Ladies and gentlemen, the college football bowl season is almost over. Barring the National Championship game, there are only six bowl games remaining, four of which will take place tonight. Last night’s playoff games and non-playoff bowl games were a mixed bag of blowouts and epic tilts, so today could be very interesting.
So far, after going 2-1 in yesterday’s bowl games, and 1-1 in the playoffs, my bowl record is now 22-10. Hopefully, the record looks much better when it’s all said and done.
Friday, January 2nd, 2014
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Noon/11 a.m. CT, ESPN)
Houston Cougars (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6)
Line: Pittsburgh by 3. O/U: 53.5
The first game of the day will be fairly interesting. Both teams have been up and down this season. Pitt made it with wins against Virginia and at Miami in its final two games. They have the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year in running back James Conner (1,675 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns, and receiver Tyler Boyd (1,149 yards, eight touchdowns). Conner has rushed for over 200 yards on three occasions, while scoring at least three rushing touchdowns on five occasions. Boyd has had five games with 100 receiving yards or more.
As for Houston, the Cougars have one of the nation’s best scoring defenses, but no offensive players that have had standout seasons. receiver Deontay Greenberry had over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, but has been extremely boom or bust this year. Running back Kenneth Farrow has three straight 100 yard rushing games, and has nine touchdowns in that span. However, he’s boom or bust as well. Still, I feel Houston is more worthy of a bowl berth, so I’m going with the upset here. Prediction: Houston 34, Pittsburgh 24.
Taxslayer Bowl (3:20/2:20c, ESPN)
Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (6-6)
Line: Tennessee by 3.5. O/U: 51.5
The next games feature two average teams from major conferences. Neither team has any signature wins, or notable players. That said, Tennessee is playing hot, having won three of their last four games. Meanwhile, Iowa has lost three straight and has quarterback issues. The Vols will take this one. Prediction: Iowa 17, Tennessee 31.
Valero Alamo Bowl (6:45/5:45c, ESPN)
(11) Kansas State (9-3) vs. UCLA Bruins (9-3)
Line: UCLA by 1.5 O/U: 59.
The premier Friday game is one of the most revered non-New Year’s/BCS bowl games in the country. Alongside the Holiday Bowl, the Alamo Bowl usually pits two highly ranked, well-renowned, highly formidable squads, and this year is no different.
Kansas State enters the game with the 24th ranked scoring offense and defense, but have gone just 1-3 against ranked teams. The lone win came by a point at Oklahoma, while the Wildcats barely lost to then fifth-ranked Auburm by 6, got blown put by playoff contender TCU, and lost its last game at Baylor by 11.
The Wildcats aren’t very formidable offensively, but their dynamic wide receiving duo of Tyler Lockett (93 catches, 1,351 yards, nine touchdowns) and Curry Sexton (955 yards, five touchdowns) is one of the nation’s most underrated in the country. The quarterback, Jake Waters, is also very underrated, and is a solid dual threat player.
As for the Bruins, it’s all about Brett Hundley and Paul Perkins. Hundley had his ups and downs this season, but the man who returned to school despite being projected as a first round pick in last year’s NFL Draft did play well, for the most part. He threw for over 3,000 yards, ran for over 500, and scored 29 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Perkins ran for 1,378 yards and seven touchdowns. I expect the duo to play very well in this game, winning a tough, hard-fought game. Prediction: Kansas State 27, UCLA 35.
Ticketcity Cactus Bowl (10:15/9:15c, ESPN)
Washington Huskies (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
Line: Washington by 6. O/U: 56.5
The day’s final game might be interesting, but I’m going with the Huskies. They have superstar linebacker Shaq Thomas, and are actually a somewhat reliable team. Prediction: Washington 27, Oklahoma State 21.
Birmingham Bowl (Saturday, January 3rd, Noon/11a.m. CT, ESPN)
East Carolina Pirates vs. Florida Gators (6-5)
Line: Florida by 7. O/U: 56.
The first Saturday game of 2014 is one of the most important American Conference games in a ling time. The conference already saw Cincinnati lose to a mediocre Virginia Tech team, Central Florida fall to a mediocre NC State team, and a Memphis team barely beat a hampered BYU squad.
The final American Athletic Conference team remaining, the high-powered East Carolina Pirates, facing a Florida squad that’s got a new coach waiting in the wings. The Pirates boast the third-best passing offense in college football (367.3 yards a game), led by quarterback Shane Carden (4,309 pass yards, 34 total touchdowns), and senior receiver Justin Hardy (110 catches, 1,334 yards, 9 touchdowns), who now owns the NCAA record for most career receptions with 376, and might be one of the most NFL ready receiving prospects in college football.
Meanwhile, Florida has absolutely nothing to offer on offense, despite scoring over 30 points a game on average. The only player who has even put up respectable numbers, receiver Demarcus Robinson, has only had one standout game, and it was back in the second week of the season.
Honestly, if Florida wins, it’ll be sad. They have a quarterback controversy, and even though they’ve got some good wins , they’re subpar overall. For the sake of sanity, I will pick the pirates. Prediction: East Carolina 34, Florida 20.
GoDaddy Bowl (Sunday, January 4th, 9/8c, ESPN)
Toledo Rockets (8-4) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)
Line: Toledo by 4. O/U: 67.
The final bowl game of the season before the Championship game could serve as a good dessert after the NFL’s Wild Card playoff games.
The game is between two teams used to playing on weeknights. Arkansas State is playing in this game for the fourth straight year, going 2-1 in the previous three. Dual threat quarterback Fredi Knighten (2,874 passing yards, 775 rushing yards, 30 total touchdowns) is coming off his best game of the season, and the team also has a game-breaking running back in Michael Gordon (1,064 yards, 13 touchdowns, 7.1 yards a carry).
As for Toledo, despite having several quarterbacks suffering injuries, has made it to this game. They have one of the nation’s most underrated running backs in Kareem Hunt (179 carries, 1,360 yards, 11 touchdowns in just nine games), and two receivers that have surpassed 700 yards. I see them prevailing, in a close, hard-fought win. If Hunt shows up, they’ll win, in what could be a great game.. Prediction: Toledo 38, Arkansas State 34.