By Cole Frederick
Bowl previews and predictions
Monday, Dec. 26
St. Petersburg Bowl
Miami (OH) vs. Mississippi State (-14)
Mississippi State is 5-7 but the Bulldogs earned a trip to a bowl game due to their high Academic Progress Rate. The Bulldogs finished the season with a resounding 55-20 win over rival Ole Miss, and Nick Fitzgerald was one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC this season. Miami became the first team in college football history to lose its first six games before winning the last six to reach a bowl game. Prediction: Mississippi State 48, Miami 24.
Quick Lane Bowl
Boston College vs. Maryland (-1)
Two formers ACC rivals are squaring off in Detroit with a chance to finish the season with a winning record. At 6-6, the Terrapins and the Eagles had decent seasons, but a bowl victory would be great for each program entering 2017. Prediction: Boston College 23, Maryland 20.
Vanderbilt vs. N.C. State (-4)
Vanderbilt earned its first bowl berth under coach Derek Mason, and the Commodores finished the season with wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. Ralph Webb was one of the best running backs in the SEC this season and linebacker Zach Cunningham was an All-SEC player. N.C. State had an up-and-down season but the Wolfpack ended the year with an impressive win over in-state rival North Carolina. Prediction: Vanderbilt 30, N.C. State 24.
Tuesday, Dec. 27
Heart of Dallas Bowl
North Texas vs. Army (-10)
These two teams met earlier this season, and North Texas knocked off Army, 35-18. The Black Knights finished the season with a strong win over rival Navy and will look to exact revenge over the five-win Mean Green. Prediction: Army 33, North Texas 24.
Wake Forest vs. Temple (-12.5)
Temple won the American Conference but lost coach Matt Rhule to Baylor. The Owls have been dominant over the last several weeks of the season and are up against a tough defense in Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are in their first bowl game since 2011. Prediction: Temple 26, Wake Forest 17.
Minnesota vs. Washington State (-10)
Minnesota players almost boycotted the bowl game after several players were suspended for their role in a sexual assault case, but the Golden Gophers ultimately decided to participate. Washington State lost its last two games but the Cougar offense is still one of the most potent in college football. Prediction: Washington State 41, Minnesota 17.
Baylor vs. Boise State (-7.5)
The Bears are undergoing a coaching change and had a disappointing finish to the season. Boise State failed to win the Mountain West Conference but still had a solid season at 10-2. Prediction: Boise State 38, Baylor 24.
Wednesday, Dec. 28
Northwestern vs. Pittsburgh (-5.5)
Pitt finished only 8-4 this season but the Panthers did beat ACC champion Clemson and Big 10 champion Penn State. Pitt lost offensive coordinator Matt Canada to LSU for the same position. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is only 1-5 in bowl games. Prediction: Pitt 41, Northwestern 27.
Russell Athletic Bowl
West Virginia vs. Miami (Fla.) (-2.5)
West Virginia had its best season under coach Dana Holgorsen at 10-2. Miami went only 8-4 in Mark Richt’s first season but a strong finish left reason for optimism for the Hurricanes. Richt is a strong 10-5 in bowl games as a head coach. Prediction: Miami 31, West Virginia 27.
Foster Farms Bowl
Indiana vs. Utah (-7)
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is 9-1 in bowl games and is looking to lead the Utes to a bowl win in three straight seasons. Indiana fired coach Kevin Wilson for allegedly mistreating players, and Hoosier defensive coordinator Tom Allen is taking over for him moving forward. Prediction: Utah 27, Indiana 17.
Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (-2)
The Aggies were ranked fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings at one point this season but stumbled down the stretch yet again under Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin might find himself on the hot seat next season even with a win over Kansas State, but a loss could be trouble for Sumlin moving forward. Prediction: Texas A&M 37, Kansas State 33.
Thursday, Dec. 29
South Carolina vs. South Florida (-10.5)
Not many expected Will Muschamp to reach a bowl game in his first season in Columbia, but he had the Gamecocks playing competitive football for most of the year. South Florida lost coach Willie Taggart to Oregon, and Charlie Strong will take over next season. South Carolina looked much better on offense with freshman Jake Bentley at quarterback and should be able to keep it close against the Bulls. Prediction: South Florida 27, South Carolina 20.
Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech (-7)
Arkansas stumbled down the stretch with a loss to Missouri, and the Ra-zorbacks underachieved for most of the year. On the other hand, Virginia Tech overachieved in Justin Fuente’s first season in reaching the ACC title game. Bret Bielema has been good in bowl games for Arkansas, and this game should be a shootout. Prediction: Arkansas 41, Virginia Tech 38.
Oklahoma State vs. Colorado (-3)
Colorado was one of the biggest surprises in college football this season reaching the Pac-12 title game. Coach Mike MacIntyre was named the coach of the year after leading the Buffaloes to a 10-win season for the first time since 2001. Oklahoma State finished second in the Big 12, and Mike Gundy is searching for his fourth 10-win season since becoming the head coach at OSU in 2005. Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Colorado 38.