New Mexico Bowl: Arizona (6-6) vs. New Mexico (7-5) 2:00 pm
Contrast in styles with the Wildcats up-tempo offensive attack that is averaging 36.8 points per game and the methodical ball control attack of the Lobos that is averaging 29.3 points per game. New Mexico wants to run the football first and control the time of possession which will keep the Wildcats off of the field. Bob Davie has done an excellent job in having his teams prepared this season and will need a great defensive scheme to keep Arizona from hitting big plays. Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright is expected to play in this game which can help the Wildcats rush defense that is yielding 188 rushing yards per game. New Mexico won three of the last four games to end their regular season over Boise State, Utah State and Air Force (combined record of 22-15). Arizona has struggled with turnover margin this year and is -5 overall (-6 on the road) entering this matchup. New Mexico is +5 in turnover margin (+3 at home). This is a home game for the Lobos. Arizona was 2-4 on the road this season and the Inflatable Slide Wildcats six victories came against opponents with a combined record of 31-41 (one victory over Northern Arizona FCS 7-4 record). Arizona is averaging 267 passing yards per game and 226 rushing yards per game. New Mexico is averaging 129 passing yards per game and is rushing for 249 yards per game.
Analysis and Pick:
Arizona has more speed than New Mexico and if the Wildcats jump up early it can be a long day for the Lobos. However, I like what Bob Davie has done this season as the team progressed and got better toward the end of the schedule. I feel that the three weeks in preparation will give him and his staff enough time to have solid game plan in place to allow the Lobos to be within striking distance. Rich Rodriguez has been interviewing for possible vacancies which can have a negative effect on his team.
New Mexico 30 Arizona 27
Las Vegas Bowl: BYU (9-3) vs. Utah (9-3) 3:30 pm EST
This will be Bronco Mendenhall last game for the Cougars as he became head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers. This is rivalry game “Holy War” as the teams used to play every year, however, after conference realignment (Utah moving to PAC-12 and BYU Independent). Last game played between the two was back in 2013 with Utah winning 20-13 in Salt Lake City. Utah has won five of the last six meetings against BYU and leads the all-time series 57-34-4. This will be a blue collar game with both teams trying to win the game on the offensive and defensive lines. BYU has struggled this season with running the football consistenly and is averaging 133 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Tanner Magnum leads the Cougars and has thrown for 21 touchdowns with 7 interceptions while completing 62% of his passes for 3,062 yards. BYU is averaging 294 passing yards per game and is averaging 34.2 points per game this year. The Cougars have been very opportunistic this season and are +7 in turnover margin entering this game (+5 on the road) and have allowed 144 rushing yards per game along with 213 passing yards per game.
Utah will be without starting running back Devontae Booker who leads the team with 1,261 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Booker also recorded 37 receptions for 318 yards and was utilized in the screen game. Leading wide receiver Briton Covey who has 41 receptions for 418 yards with 4 touchdowns is listed as doubtful for this game. Utah played and beat Colorado State in this bowl game last year dominating the Rams 45-10. The PAC-12 representative has won the last two Las Vegas bowls. Booker was hurt in the loss to Arizona and the Utes split both games after his injury losing to UCLA 17-9 and beating Colorado 20-14. Backup running back Joe Williams filled in very well for Booker rushing for 308 yards and one touchdown in both games. Utah enters the game passing for 188 yards per game and rushing for 187 yards per game. Quarterback Travis Wilson has completed 62% of his passes for 2,024 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Utes are allowing 111 rushing yards per game and 253 passing yards per game. Utah is +8 in turnover margin entering this game, however, on the road this year the team is -1 in turnover margin.
Analysis and Pick:
Look for the Cougars to be emotionally up for this game and looking to send off coach Mendenhall off with a victory in his last game as head coach. The strength of the Cougars offense has been the passing attack and Utah has struggled this year when teams have been able to jump out early on them. In my opinion, Utah is a different offensive team without Booker in the lineup and I believe the Utes will struggle with offensive consistency without his presence in this game. BYU has been very opportunistic in forcing turnovers and has been able to do it on the road this year while Utah has struggled winning the turnover battle on the road this season.
BYU 24 Utah 17 (Best Pick)
Cameilla Bowl: Ohio (8-4) vs. Appalachian State (10-2) 5:30 pm EST
The Bobcats ended the regular season winning three consecutive games against Kent, Ball State and Northern Illinois (combined record of 14-23) by a combined score of 101-52. Ohio has a balanced offensive attack that is averaging 187 rushing yards per game and 238 passing yards per game. Ohio is dealing with multiple injuries entering this game and Quarterback JD Sprague expected to play in this game. All three quarterbacks on the Bobcats roster (Derrius Vick, JD Sprague and Greg Windham) saw action this season and head coach Frank Solich did not tip his hat who will get the start in this game. If Vick is healthy, expect him to get the start because of his experience (senior) and the fact he will be playing his last game in a Bobcat uniform. On the year, Vick has completed 64% of his passes for 1,809 yards with 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Sprague, who is a junior, did throw for 7 touchdowns and one interception which gives the team the ability to use him if Vick is ineffective early on. Windham played in the regular season win against Northern Illinois and has completed 46% of his passes this year with one touchdown and 4 interceptions. Over the last four games against Bowling Green, Kent State, Ball State and Northern Illinois the Bobcat’s offensive line has been playing very well. Ohio averaged 298 rushing yards in those four games and had 7 touchdowns on the ground.
Defensively, Ohio is allowing 157 rushing yards per game and 184 yards in the secondary this year. The Bobcats are +5 in turnover margin and have struggled on the road with -4 in turnover margin this year. The Bobcats recorded 20 sacks on the year and will need to generate a pass rush against the Mountaineers to force quick throws by Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb. Ohio is yielding 24.8 points per game.
Appalachian State comes into this game averaging 269 rushing yards per game and 199 passing yards per game. The offense has been able to put up points this season and is averaging 37.2 points per game. Earlier in the year, the team lost to top ranked Clemson 41-10 on the road as well as Arkansas State 40-27 (Arkansas State went undefeated in the Sun Belt this year). Both teams will look to run the football to establish the line of scrimmage and the Mountaineers have averaged 310 rushing yards in the team’s last three wins over Idaho, Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama. Quarterback Taylor Lamb leads the offense and is completing 61% of his passes for 2,263 yards with 29 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The offensive line has done an excllent job of pass protection and has allowed 9 sacks through 12 games this year. Of the Mountaineers 10 wins this year, only one came against an opponent with a winning record (Georgia Southern 8-4 record won 31-13). The combined record of Appalachian State’s ten wins came against opponents with a 41-79 overall record or .341 winning percentage.
Defensively, the Mountaineers were very good in stopping the run allowing 133 rushing yards per game and giving up 184 passing yards per game. The unit was +2 in turnover margin and -2 in turnover magin on the road this year. Appalachian State has 34 sacks on the season. The Mountaineers are allowing 18.1 points per game.
Analysis and Pick:
While Appalachian State has the better record this year, Ohio is more physical on the offensive and defensive lines. The Bobcats will want to run the football to control the tempo of the ball game. In my opinion, the coaching adavantage goes to Frank Solich who has taken Ohio to 7 bowl appearances in his tenure (2-4 overall record in bowl games). He understands the bowl preparation and knows how to prepare during the bye weeks. While Ohio might be banged up physically, I like the way the offensive line has gelled down stretch. Look for Ohio to score first and methodically wear down the Mountaineers in the second half.
Ohio 28 Appalachian State 24
Cure Bowl: San Jose State (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6) 7:00pm EST
The San Jose Spartans are one of a handful of teams that will play in bowl games because there were not enough bowl eligbile available for the bowl format. However, the Spartans are a tough blue collar football team that likes to run the football and rely on a solid defense to win games. San Jose is averaging 232 passing yards per game and rushing for 181 yards per game. Led by running back Tyler Ervin, who leads the team with 1,469 yards with 13 rushing touchdowns, the offense has the ability to wear down opposing defenses. San Jose will look to methodically work down the field to keep Georgia State’s prolific passing offense off of the field. The team played a very tough schedule in facing bowl opponents like Air Force, Auburn, Nevada, San Diego State, BYU, New Mexico and Boise State this season (winning only one to New Mexico 31-21). The Spartans also played Oregon State and Fresno State this season splitting those games (win vs. Fresno, loss to Oregon State). In the last 3 games of the season, the offense was able to pass the ball effectively averaging 278 yards with 9 touchdowns through the air and 2 interceptions. Quarterback Kenny Potter has thrown for 1,895 yards with 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while completing 68% of his passes.
Defensively, the Spartans have the second best passing defense in the nation allowing 153 passing yards per game and will challenge Georgia State in this game. This is strength on strength and look for the Spartans to be aggressive early on to force turnovers by the Panthers. San Jose State must do a better job in generating a pass rush and cannot allow Panthers quarterback Nick Arbuckle to survey the field in locating wide receivers. On the year, San Jose has recorded 13 sacks through 12 games and must find ways to get pressure. The Spartans are -5 in turnover margin and are -3 in turnover margin on the road.
Georgia State wants to pass the football and spread the Spartans defense in moving the football. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle is an underrated passer that has completed 64% of his passes for 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season. Georgia State is passing for 346 yards per game and is rushing for 103 yards per game. The offensive line has allowed 29 sacks this year and must pass protect to give Arbuckle time in locating his receivers. Georgia State ended the 2015 regular season with four consecutive victories over Texas State, South Alabama, Troy and Georgia Southern. The only time the Panthers passed for under 200 yards was in the team’s 37-3 loss at the hands of Appalachian State earlier in the season (166 passing yards). Georgia State’s offense has converted on 45% of the team’s third down attempts.
Defensively, the Panthers are giving up 28.4 points per game and are allowing 182 rushing yards per game. The defensive line will be challenged up front by the San Jose Spartans rushing attack and must try and slow down the run to win the game. The secondary is giving up 233 passing yards per game and will need to force turnovers against the Spartans. On the year, Georgia State is -1 in turnover margin and -3 on the road this year. The defensive front seven has registered 16 sacks on the year and will need a better effort to pull out the victory.
Analysis and Pick:
Even though this is a contrast in styles, I really like the way San Jose State plays football and in my opinion has played a tougher schedule this season. The Spartans lost to BYU 17-16, lost to Nevada 37-34, and lost to Auburn 35-21. San Jose’s secondary will keep them in this game from start to finish and look for the offensive line of the Spartans to control the line of scrimmage early on. I believe Ervin can have a big night and think the Spartans win this game because of the physicality on the offensive and defensive lines.
San Jose State 34 Georgia State 21 (Best Pick)
New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State (9-3) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4) 9:00 pm EST
Solid match-up between the Red Wolves and the Bulldogs. Arkansas State has a very balanced offensive attack that is rushing for 236 yards per game along with passing for 212 yards per game. The offense is averaging 41 points per game and will look to start fast in the Superdome. Quarterback Fredi Knighten has completed 54% of his passes for 1,698 yards with 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Knighten is an athletic quarterback that can make plays with his feet and has added 353 yards on the ground with 4 scores entering this game. The offense has come alive over the last four games of the regular season averaging 266 passing yards per game with 10 passing touchdowns and one interception in victories over Appalachian State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and Texas State. While the passing offense has gelled down the stretch the rushing attack has struggled this season on the road averaging 185 yards per game (50 yards less than their season average). The three losses this year came to USC, Missouri and Toledo.
Defensively, the Red Wolves have been very opportunistic this season and enter this game with a +11 turnover margin. The team has been able to force turnovers on the road with a turnover margin of +6. Arkanasas State is very good in run support allowing 146 rushing yards per game and the team is allowing 251 passing yards per game. The Red Wolves will look to blitz early and often against the Bulldogs offensive line and enter this game with 30 sacks as a defensive unit. Arkansas State has allowed opponents to convert on 33% of the time on third down attempts and must be able to force Bulldogs quarterback Jeff Driskel into third and long situations. Arkansas State has recorded 26 interceptions on the season and 9 in the team’s last three games.
Louisiana Tech will look to challenge the Red Wolves secondary with quarterback Jeff Driskel. On the season, Driskel has completed 61% of his passes for 3,575 yards with 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The Bulldogs are averaging 154 rushing yards per game and are passing for 311 yards per game this year. Running back Kenneth Dixon allows the Bulldogs to mix up the play calling and look for Dixon to be utilized early on in the running game to open up the passing attack later in the match-up. Dixon has 968 yards with 17 touchdowns averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Louisiana Tech failed to have a rushing touchdowns in the team’s last two regular season games. Driskel threw four interceptions in the team’s regular season loss to Southern Mississippi and will need to find his rhythm early on to build confidence in the passing attack.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are -2 in turnover margin and are -3 in turnover margin on the road this year. Louisiana Tech is very good at stopping the run and is allowing 116 rushing yards per game this year. The secondary has given up 265 passing yards per game and must be able to force Knighten into short to intermediate throws underneath coverage. Louisiana Tech has 23 sacks entering this game, but must be able to contaiin Knighten in the pocket. Knighten is only completing 54% of his passes on the year and is a better passer when he breaks contain and improvises outside of the pocket. The most rushing yards the defense has given up this season has been 226 yards to UTEP, a game that the Bulldogs won 17-15.
Analysis and Pick:
This game comes down to the quarterback position and I feel that Jeff Driskel holds the edge because of his ability to stretch the Red Wolves secondary deep. Driskel will be playing his last game as a senior and has big game experience (former Gators starting quarterback). Driskel has had a solid season and will want to improve his draft status entering the NFL Draft next May. Look for the Bulldogs rush defense to allow the Bulldogs to get the victory. On the year, the defense held six of their opponents to under 100 yards rushing (one of those opponents was Mississippi State whom they held to 93 yards on the ground) and I feel that the defense will rise to the occassion in New Orleans.
Louisiana Tech 44 Arkansas State 30 (Best Pick)
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor at www.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com). Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2. Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: THE NCAA WEEKLY BLITZ.