clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UCF-BYU headlines the first set of college football bowl games

Two of the top Group of Five teams meet on Tuesday night in the Boca Raton Bowl

BYU v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 5-6-2 (4-4-1 National, 1-2-1 B1G)

Season ATS: 75-74-4 (52-50-2 National, 23-24-3)

MC&J started really bad last week, posting a 0-3-1 record on Friday. Thankfully we were able to erase some of the losses on Saturday, capped off by hitting the exact score of the Cincinnati-Tulsa game.

Bowl season may be a bit of a mess this year (and I don’t even really think we need to play any bowl games besides the College Football Playoff games) but as long as they are going to play them, we’ll be here to try and pick some winners for the games.

12/21 - 12/24 bowl games:

Myrtle Beach Bowl: North Texas v. Appalachian State (-21) - Monday 12/21 2:30 PM EST - ESPN

It’s really odd that the bowl season is starting just two days after we saw conference championship games. I have a feeling that we are going to see a very unpredictable bowl season. That will start in Conway, South Carolina, where we saw one of the most entertaining games of the regular season between Coastal Carolina and BYU.

Appalachian State is obviously the better team. The Mountaineers have Zac Thomas, who has started 37 games in his career, at quarterback. Thomas has thrown 11 interceptions this year, but he’ll be going up against a North Texas defense that is pretty much non-existent. The Mean Green are allowing over 500 yards per game to opponents.

It’s a good thing that North Texas has an offense that can move the football. The Mean Green will take a hit for this bowl game, as wide receiver Jaelon Darden has opted out of this game. Darden hauled in a FBS-best 19 touchdowns this year. While North Texas will suffer some with the loss of Darden, this feels like a lot of points for the Mountaineers to be laying against a team that can put points on the board.

Appalachian State 48, North Texas 31

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Tulane (-3) v. Nevada - Tuesday 12/22 3:30 PM EST - ESPN

At first glance this line is a little puzzling to me. While Tulane has played three more games than Nevada this year, the Wolf Pack are a better team. Quarterback Carson Strong has thrown 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions this year. Strong should be in for another big day against a Tulane defense that has struggled against the pass at time this year.

To counter, Tulane will try and run the football and keep the ball out of Nevada’s hands. The Green Wave are rushing for nearly 220 yards per game on the ground this year. Even if Tulane can’t run the football, they can pass the ball a little. Freshman Michael Pratt has thrown for 18 touchdowns as a freshman.

I’m siding with Nevada in this game. Not only do I think the Wolf Pack are a better team, they also have familiarity with playing in Boise. Last year Nevada played in this same bowl, falling to Ohio. This is a close game throughout, with Nevada getting the win that they weren’t able to get last year.

Nevada 34, Tulane 31

Boca Raton Bowl: UCF v. No. 16 BYU (-7) - Tuesday 12/22 7:00 PM EST - ESPN

This is undoubtedly the most interesting bowl game of the first set that we’re taking a look at. BYU had designs on making a New Year’s Six bowl before they fell to Coastal Carolina, while UCF never misses an opportunity to tell people everything they have done for Group of 5 teams.

BYU has a bit of an edge because they have actually played in December, while UCF won’t have nearly as far to travel to get to this game. Both teams are averaging over 500 yards per game this year, but BYU definitely has the better defense. The thing is, the Cougars haven’t had to try and contain an offense that is anywhere near as explosive as UCF.

I’m a little leery of picking against BYU this year after thinking Boise State could handle the Cougars earlier this season, only to see BYU blow the doors off Boise. This is just a few too many points to pass up getting here, though. UCF is one of those teams that when they lose, it’s a close game. The three losses of the Knights this year have come by a combined 12 points. Even if UCF doesn’t win here, they lose by less than a touchdown.

BYU 44, UCF 41

New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana Tech v. Georgia Southern (-5.5) - Wednesday 12/23 3:00 PM EST - ESPN

All Louisiana Tech does is win bowl games. The Bulldogs have won six straight bowl games, and now will be looking to win their second New Orleans Bowl during that streak. Louisiana Tech beat Arkansas State 47-28 in 2015 in the Big Easy. Skip Holtz’s squad is coming off a 52-10 loss to TCU, but before that contest they had beaten North Texas and UAB in overtime.

It’s no secret what Georgia Southern is going to try and do in this game — run the football. The Eagles are averaging 262.5 yards per game on the ground, and shouldn’t have much of a problem moving the football against a Louisiana Tech defense that is allowing nearly 185 yards per game on the ground.

Had Louisiana Tech had more time to prepare for this game, I’d be more inclined to side with the Bulldogs here. Preparing for the triple-option on short notice is scary to think about, even more so when your defense is as leaky as Louisiana Tech’s. Georgia Southern goes into Louisiana and ends the bowl winning streak of the Bulldogs.

Georgia Southern 27, Louisiana Tech 17

Montgomery Bowl: Memphis (-8) v. Florida Atlantic - Wednesday 12/23 7:00 PM EST - ESPN

This isn’t Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic team. This is Willie Taggart’s Florida Atlantic team. That should tell you all you need to know. Sorry FAU, Devin Singletary and Harrison Bryant aren’t walking through that door for this game.

While Memphis might leave a lot to be desired on defense, their offense can put points up on the board against pretty much anybody. Brady White has thrown 28 touchdowns this year, with Calvin Austin III being the recipient of 10 of those touchdown passes. The Tigers scored at least 27 points in seven of their 10 games this year.

I don’t see Memphis having a big problem with FAU in this game. While the Owls might be able to put some points on the board, they just don’t have the horses to hang with White and the Tigers. Memphis pulls away in the second half.

Memphis 38, Florida Atlantic 20

New Mexico Bowl: Hawai’i v. Houston (-13) - Thursday 12/24 3:30 PM EST - ESPN

Nothing like the New Mexico Bowl being playing in Frisco, TX. Obviously with everything going on in the world, there are going to be some weird bowl situations. This is one of those changes that has become necessary because of the response to COVID-19 by the state of New Mexico. I usually refer to the New Mexico Bowl as the Breaking Bad Bowl, but I can’t even do that this year since the game isn’t in Albuquerque.

I see these two teams are pretty evenly matched, which is what makes this line a little odd. I guess it is because of the travel Hawai’i will have to do, as well Houston not having to leave the state for this game. It’s not like Hawai’i isn’t used to traveling, though.

Even though Houston has played the better schedule, it’s not like the Rainbow Warriors have been playing cupcakes. Hawai’i held their own in losses to San Jose State and Boise State, while beating Nevada in between those losses. Houston wins, but Dana Holgorsen teams usually find ways to make things a lot more difficult than they need to be.

Houston 38, Hawai’i 28