Championship weekend ATS: 5-5 (5-4 National, 0-1 B1G)
Season ATS: 102-89-4 (51-39-3 National, 51-50-1 B1G)
The close to the regular season wasn’t the greatest for MC&J, but we didn’t lose much off of the strong work we were able to do in the few weeks prior to the final two weeks. After a week off to recharge, we are back to jump into bowl season. To start we have picks for the 10 bowl games up through Christmas Eve, and we’ll be back a few more times over the holidays to give picks for the other 172 bowl games on the schedule. Hopefully plenty of winners are gifted to you during the holidays.
Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo (-6.5) v. Charlotte - Friday 12/20 2:00 PM EST - ESPN
Bowl season kicks off on Friday with the bowl that used to be sponsored by Popeye’s. If only the fast food chicken emporium still sponsored this bowl game and gave players sacks full of chicken sandwiches as their bowl swag. Teams would be lining up to play in this bowl game.
Even though Popeye’s doesn’t sponsor this game anymore, Buffalo has to already feel like a winner because they get to spend some time around Christmas in this tropical paradise instead of in Western New York. As someone who grew up near Buffalo, I know just how brutal it can be around there at this time of the year.
Anyway, onto the game. Buffalo comes into the Bahamas Bowl not only with two 1,000 yard rushers this year, but also a defense that is allowing less than 300 yards per game to opponents. Jaret Patterson has been a monster this year on the ground, rushing for 1,626 yards and 17 touchdowns. Charlotte put together a fine season to earn their first bowl bid, but they don’t have quite enough to slow down the Bulls in their quest for their first bowl win in school history.
Buffalo 33, Charlotte 20
Frisco Bowl: Utah State (-6.5) v. Kent State - Friday 12/20 7:30 PM EST - ESPN2
This game was thrown for a bit of a curveball when Utah State quarterback Jordan Love was one of three Aggies cited for marijuana possession, but it sounds like Love will play on Friday. This will be the last game at Utah State for Love who has already declared for the NFL Draft. Love struggled for much of the year, throwing just 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
A three-game winning streak to close out the regular season allowed Kent State to earn their first bowl bid since the 2012. Unlike Love, Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum was extremely safe with the football this season, throwing just two interceptions. Having said all that, I still think Utah State is the right pick in this game. Love will want to close out his Utah State career with a big game, which shouldn’t be hard to get against a Kent State defense that gave up 470 yards per game to opponents.
Utah State 38, Kent State 24
New Mexico Bowl: Central Michigan v. San Diego State (-3.5) - Saturday 12/21 2:00 PM EST - ESPN
San Diego State has played some really gross football this season, but it has been effective enough to get the Aztecs nine wins. Rocky Long’s team opened up the season with a 6-0 win over Weber State and the rest of the season has been just as bland for San Diego State. Even though we are making fun of the Aztecs, their defense is really good! No team has scored more than 22 points on the Aztecs this season.
I’m still mad at Central Michigan for ruining my MAC Championship Game pick. Miami (OH) has the feel of a low-rent San Diego State. If the Chippewas had trouble scoring against the RedHawks, it’s going to be even worse for Quinten Dormady and Jonathan Ward against San Diego State. The Aztecs snap a two-game losing streak in bowl games by stifling Central Michigan.
San Diego State 24, Central Michigan 13
Cure Bowl: Liberty v. Georgia Southern (-4) - Saturday 12/21 2:30 PM EST - CBS Sports Network
What if the Cure Bowl was just a bowl game that happened while The Cure played a concert at the same time in the stadium? You’d be full of it if you said you wouldn’t watch. Then again, if the Cure Bowl was a concert/bowl game mashup then it’s likely that Liberty would have declined the invitation, since they apparently claim to have some moral high ground they stand on despite hiring Hugh Freeze to coach their football team.
Georgia Southern had a tough start to the season, but they started to find themselves as the year went along, winning six of their last eight games. The Eagles can hang their hat on being only team to beat Appalachian State so far this year. It’s no secret what Georgia Southern wants to do, and that’s run the football. Shai Werts can throw the football if needed, but if the Eagles need him to do that then something has gone wrong in the game plan.
Just look at the teams Liberty has defeated this year aside from Buffalo. Maine, New Hampshire, UMass, New Mexico, and New Mexico State twice! Not exactly tough competition there. While I think Freeze has the Flames headed in the right direction, they’ll have to wait to get their first bowl win.
Georgia Southern 33, Liberty 23
Boca Raton Bowl: SMU (-3) v. Florida Atlantic - Saturday 12/21 3:30 PM EST - ABC
The most exciting first week bowl game could very well be the Boca Raton Bowl. The matchup lost a bit of its luster when Lane Kiffin left Florida Atlantic for the head coaching job at Ole Miss, but there should still be plenty of offense displayed on Saturday afternoon in South Florida.
SMU will be looking for just its second 11-win season in school history. Texas transfer Shane Buechele had a tremendous first season in Dallas, throwing for 33 touchdowns. The Mustangs can run the football too, as Xavier Jones racked up 1,249 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.
Florida Atlantic started off the season with losses to Ohio State and UCF, but the Owls got stronger as the year went on, winning 10 of their final 11 games on their way to their second Conference USA title in the last three years. After leaning on Devin Singletary last year, quarterback Chris Robison came into his own this year, throwing 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Harrison Bryant proved to be one of the top tight ends in the country, hauling in 65 catches for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns.
Even though this is a home game for the Owls, the Mustangs have just a little too much offense for Florida Atlantic to handle. The Owls will be juiced to get defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer a win as he is interim head coach for this game, but it will only take them so far. SMU earns their first bowl win since 2012.
SMU 45, Florida Atlantic 34
Camellia Bowl: Florida International v. Arkansas State (-2.5) - Saturday 12/21 5:30 PM EST - ESPN
SMU-Florida Atlantic might be Saturday’s most exciting bowl game, but don’t sleep on Florida International-Arkansas State. The Panthers beat Miami last month and were able to become bowl eligible with a thrilling overtime win over Marshall. Florida International quarterback James Morgan will be making the final start of his college career, and will be looking for a strong finish after dealing with a knee injury for much of the season.
After a tragic start to the season following the death of head coach Blake Anderson’s wife, Arkansas State closed the regular season strong, wining four of their last five games. Freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher put together a solid first season, throwing 23 touchdown passes. Omar Bayless is one to watch in this game after the wide receiver caught 84 passes for 1,473 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Arkansas State has the gaudier numbers, but I think Florida International is the more complete team. The Panthers have a little more defense, which I think will at least slow down Hatcher just enough to allow Florida International to win their second straight bowl game.
Florida International 34, Arkansas State 31
Las Vegas Bowl: No. 19 Boise State v. Washington (-3.5) - Saturday 12/21 7:30 PM EST - ABC
One of the most interesting storylines of bowl season is Washington head coach Chris Petersen coaching his final game against his former team. Earlier this month Petersen announced he was stepping down as Washington head coach, clearing the way for defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake to take the reigns of the program.
Boise State will be happy to play a full bowl game this year after last year the Broncos saw their bowl game against Boston College ruled a no contest because of severe weather in the area. The Broncos probably feel like they should be playing in a bigger bowl after they were ranked just behind Memphis for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six spot.
If the news hadn’t come down that Petersen was stepping down after this game, I’d like Boise State here, but the Huskies are going to want to send their head coach out a winner. Despite their 7-5 record, The Huskies sport a nasty defense that should make life tough for Boise State quarterback Jaylon Henderson and snap Washington’s three-game bowl losing skid.
Washington 31, Boise State 21
New Orleans Bowl: No. 20 Appalachian State (-16.5) v. UAB - Saturday 12/21 9:00 PM EST - ESPN
Appalachian State is looking to close out their best season as a FBS member with a win in the New Orleans Bowl. The Mountaineers lost just one game this year, and took home the Sun Belt Championship for the second year in a row. If Appalachian State wants to run their record to 5-0 in bowl games they’ll have to do so without head coach Eli Drinkwitz, who took the same position at Missouri earlier this month.
UAB enters this game coming off getting trucked by Florida Atlantic in the Conference USA title game. The Blazers are rather limited on offense, having found most of their success this season on the strength of their defense. Even with what Florida Atlantic was able to do, UAB still gave up less than 300 yards per game to opponents.
It’s always scary laying this many points in a bowl game, but Appalachian State is that good. The Mountaineers are tested, having beat both North Carolina and South Carolina earlier this year. Even though UAB has a tough defense, I think Appalachian State eventually wears them down, since I can’t see the Blazers putting much together on offense. It could be close early, but the Mountaineers pull away in the second half behind quarterback Zac Thomas and running back Darrynton Evans.
Appalachian State 41, UAB 17
Gasparilla Bowl: UCF (-17.5) v. Marshall - Monday 12/23 2:30 PM EST - ESPN
After playing in the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl the last two years, this bowl is a far cry from recent years for UCF. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel did an admirable job stepping in for McKenzie Milton, who is still recovering from the horrific leg injury he suffered last year against USF. Gabriel threw 27 touchdowns and led an offense that racked up over 500 yards per game.
Marshall isn’t going to put up the numbers that UCF does, but the Thundering Herd shouldn’t be taken lightly. Isaiah Green is experienced at quarterback, while running back Brenden Knox rushed for over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. Marshall has not only won seven straight bowl games, but they won the Gasparilla Bowl last season. Follow the trends and take the plethora of points you are being given with Marshall here.
UCF 38, Marshall 31
Hawai’i Bowl: Hawai’i v. BYU (-2) - Tuesday 12/24 PM 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
There’s nothing quite like gathering around on Christmas Eve with the family to watch the Hawai’i Bowl. Last year we were deprived of this tradition when the game fell on December 22nd. The Warriors come in after getting trounced by Boise State in the Mountain West Championship Game, but Cole McDonald is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the country.
After Zach Wilson had a breakout performance in last year’s Idaho Potato Bowl, the BYU quarterback hasn’t quite lived up to expectations this year, as he has been dealing with injuries. With some extra time to recover before the bowl game, I expect to see a better version of Wilson than we have seen when he has been on the field this year.
Turnovers are going to be the difference in this game. Hawai’i commits a lot of them and BYU forces a lot of them. The Warriors may have more offensive firepower, but it won’t mean much if they can’t keep the football out of the hands of the Cougars. Even though Hawai’i will have home field advantage, I think BYU is a little better team in this one. Merry Christmas!
BYU 30, Hawai’i 23