Bowl season didn't exactly get off to a dream start, with Arizona blowing the cover late, and BYU falling behind 35-0 in the first quarter. But there is still plenty of time to turn things around.
Bowl season ATS: 3-5
Season ATS: 94-90-3 (40-39-2 National, 54-51-1 B1G)
Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State (-8.5) v. Northern Illinois - Wednesday 4:30 p.m. - ESPN
Coming into this season both these schools had hopes of earning the Group of Five spot in a New Year's Six bowl game. Injuries derailed those hopes, so instead we see Boise State and Northern Illinois squaring off in what should be an entertaining bowl game. The Broncos lost quarterback Ryan Finley early in the year to an injury, but freshman Brett Rypien, nephew of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, stepped up and was named Mountain West Freshman of the Year for his play. To go along with Rypien, running back Jeremy McNichols accounted for 23 touchdowns during the season.
Northern Illinois almost shocked Ohio State in Columbus in September, but looked on their way to winning the MAC West before Drew Hare was lost for the season due to injury. Not only did the Huskies lose Hare, but they lost Ryan Graham in late November, leaving third-string true freshman Tommy Fiedler to take the snaps. Fiedler struggled in the MAC Championship Game, and I don't think he's going to have much success against the stout Boise State defense. Both teams have been great at creating turnovers this year, but I think in this one the Broncos force more and win by double digits.
Boise State 37 Northern Illinois 24
GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern v. Bowling Green (-7.5) - Wednesday 8:00 p.m. - ESPN
Much like Appalachian State, Georgia Southern has enjoyed a great deal of success in just their second year as a FBS member. Last year the Eagles went 8-0 and won the Sun Belt, but they weren't eligible for a bowl game since they were a first-year FBS member. Georgia Southern was rolling for most of the year, but they closed the season with two losses, with one of them being a 23-17 defeat in overtime to Georgia. What powers the Eagles is their triple-option attack, but it also hampers them if they fall behind early since they don't have much of a passing game. Don't sleep on running back Matt Breida, who ran for 1,540 yards and averaged 8.19 yards per carry.
Georgia Southern may be able to run the ball with great success, but Bowling Green can run and pass. Quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 4,300 yards and 43 touchdowns, while Travis Greene ran for 1,220 yards and 14 touchdowns. I'm a little concerned about the Falcons being able to stop the triple-option, but they have had a couple weeks to get ready for it. I think Johnson and company jumps out early, taking the Eagles out of their comfort zone in a battle of interim coaches with Dino Babers and Willie Fritz both having moved on to Syracuse and Tulane, respectively.
Bowling Green 41 Georgia Southern 31
Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee State v. Western Michigan (-4.5) - Thursday 12:00 p.m. - ESPN
After a 3-5 start to the year, Middle Tennessee State closed the season strong with four straight wins to earn their spot in the Bahamas Bowl. The Blue Raiders used a pair of freshman to give them hope for the future. Quarterback Brent Stockstill, son of head coach Rick Stockstill, set a Conference USA freshman record with 3,678 yards passing. Stockstill's main target was fellow freshman Richie James, who was one of just three wide receivers to haul in 100 catches this year.
While Middle Tennessee State has one dynamic receiver, Western Michigan has two. Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis were the first receiving duo to each go over 1,100 yards receiving in the same season since 2012. Western Michigan sort of limped to the finish, losing to Bowling Green and Northern Illinois before taking down Toledo in the regular season finale. I think the Broncos are a little more balanced which makes me lean to them in this matchup, and what puts it over the top is they have head coach P.J. Fleck hungry to lead his team to their first bowl win in school history.
Western Michigan 38 Middle Tennessee State 24
Hawaii Bowl: San Diego State (-1.5) v. Cincinnati - Thursday 8:00 p.m. - ESPN
San Diego State should have the routine of traveling to Hawaii down, since they were there just a few months ago when they took on the Rainbow Warriors in early October. The Aztecs started the season 1-3, but turned things around by winning their final nine games, including the Mountain West Championship Game. What powered San Diego State was running back Donnel Pumphrey, who rushed for 1,554 yards and 16 touchdowns, as well as a stout defense. It's still unknown if quarterback Maxwell Smith will play after tearing his ACL in the regular season finale.
Cincinnati took a hit when it was announced quarterback Gunner Kiel wouldn't make the trip for the bowl game, leaving freshman Hayden Moore to start. This isn't the first time Moore has been called into action, as he threw for 557 yards in the loss to Memphis after Kiel was injured. Cincinnati may have the offensive advantage, but they are pretty bad against the run, which could lead to a big day for Pumphrey. I went back-and-forth on this game, but I just think the Aztecs find a way to win.
San Diego State 27 Cincinnati 21
St. Petersburg Bowl: UConn v. Marshall (-5) - Saturday 11:00 a.m. - ESPN
Just take the under in this game because points are probably going to be at a premium. We are cheated because this bowl game isn't sponsored by some dumpy company like Beef O'Brady's or Bitcoin to match how dumpy Tropicana Field is. Can they just play this game in some empty lot in St. Petersburg instead of the abomination that is Tropicana Field? Student-athletes shouldn't be subjected to playing in The Trop. Just take the points in a game that'll probably be low-scoring.
UConn 20 Marshall 17
Sun Bowl: Miami (FL) v. Washington State (-3) - Saturday 2:00 p.m. - CBS
The St. Petersburg game might be a defensive struggle, but the same can't be said for the Sun Bowl. After being embarrassed by Clemson earlier in the season, the Hurricanes fired Al Golden and won four of their last five. Brad Kaaya had another productive season, and became the third quarterback in school history with back-to-back seasons of more than 3,000 passing yards. Miami needed every yard from Kaaya, as their rushing attack was ranked 116th in the country.
Washington State also didn't do much on the ground, but that isn't any surprise for a Mike Leach team. Luke Falk led the country with 387 yards passing per game, and will be back after suffering a concussion against UCLA and missing the regular season finale against Washington. Both quarterbacks didn't make many mistakes this year, combining for just 12 interceptions. Washington State wins their first bowl game since 2003 and ALL OF THE FIREBALL.
Washington State 38 Miami (FL) 27
Heart Of Dallas Bowl: Washington (-8.5) v. Southern Mississippi - Saturday 2:20 p.m. - ESPN
Washington finished the season with two wins by a combined score of 97-17 to become bowl eligible. Other than that Washington has been pretty blah this season. I guess you could say their win over USC was a high point, but that was when the Trojans were falling apart under Steve Sarkisian.
On the other side, Southern Mississippi has been very exciting this year. The Golden Eagles were 4-32 the previous three season, but this year they have really turned things around under Todd Monken. Nick Mullins threw for over 4,000 yards and Jeremy Richard and Ito Smith both ran for over 1,000 yards, so offense isn't a problem for the Golden Eagles. Even though the Huskies have the decided defensive advantage, I still think this is too many points for this inconsistent Washington team to lay.
Washington 28 Southern Mississippi 24
Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana (-2) v. Duke - Saturday 3:30 p.m. - ABC
As a Yankees fan it pains me to say this game is going to produce more offense at Yankee Stadium than any of the Yankees games in 2015. With Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard, the Hoosiers have had little problems putting up points this year. Howard has been especially impressive after transferring from UAB, rushing for over 1,200 yards in just eight full games.
The problem for Indiana is that as good as their offense is, their defense is just as bad. The Hoosiers might catch a break since Duke isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut. Thomas Sirk has done pretty much everything for the Blue Devils, throwing for 2,461 yards and 15 scores, while adding another 641 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. What also might help Indiana here is Duke won't have ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Cash, who is an Ohio State transfer, as he'll be out after wrist surgery.
Indiana 48 Duke 41
Independence Bowl: Tulsa v. Virginia Tech (-14) - Saturday 5:45 p.m. - ESPN
Tulsa has some pretty good pieces on offense with Dane Evans at quarterback and wide receiver Keyarris Garrett, who is second in the country with 1,451 yards receiving. The real story in this game though is it is the last game for Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer. After coaching the Hokies for 29 years, Beamer will end his coaching career in the place where he coached his first bowl game for Virginia Tech in 1993. This marks the 23rd straight bowl game Beamer has coached Virginia Tech to.
I know the Hokies will be playing their hearts out for Beamer is this game and it wouldn't surprise me to see Virginia Tech blow Tulsa out, but I'm actually liking the points here. Two touchdowns seems like a lot for a Hokie offense that hasn't been all that impressive throughout the year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Tulsa get a late cover.
Virginia Tech 34 Tulsa 23
Foster Farms Bowl: UCLA (-6.5) v. Nebraska - Saturday 9:15 p.m. - ESPN
This is the third meeting between these schools since 2012, with UCLA winning in Pasadena in 2012 and Lincoln in 2013. The Bruins have won 11 straight games against non-conference opponents, and have a good chance to add to that streak against a 5-7 Nebraska squad. Josh Rosen had a tremendous freshman season, passing for 3,349 yards and 20 touchdowns.
If there was any 5-7 team that deserved to be in a bowl game, Nebraska was that team. The Cornhuskers lost their seven games by a combined 31 points, with four of those losses coming on either the last play of the game or in overtime. This was just the third losing season for the Cornhuskers since 1962. Nebraska has been great against the run this year, ranking eighth in the nation. Tommy Armstrong Jr. accounted for over 3,000 yards this year, but threw 16 interceptions, which is a cause for concern.
It seems a little too easy to pick UCLA here just because they are playing a 5-7 team. With Nebraska's penchant for losing close games, the points are mighty attractive here. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nebraska getting up for this game more than UCLA and winning here.
UCLA 33 Nebraska 30