By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Bowl Previews and Predictions, Part I
Season record: 89-23
Saturday, Dec. 16
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
North Texas vs. Troy (-6). Before Neal Brown took over at Troy, the Trojans had never won 10 games in a season in the FBS. Over the last two seasons under Brown, Troy has now had back-to-back 10-win seasons. The Trojans are co-champions of the Sun Belt and now looks for its first 11-win season in school history against the Mean Green of North Texas. Seth Littrell led North Texas to the Conference USA East title, and the team is searching for its first 10-win season in school history. Prediction: Troy 26, North Texas 22.
AutoNation Cure Bowl
Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State (+5). It was a bit of a disappointing season for Western Kentucky as the Hilltoppers were expected to contend for the Conference USA title. They finished 6-6 and face a Georgia State team that had perhaps its best season since moving to the FBS. It was a rough start to the season for the Panthers, but they finished strong and ended the year at 6-5. Prediction: Georgia State 24, Western Kentucky 23.
Las Vegas Bowl
Boise State vs. Oregon (-7.5). The Ducks finished 7-5 and probably would’ve had a better season had quarterback Justin Herbert not been injured early in the year. Shortly after the regular season ended, head coach Willie Taggart left to take the same position at Florida State. Taggart was at Oregon only for one year before leaving for Tallahassee. Mario Cristobal will serve as the interim coach. Boise State won the Mountain West Conference for the second time in four years under Bryan Harsin, and the Broncos have won 10 games in back-to-back seasons. Prediction: Oregon 33, Boise State 31.
New Mexico Bowl
Marshall vs. Colorado State (-5.5). Mike Bobo fi-nished 7-6 in his first two years at Colorado State and his team is 0-2 in bowl games. The Rams are 7-5 in Bobo’s third year, and they’re looking for their first bowl win since 2013. Marshall had a bounce back year after finishing 3-9 in 2016. The Thundering Herd finished 7-5 this season and head coach Doc Holliday is 4-0 in bowl games with Marshall. Prediction: Marshall 34, Colorado State 31.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State (-3.5). The Blue Raiders of Murfreesboro were 6-6 in 2017 but played the majority of the season without quarterback Brent Stockstill, whose father, Rick is the head coach. While the elder Stockstill has had a successful tenure with Middle Tennessee, his teams often struggled in the postseason. Stockstill is 1-5 in bowl games since he took over in 2006. Arkansas State was expected to contend for the Sun Belt title but the Red Wolves lost a chance at winning the conference championship when they fell to Troy in the season finale. ASU coach Blake Anderson is 1-2 in bowl games, and his first win came last season over UCF. Prediction: Arkansas State 38, Middle Tennessee 34.
Tuesday, Dec. 19
Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl
Akron vs. Florida Atlantic (-22.5). Florida Atlantic is currently enjoying its best season since joining the FBS in 2005, and Lane Kiffin has been responsible for the turnaround. The Owls were 3-9 a season ago and now are 10-3 with a Conference USA championship in Kiffin’s first season. Kiffin will meet former Auburn coach Terry Bowden’s Akron Zips in the bowl game.
Bowden led Akron to the MAC Championship Game for the first time in over a decade. FAU has the advantage of this being a home game in Boca Raton. Prediction: Florida Atlantic 55, Akron 24.
Wednesday, Dec. 20
DXL Frisco Bowl
Louisiana Tech vs. SMU (-5). The Mustangs are going to a bowl game for the first time since 2012 but are doing so without head coach Chad Morris, who was hired as the next coach at Arkansas Assistant Jeff Traylor will serve as the interim coach. Louisiana Tech was expected to contend for the C-USA title but stumbled to a 6-6 season. Head coach Skip Holtz is 3-0 in bowl games with the Bulldogs, and he’s won his last four overall. Prediction: SMU 41, Louisiana Tech 34.
Thursday, Dec. 21
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Temple vs. Florida International (+7). Lane Kiffin isn’t the only coach to lead a Florida school to a turnaround this season. Butch Davis led FIU to an 8-4 season in his first year, and the Panthers were 4-8 a season ago. FIU will meet Temple in its bowl game, and the Owls finished 6-6 in Geoff Collins’ first season as head coach. Prediction: Temple 23, FIU 20.
Friday, Dec. 22
UAB vs. Ohio (-7.5). While several coaches across the country led their teams to great seasons, no coach did as impressive of a job as Bill Clark did at UAB this year. The Blazers haven’t had a football program since 2014, and Clark led them to an 8-4 season and second place in the C-USA West Division. UAB is being rewarded with a trip to the Bahamas to take on an Ohio team that finished 8-4 under coach Frank Solich. This will be the second bowl game in UAB football history and the first since 2004. Prediction: UAB 37, Ohio 35.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Wyoming (-1). Wyoming is playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in 30 years, and the Cowboys made it to a bowl despite quarterback Josh Allen being unhealthy for most of the second half of the season. Allen, who is projected to be a first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, should be able to play on Dec. 22. Central Michigan is playing in a bowl game for the third straight season, but the Chippewas haven’t won a bowl game since 2012. Prediction: Wyoming 27, Central Michigan 24.
Saturday, Dec. 23
Texas Tech vs. South Florida (-2.5). Charlie Strong guided South Florida to a 9-2 season in his first year at South Florida, and the Bulls are back in the Birmingham Bowl for the second straight season. USF defeated South Carolina in a shootout last year and will likely be in another high scoring affair against the Red Raiders. Kliff Kingsbury guided his alma mater to a bowl game for the third time in five years, and Texas Tech’s season ending win over Texas likely saved Kingsbury’s job. Prediction: Texas Tech 45, South Florida 41.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
San Diego State vs. Ar-my (+5). Jeff Monken led Army to its best back-to-back seasons in over 30 years, and the Black Knights are looking for two straight bowl wins since 1984-85. Rocky Long has guided San Diego State to three consecutive seasons with over 10 wins, and the Aztecs have won bowl games in each of the last two seasons. Prediction: San Diego State 31, Army 30.
Dollar General Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Toledo (-8). Jason Candle led the Rockets of Toledo to their first conference championship since 2004. They enter this matchup with 11 wins, the most for the school since 1995. Appalachian State won a share of the Sun Belt title with Troy, and these two schools are meeting in a bowl game for the second straight season. App State won the game last year by a score of 31-28, so the Rockets will be out for revenge this season. Prediction: Toledo 38, Appalachian State 31.