2018 Bowl Preview
Utah State 37 North Texas 24
Once again bowl season kicks off in Albuquerque with the now sponsor-less New Mexico Bowl. Utah State comes in as the favorite after a 10-2 season in the Mountain West Conference. However, the Aggies will be in New Mexico without their coach as Matt Wells left to coach Texas Tech. North Texas had a solid season in Conference USA, winning nine games. Both teams have fine quarterbacks, but I see the Aggies Jordan Love having the edge.
Louisiana 41 Tulane 24
Its an all Bayou matchup in Orlando as Louisiana-Lafayette takes on Tulane it the Cure Bowl. Both teams come in with six losses, with the Ragin’ Cajuns having lost the inaugural Sun Belt Championship Game. The Green Wave is a surprise bowl season player, as they were expected to be among the worst in the American Conference. In the end, this game looks good for Louisiana to win behind their solid running game led by Trey Ragas.
Fresno State 26 Arizona State 17
Herm Edwards did a great job in his first year at Arizona State, leading the Sun Devils to a 7-5 record, Fresno State meanwhile had one of the finest seasons in school history going 11-2 and beating Boise State in the snow on the blue turf in the Mountain West Championship. The Bulldogs are a legitimate Top 25 team 11-2 with one of the best coaches in the country Jeff Tedford. A solid defense and an offense that makes few mistakes were keys for Fresno all season and will help them in Las Vegas.
Georgia Southern 31 Eastern Michigan 20
Eastern Michigan lobbied heavily to get invited to a bowl after a 7-5 season in the MAC, that is all you need to know. Georgia Southern was one of the top teams in the Sun Belt at 9-3. In a battle of Eagles, look for Georgia Southern to get the advantage as EMU will have a difficult time handling their option attack led by quarterback Shai Werts.
Appalachian State 27 Middle Tennessee State 23
When you are a team like Appalachian State, success brings new opportunities to their head coach. This means for the Mountaineers they will be looking for a new coach after Scott Satterfield left for his Alma Matter Louisville after winning the Sun Belt Conference. Mark Ivey will lead App State in the New Orleans Bowl as they seek to finish off a strong season. Middle Tennessee is trying to rebound after losing the Conference USA Championship. Look for Jalin Moore to have a big game on the ground as App State gets the win.
UAB 24 Northern Illinois 10
One day there will be a movie made about the UAB Blazers, the program that would not die. When the board announced it was shutting down the football program in 2014, there was universal outrage across Alabama-Birmingham, demanding the decision be reversed. This led to new fund raising and return two years later. Last year the Blazers won a bowl game, this year they won Conference USA. Are you going to bet against them? I am not. UAB has a strong defense that will frustrate Northern Illinois all night.
San Diego State 27 Ohio 23
These two teams come into Frisco in opposite directions as Ohio finished strong in the MAC, while San Diego State struggled at the end of the season in the Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs lost their final three games in the regular season, and four of their last five games to finish 7-5. The Bobcats meanwhile won five of their last six for Frank Solich, their 74-year-old coach. The logical pick would be for the trends to continue, but the time off will blunt any momentum either negative or positive. Rocky Long who is 68 always seems to get the best out of his team in the bowl which is why I sense a win for San Diego State.
Marshall 34 South Florida 20
South Florida has a distinct advantage in that this game is being played at their home stadium in Tampa. After years of unwatchable football in Tropicana Field the game is moving to Raymond James Stadium. However, with five straight losses the Bulls are playing terrible football and it likely won’t help them even if the game was on Mars. Marshall always has recruited in Florida well, and this bowl game will help in those efforts as they get a big game from Alex Thomson to win by two touchdowns.
Toledo 51 FIU 47
One thing that Toledo can do is light up the scoreboard, as they have scored at least 45 points in four of their last five games. Florida International is also capable of putting up lots of points. Expect to see plenty of empty seats, of points and little defense, as the last team to have the ball could be the winner. Look for a big game for the Rockets talented receiving core as Donte Johnson and Cody Thompson will be far too much for the Panthers to handle.
BYU 31 Western Michigan 20
BYU is back in bowl season after a terrible 2017 season, finishing 6-6 as an independent. The Cougars are trying to be Notre Dame they will never be Notre Dame. They need to get back to the Mountain West Conference. Western Michigan was not better posting a 7-5 record in the MAC. The Cougars should have a big home field advantage with Idaho’s large Mormon population. The Cougars in their 6-6 record played some competitive games against good teams and have more talent and will win the game easily.
Memphis 40 Wake Forrest 37
Wake Forrest needed a win in their final game of the regular season to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible. They not only won, they crushed rival Duke 59-7, in their most impressive game of the season. Memphis meanwhile blew a second half lead and had their hearts broken a second time by Central Florida on the way to a second straight unbeaten season. Neither team plays much defense, but I think the Demon Deacons performance against Duke will not be repeated. The Tigers have been better consistently all season and will get the win in Birmingham.
Army 34 Houston 10
Jeff Monken has done miracles in West Point, reviving the Army football program back into a power as they won the Commander and Chief Trophy for the second straight season and beat Navy for the third year in a row. The Black Knights come into this bowl with a record of 10-2, with one of those losses coming in overtime to Oklahoma, a team in the College Football Program. Houston comes in at 8-4 but are without two key players, in Ed Oliver and D’Eriq King. Even with Oliver on defense the Cougars would have trouble with the triple option of Army and without King at quarterback they can’t score enough to keep it close.
Buffalo 27 Troy 23
It was a special season for Buffalo as they won ten games and played in the MAC Championship Game. The Bulls let a 19-point lead slip away in that game, suffering their third loss of the season. Troy meanwhile finished 9-3 in the Sunbelt Conference and are looking for their third straight bowl win. Buffalo has a significant disadvantage as this sets up to be a home game for Troy, whose campus is not far from Mobile, Alabama. However, under coach Lance Liepold has a better overall team led by Khalil Hodge on defense, a player who could be a first round draft pick that was Butkus Award nominee.
Hawai'i 37 Louisiana Tech 27
Once upon a time Hawai’i and Louisiana Tech were rivals in the WAC. However, after the WAC football conference broke apart Hawai’i went on to the Mountain West, while Louisiana Tech went to Conference USA. The Warriors won eight of ten meetings with the Bulldogs in those days. Hawai’i had a remarkable turnaround after a poor 2017 season, going 8-5 led by the passing of Cole McDonald. They had their four-game swoon in November but recovered to win their last games. Louisiana Tech will fall victim to the island distractions as Hawai’i gets a bowl win at home.
Boston College 20 Boise State 16
Boston College ended the regular season on a three-game skid, as their offense has been sputtering since they ran into Clemson. The Broncos offense has been inconsistent, but their defense has been strong throughout the season. Boise State fell short in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game, as they managed just 16 points against Fresno State. The Broncos will need to get a good game out of Brett Rypien if they are to win, but it is hard to see the Eagles soar after the way they finished the season.
Georgia Tech 37 Minnesota 17
After a long successful career, Georgia Tech Coach Paul Johnson is riding off into the sunset. From his days leading Navy to his time at Georgia Tech, Johnson has been a guru with the triple option. Minnesota needed to beat Wisconsin at the end of the season just to get their sixth win and become eligible for a bowl game. The Gophers defense has been soft all season, leading to a change in defensive coordinators. It is hard to see them being able to stop the triple options, especially facing an inspired Yellow Jackets team.
TCU 17 Cal 10
This will likely be one of the lower scoring bowl games, as both teams are led by defensive minded coaches. Gary Patterson coach of TCU has been highly successful in bowl season, with a career record of 10-6. The Bears meanwhile come in at 7-5 with one of the weakest offenses in the NCAA. Look for the Horned Frogs to get Ross Bowers in a box all game and win the turnover battle.
Temple 38 Duke 13
Ed Foley will be leading the Owls into battle after Geoff Collins resigned to take over for Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. Foley will be auditioning to keep the job fulltime. At 7-5, Temple had another successful season, leading Collins to get the job in Atlanta. Duke also finished 7-5, but were playing terrible football at the season’s end, losing their last two games by a combined score of 94-13. Temple, meanwhile, closed the regular season with six wins in their last seven games. Add the Blue Devils poor bowl track record, and I think the Temple Owls are the wise choice.
Miami 24 Wisconsin 13
When the season began both of these teams were in the Top Ten with dreams of being a factor in the College Football Playoff. However, Miami and Wisconsin had what has to be considered disappointing seasons as they each posted records of 7-5. For both teams it was offensive short comings that often led to their troubles. The Hurricanes defense was good at creating turnovers but often gave up big plays as well, while the Badgers came up short in every big game they played. There may be slightly more talent on the Miami roster, which will lead to a victory in the Bronx.
Vanderbilt 30 Baylor 20
Both teams needed to win their final games to get to 6-6 to earn the right to play in a bowl game. The Commodores are the better team just by judging who they played. Earlier in the year, they gave Notre Dame a scare in South Bend. Baylor meanwhile was expected to finish ninth in the Big XII at the beginning of the season, as they try to put their troubled past behind them. Vanderbilt is led by Kyle Shurmur, who has at times shown pro potential, especially down the stretch as the Commodores needed wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee in their last two games.
Auburn 30 Purdue 17
It was a bit of a down year for Auburn who posted a record of 7-5. However, as they do every year the Tigers played one of the hardest schedules in the NCAA, having to go against the SEC West gauntlet that included LSU and Alabama. Add in games against Georgia and Washington and you can understand how a young team would not post a better record. Purdue was 6-6 and had just one game where it all clicked and that was when the trounced Ohio State. Take that game away and it was a bad season. Hard to see Purdue beating a SEC team in SEC country, especially one as talented as Auburn.
Syracuse 37 West Virginia 24
A potentially great bowl matchup is getting flushed by the meaningless of bowl season as West Virginia quarterback Will Grier has decided to skip the Camping World Bowl to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft. To me this is a total joke, I rather see what a quarterback can do in a game than what he can do at a workout. It was a great season for the Orange as they posted a record of 9-3, with two of their three losses coming against teams that will play in the College Football Playoff. Without Grier it is hard to see the Mountaineers being able to climb over Syracuse.
Washington State 41 Iowa State 24
Washington State was a top ten team and had a chance of making its case for the College Football Playoff before its mighty stumble in the snow against Washington in the battle for the Apple Cup. Iowa State meanwhile finished the season strong, winning seven of their last eight games. Gardner Webb at times looked worthy of Heisman consideration, while passing the Cougars to a 10-2 record. Look for the man with the stache to have a big day in the Alamodome was Wazzu runs circles around the cyclones.
South Carolina 35 Virginia 20
South Carolina had a strong season playing in the SEC East. With a 7-5 record, the Gamecocks lost all five games against ranked opponents and went 7-0 against teams out of the Top 25. Virginia is an unranked team that has lost three of their last four games. However, two of those losses were in overtime. Jake Bentley had a great season for South Carolina, including putting up 35 points against the strong Clemson defense. The Cavaliers will have a tough time keeping up in this one.
Michigan 41 Florida 20
After getting embarrassed at the Horseshoe, Michigan needs to finish the season on a positive note. The Wolverines besides struggling against Ohio State has not played well in bowl games since the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, losing two their last two. Florida had a nice rebound season in their first season with coach Dan Mullen, going 9-3. Michigan has beaten the Gators regularly in recent years, when they met including the 2016 Orange Bowl, they won 41-7. Look for this one to be a cake walk for the Maze and Blue.
Arkansas State 27 Nevada 16
Nevada has a strong season in the Mountain West Conference, going 7-5 after a 3-9 record in 2017. Arkansas State meanwhile posted an 8-4 record and was one of the top teams in the Sun Belt conference. The Red Wolves have considerably more talent as Ronheen Bingham is a legitimate pro prospect after posting nine sacks. Arkansas State also has the edge at quarterback with Justice Hansen completing two-thirds of his passes during the regular season. Look for Arkansas State to get control and win this one easily.
Notre Dame 24 Clemson 20
I would like to think Notre Dame can win this game and perform a miracle run to their first National Championship in 30 years. However, giving a realistic look at their matchup with Clemson and you see just how improbable that is. The Irish did a great job posting a 12-0 record and they played several quality teams along the way including Michigan. However, they have yet to meet a team with the athletes on both sides of the ball like Clemson has. The only hope that Notre Dame has of winning this game is for Ian Book to have a career day, and the Irish defense to shut down the Tigers versatile offense. Which is easier said than done, because both running back Travis Etienne and quarterback Trevor Lawrence is capable of breaking the game open. However, with three key players suspended the door has been opened for Notre Dame. Look for the Irish to a take advantage and win the game in the fourth quarter and pull off the stunner.
Alabama 61 Oklahoma 34
Alabama is just two wins away from a second National Championship and an unprecedented 18th overall. Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide have won five National titles in 11 years and seeking a sixth. The Tide have been in the National Championship Game each of the last three seasons, and this year’s Alabama team may be the best one yet. It was not until a National Championship rematch against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game that they were challenged, as they won each of their 12 regulars by at least 22 points. In the Heisman race, the only contest anyone in Alabama lost, Tua Tagovailoa finished behind Kyler Murray of Oklahoma. The Sooners were an offensive juggernaut this season, but their defense was severely lacking as they needed to win shootouts nearly every week. Winning a shootout is the only chance the Sooners have, but that means they have to put up at least 50 to have a shot and hope they can hold the Tide under 50. Both are likely not to happen.
Virginia Tech 23 Cincinnati 20
Virginia Tech needed to win their final two games to get bowl eligibility at 6-6. Cincinnati meanwhile had one of the best seasons in program history, winning ten games. Everywhere you look, the Bearcats have the advantage, but the Hokies showing their mettle at the end of the year, promises a bright future. The Hokies will have a decided home-field edge playing this game in Annapolis. Look for, Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente to come up with the right game plan for the upset.
Stanford 30 Pittsburgh 20
It was a somewhat disappointing season for Stanford, as Bryce Love, a pre-season Heisman favorite dealt with injuries all season. Love will not play in the Sun Bowl, as he hopes to improve his draft stock at the combine and show NFL owners he can get past his history of injuries. The Cardinal did win their last three games to finish at 8-4. Pitt meanwhile played in the ACC Championship Game but was hardly a strong team going 7-6. Look for K.J. Costello to have a strong game as Stanford hopes to look for something to build on for next season.
Oregon 27 Michigan State 10
Much to the chagrin of NFL teams looking for a quarterback, Justin Herbert announced he will be returning to Oregon. The NFL’s loss is Oregon’s gain, as the Ducks will certainly be a favorite in the Pac-12 next season. With the Redbox Bowl being played in the same stadium as this year’s National Championship Game, the Ducks hope next season they can be a factor in the CFP. With Herbert return that is possible. Next year begins now for Oregon, and that means lighting up Michigan State, as the Ducks fly high in Santa Clara.
Missouri 44 Oklahoma State 30
With Justin Herbert returning to Oregon, NFL scouts can now look at other prospects, which includes Drew Lock of Missouri. While the Tigers were not one of the top teams in the SEC, they had a very good year. In the Liberty Bowl they will take on a rival from the past in Oklahoma State out the Big XII. The Cowboys were one of the most inconsistent teams in the NCAA this year compiling a 6-6 record. Look for Lock go all out to catch the attention of the NFL by picking apart the porous Okie State secondary in Memphis.
Northwestern 17 Utah 13
To the winners go the roses, to the losers go the poinsettias as the losers of the Big Ten and Pac-12 Title games meet in the Holiday Bowl. Northwestern and Utah are similar teams with a heavy focus on defense. Expect this one to become a slobber knocker. Pat Fitzgerald is always good at getting his Wildcats up for a bowl game, look for this one to be tight and low scoring as Northwestern wins a bowl game for the third straight season, as Utah’s questionable quarterback situation will do them in.
Texas A&M 30 NC State 20
Texas A&M may be the best 8-4 team in the nation as two of their four losses have come against the teams playing in the National Championship Game. Against Clemson, the Aggies had their chance to get the upset, losing 28-26 while two weeks later they lost to Alabama 45-23, which was the Tide’s closet game in the regular season. NC State against an easier schedule went 9-3 and were mauled by Clemson 41-7. Look for Texas A&M to begin its climb as Jimbo Fisher leads them to a Gator Bowl win.
Mississippi State 34 Iowa 20
A pair of 8-4 teams meet in Tampa, in the first of the New Year’s Day Bowl games. New Year’s Day used to be when all the best bowl games were played, but with the influence to the Playoff, the BCS and the glut of 40 bowl games, it too has become watered down. This one is somewhat good, in both teams are similar. However, the Bulldogs played a tougher schedule and has some wins against quality opponents like Texas A&M and Auburn. Iowa meanwhile went 0-2 in their games against ranked teams.
Penn State 24 Kentucky 13
It was a great season for Kentucky as they meet Florida for the first time in 30 years, had their highest ranking in 40 years as they seek their first ten-win season since 1977. Penn State also is looking for their tenth win, sitting at 9-3. However, the Wildcats have not won a bowl game in a decade and need to prove themselves before you can take them. The Nittany Lions are the more complete team, as Trace Sorely looks to make a good impression on NFL scouts as his long career at Penn State comes to an end. Look for Penn State to get enough offense and get the win.
LSU 24 UCF 20
Last year Central Florida upset Auburn in the Peach Bowl to finish the season unbeaten. As the only FBS team to go 14-0 last year, the Golden Knights raised a banner and gave out rings proclaiming themselves as National Champions. Once again UCF went unbeaten and were not considered for the CFP as they are not in a power five conference. This time they won’t need to get the Cracker Jack box rings, as they will get a good helping of humble pie from LSU. The Tigers are battled tested playing Alabama every year. Look for them to take out UCF who will miss quarterback McKenzie Milton.
Ohio State 47 Washington 20
The Urban Meyer era is coming to an end in Columbus as Ohio State faces Washington in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State has to be angry that they missed out on the College Football Playoff, as they essentially had the same qualifications as Oklahoma, but the committee chose the Sooners. Washington won the Pac-12 in a season in which the entire conference had a down year. Look for the Buckeyes to send Urban Meyer out a winner as they go out and take a part the Huskies in a big way at the Rose Bowl, as Dwayne Haskins lights Pasadena.
Georgia 35 Texas 20
After their appearance in the Big XII Championship Game and win in the Red River Shootout, Tom Herman has Texas back on the verge of elite status a win in the Sugar Bowl would go to further the Longhorns resurgence. However, Georgia who should have beaten Alabama in last year’s championship game and this year’s SEC Championship is perhaps the best team not in the CFP. Look for them to make the case they should have still been selected by going down the Bayou and taking apart Texas in the final bowl game before next week’s championship.
Alabama 31 Clemson 20
For the third time in four years Alabama and Clemson are meeting in the National Championship Game, this time it is with extra at stake as the winner, will be the first FBS team to go 15-0. In their previous meetings it was Alabama winning in 2016 and Clemson winning in a thriller on a last second pass from Deshaun Watson to Hunter Renfrow. In the 2016 game, Clemson had entered at 14-0 the following year the Tide entered 14-0, with both teams 14-0 this time around. The teams also met in the Sugar Bowl as Semifinal last season, with Alabama getting the win. The teams have been at the top of the NCAA the past four years and were clearly on a collision course from the start of the season on Labor Day Weekend. Both teams easily won their semifinals, with the Tigers dominating Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl, while the Tide rolled past Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl 45-34.
Clemson Coach Dabo Swiney was a member of the 1992 Alabama National Championship team had stayed on as a Graduate Assistant and served as an assistant coach until 2000. He joined Clemson’s staff three year later, becoming the head coach in 2008. If he is to win a second National Championship, he will reach legendary status. Nick Saban meanwhile is seeking history another National Championship will be seven breaking the tie he has with Alabama’s other legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for coach with the most titles in FBS.
Clemson is the best defense that Alabama has faced all season. They are perhaps the best defense in all of college football. However, they will once again be without Dexter Lawrence who was suspended before the Cotton Bowl due to a positive drug test. Alabama meanwhile has the best offense that the Tigers have faced, as they are especially solid on the line, with Jonah Williams leading the way as a top pro prospect expected to be selected in the top five in the NFL Draft.
Both teams have outstanding quarterbacks, with Tua Tagovailoa finishing second in the Heisman voting for Alabama, while Trevor Lawrence a true Freshman has fans in Clemson thinking about a dynasty. Both are outstanding pro prospects who will be back next year, meaning these teams are likely to meet again next year. Holy Warriors-Cavaliers batman. Tagovailoa has already one championship under his belting, leading Alabama’s comeback last year against Georgia. He was a freshman; the Tigers are hoping Lawrence can pull the same magic but against an experienced team like the Crimson Tide that is going to be extra hard. Alabama has dominated the last decade since Nick Saban arrived Tuscaloosa, winning five titles in the last decade, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017. The 2018 team may be the best squad he has yet, and despite Clemson being a worthy competitor it is hard to imagine the Tide being stopped from winning again.