Bowl season ATS: 7-16-1 (5-13-1 National, 2-3 B1G)
Season ATS: 92-103-5 (45-51-2 National, 47-52-3 B1G)
Bowl season has been a complete bust for MC&J so far this year. Tuesday and Wednesday really put a hurtin’ on this year’s bowl record, with just a 1-7 record against the spread in those eight games. Hopefully as the importance of the bowl games rises, MC&J’s picks can get better.
Birmingham Bowl: South Florida (-10) v. South Carolina - 12/29 2:00 PM EST - ESPN
South Florida has already set a school record for most wins in a season, which is a major reason why Willie Taggart drew the attention of Oregon for their vacant head coaching position. The Bulls hit the jackpot with Taggart’s replacement, hiring Charlie Strong. But it isn’t quite time for Strong to take the reins of the Bulls just yet, as interim head coach T.J. Weist will lead South Florida against South Carolina in Birmingham.
Quarterback Quinton Flowers could kickstart a 2017 Heisman campaign with a strong performance against the Gamecocks. This year Flowers was one of just three quarterbacks with 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. Between Flowers, who had 1,425 yards rushing, and Marlon Mack, who added 1,137 yards on the ground, the Bulls have quite a potent rushing attack.
South Carolina has been carried by their defense this year, and because of that I think they’ll be able to stay inside the number here. To say South Florida’s offense has been awful this year might be an understatement. While I’m not very impressed with what the Gamecocks offer up on offense, South Florida’s defense can make pretty much anyone look good it seems.
South Florida 31, South Carolina 27
Belk Bowl: Arkansas v. No. 22 Virginia Tech (-7) - 12/29 5:30 PM EST - ESPN
Justin Fuente’s first season in Blacksburg couldn’t have gone much better. A win against Arkansas will give the Hokies their first 10-win season since 2011. Quarterback Jerod Evans is a big reason for that success, throwing for 27 touchdowns and adding another 10 rushing touchdowns. With 20 points, Virginia Tech will break the school record for points scored in a season that was set in 2010.
Arkansas will be looking for their third straight bowl win under Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks will need another big performance out of Rawleigh Williams III, who ran for 1,326 yards and 12 touchdowns this year. What hurt Arkansas this year was they couldn’t get any consistency, as they alternated wins and losses for much of the season.
Another problem for Bielema’s teams at Arkansas is they haven’t found much success against ranked teams. The Razorbacks are 7-18 against ranked foes under Bielema, but this is first non-SEC ranked team they’ve played. I was impressed with how the Hokies stuck with Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, and I think they close out the year strong with a double-digit win in Charlotte.
Virginia Tech 38, Arkansas 24
Alamo Bowl: No. 12 Oklahoma State v. No. 10 Colorado (-3) - 12/29 9:00 PM EST - ESPN
Not only is this a matchup of former conference foes, but it also is one of the most intriguing non-New Year’s Six bowl games. Colorado is playing in their first bowl game since 2007, but they’ll have to do so without the architect of a defense that was one of the best in the country. Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt left the Buffaloes to take the same position at Oregon earlier this month.
While Colorado got some bad news leading up to the bowl game, Oklahoma State just got some good news. Quarterback Mason Rudolph announced he is returning to Stillwater next year, which could see the Cowboys sitting in a lofty position in the polls prior to the season. Rudolph was the only quarterback in the country to pass for more than 3,500 yards and throw less than five interceptions.
I love what head coach Mike MacIntyre has done in Boulder, but I think the loss of Leavitt will hurt Colorado in this game. Where the Buffaloes have been strong is in forcing turnovers, which is something that Rudolph just doesn’t do that much. This should be a fun game, but in the end I feel better about taking the points.
Oklahoma State 33, Colorado 30
Liberty Bowl: Georgia (-1) v. TCU - 12/30 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
This is certainly a bowl game and it is in Memphis, but other than that there isn’t a whole lot to say about this game. At least fans will get to watch Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who is nearing 1,000 yards this season. Kirby Smart has had an up-and-down first season in Athens, but things started to go Georgia’s way later in the year, with the Bulldogs winning three of their last four games.
TCU is a tough team to get a read on, and a lot of that can be attributed to the inconsistency of quarterback Kenny Hill. The Texas A&M transfer threw 13 interceptions this year, so Georgia’s defense could feast on a few turnovers. I’m not terribly impressed by either team, but if I had to choose I’d take Georgia just because I can trust their defense a little more.
Georgia 27, TCU 21
Sun Bowl: No. 18 Stanford (-3) v. North Carolina - 12/30 2:00 PM EST - CBS
Sun Bowl? More like the Shun Bowl if you are a starting running back for either of these teams. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and North Carolina running back Elijah Hood are both sitting this one out, with the difference being McCaffrey is doing so to prepare for the NFL, while Hood is returning to Chapel Hill next yesar.
At least scouts can still get a look at North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who threw for 3,468 yards and 28 touchdowns this year. Wide receiver Ryan Switzer was Trubisky favorite target this season, hauling in 91 catches for over 1,000 yards.
Stanford closed the season with five straight wins, with the spark being provided when Keller Chryst was inserted as the starting quarterback. Chryst threw for seven touchdowns and no interceptions in the last four games. I still can’t trust Stanford without McCaffrey. Even though North Carolina doesn’t have Hood, I still think they’ll be able to move the ball and make the Cardinal play catchup.
North Carolina 28, Stanford 24
Music City Bowl: Nebraska v. No. 21 Tennessee (-6.5) - 12/30 3:30 PM EST - ESPN
Is Nebraska even going to have anybody left by the time kickoff rolls around. The Cornhuskers likely won’t have quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., and it was already known that wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp and defensive back Nate Gerry wouldn’t be playing against the Volunteers. Ryker Fyfe started when Nebraska played Maryland, but the backup quarterback didn’t have anyone like Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett chasing him around.
On the other side, Tennessee definitely doesn’t have to worry about the quarterback position. Joshua Dobbs threw for 26 touchdowns and added nine rushing touchdowns, pretty much doing everything on offense for Tennessee this year. The Volunteers were riding a three-game winning streak before ending the regular season on a sour note with a loss to Vanderbilt.
If Nebraska wasn’t dealing with so many injuries I probably would be all-in on them giving Tennessee a close game. Knowing what I know now, it’s hard to see the Cornhuskers keeping up. This one could get ugly for Nebraska.
Tennessee 41, Nebraska 21
Arizona Bowl: South Alabama v. Air Force (-14) - 12/30 5:30 PM EST - ASN
What is ASN? Do I even have ASN? Isn’t Will McAvoy an anchor on ASN? Will Sloan Sabbith be on commentary? And now I’ve lost anybody reading this who didn’t watch The Newsroom.
Are you really going to bet against a team that has a player named Weston Steelhammer? I didn’t think so. Air Force runs all over South Alabama. I think we’ve spent enough time on a game that none of us will end up watching a second of.
Air Force 35, South Alabama 17
Orange Bowl: No. 6 Michigan (-7) v. No. 11 Florida State - 12/30 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
Finally we have gotten to the first of the New Year’s Six bowls. The Wolverines were obviously hoping to be playing in the College Football Playoff and if a certain spot wasn’t so good, Jim Harbaugh’s team just might be. Instead Michigan will have to set their bitter disappointment aside and take on Florida State. Remember when Will Ferrell played nine different positions during MLB spring training? Maybe Jabrill Peppers can do something like that an play every position on both sides of the ball for Michigan in this game.
If I was Peppers I surely wouldn’t want to try and tackle Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. Not many have been to successful at bringing down Cook this year, who has rushed for 1,620 and 18 touchdowns for the Seminoles. Cook will have to be on top of his game to crack a Michigan defense that might just be the best in the country.
Florida State struggled early in the season on defense, which dashed their College Football Playoff hopes a lot sooner than many were expecting. The Seminoles have tightened things up of late though, which is why I think they’ll be able to stay in this game. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who has 15 sacks on the year, could give the Michigan offensive line fits. I think Cook puts forward a strong performance in his hometown before announcing he is heading to the NFL and somehow the Seminoles hand Michigan their third loss in four games.
Florida State 24, Michigan 21