12/17-12/20 bowl games ATS: 4-5
Season ATS: 112-88-5 (56-51-2 National, 56-37-3 B1G)
It was an up-and-down start to the bowl season for MC&J. While we nailed Utah State beating Oregon State, and a couple other games, we missed big on Toledo, Appalachian State, and BYU. With plenty of bowl games still on the schedule, at least we didn’t dig ourselves an early hole.
Bowl games 12/21 - 12/27:
(All lines courtesy of DraftKings sportsbook.)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Kent State v. Wyoming (-3.5) - Tuesday 12/21 3:30 PM EST - ESPN
Both of these teams are really hard to get a read on. I was high on Kent State heading into the MAC Championship Game, and then Northern Illinois ran all over the Golden Flashes on their way to a 41-23 win. Kent State has one of the most explosive offenses in the country, averaging 480 yards per game, but they also have one of the worst defenses in the country.
Wyoming actually beat Northern Illinois 50-43 in their second game of the season, and the following week beat another MAC team, destroying Ball State 45-12. While the Cowboys started the season 4-0, they then dropped their next four games before alternating wins and losses in their final four games of the regular season.
Even though Kent State has been awful on defense, Wyoming doesn’t have a great offense. I do like the ability quarterback Dustin Crum has to make plays with both his arm and his legs for the Golden Flashes. Even though Northern Illinois showed exactly how to beat Kent State, I don’t know if the Cowboys can execute quite like the Huskies could.
Kent State 37, Wyoming 30
Frisco Bowl: UTSA v. No. 24 San Diego State (-3) - Tuesday 12/21 7:30 PM EST - ESPN
After losing to North Texas in their regular season finale to end their dreams of a perfect season, I was expected to get a lackluster effort from the Roadrunners in the Conference USA Championship Game. That wasn’t the case, as Sincere McCormick ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns in the 49-41 win over Western Kentucky. Unfortunately for UTSA they won’t have McCormick in this game, as he has announced he is sitting out to prepare for the NFL Draft.
After taking on one of the best offenses in the country in Western Kentucky, UTSA will now battle San Diego State, who has one of the best defenses in the nation. The Roadrunners at least have a little hope of moving the football after seeing what Utah State was able to do in their 46-13 win over the Aztecs in the Mountain West Championship Game. San Diego State is a very solid team, they are just very bland. The most notable player for Brady Hoke’s team is punter Matt Araiza.
Even though UTSA won’t have McCormick in the backfield, they still will have Frank Harris taking snaps. The Roadrunners should have at least a healthy contingent of fans with Frisco being about five hours away from San Antonio. This feels like a game that isn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter, so I’ll take the team with a little more juice on offense.
UTSA 28, San Diego State 24
Armed Forces Bowl: Missouri v. Army (-3.5) - Wednesday 12/22 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
Not only is Army playing in the Armed Forces Bowl, they are matched up against one of the worst rush defenses in the country. It feels like pretty much everything is falling into place for the Black Knights. Also, Jeff Monken’s team is going to come in angry after falling to Navy a couple weeks ago.
Missouri’s only hope in this game is to hope that Tyler Badie goes off. The running back piled up 1,604 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground this year. Unfortunately for Badie, Army is strong against the run. The Black Knights have been good in bowl games under Jeff Monken, winning three of their four appearances. Army gets their first win against a Power 5 team since 2016.
Army 34, Missouri 27
Frisco Football Classic: North Texas v. Miami (OH) (-2.5) - Thursday 12/23 3:30 PM EST - ESPN
Both teams finished the regular season on hot streaks. North Texas won their last five games, with the last being the upset of UTSA. Miami won four of their last six games, with the two losses coming by a combined three points. The Mean Green love to run the football with DeAnde Torrey, who rushed for 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns. Meanwhile the RedHawks will have Brett Gabbert slinging the rock.
North Texas should be very comfortable in this game since it is being played just over 20 miles from Denton. Even though the Mean Green have been to four bowl games under Seth Littrell, they have yet to win one. That changes this year, as North Texas ends their season with their sixth straight win.
North Texas 31, Miami (OH) 28
Gasparilla Bowl: UCF v. Florida (-6.5) - Thursday 12/23 7:00 PM EST - ESPN
UCF and Florida both had higher hopes heading into the season. The Gators nearly beat Alabama before dropping three straight games in the middle of the season and canning head coach Dan Mullen. Florida will have interim head coach Greg Knox leading the team before Louisiana’s Billy Napier takes over. The Gators won’t have Emory Jones in this game, as the quarterback announced he is entering the transfer portal.
UCF’s season took a hit when they lost quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Mikey Keene was solid replacing Dillion, tossing 16 touchdowns this year. I just feel there is going to be more motivation for the Golden Knights in this game, since they have been itching to play Florida, and the two teams are scheduled to play three times between 2024 and 2033. The Gators somehow pull out a victory for Knox, they just don’t do it by at least a touchdown.
Florida 27, UCF 24
Hawai’i Bowl: Memphis (-8.5) v. Hawai’i - Friday 12/24 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
The Hawai’i Bowl used to be played at Aloha Stadium, but after it was closed last year, this year’s game will be held at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, which has a capacity of 9,000. Too bad the Miami Hurricanes weren’t playing in this game, or they would think 9,000 would be a lot of fans to be at a game.
Jokes aside, Hawai’i won the last Hawai’i Bowl played, beating BYU 38-34 in 2019. This game is going to be really strange for the Rainbow Warriors since quarterback Chevan Cordeiro has transferred to San Jose State, and leading rusher Dae Dae Hunter is on his way to Liberty. Backup quarterback Brayden Schager has seen some time behind center, throwing two touchdowns and five interceptions this year.
Memphis doesn’t exactly have the best bowl history, winning just two of their last nine bowl games since 2007. At least the Tigers did beat Florida Atlantic last year in the Montgomery Bowl for one of those wins. I know sometimes teams playing in the Hawai’i Bowl enjoy the vacation more than the bowl game and it shows in their performance. I don’t think that will be the case for Memphis, as they take care of business against a short-handed Hawai’i team.
Memphis 38, Hawai’i 24
Cameilla Bowl: Georgia State (-4.5) v. Ball State - Saturday 12/25 2:30 PM EST - ESPN
Merry Christmas! My gift you aside from these picks is not trying to pretend I know much of anything about either team. Just give me Georgia State since they have won six of their last seven and feel like they could wear Ball State down with an offense that averages 222 yards per game on the ground.
Georgia State 31, Ball State 21
Quick Lane Bowl: Western Michigan (-6) v. Nevada - Monday 12/27 11:00 AM EST - ESPN
It feels pretty cruel to make Nevada travel east to play in a game that is at 8 AM PST against a team that is located just about two hours west of Detroit. As if that wasn’t tough enough, Nevada head coach Jay Norvell has taken the Colorado State head coaching job, and quarterback Carson Strong won’t play in this game.
The Nevada defense was the best in the country at forcing turnovers year, so they aren’t completely out of the game. The problem is, they’ll have their hands full with Western Michigan quarterback Kaleb Eleby and running back Sean Tyler. Even if the Wolfpack are able to force the Broncos into mistakes, I’m just not confident the offense will be able to do anything with the football on a consistent basis.
Western Michigan 33, Nevada 21
Military Bowl: Boston College (-3) v. East Carolina - Monday 12/27 2:30 PM EST - ESPN
East Carolina’s five losses this year came to Appalachian State, South Carolina, UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati, all of whom made a bowl game this year. With their first winning season and bowl game since 2014, there is a reason for excitement around the football program of the Pirates.
Unfortunately they are going to be going up against a Boston College team that is trying to set the tone for next year’s squad. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec was injured in early September against UMass and didn’t return until the first weekend in November. Even though Jurkovec was back, it was obvious the offense was a little out of sync, which is a problem the practices leading up to the bowl game should fix.
Why not spend a Monday afternoon following Christmas rooting for former Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Hafley? This feels like it could be the first of many bowl wins in a bright coaching career for Hafley. This game ends up being a better game than many were expecting, with Boston College getting just enough separation in the second half to cover.
Boston College 30, East Carolina 23