Last week ATS: 3-5 (2-5 National, 1-0 B1G)
Bowl games ATS: 8-8 (7-8 National, 1-0 B1G)
Season ATS: 100-101-2 (49-50 National, 51-51-2 B1G)
Obviously the biggest disappointment of the most recent batch of games was the cancellation of the First Responders Bowl. Luckily there was a number of positives to offset the anger of only getting about 10 minutes of football in Dallas. Not only was MC&J just a point away from a perfect score in the Birmingham Bowl, but we had the correct read on both games featuring option teams. Army thrashed Houston while Minnesota shutdown Georgia Tech to lay the groundwork for another successful Big Ten bowl season.
After these three days of bowl games, we’ll have one more big bowl posting with the 11 games that are slated for Monday and Tuesday. If all goes well we’ll send out 2018 and ring in 2019 with plenty of winners.
Bowl games (12/27-12/29):
Independence Bowl: Temple (-3.5) v. Duke - Thursday 12/27 1:30 p.m. ET - ESPN
Temple and Duke couldn’t have had more different seasons if they tried. Temple started the season off with losses to Villanova and Buffalo before finding their feet and winning six of their final seven games. Duke opened up the season 4-0 but lost their way, finishing out the regular season losing to Clemson and Wake Forest by a combined score of 94-13.
This game is going to come down to the quarterbacks. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones has impressed enough over his career that there is talk that this could be his final game for the Blue Devils. On the other side, Anthony Russo settled some of the early trouble for the Owls, but still had suspect moments with the football, tossing 13 interceptions.
Backing Temple scares me in this matchup because I feel like not only can the Blue Devils cause some problems for Anthony Russo, but who knows where the Owls are at with head coach Geoff Collins having moved on to Georgia Tech. Daniel Jones has a big game as Duke makes it three straight bowl wins.
Duke 28, Temple 24
Pinstripe Bowl: Miami (-3) v. Wisconsin - Thursday 12/27 5:15 p.m. ET - ESPN
Instead of the Pinstripe Bowl, this year’s edition should be called the Disappointment Bowl. Miami and Wisconsin were both ranked in the top 10 to start the season, but fell way short of the expectations they had of returning to a New Year’s Six bowl game.
There’s no question that Miami has a dominant defense, allowing less than 270 yards per game. The problem for the Hurricanes is they haven’t been able to get much consistency on offense. The passing game has been non-existent for Miami, with both Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry both struggling at times this year.
The lone bright spot for the Badgers this year has been running back Jonathan Taylor, who is just 11 yards away from 2,000 yards for the season. The Badgers will be without quarterback Alex Hornibrook due to concussion symptoms, but Wisconsin has dealt with those issues for the latter half of the season.
The Badgers have a bit of a mental edge of the Hurricanes because of their win in the Orange Bowl last year. It also won’t hurt Wisconsin that Miami is going to have to head to The Bronx for what is likely to be a cold weather game. The Badgers will eventually grind the Miami defense down with Taylor and secure their fifth straight bowl win.
Wisconsin 24, Miami 17
Texas Bowl: Baylor v. Vanderbilt (-4) - Thursday 12/27 9 p.m. ET - ESPN
This is one of the bowl games this year that I’m least looking forward to watching. Neither of these teams does a whole lot for me. I guess since I have to choose a side in this game it’s going to be Vanderbilt because of the combination of quarterback Kyle Shurmur and running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Also, you can never go wrong with rooting against Baylor.
Vanderbilt 38, Baylor 28
Music City Bowl: Purdue v. Auburn (-3.5) - Friday 12/28 1:30 p.m. ET - ESPN
Purdue looked like they might be headed for bigger things earlier this year after decimating Ohio State, but the Boilermakers couldn’t build on the huge win, losing three of their last four games before beating Indiana in the final game of the regular season to earn bowl eligibility. Jeff Brohm and company must have to be wondering what could have been with five of their losses this year coming by a combined 21 points.
Auburn played some football this year. There isn’t much more you can say about the Tigers. Their defense was solid for the most part, but quarterback Jarrett Stidham didn’t get a ton of help on the offensive side of the football. Auburn scored more than 30 points in just four games this year, with two of those games coming against Alabama State and Liberty.
I feel like Purdue will have a little more to play for in this game, even though their regular season didn’t live up to expectations. The Boilermakers will be fired up by the news that Jeff Brohm spurned Louisville and will return to West Lafayette for at least another year. Auburn has lost four of their last five bowl games, and they had dreams of the College Football Playoff heading into the season. Quarterback David Blough and wide receiver Rondale Moore are a little too much for Auburn to handle.
Purdue 34, Auburn 27
Camping World Bowl: No. 16 West Virginia v. No. 20 Syracuse (-1.5) - Friday 12/28 5:15 p.m. ET - ESPN
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey will play while West Virginia will be without quarterback Will Grier, wide receiver Gary Jennings Jr., and All-Big 12 tackle Yodny Cajuste. That’s about all I need to know for this game. The Orange haven’t played in a bowl game since 2013. Dino Babers’ team has some fun against their former Big East foe.
Syracuse 37, West Virginia 24
Alamo Bowl: No. 24 Iowa State v. No. 13 Washington State (-3) - Friday 12/28 9 p.m. ET - ESPN
At first glance it might be easy to think that Washington State is going to pass all over Iowa State. When the bowl matchups first came out I liked the Cougars a lot, but the more I’ve looked into this game the more I’m liking Iowa State.
Washington State went on a great run, winning seven straight games after falling to USC earlier in the season. The Cougars came back down to earth a little bit in their final game on the regular season, losing yet another Apple Cup to rival Washington. Washington State was gashed on the ground by Myles Gaskin and the Huskies, and it could be a long night for Tracy Claeys’ defense if Iowa State running back David Montgomery is able to do the same.
What Matt Campbell has done in Ames in a short time is pretty remarkable. Quarterback Kyle Kempt was injured early in the season leading to Zeb Noland starting a handful of games before freshman Brock Purdy took hold of the job for good. Wide receiver Hakeem Butler became a favorite target of Purdy, registering four of his five 100-yard receiving games after Purdy took over as starting quarterback.
Something about Washington State and bowl games doesn’t mix well. The Cougars have lost three of four bowl games, including a 42-17 loss to Michigan State last year. Iowa State’s tough defense will have a plan to slow down quarterback Gardner Minshew and the Washington State offense just enough to earn the victory. Matt Campbell’s team raises expectations for next year with a solid win.
Iowa State 33, Washington State 30
Peach Bowl: No. 10 Florida v. No. 7 Michigan (-6.5) - Saturday 12/29 12 p.m. ET - ESPN
Remember when Ohio State hung 62 points on Michigan? The loss was so bad for the Wolverines that it ruined the will of a few players to play college football anymore. Rashan Gary, Karan Higdon, and Devin Bush all are skipping the Peach Bowl to focus on the NFL Draft.
The good news for Michigan is they are going from playing a team they can’t beat to a team they can. The Wolverines have not only won all three bowl games they’ve played against the Gators, but they also beat Florida 33-17 to open up the 2017 season.
I’m siding with Florida to at least cover this game because they at least give the slightest impression that they want to be here. Michigan had their season ruined by the Buckeyes and I don’t think they’ll be all that sharp in Atlanta.
Florida 24, Michigan 20
Belk Bowl: South Carolina (-5.5) v. Virginia - Saturday 12/29 12 p.m. ET - ABC
Really the most interesting thing about this game will be how many Belk puns can be crafted throughout the game. South Carolina having wide receiver Deebo Samuel for this game would have added a little intriguing, but Samuel will be sitting out this game to prepare for the NFL Draft.
With the Gamecocks missing Samuel and a couple of defensive starters, I’ll take the points in this game. South Carolina has been pretty bad against the run this year, which should allow Virginia running back Jordan Ellis to put up some big numbers. This game comes down to the wire, with Jake Bentley leading the Gamecocks to a field goal win.
South Carolina 31, Virginia 28
Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State (-1.5) v. Nevada - Saturday 12/29 1:15 p.m. ET - CBS Sports Network
Are you really going to pick against a team that has a starting quarterback named Justice? Honestly though, I don’t have much else is terms of analysis for a game we likely aren’t going to watch much of.
Arkansas State 38, Nevada 27
Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 3 Notre Dame v. No. 2 Clemson (-12.5) - Saturday 12/29 4 p.m. ET - ESPN
Getting through a college football regular season undefeated is extremely tough. Notre Dame is just one of four teams to accomplish that feat this year, so they deserve some credit for that. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, I feel like we’ve seen this script before. In 2012 Notre Dame finished the regular season 12-0 before getting housed by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
The biggest question for Clemson heading into this season was what they were going to do at quarterback. Kelly Bryant entered the season as the starter, but it was obvious pretty early that freshman Trevor Lawrence gave the Tigers a better shot to win it all. Clemson nearly lost to Syracuse after Lawrence left the game due to injury, but since then they have been dominant, winning each of their last eight games by at least 20 points.
Clemson was dealt a blow when defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence tested positive for a banned substance, but they have enough depth where I feel like they can recover from the loss. Notre Dame is just too fragile to side with in this game. The Fighting Irish has played some close games against bad teams and they definitely won’t be able to get away with play like that against Clemson. Running back Travis Etienne has a big game as the Tigers make their third College Football Playoff Championship Game in four years.
Clemson 41, Notre Dame 23
Orange Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma v. No. 1 Alabama (-14) - Saturday 12/29 8 p.m. ET - ESPN
What a treat we are in store for on Saturday night in Miami. We get Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray squaring off with runner-up Tua Tagovailoa. Both quarterbacks have had outstanding seasons, but Murray’s finish to the season gave him the leg up over Tagovailoa, who left the SEC Championship Game against Georgia with an ankle injury, in the voting.
Oklahoma has to be intrigued by what Georgia was able to do against the vaunted Alabama defense in Atlanta earlier this month. Murray has accounted for 51 touchdowns this year, but he’ll need wide receiver Marquise Brown healthy for the game. Brown is questionable for the game after injuring his ankle in the Big 12 Championship Game. If Brown isn’t able to play, it will put more pressure on CeeDee Lamb.
At least if Tagovailoa isn’t at full strength for Saturday’s game, the Crimson Tide do have the option of leaning on backup quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was impressive in the comeback victory over Georgia. No matter which quarterback gets the majority of the snaps, they’ll likely find plenty of success against an Oklahoma defense that has been pretty bad this season.
I think we get another edition of Clemson-Alabama in the title game, but Oklahoma certainly won’t make it easy for the Crimson Tide. In defenses that are polar opposites, I weirdly have a little more faith in Oklahoma to keep in somewhat close than Alabama to completely shutdown Murray and company. This won’t quite be like the Oklahoma-Georgia semifinal last year, but I think Oklahoma keeps this game within two touchdowns.
Alabama 44, Oklahoma 34