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Iowa and Michigan State kickoff the Big Ten’s bowl involvement on Friday

The Hawkeyes battle USC in the Holiday Bowl, while Michigan State takes on Wake Forest in the Pinstripe Bowl. Plus, picks for the five other game taking place in the two days after Christmas.

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Bowls ATS: 3-7 (3-7 National, 0-0 B1G)

Season ATS: 105-96-4 (54-46-3 National, 51-50-1 B1G)

Not the best start to bowl season for MC&J, but there are still plenty of bowl games left to get back on the good side of .500. Appalachian State, Marshall, and BYU had chances to cover but fell just short. If those three had hit, MC&J’s early bowl season record would be looking a lot different, but all we can do is learn from those games and look for some more winners in the games we have left.

Bowl games 12/26 - 12/27:

Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech v. Miami (FL) (-6) - Thursday 12/26 4:00 PM EST - ESPN

I wonder if Tate Martell asked Santa Claus for some playing time for Christmas. As long as Martell doesn’t leave the team before kickoff, it’s possible he could see some time on the field so Manny Diaz can get a better idea of what he has with the Ohio State transfer quarterback.

I just don’t see where the motivation for the Hurricanes is going to come from for this game. A number of Miami players, including wide receiver Jeff Thomas, have announced they are skipping this game to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Hurricanes will also be without running back DeeJay Dallas, who suffered an elbow injury in the loss to FIU.

While Miami seemingly has nothing to play for, Louisiana Tech has everything to play for. The Bulldogs will be playing about an hour away from campus, so they’ll definitely have a home-field advantage. Louisiana Tech will also be looking to extend their winning streak in bowl games to six straight, while the Hurricanes have lost eight of nine bowl games. I’m not exactly sure why Miami is a favorite here.

Louisiana Tech 34, Miami (FL) 24

Quick Lane Bowl: Pittsburgh (-11.5) v. Eastern Michigan - Thursday 12/26 8:00 PM EST - ESPN

For as much as we make fun of Pitt, the Panthers were on the verge of a really solid season, posting a 7-3 record before losing to Virginia Tech and Boston College to close out the regular season. Pitt has found success with a stout defense that is allowing just over 300 yards per game to opponents. Quarterback Kenny Pickett had a weird season stat-wise, attempting 430 passes, racking up 2,787 yards passing, but just 10 touchdown passes.

Eastern Michigan continues to surprise. The Eagles have beaten a Big Ten team in each of the last three seasons, and earned bowl eligibility in the last two seasons. Quarterback Mike Glass III loves to throw the football, and plenty of receivers to toss the football to, with seven receivers registering at least 20 catches this season.

Pitt is the better team, but Eastern Michigan will probably have more motivation in this game, with Ypsilanti being just over half an hour from Ford Field. Ask yourself if you are comfortable backing Pitt laying double digits in a bowl game? I know I’m not. Eastern Michigan should do enough to keep this game within 10 points.

Pittsburgh 30, Eastern Michigan 27

Military Bowl: North Carolina (-4.5) v. Temple - Friday 12/27 12:00 PM EST - ESPN

I keep forgetting that Mack Brown is the head coach of North Carolina again. The first year of Brown’s second stint had some mixed results. While the Tar Heels won their final two games to become bowl eligible, North Carolina could have had a few more wins, with all six of their losses coming back seven points or less. Quarterback Sam Howell had a stellar freshman year, throwing 35 touchdowns.

Temple is on their third coach in the last four seasons, but it hasn’t slowed the Owls down. In Rod Carey’s first season, the Owls went 8-4 with their most impressive win coming against Memphis. Temple quarterback Anthony Russo provides veteran leadership, but he can be sloppy at times with the football, throwing 11 interceptions this year.

It’s tempting to think about taking Temple here, but I think the extra practices will do wonders for Howell and the Tar Heels. North Carolina closed out their regular season with an impressive win over N.C. State, and I think the Tar Heels build off that performance and set the tone for 2020. Temple loses to a team from North Carolina in a bowl game for the third time in four years.

North Carolina 38, Temple 27

Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State (-4) v. Wake Forest - Friday 12/27 3:20 PM EST - ESPN

The season can’t end soon enough for Michigan State. The Spartans not only have had to deal with a rash of injuries, but they suffered a big setback in the middle of the season when linebacker Joe Bachie was suspended because of a failed drug test. Michigan State needed a 19-16 win in the regular season finale against Maryland to earn a trip to the Bronx for the Pinstripe Bowl.

Wake Forest is just as eager for the season to end, having lost three of their last four games to close out the regular season. Wide receiver Sage Surratt has been lost for the rest of the season due to injury, and the status of quarterback Jamie Newman is unclear after Newman was injured against Syracuse. If Newman can’t play, Sam Hartman will take the snaps for the Demon Deacons.

This game isn’t going to be pretty, but that feels like the type of game Michigan State likes. Quarterback Brian Lewerke will be looking to go out a winner in his final game for the Spartans. Even without Bachie, the Michigan State defense gives the Spartans the edge in this game, while Lewerke is steady enough to lead his team to victory.

Michigan State 24, Wake Forest 14

Texas Bowl: No. 25 Oklahoma State v. Texas A&M (-6.5) - Friday 12/27 6:45 PM EST - ESPN

This year’s bowl slate brings us a matchup of former conference foes. Oklahoma State and Texas A&M used to be be members of the Big 12, but haven’t met since the Aggies bolted to the SEC following the 2011 season. Texas A&M leads the series 17-10, but Oklahoma State has won the last four meetings between the schools.

These two teams didn’t exactly close the regular season like they were hoping they would. Oklahoma State missed out on throwing a wrench into Oklahoma’s playoff hopes, falling to the Sooners in Bedlam. Texas A&M fell to Georgia and LSU in their final two regular season games to finish the regular season with just a 7-5 record.

Motivation could be lacking for Texas A&M, who are coming off their second consecutive subpar season under Jimbo Fisher. While the Aggies destroyed N.C. State last season in their bowl game, Oklahoma State will provide a tougher challenge. I could see Texas A&M already having packed it in this season after the struggles they had against better competition.

Texas A&M will have their hands full trying to slow down running back Chuba Hubbard, who is less than 100 yards away from reaching 2,000 rushing yards this season. This feels like too many points to be giving up to an Oklahoma State team that can put points on the scoreboard with ease.

Oklahoma State 38, Texas A&M 34

Holiday Bowl: No. 22 USC v. No. 16 Iowa (-2) - Friday 12/27 8:00 PM EST - FS1

The last time USC and Iowa played, Carson Palmer was dicing up the Hawkeyes in the 2003 Orange Bowl. Both teams ended up finishing the season with a 11-2 record, but it was just the beginning of USC’s college football dominance, while Iowa has won 11 games in a season just two times since.

USC enters Friday night’s game having cleared up their head coaching future for at least another season. The Trojans decided they were happy with Clay Helton at head coach at least through 2020. Even though Helton probably isn’t the right guy for the job, at least he does have a talented freshman quarterback to work with. Kedon Slovis finished the regular season with 28 touchdowns. Michael Pittman Jr. was the favorite target of USC quarterbacks this season, as the son of the former NFL running back hauled in 95 catches for 1,222 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Iowa doesn’t have anywhere close to the questions at head coach, as we know Kirk Ferentz is going to be in Iowa City as long as he wants to be. The Hawkeyes will be emotional though because of the passing of a former head coach recently, as Hayden Fry passed away on December 17th. Fry coached the Hawkeyes to two wins and a tie in the Holiday Bowl.

Iowa doesn’t have the offensive firepower of USC, but the Hawkeyes have one of the better secondaries the Trojans have seen all year. Defensive end A.J. Epenesa creates pressure of Slovis, which leads to a few turnovers and a hard-fought Iowa victory.

Iowa 27, USC 21

Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force (-3) v. Washington State - Friday 12/27 10:15 PM EST - ESPN

Last year’s Cheez-It Bowl was legendary, as TCU beat Cal 10-7 in overtime. This year should be even better, as we have Mike Leach’s air-raid offense against Air Force’s triple-option attack. The contrast is amazing, with Air Force averaging nearly 300 yards rushing per game, while Washington State is averaging 444 yards passing per game.

It’s going to be tough for Air Force to slow down Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon, but they have a very effective way to do so. Keep Gordon and the Washington State offense off the field. Air Force should be able to wear down the Washington State defense and eat up a bunch of clock with their rushing attack. I think the Cougars have packed it in after a disappointing 6-6 season, while Air Force will be trying to reach 11 wins for just the third time in school history.

Air Force 34, Washington State 30