15 December 2016

2016-17 Bowl Game Predictions

(AP)
Good news if you are a fan of bowl games because believe it or not, we got ourselves a truckload of them this year, 41 in total if you count the College Football Playoff semifinals and national championship. I will save my predictions for those contests until closer to New Year's Eve but in the meantime, here are my predictions for just about every bowl game this winter.

Announcers

Saturday, December 17th
New Mexico (8-4) vs. UTSA (6-6) - ESPN, 2:00
Texas San-Antonio is appearing in their first-ever bowl game but this isn't a great matchup for them. First off, the Lobos are playing at home and they are going to run all over the Roadrunners.
Pick: New Mexico

Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3) - ABC, 3:30
The Major Applewhite era starts here and while the continuity will be nice for the Cougars, I'm not sure how well their defense will be able to do in slowing down Donnel Pumphrey. Look for him to get the yards he needs to break Ron Dayne's all-time rushing record.
Pick: San Diego State
Appalachian State (9-3) vs. Toledo (9-3) - ESPN, 5:30
One of several MAC vs. Sun Belt matchups is this one is the great town of Montgomery. This is a pretty good matchup of a tremendous Toledo offense and a strong Appalachian State defense but I like the latter to come out on top.
Pick: Appalachian State

Cure  Bowl (2015 - Pres)
Arkansas State (7-5) vs. UCF (6-6) - CBS Sports Network, 5:30
Another bowl team that will be playing at home are the Knights of Central Florida and I think that will work in their favor. Arkansas State may have gotten hot in Sun Belt play but I think that Scott Frost's offense will find a way to come out on top.
Pick: UCF

Southern Miss (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6) - ESPN, 9:00
Because we love matchups of 6-6 clubs but this should be a fun atmosphere considering its a matchup of two relatively local franchises. They are both mediocre but I think a strong Golden Eagle offense will lead them to carry the day.
Pick: Southern Miss

Monday, December 19th
Central Michigan (6-6) vs. Tulsa (9-3) - ESPN, 2:30 
Tulsa is the big favorite here and it is not particularly hard to see why. Their offense is pretty good in both the passhing and the running games and considering how they close and how Central Michigan closed, I like them going away here at Marlins Park.
Pick: Tulsa

Tuesday, December 20th
Memphis (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (10-3) - ESPN, 7:00 
I'm not that worried that the Tigers are not particularly good defensively because this game is going to descend into a shootout. I think you'll see an upset here.
Pick: Memphis

Wednesday, December 21st
BYU (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5) - ESPN, 9:00 
The Cowboys played really well down the stretch to be able to host the Mountain West title game but even keeping that in mind, that defense is still such a mess, I think a quality BYU club will take advantage just enough for a victory.
Pick: BYU

Thursday, December 22nd
Idaho (8-4) vs. Colorado State (7-5) - ESPN, 7:00 
Colorado State may be a big league favorite but I like the Vandals to win their first bowl game since 2009. Paul Petrino has done a fabulous job this year and I think the combination of solid quarterback play from Matt Linehan and a quality defense will be the difference.
Pick: Idaho

Friday, December 23rd
Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3) - ESPN, 1:00 
Crazy things happen in the Bahamas as we all know and the two of these teams play pretty good offense so maybe the craziness will extend to the gridiron. The Monarchs are fun to watch and I also think they are the better team here.
Pick: Old Dominion

Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. 25 Navy (9-4) - ESPN, 4:30 
Navy got hammered in the American title game and then saw their Army-Navy Game winning streak come to an end in Baltimore on Saturday. Louisiana Tech is a strong offensive team in their own right but I don't think they have an answer for the triple option. 
Pick: Navy

Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy (9-3) - ESPN, 8:00 
A couple of quality teams here in the Dollar General Bowl but I think Troy is the better team. Their offense is quite good under Neal Brown, better than that of Ohio in my opinion, and they should have a home-field advantage too. 
Pick: Troy

Saturday, December 24th
Hawaii (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-4) - ESPN, 8:00 
The Warriors are a total mess defensively but their numbers are skewed by some really bad beatdowns against strong teams. I like the Blue Raiders tihs season but I think the home cooking will prove to be the edge for Hawaii. 
Pick: Hawaii

Monday, December 26th
Miami (OH) (6-6) vs. Mississippi State (5-7) - ESPN, 11:00 am 
I mean, who doesn't love teams with losing records getting to bowl games? Even then, I would be very surprised if Mississippi State lost this one to the RedHawks. Miami did get hot and won out in conference play but that doesn't mean they're particularly good.
Pick: Mississippi State

Boston College (6-6) vs. Maryland (6-6) - ESPN, 2:30 
I hope these tickets are going for cheap becuase this has the feeling of a terrible football game. I think the strong Boston College defense will be the difference. 
Pick: Boston College
NC State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6) - ESPN, 5:00 
Both of these clubs had to uncork upsets over their rivals to get to this position and so that's great. NC State is strong offensively but I love the way that Vanderbilt has played defensively all season long and I think that they'll have the advantage here in historic Shreveport.
Pick: Vanderbilt

Tuesday, December 27th
Army (7-5) vs. North Texas (5-7) - ESPN, 12:00
Army's win on Saturday was great to say, even as an alum of a Patriot League rival, and it shows that the Black Knights are on the rise. The option, when executed successfully, is very tough to stop and that should prove to be he case for a North Texas team that has played terribly of late.
Pick: Army

24 Temple (10-3) vs. Wake Forest (6-6) - ESPN, 3:30
Not many folks, or at least me, saw Temple's rout of Navy coming in the AAC title game but it was an impressive combination of an underrated offense and a strong defense. They'll be without coach Matt Ruhle after he left for Baylor but against a Wake team that has lost six of their last eight, I wouldn't be too worried.
Pick: Temple

Minnesota (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4) - ESPN, 7:00 
The Holiday Bowl is usually a good bet to be one of the more exciting bowl contests and I think you could see that there. Even as they have lost their last two games, I think that the Cougars are the better team and the fighting Mike Leaches will carry the day.
Pick: Washington State

Baylor (6-6) vs. Boise State (10-2) - ESPN, 10:15 
Baylor has got themselves a good new coach looking forward but this team has really struggled down the stretch as they've lost their last six. I'm not that confident that they will turn things around against the Broncos of Boise State.
Pick: Boise State

Wednesday, December 28th
Northwestern (6-6) vs. 23 Pittsburgh (8-4) - ESPN, 2:00
The Wildcats played solid defense this season but that's about all they did well, particularly so down the stretch in losing three of their last five. Meanwhile, Pitt's offense looks really good right now and they finished the season strong. Therefore, I like Pitt. 
Pick: Pittsburgh

Miami (8-4) vs. 16 West Virginia (10-2) - ESPN, 5:30
They didn't play like it a couple of months ago but the Hurricanes closed the season very well in winning their last four. West Virginia is certainly a good team in their own right but I think Miami may be better considering they are averaging more points offensively and giving up less defensively. 
Pick: Miami

Indiana (6-6) vs. 19 Utah (8-4) - Fox, 8:30
The Hoosiers will be led here by new head coach and former defensive coordinator Tom Allen but I really don't think it will matter all that much. Utah is simply a better team across the board. 
Pick: Utah

Kansas State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (8-4) - ESPN, 9:00 
Ah yes, a rematch of the legendary 1998 Big 12 Championship Game and I think you will see a similar result here. Texas A&M's defense is pretty bad but they do have the kind of weapons at the skill positions that the Wildcats lack and they will use that to their advantage.
Pick: Texas A&M

Thursday, December 29th
South Florida (10-2) vs. South Carolina (6-6) - ESPN, 2:00 
South Florida may not be led by the great Willie Taggart anymore but I don't care because this team is really good. Meanwhile, South Carolina is pretty much the definition of mediocre. Give me the Bulls.
Pick: South Florida

22 Virginia Tech (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5) - ESPN, 5:30 
Virginia Tech has had their fair share of odd results this year but they have been really exciting to watch in the first year under Justin Fuente. Arkansas is always a tough out but that defense is such a mess, I don't think they'll be able to slow down the Hokies' brilliant junior quarterback Jerod Evans. 
Pick: Virginia Tech

10 Colorado (10-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-3) - ESPN, 9:00 
It would have been great to see the Buffaloes in the Rose Bowl for the first time in a while but hey, this isn't a terrible consolation prize for a team that has been terrible for years. Oklahoma State is always fun offensively but I don't trust their defense which looked bad against Oklahoma.
Pick: Colorado

Friday, December 30th
Georgia (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6) - ESPN, 12:00
The Horned Frogs looked awful against Kansas State and lost big as their offense failed to get anything going at home. I don't think they'll be able to crank up much offense here against a very strong Georgia defense. 
Pick: Georgia

18 Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4) - CBS, 2:00 
If North Carolina can get their offense cranking, that could make this a dangerous matchup since the Cardinal don't throw the ball particularly well. Even if Christian McCaffrey goes off, I like the Heels here in the upset. 
Pick: North Carolina

Nebraska (9-3) vs. 21 Tennessee (8-4) - ESPN, 3:30 
Nebraska has had themselves a nice season in the second year under Mike Riley and getting to ten wins would be an accomplishment for them. That said, they're not going to get there because their offense is not a great matchup for the Tennessee offense led by Joshua Dobbs.
Pick: Tennessee

Arizona  Bowl (2015 - Pres)
Air Force (9-3) vs. South Alabama (6-6) - American Sports Network, 5:30 
I generally don't love seeing a 6-6 Sun Belt team against a 9-3 Mountain West team but hey, that's America. I don't think the Jaguars will prove to much of a match for a strong Air Force rushing attack.
Pick: Air Force

Michigan (10-2) vs. 11 Florida State (9-3) - ESPN, 8:00 
Florida State's defense rebounded from a messy start but it's still no match for the best defense in the country, that of the Maize and Blue. And considering that Michigan's offense is pretty good in their own right (and scores more per game than the Seminoles, I like them here in Miami Garden.
Pick: Michigan 

New Year's Eve - Saturday, December 31st
13 Louisville (9-3) vs. 20 LSU (7-4) - ABC, 11:00 am 
The Cardinals do come in having lost their last two games but hey, Lamar Jackson is still dangerous. LSU is a quality club that can bring it defensively but I do think Jackson will be able to break some big league plays and crank out the win.
Pick: Louisville
Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5) - ESPN, 11:00 am
Who saw that Kentucky win over Louisville coming in the Governor's Cup? Ben Florance sure didn't. That said, I don't have that much doubt that the Yellow Jackets are a better team overall than the Wildcats plus Georgia Tech is playing some really good football of late.
Pick: Georgia Tech

Monday, January 2nd
Outback  Bowl (2008 - Pres)
17 Florida (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4) - ABC, 1:00 
Given that the Hawkeyes aren't all that strong to begin with offensively, the fact they are going up against one of the country's top defenses really doesn't seem like a recipe for success. 
Pick: Florida

15 Western Michigan (13-0) vs. 8 Wisconsin (10-3) - ESPN, 1:00 
The Broncos are a legitimately good team, they have a great coach in P.J. Fleck and a terrific passing game led by quarterback Zach Terrell and star wideout Corey Davis. That said, they haven't faced a team this season that plays with the punishing ground game that the Badgers have and thus I don't think this is a great matchup for them. 
Pick: Wisconsin

USC (9-3) vs. 5 Penn State (11-2) - ESPN, 5:00 
Don't tell this to the PSU faithful but they didn't really have as good of a case for the College Football Playoff than they thought they did but nobody can deny how well they are playing right now. That said, I think that the Trojans are playing even better at the moment and I like them to win.
Pick: USC

14 Auburn (8-4) vs. 7 Oklahoma (10-2) - ESPN, 8:30
Nobody can seem to tough the Oklahoma offense at the moment and indoors, they may just put up 50 points here. Auburn is a quality offensive team thanks to a strong rushing attack and they play solid defense but I just don't think they have a suitable answer for the Baker Mayfield-Dede Westbrook connection.
Pick: Oklahoma

H/T ESPN

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