Bowl season kicks off with 5 bowls this Saturday, including a few conference champions. Check out my picks below for the Week One Bowls!
Tulane over Louisiana | 12/15, 1:30pm CBSSN
The Green Wave heads back to a bowl game for the first time since 2013, facing the same team that beat them in the New Orleans Bowl (ironically was the last home game played at the Superdome before moving the new Yulman Stadium). Willie Fritz has been building this program since coming from Georgia Southern, and more notably Sam Houston State, instating a tough and balance offense. But it has been their defense that has let them slip to a 6-6 record, giving up in crucial spots and keeping games close. They will need their best showing against a young and growing Ragin’ Cajuns team under first-year head coach Billy Napier. They’ve gotten here after a 7-6 record, which included two losses at SEC foes. While their offense is known to put up points, they have not been able to put points up away from Cajun Field, and that could very well be the key here in what is a very close on paper all-Louisiana game in Orlando.
New Mexico Bowl
North Texas over Utah State | 12/15, 2:00pm ESPN
This is a first to 40 style game – two high octane offenses squaring off in Dreamstyle Stadium. In just ten years, Utah State, under Gary Anderson and Matt Wells, has risen from one of the worst teams in the FBS to one of the best teams in the Mountain West and one of the better Group of 5 teams overall. Even better, this season was put together when the MW was at its strongest in years. But now Matt Wells is off to Texas Tech and in place will be alumnus and assistant coach Frank Maile, until Gary Anderson returns to the program next year. Meanwhile Seth Littrell has built this North Texas program from the ground up in three years, taking them to three consecutive bowl games. Their spread offense, 3-3-5 defense, and use of unique schemes has left them in a good position to win their first bowl game under Littrell. This team is rolling and should be ready to shock this Aggies team.
Las Vegas Bowl
Arizona State over (21) Fresno State | 12/15, 3:30pm ABC
When Herm Edwards was hired at Arizona State, no one expected a huge year right out of the gates, but the energy he brought with him has helped make it a year of success. While struggling early in conference play, the Sun Devils have one four of their last five, and every loss this year has been by one possession. They have been putting up yards through the air and on the ground, though their keys have been a stout defense when it matters. But, they get a tough test against Mountain West Champion Fresno State. Led by senior Marcus McMaryion, the Bulldogs have given everyone they’ve faced a tough test. While their last four games have been a bit of a cold spell, the last time they were in Las Vegas, they crushed UNLV. Their last seven games will have been played at just three stadiums, 3 games at Bulldog Stadium, 2 at Albertsons Stadium, and now 2 at Sam Boyd Stadium. However, the Sun Devils have been the hot team at the end of the year, and I think that momentum (and a bit of much needed rest) will help them jump to the top.
Georgia Southern over Eastern Michigan | 12/15, 5:30pm ESPN
A matchup of run v pass will be on display in Montgomery. Eastern Michigan comes in with one of the better defenses in the FBS in yards allowed but stopping the run hasn’t been their specialty. Meanwhile Georgia Southern with one of the best running attacks in the nation, as expected, averaging over 260 yards per game on the ground. In what looked to be a Sun Belt Championship season early, late slides against UL-Monroe and Troy kept them out of the title game, but Chad Lunsford’s squad has righted the ship after a two-win season in 2017. No matter what happens, the Eagles will win… just which one is the question.
New Orleans Bowl
Appalachian State over Mid Tennessee | 12/15, 9:00pm ESPN
My favorite bowl game of the opening day pits the Sun Belt Champion against the C-USA Runner-Up. Appalachian State has been one of the top small-school football programs for over a decade now, which included three straight National Championships at the FCS level between 2005 and 2007. They moved up to the FBS level and didn’t skip a beat, now winning their third straight Sun Belt Championship (first outright) and heading to another bowl game (winning the last four, including a shut out of Toledo last year). But, they lose head coach Scott Satterfield to Louisville; alumni and longtime assistant Mark Ivey will take over for the game. I love this choice – he has led his defense for years, grooming some of the best linebackers in the Sun Belt. This very good passing attack of Mid Tennessee will need to be even better than they’ve been to stop the Mountaineers.