First Responder Bowl: Boston College vs (25) Boise State
The key to this whole game will perhaps be the status of Boston College running back A.J. Dillon. The star running back is dealing with an ankle injury that has him listed as probable for this one. When he’s on the field, the Boston College offense is much more productive because he’s such a good running back. Another key if Boston College wants to pull off this upset will be how well quarterback Anthony Brown performs. Brown can tend to be up and down and the ups are really good, but the downs are really ugly. Overall Boise State is the better team in this one and they have the better quarterback.
Pick: Boise State
Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota vs Georgia Tech
This’ll be the last game that Paul Johnson coaches on the Georgia Tech sidelines and you’re crazy if you think that won’t play a factor. It’ll certainly help that Minnesota will have had time to prepare for the triple option, but overall the Gophers only rank 75th in scoring defense. That, combined with some of the season-ending injuries that some key guys like Antoine Winfield Jr., Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith makes me think that Georgia Tech will not only win, but will cover the spread.
Pick: Georgia Tech
Cheez-It Bowl: TCU vs Cal
This game has low-scoring written all over it. Neither offense was able to average more than 25 points per game this season, but both defenses ranked in the top-45 in scoring defense in all of college football. The TCU season was a bit of a debacle , derailed by injuries, and Cal is playing really well coming into this game, although they did lose to Stanford to finish off the regular season. With this being the first bowl game for Cal in the Justin Wilcox Era, I think this game will also mean more to the Bears.
Independence Bowl: Temple vs Duke
Temple has been the much more efficient team this season and Duke quarterback Daniel Jones is dealing with an injury that could hamper his ability to play in this one. But Temple is also going into this game with Ed Foley as their interim coach after Geoff Collins left to take the head coaching job at Georgia Tech. You never know how a team with an interim coach is going to perform in a bowl game, especially against a Duke team that is coached by David Cutcliffe, whose teams are always well-coached. To me, if Temple can avoid turnovers they’ll win this game.
Pinstripe Bowl: Miami vs Wisconsin
This game is featuring two teams that had very high expectations for the season and didn’t live up to those expectations. I’m expecting a low-scoring game in this one because neither offense is very dynamic and the Miami defense is ranked 18th in scoring defense and even though the Wisconsin defense isn’t quite as good as they usually are, they are still ranked 43rd overall. I’m going with Wisconsin in this one because they have Jonathan Taylor and Miami’s best defensive player, Gerald Wills III isn’t going to be playing, plus I think the Badgers will be more equipped for the weather that could be present in the Bronx.
Texas Bowl: Baylor vs Vanderbilt
Even though this game has no significance nationally, this is a big one for each team to try and gain momentum going into next season. Neither of these teams have very pretty stats this season, but Baylor is surprisingly out gaining it’s opponents by nearly 30 yards per game this season, but when you look at yards per play, they are -0.5. The difference to me in this game will be injuries, and even more specifically, the injury to Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd. Hurd has been huge for the Bears this season and he won’t be playing in this one. I fully expect this game to come down to the wire because I think they’re very even teams.
Music City Bowl: Purdue vs Auburn
This is a really interesting game, because it has the feel of a game that Purdue will be thrilled to be at and will bring everything they have and that Auburn won’t be too thrilled to be here because they were a preseason top-10 team and finished the regular season 7-5, but they are the more talented team. This game is likely going to be another low-scoring game because Auburn is very good on defense, but really struggles on offense. I’m predicting a big game from Rondale Moore in this one and that Purdue is much more excited to be at this game than the more talented Auburn team.
Camping World Bowl: (16) West Virginia vs (20) Syracuse
This game would be a lot more exciting if Will Grier was going to play instead of sitting out in preparation for the NFL Draft, but overall I can’t blame Grier for making that decision. The reason I think this still has the chance to be a good game despite Grier not playing, is that West Virginia is at least middle of the pack in college football in scoring defense, so I think that defense can keep them in the game. It’s hard to know what to expect from West Virginia quarterback Jack Allison, but I do think West Virginia can run the ball well in this one, but Eric Dungey is able to go in this game for Syracuse and that’ll be the difference.
Alamo Bowl: (24) Iowa State vs (13) Washington State
This will be a really fun contrast of styles. Iowa State is the much less explosive team that relies a lot more on their running game and playing sound defense, while Washington State is of course running the Mike Leach air raid system, and they’ve executed it really well this season behind the right arm of Gardner Minshew. On the other side, Brock Purdy is also a very quality quarterback and he was one of the better freshman quarterbacks in all of college football. The winner of this game is likely going to come directly down to which team can establish its style of play better. I think Washington State is the more well-rounded team and that will make the difference over the course of 60 minutes in a hard fought battle.
Pick: Washington State
Belk Bowl: South Carolina vs Virginia
South Carolina was a pretty good offensive football team this season, while Virginia was able to get to seven wins largely because of their defense. The problem for the Gamecocks in this one is that they are dealing with a ton of injuries, and this has the feel of a game where Virginia will be more excited to be here than South Carolina is. I could definitely be wrong about that because South Carolina hasn’t been one of the elite teams in college football, but they could go in thinking they have a big talent advantage, which to some extent is true. A lot of this game will come down to which Bryce Perkins shows up for Virginia.
Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State vs Nevada
These teams are extremely similar in that they like to run the ball more than they pass it. They both average 4.8 yards per carry on the season, but Nevada has been more stout against the run, only giving up 3.5 yards per carry this season. Both teams also have two guys that have done a bulk of the damage on the ground for them this season, as well as both having a couple of very good receivers, but nobody who is a complete standout. I really do see a lot of similarities in these two teams, but the difference in my opinion will be Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen. He’s completing 67% of his passes this season and he’s thrown 27 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions.
Pick: Arkansas State