The first segment of bowl games wasn't kind to MC&J for the most part, with a 2-4 record so far through the first six games. While it could've been worse had it not been for the Colorado State and East Carolina comebacks, it was hard to predict that Boise State QB Joe Southwick was going to be sent home for allegedly misusing a balcony.
Last Week ATS: 2-4 (2-4 National, Bowling Green -5.5 and Northern Illinois -2.5 pending)
Season ATS: 85-86-3 (42-43-2 National, 43-43-1 B1G)
Northrop Grumman Military Bowl: Marshall (-2) v. Maryland - 12/27 2:30 PM EST - ESPN
Maryland will be playing Marshall in their first bowl game for the Terrapins since 2010, which coincidentally was also the Military Bowl. The Thundering Herd finished the season strong, winning five games in a row before losing in the Conference USA Championship Game to Rice.The loss against the Owls dropped Marshall to 1-4 against bowl teams, but that record very easily could have been 4-1, as they lost to Ohio 34-31, Virginia Tech 29-21 in 3 OTs, and Middle Tennessee State 51-49. Quarterback Rakeem Cato has powered the Marshall attack this season with nearly 3,600 yards passing and 36 touchdowns.
While Marshall finished the season winning five of their last six, the same can't be said for Maryland. Randy Edsall's team lost four of their last six games and have been decimated by injuries throughout the season. The biggest loss that Maryland suffered during the season was of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, which has put even more pressure on quarterback C.J. Brown. Even Brown missed a couple games this season due to injury, but when in the lineup he has passed for 2,045 yards, rushed for 538 yards, and accounted for 23 total touchdowns.
This will be the final football game for Maryland as a member of the ACC and I don't see them leaving the conference on a winning note. While Maryland will have more of a home field advantage with the game being played in Annapolis, but I think that Cato and the Marshall offense will be too much for C.J. Brown to keep up with.
Marshall 35 Maryland 24
Texas Bowl: Syracuse v. Minnesota (-5) - 12/27 6:00 PM EST - ESPN
For the second year in a row Minnesota will head to the Texas Bowl, this year squaring off with one of the teams on their 2012 schedule. The Golden Gophers beat the Orange last year 17-10 in September, and a second win in two years against Syracuse will get Minnesota to nine wins on the season.
Syracuse waited until the last seconds of their final regular season game to reach six wins on the season and earn bowl eligibility. Terrel Harris' 8-yard TD pass to Josh Parris with 6 seconds to go gave Syracuse a 34-31 win over Boston College. This will be the third Big Ten team that Syracuse has played so far this season, and head coach Scott Shafer will be hoping the third time will be the charm after Syracuse dropped games to Penn State and Northwestern early in the season.
The biggest key to Syracuse possibly winning this game will be their ability to stop the run. So far this season the Orange has not allowed a 100-yard rusher, but the rush defense will face a formidable test in Minnesota running back David Cobb, who has rushed for 1,111 yards and seven touchdnowns. Syracuse DT Jay Bromley, who has nine sacks so far this season, will be the main force trying to plug the holes that Cobb will be looking to run through, and put the game on Minnesota quarterback Phillip Nelson's arm.
This might be the fastest bowl game this year with how both teams rely on the run. Jerry Kill should have Minnesota focused on getting to nine wins this season and build even more momentum for a team that is already on the rise in the Big Ten.
Minnesota 24 Syracuse 14
Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU v. Washington (-3) - 12/27 9:30 PM EST - ESPN
Next year the Fight Hunger Bowl is headed to the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, so BYU and Washington will try and make the final one at AT&T Park in San Francisco a memorable one. This matchup will feature two teams that were streaky during the season, with both having at least a four-game winning streak at one point this season.
While Washington may have lost Steve Sarkisian to USC, they'll have a familiar face at the helm in this one. Quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo will be the interim coach, and will be looking to help the Huskies clinch their first nine-win season since he led the Huskies to a 11-1 record in 2000. Tuiasosopo will have quarterback Keith Price, Doak Walker Award finalist Bishop Sankey, and Mackey Award winning tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins at his disposal. This will provide a tough challenge for BYU LB Kyle Van Noy and company to stop, but it isn't impossible to keep the trio under wraps.
BYU has shown they can put points on the board too, as Taysom Hill leads an offense that can both chuck it and run it. Hill has not only passed for 2,645 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, but has also ran for 1,211 yards and another nine touchdowns. The highlight game of the season was against Texas, when he ran for 259 yards against the Longhorns.
There are a lot of similarities between these two teams, and while Washington may have the more well-known names and accolades, I'm wary of laying the points with an interim coach leading the Huskies. I think it'll be a close and exciting game, but in the end BYU will end up pulling out the victory.
BYU 34 Washington 31
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers v. #25 Notre Dame (-14) - 12/28 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
With the offensive and defensive coordinators for Notre Dame having been hired to head coaching positions, and Rutgers firing three coaches, including their defensive coordinator, after their final regular season game, the Pinstripe Bowl could add some intrigue if they held some contests that allowed for fans to fill those positions for the game. The oddsmakers have this pegged as an easy Notre Dame win, but as we have seen many times before that strange things can happen in bowl games.
Rutgers started the season 4-1, but fell apart the last two months of the season, losing five of their last seven games. Senior quarterback Chas Dodd took over for the ineffective Gary Nova and did look good in leading Rutgers to a 31-6 win over South Florida in the regular season finale for the Scarlet Knights in his second start of the season. Rutgers could also find success with running back Paul James. After going for 493 yards in the first three games, James was injured and missed the next four games. After returning he struggled, but showed signs of life against South Florida. With even more time to recover, he should be at a true 100% against the Fighting Irish,
Notre Dame is the more battle-tested team, having played Michigan State, Oklahoma, Arizona State, and Stanford among others, but will be missing offensive coordinator Chuck Martin (Miami, OH) and defensive coordinator (UConn) who have accepted head coaching positions since the end of the regular season. Tommy Rees has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, with T.J. Jones being his favored target. The duo has to be excited to face a Rutgers defense that has allowed over 300 yards/game through the air and just fired their defensive coordinator.
The change to Dodd at quarterback and the shakeup of some of the coaching staff could be the spark that Rutgers needed. They might not win the game, but I think they keep it within the number.
Notre Dame 31 Rutgers 20
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati v. North Carolina (-3) - 12/28 3:20 PM EST - ESPN
Both the teams playing in the Belk Bowl bounced back from losing their starting quarterbacks earlier this year. The Bearcats and Tar Heels both have familiarity with the Belk Bowl, with Cincinnati defeating Duke in last year's Belk Bowl, while North Carolina is making their fourth Belk Bowl appearance.
Cincinnati comes into this game needing a win to clinch their sixth 10-win season in the last seven seasons. It didn't look like the Bearcats would have a shot at 10 wins after they lost quarterback Munchie Legaux for the season to a knee injury in a loss to Illinois in the second game of the season. Brendon Kay has stepped up and filled Legaux's spot admirably, passing for 3,121 yards and 22 touchdowns. Before their regular season finale overtime loss to Louisville, Cincinnati had won six straight games.
In early November North Carolina had to deal with the loss of quarterback Bryn Renner for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury. All looked lost for the Tar Heels but Marquise Williams has done a fine job in trying to fill Renner's shoes and was a key reason why North Carolina gained bowl eligibility. The Tar Heels had started the season 1-5 but turned it around to become the sixth teams since 2006 to start the season 1-5 and end up earning bowl eligibility. The recipe for success for North Carolina has been a strong ground game, as in the final four games the Tar Heels have averaged 221 yards/game.
North Carolina might not have quite as much success on the ground against a stout Cincinnati defense that ranked fifth in the country against the run. I'm not convinced that if the Bearcats shut down the run that North Carolina has enough to be able to beat Cincinnati through the air.
Cincinnati 27 North Carolina 21
Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami, FL v. #18 Louisville (-3.5) - 12/28 - 6:45 PM EST - ESPN
While both teams looked to be headed towards a BCS game midway through the season before having those dreams crushed, there are still a number of story lines heading into the Russell Athletic Bowl. This game will feature teams that were previously foes in the Big East conference and will be again beginning next year when Louisville joins the ACC.
Behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville was hoping to be a darkhorse candidate for the BCS National Championship Game but a loss to Central Florida in October put an end to those hopes. Bridgewater will not only possibly be playing in his last game for Louisville, but also going up against the team that he originally committed to before the Hurricanes fired Randy Shannon. The Cardinals have more than just Bridgewater, as they possess a defense that is allowing less than 260 yards/game to opponents.
Miami started the season 7-0 but their undefeated season ended with a loss to Florida State and spiraled to two more consecutive losses after that, before closing with two wins to end the regular season. The loss of running back Duke Johnson really hurt the Hurricanes, leaving quarterback Stephen Morris to shoulder even more of the offensive load. If Morris wants to crack the Louisville defense it will most likely have to be by finding his favorite target Allen Hurns, who amassed over 1,100 yards receiving this year.
Louisville will be looking to win back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history and I think they have a good shot against this Miami team. I'm not comfortable siding with Stephen Morris against this stingy Louisville defense. A few turnovers by Morris lead to a double-digit win by the Cardinals.
Louisville 33 Miami, FL 20
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan v. Kansas State (-5) - 12/28 10:15 PM EST - ESPN
Even though these two teams come into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl with matching 7-5 records, they took different routes to get their. Michigan come to Tempe having lost four of their last six games while Kansas State has won four of their last five.
After narrowly missing the upset of Ohio State with a failed two-point conversion in the final minute of the game, now the Wolverines are dealing with questions as to who will start at quarterback. It looks as if Shane Morris will get the nod for Michigan and would be wise to try and get the football to wide receiver Jeremy Gallon. On the season Gallon has caught 80 passes and set a Michigan single-season record with 1,284 receiving yards. The Wolverines will need to be effective in the passing game, as the running game has been anemic this year with Fitz Toussaint and company only averaging 3.2 yards/carry.
Kansas State uses a two-QB system with Jake Waters handling more of the passing duties and Daniel Sams taking care of the rushing side of things. Add in running back John Hubert's 968 yards and nine rushing touchdowns on the season, and Kansas State has an offense that could keep Michigan on their heels with their balance The Wildcats are averaging 180 yards/game on the ground and 220 yards/game through the air.
With my record of picking Michigan games this year, I figure if I pick the Wolverines it'll make Kansas State a lock to win. If anything, I think it'll be a tight games since these two teams are pretty equal. While Michigan finished the game on a slide, the month to prep for this game might be just what they need to address some of the issues they are facing.
Michigan 28 Kansas State 24
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee State v. Navy (-6) - 12/30 11:45 AM EST - ESPN
it almost seems unfair that Middle Tennessee State has to play Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl, but they have to be happy to be in any bowl game this year after missing out on a bowl game last year despite having a 8-4 record. Now the Blue Raiders will have to try and find a way to stop Navy's triple-option attack. Middle Tennessee State won their last five games of the regular season behind an offense that averaged 42.6 points per game.
The Navy triple-option is in good hands with Keenan Reynolds, who rushed for 1,260 yards this season. With three rushing touchdowns against Army, Reynolds set an NCAA record with 29 rushing touchdowns by a QB, breaking the record of 27 that was previously held by Navy QB Ricky Dobbs and Kansas State QB Collin Klein.
My main reasoning for picking Navy in this one is their 9-3 against the spread this year compared to the 5-7 mark that Middle Tennessee State has accrued. This will be the first bowl game for the Blue Raiders since 2010, and I think Navy will have a little more familiarity with the bowl routine. That plus the triple-option attack will lead Navy to a victory by at least a touchdown.
Navy 41 Middle Tennessee State 31
Music City Bowl: Mississippi (-3.5) v. Georgia Tech - 12/30 3:15 PM EST - ESPN
Speaking of the triple-option, Navy's former coach Paul Johnson will lead Georgia Tech to their first Music City Bowl to square off against Hugh Freese's Ole Miss squad. Both teams had up-and-down seasons where they looked like they were about to take a step to the top-end of their conferences, but those aspirations never materialized.
The Yellow Jackets are headed to a bowl game for the 17th straight year, and will be trying to make it back-to-back bowl wins after defeated USC 21-7 in the Sun Bowl last year. The triple-option has landed Georgia Tech as the fifth best rushing team in the country, racking up 312 yards/game on the ground. Lately the hot hand on the ground has been running back David Sims, who has gone for 100+ yards in three of the last five games.
While Georgia Tech prefers to do their work on the ground, the Ole Miss offense is more comfortable moving the ball through the air. Quarterback Bo Wallace has thrown for nearly 3,100 yards, and the Yellow Jackets should have their hands full trying to cover Donte Moncrief and LaQuan Treadwell.
With the prep time and athletes, such as Robert Nkemdiche, that Ole Miss has they should be able to at least slow down the Georgia Tech triple-option. Unlike last year when Georgia Tech played a USC team that looked like they had quit on the season, Ole Miss should come to compete in Nashville. A win over the Yellow Jackets could set the tone for a strong 2014 campaign for Ole Miss.
Mississippi 37 Georgia Tech 27
Valero Alamo Bowl: #10 Oregon (-14) v. Texas - 12/30 6:45 PM EST - ESPN
After compiling a 158-47 record at Texas in 16 years as head, Mack Brown will coach his final game for the university at the Alamo Bowl. If Texas wants to send Mack out as a winner they'll need a big effort from their defense against one of the best offenses in the country.
Oregon comes into the game averaging 46.3 points per game on the season, but Texas might be able to find some hope in the fact that the Ducks have been held under 30 points twice in the last four games. A big reason for that is that Marcus Mariota has thrown four interceptions and fumbled five times over that span. Some of that ineffectiveness could be due to a sprained knee that Mariota was dealing with the last part of the season, but with a few weeks to recover since their last game Mariota may look more like the quarterback from earlier in the season.
Texas lost their regular season finale 30-10 to Baylor and it might have been more had it not been for the elements in Waco. Big 12 defensive player of year Jackson Jeffcoat will try and lead the charge to shutdown the high-powered Oregon offense. Texas will need a big game from running back Malcolm Brown to move the chains and try and keep the Oregon offense off the field.
As much as I want to see Texas send Mack Brown out with a win, I just don't think it is in the cards. There is a lot of talk about Oregon not being motivated for this game, but I think they use that doubt as motivation . The Longhorns won't be able to keep up with the Ducks in San Antonio.
Oregon 45 Texas 28
National University Holiday Bowl: #16 Arizona State (-14.5) v. Texas Tech - 12/30 10:15 PM EST - ESPN
After starting off the season 7-0, the bottom fell out for Texas Tech as they limped to the end of the regular season losing their final five games. Arizona State's season took on a different look when they reeled off seven straight wins after starting the season 3-2. The Sun Devils looked primed to be headed to their first Rose Bowl since 1996, but they were blown out at home by Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Still Arizona State can clinch their first season of 11 wins since their last Rose Bowl campaign.
The Red Raiders may have hung tough with Oklahoma in Norman in the first game of their five game slide, but then they got their doors blown off in the final four games. Things have only gotten worse as quarterback Baker Mayfield announced he intends to transfer, leaving Davis Webb as the starter for this one. Webb started five games and threw 16 touchdown passes to Mayfield's 12 but you know head coach Kliff Kingsbury would like to have the flexibility of having both quarterbacks. Webb will be looking to hook up with Jace Amaro on some quick passes to keep two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year Will Sutton from breathing down his neck. Amaro only needs 90 yards receiving to set the NCAA record for most receiving yards in a season for a tight end.
Arizona State should get a huge boost with the return of running back Marion Grice after he dealt with a leg injury late in the season. Before his injury, Grice rushed for 996 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with six receiving touchdowns. The Sun Devils defense is fierce, racking up 40 sacks and 21 interceptions on the season.
The transfer of Mayfield along with the collapse in the last half of the season by the Red Raiders makes it hard to justify taking Texas Tech in this one. Arizona State will be angry after losing to Stanford and will take that frustration out on the Red Raiders.
Arizona State 41 Texas Tech 24
AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona (-7.5) v. Boston College - 12/31 12:30 PM EST - ESPN
The last day of 2013 will kick off in style with a battle between the top two running backs in the country. These two teams finished up heading in opposite directions, with Boston College winning four of their last five while Arizona lost three of four, with the lone win being a blowout of Oregon.
Heisman finalist Andre Williams went ham in November with three consecutive games with over 200 yards on the ground on his way to 2,102 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on the season. Along with riding Williams to victory, Boston College is very disciplined, averaging the third-fewest penalties per game, and quarterback Chase Rettig has only thrown six interceptions this season.
As a team Arizona is actually better at running the football than Boston College. Ka'Deem Carey matched Williams' 17 rushing touchdowns and rushed for 1,716 yards this year. To compliment Carey, quarterback B.J. Denker has rushed for 898 yards, which is fifth in the FBS among quarterbacks, and has scored 12 rushing touchdowns. Should Arizona win it'll give the Wildcats eight wins in each of Rich Rodriguez's first two seasons.
Boston College seems to be coming in with more confidence, and gave Florida State their toughest game of the season in a 48-34 loss to the Seminoles in Chestnut Hill earlier this year. Also the Eagles played Clemson tight at Death Valley, dropping a 24-14 decision. Even if Boston College doesn't win this game, they'll at least keep it close.
Arizona 30 Boston College 27
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Virginia Tech v. #17 UCLA (-7.5) - 12/31 2:00 PM EST - CBS
The Sun Bowl feature the first matchup between these two schools on the football field, along with Virginia Tech's first trip to the Sun Bowl in 67 years. This will be the 21st straight year that Virginia Tech will play in a bowl game, while UCLA will be looking to avoid a repeat of last year's blowout loss in the Holiday Bowl.
After starting the season 6-1, Virginia Tech floundered down the stretch, losing three of their last five, all by seven points or less. During that span Logan Thomas threw seven interceptions, which brought his total to 39 picks over the past three years. The Hokies will be without running back Trey Edmunds, who fractured his tibia against Virginia, so even more pressure will be on Thomas to make plays while being smart with the football.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will have his work cut out against a Hokie defense that is only giving up 17 points/game. The emergence of freshman linebacker Myles Jack also taking snaps at running back has provided a spark to the running game has helped UCLA to win three of their last four games. During that time Jack has reached the endzone seven times and rushed for 267 yards, mostly in short-yardage situations. The Virginia Tech defense has been opportunistic throughout the year with 19 interceptions but will be without Kyle Fuller who underwent surgery to repair a core muscle.
The Sun Bowl won't be pretty which is why I think that Virginia Tech will be able to cover the number. Logan Thomas won't get a victory in his final game for the Hokies, but the strong Virginia Tech defense will keep them in it.
UCLA 23 Virginia Tech 17
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Rice v. Mississippi State (-7) - 12/31 4:00 PM EST - ESPN
Mississippi State need an overtime victory of Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to secure bowl eligibility, while Rice comes in having won their last four games, including the Conference USA Championship Game against Marshall. Should Rice be able to defeat Mississippi State in this one, it would set a school record with their 11th win on the season.
Not only did the Bulldogs need overtime to defeat Ole Miss, but the week before they took down Arkansas in overtime. Had either game gone the other way, Dan Mullen's team wouldn't be bowling at all. At least the Bulldogs should have quarterback Dak Prescott back starting for this one. In the Egg Bowl Prescott came off the bench to help lead his team to victory, and can beat the Rice defense with both his arms and his legs. Mississippi State could use some of their experiences against tough teams like Auburn, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, and Texas A&M to try and down the Owls in Memphis.
Rice coach David Baliff was named Conference USA coach of the year by leading the Owls to 10 wins on the season and could be setting himself up to rise up the coaching ladder in the next few years with what he has done at Rice. To beat Mississippi State, Rice will need continued success on the ground from running back Charles Ross, who has rushed for 1,252 yards and 14 touchdowns this year.
Even though the Bulldogs finished in the middle of the SEC, I think the step up in competition for Rice will just be too much for the Owls to handle. A healthy Prescott will provide some stability for Mississippi State and the Owls won't be able to get the running game going.
Mississippi State 27 Rice 17
Chick-fil-A Bowl: #22 Duke v. #20 Texas A&M (-13) - 12/31 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
Even though he has come out and officially announced it, this is looking like it'll be quarterback Johnny Manziel's final game as an Aggie. Duke will try and keep pace with the Texas A&M offense in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's final game for the school after he was hired to the same position at Florida.
This will be the second straight bowl game for the Blue Devils, marking the first time in school history that they have strung together back-to-back bowl games. Before running into the buzzsaw that is Florida State in the ACC Championship Game, Duke had won six straight games. Buckeye fans might be interested to see former Buckeye, and All-ACC first team safety Jeremy Cash in the Blue Devil defensive backfield. Jamison Crowder will be looking to prove he's the best wide receiver on the field in this one, and he has the stats to back it up this year. Crowder has reeled in 96 catches for 1,197 yards for the Blue Devils.
Johnny Football looks like he's headed for a promising NFL career, and while he couldn't quite replicate the magic of last season, he still threw for over 3,700 yards and 33 touchdowns. Joining Manziel in the first round will be his favorite target, Mike Evans. The big play ability of Evans should make a NFL team very happy, and he'll be looking to add to the 1,322 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns he caught from Manziel. The problem that kept Texas A&M from winning more games this season, including beating Alabama in College Station, was a leaky defense. The Aggies are allowing teams pile up 460 yards/game on the season, but they do have a little bit more success against the pass.
It's hard to imagine that Manziel won't put on a show against a Duke team that has to be just thrilled to be in a bowl this big. The Aggies defense tightens up a little bit and put a capper on college football games played in 2013 with a offensive show against the Blue Devils.
Texas A&M 47 Duke 27