As we draw closer to the start of bowl season, I find myself getting somewhat giddy with excitement. The joy that awaits me over the course of the next month is paralleled to that exuberance most feel around the holiday season about presents, home cooked meals and New Year’s celebration.
We’ve parsed the first ten games of the bowl season, and now it’s time to take a look at the next ten. Well, in this case 11. The layout of the bowl season is such that it would behoove me to extend this list to 11 games as the tenth game falls one shy of a completed day in the schedule. It would make little sense for me to finish this piece with a game to go in a given day, in this case Wednesday, December 27, only to pick up with one remaining game from said day in Part Three. So, you’ll get a bonus game this time around only to feel lacking with just nine games in Part Three.
Continuing forward, I present bowl games 11 through 21.
Saturday, December 23
USF vs. Texas Tech
It’s quite an incredible feat that Kliff Kingsbury still has a job. The head football coach at Texas Tech has taken his Red Raiders to just their third bowl in sixth years, and have won no more than eight games in a single season, his first. Texas Tech has also placed no better than sixth in the Big 12. the Red Raiders come into this bowl game at 6-6 after starting the season 4-1. The lone standout for Texas Tech this season has been senior quarterback Nic Shimonek, who has thrown for 30 touchdowns and 3500 yards in his final season. Those numbrs may have been even higher had he not been benched for sophomore McLane Carter in the final game of the season, only to return for a portion of the game. It all had a very Eli Manning-Geno Smith feel to it. USF, on the other hand, fired on all cylinders this season to the tune of a 9-2 record. A loss to UCF in the final weekend of the season hurt the Bulls chances of a meaningful bowl appearances, but then again, every team the Knights crossed this year fell in their wake. The Bulls go as quarterback Quinton Flowers goes. The senior threw for 2600 yards and rushed for nearly 1000 more this season, finishing with the seventh most rushing yards among quarterbacks. He’s not terribly accurate, and has thrice completed less than 40 percent of his passes, but he is immensely dangerous. Pair the fact that Flowers can hurt you in so many ways with the lack of defensive talent from the 94th ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders, who give up nearly 32 points per game, and you have the makings of a lopsided affair. USF rolls easily in this one. despite giving up some points.
USF 38-Texas Tech 21
Armed Forces Bowl
Army vs. San Diego State
For the first time since 1996, the Black Knights will have a chance to play for a ninth win when they take on Navy this upcoming weekend. In the 21 years since that last nine win season, Army has won three or fewer games 14 times. This is a tremendous turnaround from the Black Knights and fourth year head coach Jeff Monken, who has now taken the team to a second consecutive bowl appearances. Army is your traditional triple option military academy style offense, so you won’t be surprised with what you see in this one. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (no relation to the former Giants running back) leads the option attack with 1472 yards and 11 scores. Darnell Woolfolk also has produced 11 touchdowns on the ground and an additional 668 yards. All in all, the Black Knights have already run the ball nearly 650 times with one regular season game remaining. On the other side of the field is an opponent that is no stranger to running the ball either. The Aztecs pound the rock with running back Rashaad Penny, who many considered to be a darkhorse Heisman candidate. He’s rushed for over 2000 yards this season with 19 touchdowns. The Aztecs come into this one at 10-2, missing out of the Mountain West title game by way of losses to the two teams that competed in that game, Fresno State and Boise State. This is a team, despite not playing in the conference championship, can compete, having knocked off Stanford earlier this season. Army allows just 21 points per game, San Diego State just 18. Mix that with two offenses that apply heavy doses of running the football, and you’re looking at the quickest game of the bowl season. As much as I’d like to give the military branch a victory, I’m taking the Aztecs.
San Diego State 24-Army 10
Dollar General Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Toledo
Bowl season for non-AQ teams is always a questionable time, especially those teams that don’t win their conference. For the second year in a row, these two teams will square off during bowl season.
In my previous article, I made mention how I wasn’t sold on the MAC champs because of a downed conference this year. But I have to give the Rockets their credit. Coming into this game at 11-2, Toledo finished with the second best non-AQ record in the nation. Had UCF not been undefeated this season, we could be talking about Toledo taking on Auburn this year instead of UCF. The 11th highest scoring team in the nation is so balanced on the offensive side of the ball. Logan Woodisde threw for almost 3800 yards and 28 scored, Terry Swanson added 1300 yards and 14 on the ground and the leading receiver, Diontae Johnson, hauled 13 touchdowns and 1257 yards on 72 receptions. My concern in the MAC being down this year is that Toledo hasn’t been tested outside of losses to Miami(FL) and Ohio. Appalachian State has quickly turned into a formidable foe in the Sun Belt since its inception into the FBS ranks in 2013. After a 4-8 start in their inaugural season, the Mountaineers have won seven, eleven, ten and now eight games in the last four seasons. This will be the first year they won’t take part in the Camellia Bowl. Appalachian State lost some weird games this season. They dropped one to UMASS and a conference game to four win UL Monroe. Then they lost to a seven win Wake Forest team by just a single point. They also won seven conference games in route to a share of the Sun Belt title with Troy. They’ve been quite difficult to figure out this season. Unlike Toledo, this team is incredibly spread out, with five runners carrying the ball at least 50 times and no receiver gaining over 666 yards. While the Mountaineers have defeated a MAC team the last two seasons in bowl play, they were better teams. I don’t think Appalachian State has the power to pace Toledo this year.
Toledo 34-Appalachian State 16
Sunday, December 24
Fresno State vs. Houston
Aah, my favorite none-factor bowl of the season. Why, you ask? It stems back to when I was younger, and my family gathered at my grandparents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner. After dinner, as my eager mind awaited Santa, the one thing that helped me calm down was the Hawaii Bowl. It was tradition for me.
This year’s rendition of the “I have jealousy for these teams ” bowl part two features a team that lost 11 games last season in Fresno State and a Houston team in its first full season in the post-Tom Herman era. Fresno State may have been the shock of the season had FAU not burst onto the scene or anybody on the East coast actually watched Mountain West football. Two of the Bulldgos four losses this season came to Alabama and Washington in non-conference play, so their record may not be indicative of how good this team might be. The Bulldogs defeated Boise State in the final weekend of the regular season, only to lose to that same Broncos team a week later in the MW Championship Game. They don’t score a ton, averaging just 23.4 points per game, which is actually a full touchdown higher than last season. The defense, however, has been stout, allowing the ninth fewest points per game, at 17.2. The Cougars came on strong to finish the season, winning three of their last four to finish 7-4. The talk of the Cougars has been defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who could be the highest draftee Houston has produced since David Klinger went sixth overall in 1992. He’s that good. Despite winning seven games, there really was no staple win for Houston this season under Major Applwhite. The Cougars did defeat USF, but also dropped games to five win Tulane and two win Tulsa. Despite pedestrian numbers, I’m a huge fan of running back Duke Catalon. The junior has only carried the ball 26 times in the previous four games, but I’d like to see him return to prominence in the Houston offense in this one. All signs points to a low scoring affair, and in that instance, I’ll take the defense that didn’t give up 45 to Tulsa.
Fresno State 23-Houston 17
Tuesday, December 26
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Utah vs. West Virginia
Talk about two disappointing seasons. After three straight nine or more wins season, Kyle Whittingham’s Utes fell to 6-6 this season. To Utah’s credit, the team has done a nice job at replacing 1400 yard rusher Joe Williams with a 1000 yard rusher in Zach Moss. The Utes dropped six of seven from October 7 through November 15, with a lone win coming against UCLA. The offense scores at an average pace and the defense gives up about an average number of points. It’s about what you come to expect from A year after picking up 10 victories, the Mountaineers dropped back down to seven. West Virginia dropped just about every game you’d expect them to this season, losing to four ranked opponents. The only loss that came as a surprise was the loss to Texas. Beside that, the team’s losses came to Virginia Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Will Grier has been sensational for the Mountaineers this season, tossing 34 touchdowns and nearly 3500 yards. By now, you know the story of wide receiver David Sills, who, in seventh grade, was offered a scholarship to play quarterback at USC. Well, he didn’t go to USC or play quarterback, but instead, caught 18 touchdowns and nearly eclipsed 1000 yards for West Virginia. I’d be surprised to see the Utes be able to keep up offensively with West Virginia, despite the fact that allows nearly 32 points per game. That’s a product of playing the explosive Big 12 offenses more than the defenses being bad. They gave 109 combined points to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Take those two games away, you have a decent scoring defense. I’ll go with the Mountaineers in a higher scoring affair.
West Virginia 41-Utah 28
Quick Lane Bowl
Duke vs. NIU
After beginning the season 4-0, Duke needed consecutive wins to end the season to become bowl eligible at 6-6. The Blue Devils dropped six straight, five of which came in ACC play, midway through the season. Duke is the 100th ranked scoring offense in the nation, averaging just 22.6 points per game. The team did score 74 points in the final two weeks of the season to finish on a positive note. The Blue Devils have three running backs who have all carried the ball at least 117 times this season, allowing for no feature back to emerge. The result was three rusher combining for over 1800 yards, but none going for more than 750 individually. Quarterback Daniel Jones has thrown just 12 touchdowns to 11 interceptions this year. The Huskies of Northern Illinois enter bowl season winners of six of their last eight, finishing with an 8-4 record. Losses to Toledo and Central Michigan kept them from representing the West Division in the MAC this season. Their two other losses came to a ranked SDSU team and to upstart Boston College on opening day. The Huskies allow just 21 points per game and have given up less than that on six occasions this season. The offense is about as balanced as it comes, passing for 2365 yards and rushing for 2247 yards. The X-factor for the Huskies is freshman quarterback Marcus Childers. He began the season as the backup quarterback, but replaced Daniel Santacaterina midway through. Childers has thrown for 1440 yards and 15 touchdown and added 454 yards and five scores on the ground. I hate to keep the trend going of picking the team with the better record, but I don’t think Duke has any offenses threats that worry the NIU defense.
Northern Illinois 27-Duke 14
Kansas State vs. UCLA
This game will likely feature the final game for quarterback Josh Rosen and the last game before UCLA implements the Chip Kelly offense. Rosen, considered by most to be a top five pick in next year’s NFL Draft, will have one final game to impress the NFL scouts in real time situations. Rosen finished the regular season with over 3700 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also had nearly no running game to speak of, as the leading rusher amassed just 542 yards. The Bruins finished the season 6-6 despite scoring nearly 34 points a game primarily because the defense allowed close to 37 a game. You can’t win games that way. Bill Snyder has the Kansas State Wildcats in a bowl game for the eighth consecutive year and 19th time overall under his tutelage. The wildcats won seven games this year, despite using three different quarterbacks. Jesse Ertz, Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton each threw at least 75 passes this season, with Ertz leading the way in completions, yards and touchdowns. As has long been the case, Kansas State is a run heavy offense. This year, the ground game is centered around Alex Barnes and the three quarterbacks. Barnes ran for 702 yards and six touchdowns this year. The Wildcats give up 26 points per game, despite playing in the Big 12. That could be aided by the team’s non-conference schedule, in which the defense allowed just 40 points in three games. I think you’re looking at an offensive explosion in this one. It could end being the highest scoring affair of the bowl season.
UCLA 41-Kansas State 35
Wednesday, December 27
Florida State vs. Southern Miss
The feel for this Seminoles team is not kind right now. Many believe that Florida State took on the final week’s matchup against UL Monroe in order to qualify for bowl eligibility. The head coach effectively took off for the Texas A&M job vacated by Kevin Sumlin. It’s not an ideal time to be a Seminole this month. Regardless of your sentiment on Florida State, the team is bowl eligible for the 36th consecutive year. Next season will begin the Willie Taggart era, but for now, this is interim coach Odell Haggins’ team. The aspirations of Florida State went down in flames when Deondre Francois was lost for the season on opening day against Alabama. The Noles won three straight to get to six wins, but won no big games this season outside of rivalry weekend against Florida, an even worse team. Stepping in for Francois was James Blackmon, who was serviceable but not spectacular. He threw for under 2000 yards and was picked off 11 times. Southern Miss also enters bowl season winners of three straight,finishing with an 8-4 record. The Eagles will be playing for Ito Smith, the leading yard getter in program history. He’s rushed for 1300 yards this season, giving him over 6300 yards for his illustrious career. While few know his name, Smith is a workhorse for the Eagles, having run the ball 232 times this season. This team averages 29 points per game, while the Noles are giving up just 22 per game. Each played four win UL Monroe. The Eagles won by 11, the Noles won by 32. With Deondre Francois returning and Cam Akers continues his freshman year successes, the Noles will be back, and soon. But not this season. Even with that, I’m taking Florida State in a close game.
Florida State 24-Southern Miss 20
Boston College vs. Iowa
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Boston College Eagles finished the season with seven wins. After losing three out of the first four games, the Eagles won six of the remaining eight games to play in the Pinstripe Bowl for the first time since losing to Penn State in 2014. The Eagles are a run-heavy offense, leaning heavily on freshman A.J. Dillon. He carried the ball 268 times for 1432 yards and 13 touchdowns. In seven of the final eight games, Dillon carried the ball at least 20 times, and in all but one of them he rushed for at least 120 yards. It’s such a heavy dose of run for the Eagles that the leading receiver, Kobay White, has caught just 32 passes. The team scores just 26 points a game, but gives up less than 23. It’s all about clock management for Boston College Four of the team’s five losses came against ranked teams. Iowa uses a similar formula to success, in riding running back Akrum Wadley. Wadley carried the ball 230 times for 1021 yards and nine touchdowns. This offense, however, moves through the air more often than in years past under Brian Ferentz. First year man Nathan Stanley threw 25 touchdowns and over 2300 yards. The 25 touchdowns are the most by an Iowa quarterback since James Vandenberg threw that many in 2011. I’m not sure how I feel about this one. It all comes down to tempo. If Boston College can control the clock, they’ll win. If not, I like the Hawkeyes. For now, I’ll take the 21st ranked Iowa defense.
Iowa 27-Boston College 20
Foster Farms Bowl
Purdue vs. Arizona
I’ll be the first to hesitantly admit when I was wrong. Granted, injuries derailed the season of Purdue quarterback David Blough, but I was so high on this young man coming into the season. He wasn’t nearly the quarterback I hoped he’d be, and was eventually replaced with Elijah Sindelar, who, to his credit, was fantastic this year. Sindelar threw for 1700 yards and 14 touchdowns six complete games. The Boilermakers finished the season just 6-6 after a near victory against Lama Jackson and Louisville on opening night. Four losses in five week in Big Ten play doomed this team in 2017. Despite that poor record, the Boilermakers finished third in the Big Ten West. That’s how lopsided the divisions are. With Jeff Brohm rumored to be under the watchful eye of Tennessee, the future is now up in the air for this team. The one constant, however, has been the defense. The Boilermakers averaged just 19 points per game allowed, giving up 17 or less seven times this year despite winning just four of those contest. On the other side, it’s all about the sensational Khalil Tate. After taking the job from departed Anu Solomon this season, Tate has been nothing short of electric. He threw for just shy of 1300 yards and added over 1300 yards on the ground. His breakout game came against Colorado when he carried the ball 14 times for 327 yards, the most by an FBS quarterback ever. He does make some mistakes, however, as he threw eight picks to just nine touchdowns this season. It’s truly going to come down to Tate versus the Purdue front seven, which allowed 1600 rushing yards this season for 133 yards per game, while the Wildcat offense runs for 324 yards per game, the third most in the nation. While I’m not a fan of individual efforts leading to team victories, I love Tate’s ability. The Wildcats win this one.
Arizona 30-Purdue 21
Texas vs. Missouri
In the first half of the season, it seemed like the Missouri Tigers didn’t know what defense was. To start the season, they allowed 43, 31, 35, 51, 40 and 53. That’s 253 points in five games, or 50.6 points per game. They won just one of those games. The final seven games of the season, however,were a revelation of sorts for the Tigers. Missouri won won six straight and allowed more than 21 points just once. My concern for the Tigers is offensive guru Josh Huepel won’t coach the bowl game, as he’s headed to UCF to replace Scott Frost, who is headed to his alma mater, Nebraska. If that throws a wrench in the Tigers’ offensive game plan is yet to be seen. Quarterback Drew Lock finished five yards short of 3700 yards and added 43 touchdowns through the air. The Tigers are the 16th highest scoring offense in the nation, averaging 36.4 points per game. The former Big 12 Tigers will take on current Big 12 place holder Texas Longhorns. The term place holder may not be fair, as the team isn’t going to loss it’s standing in the conference, but it hasn’t done itself any favors over the last few seasons either. The Longhorns finished the season 6-6, failing to win more than six regular season games for the fourth time in four Charlie Strong seasons. He may be nearing the end of his rope in Austin. The Longhorns seem to be content with freshman Sam Ehlinger under center after a back and forth between he and Shane Buechele at quarterback. Ehlinger has thrown 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions this year, but seems to have the reigns for the foreseeable future. Like many 6-6 teams, it seems Texas played with neutral consistency throughout the season, losing to the good teams, beating the lesser teams. With the exception of a victory over West Virginia, I don’t believe there was a standout game for Texas this year. The Longhorns give up just 21 points per game, but they’re up against a prolific passer. I don’t believe Texas has enough this year.
Missouri 37-Texas 20
Well, we’re halfway done this endeavor, and I can tell you that my search history has officially been taken over by NCAA football team pages. We’re 21 games down, and we have 19 to go. Keep an eye out for Part Three coming soon!
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports