2016 Bowl Preview
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
Grambling 37 NC Central 17
In just three seasons Broderick Fobbs has turned Grambling from a disaster that almost ended their historic program and restored them as the class of the SWAC. The Tigers head into the third Celebration Bowl with a record of 11-1 with their only loss coming against a FBS school in Arizona. The SWAC has traditionally had the stronger players against the MEAC and it will shine through again in Atlanta.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico 47 UTSA 20
This bowl game is essentially a home game for the Lobo as they have played in four of 11 New Mexico Bowls. This is the first bowl appearance for Texas-San Antonio, who has only been in FBS for six seasons. New Mexico has been strong at home all season, posting a 5-1 record in Albuquerque. The Lobos also have lost just once since October 7th. This one looks like an easy win for New Mexico.
Las Vegas Bowl
Houston 37 San Diego State 24
The shinning jewel of the opening week bowls sees Houston taking on San Diego State. Both teams had strong seasons, with the Aztecs winning a second straight Mountain West Championship. Houston had their ups and downs, posting a 9-3 record as they just missed an appearance in the AAC Championship Game. The Cougars could be considered giant killers, beating Oklahoma and Louisville each when they were ranked #3. Houston could be hurt by the departure of Coach Tom Herman to Texas, but Major Applewhite who some believe will be a tremendous coach takes over and should lead them a bowl win in his first game.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Appalachian State 24 Toledo 20
A pair of 9-3 teams from the lower conferences of FBS meet in Montgomery, Alabama. The Rockets run a high powered spread offense, while the Mountaineers rely on a rocky steady defense. In their season opener, Appalachian State gave Tennessee all they go handle before losing a heartbreaker in overtime in Knoxville. Toledo meanwhile were crushed by Western Michigan in their only game against a ranked team.
Autonation Cure Bowl
Central Florida 31 Arkansas State 16
The Knights are playing their first game Camping World Stadium since the opening of the on-campus stadium across Orlando in 2007. Arkansas State playing in their sixth straight bowl game have finished the season strong, losing just once since starting the season 0-4. Central Florida may have had their ups and downs at 6-6, but they played the overall better schedule and have the stronger talent pool.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana Lafayette 34 Southern Miss 20
The New Orleans Bowl should be renamed the Cajun Bowl as Louisiana Lafayette won four straight before a disappointing 4-8 season last year. The Ragin’ Cajuns did just enough to get bowl eligible this season and should be able to regain their New Orleans Bowl crown in a battle of 6-6 teams.
Miami Beach Bowl
Tulsa 45 Central Michigan 30
Don’t expect to see much defense at Marlins Ballpark aka the eye sore by the shore as Tulsa can light up the scoreboard. Central Michigan will try to keep it a low scoring game, but the overwhelming talent of Tulsa will shine through as the Golden Hurricane rock the Chippewas.
Marmot Boca Raton Bowl
Western Kentucky 41 Memphis 24
Western Kentucky has not been in FBS long, but they have become a bowl game regular making their fourth appearance in five years after winning the Conference USA Championship Game. One negative about success of that level is that they lost their head coach as Jeff Brohm has be named the new head man in Purdue. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt will lead the Hill Toppers in Boca Raton. Despite the change, I don’t see them skipping a beat as they beat the Tigers.
BYU 48 Wyoming 44
One time conference rivals renew acquaintances in San Diego. BYU has played consistently well after a slow start, while the Cowboys fumbled away a shot to win the Mountain West Conference by dropping three of their last four games. A big reason for Wyoming’s late struggles is a porous defense, that has allowed 185 points in their last four games. BYU can put up points with the best of them gets a big game from Tanner Mangum.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Colorado State 37 Idaho 17
The Vandals invade Boise, playing on the blue turf home of their Gem State rivals who feel they are not worthy of a yearly matchup. It is the first bowl appearance for Idaho since 2009 and their third overall, with all three bowl games in Boise. Both teams are used to playing at altitude so there be no disadvantage to playing over half a mile high. Colorado played a tougher schedule, including a win over San Diego State on the road and have an edge in talent.
Popeye's Bahamas Bowl
Old Dominion 34 Eastern Michigan 20
It is a bowl game of oddities as two teams that are new to the bowl season meet in the Bahamas. Old Dominion in just the their third FBS season are in their first ever bowl, while Eastern Michigan is making their first bowl appearance in 29 years. These teams met in 2015, with ODU winning a high scoring affair. I like the Monarchs quickly building a program to continue their advancement as they win this game by two touchdowns.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Louisiana Tech 24 Navy 6
Navy limps into Fort Worth after losing to Army for the first time in 15 years. The Midshipmen had a fine season and were one game away from a potential New Year’s Six Bowl when they lost to Temple in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. That game was a disaster in more ways than one for the Midshipmen as they were beaten up physically as leading rusher Will Worth and QB Toneo Gulley broke bones in their foot. It is hard to see Navy winning without two key offensive weapons against Louisiana Tech as neither are expected to play.
Dollar General Bowl
Troy 27 Ohio 24
The Trojans had a very strong year, winning nine games, this does not include a strong performance against Clemson, in which they lost 30-24. Ohio meanwhile lost a close battle with Western Michigan in the MAC Championship Game. I like Troy getting an extra edge with the home state edge in Mobile to win this won, though it will be a close game.
Middle Tennessee State 45 Hawai'i 27
Mele Kalikimaka, Hawaii is in its first bowl game in six years face Middle Tennessee who comes in with one of the league’s best offenses, averaging 40.5 points per game, led by one if the nation’s top passing games. The Warriors come in with a 6-7 record Even though it will be a home game for Hawaii, it is hard to see them having enough on defense to beat MTSU.
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
Mississippi State 48 Miami-OH 16
The Red Hawks are making history, becoming the first team to play in a bowl game after losing their first six games, as they won their last six to post a record of 6-6. Mississippi State meanwhile, are in a bowl game despite a record of 5-7. However, when viewing the Bulldogs schedule it is at least somewhat excusable playing some of the best teams in the SEC. The talent gap will shine through as Mississippi State wins going away.
Quick Lane Bowl
Boston College 30 Maryland 27
Two teams that finished 6-6 representing significant improvements over 2015 meet in Detroit. The Eagles are seeking their first bowl win since 2007 won their last two games to get to six wins, while Maryland was battered during Big Ten Play. Neither team beat a ranked opponent. This game promises to be close and can go either way. In the end Boston College will get a late field goal to get the win.
Camping World Independence Bowl
Vanderbilt 31 NC State 23
Another meeting of 6-6 teams sees upstart Vanderbilt taking on a solid NC State squad. The Commodores just managing to get six wins facing a tough SEC schedule is quite an accomplishment. Along the way, Vanderbilt beat Georgia and Tennessee and suffered close losses to Florida and Auburn. They have a strong defense and play a smart style of football. NC State meanwhile struggled down the stretch, getting to 6-6.
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
Army 24 North Texas 17
Fresh off their first win against Navy in 15 years, the Black Knights play a 5-7 North Texas team that beat them in West Point earlier this season. The Mean Green have struggled since their win over Army, winning just one of their last five games. The boost Army got from beating Navy should help them here as they finish the season strong by controlling the ball with their triple option game.
Military Bowl by Northrop Gruman
Temple 41 Wake Forrest 24
Temple won its first conference title in nearly 50 years by beating up Navy in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game in Annapolis. The Owls return to the site of that game to take on Wake Forrest, though without Coach Matt Rhule, who left for a job at Baylor. Temple will be coached by Ed Foley, and won’t miss a beat as they should be able handle a Wake Forrest team that struggled down the stretch.
National Funding Holiday Bowl
Washington State 42 Minnesota 10
One of the best matchups of the bowl season see a pair of 8-4 seasons from two power conferences meeting in San Diego. The Holliday Bowl in recent years has become a showcase for teams on the rise. Despite dropping their last two games to Colorado and Washington, Wazzu had one of their best seasons in years with one of the nation’s best offenses. The Gophers meanwhile tend to struggle in bowl games, come into this one with ten players getting suspended for an off-field incident.
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
Boise State 45 Baylor 17
Before a loss to Air Force in their final game, Boise State was in position to play in a New Year’s Bowl as the best of the conference leaders outside the power five conference. That loss not only dropped them out of the Top 25, but the Broncos also lost a chance to pay in the Mountain West Championship Game. Baylor meanwhile finished the season even worse, losing their last six games with the cloud of scandal hanging around them all season. Interim Coach Jim Grobe has already been replaced, as the Bears try to turn the page. Boise State meanwhile will be out to make a statement and show they are still a National Power.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Pittsburgh 34 Northwestern 24
Pittsburgh quietly had a terrific season, finishing 8-4 highlighted by a win over Clemson on the road. The Panthers can put the points, scoring 175 points over their last three games, including a 76-point output against Syracuse in the highest scoring FBS game of the season. Northwestern will try to slow them down, but I just don’t see them being able to hold Pitt down enough to get the win in the Bronx.
Russell Athletic Bowl
West Virginia 24 Miami 21
The Mountaineers can’t get any respect as they come into Orlando as a three-point underdog, despite a 10-2 record and being one of the best teams in the Big XII. Miami finished 8-4, with a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season being their only blemish. West Virginia has a solid defense and is 10-0 against teams without Oklahoma in their name. Last I looked the Hurricanes have no Oklahoma connection.
Foster Farms Bowl
Utah 38 Indiana 27
The Hoosiers are in a bowl game for a second straight season and seeking their first bowl win in 25 years. They will have their work cut out for them as they take on a solid Utah team that was ranked most of the season. Despite dropping three of their last four games, the Utes are the superior team. Utah has played several close games and gave #4 Washington one of the biggest tests of the season. Indiana meanwhile struggled away from Bloomington.
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Texas A&M 27 Kansas State 17
This game has a Big XII feel as former conference rivals meet in Houston. The Aggies who have played in the SEC since 2011 posted an 8-4 record playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation against the SEC West. Kanas State also went 8-4 will like to dish out conference pride against Texas A&M whose departure almost destroyed the Big XII following the 2011 season. Texas A&M will have a tremendous home crowd, and having played some big schools already have the pedigree to get the win.
South Florida 37 South Carolina 17
The Bulls were a strong team posting a record of 10-2, which helped Willie Taggert earn a coaching spot in Oregon. South Florida will be led by T.J. Weist in Birmingham. South Carolina had their ups and downs in Will Muschamp’s first season. Though they appear to be heading in the right direction after a 6-6 season highlighted by a win over Tennessee. South Florida should be able to get this one thanks to their solid defense.
Virginia Tech 34 Arkansas 24
Virginia Tech had a fine season in their first-year post Frank Beamer, as they made it to the ACC Championship Game in their first year under the leadership Justin Fuente, posting a record of 9-4. Arkansas meanwhile, had a fine season at 7-5 against one of the toughest schedules in the NCAA. The Hokies are a strong team, that gave Clemson a battle. They are also rather resilient rallying to beat Notre Dame in South Bend.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Oklahoma State 31 Colorado 27
It was a year of revival in Boulder as Colorado made it to the Pac-12 Championship Game, making their first bowl appearance in nine years. Oklahoma State also had a comeback, winning seven straight after a slow start before losing the Big XII championship in their annual showdown against rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys had one controversial loss that perhaps cost them a shot to be a factor in the FBS Playoff chase, as they were a strong team on both sides of the ball. The Buffaloes showed some flaws near the end of the season and were exposed by Washington in the Pac 12 Title game. Look for OSU to get a close win in the Alamodome.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Georgia 37 TCU 20
Georgia had an uneven season in Kirby Smart’s first year as head coach, as they posted a 7-5 record, while suffering through a rough midseason stretch that saw them lose four of five, TCU also had their ups and downs, posting a record of 6-6. The Horned Frogs struggled against losing badly to some of the bigger named programs on their schedule. Georgia would fit into that description and appear to be a team on the rise. Nothing will set the Bulldogs up better for 2017, then ending the season with a bowl win in Memphis.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Stanford 20 North Carolina 13
Stanford finished the season strong after a sluggish start, winning their final five games to post a record of 9-3. The Cardinal have one of the top defensive units in the NCAA, allowing 17 or fewer points in eight games. North Carolina also had a solid season, posting a record of 8-4. However, with losses in their final two FBS games, the Tar Heels saw a chance to play for the ACC Championship slip away. I see a long tough defensive battle, with Stanford keeping the Heels under tow.
Franklin American Music City Bowl
Tennessee 27 Nebraska 23
The Volunteers had a strong start, rallying to win a handful of early games before hitting a wall against Texas A&M and Alabama. The losses were part of a three-game losing streak. Nebraska had a similar story finishing 9-3, but losers of three of their last five games after stumbling against Wisconsin and Ohio State. With the game in Nashville expect to see plenty of orange in the stands as Tennessee wins a tight battle against the Huskers.
Nova Arizona Bowl
Air Force 47 South Alabama 17
This could be one of the biggest mismatches of the bowl season as a quality Air Force team faces a 6-6 South Alabama team. Except for a midseason three game losing streak the Falcons were flying high all season as they made a serious run at the Mountain West Conference title, spoiling the season for Boise state in the process. Air Force also won the Commander in Chief Trophy by beating both Army and Navy. It is hard to see Air Force having much trouble with a mid level Sun Belt Conference team in Arizona.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
LSU 27 Louisville 16
It was a big year for the Cardinals as Lamar Jackson captured the Heisman Trophy. However, down the stretch Louisville struggled as they saw a FBS Playoff berth slip away as they lost their final two games against Houston and Kentucky. LSU finished 7-4, but all four losses were at the hands of top level teams, including a heartbreak 10-0 loss to #1 Alabama. The Tigers had a rocky season firing Coach Les Miles early in the year, but with a strong finish Interim Coach Ed Orgeron earned the job full time. I like LSU to rewarded their coach and upend Louisville and shutdown Lamar Jackson in Orlando.
Georgia Tech 38 Kentucky 17
Kentucky quietly had a nice season, posting a 7-5 record, highlighted by a season ending win on the road against Louisville. Georgia Tech meanwhile went 8-4 continuing their solid play for coach Paul Johnson. I think they should get a home crowd edge in Jacksonville, as Kentucky not a traditional football powerhouse does not travel well in bowl games. The Yellow Jackets triple option will create many problems for Kentucky as they win going away.
Iowa 20 Florida 9
After an early season loss to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, the Hawkeyes took on the role of giant killers late in the season, upsetting unbeaten Michigan. The also beat a solid Nebraska team to finish the season at 8-4. Florida also posted an 8-4 record before suffering a severe beating the SEC Championship Game against Alabama. Iowa has one of the nation’s strongest defenses and the Gators at time can struggle to move the ball. That makes for a bad combination for Florida, look for Iowa to continue to shut teams down in Tampa.
Capital One Orange Bowl
Michigan 51 Florida State 17
Florida State had a solid season, posting a record of 9-3, but they are no match for the skill and the talent of Michigan. Let’s face it, the Wolverines may not be a part of the College Football Playoff, but they are one of the four best teams in the nation. Closes losses against Iowa and Ohio State are the old blemishes on an otherwise terrific season for the Maze and Blue. The loss to Ohio State was particularly gnawing for Michigan as they lost in double overtime in a game that essentially was a playoff game in the regular season as the winner was going to the Playoffs no matter what. Jim Harbaugh will have his team fired up and will have them out to make a statement and there is little the Seminoles can do to stop this train as it looks to take momentum into the 2017 season.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl
Classic Wisconsin 27 Western Michigan 10
Western Michigan was one of the best stories of the College Football season, as they posted a record of 13-0, while winning the MAC. Wisconsin was the runner up in the Big Ten Championship, posting a record of 10-3. The Badgers efforts are much more impressive despite three losses, as they are one of four Big Ten teams in the New Year’s Six Bowls. Additionally, the Badgers faced a talented LSU team in their non-conference schedule. Before dropping the Big Ten Championship, Wisconsin’s only losses came against two of the top five teams in the nation Ohio State and Michigan. The Badgers are strong on both sides of the ball and will show why a MAC team no matter how successful their season does not belong in the New Year’s Six Bowls.
Rose Bowl by Northwestern Mutual
USC 30 Penn State 13
No two teams had more momentum at the end of the season than Penn State and USC. The Nittany Lions won a tiebreaker against Ohio State and played for and won the Big Ten title to get in the Rose Bowl, while USC finished on a tear, winning their last eight games, including a win over #4 Washington. That was the only loss of the season for the Huskies who are in the Playoffs, opening the way for the Trojans to battle for the roses. I think USC will be a real player next season in the battle for the Playoffs and will continue their solid play by taming the Lions in Pasadena.
All-State Sugar Bowl
Oklahoma 37 Auburn 20
As the season came to a close, Oklahoma was one of the strongest teams in the nation, as they overcame losses in two of their first three games to finish 11-2 with the Big XII Championship. A big reason for the Sooners success was Baker Mayfield who could be the most sought after quarterback in the draft if he forgoes his final year of eligibility. Auburn had a nice year, posting a record of 8-4, but the SEC was not as strong as it usually is this season. As the gap between Alabama and the rest of the conference was a wide one. Look for Mayfield to put on a show in the Superdome as Oklahoma wins easily.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Alabama 56 Washington 13
By record, accomplishments and play on the field, Washington deserves to be in the playoffs as they are the #4 team in the nation, record wise at 12-1. However, they don’t belong on the same field as #1 Alabama, the defending national champions who come in the game on a 25-game winning streak. The Crimson Tide simply rolled over all opponents as all but one game was decided by ten or more points. Bama dominated on both sides of the ball, only once in 13 games did they fail to reach 30 points, while only two teams managed to score more than 16 points against them. Washington benefited from a poor season from Oregon and had a soft non-conference schedule. Alabama is also quite familiar with the Georgia Dome, having played the SEC Championship Game on that field the last three seasons.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Ohio State 37 Clemson 34
This should be the gem of the entire postseason in FBS, as the inaugural FBS Champions from Ohio State face last year’s runner up Clemson, looking to get some revenge on Alabama. This game can go either way, as both teams are talented but flawed. The Buckeyes defense sputtered in the last two games as they had narrow wins against Michigan State and Michigan, the while the Tigers defense was exposed at the end of the season. Overall Ohio State has the deeper talent pool, but the best overall player on the field is Clemson Quarterback Deshaun Watson. The biggest advantage though rest on the Buckeye sideline as Urban Meyer is one of the most in game tractions in the country. Give Meyer more than a week to prepare and Ohio State is almost unbeatable. The game should be close, but in the end it will be Ohio State advancing to Tampa.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Alabama 27 Ohio State 20
What better match up the third ever true National Champion than a meeting of the teams that won the first two CFB Playoffs. It also features a showdown of the two most successful coaches in the last decade Nick Saban of Alabama and Urban Meyer of Ohio State. A rivalry that goes back to some bitter showdowns from when Meyer was at Florida. If anybody can find a way to solve the Crimson Tide juggernaut it is Urban Meyer. However, when you take a look at Alabama’s schedule you are faced with one conclusion and that is nothing can stop this rolling Tide. In going 13-0, Alabama faced eight ranked opponents and won each game rather easily. Ohio State will find a way to keep the game close, but in the end Alabama is too strong and will take home another National Championship. Bringing their total to 17 the best among all FBS schools.