New Mexico Bowl- Brigham Young (6-6) vs UTEP (6-6)
Predicted winner: BYU
Why: BYU is surging into the bowl season after a slow start to the season while UTEP started strong and backed into the bowl season by finishing with just one victory in their last six games.
Key to the game: UTEP’s senior QB Trevor Vittatoe is the key to UTEP’s potential victory. In the last six games, of which they lost five, Vittatoe threw eight interceptions and only five touchdowns. Three of those five touchdowns came in their only victory against SMU. If Vittatoe can have an efficient game against BYU then UTEP could be poised for an “upset” of sorts.
Score: BYU: 24 – UTEP: 13
Humanitarian Bowl- Northern Illinois (10-3) vs Fresno State (8-4)
Predicted winner: NIU
Why: Despite losing their coach NIU is one of the best running teams in the country, and that running game should help their QB Chandler Harnish find passing lanes, especially with play action.
Key to the game: NIU’s QB Chandler Harnish. I was tempted to name their RB Chad Spann the key player in this game, but Harnish’s ability to throw efficiently (2,230 yards, 64.7% comp and 20 TD’s to only 5 INT’s this season) along with his ability to gain yards with his legs (764 yards and 5 TD’s) he needs to perform well and threaten Fresno State with his arm and his legs for them to win this game. If he plays efficiently they have a great chance to win.
Score: NIU: 31 – FSU: 21
New Orleans Bowl- Ohio (8-4) vs Troy (7-5)
Predicted winner: Troy
Why: Troy’s QB Corey Robinson may turn the ball over a fair amount, but he was productive with 3,300+ yards, 24 TD’s and 15 INT’s. Ohio’s QB Boo Jackson managed only 15 TD’s and 16 INT’s comparatively. Troy is a little more one dimensional with the pass, whereas Ohio’s offense is more balanced but not as explosive. This could be a bit of a sloppy game because both QB’s are relatively prone to turnovers.
Key to the game: Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy. Jernigan has had three consecutive seasons with 70+ receptions for Troy and has again been a favorite target of freshman QB Corey Robinson. He is an explosive receiver, and if he can get behind Ohio’s secondary he could have a big game. If they keep him relatively contained he could still have an impact because of his reliable hands.
Score: Troy: 34 – Ohio: 31
St. Petersburg Bowl- Southern Miss (8-4) vs Louisville (6-6)
Predicted winner: Louisville
Why: Louisville has a balanced offensive attack that has enabled them to go from QB to QB depending on injuries and still have relative success. Their defense is much stronger overall than it was when Petrino was there, so if they can muster a balanced attack against Southern Miss they should have a good chance to win. It will be interesting to see how their defense holds up against Southern Miss.
Key to the game: Bilal Powel, RB, Louisville. Powel is the heart of their offense and he is the feature back of their offense. When Powel has 90+ yards and one or more touchdowns Louisville has won or been in very close games in every week, so if he plays well Louisville tends to be in a position win.
Score: Louisville: 24 – Southern Miss: 20
Las Vegas Bowl- Utah (10-2) vs Boise State (11-1)
Predicted winner: Boise State
Why: I personally think Utah is very overrated, but besides that Boise State is a very balanced team. They have a great passing attack led by Kellen Moore, one of the most efficient and accurate passers in the country, as well as an underrated running game led by Doug Martin. Their defense is as good as it has ever been, and between that and their juggernaut offense I think Utah will be over-matched.
Key to the game: Utah’s running game. If Utah can run the ball and sustain drives it will keep Boise State’s high-powered offense on the sideline. If they try to get into a shootout with the Broncos they will lose, so they have to try to slow the pace of the game down in my opinion.
Score: Boise State: 45 – Utah: 24
Poinsettia Bowl- Navy (9-3) vs San Diego State (8-4)
Predicted winner: San Diego State
Why: San Diego State is a more balanced attack than Navy. They have two talented WR’s in Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, a quality passing QB in Ryan Lindley and a quality running back to rely on in the running game. Navy’s offense revolves around their QB Ricky Dobbs. He is their best passer as well as their leading rusher for Navy, but San Diego’s run defense may be capable of slowing him down. If they do, and if they get ahead of Navy, they may not have the offensive firepower to play from behind.
Key to the game: Ricky Dobbs. If he plays well, helps control the clock and keeps San Diego State’s offense off the field then Navy can win. But if San Diego State slows him and Navy’s offense down then San Diego State will have an easier time winning this game.
Score: San Diego State: 31 – Navy: 17
Hawai’i Bowl- Hawai’i (10-3) vs Tulsa (9-3)
Predicted Winner: Hawai’i
Why: The Golden Warriors have an extremely potent passing offense like they always seem to have, but this time around they have a quality running game to attempt to balance out their high-powered offensive attack. Tulsa has a potent offense as well, but I don’t think they can win in a shootout with Hawai’i, hence why I give them the advantage.
Key to the game: Defense. It might sound simple, but whichever defense plays better overall will give that team a substantial advantage. Both have pretty good defensive backfields, so if one of them steps up and potentially creates some turnovers that team would gain an advantage.
Score: Hawai’i: 45 – Tulsa: 31
Little Caesars Bowl- FIU (6-6) vs Toledo (8-4)
Predicted winner: Toledo
Why: Toledo’s QB’s are much more efficient than FIU’s, even their redshirt freshman Terrance Owens who stepped in after their original starter, Austin Dantin, went down to injury. Toledo also played better competition and I think they are more prepared for this bowl game than FIU.
Key to the game: Terrance Owens, QB, Toledo- If Owens continues to play efficiently like he has since stepping into the spotlight then Toledo stands a great chance to win. But if he plays like an inexperienced freshman then Toledo will be in trouble.
Score: Toledo: 31 – FIU: 20
Independence Bowl- Air Force (8-4) vs Georgia Tech (6-6)
Predicted winner: Georgia Tech
Why: Georgia Tech’s defense is fast enough to slow down Air Force’s ground attack, and I think they are disciplined enough to do so also. But I am not sure Air Force is up to stopping Georgia Tech’s offense. Both teams are great at running the football, but ironically it might come down to whoever hits on a deep ball or two who comes away with a victory. I think that Georgia Tech has that potential with Stephen Hill.
Key to the game: Josh Nesbitt. Nesbitt is an interesting key to the game because he may or may not play as a result of his injury suffered in early November. He has not yet been cleared by doctors, but if he is healthy enough to go I would be shocked if he doesn’t play. He is the heart of Georgia Tech’s rushing attack and without him they just aren’t as effective. If he plays Air Force will have a lot to stop.
Score: Georgia Tech: 27 – Air Force: 21
Champs Sports Bowl- West Virginia (9-3) vs NC State (8-4)
Predicted Winner: West Virginia
Why: West Virginia’s offense is potent and it is led by sophomore Geno Smith who has had an extremely efficient season. Their offense is explosive and can score quickly or piece together a methodical drive with a dose of Noel Devine and Ryan Clark running the ball. NC State has a quality QB and a couple of nice receivers to throw to, but West Virginia’s defense is great at rushing the passer and I think they will force Russell Wilson into a couple potential mistakes.
Key to the game: West Virginia’s pass rush. If West Virginia can rattle Russell Wilson, force him into mistakes but also keep him inside the pocket so he can’t extend plays by scrambling or finding receivers on a broken play then they should have a pretty easy time beating the Wolfpack.
Score: West Virginia: 24 – NC State: 13
Insight Bowl- Missouri (10-2) vs Iowa (7-5)
Predicted Winner: Missouri
Why: Iowa won’t have Adam Robinson or Darrel Johnson-Koulianos against Missouri as a result of suspensions which will hurt their offense. I think Ricky Stanzi might have it in him to still pull off a win if he plays like he did late in games all last season, but I don’t know if he can do that this year. Not only that, but Iowa’s defense will be challenged by a potent Missouri defense and a quality QB of their own. Blaine Gabbert isn’t a great QB but he is a good one, and I don’t know if Iowa has the secondary to stop Missouri’s passing game. I also think that Missouri’s offensive line has a solid chance of slowing down Iowa’s very talented defensive line, which could make it a long day for Iowa’s defensive backs.
Key to the game: Iowa’s pass rush. If they get after Gabbert and can force him into mistakes then I think Iowa will in the game. But if Missouri slows down Iowa’s pass rush and gives Gabbert time to throw I think Missouri will ultimately win the game.
Score: Missouri: 24 – Iowa: 20
Let’s hope these predictions go alright! I for one am ready for one last round of college football! Enjoy! Thanks for reading!