Dec. 15, 2016
By Chase Gage
It’s that time of year once again. The weather is getting colder. That festive feeling is in the air. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Bowl season is here. There are 41 bowl games this year including the National Championship game, and we can not wait to watch every second of the action.
With one of the craziest college football seasons of my lifetime now wrapping up, the playoff picture is set and the teams are ready to take the field. Will Alabama repeat as national champions? Will the Buckeyes from Ohio State claim their second title in three years? Can Clemson redeem themselves after their close loss at the hands of Alabama in last year’s championship game? Can Washington shock the world and the heavyweight Crimson Tide? Well, I don’t have the answers. I do, however, have all 41 of my picks. Let’s get started.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico vs. UTSA, Dec. 17
The Lobos avenge last season’s New Mexico Bowl loss to Arizona. New Mexico State wins.
Las Vegas Bowl: Houston vs. San Diego State, Dec. 17
The Cougars started the season off very strong, and will also finish strong with a bowl win. Houston wins.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo, Dec. 17
Two mid-major powers, this game is a toss up. App State moves to 2-0 all-time in bowl games since moving up to FBS. The Mountaineers win a close one.
AutoNation Cure Bowl: Central Florida vs. Arkansas State, Dec. 17
Being a student at Arkansas State, there is much potential for bias here. However, I believe Coach Anderson falls to 0-3 in bowl games. A-State is too inconsistent offensively. The Knights of Central Florida pull this one out.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss. vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Dec. 17
Lafayette feels right at home playing in the New Orleans Bowl, as they won the game four consecutive times in their only four bowl appearances. However, Southern Miss extends their 8-game winning streak over the mediocre Cajuns, and win a bowl game in the process. The Golden Eagles win.
Miami Beach Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Tulsa, Dec. 19
Coming off a bowl loss to Virginia Tech last season, the Golden Hurricane are looking for redemption. They earn it at the hands of the Chippewas. Tulsa wins in a not-so-close game.
Marmot Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Memphis, Dec. 20
The Hilltoppers are an up-and-coming mid-major powerhouse, being only a few years removed from being in the FCS. Memphis is coming off of a solid season under a first-year head coach. In what I anticipate is a close matchup, Western Kentucky proves their legitimacy. The Hilltoppers escape with the victory.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: BYU vs. Wyoming, Dec. 21
Having their four losses come by an average of just two points, BYU is looking back on the season that could have been. Wyoming may feel their pain, as they fell short of winning the MWC championship game. The Cougars win their first meeting with their former conference rival Cowboys since 2010. Brigham Young wins.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Idaho vs. Colorado State, Dec. 22
The Vandals may be making their final bowl appearance, as they will drop down to FCS after the 2017 season. Colorado State had to win three of their last five games to reach bowl eligibility. They won four instead. Knowing this could be their last chance to win a bowl game, Idaho wins in their home state in an upset. Now if they tank next season and don’t reach a bowl game, they can finish their FBS run being undefeated in bowl games.
Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion, Dec. 23
Old Dominion is playing in their first ever bowl game after reviving their football program after 70 years. They played their first FBS game in 2014, and just two years later have reached a bowl game. Eastern Michigan finished with its best season since 1987, winning seven games. Old Dominion defeated Eastern Michigan the last two seasons, 38-34 in 2014 and 17-3 in 2015. In the third meeting in as many years, the Monarchs trump the Eagles. Old Dominion wins their bowl debut.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. 25 Navy, Dec. 23
After both teams lost their conference championship games, they look to finish their season on a high note. Navy is fresh off of their first loss to Army since 2001. In an upset, the Bulldogs win their third consecutive bowl game. The Midshipmen leave their third consecutive game disappointed. Louisiana Tech reigns victorious.
Dollar General Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy, Dec. 23
Both teams thought they had a chance to be conference champions. Both fell short. Ohio lost in the MAC championship game to unbeaten Western Michigan, one of only two undefeated teams. Troy was defeated after the enemy used a wooden horse full of soldiers to….wait, wrong Troy. Troy University held a share of the Sun Belt lead and became the first Sun Belt team to ever be ranked in the AP Top 25, but lost two-of-three games to finish their season at 9-3. The Trojans prevail in their first bowl appearance since 2010.
Hawai’i Bowl: Hawaii vs. Middle Tennessee, Dec. 24
What better way to spend Christmas Eve than in Honolulu? Middle Tennessee gets to spend their time in paradise, while Hawaii just gets to spend theirs at home. I would call that a win-win. The Blue Raiders enjoy their vacation more than the Rainbow Warriors enjoy their…stay-cation? Middle Tennessee wins.
St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami (OH) vs. Mississippi State, Dec. 26
Normally, if a team finished 6-7 it means they lost a bowl game. That is not the case for Mississippi State, a team that got a bowl bid despite a losing record of 5-7. Miami started the year 0-6 and needed to win out to clinch a bowl berth. They did just that. Records, however, do not matter when it comes to bowl games. The Bulldogs win easily, and Starkville has a very merry (day after) Christmas.
Quick Lane Bowl: Maryland vs. Boston College, Dec. 26
Boston College likely would have received a bowl bid even with a losing record this season but removed all doubt with a road win against Wake Forest in their final game. Maryland limped through the latter half of their season, finishing 2-6 over their last eight games. The Eagles carry their momentum over into their bowl game and defeat the favored Terrapins.
Camping World Independence Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt, Dec. 26
In a rematch of the 2012 Music City Bowl, two 6-6 teams face off. Vanderbilt needed a rivalry week upset of Tennessee to reach a bowl game, while NC State needed an upset over in-state rival North Carolina to do the same. They both did, and here they are. The Commodores will prevail with a win over the Wolf Pack but expect a close game from two hot teams.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army vs. North Texas, Dec. 27
North Texas is the second team this season to play in a bowl game with a losing record. The Mean Green finished 5-7. Army is fresh off of their first win over rival Navy in 14 years and hope to finish the season with another strong victory. The Black Knights do just that by knocking off the Mean Green. Army wins.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: 24 Temple vs. Wake Forest, Dec. 27
Temple can reach 11 wins for the first time in school history with a win over the Demon Deacons. Wake Forst started the season 6-3, but finished with three consecutive losses. Temple is fresh off of their AAC championship game win over 25 Navy. The Owls carry that momentum into this game and top the Deacons without much resistance.
National Funding Holiday Bowl: Minnesota vs. Washington State, Dec. 27
After reaching a bowl game with a 5-7 record last year (and winning said bowl game), the Golden Gophers are bowling once again. However, this year they will face the team that finished second to Washington in the Pac-12 North division in the Washington State Cougars. In what I believe will turn out to be a good matchup, the Cougars escape with the victory.
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl: Boise State vs. Baylor, Dec. 27
Baylor started the year off strong with a 6-0 record before an injury to their quarterback. After that, they reversed their record and finished the season 0-6. Boise State has continued its dominance of the mid-majors, reaching 10 wins for the 14th time in 18 years. This game may come down to coaching, where the Broncos hold the advantage with third-year coach Bryan Harsin, while the Bears will be coached one last time by interim coach Jim Grobe. Harsin wins his third-consecutive bowl game. Boise State prevails.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: 23 Pittsburg vs. Northwestern, Dec. 28
Normally, a bowl game is a gift to the players as they go to a warm, tropical destination. This game is an exception. This game is played at Yankee Stadium in New York City, which is slightly less than warm and tropical in late December. Pitt is one of the hottest teams in college football (but the New York weather may cool them off a bit), averaging over 58 points per game in their last three contests, all of which were wins. Northwestern is bowl eligible for the 11th time in 14 years but has struggled to produce once reaching eligibility. Over the 10 bowl games they have played, they are just 1-9. Let’s go ahead and make that 1-10, as the Panthers offense overwhelms the Wildcats. Pitt wins its fourth game in a row.
Russell Athletic Bowl: 16 West Virginia vs. Miami (FL), Dec. 28
Two former Big East rivals face off in their 20th all-time matchup. Miami is on the verge of returning as one of college football’s dominant programs, something it has not seen since the turn of the century. The Mountaineers finished third in the Big 12 with a record of 10-2. In what should turn out to be a very competitive game just hours north of Miami’s home stadium, West Virginia earns their fourth victory over their old rivals. The Hurricanes may be a team to watch out for in the near future, but they go back to Miami empty-handed this year.
Foster Farms Bowl: Indiana vs. 19 Utah, Dec. 28
The Hoosiers will be playing in a bowl game in consecutive years for the first time in 25 years. The Utes have had much bowl success in recent years, boasting a record of 9-1 under head coach Kyle Whittingham. The most notable win was a 31-17 triumph over Alabama in the 2009 Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Utes continue their bowl success with a win over Indiana.
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Kansas State, Dec. 28
These two former Big-12 rivals take the field in the Aggies’ home state for what could shake up to be one of the highlights of the bowl season. Texas A&M started the season off as one of the best teams in the country, earning the fourth spot in the first playoff rankings. However, they have historically struggled late in the season under head coach Kevin Sumlin. Kansas State is the opposite. The Wildcats started the season 3-3 but finished with a record of 8-4. Though the Aggies have shown much inconsistency since the loss of quarterback Trevor Knight, the Wildcats suffer yet another bowl loss at the hands of an SEC foe. Texas A&M is still the team to beat in Texas (sorry Longhorns).
Birmingham Bowl: South Florida vs. South Carolina, Dec. 29
South Carolina had a slow start to the season but ended up winning four of their last six games, but one of those two losses was a blowout (56-7 to be exact) at the hands of playoff-bound, in-state rival Clemson. The Bulls of South Florida boast the seventh-ranked offense in college football, having scored at least 35 points in all but one contest this season. The Bulls dominating offense is too much for the inconsistent SC defense. South Florida comes away with the win.
Belk Bowl: Arkansas vs. 22 Virginia Tech, Dec. 29
The Razorbacks survived a treacherous schedule that included Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU and Florida and limped into bowl eligibility. Virginia Tech gave ACC champion Clemson a run for their money in the conference title game but ultimately lost to the playoff-bound Tigers. Arkansas has been very inconsistent this season, swapping wins and losses from week to week. However, by that logic, they are due for a fourth consecutive bowl victory. The inconsistent Hogs show up for this game, and quarterback Austin Allen has a big game in what could turn into a shootout. Woo Pig.
Valero Alamo Bowl: 12 Oklahoma State vs. 10 Colorado, Dec. 29
Both teams had a shot to win their conferences, but OSU lost to rival Oklahoma and Colorado lost at the hands of the playoff-bound Washington Huskies. Colorado is coming off of its best season in 15 years, while Oklahoma State is looking back at the season that could have been. The Buffaloes have a sad ending to their dream season, as the Cowboys walk away with the victory in this battle of “almosts”.
Autozone Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. Texas Christian, Dec. 30
Georgia finished their season with a disappointing loss to in-state rival Georgia Tech, while the Horned Frogs of TCU finished with a blowout victory over Texas. According to the laws of momentum, the TCU wins. In reality, though, the Bulldogs reign victorious as a sub-par SEC team dominates a sub-par Big 12 team.
Hyundai Sun Bowl: 18 Stanford vs. North Carolina, Dec. 30
The Tar Heels are another squad that will look back at their 2016 campaign and wonder what could have been. They were seen as contenders for the ACC until they lost to their two biggest rivals, Duke and NC State. Stanford had a slow start to their season but ultimately finished 9-3. The nation’s leader in all-purpose yards, Christian McCaffrey leads the Cardinal over the Tar Heels in his last NCAA game.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Nebraska vs. 21 Tennessee, Dec. 30
The Volunteers had an up-and-down season with many near victories, such as an early overtime game against Sun Belt co-champion Appalachian State. They return to Nashville, the same city in which they played their most recent game, a loss against in-state rival Vanderbilt. Nebraska looks to move toward a return to being a top program as they were in the mid-90’s. The Cornhuskers fall short in Tennessee to Tennesee as the Volunteers make the short trip back to Knoxville with a trophy in their hands.
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: South Alabama vs. Air Force, Dec. 30
South Alabama opened their season with a statement win over SEC foe Mississippi State but did little after that. They finished at just 2-6 in the Sun Belt conference which was not as strong this year as it has been in previous seasons. Air Force won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy by defeating both Army and Navy this season, and are just one win away from clinching a 10-win season. The Falcons will do just that, as they dominate the Jaguars in a not-so-close game.
Capital One Orange Bowl: 6 Michigan vs. 11 Florida State, Dec. 30
Here we go. Two teams that had legitimate playoff hopes at one point in the season, these two can’t help but be disappointed. Florida State opened the season with a statement comeback win over Ole Miss but finished the season at 9-3. The Wolverines controlled their own destiny and had a shot to win the Big 10 as well as solidify a playoff spot, but fell short in overtime to bitter rival Ohio State. The Wolverines take their frustration out on Florida State and their freshman quarterback and prove that even though they were not one of the four playoff teams, they are still one of the best teams in college football. Michigan wins a hard fought battle.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: 20 LSU vs. 13 Louisville, Dec. 31
Both of these teams understand what it means to have a crazy year. After firing long-time coach Les Miles, LSU finished 5-2 with losses to Florida and Alabama (the closest game anyone played against the Tide this season). The Cardinals once thought they were going to win the ACC and represent the conference in the playoffs, but fell short against Clemson in one of the games of the year, lost to Houston, another solid team, and were defeated by a last second field goal to in-state rival Kentucky to finish the season. Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson finds a way to get it done against one of the SEC’s toughest defenses, and Louisville escapes with the win in what they likely deem as little more than a consolation prize of a game.
Taxslayer Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky, Dec. 31
Both of these teams pulled off upsets against their in-state rivals in the last game of the regular season. Georgia Tech beat Georgia and Kentucky kicked a last-second field goal to pull off the unlikely upset over the Heisman Trophy winner and his Louisville Cardinals. That game, however, remains the highlight of the Wildcats season, as the Yellow Jackets defeat them. Georgia Tech wins in their return to the postseason after their 18-year bowl streak ended last season.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: 4 Washington vs. 1 Alabama, Dec. 31
In the first playoff game of the year, the undefeated Crimson Tide take on the one-loss Huskies of Washington. This game pits one of the nation’s best offenses against the most dominant defense in the land. Alabama did not give up a touchdown in November, but that four-game streak came to an end in their 54-16 blowout over Florida in the SEC Championship game in the Georgia Dome, the very stadium in which this game is played. The Huskies had their eyes on an undefeated season until USC beat them in a thriller. The Huskies went on to beat Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship game and clinched the final playoff spot over Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan. The Alabama defense proves much too much for the Huskies, and Alabama heads to its second straight championship game with hopes of winning their fifth national title since 2009.
Playstation Fiesta Bowl: 3 Ohio State vs. 2 Clemson, Dec. 31
This could be the game of the year. Both teams are making their second playoff appearance in just the third year of its existence. The Tigers finished the season as ACC champions, boasting a 12-1 record. Ohio State missed out on a chance to play in the Big 10 Championship due to a loss to eventual champion Penn State. They did, however, defeat Michigan in an overtime thriller that came down to the last play. J.T. Barrett of Ohio State and DeShaun Watson of Clemson are very familiar with the big stage, and both will come ready to play. Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinny are two of the premier coaches in all of college football, and this game will reflect just that. Clemson ultimately wins the game and goes on to face Alabama in a rematch of last year’s National Championship.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: 15 Western Michigan vs. 8 Wisconsin, Jan. 2
Wisconsin fell just short of winning the Big 10 after blowing a 28-7 lead over Penn State. Western Michigan won the MAC title, finishing the year without a single blemish on their record. That changes in this game, however. The Badgers prove their dominance and hand the Broncos their sole loss this season.
Outback Bowl: 17 Florida vs. Iowa, Jan. 2
Florida had a very up-and-down season with lopsided losses to Arkansas, Florida State and Alabama, but also won the SEC East after a goal-line stop against LSU in a rescheduled game. Iowa handed Michigan their first loss of the season thanks to a last second field goal and also notched a win against Nebraska. The SEC pulls out another Outback Bowl win, and if this year is like past seasons, a free appetizer will be on the line at Outback Steakhouse the next day. I hope Florida represents the Bloomin’ Onion…
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: 9 Southern California vs. 5 Penn State
Two schools who could not be more deserving of a Rose Bowl appearance. Penn State was hit hard by NCAA sanctions after their infamous incident that we will not discuss. USC was also the victim of harsh sanctions after very different allegations. We’re not here to talk about the past. In the present, USC and Penn State have both climbed their way back to the top of college football. What a beautiful story. Two teams that faced great adversity fight through it all to reach the greatest bowl game of them all. USC may be playing in their own backyard, just miles away from the Collesium, but Penn State wins the game. This is not the end for USC, or Penn State for that matter, as they are still on their journeys back to the top of the game. This game could be a classic.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: 14 Auburn vs. 7 Oklahoma, Jan. 2
Oklahoma had hoped for more than just a New Year’s Six bowl, but that along with a Big 12 championship is not too shabby. The Sooners are riding a nine-game win streak and hope to extend it behind the arm of Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield, who said he is returning to Oklahoma next season. Auburn did not finish as strong, with losses to Georgia and Alabama at the tail-end of the season, but still finished as the SEC’s second-best team in a sub-par year for the conference (outside of Alabama, of course). Oklahoma rides their two Heisman finalists (WR Dede Westbrook also finished in the top 5 in Heisman voting) to a Sugar Bowl victory for a sweet (pun intended) ending to a solid season.
College Football Playoff National Championship Game: Alabama/Washington vs. Clemson/Ohio State, Jan. 9
According to my predictions, this game will be 1 Alabama vs. 2 Clemson in a rematch of last year’s title game. However, I could be completely wrong, or only halfway wrong. We won’t be sure until the games are played. However, if things play out like I have predicted (I mean I will obviously be 100% correct on my picks, right?), this will be the matchup so I will act as if it is already set in stone. Alabama would come in as the favorites to repeat as champions. Clemson would again be the underdog, maybe even more so than they were last season. The Crimson Tide have a more complete team than they have in a long time. This is arguably the best overall squad they have fielded in their run as the most dominant force in all of college football. Clemson knows how to beat them, though. They fell short last year in one of the closest championship games we have seen since the famous 2006 Rose Bowl. DeShaun Watson will prove that he is still matchup-proof, and will manage to score against Alabama’s tough defense. However, it will not be enough. Alabama will reign as champions of college football for the fifth time in eight years in one of the best games you will ever watch. The Tide will be back-to-back champions once again, and Nick Saban might even smile. Don’t count on it though.