2022-23 COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL-A-PALOOZA (Part 1)

This exercise is always fraught with a variety of pitfalls & unknown wildcards. Coaching changes. Players sitting out to “prepare for the NFL Draft”. Injuries. Teams that are disappointed with their season. And now we can add the freakin’ transfer portal to all of that. A slew of players have already entered into the portal, which obviously changes team chemistry & depth. It is unusual for a star player to go elsewhere, but football fans know how valuable that extra receiver, offensive lineman, or cornerback can become, so it’s certainly a factor. All of these things are why we don’t pay attention to point spreads or take these picks too seriously at all. Instead, we choose to sit back, relax, and simply enjoy a month long football feast. As always, I discourage wagering since we have no idea what we’re talking about with most of these games, but you do you. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, & Buon Natale. 

FRI. 12/16

Bahamas Bowl
Miami (OH) vs. Alabama-Birmingham 
11:30am/ESPN

I love the fact that two very average teams from two second rate conferences get a trip to The Bahamas as a reward for their mediocrity. God bless those kids. However, just in case the lads begin to get a little cocky, the fact that they’re kicking off at 11:30am on a Friday should bring them back down to Earth. I’ve got to pull for Miami simply because it’s the alma mater of my man Ben Roethlisberger. Conversely, though he believes the teams are evenly matched, Zach likes UAB’s ground game to pound out a victory. 

My Pick: Miami (OH)

Zach’s Pick: UAB

Cure Bowl
Troy vs. UTSA
3pm/ESPN – Orlando, FL

The 11-2 Trojans are the Sun Belt Champions, while the 11-2 Roadrunners rule C-USA. There’s a chance it could be a sneaky good game, but I think Troy is the better team. Zach foresees a shootout, but thinks it’ll be UTSA quarterback Frank Harris who makes the difference.

My Pick: Troy

Zach’s Pick: UTSA

Sat. 12/17

Fenway Bowl
Cincinnati vs. Louisville
11am/ESPN – Boston, MA

This is a weird one because former Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield was just hired to be the new coach at Cincinnati. Odd. Anyway, the 9-3 Bearcats finished third in the AAC, a far cry from a season ago when they faced off against Alabama in The Playoff. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were a solid 7-5 in the ACC and just welcomed former quarterback Jeff Brohm home as their new head coach. Brohm left Purdue for the job, which seems like a step down, but perhaps he knows something we don’t. Anyway, these new coaches won’t be on the sidelines until next season, so I’m not sure what that means for the bowl game. Cincy isn’t the team they were last year, but I think they’ll channel some of that old mojo and snag a victory. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Cincinnati 

Zach’s Pick: Cincinnati 

Celebration Bowl
Jackson State vs. North Carolina Central
Noon/ABC – Atlanta, GA

The Tigers have received plenty of attention the past few years thanks to soon-to-be former head coach Deion Sanders. Despite being named the new head coach at Colorado Coach Prime will lead Jackson in the bowl game, and he deserves kudos for that. Jackson is actually undefeated, which many of y’all might not know. The Eagles are 9-2, so let’s not overlook their achievements. That being said, I can’t imagine Prime Time going out a loser. Who knows what may lie ahead in Boulder, but in this situation Sanders gets his proper farewell. Zach agrees.

My Pick:  Jackson St.

Zach’s Pick: Jackson St.

New Mexico Bowl
SMU vs. BYU
2:15pm/ESPN – Albuquerque, NM

The 7-5 Cougars certainly didn’t live up to my expectations, but there were some highlights. A double OT win over Baylor in September had everyone dreaming big, as did a narrow win on the blue turf at Boise. Unfortunately going 0 for October doomed any Top 10 dreams. The Mustangs have an identical 7-5 record, with a tough out of conference slate not turning out well for them. I’ll be surprised if BYU doesn’t roll big in this one, but that belief is based on very little. Zach thinks BYU is the more physical team. 

My Pick: BYU

Zach’s Pick: BYU

LA Bowl
Washington State vs. Fresno State
3:30pm/ABC – Los Angeles, CA

I assume that whenever a Mountain West team gets a shot against a PAC 12 opponent it’s a big deal. So can the 9-4 Bulldogs hang with the 7-5 Cougars?? I think they can for awhile, but depth means a lot in the 4th quarter. Zach believes in Fresno’s defense. 

My Pick: Washington St.

Zach’s Pick: Fresno St.

LendingTree Bowl
Rice vs. Southern Mississippi
5:45pm/ESPN – Mobile, AL

Am I missing something when it comes to the state of Alabama?? Why are there three bowl games being played there?? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do have information concerning something else about which you may be curious. How are the Owls playing in the postseason?? Well, apparently when there aren’t enough six win teams there is something called Academic Progress Rating used to choose amongst 5-7 teams, and Rice tops the list. Student athletes earn one point for staying in school & one point for being academically eligible. APR is calculated by dividing a team’s total points then multiplying by 1000. It’s a bit convoluted, but I’m cool with rewarding kids for staying in school & doing well academically. That being said, I don’t believe it will translate to a victory over the 6-6 Golden Eagles. Zach is on the same page. 

My Pick: Southern Miss 

Zach’s Pick: Southern Miss 

Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon State vs. Florida
7:30pm/ABC – Las Vegas, NV

Vegas baby!! Vegas!!!! God bless these youngsters for turning a solid yet underappreciated season into a free trip to Sin City. The 9-3 Beavers lost close games to USC & Washington, and there’s no shame in that. They actually beat in-state rival Oregon, costing the Ducks a conference title opportunity. Meanwhile, the 6-6 Gators have had a roller coaster year, and starting QB Anthony Richardson has declared for the NFL Draft & won’t be playing. That’s not good news. Zach thinks the Beavers have been solid all season and looks for that to continue. 

My Pick: Oregon St. 

Zach’s Pick: Oregon St.

Frisco Bowl
Boise State vs. North Texas
9:15pm/ESPN – Frisco, TX

The 7-6 Mean Green play their home games in Denton, TX (a Dallas suburb known for being the home of pro wrestling’s Von Erich family & the birthplace of legendary rocker Meat Loaf), which is only a half hour away from Frisco. So basically this is a home game for them. The 9-4 Broncos are used to much bigger stages than this, although they haven’t played in a New Year’s game since 2014. This one kicks off at the end of a pretty full day of action, and I’m not sure the matchup is compelling enough to make me change the channel from a plethora of Christmas movies that’ll probably be on that night. Zach is impressed with the Mean Green offense, but believes they’ll fall short in this game.

My Pick: Boise St.

Zach’s Pick: Boise St.

MONDAY, DEC. 19

Myrtle Beach Bowl
Marshall vs. Connecticut 
2:30pm/ESPN – Myrtle Beach, SC

I’m a Marshall alum, so y’all know I’m not picking against my guys. After a monumental September upset of Notre Dame in South Bend the Herd lost three out of the next four games, ultimately finishing 8-4. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I find that record slightly disappointing. The 6-6 Huskies got off to a rough start but improved in the second half of the season. The TV ratings probably won’t be great, but I’ll be watching. Zach thinks UConn’s defense is terrible & the Herd will have a field day.

My Pick: Marshall

Zach’s Pick: Marshall 

TUESDAY, DEC. 20

Potato Bowl
Eastern Michigan vs. San Jose State
3:30pm/ESPN – Boise, ID

I feel bad for teams playing in this group of bowl games. The initial postseason fun factor has worn off. It’s the week of Christmas and folks are busy with last minute preparations. The time slots aren’t great. Even hardcore football fans need a breather before the really good matchups start. I suppose being in a bargain basement bowl game is better than being shut out of postseason play altogether though. The 8-4 Eagles out of the MAC and the 7-4 Spartans out of the Mountain West met in the 1987 California Bowl. Eastern Michigan won that game 30-27, and they haven’t won a bowl game since. I think 35 years is long enough. Conversely, Zach foresees an easy Spartan victory. 

My Pick: Eastern Michigan 

Zach’s Pick: San Jose St.

Boca Raton Bowl
Liberty vs. Toledo
7:30pm/ESPN – Boca Raton, FL

The 8-4 Flames already lost head coach Hugh Freeze to Auburn and hired Jamey Chadwell away from Coastal Carolina, although I assume neither will be on the sidelines for this game. The 8-5 Rockets won the MAC title, and I expect them to score another solid victory. Zach thinks we’re in for a low scoring defensive struggle that favors Liberty. 

My Pick: Toledo 

Zach’s Pick: Liberty 

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 21

New Orleans Bowl
South Alabama vs. Western Kentucky
9pm/ESPN – New Orleans, LA

I suppose The Big Easy is another pretty cool landing spot. The Jaguars are 10-2 and riding a five game winning streak, but didn’t even play in the Sun Belt title game because of an October loss to Troy. The 8-5 Hilltoppers played an extra game this season, per an NCAA rule that awards teams for traveling to Hawaii. I don’t foresee this being much of a contest, and expect South ‘Bama to win easily. Zach, on the other hand, believes WKU will score a last second victory.

My Pick: South Alabama

Zach’s Pick: Western Kentucky 

THURSDAY, DEC. 22

Armed Forces Bowl
Baylor vs. Air Force
7:30pm/ESPN – Fort Worth, TX

After going 12-2 & finishing in the Top 5 last season the Bears were a very mediocre 6-6 this year. The Falcons are a very solid 9-3, but had the misfortune of finishing a distant second in their division of the Mountain West. I think Baylor’s speed & athleticism will be too much, and they’ll pull away in the second half. Zach makes note of Baylor’s big game experience, and likes them as well.

My Pick: Baylor 

Zach’s Pick: Baylor

FRIDAY, DEC. 23

Gasparilla Bowl
Wake Forest vs. Missouri
6:30pm/ESPN – Tampa, FL

It’s time for your annual history lesson. José Gaspar was an apocryphal Spanish pirate. “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, amassing a huge fortune by taking prizes & ransoming hostages, and died by leaping from his ship rather than face capture by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind an enormous and as-yet undiscovered treasure. Hence the name of this bowl game. As far as the matchup, the 7-5 Demon Deacons are another team that fell back to Earth after going 11-3, appearing in the ACC title game, and winning the Gator Bowl a season ago. The Tigers are 6-6 but gave most of their opponents, including #1 Georgia, all they could handle. I expect more of the same…a fun & competitive game that Wake ultimately finds a way to win. Zach predicts the same result in a low scoring battle. 

My Pick: Wake Forest 

Zach’s Pick: Wake Forest 

Independence Bowl
Houston vs. Louisiana
3pm/ESPN – Shreveport, LA

The 7-5 Cougars are going to have to kick it up a notch moving into the Big 12 next year. The 6-6 Ragin’ Cajuns fell off considerably after three straight double digit win seasons. You may think this looks like a home game for Louisiana, but Houston isn’t that much further from Shreveport than Lafayette, so that isn’t the case. This has potential to be a sneaky good game, and since most of the country will be off work & finished Christmas shopping (😉🙏🏻😂) perhaps there’ll be some eyeballs glued to their TV. It’ll be close, but I think Louisiana will grind out a victory. Zach wants all the gamblers out there to take the over, and thinks Houston will prevail. 

My Pick: Louisiana 

Zach’s Pick: Houston 

SATURDAY, DEC. 24

Hawaii Bowl
Middle Tennessee State vs. San Diego State
8pm/ESPN – Honolulu, HI

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day, or in this case, Christmas Eve. If my calculations are correct an 8pm kickoff here in the eastern time zone means it will be a 2pm start on the big island. I think alot more people will be watching Ralphie Parker, George Bailey, & Ebenezer Scrooge (or the Steelers game on NFL Network) than paying attention to the this, but hey, have fun on your Hawaiian vacation of a lifetime kids. The Blue Raiders are a 7-5 middle-of-the-pack CUSA team, while the Aztecs are a 7-5 upper middle tier Mountain West team. This might be one of those games that nobody watches but everybody wishes they would have after seeing the highlights on Sportscenter. I think SD St. will win a shootout.  Zach agrees.

My Pick: San Diego St.

Zach’s Pick: San Diego St.

MONDAY, DEC. 26

Quick Lane Bowl
Bowling Green vs. New Mexico State
2:30pm/ESPN – Detroit, MI

No, the NCAA isn’t altruistic enough to skip having ball games on Christmas out of respect for Jesus & family. Christmas is on Sunday this year so there are NFL games on the schedule. Anyway, the 6-6 Falcons versus the 6-6 Aggies is about as prosaic as it gets, and I can’t put a shiny happy spin on it. I think Bowling Green gets the victory, but I doubt if I’ll be paying attention. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Bowling Green

Zach’s Pick: Bowling Green 

TUESDAY, DEC. 27

First Responder Bowl
Memphis vs. Utah State
3:15pm/ESPN – Dallas, TX

ESPN is looking to cure our post-Christmas blues with a full day of gridiron action, but I’m a bit skeptical. The 6-6 Tigers had a tough second half of the season, while the 6-6 Aggies were the opposite, starting slow then improving in the latter stages. I know absolutely nothing about either team, but The Voices are telling me to lean toward Utah St. Zach foresees the same result, mostly because of Utah St.’s offensive line.

My Pick: Utah St.

Zach’s Pick: Utah St.

Birmingham Bowl
Coastal Carolina vs. East Carolina
6:45pm/ESPN – Birmingham, AL

Whoever is running the state of Alabama, could y’all throw some advice toward the dolts who’ve been ruining West Virginia for decades?? Coastal recently lost head coach Jamey Chadwell to Liberty, which seems like an odd move on his part. QB Grayson McCall is gone as well…into the transfer portal. The Pirates are an inconsistent 7-5 so who knows what to expect. My vibe is that East Carolina wins comfortably, while Zach thinks some time off is exactly what Coastal needed. He believes they’ll be ready to win the Battle of Carolina.

My Pick: East Carolina 

Zach’s Pick: Coastal Carolina 

Camellia Bowl
Buffalo vs. Georgia Southern
Noon/ESPN – Montgomery, AL

Montgomery to Birmingham is an hour & a half drive, so theoretically you could attend two bowl games in one day. As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to bet there will be people doing that exact thing. It could be a fun post-Christmas adventure. Both teams are 6-6, though it wasn’t long ago that both had ten win seasons. It’s a pretty even matchup, but I think the Eagles will win late, with a turnover or big special teams play being a deciding factor. Zach thinks GA Southern’s option attack is a difference maker.

My Pick: Georgia Southern

Zach’s Pick: Georgia Southern 

Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Wisconsin
10:15pm/ESPN – Phoenix, AZ

Now here’s a sneaky good treat. I picked the wrong horse in the Big 12, as it was TCU to emerge from the formidable shadow of Oklahoma & Texas to earn a playoff berth, while the Cowboys finished 7-5 after a 5-0 start. I can’t criticize the Badgers too much for finishing a pedestrian 6-6 in the Big Ten. There’s no shame in losing to Ohio St., Iowa, and Michigan St. Head coach Paul Chryst was fired barely a month into the season, and former Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell will take the reins next year. It’s a late night kick for us here in the east, but I might just have to sneak in a nap so I can stay up to watch. I think OK St. is probably slightly better, though I expect a close contest. Zach is looking at another low scoring slugfest, which he believes favors Wisconsin. 

My Pick: Oklahoma St. 

Zach’s Pick: Wisconsin 

Let’s take a break. We’ll be back soon with the rest of the bowl games. Happy Holidays everyone!!

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