So far this bowl season, one topic is dominating every college football discussion. LSU RB Leonard Fournette and Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey are sitting out their bowl games to avoid injury and prepare for the NFL draft. I understand and respect their decisions, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with them.
After a banner year in 2015, my pro prospects were bright. Scouts loved watching me win 54 percent of my games and respected my work. In 2016, my stock has fallen significantly. I won just 49 percent of my picks and faced an uncertain future. When the GM and owners of State of the U gave me a vote of confidence and asked me back for 2017, I probably should've run away, avoiding the postseason entirely. A successful month wouldn't improve my status much and a disastrous bowl campaign could cause the powers that be to change their mind. But I refuse to back down. I can't let down my readers and my coworkers. When there are college football games to be played, I will be there to pick them. Risking humiliation and mental injury is a small price to pay for one final run at glory in 2016.
Through eight games, I'm right where you probably thought I would be: 4-4 and straddling Precise Mediocrity. Here are another eight picks that I'm cautiously optimistic about. If you see me bragging about an "unpresidented" winning streak in an article next week, make sure to check for a Facebook fake news warning. Enjoy the holidays - I’ll be using the time to meet with Barry Switzer and PEOTUS.
I’ll be picking a lot of underdogs next week, but I like the favorites in this set of games.
Idaho Potato Bowl - Tonight
COLORADO STATE -14.5 vs Idaho - 7pm
The Vandals had a nice season, finishing 8-4 and making a bowl game. After starting 3-4, Colorado State won four of the five games, averaging an incredible 47.4 ppg over that span. The Rams dominated San Diego State in the season finale, shutting down record setting RB Donnel Pumphrey. CSU QB Nick Stevens has improved and WR Michael Gallup was one of the most dangerous players in the Mountain West. Idaho will pull out all the stops early, but doesn’t have enough weapons to keep this game competitive.
Bahamas Bowl - December 23rd
OLD DOMINION -4 vs Eastern Michigan - 1pm
The trip to the Bahamas has been exciting for both teams - Eastern Michigan snapping a long bowl drought and Old Dominion playing in the first bowl game in the school’s history. ODU won five straight to finish the season and QB David Washington quietly put up some impressive numbers - 28 TD 4 INT. These two teams played in both 2014 and 2015, with Old Dominion winning both games.
Armed Forces Bowl - December 23rd
LOUISIANA TECH -6.5 vs Navy - 430pm
Without injured QB Will Worth, Navy’s offense just isn’t the same. The extra preparation time will help La Tech be ready for the triple option. The Bulldogs average 44 ppg thanks to QB Ryan Higgins and star WR’s Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson. La Tech will take advantage of mismatches and exploit a vulnerable Navy secondary. Once Navy falls behind early, things will be very difficult for backup QB Zach Abey. La Tech allowed just 134 rushing yards a game this season, but ranked 121st in the nation in pass defense. The Midshipmen don’t have the players or the scheme to take advantage of La Tech’s weaknesses.
Dollar General Bowl - December 23rd
TROY -4 vs Ohio - 8pm
Both Troy and Ohio have quality defenses so expect this to be low-scoring by bowl standards. Troy RB Jordan Chunn is solid and QB Brandon Silvers is a bit better than Ohio’s two quarterback rotation. As long as Troy can protect Silvers from an impressive Ohio pass rush, the Trojans should win a close one.
Hawaii Bowl - December 24th
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE vs Hawaii - 8pm
Hawaii is playing at home but has no chance of keeping pace with MTSU in a shootout. The Rainbow Warriors finished 6-7 and rank near the bottom nationally in pass defense. There is no line on this game currently because MTSU’s best player, QB Brent Stockstill, is questionable. The Blue Raiders averaged 40ppg and have explosive players at the skill positions - RB I’Tavius Mathers and WR Richie James. If Stockstill is able to play, this will be a blowout. Even if he isn’t cleared, the overall talent of MTSU will overwhelm Hawaii.