Since there are more bowl games than ever this year, our bowl picks are going to be split into a number of posts over the next few weeks. The first post is going to take on the eight bowl games on the schedule between Saturday and Tuesday.
Season ATS: 91-85-3 (37-34-2 National, 54-51-1 B1G)
New Mexico Bowl: Arizona (-9) v. New Mexico - Saturday 2:00 p.m. - ESPN
The first of way too many bowl games is the legendary New Mexico Bowl. Alright, I was making up the whole legendary thing. I just wish they would change this to the Breaking Bad Bowl sponsored by Los Pollos Hermanos. Arizona did have quite a memorable victory in this game back in 2012, when they scored two touchdowns in the last minute to beat Nevada 49-48. The Wildcats should have two key players healthy for this game, as Anu Solomon and Scooby Wright should both play after having time to recover from various injuries.
This is a home game for New Mexico, but that's about where the advantages end for the Lobos. Bob Davie's team can run the football, but they are one-dimensional since they really don't have anything resembling a passing game. I just don't see how New Mexico keeps pace if Arizona jumps out by a couple scores early in the game. The Wildcats just have too much talent returning from injury and win this one by 14+.
Arizona 41 New Mexico 27
Las Vegas Bowl: BYU v. #22 Utah (-3) - Saturday 3:30 p.m. - ABC
While Arizona/New Mexico might be an underwhelming matchup on the first day of bowl games this year, that isn't the case with BYU/Utah. Bronco Mendenhall is heading to Virginia, but not before he gets on last "Holy War". Mendenhall will hope the Cougars can send him out a winner on the arm of Tanner Mangum, who is the first BYU freshman to pass for over 3,000 yards.
BYU finished the season winning six out of seven games, but the same can't be said for Utah. The Utes slumped to a 3-3 finish after starting the season 6-0. A big reason for the struggles last in the year was the loss of running back Devontae Booker, who rushed for 1,261 yards and 11 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
This marks the 10th meeting between Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham with the Utah coach winning six of the first nine meetings. This is going to be a close game, which makes me like the points in this matchup. BYU sends Mendenhall to Virginia with one last win against an arch rival.
BYU 23 Utah 20
Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State (-7.5) v. Ohio - Saturday 5:30 p.m. - ESPN
Appalachian State has taken little time to adjust to life in the FBS, earning a bowl bid in just their second season at college football's top level. Actually the Mountaineers would've earned a bid last year with a 7-5 record, but since it was their first year in the FBS they were ineligible for postseason play. Appalachian State has been dominant on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football this year, and that will likely continue in this matchup.
Ohio started out the season 5-1 and after losing their next three games, rebounded with three wins to close out the season. I just don't know how the Bobcats keep up in this game. Mountaineer running back Marcus Cox had over 1,200 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, while Taylor Lamb passed for 29 touchdowns this year. Appalachian State pulls away in the second half to earn the victory.
Appalachian State 34 Ohio 21
Cure Bowl: Georgia State v. San Jose State (-3) - Saturday 7:00 p.m. - CBS Sports Network
I feel gross just writing about this game, mostly because a 5-7 team is playing in this one. San Jose State is only here because Missouri had too much pride to play in a bowl game as a 5-7 team. At least San Jose State's Tyler Ervin should make things interesting, as he rushed for 1,469 and 13 touchdowns and caught 44 passes this year.
Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle ranked sixth in the FBS this year with 346 pass yards per game, but it will be interesting to see how he manages a San Jose State pass defense that has only allowed 153.6 passing yards per game. After winning just two games in the previous three seasons, the Panthers won their last four games this year to become bowl eligible. I'm not exactly sure how Georgia State will stop Ervin, but they found a way to stop Georgia Southern's prolific rushing attack in the season finale. Give me the points and the team that actually deserves to be here.
Georgia State 30 San Jose State 23
New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State v. Louisiana Tech (-2) - Saturday 9:00 p.m. - ESPN
Arkansas State has to be happy to not be in Mobile this year. The last four years the Red Wolves have played in the GoDaddy Bowl, which took place in early January. After starting the season with losses to USC, Missouri, and Toledo, Arkansas State has won their last nine games. What has helped the Red Wolves during their winning streak has been a FBS-best 34 turnovers, 26 of which have been interceptions.
A familiar name has helped Louisiana Tech to the success they've had this season. Florida transfer Jeff Driskel has thrown for 3,575 yards and 24 touchdowns. As good as Driskel has been, running back Kenneth Dixon has been even better. Dixon has 83 career touchdowns, which is only two behind Navy's Keenan Reynolds. While Arkansas State has been great this year, I'll take the Bulldogs with the short line here.
Louisiana Tech 38 Arkansas State 31
Miami Beach Bowl: South Florida v. Western Kentucky (-3) - Monday 2:30 p.m. - ESPN
Since this game is at Marlins Park, I hope they make the horrifying Marlins home run sculpture thing go off every time Brandon Doughty throws a touchdown. If that's the case that monstrosity might finally break. For the second year in a row Doughty threw the most touchdown passes in the country, this year throwing for 45 touchdowns. The only two losses the Hilltoppers suffered this season came to Indiana and LSU.
Western Kentucky will be facing a familiar foe, as former head coach Willie Taggert is the head coach of South Florida. After going 6-18 in his first two years, the Bulls finished the season winning seven of their last eight games to inject some life into the program. Quarterback Quinton Flowers could give Western Kentucky some problems with his versatility, as he has 31 total touchdowns this year, 10 of them on the ground. This has the makings of another entertaining early season bowl game, but Doughty and company are just a little too much for his old coach.
Western Kentucky 42 South Florida 35
Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron v. Utah State (-7) - Tuesday 3:30 p.m. - ESPN
Who would've thought that Terry Bowden would lead Akron to a bowl game? This is only the second time the Zips have played in a bowl since becoming an FBS program in 1987. Akron comes into this game riding a four-game winning streak, and their rushing defense ranks third in the country.
Utah State is familiar with Boise, playing in the Potato Bowl in 2011 and 2012, as well as playing Boise State in conference play in 2014. It sounds like quarterback Kent Myers will be able to play after missing most of the last two games. I just think this might be a few too many points to give up in this game to side with Utah State. Akron might not have quite as much to offer on offense, but their defense will keep them in the game.
Utah State 21 Akron 17
Boca Raton Bowl: #24 Temple (-1.5) v. Toledo - Tuesday 7:00 p.m. - ESPN
What a year has it been for Temple. Not only were the Owls a win away from winning the AAC, but they also were able to retain head coach Matt Rhule. Now Temple will be looking for their 11th win, which would set a school record for wins in a season. The Owls will need their defense to make some plays to slow down the Rockets, but with Tyler Matakevich, who won the Nagurski and Bednarik awards, it wouldn't be a surprise if they do so.
Toledo will have to deal with Matt Campbell moving on to Iowa State, but they do have Jason Candle taking over, who has been a Toledo assistant since 2009. Not only do the Rockets have quarterback Phillip Ely, who has only been sacked four times this year, but they also have the combination of Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson at running back, who have rushed for 1,764 yards and 17 touchdowns. Even with the tremendous Toledo attack, I still like Temple's defense a little bit more in this contest.
Temple 33 Toledo 27