Monday December 28th
Military Bowl: Pittburgh (8-4) vs. Navy (10-2) 2:30pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Pittsburgh has played very well on the road this year and has a 5-1 road record entering this match-up. The Panthers are very physical on the interior offensive and defensive lines which gives Pittsburgh the slight advantage heading into this game. Pittsburgh is averaging 195 passing yards per game and 185 rushing yards per game. Look for head coach Pat Narduzzi to pound the football early and often against the Midshipman to wear them down in the second half. Led by quarterback Nate Peterman (61% completion, 2150 yards, 19TD’s), the Panthers will work off of play action and try to attack a Navy secondary that is allowing 229 passing yards per game. Navy allowed 208 passing yards in the victory over arch rival Army last week and look for the Panthers to implement a similar game plan in this contest. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd is the X-factor for Pittsburgh and can have a big afternoon against the Midshipman. Boyd leads the team with 85 receptions for 873 yards with 6 touchdowns and is a playmaker that can take the top off of the defense. Pittsburgh is allowing 126 rushing yards per game and is +2 in turnover margin (+8 on the road this year). The Panthers have big interior defensive tackles that can disrupt the timing of the Navy triple option attack and force Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (NCAA Leader in Rushing TD’s 85 total) to throw over the top of the Panthers defense. Navy is passing for 92 yards per game and is rushing for 319 yards per game. Navy is +17 in turnover margin (+5 on the road) and will look to control the clock to keep the Pittsburgh offense off of the field. Look for Pittsburgh to wear down the undersized Midshipman and force Reynolds and company to play catch-up.
Pittsburgh 35 Navy 24
Quick Lane Bowl: Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Minnesota (5-7) 5:00 pm EST
Analysis and Picks:
MAC vs. Big 10 battle this should be an interesting game. Both teams are similar statistically and featuring blue collar defenses. Minnesota is averaging 22 points per game and allowing 26 points per game to their opponents while Central Michigan is averaging 26 points per game offensively while yielding 22 points per game on the defensive side. Minnesota has struggled to genrate a pass rush this year and has recorded 20 sacks through 12 games and this stat could be a factor going up against Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush. On the year, Rush has completed 67% of his passes for 3,708 yards with 25 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He is a confident signal caller that has been making solid decisions in the passing game this year and has played well againt teams like Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Michigan State. Central Michigan has played disciplined football for head coach John Bonamego and should be into this game. On the other hand, Tracy Claeys, has been learning on the job after taking over the reins for former head coach Jerry Kill. Central Michigan has been very good in stopping the run this year and is allowing 140 rushig yards per game to their opponents. Minnesota has struggled in being able to consistently pass the football with quarterback Mitch Leidner (57% completions, 13 TD’s with 10 INT’s) and the Chippewas should be able to force him to throw over the top of the defense. On the year, Central Michigan is allowing 189 passing yards per game. This game comes down to the quarterback position- Cooper Rush is better than Mitch Leidner. Rush has thrown for over 300 yards in 6 of his last 7 games (17 TD’s, 6 INT’s in that span) to end the regular season and look for him to have a big night against the Minnesota secondary.
Central Michigan 48 Minnesota 40
Tuesday December 29th
Armed Forces Bowl: CAL (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5) 2:00 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Great game that features contrast in styles with the high octane up-tempo attack of the CAL Bears and the triple option attack of the Air Force Falcons. As good as the Air Force defense is entering this game, I feel that this is a bad matchup for the Falcons from a speed perspective in this game. Air Force is allowing 190 passing yards per game and is yielding 146 rushing yards per game while surrendering 23 points to their opponents this season. The defensive front has done an excellent job in creating pressure this year and has recorded 33 sacks as a defensive unit. However, the offensive schemes used by the CAL offense is going to put alot of pressure on their secondary. CAL is averaging 36 points per game and has thrown for 368 yards per game while rushing for 155 yards per game. Quarterback Jarred Goff is completing 64% of his passes for 4,247 yards with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Goff is a mobile quarterback that can elude the pass rush with his pocket awareness and will challenge the defense vertically in this game. CAL has many offensive weapons that can create one on match-ups in space and look for head coach Sonny Dykes to pull out the full playbook in this game. Dykes is a solid head coach that will want to end the 2015 season on a high note for the team which he can take into the off-season. The CAL offense has 6 players that have caught over 35 passes this season with wide receivers Bryce Treggs and Kenny Lawler combining for 88 receptions with 16 touchdowns. Look for Goff to throw early and often to put the pressure on the Air Force offense to play catch-up. Even though Air Force has thrown the ball for 130 yards per game, the offense is not built to come from behind and the Bears speed will be the difference.
CAL 55 Air Force 30 (Best Pick)
Russell Athletic Bowl: Baylor (9-3) vs. North Carolina (11-2) 5:30pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Baylor backup quarterback Chris Johnson is expected to start in this game. Johnson took over after starting quarterback Seth Russell and backup Jarrett Stidham were both injured in consecutive weeks. Johnson has filled in admirably leading the Bears to the road victory over Oklahoma State this year and has thrown for 3 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. Both teams can score points with North Carolina averaging 40 points per game and Baylor averaging 48 points per game. However, this game will come down to the rushing offense of the Bears facing the Tar Heels defensive front seven. Baylor is averaging 300 yards rushing per game and North Carolina has struggled this year defensively allowing 217 rushing yards per game. In the ACC Championship against top ranked Clemson, the Tar Heels allowed 319 rushing yards to the Tigers. Baylor has an exsplosive offensive attack that will put alot of pressure on the edge of the Tar Heels defense and open up the play action passing game for Johnson and company. Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman leads the team with 74 receptions for 1,363 yards with 20 touchdowns and has not found the endzone in four games since the injuries to the quarterbacks. The time off will help head coach Art Briles and the offensive staff come up with schemes that can put their stars in a position to make big plays and expect Baylor to be hitting on all cylinders in this game. North Carolina is +8 in turnover margin (-3 on the road) and is allowing their opponents to convert on 43% of their third down attemtps. Defensively, Baylor is allowing 27 points per game and is allowing 156 rushing yards to their opponents.
Baylor 58 North Carolina 42 (Best Pick)
Arizona Bowl: Nevada (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-5) 7:30pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Both teams are from the same conference (Mountain West Conference) with Colorado State winning the last two games in 2013 (38-17) and 2014 (31-24). Nevada comes into this game averaging 26 points per game and passing for 172 yards per game. The Wolfpack are a run first offense that has averaged 205 yards per game and will look to challenge the Rams porous rush defense allowing 208 yards per game. Nevada quarterback Tyler Stewart has completed 57% of his passes for 2,064 yards with 15 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Colorado State enters this game averaging 30 points per game and has a solid balance of offense passing for 221 yards per game along with rushing for 195 yards per game. Former Georgia offensive coordinator and new head coach Mike Bobo is a great game planner and the extra time off should help him come up with a scheme to have the Rams in a position to get the victory. Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens has completed 62% of his passes for 2,368 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the year. Nevada is yielding 27 points per game on the defensive side of the ball and has surrendered 189 rushing yards per game. This game will come down to which team can run the ball effectively and minimize mistakes. Look for the balanced offensive atttack of Colorado State to be the difference along with wide receiver Rashard Higgens who leads the team with 66 receptions for 933 yards with 8 touchdowns.
Colorado State 28 Nevada 21
Texas Bowl: Texas Tech (7-5) vs. LSU (8-3) 9:00 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Great matchup that features the high powered Red Raiders offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes battling the “Madhatter” Les Miles and the LSU Tigers. It has been a while since LSU running back Leonard Fournette has been mentioned in the news since the Tigers lost to top ranked Alabama in early November, however, after this game- Fournette will be all over the highlight reels. Texas Tech enters this game allowing 540 total yards per game to their opponents and has one of the worst rush defenses in the nation that is allowing 271 yards per game. Texas Tech is giving up 42 points per game and is surrendering 268 passing yards per game. Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury fired three defensive assistants after the regular season, however, the new scheme will not make a difference in this game. LSU has a superior offensive line that can wear down the undersized Red Raiders defensive front seven. Texas Tech wore down late in ball games all season long (Oklahoma State & West Virginia) because of a lack of conditioning. In this game the defense will face the toughest “blue collar” offensive line it has went up agaisnt all season long. The Tigers are averaging 30 points per game and are passing for 173 yards per game. LSU is averaging 245 rushing yards per game with Fournette leading the team with 1,741 yards averaging 6.4 yards per carry with 18 touchdowns. Look for Fournette to have a huge day early on which will open up the play action passing attack for quarterback Brandon Harris. On the season, Harris has struggled completing 53% of his passes for 1,904 yards with 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. LSU will wear down Texas Tech by the second half and with the physicality of Fournette’s running style, this game will be decided by the third quarter. In Texas Tech’s season ending win in Austin against the Longhorns the defense was ripped for 403 yards on the night. LSU has the potential to run for 500 yards in this game.
LSU 52 Texas Tech 35 (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 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 andThe 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.