Thursday December 24th
Bahamas Bowl : Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Middle Tennessee State (7-5) 12:00pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
This game comes down to the speed of the Western Michigan offense led by quarterback Zach Terrell. On the year, the Broncos are averaging 283 passing yards per game and 197 rushing yards per game. Terrell is a solid quarterback that makes good decisions with the football. He has completed 66% of his passes for 3,225 yards with 27 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Wide recievers Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis are two players that can put pressure on opposing secondaries and have combined for 185 receptions for 2,532 yards with 23 touchdowns. Middle Tennessee State enters this game with -3 in turnover margin and -6 in turnover margin on the road this year. This game shoul dbe close early on, however, in the second half the speed of the Broncos offense should take control of this contest.
Western Michigan 48 Middle Tennessee State 38
Aloha Bowl: Cincinnati (7-5) vs. San Diego State (10-3) 8:00pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
This game comes is a contrast in styles between both teams with San Diego State wanting to pound the football between the tackles and Cincinnati running their up-tempo offense to put pressure on the Aztecs secondary. This game comes down to the interior lines of the Aztecs. San Diego State is averaging 235 ruhsing yards per game with running back Donnell Pumphrey leading the team with 1,554 rushing yards averaging 5.4 yards per carry with 16 touchdowns. Quarterback Maxwell Smith went down with a season ending injury and Christian Champman stepped in and led the Aztecs in the MWC Championship game with 203 yards one touchdown and no interceptions. The bye weeks should give Chapman extra time to become acclimated in the system which will help the offense. San Diego State is ranked 1st in FBS in turnover margin +19 (+9 on the road) while the Bearcats are ranked 124th in the nation at -16 in turnover margin (-9 on the road). Cincinnati is allowing 190 rusing yards per game this year and has shown the tendency to wear down late in games. Look for San Diego State to pound the Bearcats early on with the run game and take control in the fourth quarter. Defensively, San Diego State is allowing 111 rushing yards per game and has recorded 33 sacks as a unit this year.
San Diego State 44 Cincinnati 30 (Best Pick )
Saturday December 26th
Marshall (9-3) vs. UCONN (6-6) 11:00am EST
Analysis and Pick:
UCONN starting quarterback Bryant Sherriffs (1,992 passing yards, 9 TD’s 7 INT’s) will play in this game according to reports. Both teams are very similar in terms of “blue collar” defenses with defensive minded head coaches in UCONN’s Bobby Diaco and Marshall’s Doc Holliday. However, Marshall does have the better offense in this game. The Thunrdering Herd are averaging 32 points per game (compared to UCONN’s 17 points per game) and are led by quarterback, Chase Litton, who is completing 59% of his passes for 2,390 yards with 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Marshall is averaging 232 passing yards per game and 168 rushing yards per game this season. The Thundering Herd are giving up 18 points per game and are allowing 201 passing yards to their opponents. UCONN has struggled with offensive consistency all season long and has played well down the stretch this year winning three of the their last four games. However, Marshall is a more complete football team and will put pressure on the Hukies offense to play catch-up.
Marshall 35 UCONN 17
Sun Bowl: Miami (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4) 2:00 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Two great quarterbacks in this game with Washington State’s Luke Falk (4,266 yards, 36 TD’s) and Miami’s Brad Kayaa (3,019 yards, 15 TD’s) . This is my favorite bowl game every year with the rolling hills in Texas El Paso featuring a great PAC-12 vs. ACC battle. The Hurricanes have been playing very well under interim head coach Larry Scott ending the regular season with an impressive 26-20 victory on the road against Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes have struggled in recent years winning on the road or on neutral field sites (4-8 including bowl games entering this season) which stalled any momentum that the team might have built entering “big” games. However, this year the Hurricanes finished 3-3 overall on the road and , more importantly, were able to force turnovers this season. Entering this game, Miami is +13 in turnover margin (+4 on the road) and have been able to step up in the seocondary this year allowing 195 passing yards per game. This games figures to be a shootout and look for Hurricanes running back Joseph Yearby to be the difference maker for the Miami offense. On the season, Yearby has rushed for 939 yards averaging 4.9 yards per carry with 6 touchdowns. Washington State enters this game allowing 199 rushing yards per game and -3 in turnover margin (-3 on the road).
Miami 52 Washington State 44 (Best Pick)
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (9-4) 2:20 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Southern Miss has a high powered offense led by quarterback Nick Mullens that will challenge a solid Washington Huskies defense allowing 17 points per game. On the season, Southern Mississippi is averaging 40 points per game with Mullens completing 63% of his passes for 4,145 yards with 36 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Golden Eagles are balanced offensively and have passed for 327 yards per game in stretching defenses vertically this year. Southern Mississippi has been able to run the football this year and is averaging 191 rushing yards per game. The ability of the Golden Eagles to run and pass in their offense gives them the ability to play toe to toe with their PAC-12 opponent. Look for the Golden Eagles to be in this game from start to finish. Washington is averaging 235 passing yards per game and 152 rushing yards per game. Head coach Chris Peterson has excelled in these spots when he was the head coach at Boise State and has utilized the bye weeks effectively. Washington quarterback Jake Browning (freshman) will benefit from the time off and should have a solid game. Washington is +6 in turnover margin (+2 on the road) while Southern Mississippi is -2 in turnover margin (even on the road). Southern Mississippi’s rush defense is the difference in this game as the Golden Eagles are allowing 140 yards per game and will be able to force long third down situations for Washington. Southern Mississippi will be able to shut down the Huskies rushing attack and force Browning to throw over the top of the secondary. Look for Southern Mississippi to start fast and put the presssure on the Huskies to respond offensively.
Southern Mississippi 28 Washington 24
Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana (6-6) vs. Duke (7-5) 3:30 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Great Big 10 vs. ACC match-up featuring a high powered offense in the Indiana Hoosiers and a balanced offensive attack in the Duke Blue Devils. Duke lost four of five games down the stretch after the debacle at home against Miami (last second miracle KO return lost 30-27 last play of game). The team limped to a 27-21 season ending victory on the road to Wake Forest. The Blue Devils have not won a bowl game since 1961 (Cotton Bowl 7-6 over Arkansas) and have lost five consecutive bowl games including last season’s 36-31 loss at the hands of Arizona State. Duke has played very well since 2012 in bowl games and will be emotionally into this game to pick up the victory. The Blue Devils are passing for 326 yards per game and are rushing for 178 yards per game entering this contest. Led by quarterback Thomas Sirk (60% completions , 2,461 yards, 15 TD’s) the Blue Devils can put pressure on the Hoosiers defense in this game and control the time of possession with their rushing attack. Head coach David Cutcliff is a solid head coach that has the coaching advantage over Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson. Indiana has a solid offense led by quarterback Nate Sudfeld (24 TD’s) and the Hoosiers are averaging 36 points per game. However, the Indiana defense has allowed 30 points per game and is giving up 180 rushing yards per game this season-which will prove to be the team’s achilles heel in this contest. The time off for the bye weeks will benifit the Blue Devils in becoming focused for this game. Look for the Blue Devils to break through with an emotional victory in running to a bowl victory over the Hoosiers.
Duke 34 Indiana 30
Independence Bowl: Tulsa (6-6) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6) 5:45 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
This will be Frank Beamer’s last game as head coach for the Virginia Tech Hokies and expect the team to be fired up for this game. Tulsa will be without their offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert who has now become the offensive coordinator for the Texas Longhorns. Tulsa has an explosive offense that is averaging 35 points per game and is passing for 329 yards per game along with rushing for 179 yards per game. Virginia Tech comes into this game averaging 29 points per game with quarterback Michael Brewer, an experienced signal caller that has many offensive weapons at his disposal. On the season, Brewer has completed 57% of his passes for 1,359 yards with 12 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Brewer has battled injuries all year and will be making his last start for Virginia Tech. The time off should benefit his physical and mental preparation (senior) in leading the Hokies offensive attack. Virginia Tech is averaging 216 passing yards per game and is rushing for 151 yards per game. Tight ends Bucky Hodges and Ryan Malleck (8TD’s combined) give Brewer options in the passing game which can create mismatch problems for a Tulsa defense allowing 292 passing yards per game. Tulsa has been mediocre stopping the run and is allowing 238 rushing yards this season and has surrendered 38 points defensively as a unit this year. The weeks off will benefit Virginia Tech and defensive coordinator Bud Foster in drawing up a game plan to shut down the Golden Hurricanes offense. The Hokies are very good at defending the pass this year and have allowed 173 passing yards per game to their opponents. Virginia Tech has 21 sacks this season and enters this game with +6 in turnover margin (+3 on the road). Tulsa’s offensive line has allowed 36 sacks through 12 games and look for the Virginia Tech defense to dominate this game with their physical defensive front seven.
Virginia Tech 47 Tulsa 24 (Best Pick)
Foster Farms Bowl: UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7) 9:15pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Nebraska enters this game with a losing record and needs this game deperately to build momentum in the off season. However, the achilles heel of the Cornhuskers defense has been the secondary that is allowing 288 passing yards per game. UCLA enters this game offensively averaging 286 passing yards per game and rushing for 186 yards per game. UCLA head coach Jim Mora will have his team ready and the game is played in San Francisco (Levi’s Stadium)-which should feel like a home game for the Bruins. Quarterback Josh Rosen leads the high powered offense for UCLA and has completed 59% of his passes for 3,350 yards with 20 t0uchdowns with 9 interceptions. Running back Paul Perkins (1,275 yards, 12 TD’s) is a solid running back that can take over a game and will try and pound the football against the strength of the Cornhuskers defensive front seven that is allowing 113 rushing yards per game. This game comes down to the ability of the Bruins offense to throw over the top of the Nebraska secondary with quarterback Josh Rosen and the inabiltiy for the Nebraska offense to be cohessive as a unit. Entering this game, Nebraska is -13 in turnover margin (-7 on the road) and has struggled with quarterback Tommy Armstrong (21 TD’s, 16 interceptions ) to play a complete game of football under new head coach Mike Reilly. UCLA is the more complete team with the more consistent quarterback in Josh Rosen. Look for the Bruins to capitalize on turnovers (UCLA is +4 in turnover margin on the road this year) and force Tommy Armstrong into mistakes early on. The speed of the Bruins offense is the difference and big plays will propel UCLA to the bowl win.
UCLA 42 Nebraska 27
Listen to Joe’s show on Yahoo Sports Radio every Saturday morning from 10-11am EST at www.streamysr.com.
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 atwww.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.