In & around SEC football – bowl previews III


By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Tuesday, Dec. 31
Belk Bowl
Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky (+2.5). The Wildcats fo-llowed up last year’s 10-win season with a 7sevenwin campaign in 2019, doing so with a wide receiver playing quarterback. Lynn Bowden, Jr., took over after injuries to two different quarterbacks, and Kentucky essentially changed its offense midway through the year. The Wildcats rarely throw the ball, but the ground attack has been successful. Virginia Tech started the year at 2-2 but won six of its next seven games to get to eight wins. Prediction: Kentucky 23, Virginia Tech 20.
Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
Florida State vs. Arizona State (-4.5). It was another disappointing season for the Seminoles, who decided to part ways with head coach Willie Taggart midway through the year. New coach Mike Norvell is inheriting a roster with some talent, but the rebuild won’t happen overnight. Herm Edwards guided his Sun Devils to a second straight winning season and is searching for his first bowl win as a head coach. Prediction: Arizona State 37, Florida State 31.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Navy vs. Kansas State (+3). Chris Klieman’s first season in Manhattan was a success, and the Wildcats had a positive transition from the Bill Snyder era. Klieman’s squad finished 8-4 overall and 5-4 in the Big 12, including an upset victory over Oklahoma. Navy won 10 games for the first time since 2015 and the third time in Ken Niumatalolo’s 13-year tenure. The Midshipmen only won three games a season ago, and they’ve had a tremendous turnaround season. Prediction: Kansas State 27, Navy 24.
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Wyoming vs. Georgia State (+7). Like Klieman, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl made the move to the FBS from North Dakota State, and he’s had similar success in Wyoming. A win over Georgia State would give Bohl three eight-win seasons in his six years at Wyoming, and he’s turned the Cowboys into an annual postseason team. Shawn Elliott started the year with an upset over Tennessee, and Georgia State went on to win seven games for the second time in Elliott’s three seasons. Prediction: Wyoming 20, Georgia State 16.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Utah vs. Texas (+7). After Texas beat Georgie a season ago, many believed the Longhorns were “back.” Instead, they followed up that success with a disappointing 7-5 campaign. Kyle Whitting-ham’s crew won the Pac-12 North and could have earned a playoff bid had they beaten Oregon in the conference title game. Whittingham is 11-2 in bowl games in his coaching career. Prediction: Utah 31, Texas 24.
Wednesday, Jan. 1
Outback Bowl
Minnesota vs. Auburn (-7). Auburn’s Iron Bowl victory was massive for Gus Malzahn, and a bowl victory to reach 10 wins would be an added bonus for the Tigers’ head coach. Malzahn has led Auburn to two bowl victories in six tries, and his teams have won 10 games twice in his tenure. Auburn dominated Purdue a season ago, but this year’s opponent should present much more of a challenge. Minnesota fin-ished 10-2 in P.J. Fleck’s third season at the helm, and the Golden Gophers were very close to playing for a Big 10 title. No Auburn players are sitting this game out, and the Tiger defense should find plenty of success. Prediction: Auburn 31, Minnesota 20.
VRBO Citrus Bowl
Michigan vs. Alabama (-7). The Crimson Tide already received positive news when star linebacker Dylan Moses announced he will return for another season. It is possible other juniors could do the same, but Moses’ presence will drastically help Alabama’s defense next season. As for this game, UA should have no problem scoring, even without Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. Mac Jones has played well in Tagovailoa’s absence and as plenty of weapons surrounding him. This is a big game for Jim Harbaugh. If he can beat Alabama, it might take some of the pressure off entering the offseason in Ann Arbor. Prediction: Alabama 38, Michigan 23.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
Oregon vs. Wisconsin (-3). Both the Ducks and Badgers had terrific sea-sons, and while they both missed out on the playoffs, a Rose Bowl berth is a nice consolation prize. Under Mario Cristobal, Oregon won the Pac-12 title for the first time since 2014. Wisconsin played for the Big 10 title again under Paul Chryst, who is 4-0 in bowl games with the Badgers. Wisconsin last won a Rose Bowl in 2000 and has lost three straight games in Pasadena. Prediction: Ore-gon 30, Wisconsin 27.
All-State Sugar Bowl
Baylor vs. Georgia (-5.5). The Bulldogs are in a New Year’s Six bowl game for the second straight year and just missed out on the playoffs. Last year, Georgia played in the Sugar Bowl and was upset by Texas. The Bulldogs were not motivated, and it showed against a Texas team searching for a big win. This is a big opportunity for Baylor’s program and Matt Rhule, and it is possible that Georgia’s players will not be motivated after missing out on the playoffs for a second straight season. Prediction: Baylor 28, Georgia 27.
Thursday, Jan. 2
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
Boston College vs. Cincinnati (-7). Luke Fickell has guided the Bearcats to 21 wins in the last two seasons. The program has not won 11 games or more in consecutive seasons since Brian Kelly’s tenure in 2008 and 2009. Boston College opted to part ways with Steve Addazio after seven seasons. Addazio was 44-44 and the Eagles never won more than seven games in a season during his tenure. BC hired Ohio State defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley to replace Addazio. Prediction: Cincinnati 22, Boston College 16.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Indiana vs. Tennessee (-2.5). The Volunteers started 2-5, and there were rumors Jeremy Pruitt might not last the season. Tennessee lost to Georgia State and BYU and was 1-4 heading into a home game against Mississippi State. Pruitt turned things around, however, and the Vols ended the year on a five-game winning streak. Pruitt’s squad now has confidence, and a bowl win would help even more. The Hoosiers finished 8-4, and like Pruitt, head coach Tom Allen is looking for his first bowl win as a head coach. Prediction: Tennessee 34, Indiana 27.
Friday, Jan. 3
Famous Idaho
Potato Bowl
Ohio vs. Nevada (+8). Ohio hasn’t had a losing season in 11 straight years under Frank Solich, and the Bobcats are searching for their third straight bowl victory. Nevada is 7-5 for the second straight year under Jay Norvell, and the Wolfpack are looking for three straight bowl wins for the first time in school history. Prediction: Ohio 23, Nevada 22.
Saturday, Jan. 4
Lockheed Martin
Armed Forces Bowl
Southern Mississippi vs. Tulane (-7). Willie Fritz’s team has steadily improved since his arrival in New Orleans four years ago, and the Green Wave is in a bowl game for the second straight year. Sou-thern Miss will finish with a winning record for the fourth straight year under Jay Hopson, who is searching for his second bowl win with the Golden Eagles. Prediction: Tulane 27, Southern Miss 24.
Monday, Jan. 6
Lending Tree Bowl
Miami (OH) vs. Louisiana (-14). Louisiana quickly is turning into one of the top Group of 5 programs under Billy Napier, and the Ragin’ Cajuns already have won 10 games this season. Miami won the MAC championship for the first time since 2010 and for the first time under Chuck Martin, and Red Hawks are looking to win a bowl game for the first time since 2010. Prediction: Lou-isiana 34, Miami 17.

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