In & around SEC football


Bowl Game Previews & Predictions

Saturday, December 20

R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl 

Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (Pick). The Ragin’ Cajuns are no strangers to the New Orleans Bowl. They’re one of two Sun Belt teams to make a bowl game and have landed in this game so many consecutive years they might rename the bowl after them. Nevada finished 7-5 in the Mountain West Conference, and they are reappearing in a bowl game after a one-year absence. Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Nevada 30. 

Gildan New Mexico Bowl 

Utah State vs. UTEP (+10.5). After several years of futility as a football program, Utah State has now reached a bowl game in four consecutive seasons. The Aggies did so this year despite having injuries to two quarterbacks, including Chuckie Keeton. UTEP is making its first bowl appearance since 2010. The Miners are 5-8 all-time in bowl games. Prediction: Utah State 26, UTEP 21. 

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl 

Utah vs. Colorado State (+3.5). The Utes finished 8-4 this season, which was an accomplishment given that they played in the tough Pac-12 South. Colorado State won 10 games under head coach Jim McElwain, who was hired at Florida to replace Will Muschamp. Prediction: Utah 27, Colorado State 24. 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 

Western Michigan vs. Air Force (-1). Both Wes-tern Michigan and Air Force have had successful seasons, with the former winning eight games and the latter winning nine. The Falcons’ triple option attack is difficult to defend, and Air Force has a slight edge in this game. Prediction: Air Force 35, Western Michigan 27. 

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl 

South Alabama vs. Bowling Green (+2.5). The Jaguars will play in their first-ever bowl game against the seven-win Bowling Green Falcons. Joey Jones has done an excellent job at South Alabama, and the Jaguars will play their first bowl game in Montgomery. Prediction: South Alabama 30, Bowling Green 27. 

Monday, December 22

Miami Beach Bowl

BYU vs. Memphis (-1). Memphis football had been down for several years, but head coach Justin Fuente has revitalized the program. The Tigers won a share of the American Conference championship and earned a game against the eight-win BYU Cougars. The Cougars might have gone undefeated had they not lost their quarterback, but they stumbled down the stretch. Prediction: Memphis 38, BYU 31.  

Tuesday, December 23 

Boca Raton Bowl 

Marshall vs. Northern Illinois (+10). Marshall nearly did finish the year undefeated, but a close loss to Western Kentucky kept them from potentially being ranked. Rod Carey has done yet another tremendous job at Northern Illinois, and he led them to another MAC championship. Prediction: Northern Illinois 45, Marshall 41. 

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Navy vs. San Diego State (-3). This is practically a home game for San Diego State, but they are up against a Navy team that is extremely difficult to stop on offense. Both teams finished the year 7-5. Prediction: Navy 28, San Diego State 24. 

Wednesday, December 24

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl 

Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky (-3.5). For some reason, the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl isn’t one of the bigger bowl games in college football. Location? Check. Great sponsor? Check. What more is needed? Even though both teams are 7-5, they are both winners for playing in this game. Prediction: Central Michigan 37, Western Kentucky 35. 

Hawaii Bowl 

Fresno State vs. Rice (-1.5). Fresno State has a chance to get to 7-7 with a win, while Rice has a chance to improve to 8-5. Prediction: Fresno State 40, Rice 38. 

Friday, December 26

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl 

Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech (-6). The Bulldogs finished the year 8-5, while Illinois made its first bowl game under head coach Tim Beckman. The Fighting Illini have won two straight bowl games. Prediction: Illinois 28, Louisiana Tech 27. 

Quick Lane Bowl 

Rutgers vs. North Carolina (-3). At 6-6, the Tar Heels are in their second straight bowl game under head coach Larry Fedora. Rutgers finished the year 7-5 in its inaugural season in the Big 10. Prediction: North Carolina 42, Rutgers 37. 

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl 

N.C. State vs. UCF (-1.5). George O’Leary had another successful season at UCF as he has the Knights on the cusp of a 10-win season for the second straight year. N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren has the Wolfpack in a bowl game for the first time in his tenure in Raleigh. Prediction: UCF 35, N.C. State 33. 

Saturday, December 27

Duck Commander Independence Bowl 

Miami vs. South Carolina (+3). It was a disappointing year for South Ca-rolina. After three straight 11-win seasons, the Gamecocks had expectations to win the SEC East. Instead, they dropped unexpected games to Kentucky and Tennessee, and they were also blown out by Texas A&M to start the season. South Carolina won close games over Georgia and Florida, but they also lost close ones to Auburn and Missouri. The Gamecocks did reach a bowl game, and Steve Spurrier indicated that he still has a few seasons left in him. Like South Carolina, Miami also finished the year 6-6. Prediction: South Carolina 34, Miami 30.

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