Many people are excited about upcoming holidays filled with family, friends, gifts, and food. I enjoy that stuff too, but I might be a little more pumped about the New Mexico Bowl this Saturday, which kicks off bowl season. There are FORTY bowl games from December 17th - January 2nd. After winning just 49% of my picks during a disappointing regular season, I am eager for another opportunity to prove my (hopefully better than) coin-flipping talent. These next few weeks will feature numerous academic suspensions, interim coaches, and various levels of player motivation. I'll do my best to keep you up to speed. Miami's game against West Virginia should be one of the best matchups and I'm fortunate to be able to head to Orlando for the game in a few weeks. The Canes haven't won a bowl game in 10 years and it's about time for that miserable streak to end.
Since my last article, Butch Davis, Lane Kiffin, and Charlie Strong all became head coaches in Florida. I can't wait to head over to FAU next season to watch Lane's antics in person. While the news about the double agent at Wake Forest was surprising to some, it made complete sense to me. For years now, I was receiving texts from a Winston-Salem number, begging me to release my picks to him early. I never responded and reaffirmed my loyalties to State of the U. Mark Richt and the Canes currently aren't sharing the weekly game plans with me, but if his staff wants to send them over I will be sure to keep the arrangement confidential.
New Mexico Bowl - Saturday December 17th
NEW MEXICO -7.5 vs Utsa - 2pm
New Mexico is playing a home game, but expect some UTSA fans to travel for the program’s first ever bowl appearance. New Mexico is first in the nation in rushing offense and should be able to control the clock and the line of scrimmage. QB Lamar Jordan and RB Teriyon Gipson should have room to run against the Roadrunners. While I like UTSA QB Dalton Sturm, his offensive line has struggled all season. Look for the Lobos to win by two touchdowns or more.
Las Vegas Bowl - Saturday December 17th
HOUSTON -4 vs San Diego State - 330pm
Houston OC Major Applewhite was named the head coach last week, replacing Tom Herman. The Cougars will be motivated and play well in Major’s debut. I expect Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. to lead his team to win in his last game, capping off an incredible career. SDSU RB Donnel Pumphrey is one of the best in the nation, but the Aztecs faced weaker defenses all season. Houston and star freshman DL Ed Oliver will make things difficult for a one-dimensional SDSU offense.
Camellia Bowl - Saturday December 17th
TOLEDO pk vs Appalachian State - 530pm
This should be a fun game between two quality teams. App State played in the Camellia Bowl last season so another trip to Montgomery might be a bit of a letdown. I saw App State in person in Boone earlier this season against Miami, so that performance might be clouding my judgment as well. Toledo QB Logan Woodside led the nation in passing touchdowns and completed 69% of his passes. Both teams have talented RB’s, but I like Toledo’s Kareem Hunt a little more than Marcus Cox and Jalin Moore. The Rockets win by a field goal.
Cure Bowl - Saturday December 17th
ARKANSAS STATE +5.5 vs Ucf - 530pm
UCF is playing at home, but Arkansas State enters bowl season as the hotter team. The Red Wolves won 7 of their last 8 games and are led by the Sun Belt’s player of the year, DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (18.5 TFL, 11.5 sacks). UCF LB Shaquem Griffin was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year. UCF is 6-6 and didn’t beat a single bowl team this season. Expect a relatively low-scoring game and for Arkansas State to be competitive throughout.
New Orleans Bowl - Saturday December 17th
SOUTHERN MISS -4.5 vs Louisiana Lafayette - 9pm
This game should be one of the best attended early bowl games, with both schools within two hours of New Orleans. ULL HC Mark Hudspeth has an impressive record in bowl games, but having a healthy Nick Mullens at QB will be the difference for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles lost both games when Mullens was injured in mid-November. Southern Miss beat La Tech in the season finale with Mullens back leading the offense.
Miami Beach Bowl - Monday December 19th
TULSA -12.5 vs Central Michigan - 230pm
After starting 5-2, Central Michigan lost four of five to end the season, averaging just 21 points per game over that stretch. The Chips won't be able to keep pace with an explosive Tulsa offense. QB Dane Evans is surrounded by playmakers - RB’s James Flanders and D’Angelo Brewer & WR’s Keevan Lucas and Josh Atkinson all put up huge numbers this season. Look for the Golden Hurricane to dominate in South Florida.
Boca Raton Bowl - Tuesday December 20th
MEMPHIS +4.5 vs Western Kentucky - 7pm
This game has an over/under of 80 so expect some fireworks. Western Kentucky had one of the easiest schedules in the nation and will be led by interim coach Nick Holt, after Jeff Brohm left for Purdue. Memphis was very impressive in a season ending win against Houston. I expect the Tigers to be the more focused team on Tuesday. The team with the ball last will likely win so I’ll gladly pick Memphis and the points.
Poinsettia Bowl - Wednesday December 21st
WYOMING +9 vs Byu - 9pm
BYU won four straight to finish the season at a respectable 8-4, but I can’t go against my adopted team of 2016 - the Wyoming Cowboys. BYU played against five bowl teams this season and the games were decided by a combined 14 points. Wyoming will be able to keep this game close and have a chance in the fourth quarter. BYU will be without senior QB Taysom Hill and will rely heavily on RB Jamaal Williams. The Cowboys have one of the most underrated players in the nation in RB Brian Hill. After going 2-10 in 2015, Wyoming will be ready to make a statement in their first bowl game since 2011.