Bowls ATS: 6-3 (Miami (FL) +2 and Texas -10.5 pending)
Season ATS: 81-77-4 (58-53-2 National, 23-24-2 B1G)
12/30 - 12/31 bowl games:
Duke’s Mayo Bowl: Wake Forest v. Wisconsin (-7) - Wednesday 12/30 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
This is undoubtedly not the way Wisconsin was picturing their season going. When the Badgers opened the season with a drubbing of Illinois, it seemed inevitable that Wisconsin and Ohio State were going to meet in Indianapolis for the second straight season in the Big Ten Championship Game. Then COVID-19 struck the Badgers hard. Wisconsin would go on to destroy Michigan in their return to the field, but then the Badgers would lose three straight games, scoring just 19 points in that span.
Streaky. That’s how you could describe the 2020 Wake Forest season. The Demon Deacons lost their first two games, reeled off four straight wins, and then lost their final two games of the season. Even though Wake Forest averaged 37 points per game this year, Sam Hartman and company are going to have their work cut out for them against a tough Wisconsin defense. The Demon Deacons suffered a big loss before their regular season finale against Louisville when running back Kenneth Walker III opted out of the rest of the season. Wake Forest struggled to get much going on the ground, rushing for less than 130 yards in the 45-21 loss.
The good news for Graham Mertz is he won’t have to worry about Wake Forest defensive end Carlos “Boogie” Basham, who is skipping this game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Running back Jalen Berger finds some holes on the ground against a Wake Forest rush defense that is allowing 191 yards per game, which opens things up for Mertz through the air. Wisconsin plays their best game in a month and a half.
Wisconsin 27, Wake Forest 14
Cotton Bowl: No. 7 Florida (-2.5) v. No. 6 Oklahoma - Wednesday 12/30 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
After the way they started the season, who would have ever thought we would be praising Alex Grinch’s defense? Giving up 30 points or more in three of their first four contests, the Sooners allowed more than 20 points in just two of their last six games. Oklahoma will still have to deal with Kyle Trask in this contest, but Trask won’t have Kyle Pitts or Trevon Grimes at his disposal, as both are skipping this game to prepare for the NFL Draft.
While I’m sure Dan Mullen will do everything he can to get his team ready for this game, I just wonder how much Florida will want to be here. The Gators saw their season unravel against LSU with the toss of a shoe, and then they took Alabama to the limit in the SEC Championship Game before the Crimson Tide prevailed. If things go sideways early, will the Gators just pack it in? I could see it happening.
There feels like a little more motivation for Oklahoma in this one. The Sooners have been a different team since running back Rhamonde Stevenson has returned, taking some of the pressure off of quarterback Spencer Rattler. The freshman gunslinger has a big performance which kickstarts his 2021 hype train. Florida puts some points on the board, they just won’t have quite the same pop without Pitts and Grimes.
Oklahoma 37, Florida 30
Armed Forces Bowl: No. 24 Tulsa (-2.5) v. Mississippi State - Thursday 12/31 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
I feel bad for Tulsa here. The Golden Hurricanes have a great season, where they almost beat Cincinnati in the American Championship Game, and then they have to go and play some 3-7 team in their bowl game. At least Tulsa can end their season with a win over an SEC team, even if it is one of the lower rungs of the conference.
Even though Mississippi State finished their regular season with a 51-32 win over Missouri, the first chapter of the Mike Leach experience has been a joke. Who could’ve ever seen that coming? After beating LSU in the season opener, the Bulldogs scored just 30 points in their next four games. Mississippi State has found a little stability with Will Rogers at quarterback, but the Bulldogs are still a one-dimensional offense since they can’t run the football.
I don’t think Leach’s pass-happy offense will scare Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes have already beaten UCF and SMU, who both love to pass the football. The good news for Mississippi State is Tulsa will be without Zaven Collins. The bad news for the Bulldogs is that even without Collins, Tulsa is still going to win.
Tulsa 34, Mississippi State 23
Arizona Bowl: Ball State v. No. 23 San Jose State (-9.5) - Thursday 12/31 2:00 PM EST - CBS
Who would’ve ever thought the Arizona Bowl would have this type of intrigue? San Jose State is looking to cap off an undefeated season, while Ball State is looking to play spoiler for the second game in a row. The Cardinals defeated Buffalo last time out in the MAC Championship Game, and their only loss of the season was a 38-31 setback to Miami (OH) in their season opener.
If San Jose State is able to cap off their undefeated season, head coach Brent Brennan will equal the number of wins from his previous three seasons at the helm of the Spartans. Nick Starkel is powering San Jose State’s air attack, which is averaging over 300 yards passing per game. To compliment the offense, the Spartans haven’t allowed more than 24 points in a game this year.
Ball State has been to seven bowl games in school history, losing all of them. The streak won’t be broken this year. Taking the points here with Ball State is intriguing, but I just can’t pull the trigger on it. Starkel passes all over Ball State, while the defense of the Spartans gets enough stops to secure a double-digit win.
San Jose State 42, Ball State 27
Liberty Bowl: West Virginia (-7) v. Army - Thursday 12/31 4:00 PM EST - ESPN
You know what you are going to get when you face Army. The Black Knights are going to run the triple-option to hold onto the football, wear out opposing defenses, and eventually break some big runs. We could see a little extra pep out of Army in this game as well, as the Black Knights weren’t awarded a bowl bid. Army was asked to play in this game after Tennessee wasn’t able to play because of COVID issues.
After a 5-7 first season with the Mountaineers, you can tell Neal Brown is building something good in Morgantown. What was most impressive about West Virginia this year was their defense. The Mountaineers allowed less than 21 points per game and 300 yards per game this year, which is especially impressive considering they play in the Big 12. Their offense can put some points on the board too behind the combination of Jarrett Doege and running back Leddie Brown.
If this had been a normal bowl season with more time to prepare, I’d like West Virginia a little more to handle the triple-option. This obviously isn’t a normal year. Army is going to keep the West Virginia offense on the sidelines, slowly grinding away at the defense of the Mountaineers. I see West Virginia pulling out the victory here, I just don’t think they’ll get much separation on the Black Knights.
West Virginia 17, Army 14
Texas Bowl: Arkansas v. TCU (-4.5) - Thursday 12/31 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
Two teams that were headed in opposite directions as the regular season ended meet in Houston on Thursday night. TCU won five of their last six games after a 1-3 start, while Arkansas lost their final four games of the regular season. Sam Pittman did a tremendous job in his first season in Fayetteville just to win three games, but the Razorbacks look to have maxed out their talent this year.
As the year has gone on, TCU has seen the confidence of quarterback Max Duggan grow. Not only has Duggan thrown 10 touchdowns this year, he has also added 10 more scores on the ground. What makes the Horned Frogs so tough on offense is they have a number of players who have shown they can run the football, as TCU has four players with over 380 yards rushing this year, and are averaging 214 yards per game on the ground.
Even though Arkansas does have experience at quarterback with Florida transfer Feleipe Franks, the defense of the Horned Frogs is going to be a little too tough for Franks and company to crack. The Razorbacks have made progress this year, they just aren’t quite ready under Pittman to notch a bowl win, especially when they have to try and slow down a surging TCU squad.
TCU 35, Arkansas 21