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EDITOR’S

LETTER CHARLIE MILLER

There are few sporting seasons in America like Bowl Season. Even for schools not competing for the national championship, winning a bowl game in the next few weeks adds a bit of panache that lasts right through recruiting season up until the first game in 2020. Bowl Season has a way of making Charlotte vs. Buffalo seem like a big, big deal. Speaking of national championships, there was very little argument about the four teams that were included in the College Football Playoff this season. The only debate of any substance was whether LSU or Ohio State deserved to be No. 1. At any rate, save this handy guide to keep track of who plays whom, when, and maybe just a touch of useful knowledge for your entertainment purposes. The Sagarin Rankings are used here for comparison purposes. The record vs. the Top 30 is based on teams currently ranked in the top 30. The strength of schedule (SOS) is a ranking based on all FBS and FCS teams. Are You Ready for Some Football? Charlie Miller - Editor SOUTHERN FOOTBALL GUIDE

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Bahamas Bowl Nassau, Bahamas Dec. 20 2:00 ET - ESPN

Charlotte 49ers

Coach: Will Healy 7-5 (5-3 AAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

Pts/G Buffalo Bulls

Coach: Lance Leipold 7-5 (5-3 MAC)

CHA

BUF

31.6 31.5

Pts/G

CHA

BUF

32.5

22.3

Rush Yds/G

213.3

254.3

Rush Yds/G

190.8

95.3

Pass Yds/G

212.6

143.2

Pass Yds/G

198.3

197.8

Total Yds/G

425.9

397.5

Total Yds/G

389.1

293.1

Yds/Play

6.44

5.46

Yds/Play

6.14

4.85

3D Conv%

41.3

44.4

3D Conv%

409

33.1

TO Margin

-3

+7

Sagarin Rank

117

81

0-2

0-1

Sagarin SOS

126

122

v. Sagarin T30

The first bowl of the season features a pair of teams trying to make their mark on the football landscape. A bowl win this season would give either Buffalo or Charlotte needed cache heading into the final months of recruiting season. Buffalo brings a potent ground attack and the best defense in the Mid-American Conference. Jaret Patterson led the Bulls’ attack with 1,626 yards on the ground and 17 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.8 yards a carry. His running mate Kevin Marks also topped the 1,000-yard mark with 1,008 yards and eight TDs. The Charlotte 49ers have improved their defense against the run as the season progressed. After six games, opponents averaged 232 yards on the ground. Since then, the 49ers’ defense has given up just 153 yards per game, which enabled Charlotte to win its final five games. Chris Reynolds triggers the offense and has thrown for 2,366 yards and run for 757. Ben LeMay is a 1,000-yard runner and Victor Tucker is the leading receiver with 49 catches for 848 yards. This will be the first bowl game in Charlotte’s brief five-year history. Don’t be surprised to see the offenses stay on the field on fourth down. Buffalo and Charlotte are two of the three worst teams in the country in net punting. Key Stats: Buffalo put up 40+ points in four of its final five games this season, with two of those games against bowl teams Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. Charlotte is 1-5 against bowl teams this season with the lone win coming over Marshall, 24-13 in November. Prediction: Buffalo 27, Charlotte 20

BUFFALO

CHARLOTTE

THE MATCHUP


Frisco Bowl

Frisco, TX Dec. 20 7:30 ET - ESPN

Utah State Aggies

Coach: Gary Anderson 7-5 (6-2 MWC)

Kent State Golden Flashes Coach: Sean Lewis 6-6 (5-3 MAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

UT ST

KENT

UT ST

KENT

28.3

27.4

29.0

31.1

Rush Yds/G

149.2

181.3

Rush Yds/G

197.8

249.3

Pass Yds/G

275.9

212.3

Pass Yds/G

233.7

221.4

Total Yds/G

425.1

393.6

Total Yds/G

431.5

470.7

Yds/Play

5.76

5.75

Yds/Play

5.55

6.31

3D Conv%

42.4

43.6

3D Conv%

46.3

45.3

TO Margin

0

+4

Sagarin Rank

71

105

0-2

0-2

Sagarin SOS

72

98

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

Both the Utah State Aggies and the Kent State Golden Flashes know what it’s like to play top competition. The Aggies lost at LSU this season, and Kent State played at Wisconsin and Auburn. Utah State quarterback Jordan Love is experienced with more than 8,000 passing yards in his career with backto-back 3,000-yard seasons. However, he did throw 16 picks this season, turnovers that were instrumental in losses to Wake Forest and BYU especially. Running back Gerold Bright is a two-year starter and has eight 100yard rushing games in his career. The Aggies have lost just once (Air Force in 2017) when Bright goes for 100 or more. Linebacker David Woodward missed the last five games of the season, but was still named first team All-MWC. Kent State’s Dustin Crum threw for 2,333 yards and led the team with 560 yards on the ground. He would rather throw it, but the athletic QB can hurt defenses with his legs. He is efficient as a passer, completing 68.2 percent of his throws with 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The Golden Flashes have had trouble stopping the run this season. Key Stats: Kent State allowed five conference foes to run for more than 200 yards this season. The Golden Flashes were 2-3 in those games. Utah State was last in the nation in time of possession, averaging just 24:39 of possession per game. (Kent State was next-to-last.) Prediction: Utah State 37, Kent State 7

KENT STATE

UTAH STATE

THE MATCHUP


New Mexico Bowl Albuquerque, NM Dec. 21 2:00 ET - ESPN

Centreal Michigan Chippewas Coach: Jim McElwain 8-5 (6-2 MAC)

San Diego State Aztecs Coach: Rocky Long 9-3 (5-3 MWC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

CMU

SDSU

CMU

SDSU

31.9

19.0

26.8

12.8

Rush Yds/G

186.7

133.7

Rush Yds/G

115.1

72.3

Pass Yds/G

258.9

195.6

Pass Yds/G

236.6

216.3

Total Yds/G

445.6

329.3

Total Yds/G

351.7

288.6

Yds/Play

6.15

4.61

Yds/Play

5.30

4.64

3D Conv%

41.8

38.2

3D Conv%

33.3

35.0

TO Margin

-7

+15

Sagarin Rank

97

63

0-1

0-0

Sagarin SOS

123

95

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

Fans in Albuquerque will see a high-potent offense against a stingy defense. The Central Michigan Chippewas can score quickly and run it up. But the San Diego State Aztecs own one of the top defensive units in the nation. San Diego State had four players (DL Myles Cheatum, DL Cameron Thomas, LB Kyahva Tezino and DB Luq Barcoo) selected to the first team All-MWC defense and another two made the second team. The tough Aztec defense allowed just 2.6 yards per rush and gave up a scant seven touchdowns on the ground. Meanwhile, the Chippewas ran for more than 240 yards six times, all wins. Central Michigan quarterback Quinten Dormady (who has seen action for both Tennessee and Houston in his career) threw for 2,148 yards in just nine games, completing 66.8 percent of his passes. Dormady would love to rely on running backs Kobe Lewis (977 yards) and Jonathan Ward (1,082), but CMU will likely find moving the ball in the air a bit easier against the Aztecs. That’s where Kalil Pimpleton comes into play with his 79 catches for 823 yards. Tyrone Scott is a deep threat with 34 catches for 609 yards and five touchdowns. Key Stats: Central Michigan scored 38 or more points in each of its seven wins, and 21 or fewer points in each of its five losses. Only three opponents ran for more than 100 yards against the Aztecs, and San Diego State held eight teams to fewer than 80 yards on the ground. Prediction: San Diego State 21, Central Michigan 17

SAN DIEGO STATE

CENTRAL MICHIGAN

THE MATCHUP


Cure Bowl

Orlando, FL Dec. 21 2:30 ET - ESPN

Liberty Flames

Coach: Hugh Freeze 7-5

Georgia Southern Eagles

Coach: Chad Lunsford 7-5 (5-3 Sun Belt)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

LIB

GA SO

STAT

LIB

GA SO

Pts/G

33.7

29.2

Pts/G

29.1

28.6

Rush Yds/G

152.0

261.5

Rush Yds/G

192.7

136.7

Pass Yds/G

290.5

72.8

Pass Yds/G

229.8

240.6

Total Yds/G

442.5

334.3

Total Yds/G

422.5

377.3

Yds/Play

6.52

5.31

Yds/Play

5.89

5.67

3D Conv%

41.7

31.5

3D Conv%

44.1

34.0

TO Margin

+3

+7

Sagarin Rank

119

83

0-1

1-2

Sagarin SOS

132

93

v. Sagarin T30

Two of the youngest FBS programs will hook up in Orlando. Liberty, in just its third FBS season, is making its first bowl appearance. Georgia Southern has been competing at the FBS level for six seasons and already competing in the school’s third bowl. The matchup to watch in this game is the potent Liberty offense against the aggressive, playmaking defense of Georgia Southern. Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert loves to throw it all over the field. Antonio Gandy-Golden is his favorite target. The star wideout hauled in 74 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns. Calvert will want to shy away from All-Sun Belt corner Kindle Victor, who reads quarterbacks well and can lock down receivers. Defensive end Raymond Johnson III has 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss this season for the Eagles, even though he spends most snaps battling through double teams. That opens up opportunities for Randy Wade who added four sacks and 12 stops behind the line. The Eagles prefer to keep the ball on the ground. Three players, J.D. King (772 yards), quarterback Shai Werts (674) and Wesley Kennedy III (764) each had solid rushing seasons. Key Stats: Since taking over an 0-6 team midway through the 2017 campaign, Chad Lunsford has an impressive 19-12 record for the Eagles, including a win in the Camellia Bowl last season. Liberty averaged 14.5 yards per pass completion this season, good enough for 13th in the nation. Prediction: Georgia Southern 23, Liberty 21

GEORGIA SOUTHERN

LIBERTY

THE MATCHUP


Boca Raton Bowl Boca Raton, FL Dec. 21 3:30 ET - ABC

Florida Atlantic Owls

Coach: Glenn Spencer 10-3 (7-1 C-USA)

SMU Mustangs

Coach: Sonny Dykes 10-2 (6-2 AAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

FAU

SMU

FAU

SMU

35.2

43.0

22.3

31.8

Rush Yds/G

164.3

185.9

Rush Yds/G

136.7

153.8

Pass Yds/G

278.7

309.3

Pass Yds/G

233.6

284.9

Total Yds/G

443.0

495.2

Total Yds/G

370.3

438.7

Yds/Play

5.94

6.24

Yds/Play

5.38

5.72

3D Conv%

40.9

44.4

3D Conv%

30.8

37.9

TO Margin

+20

+5

Sagarin Rank

54

34

v. Sagarin T30

0-2

0-2

Sagarin SOS

114

76

Pts/G

Pts/G

SMU spent the season in and out of the top 25 while piling up 10 wins with a high-octane offense. Florida Atlantic spent the season piling up 10 wins while chewing up opponents on both sides of the ball. Now FAU must play without its head coach Lane Kiffin who accepted the Ole Miss job. This could easily be the highest scoring bowl game of the season. After lop-sided losses to Ohio State and UCF to begin the season, FAU reeled off 10 wins over their next 11 games, culminating with a decisive 49-6 win over UAB in the C-USA Championship Game. Sophomore quarterback Chris Robison makes the Owls go. He threw for 3,392 yards and 26 touchdowns against only six picks. Harrison Bryant is a 1,000-yard receiver. SMU can light up the scoreboard with anyone. Shane Buechele runs the offense and threw for 3,626 yards and 33 touchdowns. James Proche caught 102 balls for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns. Running back Zavier Jones added 1,249 yards, averaging 5.4 yards a carry. The Mustangs have two big-play defenders in Patrick Nelson and Delontae Scott, each with 17 and 18 stops behind the line, respectively. Key Stats: FAU finished 8-1 in C-USA games (including the championship game) and defeated opponents by an average score of 38-18. SMU scored more than 40 points eight times this season, and the Mustangs were held to fewer than 34 just once. Prediction: SMU 41, Florida Atlantic 39

SMU

FLORIDA ATLANTIC

THE MATCHUP


Camellia Bowl Montgomery, AL Dec. 21 5:30 ET - ESPN

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Coach: Blake Anderson 7-5 (5-3 Sun Belt)

FIU Panthers

Coach: Butch Davis 6-6 (3-5 C-USA)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

ASU

FIU

STAT

ASU

FIU

33.7

26.5

Pts/G

34.8

26.7

Rush Yds/G

126.8

168.0

Rush Yds/G

222.4

204.2

Pass Yds/G

305.3

203.5

Pass Yds/G

258.8

178.5

Total Yds/G

432.1

371.5

Total Yds/G

481.2

382.7

Yds/Play

6.20

5.55

Yds/Play

6.12

5.88

3D Conv%

37.9

38.1

3D Conv%

38.0

36.5

TO Margin

-3

+19

Sagarin Rank

91

118

0-1

0-0

Sagarin SOS

104

119

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

THE MATCHUP Arkansas State, a middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt team will face FIU, a middle-of-the-pack C-USA squad in a game that could earn some respect for both schools and conferences. Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Layne Bonner suffered a thumb injury that required surgery. Wide receiver Omar Bayless, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, is the one player that defenses must account for on every snap. Bayless finished the regular season with 84 catches for 1,473 yards and 16 touchdowns. Marcel Murray and Jamal Jones will share carries out of the backfield. William Bradley-King can be dominant from his defensive end position with 13.5 stops behind the line. FIU earned bowl eligibility with a stirring 30-24 win over Miami just before Thanksgiving. Anthony Jones and Napoleon Maxwell will lead the ground attack for the Panthers. Tony Gaiter IV and Shermar Thornton are the primary targets for quarterback James Morgan. Key Stats: Arkansas State is just 1-4 against bowl teams this season. FIU is 6-2 when the Panthers run for more than 125 yards. Prediction: FIU 24, Arkansas State 14

FIU

ARKANSAS STATE

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Las Vegas Bowl Las Vegas, NV Dec. 21 7:30 ET - ABC

Boise State Broncos

Coach: Bryan Harsin 12-1 (8-0 MWC)

Washington Huskies

Coach: Chris Petersen 7-5 (4-5 Pac-12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

BOISE

WASH

BOISE

WASH

36.8

31.5

20.6

20.4

Rush Yds/G

174.2

150.3

Rush Yds/G

112.3

130.4

Pass Yds/G

267.4

245.1

Pass Yds/G

234.4

225.1

Total Yds/G

441.6

395.4

Total Yds/G

346.7

355.5

Yds/Play

6.15

5.9

Yds/Play

5.24

5.15

3D Conv%

48.9

34.4

3D Conv%

38.0

37.9

TO Margin

+3

+5

Sagarin Rank

25

19

0-0

1-2

Sagarin SOS

86

42

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

It’s only fitting that Chris Petersen’s final game as a college head coach pits his current school against the school that launched his coaching career. The Washington Huskies began the season with high expectations and were ranked in the top 15 at the beginning of October. But four losses in the final seven games derailed the season. Jacob Eason was a bright spot for the Huskies, throwing for 2,922 yards and 22 touchdowns. Salvon Ahmed ran for 1,000 yards, averaging 5.5 yards a carry. But Ahmed was held to 50 or fewer yards in three of the final four losses, so the Huskies will need to establish a running game with him against the Broncos. Boise State was ever so close to an undefeated season with the Broncos’ lone loss at BYU. The Broncos rallied for 15 points in the fourth quarter to pull within three, but couldn’t stop the Cougars on a critical fourth down with 2:17 to play. Freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier is dealing with a shoulder injury and may not be available. The Broncos will lean heavily on running back George Holani, who has 979 yards rushing this season. Expect him to run behind All-MWC linemen Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon. Key Stats: This marks the 18th consecutive season that Boise State has been invited to a bowl. Last season’s First Responder Bowl was cancelled due to extreme weather. This marks the 14th consecutive season that Chris Petersen has coached one of these teams to a bowl game berth. Prediction: Boise State 25, Washington 23

WASHINGTON

BOISE STATE

THE MATCHUP


New Orleans Bowl New Orleans, LA Dec. 21 9:00 ET - ESPN

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

APP

UAB

APP

UAB

39.4

23.6

20.2

20.8

Rush Yds/G

229.2

159.3

Rush Yds/G

136.2

107.2

Pass Yds/G

206.3

193.6

Pass Yds/G

199.7

186.8

Total Yds/G

435.5

352.9

Total Yds/G

335.9

294.0

Yds/Play

6.26

5.53

Yds/Play

5.00

4.59

3D Conv%

46.2

32.1

3D Conv%

31.4

28.9

TO Margin

+12

-5

Sagarin Rank

28

107

v. Sagarin T30

0-0

0-0

Sagarin SOS

108

136

Pts/G

Appalachian State Mountaineers Coach: Shawn Clarkj 12-1 (7-1 AAC)

UAB Blazers

Coach: Bill Clark 9-4 (6-2 C-USA)

Pts/G

Appalachian State is coming off a dominating season with just one loss and an impressive performance in the Sun Belt Championship Game. UAB is coming off a very good regular season, but the Blazers are still stinging from a 49-6 loss in the C-USA Championship Game. The Mountaineers will be without their head coach as Eli Drinkwitz has accepted the job at Missouri. Bill Clark is certain to have suitors at some point considering his success at UAB. He has taken the Blazers to bowl games for the past three seasons since UAB revived the football program after a two-year hiatus. UAB quarterback Tyler Johnston III is nursing a knee injury and his status for the New Orleans Bowl remains in doubt. The Blazers rely on a stingy defense that allows fewer than 200 yards a game. Austin Watkins is the top playmaker on offense with 933 yards receiving. Appalachian State is in the midst of an historic run over the past few seasons. The Mountaineers feature the Sun Belt’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in running back Darrynton Evans (1,323 yards rushing) and Akeem Davis-Gaither who has 14 tackles for loss and had huge impacts in wins at North Carolina and South Carolina. Key Stats: Appalachian State committed just nine turnovers this season. Only San Diego State and Oregon State have fewer. UAB’s 43 sacks ranks the Blazers eighth in the nation. Prediction: Appalachian State 37, UAB 20

UAB

APPALACHIAN STATE

THE MATCHUP


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Gasparilla Bowl Tampa, FL Dec. 23 2:30 ET - ESPN

Marshall Thundering Herd Coach: Doc Holliday 8-4 (6-2 C-USA)

UCF Knights

Coach: Josh Heupel 9-3 (6-2 AAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

MAR

UCF

MAR

UCF

25.8

43.0

23.1

22.8

Rush Yds/G

195.6

216.6

Rush Yds/G

134.5

144.9

Pass Yds/G

200.9

320

Pass Yds/G

227.8

199.9

Total Yds/G

396.5

536.6

Total Yds/G

362.3

344.8

Yds/Play

5.82

6.86

Yds/Play

5.35

4.52

3D Conv%

37.8

40.2

3D Conv%

38.7

28.0

TO Margin

+2

+2

Sagarin Rank

85

27

0-1

0-0

Sagarin SOS

107

79

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

The former C-USA rivals haven’t met since UCF left the league for the American Conference after the 2012 season. The key to watch in this game is the stout defense of Marshall attempting to shut down one of the most potent offenses in the nation. The Thundering Herd rely on their defense and solid running game. In order to slow the Knights, Marshall will need to control the clock and try to slow any momentum UCF might muster. Marshall can grind it out behind the running of Brenden Knox who has 1,284 yards rushing this season. Tavante Beckett and Omari Cobb lead the Herd defense. Cobb has 17 stops behind the line. The powerful UCF offense prefers to throw it around, but the Knights can run it. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel has thrown for 3,393 yards, many of them in the direction of Gabriel Davis who has 72 catches for 1,241 yards. Otis Anderson and Adrian Killins share the load in the backfield and combine to average 6.8 yards a carry. Nate Evans has 61 solo stops for the Knights and 12 stops behind the line to anchor the defense. Key Stats: UCF’s Dillon Gabriel threw just seven interceptions this season, but all seven came in the Knights’ three losses. Marshall owns the nation’s longest winning streak on neutral fields at seven. Prediction: UCF 34, Marshall 14

UCF

MARSHALL

THE MATCHUP


Hawai’i Bowl Honolulu, HI Dec. 24 8:00 ET - ESPN

Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors Coach: Nick Rolovich 9-5 (5-3 MWC)

BYU Cougars

Coach: Kilani Sitake 7-5

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

UH

BYU

STAT

UH

BYU

Pts/G

33.6

28.0

Pts/G

31.7

24.4

Rush Yds/G

143.4

153.1

Rush Yds/G

200.8

181.3

Pass Yds/G

325.9

285.6

Pass Yds/G

225.3

203.8

Total Yds/G

469.3

438.7

Total Yds/G

426.1

385.1

Yds/Play

6.69

6.18

Yds/Play

6.29

5.50

3D Conv%

47.0

42.4

3D Conv%

41.1

39.4

TO Margin

-14

+4

Sagarin Rank

76

64

v. Sagarin T30

0-3

2-2

Sagarin SOS

77

66

The former WAC and MWC rivals will meet after a brief interruption in the series. Expect the ball to be in the air often as both teams enjoy throwing it all over the field. Cole McDonald will be making his 27th start for the Rainbow Warriors. He owns 12 300-yard passing games and five games of more than 400 yards. Four Hawai’i receivers have more than 800 yards through the air this season led by All-MWC selection Cedric Byrd. The standout wideout hauled in 95 passes for 1,068 yards. Jason-Matthew Sharsh and Jared Smart each had 80 catches. Miles Reed ran for 891 yards, averaging 5.4 yards a carry, so the offense is potent and balanced. BYU spreads the ball around and doesn’t have a 400-yard runner. There are three 500-yard receivers in Micah Simon, Matt Bushman and Talon Shumway. Injuries have led to a revolving door at quarterback where starter Zach Wilson had hand surgery and missed four games midseason, and Baylor Romney has been dealing with turf toe. Key Stats: BYU has intercepted 15 passes this season, ninth in the nation. Hawai’i quarterbacks have been intercepted 17 times this season, the fourth highest total in the country. Prediction: BYU 30, Hawai’i 28

BYU

HAWAI’I

THE MATCHUP


Independence Bowl Shreveport, LA Dec. 26 4:00 ET - ESPN

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Coach: Skip Holtz 9-3 (6-2 C-USA)

Miami Hurricanes

Coach: Manny Diaz 6-6 (4-4 ACC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

LAT

MIA

LAT

MIA

34.0

27.8

23.7

20.8

Rush Yds/G

167.9

121.8

Rush Yds/G

142.5

109.7

Pass Yds/G

277.3

257.2

Pass Yds/G

247.8

197.9

Total Yds/G

445.2

379.0

Total Yds/G

390.3

307.6

Yds/Play

6.18

5.81

Yds/Play

5.33

4.73

3D Conv%

41.8

26.4

3D Conv%

34.8

37.1

TO Margin

+5

+5

Sagarin Rank

89

52

0-1

1-1

Sagarin SOS

140

64

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

With two top defenses on the field and key offensive players injured, this matchup shows all the signs of a low-scoring slugfest. Miami has had one of the toughest defenses all season with three terrific playmakers in senior linebackers Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and freshman end Gregory Rousseau. The three have combined for 46 stops behind the line. However, Miami will be without a pair of defensive linemen who have opted to skip the game. Offensively, Miami must dig pretty deep on the depth chart at running back with Deejay Dallas out for the year and Cam’ron Harris nursing an injury as well. Quarterback Jarren Williams has had an inconsistent season. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions in wins this season. In losses, he has a 6-6 ratio. With a suspect running game, Williams must be sharp for the Hurricanes to have success. By most analysts, Louisiana Tech has played the softest schedule of all bowl teams, if not all of FBS. The Bulldogs are eager to prove they can play with tough teams. Quarterback J’mar Smith shares the ball well. Smoke Harris leads the Bulldogs with 47 catches, but is sixth on the team in receiving yards with 348. Key Stats: The Louisiana Tech defense has scored five touchdowns this season, second only to Illinois’ six. The Miami defense has 103 tackles behind the line this season for a total of 418 yards in losses. Prediction: Miami 15, Louisiana Tech 12

MIAMI

LOUISIANA TECH

THE MATCHUP


Quick Lane Bowl Detroit, MI Dec. 26 8:00 ET - ESPN

Pittsburgh Panthers

Coach: Pat Narduzzi 7-5 (4-4 AAC)

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Coach: Chris Creighton 6-6 (3-5 MAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

PITT

EMU

PITT

EMU

20.1

29.1

21.8

30.3

Rush Yds/G

120.7

121.9

Rush Yds/G

106.9

202.4

Pass Yds/G

253.4

280.8

Pass Yds/G

195.6

225.8

Total Yds/G

374.1

402.7

Total Yds/G

302.5

428.2

Yds/Play

5.07

6.07

Yds/Play

4.44

6.02

3D Conv%

39.6

38.7

3D Conv%

31.7

45.0

TO Margin

-8

+4

Sagarin Rank

62

113

1-2

0-0

Sagarin SOS

53

112

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

THE MATCHUP The Eastern Michigan campus is about 40 miles away from Ford Field, but what is almost a home game for EMU probably won’t help the Eagles against the Pittsburgh Panthers from the ACC. The Pittsburgh offense may not light up the scoreboard, but the Panthers’ opponents have had trouble that vanished this season. Quarterback Kenny Pickett shouldered much of the offense and was adequate, but he threw just 10 touchdown passes and nine picks. Maurice Ffrench is his favorite receiver with 84 catches for 685 yards. Taysir Mack has 62 catches for 711 yards, but has been nursing an ankle injury. Jaylen Twyman is the leading sack man with 10.5. The Eagles’ signal-caller Mike Glass III will have his work cut out for him against this defense. Glass has six receivers who caught 20 passes or more. He had three touchdown strikes in last year’s Camellia Bowl defeat to Georgia Southern. Key Stats: Illinois at 77 and Western Michigan at 80 are the two highest-ranked teams that Eastern Michigan defeated this season. Pittsburgh led the ACC with 49 sacks this season. Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Eastern Michigan 3

EASTERN MICHIGAN

PITTSBURGH

scoring this season. The Panthers had a terrific running game in 2018, but


Military Bowl Annapolis, MD Dec. 27 Noon ET - ESPN

Temple Owls

Coach: Rod Carey 8-4 (5-3 AAC)

North Carolina Tar Heels

Coach: Mack Brown 6-6 (4-4 ACC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

TEM

NC

STAT

TEM

NC

27.4

31.3

Pts/G

23.5

24.6

Rush Yds/G

142.2

184.0

Rush Yds/G

152.3

149.0

Pass Yds/G

259.8

285.0

Pass Yds/G

212.5

232.6

Total Yds/G

402.0

469.0

Total Yds/G

364.8

381.6

Yds/Play

5.45

6.37

Yds/Play

4.75

5.54

3D Conv%

37.8

38.4

3D Conv%

35.0

37.2

TO Margin

+1

+7

Sagarin Rank

67

48

1-1

0-3

Sagarin SOS

80

52

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

This marks the 22nd bowl game for North Carolina coach Mack Brown who returned to North Carolina this season after five years of retirement. His previous stop at Chapel Hill was from 1988-97 and he took the Tar Heels to five bowls, winning three. Brown led the Tar Heels to six wins after the school won just five over the past two seasons. Temple coach Rod Carey will be coaching his seventh bowl game looking for his first win. Temple veteran quarterback Anthony Russo will be anxious to redeem himself and his team after last season’s 56-27 loss to Duke in the Independence Bowl. Russo has a pair of talented receivers in Jadan Blue and Branden Mack. Blue has 87 catches for 975 yards. Mack has 56 for 886 and seven TDs. Re’Mahn Davis leads the Owls with 900 rushing yards. Freshman quarterback Sam Howell has been a pleasant surprise for Tar Heel fans. He’s thrown for 3,347 yards and 35 touchdowns. He’s thrown multiple touchdown passes in each game and just seven picks on the season. Both Dazz Newsome (64 catches) and Dyami Brown (46) have 947 yards receiving this season. Michael Carter has 919 yards on the ground. Key Stats: Temple finished ninth in passing efficiency defense allowing a passer rating of 111.98. North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in all but four games this season. Prediction: North Carolina 24, Temple 17

NORTH CAROLINA

TEMPLE

THE MATCHUP


Pinstripe Bowl New York, NY Dec. 27 3:20 ET - ESPN

Michigan State Spartans

Coach: Mark Dantonio 6-6 (4-5 Big Ten)

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Coach: Dave Clawson 8-4 (4-4 ACC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

MSU

WF

STAT

MSU

WFF

22.0

32.8

Pts/G

22.7

29.3

Rush Yds/G

123.0

175.7

Rush Yds/G

108.6

162.6

Pass Yds/G

238.5

297.8

Pass Yds/G

210.6

247.2

Total Yds/G

361.5

473.5

Total Yds/G

319.2

409.8

Yds/Play

5.09

5.77

Yds/Play

4.95

5.74

3D Conv%

36.5

47.2

3D Conv%

33.5

31.5

TO Margin

-1

+7

Sagarin Rank

38

57

0-4

0-1

Sagarin SOS

34

68

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Traditionally the coldest setting for a bowl game, Yankee Stadium provides a scenic backdrop for this post-Christmas tilt. This matchup features the prolific offense of Wake Forest against the tough, blue-collar defense of Michigan State. The Spartans were sitting at 4-1 and ranked in the top 25 until the schedule toughened and a five-game losing skid killed their season. They lost the five games by an average of 36-10, but to their credit they played three top-10 teams plus Michigan (at No. 14). Quarterback Brian Lewerke is a three-year starter, but he’s been wildly inconsistent throughout his career. Anyjuan Simmons and Kenny Willekes are the stars of the defense with 29 combined stops behind the line. The Wake Forest offense hung 38 or more points on opponents six times, including four games of 40 or more. Quarterback Jamie Newman is a threat to run and throw when he’s healthy. Kendall Hinton (70 catches for 953 yards) and Sage Surratt (66, 1,001) are exciting weapons. Key Stats: The Wake Forest offense took 985 snaps, more than any other team in the country. Michigan State held Tulsa to -73 yards rushing, the lowest total for any team in any game this season. Prediction: Michigan State 14, Wake Forest 13

WAKE FOREST

MICHIGAN STATE

THE MATCHUP


Texas Bowl

Houston, TX Dec. 27 6:45 ET - ESPN

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

OSU

A&M

OSU

A&M

33.4

30.0

27.0

22.7

Rush Yds/G

236.3

151.7

Rush Yds/G

151.0

129.1

Pass Yds/G

227.7

247.1

Pass Yds/G

267.1

211.7

Total Yds/G

464.0

398.8

Total Yds/G

418.1

340.8

Yds/Play

6.44

5.83

Yds/Play

5.79

5.22

3D Conv%

39.3

39.3

3D Conv%

38.7

31.5

TO Margin

-3

-4

Sagarin Rank

22

18

2-3

0-5

Sagarin SOS

11

17

Pts/G

Oklahoma State Cowboys Coach: Mike Gundy 8-4 (5-4 Big 12)

Texas A&M Aggies

Coach: Jimbo Fisher 7-5 (4-4 SEC)

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

There should be no shortage of offense in this game. Both of these powerful offenses can run it and throw it, and have done so against some of the best teams in the nation this season. Unfortunately, fans may not get to see Oklahoma State at its best. Quarterback Spencer Sanders had thumb surgery and may not play. The Cowboys’ best receiver, Tylan Wallace, has a torn ACL and is out. But remember the name Chuba Hubbard. The tough running back has 1,936 yards on 309 carries and caught 21 passes for another 183. If Sanders can’t go, Dru Brown will take snaps and certainly hand it to Hubbard often. Quarterback Kellen Mond is critical to the Aggies’ attack. Mond has 384 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He’s a 61.3 percent passer and has thrown for 2,802 yards and 19 touchdowns. Running back Isaiah Spiller averages 5.6 yards a carry, and receivers Quartney Davis and Jhamon Davis are playmakers. The A&M defense is better than numbers would indicate. When not playing a team ranked in the top 10, the Aggies have given up just 14.8 points a game. Key Stats: Three Texas A&M opponents were ranked No. 1 at the time the teams met this season. The Aggies lost to Clemson 24-10, Alabama 47-28 and LSU 50-7. Oklahoma State has won three consecutive bowl games, and each opponent was ranked in the top 25. Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Oklahoma State 37

TEXAS A&M

OKLAHOMA STATE

THE MATCHUP


Holiday Bowl San Diego, CA Dec. 27 8:00 ET - FS1

Iowa Hawkeyes

Coach: Kirk Ferentz 8-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

USC Trojans

Coach: Clay Helton 8-4 (7-2 Pac-12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

IOWA

USC

IOWA

USC

23.8

33.2

13.2

27.8

Rush Yds/G

139.5

127.8

Rush Yds/G

120.1

166.5

Pass Yds/G

230.3

335.9

Pass Yds/G

184.2

248.9

Total Yds/G

369.8

463.7

Total Yds/G

304.3

415.4

Yds/Play

5.54

6.61

Yds/Play

4.75

5.76

3D Conv%

39.2

45.2

3D Conv%

36.9

39.0

TO Margin

+6

-7

Sagarin Rank

16

21

2-3

1-3

Sagarin SOS

37

19

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

Iowa and USC are programs in two different places right now. Iowa couldn’t be any more stable. The Hawkeyes are playing in their seventh straight bowl with five seasons of eight or more wins. There have been two coaches at Iowa since 1979. USC didn’t play in a bowl last season, and had a revolving door of coaches a few years ago until settling on Clay Helton, who has had a tumultuous ride. But none of that matters when the two tee it up in San Diego. USC loves to throw it and will spread the field on offense. Iowa features a balanced attack, but usually has success when the Hawkeyes can control the game defensively, allowing the offense to grind it out using the entire playbook. Nate Stanley is a veteran quarterback for the Hawkeyes and doesn’t wow fans, but he is steady and productive. Tyler Goodson, the teams’ leading rusher is nursing an injury, so expect Mekhi Sargent to get significant carries. USC quarterback Kedon Slovis is a 71.8 percent passer and has thrown for 3,242 yards this season. Michael Pittman Jr. is one of the best playmakers at receiver in the country. He has 95 catches for 1,222 yards and 11 touchdowns. Key Stats: The Trojans have four running backs (Vavae Malepeai, Kenan Christon, Stephen Carr and Markese Stepp) with more than 300 yards rushing, but none with more than 466. Iowa hasn’t played a Pac-12 school since losing to No. 5 Stanford in the 2016 Rose Bowl. Prediction: USC 30, Iowa 21

USC

IOWA

THE MATCHUP


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Cheez-It Bowl Phoenix, AZ Dec. 27 10:15 ET - ESPN

Air Force Falcons

Coach: Troy Calhoun 10-2 (7-1 MWC)

Washington State Cougars Coach: Mike Leach 6-6 (3-6 Pac-12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

AF

WSU

STAT

AF

WSU

Pts/G

34.3

39.2

Pts/G

19.8

31.4

Rush Yds/G

292.5

72.5

Rush Yds/G

107.7

170.0

Pass Yds/G

131.0

444.3

Pass Yds/G

208.1

286.8

Total Yds/G

423.5

516.8

Total Yds/G

315.8

456.8

Yds/Play

6.35

7.13

Yds/Play

5.40

6.81

3D Conv%

54.8

43.2

3D Conv%

40.9

42.4

TO Margin

-2

-6

Sagarin Rank

31

42

0-2

0-3

Sagarin SOS

85

51

v. Sagarin T30

The Cheez-It Bowl offers as much of a contrast in styles as any bowl this year. The Washington State Cougars will throw the ball all over the field all game long. Air Force, on the other hand, will run, run, run, all game long. Washington State ran the ball just 202 times this season. That’s 105 fewer than the next lowest total in college football. Air Force ran it 686 times, third behind Army and Navy. Anthony Gordon has thrown for 5,228 yards and 45 touchdowns for the Cougars. Seven different players have as many as 40 catches and 500 yards. Air Force has three running backs with 731 or more rushing yards, led by Kadin Remsberg with 872. Quarterback Donald Hammond III has 491 rushing yards. Remsberg, Taven Birdow and Timothy Jackson average 5.4 yards a carry behind a gifted offensive line that includes standouts Scott Hattok, Nolan Laufenberg and Connor Vikupitz. When Air Force does throw it, the Falcons are efficient. Air Force is the only school in the nation with a 200+ passing efficiency and leads in the nation with 24.6 yards per completion. Key Stats: Washington State’s Anthony Gordon has three of the four highest single game passing marks this season. Air Force receivers Benjamin Waters and Geraud Sanders have combined for just 49 catches but average 28.2 yards a catch and have seven touchdowns each. Prediction: Air Force 49, Washington State 45

WASHINGTON STATE

AIR FORCE

THE MATCHUP


Camping World Bowl Orlando, FL Dec. 28 Noon ET - ABC

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Coach: Brian Kelly 10-2

Iowa State Cyclones

Coach: Matt Campbell 7-5 (5-4 Big 12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

ND

IA ST

STAT

ND

IA ST

Pts/G

37.1

34.1

Pts/G

18.7

25.3

Rush Yds/G

176.8

140.3

Rush Yds/G

162.1

133.8

Pass Yds/G

252.6

318.3

Pass Yds/G

163.7

228.3

Total Yds/G

429.4

458.6

Total Yds/G

325.8

362.1

Yds/Play

6.28

6.58

Yds/Play

4.68

5.23

3D Conv%

41.5

38.6

3D Conv%

32.2

42.6

TO Margin

+15

-1

Sagarin Rank

13

23

v. Sagarin T30

3-2

1-5

Sagarin SOS

38

8

Two similar teams will face off in Orlando as an opening act to the main events of the evening (aka College Football Semifinals). Both Notre Dame and Iowa State create most of their offense throwing the ball, while both teams can run it effectively with quarterbacks who can break down defenses with their feet. Both teams love to throw to their tight ends. Both the Irish and the Cyclones play a tough brand of defense that can keep their offenses in the game, even if they are struggling to score points. All of this makes for one of the best matchups of the bowl season. Notre Dame’s Ian Book is a steady senior quarterback who has 33 touchdown passes this season and four rushing TDs. Chase Claypool is a big-play receiver and Cole Kmet is a matchup nightmare at tight end. Iowa State’s Brock Purdy has 27 TD strikes and has run for eight. Breece Hall is a talented running back with 842 yards on the ground and 207 receiving. The Cyclones have four receivers with 600 or more yards through the air this season. Key Stats: Iowa State’s five losses were by a combined 21 points, including a one-point loss to Oklahoma and a two-point setback to Baylor. Notre Dame’s don’t-bend-but-break defense allowed opponents in the red zone just 28 times, tied for sixth best in the nation. But opponents scored 27 times (96.4%), next to last in the country. Prediction: Notre Dame 21, Iowa State 19

IOWA STATE

NOTRE DAME

THE MATCHUP


Cotton Bowl Dallas, TX Dec. 28 Noon ET - ESPN

Memphis Tigers

Coach: Ryan Silverfield 12-1 (7-1 AAC)

Penn State Nittany Lions

Coach: James Franklin 10-2 (7-2 Big Ten)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

MEM

PSU

MEM

PSU

40.5

34.3

24.4

14.1

Rush Yds/G

196.2

173.5

Rush Yds/G

171.6

97.7

Pass Yds/G

284.5

228.7

Pass Yds/G

200.7

232.5

Total Yds/G

480.7

402.2

Total Yds/G

372.3

330.2

Yds/Play

6.90

5.94

Yds/Play

5.23

4.67

3D Conv%

46.3

41.5

3D Conv%

38.6

35.3

TO Margin

0

+7

Sagarin Rank

17

11

1-0

2-2

Sagarin SOS

70

43

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

The Memphis offense is supremely potent, and dominated the AAC. The question is how well will it hold up against a Big Ten defense like Penn State’s? Memphis quarterback Brady White is a top talent. He was a finalist for the Unitas Golden Arm Award and has thrown for 3,560 yards and 33 touchdowns. Redshirt freshman running back Kenny Gainwell is a rising superstar. He ran for 1,425 yards this season and caught 44 passes for another 532. Receiver Damonte Coxie has speed, elusiveness and moxie to frustrate the Penn State secondary. The key to watch is how well the Tigers can protect White from a pass rush that was third in the Big Ten with 39 sacks. The Penn State Nittany Lions bring a balanced attack behind quarterback Sean Clifford, who should be healthy after missing the season finale with a leg injury. Journey Brown with shoulder the running game with his 688 yards this season. KJ Hamler is Clifford’s favorite target with 54 catches and 858 yards. Key Stats: Memphis’ Kenny Gainwell has been held to fewer than 100 yards from scrimmage just once this season when Cincinnati held him to 84 yards in the AAC Championship Game. Rest assured Memphis has spent some practice time protecting their punter. The Tigers allowed three blocked punts this season, and Penn State blocked three. Prediction: Penn State 37, Memphis 31

PENN STATE

MEMPHIS

THE MATCHUP


First Responder Bowl Dallas, TX Dec. 30 12:30 ET - ESPN

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Coach: Tyson Helton 8-4 (6-2 C-USA)

Western Michigan Broncos Coach: Tim Lester 7-5 (5-3 MAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

WKU

WMU

WKU

WMU

25.6

34.2

20.1

26.2

Rush Yds/G

128.9

212.7

Rush Yds/G

137.3

186.5

Pass Yds/G

251.1

244.6

Pass Yds/G

200.5

228.1

Total Yds/G

380.0

457.3

Total Yds/G

337.8

414.6

Yds/Play

5.56

6.46

Yds/Play

5.28

5.84

3D Conv%

40.5

46.3

3D Conv%

29.3

41.1

TO Margin

-5

+7

Sagarin Rank

79

80

0-0

0-0

Sagarin SOS

113

110

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

Western Michigan employs a balanced offense that is tough to defend because defenses are forced to play straight up on every down. Quarterback Jon Wassink has thrown for 2,904 yards and run for 293. Wassink is adept at sharing the ball among a group of talented receivers. Keith Mixon has 48 catches for 491 yards, Skyy Moore has 48 for 734 and Giovanni Ricci added 47 for 622. LeVante Bellamy has toted it for 1,412 yards and 23 touchdowns, but he is dealing with a knee injury. Treshaun Hayward is the team’s leading tackler with 70, more than twice as many solo stops as any of his teammates, and 11 stops behind the line. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are a throw-first offense behind quarterback Ty Storey and his 2,209 yards. Lucky Jackson has 77 catches for 985 yards and Jahcour Pearson has hauled in 71 balls for 772 yards. Gaej Walker has 1,115 rushing yards. Junior defensive lineman DeAngelo Malone is a star and a monster getting off the ball. He has 11 sacks this season and 20.5 total stops behind the line. Key Stats: Western Michigan is one of five schools to average 244 yards passing and 212 rushing or better. Oklahoma, UCF, Ohio State and Clemson are the others. Gaej Walker, a converted defensive back who returned an interception for a touchdown as a sophomore, averaged 5.3 yards a carry over his last seven games. Prediction: Western Michigan 35, Western Kentucky 30

WESTERN MICHIGAN

WESTERN KENTUCKY

THE MATCHUP


Music City Bowl Nashville, TN Dec. 30 4:00 ET - ESPN

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Coach: Joe Moorhead 6-6 (3-5 SEC)

Louisville Cardinals

Coach: Scott Satterfield 7-5 (3-5 ACC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

MSU

LOU

MSU

LOU

27.6

32.7

28.1

33.8

Rush Yds/G

226.9

214.1

Rush Yds/G

148.6

210.8

Pass Yds/G

176.0

228.0

Pass Yds/G

241.3

235.3

Total Yds/G

402.9

442.1

Total Yds/G

389.9

446.1

Yds/Play

6.18

6.61

Yds/Play

6.20

6.36

3D Conv%

39.1

42.3

3D Conv%

37.4

38.0

TO Margin

+2

-2

Sagarin Rank

39

58

0-5

1-2

Sagarin SOS

7

41

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

Louisville and Mississippi State are no strangers to competition. Both teams have faced nine bowl teams. Louisville won four and Mississippi State won three. The Bulldogs may use both Garrett Schrader and Tommy Stevens (if healthy) at quarterback, but there is no question who makes MSU’s offense go—running back Kylin Hill. Hill is a 2,400-yard career rusher for the Bulldogs and has 1,347 yards on the ground this season. Hill has ripped through Ole Miss’ defense for 322 yards in three Egg Bowls. The MSU defense that was so dominant in 2018 slipped some in 2019, but was still pretty good. Louisville was not very good in 2018, but Scott Satterfield engineered a terrific turnaround this season. Quarterback Malik Cunningham took over for the injured Jawon Pass and sparked three conference wins. He’s thrown for 1,782 yards and run for 401. Javian Hawkins has 1,420 yards rushing and Chatarius Atwell hauled in 60 passes for 1,125 yards. Key Stats: Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham connected on 70.5 percent of his passes with four TDs and no picks in key conference wins over Boston College, Wake Forest and Virginia. Mississippi State averages 5.52 yards per rush this season, seventh in the nation. Louisville allows 5.48 yards per carry, 123rd in the country. Prediction: Mississippi State 38, Louisville 30

LOUISVILLE

MISSISSIPPI STATE

THE MATCHUP


Redbox Bowl Santa Clara, CA Dec. 30 4:00 ET - FOX

Illinois Fighting Illini

Coach: Lovie Smith 6-6 (4-5 Big Ten)

California Bears

Coach: Justin Wilcox 7-5 (4-5 Pac-12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

ILL

CAL

STAT

ILL

CAL

Pts/G

27.3

20.1

Pts/G

25.4

22.1

Rush Yds/G

142.4

132.3

Rush Yds/G

201.6

123.1

Pass Yds/G

177.0

190.8

Pass Yds/G

208.0

262.4

Total Yds/G

319.4

323.1

Total Yds/G

409.6

385.5

Yds/Play

4.91

5.01

Yds/Play

5.58

5.33

3D Conv%

33.7

36.9

3D Conv%

36.5

39.4

TO Margin

+11

+2

Sagarin Rank

77

45

v. Sagarin T30

1-3

1-3

Sagarin SOS

55

32

Defense! Defense! Defense! That’s what fans will be treated to in Santa Clara. The California Bears own one of the stingiest defenses in the Pac-12 this season, allowing just 3.49 yards per carry. Senior linebacker Evan Weaver was named Pac-12 DPOY with 95 solo tackles and 11.5 for loss. The Illinois offensive staff must account for him on every play. The Cal secondary is one of the best in the nation, led by senior Ashtyn Davis. The Bears’ offense is much better with a healthy Chase Garbers at quarterback. He missed four games and the offense sputtered, scoring just 24 points in the first contests he was out. Christopher Brown Jr. has 794 yards rushing for Cal, and the Bears would love to use the passing game sparingly. Illinois entered the season with coach Lovie Smith on the hot seat, but it’s cooled considerably after a six-win regular season. The Illini can hold their own defensively with most teams, but putting points on the board has been a struggle. Leading tackler Dele Harding has 61 solo tackles and three picks, two of them returned for touchdowns. Key Stats: Illinois punter Blake Hayes is one of the best in the nation averaging 44.8 yards per punt. However, only six punters in the nation punted more than his 72 kicks. Cal scored more than 28 points just once this season, and gave up more than 28 just twice. Prediction: California 10, Illinois 6

CALIFORNIA

ILLINOIS

THE MATCHUP


Get Your Game Back


Orange Bowl Miami Gardens, FL Dec. 30 8:00 ET - ESPN

Virginia Cavaliers

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall 9-4 (6-2 ACC)

Florida Gators

Coach: Dan Mullen 10-2 (6-2 SEC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

VIR

FLA

STAT

VIR

FLA

Pts/G

32.4

33.0

Pts/G

26.5

14.4

Rush Yds/G

126.5

120.3

Rush Yds/G

130.0

107.0

Pass Yds/G

263.5

300.4

Pass Yds/G

228.2

192.0

Total Yds/G

390.0

420.7

Total Yds/G

358.2

299.0

Yds/Play

5.63

6.37

Yds/Play

5.59

4.80

3D Conv%

45.8

40.7

3D Conv%

35.3

36.3

TO Margin

-3

+5

Sagarin Rank

30

12

0-2

1-2

Sagarin SOS

59

29

v. Sagarin T30

The Florida Gators have been one of the top teams in college football this season, but are clearly a notch below the elite teams. Quarterback Kyle Trask has emerged as a big-time signal-caller and has grown tremendously this season. He has 2,636 passing yards this season and a deep, talented receiving corps. Six players have as many as 300 yards receiving. The Florida offense creates mismatches all over the field. What the Gators don’t do effectively is run the ball. In three of its final four games, Florida totaled 154 yards on the ground (2.2 yards per carry) against Georgia, Missouri and Florida State. Virginia began the season with a win over Pittsburgh and ended the regular season with a win over Virginia Tech to capture the ACC Coastal title. The Cavaliers did just enough in between to earn the division title. The Virginia offense rests squarely on the shoulders of Bryce Perkins. The exciting quarterback has thrown for 3,215 yards and leads the Cavaliers with 745 yards rushing. Joe Reed, Terrell Jana and Hasise Dubois are game-changing receivers. Key Stats: When Florida has played FBS opponents that didn’t participate in the SEC Championship Game, the Gators were 8-0 and won by 20 points a game. The Virginia defense ranks 15th in the nation with 94 tackles for loss this season. Prediction: Florida 30, Virginia 20

FLORIDA

VIRGINIA

THE MATCHUP


F LO R I DA GATO R S

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Belk Bowl

Charlotte, NC Dec. 31 Noon ET - ESPN

Virginia Tech Hokies

Coach: Justin Fuente 8-4 (5-3 ACC)

Kentucky Wildcats

Coach: Mark Stoops 7-5 (3-5 SEC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

VAT

KY

STAT

VAT

KY

30.9

26.3

Pts/G

23.7

18.4

Rush Yds/G

172.5

274.4

Rush Yds/G

123.3

151.6

Pass Yds/G

217.3

117.1

Pass Yds/G

236.6

172.7

Total Yds/G

389.8

391.5

Total Yds/G

359.9

324.3

Yds/Play

5.65

6.17

Yds/Play

5.20

5.25

3D Conv%

38.7

38.3

3D Conv%

36.5

39.4

TO Margin

-5

0

Sagarin Rank

43

35

0-2

0-2

Sagarin SOS

74

67

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

When Virginia Tech and Kentucky line up in Charlotte, it will mark the final game for long-time Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster. He will certainly have his work cut out trying to stop the powerful running game of Kentucky led by receiver-turned emergency quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. The Wildcats have become one-dimensional after injuries decimated the quarterback position. However, Kentucky has managed to have success running the ball even though defenses know it’s coming. Bowden had 30 catches for 338 yards before moving under center. Since that time, the terrific athlete has 1,235 yards rushing and 330 passing. The last time we saw Kentucky take the field, the Wildcats completed one of two passes in the win over Louisville, so expect the Hokies to sell out to stop the run, and perhaps there will be some trickery added to the Wildcats’ offense. Hendon Hooker has been a terrific find at quarterback for the Hokies. He is a 62.1 percent passer and has 11 TD passes and just two picks. Key Stats: Kentucky has scored 95 points in its previous two games without throwing a pass for a first down. The Virginia Tech defense recovered just four opponents’ fumbles. Only one team recovered fewer. Prediction: Virginia Tech 20, Kentucky 18

KENTUCKY

VIRGINIA TECH

THE MATCHUP


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Sun Bowl

El Paso, TX Dec. 31 2:00 ET - CBS

Arizona State Sun Devils

Coach: Herm Edwards 7-5 (4-5 Pac-12)

Florida State Seminoles

Coach: Odell Haggins 6-6 (4-4 ACC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

ASU

FSU

ASU

FSU

25.2

29.1

23.1

28.5

Rush Yds/G

126.3

133.8

Rush Yds/G

116.8

152.5

Pass Yds/G

253.3

269.4

Pass Yds/G

270.1

283.5

Total Yds/G

379.6

403.2

Total Yds/G

386.9

436.0

Yds/Play

5.86

5.84

Yds/Play

5.48

5.37

3D Conv%

40.0

37.5

3D Conv%

43.5

41.8

TO Margin

+10

+1

Sagarin Rank

41

46

v. Sagarin T30

1-2

0-4

Sagarin SOS

39

46

Pts/G

Pts/G

Both teams can put points on the scoreboard with ease, but have trouble preventing opponents from scoring. This could turn into a shootout quickly. Arizona State has had a bit of a Jeckyl and Hyde season. The Sun Devils defeated Michigan State and California when they were ranked, and essentially knocked Oregon out of the College Football Playoff hunt in late November. That success makes it more difficult to explain losses to Oregon State, Colorado and UCLA—teams that didn’t qualify for a bowl. Coach Herm Edwards’ offense hasn’t been an issue for the Sun Devils. Jayden Daniels has tossed 17 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Eno Benjamin has 1,083 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. Brandon Aiyuk is the team’s leading receiver with 65 catches for 1,192 yards. When Florida State has been able to keep pass rushes away from James Blackman, the Seminoles’ quarterback has had some success. Receiver Tamorrion Terry is an NFL-caliber talent for the Seminoles. The Noles will miss running back Cam Akers, who has decided to skip the game. Key Stats: Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk has five games with more than 120 receiving yards this season. Florida State has allowed 44 sacks this season, sixth-worst in the nation. Prediction: Arizona State 48, Florida State 39

FLORIDA STATE

ARIZONA STATE

THE MATCHUP


Liberty Bowl Memphis, TN Dec. 31 3:45 ET - ESPN

Navy Midshipmen

Coach: Ken Niumatalolo 10-2 (7-1 AAC)

Kansas State Wildcats

Coach: Chris Klieman 8-4 (5-4 Big 12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

NAVY

KSU

NAVY

KSU

38.6

30.7

22.8

21.5

Rush Yds/G

363.7

189.0

Rush Yds/G

110.8

152.3

Pass Yds/G

95.0

185.7

Pass Yds/G

215.3

211.7

Total Yds/G

458.7

374.7

Total Yds/G

326.1

364.0

Yds/Play

6.76

5.62

Yds/Play

5.32

6.13

3D Conv%

46.2

39.2

3D Conv%

33.7

25.9

TO Margin

+5

+2

Sagarin Rank

29

24

0-2

2-3

Sagarin SOS

76

20

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

Fans of passing shootouts may want to sit this bowl out. Kansas State and Navy are not lovers of the pass, especially Navy. Kansas State’s Skyler Thompson has thrown it 283 times this season, that’s almost three times the number of pass attempts Navy has as a team. Thompson is a 59 percent thrower and adept runner with 402 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Fullback Nick Lenners, was named All-Big 12, but didn’t carry the ball a single time. The Wildcats’ leading receiver, Dalton Schoen, has just 35 catches for 567 yards. Kansas State comes into the game as the only team to defeat one of the College Football Playoff teams this season. Sophomore Wyatt Hubert has 12.5 tackles for loss and was named to the All-Big 12 team. The Midshipmen follow the lead of quarterback Malcolm Perry, who has 1,500 yards rushing this season. Perry averages 6.3 yards a carry and has 19 touchdowns. Perry was selected as a first team All-AAC performer this season. Linebacker/safety Jake Springer is a playmaker on Navy’s defense with 13.5 tackles behind the line, including seven sacks. Key Stats: Navy has thrown just 95 passes this season, the fewest in the nation. Kansas State has played in 21 bowl games. This will be only the third without Bill Snyder roaming the sidelines. Prediction: Navy 30, Kansas State 17

KANSAS STATE

NAVY

THE MATCHUP


Arizona Bowl Tucson, AZ Dec. 31 4:30 ET - CBSSN

Wyoming Cowboys

Coach: Craig Bohl 7-5 (4-4 MWC)

Georgia State Panthers

Coach: Shawn Elliott 7-5 (4-4 Sun Belt)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

WYO

GA ST

WYO

GA ST

24.3

32.4

Pts/G

17.8

36.1

Rush Yds/G

208.5

245.2

Rush Yds/G

99.4

211.6

Pass Yds/G

128.0

201.8

Pass Yds/G

265.1

238.3

Total Yds/G

336.5

447.0

Total Yds/G

364.5

449.9

Yds/Play

5.33

5.85

Yds/Play

4.99

6.64

3D Conv%

41.2

47.3

3D Conv%

38.5

43.2

TO Margin

+7

-1

Sagarin Rank

72

111

0-1

0-1

Sagarin SOS

90

106

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

This bowl matches solid, run-first offensive teams, suspect defenses and injured quarterbacks. Georgia State’s quarterback Dan Ellington suffered a torn ACL in November, but he continues to tough it out this season, not ready for his collegiate career to come to an end. Ellington has thrown for 2,291 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. Tra Barnett, a first-team All-Sun Belt selection, has run for 1,389 yards and 12 TDs, averaging 6.0 yards a carry. The Panthers will lean on their tough running back who has topped the 100-yard mark in seven of his last 10 games. Georgia State loves to run behind Hunter Atkinson. Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers injured his knee in October and hasn’t returned. Tyler Vander Waal took over and been okay, but an ankle injury has slowed him recently. The quarterback injuries heighten the importance of running back Xazavian Valladay, who ran for 1,061 this season. Logan Wilson and Alijah Halliburton are the stars of the Cowboys’ defense. Key Stats: Over the past two seasons prior to his injury, Dan Ellington has averaged 61.4 yards a game rushing. Since his injury, he has -5 yards in three games. All four of Wyoming’s MWC losses came to bowl teams. In those games, the Cowboys held their opponents to an average of six points below their average. Prediction: Georgia State 35, Wyoming 31

GEORGIA STATE

WYOMING

THE MATCHUP


THE MATCHUP


Alamo Bowl

San Antonio, TX Dec. 31 7:30 ET - ESPN

Utah Utes

Coach: Kyle Whittingham 11-2 (8-1 Pac-12)

Texas Longhorns

Coach: Tom Herman 7-5 (5-4 Big 12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

UTAH

TEX

UTAH

TEX

34.0

35.0

Pts/G

13.2

28.9

Rush Yds/G

207.0

172.0

Rush Yds/G

70.3

139.8

Pass Yds/G

235.5

296.2

Pass Yds/G

185.9

306.4

Total Yds/G

442.5

468.2

Total Yds/G

256.2

446.2

Yds/Play

6.75

6.28

Yds/Play

4.40

6.24

3D Conv%

47.8

49.1

3D Conv%

29.3

40.0

TO Margin

+8

+6

Sagarin Rank

14

20

1-2

2-4

Sagarin SOS

49

4

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

The Utah Utes saw their hopes of an invitation to the College Football Playoff slip away with the loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The consolation prize is a trip to San Antonio to face a seven-win Texas team. That disappointment is a classic red flag for disinterest by the Utes. Texas brings a potent offense into the game so the Utes better have their tough defense prepared. Although the Texas offense is a bit beaten up with leading running back Keaontay Ingram and top receiver Devin Duvernay nursing injuries. But Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger is a stud. He’s a 65 percent passer and 3,462 yards this season and 29 touchdowns. He also has 590 rushing yards. Duvernay has 103 receptions for 1,294 yards, so he would be sorely missed if unavailable. Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley has been terrific all season. He spreads the ball to a number of receivers, six of whom have more than 300 yards receiving. Zack Moss is a 1,359yard runner. But defense is where the Utes excel. Five defensive players earned first team All-Pac-12 honors. Key Stats: The Utah defense ranks third nationally in passing efficiency and seventh in third down percentage. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has played in 35 games for the Longhorns. He’s thrown at least one touchdown pass in 30 of them. Prediction: Utah 24, Texas 21

TEXAS

UTAH

THE MATCHUP


Citrus Bowl Orlando, FL Jan. 1 1:00 ET - ABC

Alabama Crimson Tide

Coach: Nick Saben 10-2 (6-2 SEC)

Michigan Wolverines

Coach: Jim Harbaugh 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

ALA

MICH

ALA

MICH

48.3

33.0

18.8

19.5

Rush Yds/G

169.8

149.8

Rush Yds/G

135.2

119.1

Pass Yds/G

343.5

252.3

Pass Yds/G

183.4

173.8

Total Yds/G

513.3

402.1

Total Yds/G

318.6

292.9

Yds/Play

7.83

5.85

Yds/Play

4.80

4.44

3D Conv%

53.1

38.5

3D Conv%

34.7

32.0

TO Margin

+16

+2

Sagarin Rank

4

9

v. Sagarin T30

1-2

2-3

Sagarin SOS

54

12

Pts/G

Pts/G

Well, it’s difficult to find a matchup of two greater football traditions and blue bloods than Alabama-Michigan. Unfortunately, the biggest question about this matchup could be which players decide to sit out, and which team spends more time preparing for 2020 than this bowl game. If this game were played the second week in November with College Football Playoff invitations still possible for both teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide would probably roll. But in January, in Orlando, with nothing but pride on the line? The picture becomes cloudier. Even with backup quarterback Mac Jones, the Alabama offense hasn’t missed a beat from the loss of Tua Tagovailoa, hanging 45 on Auburn. Jones is a 69.8 percent passer with 11 TDs and three picks. With Najee Harris in the backfield and Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy and Devonta Smith on the field, the Alabama offense is close to unstoppable. The Michigan defense has some good numbers, but the Wolverines gave up 35 to Wisconsin and 56 to Ohio State, the best two offenses they faced. Key Stats: Michigan is 2-11 vs. Top 10 teams under Jim Harbaugh with wins coming over No. 8 Wisconsin in 2016 and No. 8 Notre Dame in 2019. Alabama is 31-11 vs. Top 10 teams under Nick Saban, including 18-9 vs. Top 5 and 6-2 when matched up with No. 1 teams. Prediction: Alabama 31, Michigan 10

MICHIGAN

ALABAMA

THE MATCHUP


AUBURN TIGERS

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Outback Bowl Tampa, FL Jan. 1 1:00 ET - ESPN

Auburn Tigers

Coach: Gus Malzahn 9-3 (5-3 SEC)

Minnesota Gophers

Coach: P.J. Fleck 10-2 (7-2 Big Ten)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

AUB

MINN

AUB

MINN

34.0

34.3

18.6

22.4

Rush Yds/G

211.0

175.7

Rush Yds/G

115.5

127.9

Pass Yds/G

210.1

251.2

Pass Yds/G

208.4

184.9

Total Yds/G

421.1

426.9

Total Yds/G

323.9

312.8

Yds/Play

5.65

6.34

Yds/Play

4.68

5.11

3D Conv%

41.3

50.3

3D Conv%

30.0

38.3

TO Margin

+6

+4

Sagarin Rank

10

26

3-3

1-2

Sagarin SOS

2

61

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

Auburn and Minnesota each had a signature win this season that propelled their programs to the next level. For the Gophers it came in early November with a 31-26 win over No. 5 Penn State. Auburn’s big moment was a stirring 48-45 win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Minnesota ended the regular season with a tough loss to Wisconsin is what was the Big Ten West title game. Minnesota brings some offensive punch to Tampa with a pair of All-Big Ten receivers in Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson. The two combined for 2,284 yards and 22 touchdowns. They make life easy for quarterback Tanner Morgan, a 66.1 percent passer, and open up running room for 1,000-yard runner Rodney Smith. Auburn will bank on its rugged defense that has held opponents to 3.4 yards per carry. All-SEC linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson anchor the defense and spell trouble for a Minnesota line that allowed 30 sacks. Quarterback Bo Nix is growing into the position well, but the Auburn offense is built on the running game and spreading the ball around in the passing game. Key Stats: Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr., named the top defensive back in the Big Ten, is fourth in the nation with seven interceptions. When Auburn averages 4.5 yards per play, the Tigers win. When they fall short of that, they lose. Prediction: Auburn 27, Minnesota 17

MINNESOTA

AUBURN

THE MATCHUP


Rose Bowl

Pasadena, CA Jan. 1 5:00 ET - ESPN

Oregon Ducks

Coach: Mario Cristobal 11-2 (8-1 Pac-12)

Wisconsin Badgers

Coach: Paul Chryst 10-3 (7-2 Big Ten)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

ORE

WIS

ORE

WIS

35.9

34.6

15.7

16.1

Rush Yds/G

183.2

240.5

Rush Yds/G

106.8

102.4

Pass Yds/G

267.5

201.2

Pass Yds/G

222.8

191.2

Total Yds/G

450.7

441.7

Total Yds/G

329.6

293.6

Yds/Play

6.47

6.45

Yds/Play

4.76

4.84

3D Conv%

42.5

50.0

3D Conv%

33.5

27.1

TO Margin

+13

+3

Sagarin Rank

8

7

v. Sagarin T30

3-1

3-2

Sagarin SOS

35

24

Pts/G

Pts/G

The Rose Bowl still has a special appeal for schools in the Pac-12 and Big Ten, even though it’s a consolation prize this season for Oregon and Wisconsin. The Badgers will play a tough, in-your-face defense and rely on the running of superstar Jonathan Taylor. The Ducks will play a pretty tough style of defense as well, but the offense is in the hands of quarterback Justin Herbert, who has thrown for 3,333 yards and 32 touchdowns this season with just five interceptions. CJ Verdell is a threat in the backfield with 1,171 yards, averaging 6.5 yards a pop. Herbert spreads the ball around well, but his favorite target is Johnny Johnson III and his 55 catches. The Oregon line will have its hand full with Zach Baun and Chris Orr who are as good at getting to quarterbacks as anyone in the nation. The Badgers’ Taylor has 1,909 rushing yards and another 209 receiving yards. Quarterback Jack Coan is an underrated 70.1 percent passer. Quintez Cephus has 52 catches and 842 yards this season. Key Stats: The Oregon defense has picked off 17 passes this season, second in the nation. Wisconsin’s Chris Orr and Zach Baun combined for 24 sacks, the most by any pair of teammates in the nation. Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Oregon 22

WISCONSIN

OREGON

THE MATCHUP


Sugar Bowl New Orleans, LA Jan. 1 8:45 ET - ESPN

Georgia Bulldogs

Coach: Kirby Smart 11-2 (7-1 SEC)

Baylor Bears

Coach: Matt Rhule 11-2 (8-1 Big 12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

GA

BAY

STAT

GA

BAY

Pts/G

31.2

35.2

Pts/G

12.5

19.3

Rush Yds/G

189.3

174.5

Rush Yds/G

75.7

143.8

Pass Yds/G

220.9

256.7

Pass Yds/G

198.5

215.1

Total Yds/G

410.2

431.2

Total Yds/G

274.2

358.9

Yds/Play

6.13

6.44

Yds/Play

4.34

4.85

3D Conv%

42.1

41.4

3D Conv%

30.4

39.4

TO Margin

0

+14

Sagarin Rank

6

15

4-1

4-2

Sagarin SOS

23

28

v. Sagarin T30

Georgia is bringing one of the best defenses in the nation to New Orleans to face an exciting Baylor offense. The Bears’ offense may be without quarterback Charlie Brewer who left the Big 12 Championship Game with a head injury. Gerry Bohanon will play if Brewer is unable to go. Bohanon was just 4-for-15 against Oklahoma. Baylor has a pair of 600-yard runners in JaMycal Hasty and John Lovett who both average more than six yards a carry. Denzel Mims is a big-play receiver with 945 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Georgia defense led the SEC in fewest points allowed per game even after giving up 37 to LSU in the SEC Championship Game. The beauty of the Bulldogs defensively is that there are no statistical standouts, just a terrific unit that plays together. Defensive back J.R. Reed is the only member of the defense named All-SEC. Offensively, the Bulldogs are operating with a depleted receiving corps. Georgia will lean heavily on D’Andre Swift who has 1,216 rushing yards and another 216 through the air. Key Stats: Georgia has defeated seven bowl teams this season, giving up an average of only 10.7 points in those seven wins. Baylor has played just two ranked teams this season, both named Oklahoma, and both resulting in close losses. Prediction: Georgia 26, Baylor 16

BAYLOR

GEORGIA

THE MATCHUP


GEORGIA BULLDOGS

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Birmingham Bowl Birmingham, AL Jan. 2 3:00 ET - ESPN

Boston College Eagles

Coach: Rich Gunnell 6-6 (4-4 ACC)

Cincinnati Bearcats

Coach: Luke Fickell 10-3 (7-1 AAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

BC

CIN

STAT

BC

CIN

Pts/G

30.9

29.0

Pts/G

31.7

21.7

Rush Yds/G

267.8

197.6

Rush Yds/G

180.8

143.4

Pass Yds/G

183.4

187.4

Pass Yds/G

299.6

233.2

Total Yds/G

451.2

385.0

Total Yds/G

480.4

376.6

Yds/Play

5.91

5.55

Yds/Play

6.46

5.21

3D Conv%

45.4

42.0

3D Conv%

45.3

40.3

TO Margin

+6

+5

Sagarin Rank

59

32

0-2

1-3

Sagarin SOS

58

65

v. Sagarin T30

Boston College, with an interim coach, owns one of the most bruising running games in the country and Cincinnati may be one of the most unheralded three-loss teams in the nation. Boston College loves to pound the ball, but will be without its top runner AJ Dillon, who has chosen to skip the game to focus on prepping for the NFL. But at 6’1”, 240, David Bailey is becoming as effective as Dillon. Quarterback Dennis Grosel took over after the season-ending injury to Anthony Brown in October, and completed less than 50 percent of his throws. For BC to have a chance, they must control the ball on the ground. The Eagles’ defense has given up 38 or more points five times this season. Cincinnati has played two ranked teams (Memphis twice and Ohio State), and lost all three games. The Bearcats feature a balanced attack with Michael Warren II leading the way with 1,160 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. The Cincinnati defense has given up passing yards this season, but has three players with three or more picks. Key Stats: Boston College has run the ball 631 times this season, fourth in the nation behind only the three service academies. Cincinnati’s 16 interceptions rank fifth-best in the nation. Prediction: Cincinnati 16, Boston College 9

CINCINNATI

BOSTON COLLEGE

THE MATCHUP


Gator Bowl Jacksonville, FL Jan. 2 7:00 ET - ESPN

Indiana Hoosiers

Coach: Tom Allen 8-4 (5-4 Big Ten)

Tennessee Volunteers

Coach: Jeremy Pruitt 7-5 (5-3 SEC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

IND

TENN

STAT

IND

TENN

Pts/G

32.6

24.3

Pts/G

24.5

21.7

Rush Yds/G

134.9

144.8

Rush Yds/G

138.8

145.8

Pass Yds/G

308.7

220.0

Pass Yds/G

211.7

191.3

Total Yds/G

443.6

364.8

Total Yds/G

350.5

337.1

Yds/Play

6.08

5.82

Yds/Play

5.36

5.04

3D Conv%

48.2

43.5

3D Conv%

34.8

40.0

TO Margin

+1

0

Sagarin Rank

40

36

0-3

0-3

Sagarin SOS

63

48

v. Sagarin T30

Tennessee and Indiana return to the bowl scene after a two-year absence. The Volunteers come in riding a terrific defense, while the Hoosiers love to throw it all over the field. Indiana’s Peyton Ramsey has 2,227 yards passing even though he missed a couple of games. Ramsey regained the starting job when Michael Penix Jr. broke his collarbone in early November. Whop Philyor has 69 catches for 1,001 yards. Three other receivers have as many as 500 yards receiving. The Hoosiers’ defense has had some issues, giving up 30 or more points in six Big Ten games (winning two of them) this season. The wide open passing attack will test an outstanding Tennessee defense. As good as the Volunteers’ linebackers Henry To’o To’o and Daniel Bituli are, they haven’t proven themselves in pass coverage. Nigel Warrior is a big-play safety for the Vols with four picks this season. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been under fire this season, but has emerged as a reliable leader. Leading receiver Jauan Jennings has been suspended for the first half of the bowl game and will be sorely missed. Key Stats: Indiana has played four bowl teams this season and lost all four games. Tennessee’s defense allowed a total of 112 points in the three losses to Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The Vols gave up just 64 points in the five SEC wins. Prediction: Tennessee 31, Indiana 28

TENNESSEE

INDIANA

THE MATCHUP


TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

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Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Boise, ID Jan. 3 3:30 ET - ESPN

Ohio Bobcats

Coach: Frank Solich 6-6 (5-3 MAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

OHIO

NEV

OHIO

NEV

34.7

21.3

27.0

32.1

Rush Yds/G

216.5

122.8

Rush Yds/G

177.8

137.9

Pass Yds/G

226.8

237.1

Pass Yds/G

223.8

259.8

Total Yds/G

443.3

359.9

Total Yds/G

401.6

397.7

Yds/Play

6.70

4.92

Yds/Play

5.93

6.04

3D Conv%

51.6

37.8

3D Conv%

40.6

36.3

TO Margin

-4

-5

Sagarin Rank

84

109

0-0

0-1

Sagarin SOS

115

89

Pts/G

Nevada Wolf Pack

Coach: Jay Norvell 7-5 (4-4 MWC)

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

It’s understandable that few college fans outside of Ohio and Nevada and their alumni associations will be interested in this game. That is, unless some fans just love watching games on the blue turf. Ohio brings a potent offensive approach behind quarterback Nathan Rourke, who has 2,676 yards passing and 780 rushing, accounting for 32 total touchdowns. O’Shaan Allison has 823 yards rushing. He has carried it 70 times over his last seven games for 8.3 yards a carry. The Nevada Wolf Pack defense has been a weakness this season, so expect the Bobcats to put up some points in this one. The question is whether Nevada can score with them after averaging just 21.3 points a game throughout the season. Carson Strong triggers the offense and is a 63.4 percent passer for 1,933 yards. Toa Taua is the leading rusher with 759 yards. Elijah Cooks is Strong’s goto receiver with 62 catches for 729 yards. Dom Peterson has eight sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, but the Wolf Pack gives up too many big plays. Key Stats: Beginning in 2009, Ohio has a streak of 11 seasons of being bowl eligible. The Bobcats are 4-5 in bowls during that time. Nevada has allowed 31 touchdown passes this season. Only three schools have allowed more. Prediction: Ohio 30, Nevada 14

NEVADA

OHIO

THE MATCHUP


Armed Forces Bowl Fort Worth, TX Jan. 4 11:30 ET - ESPN

Tulane Green Wave

Coach: Willie Fritz 6-6 (3-5 AAC)

Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Coach: Jay Hopson 7-5 (5-3 C-USA)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

TUL

SO MS

TUL

SO MS

33.3

27.8

27.4

25.9

Rush Yds/G

249.8

122.4

Rush Yds/G

164.5

111.8

Pass Yds/G

205.3

288.6

Pass Yds/G

214.0

238.5

Total Yds/G

455.1

411.0

Total Yds/G

378.5

350.3

Yds/Play

6.19

6.13

Yds/Play

5.51

5.70

3D Conv%

40.1

39.0

3D Conv%

39.3

31.8

TO Margin

-4

-9

Sagarin Rank

61

94

0-4

0-1

Sagarin SOS

62

111

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

These former conference rivals have met 30 times, including every season from 1979-2006 and Southern Miss has dominated the series 23-7. But they’ve never met in a bowl game. This will mark the 22nd bowl for Southern Miss. This is only the fifth time this century that Tulane has been bowl eligible. Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham is somewhat of a gunslinger a la former Southern Miss star Brett Favre. Abraham has 3,329 yards, but has thrown 15 picks. Quez Watkins is a big-play threat every time he touches it. He has 55 catches for 1,024 yards. His running mate Tim Jones has 66 receptions for 840 yards. The Eagles’ D.Q. Thomas is one of the most exciting defensive players in college football. He has 14 stops behind the line and has picked off three passes returning one for a touchdown. Justin McMillan is the Tulane offense. The quarterback has 2,229 passing yards and leads the team with 704 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Corey Dauphine and Darius Bradwell have combined for 1,017 rushing yards, but both are nursing injuries. Key Stats: Southern Miss has lost 24 turnovers this season. Only seven schools coughed it up more than the Eagles. Tulane has converted 60.6 percent (20-33) of its fourth down attempts. Prediction: Tulane 24, Southern Miss 20

SOUTHERN MISS

TULANE

THE MATCHUP


LendingTree Bowl Mobile, AL Jan. 6 7:30 ET - ESPN

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

Coach: Billy Napier 10-3 (7-1 Sun Belt)

Miami RedHawks

Coach: Chuck Martin 8-5 (6-2 MAC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

LA

MIA

LA

MIA

38.8

24.7

19.9

28.2

Rush Yds/G

265.3

133.1

Rush Yds/G

179.5

174.1

Pass Yds/G

236.0

172.8

Pass Yds/G

193.8

206.4

Total Yds/G

501.3

305.9

Total Yds/G

373.3

380.5

Yds/Play

7.03

4.96

Yds/Play

5.47

5.18

3D Conv%

48.1

32.4

3D Conv%

35.4

40.3

TO Margin

+4

+3

Sagarin Rank

44

92

0-2

0-2

Sagarin SOS

103

91

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

Pts/G

The final bowl game before the main event a week later features two teams fighting for respect on the field and field and with their names. Louisiana (formerly Southwestern Louisiana, UL-Lafayette, among other names) will face Miami. No, not that Miami. The one in Oxford, Ohio. The Miami (OH) RedHawks began the season against Iowa, Cincinnati and Ohio State sandwiched around a game against Tennessee Tech. They lost the three tough games by a combined 117 points. But the team rallied and won seven of nine MAC games including the championship game over Central Michigan with a balanced offense and opportunistic defense. Freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert wasn’t fazed in those early tests and has grown into a productive passer. The Louisiana offense features plenty of weapons all over the field. Levi Lewis triggers the attack and has more than 2,800 yards through the air. Elijah Mitchell is the top rusher with 1,092 yards and 15 touchdowns. Raymond Calais has 882 yards and Trey Ragas added 781 with 11 scores. Key Stats: Miami receivers Jalen Walker, James Maye and Dominque Robinson have combined for 49 catches for 1,097 yards averaging 22.4 yards per catch. Louisiana averages 6.39 yards per carry, ranking second in the nation to Clemson’s 6.46. Prediction: Louisiana 35, Miami (OH) 29

MIAMI (OHIO)

LOUISIANA

THE MATCHUP


Fiesta Bowl

Glendale, AZ Dec. 28 8:00 ET - ESPN

Ohio State Buckeyes

Coach: Ryan Day 13-0 (9-0 Big Ten)

Clemson Tigers

Coach: Dabo Swinney 13-0 (8-0 ACC)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

STAT

OSU

CLEM

OSU

CLEM

48.7

46.5

Pts/G

12.5

10.6

Rush Yds/G

272.2

252.9

Rush Yds/G

99.5

106.2

Pass Yds/G

258.8

294.8

Pass Yds/G

148.1

138.5

Total Yds/G

531.0

547.7

Total Yds/G

247.6

244.7

Yds/Play

7.02

7.51

Yds/Play

3.93

3.96

3D Conv%

57.0

47.4

3D Conv%

28.6

30.3

TO Margin

+11

+14

Sagarin Rank

1

2

v. Sagarin T30

4-0

2-0

Sagarin SOS

18

60

Pts/G

Just in case fans don’t get enough offense in the first game of the playoff double-header, Clemson and Ohio State bring the nation’s third- and fifthbest offensive shows to Arizona. Ohio State features quarterback Justin Fields who has thrown 40 touchdown passes and just one interception. J.K. Dobbins may very well be the best player on the field with 1,829 yards rushing and another 200 receiving and 22 total touchdowns. Defensively, the Buckeyes are pretty good as well. Defensive end Chase Young is the best defender in the country. Clemson has somehow been left out of all the talk about who should be No. 1, and that’s just how Dabo Swinney likes it. The Tigers are just lying in the weeds awaiting their chance. The offense is talented and has a wealth of big-game experience. Trevor Lawrence has thrown for 3,172 yards and can break teams down with his legs. Travis Etienne has carried for 1,500 yards and Tee Higgins is a terrific receiver with 52 catches for 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns. Superstars will be all over the field at all times. But the underdog mentality just might make the Tigers a winner. Key Stats: The most points Ohio State has given up this season is 27. The fewest points the Buckeyes have scored in a game this season is 28. Clemson has participated in the past four College Football Playoffs with a record of 5-2 and two national championships. Prediction: Clemson 35, Ohio State 34

CLEMSON

OHIO STATE

THE MATCHUP


CLEMSON TIGERS

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Peach Bowl

LSU Tigers

Atlanta, GA Dec. 28 4:00 ET - ESPN

Coach: Ed Orgeron 13-0 (8-0 SEC)

Oklahoma Sooners

Coach: Lincoln Riley 12-1 (8-1 Big 12)

OFFENSIVE STAT SHEET

DEFENSIVE STAT SHEET

STAT

LSU

OU

STAT

LSU

OU

47.8

43.2

Pts/G

21.2

24.5

Rush Yds/G

167.5

251.2

Rush Yds/G

119.6

132.1

Pass Yds/G

386.8

303.0

Pass Yds/G

221.7

198.5

Total Yds/G

554.3

554.2

Total Yds/G

341.3

330.6

Yds/Play

7.79

8.15

Yds/Play

5.04

5.29

3D Conv%

50.6

50.7

3D Conv%

30.2

30.1

TO Margin

+8

-7

Sagarin Rank

3

5

6-0

5-1

Sagarin SOS

10

13

Pts/G

v. Sagarin T30

The first matchup in the 2019 College Football Playoff promises to be a shootout from the start. Both Oklahoma and LSU have powerful offenses, ranking first and second in total offense and first and third in yards per play this season. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow leads the LSU attack and the numbers are staggering: 4,715 passing yards and 48 touchdowns. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has 1,290 yards rushing and two receivers—Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase—have more than 1,200 yards receiving. On the Oklahoma side, quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has started a national championship game, is equally impressive. Hurts has 3,634 yards passing, 1,255 yards running and has caught two passes, one for a touchdown. His big-play target is CeeDee Lamb, who missed the first Baylor game with an injury but still amassed 1,208 yards receiving. The difference in this game will depend on which defense makes more big plays on first down to keep these offenses behind the chains and then get off the field on third down. Key Stats: LSU has been penalized 78 times for 769 yards this season, only 25 teams were flagged for more yards this season. One of those teams was Oklahoma who was penalized 93 times for 976 yards, the most in FBS this season. Prediction: LSU 41, Oklahoma 35

OKLAHOMA

LSU

THE MATCHUP


LSU TIGERS

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THE SIDELINES


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2019 Southern Football Guide Bowl Edition  

Find all the information you need for every College Football Bowl Game. Every bowl has their own page with key match ups, team information,...

2019 Southern Football Guide Bowl Edition  

Find all the information you need for every College Football Bowl Game. Every bowl has their own page with key match ups, team information,...

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