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MC&J: The next set of bowl games will see the Big Ten finally get in the mix

Wisconsin will be the first of nine Big Ten teams to play in a bowl game this year when they take the field on Tuesday.

Maryland v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Season ATS: 102-111-5 (54-61-2 National, 48-49-3 B1G)

Bowls ATS: 6-6

With the weather outside getting frightful the next few days, it’s a perfect time to stay inside and watch the few bowl games before Christmas, as well as prep for the busy schedule we have on tap for after the holiday.

Hopefully my gift to you will be a bunch of winners over the next week!

Bowl games: 12/22 - 12/28

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)

Armed Forces Bowl: Baylor (-4) v. Air Force - Thursday 12/22 7:30 p.m. - ESPN

Are you really going to pick against Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl? The Falcons have been really good of late in bowl games under Troy Calhoun, winning four of their last five bowl appearances. Led by Brad Roberts, who has rushed for over 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns this year, Air Force is averaging 330 yards per game this year.

Not only are the Falcons the best rushing team in the country, they also have a very stingy defense, allowing just 13 points per game. Baylor finished the regular season with three straight losses, while Air Force won their last four games of the season. The Falcons win their fourth straight bowl game as they use their rushing attack to control the clock and wear down the Bears.

Air Force 24, Baylor 17

Independence Bowl: Louisiana v. Houston (-7) - Friday 12/23 3:00 p.m. - ESPN

Since joining the FBS, Louisiana has been strong in bowl games, winning seven of nine bowl appearances since 2011. After Billy Napier left after last season to take the head coaching job at Florida, the Ragin’ Cajuns needed a win over Texas State in the final game of the regular season to become bowl eligible.

Houston had one of the best offenses in the country this year. The Cougars also had one of the worst defenses in the country this season. Louisiana got some bad news when Houston wide receiver Nathaniel Dell announced he would be playing in this game despite declaring for the NFL Draft. Dell hauled in 103 passes for 1,354 yards and 15 touchdowns this year.

Houston v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

The Ragin’ Cajuns lost to Florida State 49-17 last month. If Louisiana couldn’t slow down the Seminoles, it’s hard to see them keeping Clayton Tune, Dell, and the rest of the Houston offense from putting a bunch of points on the scoreboard. Even though the Cougars have a suspect defense, Louisiana doesn’t have the tools on offense to keep pace.

Houston 45, Louisiana 28

Gasparilla Bowl: Wake Forest (-1) v. Missouri - Friday 12/23 6:30 p.m. - ESPN

Missouri and head coach Eliah Drinkwitz were too cowardly to play neighbor Kansas in the Liberty Bowl, so now they head to Tampa to play Wake Forest. I’m sure Drinkwitz will say his team will play anybody at any time, but we know that’s not the truth. This is the same guy who was crying a couple years ago because Missouri had to play Boston College.

Obviously I don’t have much respect for Drinkwitz and Missouri. I’m hoping Sam Hartman passes all over the Tigers. Top receiver A.T. Perry is 20 yards away from 1,000 yards for the season. The Tigers don’t have the weapons on offense to keep up with Hartman and Perry. The Demon Deacons extend Missouri’s bowl losing streak to four games.

Wake Forest 35, Missouri 23

Hawai’i Bowl: Middle Tennessee v. San Diego State (-7) - Saturday 12/24 8:00 p.m. - ESPN

Unlike some years, the Hawai’i Bowl isn’t the only show in town on Christmas Eve, as the NFL also has a game on Saturday night. Still, if you want to feel warm as a winter storm rolls across the country late this week, just turn on ESPN on Saturday night. The shots of scenery around Hawai’i should help you forget about the nasty weather outside.

San Diego State was able to find some success when they turned to Mississippi State transfer Jalen Mayden at quarterback, winning five of their last seven games. The only losses during that stretch came to Fresno State and Air Force. Brady Hoke’s team also tightened up on defense in the last seven games, only allowing more than 14 points twice.

Middle Tennessee did record one of the biggest wins in school history when they won at Miami earlier in the year. That win did lose a bit of luster though when we saw how bad Miami ended up being. It also didn’t help that the Blue Raiders lost four of five games following the win over the Hurricanes. Even though Chase Cunningham is a nice quarterback, Middle Tennessee’s defense is pretty bad. San Diego State’s defense slows down Cunningham and the Aztecs win their third straight bowl game.

San Diego State 31, Middle Tennessee State 17

Quick Lane Bowl: New Mexico State v. Bowling Green (-4) - Monday 12/26 2:30 p.m. - ESPN

Can they play this game on Monday at 2:30 in the morning instead? This might be the grossest bowl game of the year. New Mexico State got here because of wins over powerhouses like Valparaiso, Lamar, and UMass. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they have human beaver Jerry Kill as their head coach.

Even though Bowling Green is awful on defense, it’s not like New Mexico State can light up the scoreboard. I have a little more faith that the Falcons will be able to move the football with quarterback Matt McDonald. Plus, Bowling Green likely will have a bit of a home field advantage since it’s not a long drive to Detroit.

Bowling Green 30, New Mexico State 20

Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern (-3.5) v. Buffalo - Tuesday 12/27 12:00 p.m. - ESPN

Even though this bowl game might not have the most attractive teams, it certainly has a great storyline. Former Buffalo quarterback Kyle Vantrease transferred to Georgia Southern after last season. After throwing just over 600 passes during his time with the Bulls, Vantrease has attempted 559 passes this year, throwing 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Being from Western New York, would I love to see the Bulls win their third straight bowl game? Of course I would. I just don’t see it happening. Even though Vantrease gets most of the attention, Georgia Southern running back Jalen White is less than a hundred yards away from 1,000 for the season. While the Eagles aren’t great on defense, Buffalo doesn’t have the horses to keep up with a motivated Vantrease and company.

Georgia Southern 41, Buffalo 31

First Responder Bowl: Utah State v. Memphis (-7) - Tuesday 12/27 3:15 p.m. - ESPN

I love the city of Memphis. I’ve spent a couple Christmases down there with family, went to a Tigers game when they played at The Pyramid, and even did Christmas Day brunch at The Peabody. Something just hasn’t felt right about this team since Mike Norvell left for Florida State. The Tigers have gone 6-6 the last two years. Prior to that, the last team Memphis didn’t win at least eight games in a season was 2013.

After winning 11 games and beating Oregon State in the LA Bowl in Blake Anderson’s first season in Logan, the Aggies had a bit of a tough season. One positive for Utah State is they rebounded from a 1-4 start and won five of their last seven games. The Aggies did lose quarterback Logan Bonner early in the season to injury, forcing running back Calvin Tyler Jr. to take on more of the load on offense. I feel like Utah State is good enough on both sides of the football to pull the upset here.

Utah State 27, Memphis 24

Birmingham Bowl: Coastal Carolina v. East Carolina (-8) - Tuesday 12/27 6:45 p.m. - ESPN

Coastal Carolina will be without head coach Jamey Chadwell, who took the Liberty job, but the Chanticleers will have quarterback Grayson McCall. Even though McCall has already announced he is entering the transfer portal, he will play in this game. McCall missed two games late in the year before returning for the Sun Belt Championship Game loss to Troy.

East Carolina v Navy Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Are we really sure McCall is the best quarterback in this game? Don’t sleep on East Carolina’s Holton Ahlers, who threw for 3,400 yards and 23 touchdowns this year. Not only do the Pirates have Ahlers, running back Keaton Mitchell is also really good. I think the duo will be a little too much for Coastal Carolina to handle, especially if McCall is thinking about where his next stop might be.

East Carolina 42, Coastal Carolina 27

Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Wisconsin (-3.5) v. Oklahoma State - Tuesday 12/27 10:15 p.m. - ESPN

Both Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz and Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders have announced they are entering the transfer portal, which means this is the Backup Quarterback Bowl. The Cowboys really struggled when Sanders was injured this year, while Wisconsin can at least lean on running back Braelon Allen and their defense. The Badgers send interim head coach Jim Leonhard out as a winner.

Wisconsin 23, Oklahoma State 14

Military Bowl: UCF v. Duke (-3.5) - Wednesday 12/28 2:00 p.m. - ESPN

This should be a fun quarterback battle on Wednesday afternoon. UCF signal caller John Rhys Plumlee and Duke’s Riley Leonard both lead their teams in passing and rushing. Gus Malzahn has won nine games in both of his seasons at the school, and a 10th win would be the fourth for UCF in the last six years.

Duke isn’t quite as explosive as UCF, but they play a little smarter than the Knights. I know, it’s shocking that a Duke team is smart. Even though Mike Elko has done a tremendous job in his first year in Durham to get the Blue Devils to eight wins, I don’t see them beating UCF here. Plumlee was banged up late in the year, so the time off has given him some time to recover. The Knights outduel the Blue Devils in this one.

UCF 38, Duke 34

Liberty Bowl: Kansas v. Arkansas (-2.5) - Wednesday 12/28 5:30 p.m. - ESPN

For Kansas, a 6-6 season really feels like 10-2. Really though, we didn’t get to see the true Kansas team down the stretch since quarterback Jalon Daniels was injured in early October. While Daniels did return for the last two games of the year, the Jayhawks faced some stiff competition from Texas and Kansas State, which wasn’t exactly the best environment to work Daniels back into the lineup.

For Arkansas, this 6-6 season probably felt like 2-10, especially with how they started the season. The Razorbacks lost three of their last four games of the regular season, but all those losses were by three points or less. Quarterback KJ Jefferson has already announced he is returning next year, so I expect a big performance from him and running back Raheim Sanders against a Kansas defense that allowed nearly 200 yards per game on the ground.

Arkansas 35, Kansas 24

Holiday Bowl: No. 15 Oregon (-14.5) v. North Carolina - Wednesday 12/28 8:00 p.m. - FOX

For a bit this was looking like it could both teams could appear in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Then Oregon lost two of their last three games of the regular season, while North Carolina lost the last three games they played. The Ducks have to be especially kicking themselves because they were up on Oregon State 34-17 in the fourth quarter of the Civil War before the Beavers scored 21 unanswered points.

Utah v Oregon Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images

I’m not a huge fan of giving more than two touchdowns in bowl games. This game it feels warranted, though. North Carolina will be without leading wide receiver Josh Downs, as well as a number of starters on defense. Even though the Tar Heels have Drake Maye, the quarterback has been rather ordinary in the last three games. Bo Nix and the Oregon offense should be able to put up plenty of points to cover this spread.

Oregon 48, North Carolina 28

Texas Bowl: Texas Tech v. Ole Miss (-3.5) - Wednesday 12/28 9:00 p.m. - ESPN

Ole Miss really faltered in the last month of the season, losing their final three games, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. A fun player to watch in this game is running back Quinshon Judkins, who rushed for 1,476 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first season in Oxford. The Red Raiders haven’t been great against the run this year, giving up over 160 yards per game on the ground.

While the Rebels come in to the game slumping, Texas Tech finished the season on a three-game winning streak, including a 51-48 overtime win against Oklahoma in the final game of the regular season. Oregon transfer Tyler Shough is back starting at quarterback for the Red Raiders after getting injured earlier in the year.

With over a month to stew over the awful finish to the regular season, Lane Kiffin should have his team ready to go to try and end the season on a positive note. Texas Tech looks like they headed in the right direction under first-year head coach Joey McGuire, I just think the Rebels will be able to take advantage of an inconsistent defense.

Ole Miss 44, Texas Tech 34

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.