Bowl Game Previews and Predictions
Saturday, Dec. 21
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Washington State (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-6). The Cougars made tremendous improvements in Mike Leach’s second year as head coach. After nearly upsetting Auburn to start the year, Washington State knocked off USC the following week. The Cougars haven’t won or played in a bowl game since 2003. Colorado State also made improvements from a season ago. Led by former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, the Rams were 4-8 a season ago, and they are 7-6 this season. Prediction: Washington State 31, Colorado State 27.
Las Vegas Bowl
Fresno State (11-1) vs. USC (9-4). Fresno State nearly ran the table this season behind the arm of quarterback Derek Carr. The Bulldogs lost a shootout to San Jose State late in November, which likely kept them out of a BCS Bowl. USC started the season with Lane Kiffin as their coach, but he was fired nearly halfway through the season after the Trojans started slowly. Ed Orgeron was named the interim head coach, and the Trojans finished the year 6-2. Orgeron was not retained after the season, however, and USC Athletic Director Pat Haden hired former assistant Steve Sarkisian as head coach. Prediction: Fresno State 48, USC 41.
Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5). After four consecutive losing seasons, Buffalo finally made it back to a bowl game. The Bulls finished 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference and finished second in the division behind Bowling Green. San Diego State finished a game behind Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs are making their fourth consecutive bowl game appearance. Prediction: Buffalo 26, San Diego State 23.
R + L Carriers
New Orleans Bowl
Tulane (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4). Tulane is making its first bowl appearance since 2002, which is also the last time the Green Wave had a winning record. The Ragin’ Cajuns won the Sun Belt Conference and are returning to the New Orleans Bowl for the third straight season. Louisiana-Lafayette is attempting to finish 9-4 for the third consecutive season head coach Mark Hudspeth. Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 33, Tulane 28.
Monday, Dec. 23
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg
Ohio (7-5) vs. East Carolina (9-3). Before Frank Solich took over as head coach for Ohio, the team had been to two bowl games in school history. The Bobcats have been to six bowl games under Solich alone. East Carolina is making back-to-back bowl game appearances under head coach Ruffin McNeill. McNeill is 0-2 in bowl games as the Pirates’ head coach. Prediction: East Carolina 41, Ohio 30.
Tuesday, Dec. 24
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Boise State (8-4) vs. Oregon State (6-6). Boise State is back in another bowl game but will be without head coach Chris Petersen, who took the head-coaching job at Washington after Steve Sarkisian left for USC. Oregon State had high expectations at the beginning of the year, but the Beavers stumbled to a 6-6 finish under former Alabama player Mike Riley. Prediction: Oregon State 34, Boise State 31.
Thursday, Dec. 26
Little Caesars Bowl
Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (10-3). The Panthers struggled in their first season in the ACC but still made it to a bowl game. Pittsburgh’s biggest win of the season came against Notre Dame. Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois at the end of the year to win the Mid-American Conference championship. Prediction: Bowling Green 27, Pittsburgh 17.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Utah State (8-5) vs. Northern Illinois (12-1). Utah State lost star quarterback Chuckie Keeton midway through the season due to a torn ACL but the Aggies still found a way to make it back to a bowl game. Northern Illinois nearly finished the season undefeated before being upset by Bowling Green in the MAC championship game. However, the Huskies did have a top 6 Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Jordan Lynch. Prediction: Northern Illinois 44, Utah State 31.
Friday, Dec. 27
Marshall (9-4) vs. Maryland (7-5). The Thundering Herd lost to Rice in the Conference USA championship game but still have a chance at a 10-win season. Marshall nearly upset Virginia Tech early in the year and had a five game winning streak before losing to the Owls at the end of the season. Maryland started the season 4-0 but the Terrapins battled a series of injuries that led to a 3-5 finish down the stretch. Prediction: Marshall 38, Maryland 21.
Syracuse (6-6) vs. Minnesota (8-4). Like fellow first year ACC member Pittsburgh, Syracuse finished 6-6. The Orange ended the season by knocking off Boston College, 34-31. Minnesota was one of the few bright spots in the Big 10 this year, as the Golden Gophers will finish with their first winning season since 2008. Prediction: Minnesota 24, Syracuse 20.
Fight Hunger Bowl
BYU (8-4) vs. Washington (8-4). The Cougars are making their eighth straight bowl game appearance under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. BYU is 13-17-1 all-time in bowl games. The Huskies will be without former head coach Steve Sarkisian but quarterback Keith Price will be back after suffering an injury late in the season. Washington junior running back Bishop Sankey is a second-team All-American. Prediction: Washington 45, BYU 41.