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Liberty and Coastal Carolina tangle in the next set of bowl games

The Chanticleers look to cap off an undefeated season, plus picks for the five other games on the schedule between Christmas and Tuesday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 12 Coastal Carolina at Kansas Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bowls ATS: 3-2 (Hawai’i +13 pending)

Season ATS: 78-76-4 (55-52-2 National, 23-24-2 B1G)

Merry Christmas to all from MC&J! We put some winners under the tree for you in the next segment of bowl season.

12/25 - 12/29 bowl games:

Camellia Bowl: Marshall v. Buffalo (-4.5) - Friday 12/25 2:30 PM EST - ESPN

Marshall and Buffalo don’t have much time to feel sorry for themselves. Just last Friday both teams fell in their conference title games. The Thundering Herd is now riding a two-game losing streak, while the Bulls were handed their first loss of the season by Ball State. Buffalo will now be looking for their first-ever win over Marshall. The Thundering Herd hold a 8-0 edge in the series from their time together in the MAC, but the last meeting in the series came all the way back in 2004.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells has really struggled in last two games for the Thundering Herd. Wells has completed less than 50% of his passes, thrown five interceptions, and has only two touchdowns during Marshall’s losing streak. Things will get even tougher on Friday for Wells, as he won’t have running back Brenden Knox lining up in the backfield with him. Knox has opted out of this game, deciding to start preparing for the NFL Draft.

Unlike Marshall, Buffalo will have their stud running back in the lineup. The only thing that isn’t known is how much Jaret Patterson will play. Patterson was banged up in the loss to Ball State, so don’t expect the 1,000-yard rusher to see a full workload. Even with Patterson not at 100%, the Bulls do have a strong option to share the workload, as Kevin Marks rushed for 603 yards and six touchdowns this year.

Even though Buffalo lost to Ball State, they aren’t playing as bad as Marshall right now. The Bulls saw a field goal blocked, tossed an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and gave the football up on downs in Ball State territory on two occasions. I have more confidence in the Bulls bouncing back here than I do in Marshall avoiding their third straight loss.

Buffalo 31, Marshall 21

First Responder Bowl: No. 19 Louisiana (-14) v. UTSA - Saturday 12/26 3:30 PM EST - ABC

Louisiana has been one of this year’s Group of Five darlings after beating Iowa State to start the season. Even though the Ragin’ Cajuns have seen a lot of success this season, they have been dealing with a lot off the field since the last time they played. Louisiana was supposed to play Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Championship Game, only to see their chance at getting some revenge on the Chanticleers scrapped because of COVID issues. Also, head coach Billy Napier has been the target of some schools in the coaching carousel.

I don’t know a ton about UTSA aside from they finished the season strong. The Roadrunners won their last three games of the regular season, and their four losses this year all came to bowl teams. The star of the show for UTSA is running back Sincere McCormick, who rushed for 1,345 yards and 11 touchdowns this year.

Even though Louisiana will get most of the attention in this game, I expect UTSA to keep things competitive. While the Ragin’ Cajuns win this game to cap off their outstanding season, the Roadrunners stay within two touchdowns.

Louisiana 38, UTSA 27

LendingTree Bowl: Western Kentucky v. Georgia State (-3.5) - Saturday 12/26 3:30 PM EST - ESPN

There’s not a whole lot of intrigue in this matchup, but one name that will be familiar to Big Ten fans is Western Kentucky quarterback Tyrell Pigrome. The Maryland transfer has accounted for 12 touchdowns this year and thrown no interceptions. Pigrome is about the only bright spot for a Western Kentucky offense that is averaging less than 300 yards per game.

Even though Western Kentucky is just 5-6 this year, they come into this game hot, winning their last three games. While Georgia State has more to offer on offense, I see the stout Western Kentucky defense causing some problems for the Panthers, and forcing quarterback Cornelious Brown IV into some turnovers, which will shorten the field for Pigrome and company.

Western Kentucky 27, Georgia State 24

Cure Bowl: Liberty v. No. 12 Coastal Carolina (-7) - Saturday 12/26 7:30 PM EST - ESPN

Coastal Carolina has to be disappointed with where they’ll be spending the holidays for their bowl game. The Chanticleers finished the regular season undefeated behind quarterback Grayson McCall, who tossed 23 touchdowns. As if McCall wasn’t enough to prepare for, Coastal Carolina also has C.J. Marable. The running back rushed for 844 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Liberty will have no problem matching scores with Coastal Carolina. The Flames are led by quarterback Malik Willis, who tossed 20 touchdowns and added another 10 scores on the ground. The only time the Flames were held under 28 points this year came in the 15-14 loss to N.C. State. The loss was Liberty’s only setback of the season.

This game has the potential to be one of the most entertaining bowl games of the year. In a season that has been unpredictable, it makes sense for the latest twist to be Hugh Freeze’s team to be the one that hands Coastal Carolina their only blemish of the season. The Chanticleers have been playing with fire in their last two games, winning those games by a combined nine points. The Flames burn them here.

Liberty 38, Coastal Carolina 34

Cheez-It Bowl: No. 21 Oklahoma State (-2) v. No. 18 Miami (FL) - Tuesday 12/29 5:30 PM EST - ESPN

Luckily I don’t have to look very hard to find reasons to pick against Oklahoma State here. The Cowboys will be without running back Chuba Hubbard, who decided to opt out of the rest of the season. Even with wide receiver Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

Even though Miami finished the regular season with an ugly 62-26 loss to North Carolina, the Hurricanes still had a great season. D’Eriq King was a big reason for that, with the Houston transfer tossing 22 touchdowns. Statistically the defense of the Hurricanes might not look great, but a lot of that can be attributed to big numbers the Tar Heels and Clemson put up against Miami.

One of the best gifts this holiday season would be a sad Mike Gundy. After all the garbage we’ve seen from Gundy this year, he deserves to end 2020 as a loser. Miami has an athletic defense that will cause problems for Sanders. Miami is the better team and they’ll show it in this game.

Miami (FL) 34, Oklahoma State 27

Alamo Bowl: Colorado v. No. 20 Texas (-10.5) - Tuesday 12/29 9:00 PM EST - ESPN

It’s hard to believe that Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger still has a year of eligibility left. Ehlinger actually can return next year for another season, but he hasn’t yet decided on what 2021 will hold for him. Ehlinger has carried the Longhorns this year, throwing 25 touchdowns and rushing for another eight scores. Texas has to be wondering what could have been if their defense was a little more solid, as the Longhorns lost three games by eight points or less.

Karl Dorrell’s first season as Colorado’s head coach was certainly a wild ride. The Buffaloes won their first four games of the year before falling to Utah 38-21 in their regular season finale. Colorado was willing to play anyone they could, as evidenced by taking on San Diego State when on USC wasn’t able to play on Nov. 28. Jarek Broussard has been a monster in this shortened season, rushing for 813 yards in just five games.

All Tom Herman does is win bowl games. Even though the regular season never goes according to play for Herman’s teams, they do get up for bowl games. Herman is 4-0 as head coach in bowls, with three of those wins coming at Texas. The Longhorns played in the Alamo Bowl last year, so they’ll have some familiarity with playing down in San Antonio. Texas wins by at least two touchdowns.

Texas 37, Colorado 20