So…college football’s bowl season kind of snuck up on me y’all!! The games actually begin today. At the moment I am hoping I get this up on the website in time, but rest assured that even if I’m running a little late these picks were made in advance…no shenanigans. I’m feeling a little more ambivalent than usual about these games…for a variety of reasons. However, I will try to refrain from my normal kvetching about stupid (i.e. corporate) bowl names, teams with only six wins being bowl eligible, & the schedule containing far too many pointless games. There are those that embrace the idea of as many bowl games as possible because a bad football game is like bad sex…still not a bad way to spend some downtime, and I suppose I see their point. At any rate, as always these games do not count toward our season long Pigskin Picks of Profundity, we don’t bother with point spreads, & for the most part we understand that a variety of elements that we may know nothing about can have an effect on the outcomes. I’ve decided not to break everything down into tiers this year, so we’ll just go in chronological order. Enjoy.
Saturday 12/15 at 1:30pm on CBS Sports Network
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (7–6) vs. Tulane Green Wave (6–6)
The proceeds from the game are donated to breast cancer research, which is nice. I suppose the NCAA wouldn’t have approved of naming it the Boobies Bowl. Having no real knowledge about either team I’m going with the Green Wave because I like waves & the color green. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Tulane
Z’s Pick: Tulane
Saturday 12/15 at 2pm on ESPN
Utah State Aggies (10–2) vs. North Texas Mean Green (9–3)
This might actually be a fun game. Both teams have obviously had a successful season and are well deserving of a bowl bid. Sticking with a theme I’m picking North Texas because their green is mean. Conversely, Zach likes the rushing attack for the Aggies.
My Pick: North Texas
Z’s Pick: Utah St.
Las Vegas, NV
Saturday 12/15 at 3:30pm on ABC
Arizona State Sun Devils (7–5) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (11–2)
Vegas baby!! Vegas!!!! I envy these kids for getting to spend a few days in Sin City. I am sure that, despite all the potential distractions, Herm Edwards will have his Sun Devils ready to play. The Bulldogs defeated Boise St. to win the Mountain West title game, and this is their reward. It should be another fun game, and I gotta go with my man Herm to score the upset. Zach likes ol’ Herm well enough, but he just can’t be all in on the Sun Devils at this point.
My Pick: Arizona St.
Z’s Pick: Fresno St.
Saturday 12/15 at 5:30pm on ESPN
Eastern Michigan Eagles (7–5) vs. Georgia Southern Eagles (9–3)
A camellia is a type of flower. Fans of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird might recognize it as the flower grown by mean old Mrs. Dubose that was destroyed by an angry Jem Finch. I know zero about the teams involved, so I’m just going with the favorites. Zach believes it’ll be an easy win for Georgia Southern.
My Pick: Georgia Southern
Z’s Pick: Georgia Southern
New Orleans, LA
Saturday 12/15 at 9pm on ESPN
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8–5) vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers (10–2)
It’s a great location for a bowl game, but I have to wonder how many folks from Murfreesboro, TN (located about 30 miles from Nashville) & Boone, NC (named for pioneer Daniel Boone) will be making the trek to The Big Easy. The Blue Raiders beat my Marshall Thundering Herd back in October (on my birthday!!), so I’ve got to root against them. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Appalachian St.
Z’s Pick: Appalachian St.
Boca Raton, FL
Tuesday 12/18 at 7pm on ESPN
Northern Illinois Huskies (8–5) vs. UAB Blazers (10–3)
UAB shut down their football program for a couple of seasons awhile back, so it’s great to see the team revived & successful. Northern Illinois played Florida St. in the Orange Bowl back in 2012, so they’ve had their share of success over the years. I really like UAB’s comeback story so I always cheer for the Blazers. Zach agrees.
My Pick: UAB
Z’s Pick: UAB
Wednesday 12/19 at 8pm on ESPN
San Diego State Aztecs (7–5) vs. Ohio Bobcats (8–4)
No, the game is not in San Francisco…it’s in Frisco, TX, a Dallas suburb. I think the Aztecs have too much speed & firepower for the Bobcats to overcome, so I’m looking for a fairly comfortable victory for SD State. Zach likes State’s rushing attack to lead the way.
My Pick: San Diego St.
Z’s Pick: San Diego St.
Thursday 12/20 at 8pm on ESPN
South Florida Bulls (7–5) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd (8–4)
This is how you name a bowl game. At first glance you might think that gasparilla is some kind of flower or plant along the lines of a camellia, but the game is actually named in honor of José Gaspar, an apocryphal Spanish pirate. As the story goes, The Last of the Buccaneers allegedly lived in the Tampa area, plundering & pirating across The Caribbean & The Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th to early 19th century. It’s a cool story even if it is probably fictional. Anyway, I can’t pick against my alma mater, even though I did rank their opponent 12th in my pre-season poll. I’m happy this game is on a non-work night for me because I think it’ll be fun to watch. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Marshall
Z’s Pick: Marshall
Friday 12/21 at 12:30pm on ESPN
FIU Panthers (8–4) vs. Toledo Rockets (7–5)
I’m not sure how many fans of either team will be making the trip, but for those able to afford it and for the players, coaches, & staff of each program going to The Bahamas seems like a rather splendid Christmas gift. I think this is another game where speed & athleticism will make a huge difference. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Florida International
Z’s Pick: Florida International
Friday 12/21 at 4pm on ESPN
Western Michigan Broncos (7–5) vs. BYU Cougars (6–6)
I will be eternally bemused that Boise was deemed by somebody somewhere as an appropriate bowl location. Perhaps the folks at The Mothership in Bristol, CT thought the blue turf would mesmerize television viewers. The Cougars come into the game having been battle tested against opponents like Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington, & Utah. Conversely, the Broncos have played…well okay, Syracuse & Michigan. Gotta give them credit for playing two legit out-of-conference opponents. I think this will be a high scoring affair…something like 42-35…and I’m picking BYU to come out on top. Zach thinks BYU’s rushing attack will lead them to victory.
My Pick: BYU
Z’s Pick: BYU
Saturday 12/22 at Noon on ESPN
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6–6) vs. Memphis Tigers (8–5)
Memphis beat Houston a few weeks ago then played UCF tough in the AAC title game before losing, so I think they are a pretty decent team. Zach likes Memphis to win a shootout.
My Pick: Memphis
Z’s Pick: Memphis
Fort Worth, TX
Saturday 12/22 at 3:30pm on ESPN
Army Black Knights (9–2) vs. Houston Cougars (8–4)
I’m actually looking forward to this game and believe it could be sneaky good. There are always a few of those this time of year. I’d love to pick Army, but I think Houston will have a size advantage in the trenches and wear down their opponent by the fourth quarter. Zach sees things the opposite way. He believes that Army’s offense will wear out the Houston defense and win in the final quarter.
My Pick: Houston
Z’s Pick: Army
Saturday 12/22 at 7pm on ESPN
Buffalo Bulls (10–3) vs. Troy Trojans (9–3)
I’m tempted to call this another sneaky good game, but if y’all have been sleeping on these two teams that’s your own fault. Buffalo beat Temple & Rutgers, and Troy played Nebraska tough, so they are both pretty good. Obviously neither team is going to walk into a “power” conference and compete on a weekly basis with Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio St., etc., but on their own level they have both built respectable programs. I’ve been really impressed with the Bulls when I’ve watched them play, so I’ll lean in that direction. Zach has a gut feeling, and he’s picking Troy.
My Pick: Buffalo
Z’s Pick: Troy
Saturday 12/22 at 10:30pm on ESPN
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7–5) vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (8–5)
Everything I said about the Bahamas Bowl applies to this game as well. I don’t know how much Tech support the Bulldogs will have (sorry…I just couldn’t resist) but for those who do make the trip it’ll surely be a fun vacation. It is basically another home game for the Rainbow Warriors, so I think that gives them a big edge. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Hawaii
Z’s Pick: Hawaii
Wednesday 12/26 at 1:30pm on ESPN
Boston College Eagles (7–5) vs. Boise State Broncos (10–3)
This was known the past few years as the Heart of Dallas Bowl, so kudos for the name change. It may not be a New Year’s Bowl against a traditional football elite, but this is still an opportunity for Boise to prove that they can compete with “power” conference foes, and I’d like to see them take advantage of it. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Boise St.
Z’s Pick: Boise St.
Wednesday 12/26 at 5:15pm on ESPN
Minnesota Golden Gophers (6–6) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7–5)
On paper this is one of the least appealing games being played. I probably won’t watch. You probably won’t watch. I’m going to pick Minnesota just because I think gophers are cooler than yellow jackets. Zach doesn’t think Minnesota can deal with Tech’s triple option.
My Pick: Minnesota
Z’s Pick: Georgia Tech
Wednesday 12/26 at 9pm on ESPN
TCU Horned Frogs (6–6) vs. California Golden Bears (7–5)
Back in the day it was the Copper Bowl, then the Insight.com Bowl, then the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and finally the Cactus Bowl for a few years until now. I like to dip Cheez-its in chicken salad for a tasty snack. I like these west coast games on non-work nights, so I suppose I’ll watch & hope for a fun contest. TCU was apre-season playoff team for me, but obviously they fell far short of that goal. Cal beat Washington, USC, & Colorado during the season, so they can be randomly good. The Vibes are telling me to go with the Golden Bears, and so I shall. Zach has picked against Cal four times this season and is 0-4, so now he’s coming on over to the other side.
My Pick: California
Z’s Pick: California
Thursday 12/27 at 1:30pm on ESPN
Temple Owls (8–4) vs. Duke Blue Devils (7–5)
The Independence Bowl has been around since 1976, and has grown from one of the lesser games to being respected as one of the old guard traditional games. Unfortunately it still doesn’t get many great matchups, and I don’t believe this will be a pleasantly surprising exception. I have a soft spot for the Owls since I fondly recall them as a Big East doormat when I was a kid (although at the time they had a highly touted basketball program). Duke is still a basketball school for the most part, but the football program has been pretty good for several years. My expectations are low, and Temple is the pick. Conversely, Zach likes Duke to get a close win.
My Pick: Temple
Z’s Pick: Duke
Thursday 12/27 at 5:15pm on ESPN
Wisconsin Badgers (7–5) vs. Miami Hurricanes (7–5)
The Badgers were my pre-season #1 because…well, I’m sure my reasons seemed perfectly valid at the time. Needless to say, things didn’t quite work out as I had envisioned. The Hurricanes underperformed as well, falling off steeply from their 10-3 record a year ago. However, in spite of both squads having disappointing seasons I think this might be an entertaining game, and I am riding with my top team. I’m loyal like that. Zach feels like Miami has been too inconsistent offensively this season, and likes Wisconsin to use old-fashioned smashmouth football to score the victory.
My Pick: Wisconsin
Z’s Pick: Wisconsin
Thursday 12/27 at 9pm on ESPN
Baylor Bears (6–6) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (6–6)
Ehhh. I can’t imagine that anyone outside the two fanbases will have any interest in this game. I’ll pick Vanderbilt because the school is known as The Harvard of The South and I really like smart people. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Vanderbilt
Z’s Pick: Vanderbilt
Friday 12/28 at 1:30pm on ESPN
Auburn Tigers (7–5) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (6–6)
The Auburn folks might be disappointed in their season, but I’m not totally shocked that they went from a ten win team a year ago to where they find themselves currently. The SEC is tough anyway, and Tennessee, Kentucky, & LSU were all better than expected, so someone is going to fall thru the cracks and this year it was Auburn. The highlight of Purdue’s season was a beatdown of Ohio St. in October, which ultimately cost the Buckeyes a playoff spot. Otherwise there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about for Boilermaker fans. This will be portrayed as important for bragging rights between the SEC and Big Ten, and I think we all know who usually draws the short straw in that competition. Zach doesn’t think Auburn will be into the game on an emotional level, so that tips the scales to Purdue.
My Pick: Auburn
Z’s Pick: Purdue
Friday 12/28 at 5:15pm on ESPN
Syracuse Orange (9–3) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (8–3)
As a Mountaineers fan I am beyond disappointed by this game. There were such high hopes coming into the season, but poor coaching and other bad decisions doomed the team to just another run-of-the-mill record, ending up in a run-of-the-mill bowl game against a run-of-the-mill opponent. I have no issue with WVU QB Will Grier’s decision to skip the game and get a head start in preparing for the NFL Draft. The dude is a potential first round draft pick…why should he risk injury is this meaningless game?? Credit where it is due to ‘Cuse for a nice season, but I’m sorry…the ‘Eers were expecting better than this. I suppose the smart money is on WVU not being all that motivated to be in the game and a bit behind the eight ball with their starting quarterback not playing. I get it…but I just can’t pick against them. Given Grier’s absence and WVU’s poor bowl record over the years Zach is going in the opposite direction.
My Pick: West Virginia
Z’s Pick: Syracuse
San Antonio, TX
Friday 12/28 at 9pm on ESPN
Iowa State Cyclones (8–4) vs. Washington State Cougars (10–2)
This is the game West Virginia should be playing in, but since they didn’t bother to show up during a road loss to the Cyclones in October and probably because the games organizers can read a map and know that Iowa is a skosh closer than West Virginia to San Antonio this is how things ended up. Cougars’ QB Gardner Minshew will be looking to improve his draft stock, but he’ll be facing a tough defense. On paper the Cougars look like a heavy favorite…but they better not take the opponent lightly. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Washington St.
Z’s Pick: Washington St.
Saturday 12/29 at Noon on ABC
South Carolina Gamecocks (7–5) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (7–5)
Could it be a sneaky good game?? Maybe, but no one is expecting much from two middle-of-the-road teams playing in a middle-of-the-road bowl game. The Vibes are telling me to pick Virginia, and I always listen to The Vibes. Zach likes the Cocks.
My Pick: Virginia
Z’s Pick: South Carolina
Saturday 12/29 at 1:15pm on CBS Sports Network
Nevada Wolf Pack (7–5) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (8–4)
I actually have CBSSN on my channel lineup, so I guess I’ll check in to see if this game is worth watching. I won’t hold my breath though. The Wolfpack have been on my radar for several years and have been known to play in some entertaining games. Zach is going in the opposite direction and picking the Red Wolves.
My Pick: Nevada
Z’s Pick: Arkansas St.
Saturday 12/29 at Noon on ESPN
Florida Gators (9–3) vs. Michigan Wolverines (10–2)
Oh what might have been. Both teams had opportunities during the season to end up in a better spot, but the Gators fell to Kentucky & Missouri…two teams they’d beat in any “normal” year…and the Wolverines once again couldn’t get past archrival Ohio St. I suppose this is a rather decent consolation prize, especially for fans who can probably look forward to a competitive & engaging contest. I expect Jim Harbaugh will have his team ready, and I look for Michigan to prevail. Zach is worried about Michigan’s offense and thinks they may fall short.
My Pick: Michigan
Z’s Pick: Florida
Cotton (Playoff Semifinal Game)
Saturday 12/29 4pm on ESPN
Clemson Tigers (13–0) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12–0)
I wish I could get more excited about the playoff, but since ¾ of the field has pretty much been a foregone conclusion for weeks the whole thing has lost much of its charm. This is why the NCAA basketball tournament…aka March Madness…is a superior postseason show, because even if we think we know who the top teams are there are always upsets and surprises along the way. If we end up with the teams we perceived all along as the best battling for the title that’s okay because there has been some excitement leading up to it. With football the playoff just feels…anticlimactic. At any rate, of the two semifinal games I guess this is the one I’m most interested in. A few months ago I thought Clemson may get left out in the cold due to a rather weak schedule, but Syracuse, Boston College, & Pitt all ended up being better than anticipated, or atleast good enough for the powers-that-be to overlook Clemson’s out-of-conference games against Furman & Georgia Southern. It doesn’t hurt that the Tigers are loaded with NFL caliber talent, especially on defense. The Irish had a relatively soft schedule as well in my humble opinion, but both teams deserve credit for mowing down whatever competition was put in front of them and finishing undefeated. I think Clemson’s defense is just too damn good, so I look for them to pull out a close victory. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: Clemson
Orange (Playoff Semifinal Game)
Saturday 12/29 at 8pm on ESPN
Alabama Crimson Tide (13–0) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (12–1)
I know Nick Saban is from West Virginia. I know that means I’m supposed to root for him. But Charles Manson was born in WV too, and no one was cheering him on. No, I’m not comparing Saban to Manson, but I’m just tired of Alabama. As awesome as college football is it needs some parity. It needs for some great teams to have a few bad years and a few bad teams to challenge for championships. That’s one reason why we love the NFL…it isn’t uncommon for a team to finish at the bottom of their division one year and make the playoffs the following season. That kind of unpredictability is good. I would have rather seen Ohio St. get the final spot instead of the Sooners, but I understand why it worked out the way it did. As far this game is concerned, I think ‘Bama’s defense is good enough to slow down Heisman winning QB Kyler Murray just a little, and their offense can go toe to toe with Oklahoma. Zach thinks the score might top 100 points collectively, and he likes Saban to make the right moves at the right time to lead his team to victory.
My Pick: Alabama
Z’s Pick: Alabama
New Year’s Eve at Noon on ESPN
Virginia Tech Hokies (6–6) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (10–2)
The Hokies owe a huge thank you to my Marshall Thundering Herd for sacrificing themselves so that Tech could become bowl eligible. I think that’s where the good news ends for them though because for possibly the first & only time Cincinnati is clearly the better team. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Z’s Pick: Cincinnati
El Paso, TX
New Year’s Eve at 2pm on CBS
Stanford Cardinal (8–4) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (7–6)
The Sun Bowl is one of the oldest bowl games, and one of the few that doesn’t air on the ESPN “family of networks”. This could be a decent game, although in my humble opinion Pitt isn’t as good as some seem to think. Zach foresees a low scoring defensive battle.
My Pick: Stanford
Z’s Pick: Stanford
Santa Clara, CA
New Year’s Eve at 3pm on Fox
Michigan State Spartans (7–5) vs. Oregon Ducks (8–4)
This game has had a few names over the years…the Walnut Bowl, the Emerald Bowl, the Fight Hunger Bowl, the Foster Farms Bowl. It’s amusing to me that Redbox has obtained naming rights because Redbox is about as outdated as Blockbuster. Does anyone actually go out and rent DVDs anymore?? My money is on this game becoming the Roku Bowl or the Amazon Firestick bowl within a year or two. The matchup is mildly compelling…two teams who probably had higher expectations but who probably ended up about where they should’ve given the competitiveness of their conferences. I think the crowd will be significantly in Oregon’s corner, and I like the Ducks’ offense to get the job done. Zach concurs.
My Pick: Oregon
Z’s Pick: Oregon
New Year’s Eve at 3:45pm on ESPN
Oklahoma State Cowboys (6–6) vs. Missouri Tigers (8–4)
I wouldn’t have minded seeing my Mountaineers play in this game, but they screwed the pooch against the Cowboys in November. Missouri should have never left the Big 12…they are a forgotten team in the SEC. Tigers’ QB Drew Lock is a potential first round draft pick, so this could be a great opportunity for him to solidify that status. Conversely, Zach likes OK State.
My Pick: Missouri
Z’s Pick: Oklahoma St.
San Diego, CA
New Year’s Eve at 7pm on FS1
Northwestern Wildcats (8–5) vs. Utah Utes (9–4)
I’m going to climb out on a limb and predict that this will be one of the best bowl games of the entire schedule. Both teams fell short in their conference title games, so this is an opportunity for redemption. I really like Northwestern, and I think they’ll grind out a hard fought, low scoring defensive battle and snag the win. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Northwestern
Z’s Pick: Northwestern
New Year’s Eve at 7:30pm on ESPN
Texas A&M Aggies (8–4) vs. NC State Wolfpack (9–3)
The Aggies are another team that should still be in the Big 12 instead of the SEC. That move never made much sense to me. Having said that, there’s no doubt that Jimbo Fisher is building something special there, and I just don’t see the Wolfpack being able to compete. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Z’s Pick: Texas A&M
New Year’s Day at Noon on ESPN2
Mississippi State Bulldogs (8–4) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (8–4)
Both teams are overlooked in conferences that are loaded with great teams. This is a chance for them to shine and hog the spotlight for once. I like the Hawkeyes to win another low scoring defensive battle, with turnovers & special teams playing a key role in the outcome. Zach is predicting a big game from Iowa tight end Noah Fant, who might be a first round draft pick next spring.
My Pick: Iowa
Z’s Pick: Iowa
New Year’s Day at 1pm on ABC
Penn State Nittany Lions (9–3) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (9–3)
I never would have predicted a few months ago that the Wildcats would be playing football on New Year’s Day. They’ve had an outstanding season and deserve praise for their accomplishments. However, the Nittany Lions have been here before and are used to success. I think Kentucky can hang tough for three quarters, but Penn St. will pull away and win comfortably. Zach agrees.
My Pick: Penn St.
Z’s Pick: Penn St.
New Year’s Day at 1pm on ESPN
LSU Tigers (9–3) vs. UCF Knights (12–0)
I didn’t think either team would be as good as they’ve been this season, despite past success. UCF hasn’t lost a game in two years, which is amazing, and they proved a year ago that they can hang with the big boys when they defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Can they do the same thing without injured starting QB McKenzie Milton?? I’d love to see it. Zach thinks UCF might win in a blowout.
My Pick: Central Florida
Z’s Pick: Central Florida.
New Year’s Day at 5pm on ESPN
Washington Huskies (10–3) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (12–1)
I know both teams wanted to be in the playoff, and I thought the Buckeyes might have been able to sneak in, but I suppose the Rose Bowl is one hell of a fallback option. This is the last hurrah for Ohio St. head coach Urban Meyer before he “retires” (for now), and I expect his team to use his departure and anger about being left out of the playoff as fuel to spark a big win. Conversely…and to absolutely no one’s surprise…Zach is picking Washington.
My Pick: Ohio St.
Z’s Pick: Washington
New Orleans, LA
New Year’s Day at 8:45pm on ESPN
Texas Longhorns (9–4) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (11–2)
I knew Texas would be back in the spotlight eventually, and I expect that they’ll be huge favorites to win the Big 12 next season. Georgia is probably disappointed about not making the playoff, but they received a fair shot and couldn’t overcome Alabama in the SEC title game. Both squads have their fair share of NFL caliber talent, so this will probably be a really good game to watch. Going forward I think you’ll see the Longhorns ascending and the Bulldogs descending, but in this game I’m looking for Georgia to score a tight victory. Zach actually likes Georgia to win big.
My Pick: Georgia
Z’s Pick: Georgia
College Football Playoff National Championship
Santa Clara, CA
Monday, January 7 at 8pm on ESPN
Alabama/Oklahoma vs. Clemson/Notre Dame
We both have predicted an Alabama vs. Clemson title game. I think Clemson is the only team good enough on both sides of the ball to give ‘Bama a fight. If this is the matchup the focus will be on QB Tua Tagovailoa & the Tide offense versus a Clemson defense that is stacked with NFL talent. But what about the other side of the coin?? Can Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence & RB Travis Etienne overcome ‘Bama’s stout defense?? It might just be wishful thinking on my part, but I really like Dabo Swinney, and I think he can lead his team to another title. Zach just can’t go against saban, and he believes Alabama will win yet another championship.
My Pick: Clemson
Z’s Pick: Alabama