More Bowl Picks!! Another exciting week of college football leading up to the New Years’ Six —
First Responders Bowl
(25) Boise State over Boston College | 12/26, 1:30pm ESPN
One of my favorite bowl games kicks the day off when the Eagles and the Broncos face off at the Cotton Bowl. It won’t be a classic game, like the previous Cotton Bowl game now at Jerry World, but you still have two teams that have done a lot right this season, but not so much lately. Boise State comes in after giving up the conference title on the smurf turf to Fresno State while Boston College has lost three straight since hosting College Gameday for their matchup under the lights against Clemson. Nonetheless, both found a success earlier in the year that put them in this position. QB Brett Rypien and the stout run defense will be the keys to this game for the Broncos in facing now 100% AJ Dillon.
Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota over Georgia Tech | 12/26, 5:15pm ESPN
Our first game of the bowl season featuring two Power Five opponents brings us to Detroit where the Golden Gophers face off against the Yellow Jackets in Paul Johnson’s last game. Lots of emotions will be on the field for this Georgia Tech squad as they look to go up to the motor city and steal a win away from their opponent out of the Big Ten. While the running game will be operating on all cylinders for GT, this Minnesota defense has stepped up greatly since Robb Smith was fired as Defensive Coordinator; running teams don’t generally fair too well in these post-Christmas bowls and nothing will be easy against the Golden Gophers’ defense allowing just about 16 points per game since Smith’s firing. Big Ten power looks to stop Atlanta speed here.
California ove TCU | 12/26, 9:00pm ESPN
Starting out as a pick-em game and now drifting to Cal favoritism by 1 point, this game has been the closest line throughout the bowl season. Cal heads to a bowl game for the first time since 2015 while TCU looks for its 10th win in 13 bowl games, although struggled to be eligible this year, needing a final week win to get here. Cal is a tackling machine on defense, holding teams to playing behind the sticks and putting the QB in tough situations throughout. This will be no easy task for the Horned Frogs and will need a huge day to get past the Pac-12 foe.
Duke over Temple | 12/27, 1:30pm ESPN
Not too many teams are pumped to go to Shreveport, Louisiana for a bowl game, but Temple & Ed Foley sure are pumped and ready to go when they face off with the Duke Blue Devils at the Independence Bowl. Duke looked like they could be a mid-level contender in the ACC after their 5-1 start but blow out losses to Clemson and Wake Forest to end the season proved to be their unravelling. Not much can be said for why they collapsed, but nonetheless, QB Daniel Jones, who is perhaps one of the most NFL ready quarterbacks in college today and is sure to be playing on Sundays soon (possibly 2019 but seems to be leaning towards staying for his senior year and coming out in 2020). He looks to bring back the Duke offense that they lost these last few games and put points up on Temple. Three straight bowl wins for the first time in Duke history looks to be a reality.
Miami over Wisconsin | 12/27, 5:15pm ESPN
The Bronx and Yankees Stadium play host to this Orange Bowl rematch. A year removed from what was a Top 12 matchup, the Hurricanes and the Badgers have a very different look and feel to their program. Both started the season in the Top Ten with heavy playoff aspirations; a year older for both, it seemed as if each would continue the success that they had these past few years… until they didn’t. Miami was a pre-season favorite of mine to make the playoffs, with an easy schedule and a defense to go toe-to-toe with anyone; but that defense failed them and dropped them down the ACC later. Meanwhile, Wisconsin lives and dies by the running game, which couldn’t find the success it needed in close games. Big losses down the road and a much-maligned schedule cost them any shot at the Big Ten title. I can’t say this game will be all that fun to watch, with the Miami defense losing DC Manny Diaz (to Temple) and Wisconsin playing without Alex Hornibrook, this could be a very low scoring and sloppy game. Miami has a bit more to play for as they try and get revenge for their loss to the Badgers last year.
Baylor over Vanderbilt | 12/27, 9:00pm ESPN
Wrapping up the Thursday slate is a trip to Texas for the Commodores to play Matt Rhule’s Baylor Bears. Amazing how far Baylor has come from just a few seasons ago when the team looked to be in complete shambles. They got past Texas Tech in their last game to head to a bowl in a season that saw 4 solid wins in Big 12 company. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt had a schedule chock full of Top 15 teams (fitting for the SEC) and needed to beat Ole Miss and Tennessee to end the season to get a spot here. This won’t be the game to garner the heavy ratings on the day, but with no NFL football this evening, what else would you be watching. Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn has been pushing the offense for Vandy, averaging about 7 yards per game on each carry and getting over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, but will need to put up enough points to stop a high-scoring Big 12 offense. The Bears look to cap off the comeback from 1-11 in 2017 with a win here.
Music City Bowl
Purdue over Auburn | 12/28, 1:30pm ESPN
Friday kicks off in Nashville as the Boilermakers and the Tigers face off. Jeff Brohm has made huge strides with this Purdue team, that could easily have found themselves in the Big Ten title game had they won their week one thriller against Northwestern. Starting 0-3, Purdue surged onward with a solid, though up-and-down season, capped off with a blowout win over Ohio State. Meanwhile, Auburn has had a less than stellar season, starting as a Top Ten team and easily drifting into obscurity. The Tigers saw somewhat expected losses to Alabama, Georgia, and LSU this season, but big losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee, where their offense struggled, ended their underperforming season. Gus Malzahn will be coaching for what could be his job – one that he may lose after next season. This is a tough game to pick, as both teams have high highs and low lows, but Purdue seems to have more to play for and an offense that includes one of the best freshman in the nation in Rondale Moore.
Camping World Bowl
(20) Syracuse over (16) West Virginia | 12/28, 5:15pm ESPN
An old rivalry will be renewed in Orlando when the West Virginia Mountaineers square off against the Syracuse Orange. 59 matchups between these teams before conference realignment ended their rivalry in 2011… not that the College Football Gods let that happen as they ended up matching up against each other in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2012. They still haven’t scheduled a game going towards 2026, but once again the Gods want this rivalry to continue as they find themselves going at it again in another bowl game. Sadly, the big key for the Mountaineers offense, Will Grier, won’t be playing, as he announced that he will be skipping the game for the Draft. That is big blow to this West Virginia team that needs its offensive fire-power to win games. That swings the tied in the Orangemen’s favor for me, looking like Syracuse win.
(24) Iowa State over (13) Washington State | 12/28, 9:00pm ESPN
New Years’ Six Eve ends with a ranked matchup in San Antonio. The Alamodome gets Big 12 Iowa State, who continues on their upward swing in conference and was in the mix for a title shot late in the season, and Pac-12 Washington State, who had one of their best seasons in a decade and just missed on their title shot with the loss against rival Washington in the snowy Apple Cup. Iowa State has found ways to shut down the Big 12 style Air Raid offense all season, which of course is Mike Leach’s favorite style of play (one of the founders and advocates of this offense). This Cyclones defense will be formidable and one of the toughest opponents that Washington State has faced. Gardner Minshew looks to cap off his season with a win here after finishing 5th in Heisman voting and with a possible NFL contract up for grabs soon. But Matt Campbell is one of the best game planners in college football and will have a strong strategy written up to go against the Cougars. This is a game to watch!