Last Week: 11-1 (92%)
Overall: 170-53 (76%)
New Mexico (8-4) vs Texas San Antonio (6-6) – Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, NM – 2PM ET, ESPN (Sat 12/17)
Six years ago, UTSA didn’t have a football program, but in 2013, much to some people’s surprise, the Roadrunners got an invite to join Conference USA. Just four years later, UTSA has made their first ever bowl game, it won’t be easy though. New Mexico lives and dies by their running game, averaging about 360 rushing yards per game, which is good for the best in the nation. Texas San Antonio doesn’t have a bad defense against the run, but it’s not good enough to stack up against the best in the nation. To add to that, this game will be played at New Mexico’s home stadium, and I just don’t think UTSA has the personnel on defense to match up with a team like New Mexico. The UTSA story is a good one, but not all fairy tales have a happy ending.
The Pick: New Mexico 34, Texas San Antonio 24 (New Mexico -7.5, Under 59)
Houston (9-3) vs San Diego State (10-3) – Las Vegas Bowl Presented by Geico in Las Vegas, NV – 3:30PM ET, ABC (Sat 12/17)
The Las Vegas Bowl always seems to be that one early season bowl that everyone can get excited about. Last year we had a great match up in BYU vs Utah, and this year the game will be between two “group of five” powerhouses in Houston and San Diego State. I though a lot about this game, and my knee jerk reaction was to always pick against the team with an interim coach, as it’s hard to see Houston getting motivated now that head coach Tom Herman has moved on to Texas. But the more you look at this game, you start to notice things. San Diego State has relied on 2000+ yard rusher Donnel Pumphrey (who finished in the top 10 of Heisman voting) throughout the year, but Houston’s rush defense this year is the second best in the country, only behind #1 seed Alabama. Without Pumphrey, it’s hard to see San Diego State getting anything going, I’ve got Houston by double digits.
The Pick: Houston 34, San Diego State 26 (Houston -4.5, Over 51.5)
Appalachian State (9-3) vs Toledo (9-3) – Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, AL – 5:30PM ET, ESPN (Sat 12/17)
This is a game between two top tier group of five teams, Appalachian State was the Sun Belt Co-Champ (This is why every conference needs a title game) and Toledo was one win away from a MAC West championship. Only one of these two teams will finish the season with ten wins, and it will come down to the matchup between Toledo’s quarterback Logan Woodside and the Appalachian State secondary. Woodside is one of the most underrated signal callers in the nation, actually ranked less than one point behind Lamar Jackson in ESPN’s raw QBR metric, however Woodside will have to throw against an Appalachian State secondary that is just fantastic, ranking second in the country in interceptions per game. This is one of the toughest bowls to call this year, but I’m edging towards Toledo.
The Pick: Toledo 38, Appalachian State 34 (Toledo [Pick’em], Over 60)
UCF (6-6) vsArkansas State (7-5) – Autonation Cure Bowl in Orlando, FL – 5:30PM ET, CBS Sports Network (Sat 12/17)
Scott Frost has done a tremendous job in his one year at UCF, he took over UCF after a horrendous 0-12 season in 2015 and has completely turned UCF’s fortunes around, bringing the Knights to a bowl game in his first year. Now, UCF isn’t great anywhere (they still have pretty much the same players as that 0-12 team) but Scott Frost has made it work, and the defense has been very good, holding opponents to just 24 points per game this year, but Arkansas State is just a little bit better. The Red Wolves defense gives up just 22 points per game, and the offense is a lot more consistent than UCF’s. This may be a home game for the Knights, but Scott Frost’s club is just a little ahead of schedule, and Arkansas State will put a cap on their Sun Belt co-champion season with an upset win in the Cure Bowl.
The Pick: Arkansas State 27, UCF 24 (Arkansas State +6.5, Over 50)
Southern Mississippi (6-6) vs Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6) – R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – 9PM ET, ESPN (Sat 12/17)
Southern Miss should win this game. The Golden Eagles have a top 25 passing offense, and a top 15 passing defense. But there are some issues with USM. First off, Southern Miss just can’t seem to keep control of the ball. The Golden Eagles have turned the ball over 30 times this season, one of the most in the country. On top of that this game will be played in Louisana Lafayette’s backyard. If ULL does have a chance to pull the upset it will be by way of their 1000 yard rusher Elijah McGuire, this will be McGuire’s last game as a Ragin Cajun, so expect him to turn up the heat. This seems like a first past 27 game, as ULL has only given up 27 or more twice this year. Also, ULL is 4-0 in the New Orleans Bowl, and it’s never good to pick against a streak. I’ve got ULL.
The Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette 27, Southern Miss 24 (Louisiana-Lafayette +6.5, Under 58.5)
Central Michigan (6-6) vs Tulsa (9-3) – Miami Beach Bowl – 2:30PM ET, ESPN (Mon 12/19)
Central Michigan is best known for their “win” over Oklahoma State back in week 2 after a botched call by the referee gave the Chippewas one last shot at a Hail Mary. The Chippewas started the season strong, but have faltered down the home stretch losing four of their last five. I was lucky enough to see Central Michigan live earlier this year, and my main takeaway was that while the Chippewas seem to have a fancy passing game that puts up incredible yardage, they seem to falter in the redzone. On the other side is Tulsa, who is probably the best team you have never heard of. The Golden Hurricane’s offense has been surprisingly excellent this year, averaging over 40 points per game and 500 yards per game. I’d expect this one to be high scoring, and if you’re in a bowl confidence pool, I’d place Tulsa over CMU right at the top.
The Pick: Tulsa 45, Central Michigan 31 (Tulsa -12.5, Over 70)
Memphis (8-4) vs Western Kentucky (10-3) – Boca Raton Bowl – 7PM ET, ESPN (Tue 12/20)
The line on this game (Western Kentucky -5) really puzzles me. Of course, I like Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers won 12 games last year, and have won back to back Conference USA championships, but you have to wonder if the players will really be focused on the game now that head coach Jeff Brohm has moved on to become head coach at Purdue. Brohm was also the offensive coordinator, and the defensive coordinator is now the interim head coach, meaning the Hilltoppers will also need interim Offensive and Defensive coordinators. As for Memphis, the Tigers have a balanced attack on offense, and while the defense is shaky, it can hold up in tough situations. The Tigers are also hot, coming off of an upset win over Houston to close the season, I’d count on Memphis to ride that streak, and pull off the upset, with insurance.
The Pick: Memphis 45, Western Kentucky 31 (Memphis +5, Over 79)
BYU (8-4) vs Wyoming (8-5) – San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – 9PM ET, ESPN (Wed 12/21)
While this may not be the sexiest matchup on paper, both teams have a lot to fight for, BYU hasn’t won a bowl game since 2012, and Wyoming hasn’t appeared in a bowl game since 2011, and the Cowboys’ last win in postseason play came back in 2009. Wyoming is most known for their upset win over Boise State that knocked the Broncos out of the hunt for a Cotton Bowl appearance, but Wyoming should also be known for their outstanding offense. Brian Hill ran for 1800 yards and 21 touchdowns and Josh Allen threw for nearly 3000 yards this season. On the offensive side of the ball BYU will be without their starting quarterback, but Tanner Magnum is a suitable replacement. Magnum threw for 3400 yards and 23 touchdowns back in 2015. While this will be a high scoring game, I wouldn’t expect a shootout as BYU’s defense, specifically the front seven, have been incredible this year, 8th in the country in run defense. The run defense will be enough to slow down Brian Hill, and carry the Cougars to a close win.
The Pick: BYU 38, Wyoming 31 (Wyoming +9, Over 57)