2017-18 BOWL PREVIEW
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Troy 31 North Texas 20
It was quite a season for Troy, as they went 10-2 won a share of the Sun Belt title, and beat LSU in Baton Rouge. Coach Neal Brown is on his way to becoming one of the next big names on the coaching carousel as the Trojans enter the New Orleans Bowl on a six-game winning streak. North Texas had a solid season too, losing the Conference USA Championship Game. Look for Troy to continue their winning ways in the Superdome.
-3½
-7
Western Kentucky 27 Georgia State 24
It was a season of disappointment for Western Kentucky, who struggled at the end of the season, losing four of their last five games on the way to finishing 6-6. Georgia State was not much better at 6-5, having one game cancelled. The Hilltoppers have an edge in talent with Mike White as one of the top passers in Conference USA. Look for Western Kentucky to get the win by a field goal.
+7
Oregon 38 Boise State 27
Boise State recaptured the Mountain West Championship in 2017, but are a far cry from the team that would go into bowl season and be a legitimate thorn in the side for teams from the power five conferences. Oregon has some concerns after their first-year coach Willie Taggert left for Florida State. Still the Ducks a bolstered by one of the top running games in the nation and will run up and down the field in Vegas.
-7
Colorado State 27 Marshall 20
A pair of 7-5 teams that struggled down the stretch meet at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque. Don't expected too many fireworks in this one, as neither team packs much of a punch. The Rams have been known to occasionally put points on the board thanks to the playmaking ability of Michael Gallup a Biletnikoff Award finalist.
Arkansas State 37 Middle Tennessee State 17
Arkansas State had a decent season, posting a record of 7-4 as Justice Hansen set the Sun Belt single-season record with 34 touchdown passes. Middle Tennessee struggled most of the season but played better down the stretch. Look for Hansen to have a big game as the Red Wolves win easily.
-3
 Florida Atlantic 44 Akron 20
It was a big first season for Lane Kiffen at Florida Atlantic, as he led the Owls to the championship in Conference USA. FAU now gets rewarded by playing a bowl game in its home stadium. Akron had their ups and downs, as they lost the MAC Championship Game. Asking them to play a road bowl game is a tall task, especially with how good FAU played all season.
-22
SMU 44 Louisiana Tech 24
SMU has a distinctive advantage playing within the Dallas Metroplex. The Mustangs had a strong offense thanks in part to receiver Cortland Sutton who produced his second straight 1,000-season. Louisiana Tech muddled through a 6-6 season meanwhile, needing to win their last two games just to become bowl eligible. Look for the Mustangs to run away with an easy win.
-4½
 Florida International 24 Temple 20
It was a rebuild year for Temple as Geoff Collins replaced Matt Rhule who left to salvage the Baylor football program. The Owls struggled to finish 6-6, after winning the American Athletic Conference in 2016. Florida International meanwhile went 8-4 as Butch Davis returned to coaching after several years in broadcast booth. I like the Panthers in this game due to the bowl experience of Davis.
+7
UAB 24 Ohio 20
It has been a remarkable year for UAB, as they won eight games after a two-year hiatus for their football program. Ohio also finished 8-4, but struggled down the stretch losing their final two games. The Blazers comeback was thanks in part to one of the top rushing defenses in the country, ranked 25th nationally. The Bobcats rely heavily on a run game. Look for UAB to shutdown the Ohio run game and get the win in the Bahamas.
+7
Wyoming 37 Central Michigan 34
Josh Allen expected to be a major pro prospect is expected to return from a late season injury for Wyoming. Good thing, because the Cowboys would have no chance otherwise. If Allen does play, look for him to light up the blue turf of Boise as he hopes to play his way to the top of the draft. With a purse passer arm, a good game here could make Allen one of the top five players chosen in a quarterback rich draft class.

-3
South Florida 55 Texas Tech 45
Don't expect to see a lot of defense in Birmingham as both of these teams are good at lighting up the scoreboard. The Bulls won this game last year, and after losing the American Conference Championship Game in overtime look even stronger this year with coach Charlie Strong. Look for a big game by Quinton Flowers as South Florida begins to put the building the blocks together for what they hope is a bright future by getting a tenth win in 2017.

-3
San Diego State 37 Army 17
It was a great season for the Army, as they posted a record of 9-3 and won the Commander and Chiefs Trophy for the first time in 21 years. However, in the Armed Forces Bowl, the Black Knights have drawn a tough opponent in San Diego State. The Aztecs went 10-2 this year, including a win over Stanford. If not for a two-week slump in October, San Diego State could have been in line for a New Year's Six Bowl. Look for San Diego State to win the game easily as they have too strong of talent edge.
-6½
Toledo 34 Appalachian State 17
This is a big game for the MAC, as Toledo winner of the championship game faces the Sun Belt Co-Champions from Appalachian State. The Rockets dominated the MAC losing just one game as the posted an overall record of 10-2. The Mountaineers were solid in the Sun Belt Conference, posting a 7-1 record to share the conference title. However, outside the weakest conference App State was 1-3. Look for Toledo to continue that trend as they get a big game from Logan Woodside.

-2
-6½
Houston 20 Fresno State 16
Mele Kalikimaka, Christmas Eve in Hawaii sees a matchup of two teams that play solid defense. Since playing Alabama and Washington early in the season, the Bulldogs have allowed more than 21 points just once in their last ten games. Houston meanwhile as a one of the top defensive lineman in the country in Ed Oliver. Look for Oliver to make a big play as the Cougars get the win in Honolulu.

Utah 30 West Virginia 24
It was not a great season for Utah, as they slogged their way to a 6-6 record. However, Utes Coach Kyle Winningham knows how to win bowl games, with a 10-1 career record. West Virginia posted a 7-5 record, but struggled down the stretch after losing quarterback Will Grier to a hand injury. While Grier could play if needed, the Mountaineers are focusing on having him in 2018 and have ruled him out in Dallas. Look for Utah to take advantage and record the win.

Duke 31 Northern Illinois 17
It was a strange season for Duke as they suffered a midseason six-game losing streak. However, starting 4-0 and winning their last two games the Blue Devils had their flashes of brilliance. Northern Illinois had a solid season in the MAC, with a record of 8-4, but they don't have the speed to keep up with Duke. Look for Daniel Jones to have a big game to lead Duke to another bowl win in Detroit as they suffocate the Huskies run heavy offense.

+6½
-5½
Kansas State 38 UCLA 13
It was an up and down year for UCLA, who had a disappointing 6-6 record which ultimately cost Coach Jim Mora his job. With Chip Kelly about to takeover, the Bruins could be on the verge of becoming a powerhouse. As the season comes to an end they got some bad news as quarterback Josh Rosen was not cleared for the Cactus Bowl. No Rosen no shot to win for the Bruins, who all year were terrible away from home. Look for a K-State blowout here.

Florida State 34 Southern Mississippi 10
It was an awful season for Florida State, who stated the season ranked #3, but lost Deondre Francois in their season opening loss to Alabama. The turbulent season saw an exit for Coach Jimbo Fisher, as the Seminoles needed to win their last three games just to become bowl eligible at 6-6. As the season ended the departure of Fisher seemed to inspire Florida State under interim coach Odell Haggins. Look for that to continue as their talent edge over Southern Mississippi will be clear from the very start of the Independence Bowl.

-17
-6½
Kansas State 38 UCLA 13
It was an up and down year for UCLA, who had a disappointing 6-6 record which ultimately cost Coach Jim Mora his job. With Chip Kelly about to takeover, the Bruins could be on the verge of becoming a powerhouse. As the season comes to an end they got some bad news as quarterback Josh Rosen was not cleared for the Cactus Bowl. No Rosen no shot to win for the Bruins, who all year were terrible away from home. Look for a K-State blowout here.

Arizona 27 Purdue 20
It was successful first season for coach Jeff Brohm at Purdue, as he led the Boilermakers to their first bowl appearance 2012 after recording a record of 6-6. Winning a bowl game though may be another story as they face a solid Arizona team who had a 7-5 record in the Pac-12 highlighted by a win over Washington State. Look for the Wildcats to get the win led by the passing of Khalil Tate.
-2½
-3
Kansas State 38 UCLA 13
It was an up and down year for UCLA, who had a disappointing 6-6 record which ultimately cost Coach Jim Mora his job. With Chip Kelly about to takeover, the Bruins could be on the verge of becoming a powerhouse. As the season comes to an end they got some bad news as quarterback Josh Rosen was not cleared for the Cactus Bowl. No Rosen no shot to win for the Bruins, who all year were terrible away from home. Look for a K-State blowout here.

Navy 20 Virginia 16
Navy gets a home bowl game as they face Virginia in the Military Bowl. Both teams are slumping heading into bowl season, losing five of their last six games and finishing at 6-6. The Midshipman can do more on offense and have a better overall defense. Look for Navy to get an early lead and hold off the Cavaliers who also won't be able to get on track due to the Navy's masterful ball control.

-2½
-1½
Stanford 27 TCU 24
Both teams had a chance for bigger bowls as they each lost their conference championship game, with TCU falling to Oklahoma in the Big XII title game, while Stanford fell short in the Pac-12 Championship against USC. This one promises to be a real intriguing match up as both teams are solid in all aspects of the game. I like the Cardinal to win a close battle in San Antonio with Heisman finalist Bryce Love, who all year played through injuries being the difference.

Oklahoma State 37 Virginia Tech 20
A fantastic matchup featuring a pair of 9-3 teams. Oklahoma State has the ability to light up the scoreboard with Mason Rudolph at quarterback. Virginia Tech meanwhile relies on a stout defense. The Hokies though have not fared well, when paired against teams that pass as well as the Cowboys. Look for a big game by Rudolph as Okie State gallops up and down the field in Orlando to an easy victory.


-4
+2½
+1
Washington State 31 Michigan State 20
Washington State comes to San Diego for their second straight Holiday Bowl appearance. Hoping of a better showing than last years clunker against Minnesota. The Cougars had an up and down season, playing well at home but struggling on the road. Michigan State after a terrible 2016 exceeded expectations in the 2017, but still have many gaps in talent especially when going against a talented quarterback like Wazzu's Luke Falk. Look for Washington State to get a big game from Falk to get the win.
Wake Forrest 30 Texas A&M 22
It's always a curious situation when a team plays a bowl game in the middle of a coaching transition. Kevin Sumlin was fired after the Aggies final game and Texas A&M has already hired Jimbo Fisher for next season. That should give the edge to Wake Forrest who is already playing this game in their backyard in Charlotte. Each of these teams went 7-5 and the Demon Deacons play a solid brand of football that is perfect to win against a distracted team.

-3
NC State 38 Arizona State 10
Arizona State had a up and down season finishing 7-5 as coach Todd Graham was fired on November 26th. The Sun Devils have already named Herm Edwards as their coach for the 2018 season, even if they were all set it would be hard to imagine them being able to compete with a much more talented NC State team. Look for the Wolfpack defense led by Bradley Chubb to have a big day in El Paso, leading to an easy win.

Northwestern 34 Kentucky 23
Northwestern comes into this game riding high, powered by a seven-game winning streak. Though they don't have a great history in bowl games it is hard to imagine them losing to Kentucky. Northwestern has a stronger defense and a solid run game led by Justin Jackson. The senior running back will be looking to get the attraction of NFL scouts and should have a big game in Nashville leading the purple clad Wildcats to victory. 

-7½
-7½
-7
New Mexico State 27 Utah State 24
With 41 bowl games, and 82 teams there is a mixture of great, good and mediocre in the bowl season. Both of these teams come it at 6-6, but New Mexico State feels like they are 12-0 after ending a 57-year bowl drought. With their first bowl appearance since 1960, there is no doubt New Mexico State is the sentimental favorite in this game. Look for that to give them a big emotional edge as they win the battle of the Aggies in Arizona.

Ohio State 38 USC 27
Without a doubt the best matchup of teams not in the playoffs sees the next two best teams play in one of the six-pack of traditional New Year's Bowl Games. Both teams have offenses that can light up the scoreboard. The Trojans are led by Sam Darnold, who is expected to be among the top picks in the NFL Draft. The quarterback was shaky at times this season, often throwing costly interceptions that may have been the difference for USC in falling short of making the top four. The Buckeyes meanwhile led by J.T. Barrett at times looked like the best team in the country, but a costly loss in Iowa was the difference between the Cotton Bowl and playing for the National Championship. Overall Ohio State is the more talented team and that is what will be the difference at Jerry's World.
+4
Louisville 38 Mississippi State 20
Mississippi State comes into this game ranked, however it is hard to imagine they can put up big numbers without their star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Louisville meanwhile has Lamar Jackson, who after winning the Heisman in 2016 was again a finalist this year. Look for Jackson to be at his best in Jacksonville as the Cardinals fly away with an easy win.

Memphis 34 Iowa State 23
It was a great season for Iowa State, who posted a 7-5 record with two wins against Top-5 teams in TCU and Oklahoma. It was the only loss the Sooners suffered during the season. However, the Cyclones struggled at the end of the year losing three of their last four games. Memphis, meanwhile had a solid 10-2 season the only two losses they suffered against unbeaten UCF. The Tigers have a distinct advantage in the Liberty Bowl as they are playing in their home stadium. Look for a big game from Riley Ferguson to lead Memphis to a victory.
-6½
-3½
Wisconsin 27 Miami 13
Miami has had a historic edge at home and when playing in the Orange Bowl. However, the Hurricanes have fizzled as the season came to an end. After inching towards the top of the rankings, Miami lost their last two games against unranked Pittsburgh and Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. Wisconsin also lost their championship game, falling to Ohio State with the Big Ten Championship on the line. Before that loss the Badgers were 12-0. The Hurricanes even when they were unbeaten before their last two games, had many close calls. Miami benefited from turnovers throughout the season, if they are to have a shot in this game, they will need to drag that turnover chain out multiple times. Wisconsin is too strong of team to let that happen. Look for the Badger to bask in the South Florida sun, with a solid win.
Penn State 30 Washington 24
Another of the gems in the bowl season sees two teams that with a bounce hear and there could have been in the FBS playoffs as both Penn State and Washington posted records of 10-2. Each team has solid offenses led by brilliant pro prospects. However, Jake Browning of the Huskies must avoid the costly turnover that has often been the difference in Washington winning or losing. Penn State does have the better defense. In the end it will be down to whether Saquon Barkley can get carry the load for the Lions. After being snubbed by the Heisman committee, expect Barkley to play the game with a chip on his shoulder as he drives Penn State to a Fiesta Bowl win on the way to being one of the top picks in the NFL Draft.
-1½
-4½
Michigan 27 South Carolina 13
Two teams that posted records of 8-4 meet in the Outback Bowl, feeling much different about how they got here. For South Carolina, 8-4 is a terrific season that their team and alumni could not be happier with. Michigan meanwhile are deeply disappointed with their 8-4 record as they never got anything going, especially on offense. The Wolverines defense was solid most of the season and that will be the reason they come up with a win in Tampa, as they hope next season is the year they finally solve their struggles against that team from Ohio.
Auburn 37 Central Florida 24
In a better world, Central Florida will be in the College Football Playoff, as they were the only FBS team to finish the season unbeaten. However, not being part of a Power-Five Conference and not having a win against a top ranked team keeps the Knights on the outside looking in. Truth be told UCF would likely be cannon fodder for any of the four teams in the playoff, but they are a good argument to why it should be an eight-team tournament. Auburn is the giant slayer, beating two #1 ranked unbeaten teams in the regular season. Look for them to do it again, as Kerryon Johnson has a field day in Atlanta.

-7½
-9½
LSU 31 Notre Dame 13
Notre Dame appeared to be a contender for the playoffs for a while until they hit a wall in November. Now in the Citrus Bowl, things don't look good for the Irish as they have injury concerns and have suspended three players. When you come into a bowl game you want to be focused and coming together, not falling apart. LSU meanwhile is coming together winning six of their last seven games. This is second straight appearance in the Citrus Bowl for the Bayou Bengals, last season they embarrassed Louisville. Look for a similar result as LSU wins easily.

-3
Alabama 20 Clemson 17
For the third straight season Alabama and Clemson are playing a playoff game. After two straight years in the Championship game this time the meeting is at the Sugar Bowl in the semifinals. Alabama's inclusion on the FBS Playoffs is controversial as they did not win a conference championship. However, if there was an eight-team playoff there would be no issue. Alabama is one of the four best teams in the country, who had one hiccup. The difference is they could not get a second chance to get back in the conference title picture. This game should be a thriller again, as Clemson's defense has come up big nearly every time it has had to. However, when the game is on the line, who can win it for the Tigers. There is no Deshaun Watson this year. Alabama has Jalen Hurts under center and that is where the game will be won for the Tide.

Georgia 37 Oklahoma 20
As the sun starts to set in the East, out in Pasadena all of the bowl nonsense is swept away as the Rose Bowl hosts the first half of the College Football Playoff, with #2 Oklahoma taking on #3 Georgia. Each team had just one loss, as the Sooners were led by Heisman winning quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Bulldogs, meanwhile are led by a tenacious defense. Heisman winners tend to lose bowl games, more often than they win them. While some may assert the Heisman curse, the truth is Oklahoma has not seen a defense the quality of Georgia which will have no problem shutting down Mayfield. Georgia meanwhile, should have no problem moving the ball behind Nick Chubb to get to the Championship Game in Atlanta.

-2
-3
Georgia 27 Alabama 24
The National Championship Game is going to have the feel of a SEC Championship Game as Georgia and Alabama meet at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Traditionally the Tide had rolled over the Bulldogs in these games. This year's Georgia squad however, appears to be made to win a National Championship. The Bulldogs have a solid defense and a top-notch offense, that can get rolling and take control of the game. Nick Chubb is a true game breaking running back, the one thing missing from the Tide is a game breaking player on offense. Add in what should be a big home crowd advantage in their home state and the game looks like it is made for Georgia to win the National Championship.