In & around SEC football – bowl previews, part II


By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

Saturday, Dec. 22
Jared Birmingham BowlMemphis vs. Wake Forest (+3.5). The Tigers had chances to win the American Conference Championship but lost to Central Florida for the second time this season. Star running back Darrell Henderson is entering the NFL draft and skipping the bowl game, which will be a big hit to the Memphis offense. Wake Forest is in a bowl game for the third straight season, an impressive accomplishment for head coach Dave Clawson. Prediction: Wake Forest 34, Memphis 31.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces BowlHouston vs. Army (-3.5). At 10-2, Army is one of the most underrated teams in college football. The Black Knights took Oklahoma to overtime earlier in the year and are one of the best teams outside the Power 5 conferences. Army has the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense, while Houston has the No. 98 rushing defense in the country. Prediction: Army 38, Houston 31.
Dollar General Bowl: Buffalo vs. Troy (+2). The Trojans didn’t win the Sun Belt championship but did win something heading into the bowl season when head coach Neal Brown did not jump to another job. Brown is 2-0 in bowl games as Troy’s head coach, but his Trojans are up against a very talented Buffalo team. The Bulls won 10 games this season, though coach Lance Leipold is 0-2 in bowl games. Prediction: Troy 30, Buffalo 27.
SoFi Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii (Pick). Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich guided the Warriors to an 8-5 season, and now they’re aiming for win No. 9 on their home field. Louisiana Tech finished with a disappointing 7-5 but head coach Skip Holtz has won five straight bowl games. Prediction: Louisiana Tech 44, Hawaii 41.
Wednesday, Dec. 26
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Boston College vs. Boise State (-2.5). The Broncos nearly won another Mountain West Championship but fell short in a loss to Fresno State. Bryan Harsin is 3-1 in bowl games, including a 38-28 win over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl a season ago. Boston College was one of the top teams in the ACC this year but the Eagles stumbled to another seven-win season. Steve Addazio needs a victory to appease the BC athletic ad-ministration entering the offseason. Prediction: Boston College 23, Boise State 20.
Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech (-5). Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is retiring after the bowl game, leaving the sport after an excellent career. Johnson is 189-98 during stops at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech, and his flexbone spread option has always been challenging to defend. P.J. Fleck did a solid job getting Minnesota to a bowl game but beating the Yellow Jackets will be very challenging. Prediction: Georgia Tech 34, Minnesota 20.
Cheez-It Bowl: California vs. TCU (Pick). Justin Wilcox has done an excellent job rebuilding the Golden Bears, who were a very tough team to beat in the regular season. The next step for Cal is winning a bowl game. TCU is in a rebuilding season under Gary Patterson, but the Horned Frogs can finish the year with a positive victory in the bowl game. Prediction: Cal 20, TCU 16.
Thursday, Dec. 27
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl: Temple vs. Duke (+4). Temple interim coach Ed Foley made it known that he’s passionate about the team playing in Shreveport for the bowl game, a bowl destination not many teams are excited about in December. Former Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is replacing Geoff Collins as the head coach at Temple, and the Owls are facing a very well-coached Duke team under David Cutcliffe. Prediction: Temple 24, Duke 20.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl Miami vs. Wisconsin (+3.5). In last year’s Orange Bowl, the Badgers trailed Miami 14-3 after the first quarter but Wisconsin stormed back for a 34-24 victory, the two teams are squaring off again, though the stakes aren’t quite as high. Both teams had unimpressive 7-5 seasons but have an opportunity to make amends with a bowl win at Yankee Stadium. Prediction: Wisconsin 19, Miami 16.
Academy Sports & Outdoors Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (-4.5). Derek Mason and Matt Rhule were both thrilled when their respective teams earned bowl bids by getting their sixth wins in the season finale. Vanderbilt dominated Tennessee, and Mason has the Commodores in a bowl game for the second time in the last three seasons. Rhule and the Bears earned their sixth win with a 35-24 over Texas Tech. Prediction: Vanderbilt 23, Baylor 20.
Friday, Dec. 28
American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Purdue vs. Auburn (-4). It wasn’t the year many expected for Auburn, especially after the Tigers’ season-opening win over Washington. AU stumbled to a 7-5 season, including double-digit losses to Georgia and Alabama. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is leaving after the season, but the Auburn offense struggled even when he played well. Purdue’s season highlight was its dominating win over Ohio State, but a close second would be keeping head coach Jeff Brohm for at least another season. Prediction: Auburn 31, Purdue 23.
Camping World Bowl: West Virginia vs. Syracuse (+1). Syracuse is searching for its first 10-win season since 1992. Dino Babers has done a remarkable job turning the Orange into a winner, and a victory in the bowl game would be a noteworthy accomplishment. West Virginia will be without quarterback Will Grier, who opted to sit out for the game to prepare for the NFL draft. Prediction: Syracuse 37, West Virginia 33.
Valero Alamo Bowl : Iowa State vs. Washington State (-3.5). Washington State has been one of the biggest surprises of the year, as head coach Mike Leach and quarterback Gardner Minshew have guided the Cougars to a 10-win season. They fell just short of reaching the Pac-12 title game after a loss to Washington. Matt Campbell has turned the Iowa State football program around, and his Cyclones are looking for their first 9-win season since 2000. Iowa State has faced several high-powered offenses like Washington State and fared well against nearly every Big 12 offense. Prediction: Iowa State 31, Washington State 27.
Saturday, Dec. 29
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan (-7.5). Dan Mullen has a chance to win 10 games in his first season with the Gators, but Florida has a very tough matchup in this bowl game. Jim Harbaugh guided the Wolverines to a 10-win season but the year will be remembered for the blowout loss at Ohio State to end the year. Michigan is a very good team, however, and its defense will give the Florida offense trouble. Prediction: Michigan 24, Florida 16.
Belk Bowl: South Carolina vs. Virginia (+5). South Carolina fans were likely hoping for more than seven wins this year, but getting win No. 8 in the bowl game would certainly help heading into next season. Meanwhile, it’s only taken Bronco Mendenhall a couple of seasons to get Virginia back on track. The Cavaliers made a bowl game last year and will finish with a winning record this season. Prediction: South Carolina 27, Virginia 20.
NOVA Home Loans  Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Nevada (+2). Although Arkansas State is 8-4, many were expecting the Red Wolves to play for the Sun Belt championship. However, Louisiana won the division after defeating Arkansas State earlier in the season. Nevada is 7-5 in Jay Norvell’s second season and they’ve already won four more games this year than they won last year. Prediction: Nevada 41, Arkansas State 38.

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