With Week 1 of bowl games wrapped up, we venture into Week 2. This next week brings some bigger name bowl games along with some bigger name teams into the lineup. Greatest of all, we end this rundown with the college football playoffs semifinal games.
I am currently 5-5 on predictions, not counting Christmas Eve games.
• ST. PETERSBURG BOWL: CONNECTICUT (6-6) VS. MARSHALL (9-3)
The Huskies’ Jamar Summers is third in the nation with seven interceptions, helping his team rank in at No. 17 for FBS scoring defense. UConn allows 10.8 points per game, but while its defense is tight, the offense is where the team will struggle.
Offensively the Huskies are averaging just 13 points per game. If you thought UConn’s defense was strong, Marshall’s is even better, ranking it at No. 14.
• SUN BOWL: MIAMI (8-4) VS. WASHINGTON STATE (8-4)
Washington State hasn’t won a bowl game since 2003 but is hoping quarterback Luke Falk can help change that. The Cougars went 6-7 with Falk as their starting quarterback with their only loss coming to Stanford. Falk has thrown for 4,266 yards and 36 touchdowns this season.
Falk went down with an injury half way through the season but is expected to be ready to go against the Canes. Miami hasn’t won a bowl game since 2006 and has made five postseason appearances since. Former Georgia head coach Mark Richt will take over in the 2016 season.
Prediction: Washington State
• HEART OF DALLAS BOWL: WASHINGTON (6-6) VS. SOUTHERN MISS (9-4)
Washington has the best defense in the Pac-12 and should be able to slow down Southern Mississippi’s offense led by Nick Mullens. He connected with the end zone for 36 touchdowns this season.
The Huskies’ rookie quarterback should be able to continue his successful campaign against a weaker defense. Jake Browning completed 62.9 percent of passes for 2,671 yards and 16 touchdowns.
• PINSTRIPE BOWL: INDIANA (6-6) VS. DUKE (7-5)
Both teams struggled down the final stretch, but overall Indiana had a tougher schedule. Two of the Hoosiers losses came from two of the nation’s best teams: Michigan State and Ohio State. Indiana lost by only one score in both matchups.
All-Big Ten Indiana running back Jordan Howard also looks to return after missing the regular season finale. Howard ran for 1,213 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
• INDEPENDENCE BOWL: TULSA (6-6) VS. VIRGINIA TECH (6-6)
There is no better way for the Hokies to send head coach Frank Beamer into retirement than with a bowl win over Tulsa. Tulsa has a stronger looking quarterback than Virginia Tech with Dane Evans calling the plays, but the VT’s special team units will make all the difference. All of Tulsa’s losses have been by more than 13 points this season.
Prediction: Virginia Tech
• FOSTER FARMS BOWL: UCLA (8-4) VS. NEBRASKA (5-7)
Nebraska is another one of those teams that is not deserving of a bowl opportunity, but the 5-7 Cornhuskers are being underestimated because of it. Nebraska almost pulled off wins against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa. It beat Michigan State.
UCLA came out strong with wins over BYU and Arizona, but in September the Bruins couldn’t seem to pull it off. A surprising loss to USC kept UCLA out of the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford.
• MILITARY BOWL: PITT (8-4) VS. NAVY (10-2)
Pitt has one of the best run defenses in the country but it is going to have some trouble stopping Navy’s triple option offense. The Midshipmen averaged 319.2 yards per game with quarterback Keenan Reynolds at the helm. Reynolds broke the NCAA Division I career record this season with 85 rushing touchdowns. He also has 1,229 yards and 21 touchdowns in the season.
Some other things Navy has going for them: home-field advantage and a shorter break due to the Army vs. Navy game.
• QUICK LANE BOWL: CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5) VS. MINNESOTA (5-7)
Central Michigan has won five of its last six games to finish the season 8-5 after a 2-4 start. Minnesota is on a seven-game losing streak. The matchup pits the Chippewas’ No. 21 defense against the Gophers’ No. 105 offense.
Minnesota is the third and final team to play in a bowl game with a losing record this season.
Prediction: Central Michigan
• ARMED FORCES BOWL: AIR FORCE (8-5) VS. CALIFORNIA (7-5)
California looks to potential top QB draft pick Jared Goff to lead it to a win. Goff has 4,252 yards and 37 touchdowns in the season. Air Force is coming off two tough losses to New Mexico and San Diego State.
• RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL: NORTH CAROLINA (11-2) VS. BAYLOR (9-3)
These two teams are expected to deliver a high-scoring game to viewers. Both teams have top-rated spread offenses. Baylor has the No. 1 offense in the country but injuries at multiple positions looks to be deathly. The Bears averaged 48 points and 605 yards a game, but in their last two games scored a grand total of 31 points.
The Bears announced that they will be playing without three key offensive components: wide receiver and Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman, running back Shock Linwood and QB Jarett Stidham.
Prediction: North Carolina
• ARIZONA BOWL: NEVADA (6-6) VS. COLORADO STATE (7-5)
The Arizona Bowl brings up a Mountain West Conference matchup. Due to different divisions, this will be the first meeting this season for the two teams. It’s almost like a second conference championship. Colorado State enters the game with a higher-ranked defense and offense.
Prediction: Colorado State
• TEXAS BOWL: LSU (8-3) VS. TEXAS TECH (7-5)
Texas Tech will have some difficulties trying to slow down LSU’s Leonard Fournette. He averaged 271.8 rushing yards per game and needs just 259 more yards to reach a season total of 2,000.
The Red Raiders allowed 271.8 rushing yards per game. In their worst loss of the season, 63-27 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma, they allowed 405.
• BIRMINGHAM BOWL: AUBURN (6-6) VS. MEMPHIS (9-3)
It’s the attack of the Tigers as this game features one of the seasons’ biggest disappointments, Auburn, and one of the seasons’ biggest surprises, Memphis. With Will Muschamp leaving Auburn for South Carolina, the Tigers will attempt the win without a defensive coordinator. Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch is another QB looking to go high in the draft, and with 3,670 yards, 28 touchdowns and three interceptions, that may just happen.
This is Memphis interim coach Darrell Dickey’s big opportunity to prove himself.
• BELK BOWL: NC STATE (7-5) VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4)
It will be a battle of quarterbacks between Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett. Prescott had 3,413 yards, 25 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. Brissett had 2,448 yards, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Prescott is the bigger asset. He was also the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 541 yards and 10 end-zone appearances.
Prediction: Mississippi State
• MUSIC CITY BOWL: TEXAS A&M (8-4) VS. LOUISVILLE (7-5)
The Aggies are dealing with some issues as quarterback sophomore Kyle Allen has already left and now rumors are flying that freshman Kyler Murray is considering transferring.
Aggies receiver Christian Kirk is one of the country’s top freshmen, leading the team with 70 catches for 925 yards and six touchdowns, but without a QB, Kirk won’t be seeing success.
• HOLIDAY BOWL: USC (8-5) VS. WISCONSIN (9-3)
USC has had a strong second half of the season with losses only to top-15 opponents. The Trojans also won impressively against city rivals UCLA and Utah. Wisconsin has no wins against top-ranked opponents, making me think it won’t be able to outscore Cody Kessler and the rest of the Trojan offense.
• CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL: HOUSTON (12-1) VS. FLORIDA STATE (10-2)
Florida State’s Dalvin Cook ran for 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had more than 100 yards in eight games, four of which closed out the regular season. Houston is 12-1 under first season coach Tom Herman. If the Cougars win, it will be their first 13-game winning season since 2011. Can wins against Navy and Temple sway you enough to bet against the 2013 national champions and last year’s playoff finalist? Herman did work under Urban Meyer; I’m going with the upset.
• CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL: OKLAHOMA (11-1) VS. CLEMSON (13-0)
With a win in the college football playoff semifinals, the Tigers will be a stunning 14-0. Clemson is lead by sophomore quarterback and Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson. He had a completion percentage of 69.5 and passed for 3,512 yards with 30 touchdown and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 887 yards for 11 scores.
But Oklahoma is coming in with a strong offensive attack as well. Since their loss to Texas, the Sooners have won out and beat all but one opponent, TCU, by more than 10 points. October proved that the Big 12 Conference was tougher than the ACC.
GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL: MICHIGAN STATE (12-1) VS. ALABAMA (12-1)
The key to shutting down Alabama in the college football playoff semifinals will be shutting down Heisman winner and Alabama running back Derrick Henry. He set an SEC record this season with 1,986 rushing yards. Michigan State enters the game with the seventh ranked run defense in the nation, allowing only 113.1 yards per game.
Michigan State will have to try and force the Tide to put the ball in quarterback Jake Coker’s hands. Coker has only had one game where he’s thrown for more than 250 yards. If the Spartans can shut down Bama’s offense, there will be no stopping them. Michigan State’s Connor Cook is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Cook has thrown for 2,921 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, and is 34-4 as a starter.
Prediction: Michigan State