Last week ATS: 5-3 (5-3 National)
Season ATS: 97-96-2 (47-45 National, 50-51-2 B1G)
For the most part the start of bowl season started pretty well for MC&J. We missed badly on North Texas and Middle Tennessee State, while South Florida was an even bigger mess than I imagined. With nine games making up this week’s schedule, even more positive gains can be made.
Bowl week #2:
Bahamas Bowl: Florida International v. Toledo (-7) - Friday 12/21 12:30 PM EST - ESPN
Anyone would be thrilled with a trip to The Bahamas, but you have to figure that Toledo is especially excited to get escape from “The Glass City” for a bit. The Rockets struggled early in the season, but found their rhythm when it mattered most, winning four of their last five games. Toledo sports a very balanced offense, averaging nearly 225 yards per game both through the air and on the ground.
It certainly hasn’t taken Butch Davis long to turn things around at Florida International. The Panthers have now registered eight wins in each of Davis’ first two seasons at the helm, and a win against Toledo would give the Panthers a school record nine wins. After transferring from Bowling Green, quarterback James Morgan took little time to make a name for himself in Miami, throwing for 26 touchdowns this year.
This marks the second meeting between these schools in a bowl game, with Florida International earning a thrilling 34-32 win over Toledo in the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl. Toledo not only continues the roll they are on to finish the season, but they snap a two-game bowl losing streak with a win over the Panthers in a very entertaining game.
Toledo 41, Florida International 31
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan v. BYU (-12) - Friday 12/21 4:00 PM EST - ESPN
I think the bigger question in this game is whether there will be more than 12 total points scored. Both teams will be starting true freshman quarterbacks in this game. Western Michigan has had to turn to Kaleb Eleby after Jon Wassink was injured earlier in the season, while BYU is now starting Zach Wilson.
BYU gets a bit of an edge in this game as they have already played on the blue turf, losing to Boise State 21-16 in early November. The familiarity with playing in Boise will lead the Cougars to a victory, but I don’t see them pulling away from the Broncos. In a game that will feature plenty of defense, take the points.
BYU 27, Western Michigan 17
Birmingham Bowl: Memphis (-3) v. Wake Forest - Saturday 12/22 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
I was all ready to take Memphis in this game and then I found out running back Darrell Henderson wouldn’t be playing, opting instead to focus on the NFL Draft. It’s a shame that Henderson will fall less than 100 yards short of 2,000 rushing yards for the season, but it’s completely understandable as to why he decided not to suit up in Birmingham.
It looked like Wake Forest might be dead in the water earlier this season after quarterback Sam Hartman was lost for the season due to an injury he suffered in the loss to Syracuse. Luckily for the Demon Deacons, Jamie Newman stepped up and powered Wake Forest to two wins in their last three games. Look for Newman to try and find wide receiver Greg Dortch early and often.
Memphis has been very unreliable lately in bowl games, losing their last three appearances. Add in where their mindset might be at after blowing such a huge lead in the AAC Championship Game against UCF, as well as Henderson not playing, and I like Wake Forest to spring a bit of an upset. The Demon Deacons make it five bowl wins in their last six appearances.
Wake Forest 38, Memphis 34
Armed Forces Bowl: Houston v. Army (-5.5) - Saturday 12/22 3:30 PM EST - ESPN
Houston is such a mess right now that I can’t even imagine backing them, even though they are getting a healthy amount of points. Not only will the Cougars be without quarterback D’Eriq King due to injury, but the even bigger loss for Houston is that of defensive stud Ed Oliver, who will be sitting out this game to prepare for the NFL Draft.
Are you really going to go against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl? Everything is lining up for the Black Knights to earn their third bowl win in a row. Houston may have had some extra time to prepare for the triple-option attack Army will throw at them, but the defense of the Cougars was so bad this year that I don’t think the extra time will matter all that much.
Army 28, Houston 20
Dollar General Bowl: Buffalo (-1.5) v. Troy - Saturday 12/22 7:00 PM EST - ESPN
This is absolutely a homer pick since I’m from Western New York and I want to see the Bulls earn their first bowl win in school history. The Bulls should have won the MAC Championship but they fell apart against Northern Illinois and lost 30-29.
Troy will have an advantage since they get to stay in-state for this game, traveling less than three hours down to Mobile. The Trojans pulled one of the upsets of the season when they went into Lincoln in September and beat Nebraska. Buffalo would be wise to slow down running back B.J. Smith, who ran for nearly 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns this year.
Buffalo has had enough time off to recover from their devastating collapse against Northern Illinois. Quarterback Tyree Jackson and the Bulls will face a tough test from Troy, but in the end they’ll end up pulling out the victory.
Buffalo 30, Troy 23
Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech v. Hawaii (-1) - Saturday 12/22 10:30 PM EST - ESPN
One thing Skip Holtz knows how to do at Louisiana Tech is win bowl games. The Bulldogs have won bowl games in four straight years. Louisiana Tech didn’t end the regular season on much of a high note though, losing three of their last four games.
It was a tale of three seasons for Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors won six of their first seven games, then lost their next four, before closing the regular season with wins in their last two games. Cole McDonald was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country, throwing for 3,790 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Even with Holtz’s track record in bowl games, I think the odds are stacked against Louisiana Tech here. Not only will they be making the long trek to Hawaii, but they’ll be playing the team who calls Aloha Stadium home. Wide receiver John Ursua has a big game as the Rainbow Warriors win their second Hawaii Bowl in three years.
Hawaii 44, Louisiana Tech 31
First Responder Bowl: Boston College v. No. 25 Boise State (-3) - Wednesday 12/26 1:30 PM EST - ESPN
Boston College and Boise State have drastically different bowl histories of late. The Eagles have lost five of six games, with their only win coming over Maryland in the 2016 Quick Lane Bowl. On the other hand, Boise State have won seven of nine bowl games.
Quarterback Anthony Brown has put together a solid season, but there is no question the Boston College offense is powered by running back AJ Dillon, who ran for 1,108 yards and 10 touchdowns in his sophomore season. Dillon might have trouble finding some traction in this game though, as Boise State is allowing less than 125 yards per game on the ground.
Had it not been for an overtime loss to Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game, who knows where Boise State would have landed this bowl season. Senior quarterback Brett Rypien will be looking to cap off an outstanding career with a bowl win, but he’ll have to be careful against a Boston College defense, which is led by Hamp Cheevers, who has picked off seven passes this year.
Boston College has a solid team but I just don’t like them in this matchup. Boise State is well coached and they’ll avoid the mistakes that the Eagles have forced other teams into. Boston College’s bowl woes continue.
Boise State 31, Boston College 20
Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota v. Georgia Tech (-5.5) - Wednesday 12/26 5:15 PM EST - ESPN
I’m just as shocked as you that Minnesota was able to not only beat Wisconsin, but do so in Madison in their final game of the regular season to earn bowl eligibility. Head coach P.J. Fleck did an amazing job at navigating the numerous injuries the Golden Gophers were dealt throughout the year.
Georgia Tech will have plenty to play for in this game, as head coach Paul Johnson will be coaching his final game. The Yellow Jackets really got their triple-option attack going in the latter half of the season, winning four straight games before falling to Georgia. Georgia Tech had six players with at least 300 yards rushing this year, with quarterback TaQuon Marshall leading the way with 896 yards.
I know the Yellow Jackets will be motivated in this game, but I’m not sure that will be enough. If Minnesota is able to get a handle on the option and force the Yellow Jackets to throw, it could be a long day for Georgia Tech. Between running back Mohamed Ibrahim and wide receiver Tyler Johnson, the Golden Gophers have a little too much offense for the Yellow Jackets here.
Minnesota 28, Georgia Tech 24
Cheez-It Bowl: California (Pick) v. TCU - Wednesday 12/26 9:00 PM EST - ESPN
Ohio State broke TCU even worse than we thought. Following the loss to the Buckeyes, the Horned Frogs scored more than 20 points in just three of their final nine games, winning only one of those games. If this wasn’t bad enough, quarterback Shawn Robinson is transferring to Missouri, and running back Darius Anderson will miss the game due to injury.
If it was possible for TCU to score negative points in this game, they probably would against this stout Cal defense. Head coach Justin Wilcox has done a tremendous job at turning around the Golden Bears, molding them into one of the best defenses in the country. It might be like pulling teeth for Cal to find some points in this game, but I have more faith in them to put some points on the board than TCU.
California 21, TCU 13