Good Pre Holiday Week to everyone! Hope all is fine!
Last week saw no real games on tap except for the Army v Navy game, so took the week off from predicting.
We did see Joe Burrow of LSU win the Heisman as expected. It was no contest, so expect to see him go to Cincinnati in the NFL draft as the #1 pick.
This week, PU returns with the first of the Bowl Games predictions. These are mostly minor bowls that frankly, he has not paid much attention to during the season. The real games begin Christmas week and then to New Year’s Day and beyond.
That said, let’s look at the first games.
Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo (-5.5) vs. Charlotte
What do you say about two teams that each had to win five of their last six games to become eligible? Not much.
This is the first time that the Charlotte 49ers have ever had an FBS post season game of any sort. So they will be hyped up for it. A new program, with Charlotte only starting football play in 2008, Coach Will Healy has done wonders with the program.
Charlotte will be led by running back Ben LeMay, a 1000 yard rusher for the season. Look for him to hit the 100 yard mark for this game.
Buffalo goes into this game with a significant coaching edge, veteran Lance Leipold leading the team. Running back Jeret Patterson will set the stage on offense for the Bulls’ with Ledarius Mack, the younger brother of NFLer Khalil Mack leading a stout defense.
If LeMay can run for 100 yards or more, the 49ers can win. If not, the game belongs to the Bulls. It is anybody’s guess how this game will go.
Buffalo wins and COVERS THE SPREAD.
Celebration Bowl: North Carolina A&T (-3) vs. Alcorn State
The Celebration Bowl began in 2015 and was previously known as the Pelican Bowl and then the Heritage Bowl. It features teams from the MEAC and SWAC.
NC A&T goes into the game behind former Steeler & Bengal player and new head coach Sam Washington. The Aggies have won the MEAC for the third straight time and posting an 8-3 record. Quarterback for the Aggies is Kylil Carter, who threw for 1856 yards and 12 touchdowns. Joining Carter in the backfield is Jah Maine Martin who rushed for 1214 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Alcorn State was the champion of the SWAC for the 4th straight time with a record of 9-3. The head coach is former Dallas Cowboy Fred McNair who has been at the helm for each of those four seasons.
Alcorn’s quarterback is Felix Harper who has 2613 yards in the air and 30 touchdowns. Chris Blair is Harper’s favorite target, with 775 yards, 20.9 yards per catch average and 6 touchdowns.
This could be a high scoring game with the quality of each team’s offense.
Alcorn State wins in an UPSET!
Frisco Bowl: Utah State (-8.5) vs. Kent State
In another game where a team had to win its last three games to be bowl eligible, Kent State got the job done and finds itself going up against Utah State.
Second year coach Sean Lewis led Kent State to its first bowl game since 2012 and only the 4th in their history. The main weapon for the Golden Flashes is their dual threat quarterback Dustin Crum
Utah State’s offense features junior Jordan Love at quarterback, at one time expected to leave early for the 2020 draft. Love did not have the season that had been expected, but he did perform well enough to win. Expect Love to have a decent game throwing the ball against Kent State.
Kent State will keep the game close in the first half, but will fall in the second half.
Utah State wins and COVERS the spread.
New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State (-4.5) vs. Central Michigan
San Diego State enters this game having had problems scoring in the second part of the season. It was their defense that kept them in games and allowing them to win. Linebacker Kyahva Tezino was a big part of a defense that constantly forced turnovers while the offense gave up few turnovers.
Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain has played against Aztec coach Rocky Long in the past and split the two games they have played. The Chippewas lost in the MAC championship game even though they have a dynamic offense. They hope to challenge the Aztec defense and win.
Another difficult game to call, Central Michigan wins in an UPSET!
Cure Bowl: Georgia Southern (-5.5) vs. Liberty
Yes, there is another team in Georgia besides Georgia and Auburn. (Sorry Biz, Georgia Tech no longer counts.)
Georgia Southern went 7-5 in the Sun Belt East Conference, finishing second to Appalachian State, who they actually beat during the regular season. Led by quarterback Shai Werts, Georgia Southern runs an option attack that is #8 in the country.
Liberty at 7-5 is going to its first bowl game ever under the helm of Hugh Freeze. They feature a high-scoring offense and a tough defense. But the defense just does not have the talent to handle Georgia Southern.
Georgia Southern wins and COVERS the spread.
Boca Raton Bowl: SMU (-3.5) vs. FAU
SMU enters this game with the 6th highest scoring offense (43 ppg) in the country, led by quarterback Shane Buechele. That offense has given them a 10–2 record.
FAU goes into the game without their coach, Lane Kiffin, who resigned to go to Ole Miss. They come into the game with a 10-3 record
FAU has an equally strong offense, led by quarterback Chris Robison. The defense features star linebacker Akileis Leroy.
The spread for this game is far too low.
SMU wins and COVERS the spread.
Camellia Bowl: Arkansas State (-3) vs. FIU
Arkansas State comes into this game having played in eight straight bowl games prior. The stress of a bowl game is nothing new for them. FIU has played in bowl games the last two years, so they are also used to the pressure.
Both teams are ranked very close in the Football Power Index, with Arkansas at 91 and FIU at 99. Neither have shown anything special in any previous games. As such, the 3 point spread reflects this equality, so the game really is a toss up.
FIU Quarterback James Morgan has only thrown 3 interceptions in previous games. His primary target is wide receiver Omar Bayless.
I can’t make up my mind on the winner, but Gigi has.
Arkansas State are the Red Wolves and FIU are the Panthers. She believes the Panthers are tougher and meaner than Wolves, so she say that the Panthers win.
FIU wins in an UPSET
Las Vegas Bowl: Washington (-3.5) vs. Boise State
This is an interesting game in two ways.
One, the coach of Washington is Chris Pine. He has had a successful career at Washington. But previously, he was equally successful as a coach for Boise State. As his last game now with the Huskies, he will have fans on both sides of the ball in the stadium.
Two, both teams were expected to have very good years at the start of the decision. Boise State kept to the expectations ending ranked #19 with a 12-1 record. Washington did not meet expectations ending with a 7-5 record. The difference is that Washington had a far more difficult schedule.
The Huskies defense comes through and holds against Boise State, winning for Pine’s last game.
Washington wins and COVERS the spread.
New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State (-17) vs. UAB
Appalachian State ended the season with a 12-1 record and ranked #20 in the nation. UAB went 9-4, but are a better team than the record indicates.
State goes into the game without their coach for the second straight season. Eli Drinkwitz is leaving to take over the head coach position of Missouri. This is sure to have an effect on the team.
UAB is a tough team under Coach Bill Clark. But the Blazers do not have the talent to win against State’s quarterback Zac Thomas and running back Darrynton Evans.
Appalachian State wins but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Gasparilla Bowl: UCF (-17.5) vs. Marshall
Shouldn’t this be the Sasparilla Bowl?
UCF had an off season this year, going 9-3. They go to the Gasparilla Bowl instead of a New Year’s Day bowl for the first time in three years.
Leading UCF will be quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who has taken over the team after the loss of two leading qb’s through injury. He has come through well and shown that he can put up big numbers throwing to wide receiver Gabriel Davis and handing off the ball to a number of quality running backs.
Marshall has won seven straight bowl games. But they are grossly mismatched in this game. Their defense can only carry them so far, especially since UCF has something to prove in this game.
UCF wins and COVERS the spread.
Hawaii Bowl: BYU (-1.5) vs. Hawaii
In a game where the two teams are pretty much equally matched, 7-5 BYU goes up against 9-5 Hawaii. Both teams have played some of the same opponents like Boise State, with BYU defeating Boise State and Hawaii losing to them.
To get an invite, BYU had to win three of their last four games, with a tough 13-3 loss to San Diego State interspersed among the wins. Their schedule was markedly more difficult than Hawaii’s.
For Hawaii, this is a home game in that the teams plays there during the regular season. Quarterback Cole McDonald runs a balanced offense, but has been inconsistent at the end of the regular season.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson should be able to run the offense effectively enough to win in a close game.
BYU wins and COVERS the spread.
This gets us to Christmas Day bowl games. There will be another post leading up to the New Years Eve game and then one for New Year’s Day.
As always, enjoy the games and Christmas Day with the family.
Merry Christmas to All!