In & around SEC football

December 21, 2017 chris
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By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

Bowl previews and predictions, Part II

Sunday, Dec. 24
Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs. Houston (-2.5). In 2016, Fresno State finished 3-9. The Bulldogs made a coaching change and brought in former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who in his first season led the Bulldogs to the Mountain West title game and a 9-4 record. It was quite the turnaround for the program, and FSU were rewarded with a trip to Hawaii. The Bulldogs will meet Houston, who finished 7-4 in Major Applewhite’s first season as head coach. It was an up-and-down season for the Cougars, but they can end the season on a positive note with a win over Fresno State. Prediction: Fresno State 30, Houston 27.
Tuesday, Dec. 26
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Utah vs. West Virginia (+7). West Virginia quarterback Will Grier is questionable for this game, and if he doesn’t play, the Utes have the advantage in this matchup. It was a transition year for Utah as it changed offenses, but the Utes managed to finish 6-6 despite a difficult schedule. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is 10-1 in bowls, and he’s one of the more trustworthy coaches in football with several weeks to prepare for an opponent. Prediction Utah 27, West Virginia 23.
Quick Lane Bowl
Duke vs. Northern Illinois (+4). It was a bounce back year for Northern Illinois as the Huskies finished 8-4 this season after a 5-7 campaign in 2016. Rod Carey is 0-4 in bowl games as a head coach, however, and he’s up against a coach in David Cutcliffe who has won five career bowl games. Cutcliffe has Duke in a bowl game for the fifth time in six years, and the Blue Devils won their last bowl outing in 2015. Prediction: Duke 34, Northern Illinois 31.
Cactus Bowl
Kansas State vs. UCLA (+2.5). The Bruins made a coaching change during the season, replacing Jim Mora Jr. with Chip Kelly. Kelly likely won’t have junior Josh Rosen next year, but Rosen has the chance to end his college career with a win over Kansas State. The Wildcats finished 7-5 despite an injury to quarterback Jesse Ertz, and their rushing attack will be an important factor against the Bruins, who have one of the worst rushing defenses in the country. Prediction: UCLA 38, Kansas State 31.
Wednesday, Dec. 27
Independence Bowl
Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State (-15.5). Florida State had to reschedule a game with Louisiana-Monroe to extend its bowl streak to 36 consecutive years, but they’ll be playing without head coach Jimbo Fisher, who left Tallahassee to take the job at Texas A&M. Willie Taggart will take over for Fisher next season. Southern Miss finished 8-4 on the year, and head coach Jay Hopson is 1-0 in bowl games during his coaching career. Prediction: Florida State 31, Southern Miss 10.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Iowa vs. Boston College (+3). Most of the discussion involving Iowa this season centered on the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 blowout of Ohio State that kept the Buckeyes out of the playoffs. Iowa had a solid season at 7-5 but head coach Kirk Ferentz has lost five straight bowl games. Things didn’t look great earlier this year for Boston College, but the Eagles had a strong finish to the year and ended up 7-5. Steve Addazio bought himself another year, and he’s looking for his first 8-win season with the Eagles. Prediction: Boston College 20, Iowa 17.
Foster Farms Bowl
Arizona vs. Purdue (+3.5). The Boilermakers are making their first bowl game appearance since 2012, and Jeff Brohm did a tremendous job turning the program around in his first season. Brohm led Purdue to a 6-6 season and is looking to guide the Boilermakers to their first winning season since 2011. Arizona will provide a difficult challenge, as quarterback Khalil Tate was one of the most dynamic players in the country this season. Tate led the Wildcats from a 3-9 season in 2016 to 7-5, and this should be a high scoring affair between these two potent offenses. Prediction: Purdue 41, Arizona 38.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Texas vs. Missouri (-3). After a 1-5 start, many believed Missouri would move on from head coach Barry Odom after only two seasons. The Tigers finished the year on a six-game winning streak, however, and Odom earned a two-year contract extension for the 7-5 season. Tom Herman wasn’t expected to turn Texas into a title contender in his first season in Austin, but the Longhorns should’ve been better than 6-6. A bowl win over Missouri would have fans feeling a little better about the program heading into the offseason. Prediction: Texas 41, Missouri 38.
Thursday, Dec. 28
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Virginia vs. Navy (-3). Bronco Mendenhall inherited one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in college football at Virginia and already has the Cavaliers in a bowl game in his second season. It was a quick turnaround for the program, and Mendenhall deserves plenty of credit for the job he’s done. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has built the Midshipmen into a consistent winner, but injuries sent the team to a 6-6 season. Navy’s triple option attack can be tough defend, but Virginia already defeated one triple option team this year, as they beat Georgia Tech in a shootout. Prediction: Virginia 28, Navy 27.
Camping World Bowl
Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (-6). While both Mike Gundy and Justin Fuente thought before the year that they’d have their teams playing for conference titles, neither can be too disappointed in a 9-3 season. Gundy has turned Oklahoma State into a consistent winner with one of the most explosive offenses in the country, and he’s searching for his third straight 10-win season. Fu-ente is also known for his dynamic offenses, and this matchup should feature plenty of points. Prediction: Oklahoma State 37, Virginia Tech 34.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Stanford vs. TCU (-2.5). Both the Cardinal and the Horned Frogs lost in their conference championship games, and this matchup features two of the best coaches in the sport. Gary Patterson has won at least 10 games in three of his last four seasons, while David Shaw is looking for his sixth 10-win season in seven years at Stanford. The Cardinal have one of the best running backs in the country in Bryce Love, but he’s up against one of the toughest defenses in the country in TCU. Prediction: TCU 27, Stanford 23.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Washington State vs. Michigan State (+3). Mark Dantonio led Michigan State to the playoffs in 2015, but his team slipped to 3-9 a year later for the worst season of his coaching career. However, Dantonio led the Spartans to a 9-3 season this year that included wins over Michigan and Penn State. The Spartans will meet a Washington State team that also won nine games, and Mike Leach is looking for his first 10-win season with the Cougars. Washington State hasn’t had a 10-win season since 2003. Prediction: Washington State 28, Michigan State 24.