 4-4 SEC) at Georgia Dome in Atlanta, FL
What you need to know: No, that wasn’t a typo; the Duke Blue Devils have 10 wins and are one win away from an improbable 11th in this battle between two Top 25 teams, one of the few prior to New Year’s Day. What’s stopping them? Oh, just Heisman Finalist – and 2012 winner – Johnny Manziel. You may have heard of him; this year he put up 3,732 yards, 33 TDs, 15 INTs and a 69.1 completion percentage through the air while on the ground he totaled 686 yards and 8 TDs. Also keep an eye on one of Manziel’s receivers, 6’5″ sophomore WR Mike Evans, who amassed 1,322 yards and 12 TDs. All four of A&M’s losses came in conference, and all four came against ranked opponents. David Cutcliffe is the head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, and he leads a team that lost only three games this season, rattling off eight consecutive victories including wins over ranked opponents Virginia Tech and Miami. The Blue Devils have been led all season long by two quarterbacks – 6’0″ junior Anthony Boone and 6’2″ junior Brandon Connette – who combined for over 3,000 passing yards 23 TDs and 17 INTs as well as over 500 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns.
Dylan’s pick: Duke
Check back before the New Year rolls around as we preview the rest of the bowl games!