Saturday kicks off the happiest time of the year — BOWL SEASON. 2015 brings a record-breaking 41 bowl games. With the high number of spots to fill, organizers had to welcome in three teams with losing records (5-7) — Minnesota, San Jose State and Nebraska.
The bowl schedule brings some great matchups, including ones that may turn out to be a bit surprising, cue teams with losing records pulling off the upset.
For the next three weeks I will be bringing you all of my hopefully correct predictions.
New Mexico Bowl: Arizona (6-6) Vs. New Mexico (7-5)
These two teams come in with very similar playing styles. Both are run-heavy teams, rushing the ball more than 45 times per game and yet neither team has a running back that is averaging more than 15 carries per game.
The Wildcats have had a hard time stopping the run this season ranking in at 89th in rushing yards allowed. The Lobos are even worse at 97th.
New Mexico enters the contest with a stronger passing game than the Wildcats which will be put to use if needed. The Lobos’ triple-option rushing attack will be too much for Arizona, like it was for other opponents not familiar with it this season.
Prediction: New Mexico
Las Vegas Bowl: BYU (9-3) Vs. Utah (9-3)
Utah began the season almost too impressively. I knew they weren’t going to hold on to their playoff spot but I also didn’t expect the Utes to drop all the way to No. 22. Utah has lost two of their last three games and lost starting running back, Devontae Booker — the momentum is in BYU’s favor. The in-state rivalry wasn’t supposed to be reprised for another year though, so either way it is bound to be a strong fight on both sides.
Camellia Bowl: Ohio (8-4) Vs. Appalachian State (10-2)
Bowl Season say hello to Appalachian State who is making its first appearance ever. Appalachian State showed dominance against a fairly weak schedule but ranking 13th in scoring defense and 19th in scoring offense. Ohio has been blown out by three non-Power Five teams — Western Michigan, Buffalo and Bowling Green. Both teams are coming off three-game win streaks.
Prediction: Appalachian State
Cure Bowl: San Jose State (5-7) Vs. Georgia State (6-6)
Despite a losing record, San Jose State is the nation’s No. 2 pass defense and Georgia State’s No. 8 passing offense is going to have some trouble. Georgia State also comes in at No. 73 in yards allowed per carry leaving plenty of opportunity for San Jose State’s running back Tyler Ervin. Ervin has a total of 1,469-yards this season and averages 5.6 yards a carry.
Prediction: San Jose State
New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State (9-3) Vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4)
Arkansas State lost their season opener against the USC Trojans but finished off the season with the better record. The Red Wolves have won eight straight scoring more than 40 points in all but one matchup. Louisiana Tech, with the help of running back Kenneth Dixon, should be able to move the ball. Dixon has scored 83 career touchdowns, 22 this season. I’m just not sure about Louisiana Tech’s defense and their ability to stop the Red Wolves offense — Arkansas State may be too much to handle.
Prediction: Arkansas State
Miami Beach Bowl: Western Kentucky (11-2) vs. South Florida (8-4)
Like New Mexico, South Florida has what looks like home-field advantage. The Bulls had a rocky start but finished out its final eight games with only a loss to Navy to get that 8-4 record. Western Kentucky has a high-powered offense backed by sixth-year senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who has passed for 45 touchdowns this season. The Hilltoppers are averaging 23 points a game against Power Five opponents, and 50.6 points against everyone else.
Prediction: Western Kentucky
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6)
This is Akron’s first trip to a bowl game since 2005. Utah State has a slightly more difficult schedule than Akron which contributes to the difference in record (not much). The Akron offense I’ve seen throughout the season has been shaky at best. If they don’t show up at kick-off, Utah State will run circles. Plus, the Aggies are no stranger to the Potato Bowl, this is Utah State’s third appearance in five years.
Prediction: Utah State
Marmot Boca Raton Bowl: Temple (10-3) vs. Toledo (9-2)
Temple has put up some strong fights and some impressive wins this season. The Owls almost beat the Fighting Irish, held Houston to just 24 points and beat Penn State for the first time in 74 years. With Toledo players knowing head coach Matt Campbell is surely heading to Iowa State next season, there could be some emotions running on the field.
Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5)
Boise State, despite wins against Washington and Virginia, isn’t too happy with its performance this season. They are looking to end the season on a high note and their offense has the ability to deliver. Northern Illinois cornerback, Shawun Lurry, leads the nation with nine interceptions this season, so the Broncos will want to watch out for him. But the Huskies haven’t been the same since they lost starting quarterback Drew Hare to injury.
Prediction: Boise State
GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern (8-4) vs. Bowling Green (10-3)
Without their coach, Dino Babers (moving to Syracuse), it’s hard to pick Bowling Green. Georgia Southern is another school making history with its first-ever bowl appearance and they hope to continue making history with their first-ever bowl win.
Prediction: Georgia Southern
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
Western Michigan enters the game with two receivers totaling more than 1,100 yards in 2015, Corey Davis and Daniel Braverman. Middle Tennessee doesn’t stand a chance with a defense ranking in at No. 91.
Prediction: Western Michigan
Hawaii Bowl: San Diego State (10-3) vs. Cincinnati (7-5)
I grew up attending the Hawaii Bowl every Christmas Eve, at least if my grandma allowed it. It was always interesting to see which team brought in a stronger crowd, because more times than not, the team with the larger fan base pulled off the win.
Due to location, San Diego State most likely will be the winner in traveling fan base, they also have a few local players on the team to draw in the Hawaii crowd from the parking lot. But the Aztecs haven’t lost a game since Sept. 26 and are bringing the nation’s No. 15-ranked rushing offense.
Cincinnati’s biggest weakness is its rushing defense.
Overall, both teams win for having a destination Christmas.
Prediction: San Diego State Bowl