Can Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas make up for his lousy season with a big bowl performance?
Week 2 of the college football bowl season doesn’t feature a ton of must-watch games and marquee matchups. Instead, it features game filled with mediocre BCS teams and less talked-about teams from non-AQ conferences.
Still, there’s definitely a few potentially exciting bowl games on the schedule that are worth tuning in for.
Here’s a look at the predicted winners for all 10 bowl games between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28.
Note: All betting lines courtesy of Covers.com
Spread: Louisiana-Lafayette (-4.5)
Louisiana-Lafayette is making a return trip to New Orleans for the second year in a row. Last year, the Ragin' Cajuns beat San Diego State 32-30 when kicker Brett Baer booted home a 50-yard field goal as time expired.
This is the type of game that could once again remain close right down to the final few minutes if both teams come in motivated and ready to play.
East Carolina will have the most talented player on the field in wide receiver Justin Hardy, who caught 83 passes and scored 10 touchdowns this season. But Lafayette has an offensive difference-maker of its own in quarterback Terrance Broadway, who threw for over 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for 661 yards and eight scores.
Ultimately, Broadway’s versatility and ability to beat a defense with both his arm and his legs will be the difference in this game.
When you add in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ experience in this environment and the obvious crowd advantage they will have, it’s hard to bet against them.
Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette wins and covers
Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 28, East Carolina 20
Spread: Boise State (-5.5)
Boise State knows the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas very well, considering the Broncos have made their last two postseason trips to Sin City. In 2010, they knocked off Utah 26-3, and last year, they took down Arizona State 56-24.
This, however, is not the same type of vintage Boise State team that we saw pull off bowl blowouts in each of the last two years. This edition of the Broncos has some great young talent on defense, but lacks a true offensive identity.
That could mean trouble, as Boise State will have to try to keep up with a Washington offense that features a medley of dangerous playmakers in quarterback Keith Price, running back Bishop Sankey, wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
If the Huskies get into a rhythm early and put up a few quick scores, it’s going to be tough for the Broncos and quarterback Joe Southwick to complete a comeback.
Pick: Washington wins outright
Prediction: Washington 33, Boise State 27
Spread: Fresno State (-12)
Fresno State has enjoyed one of the biggest turnarounds in college football this season, going from nine losses in 2011 to nine wins in 2012. The reason for the Bulldogs’ success in 2012 is no secret: offense, and lots of it.
Tim DeRuyter’s squad averages 40 points and 488 yards per game. Quarterback Derek Carr, running back Robbie Rouse and wide receiver Davante Adam make up a dangerous and explosive offensive trio that is capable of tormenting any defense that tries to stop them.
SMU’s defense will have the unfortunate task of trying to slow down Carr, Rouse and Adams, when the two teams meet in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
The Mustangs are a tough team to figure out. They went just 6-6 and barely even made it into the postseason, but they certainly don’t lack for talent. Defensive end Margus Hunt, running back Zach Line, wide receiver Darius Johnson and linebacker Taylor Reed will all be in NFL training camps next summer.
That said, quarterback Garrett Gilbert has just been very inconsistent this season, and if this game turns into an offensive shootout, it’s doubtful that he will be able to out-duel Carr.
Pick: Fresno State wins and covers
Prediction: Fresno State 45, SMU 31
Spread: Western Kentucky (-5)
A 7-5 Sun Belt team taking on a 6-6 MAC team isn’t exactly the type of game that’s going to set any new television ratings records. However, don’t be surprised if the Little Caesars Bowl turns out to be more entertaining than expected.
Western Kentucky has lost its former head coach Willie Taggart, who has taken over at South Florida, along with its best player in Quanterus Smith, who had 12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss before going down with a knee injury.
But there’s a reason that the Hilltoppers are still the favorite for this game.
The Sun Belt squad features plenty of talent on offense, such as quarterback Kawaun Jakes, running back Antonio Andrews, wide receiver Willie McNeal and tight end Jack Doyle. Andrews, who rushed for over 1,600 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, will be the real player to watch out for.
As far as Central Michigan is concerned, the Chippewas do have the best NFL prospect in this game in left tackle Eric Fisher—a 6’8’’, 300-plus pound senior whose mixture of size and athleticism project him as a potential first-rounder.
The Chippewas also have a highly-productive running back of their own in Zurlon Tipton, who averaged over six yards per carry and scored 20 touchdowns this season.
If Tipton can outproduce Andrews on the ground, and if the Chippewas can feed off the energy they will have from a good-sized home field advantage in Detroit, they should be able to win their first bowl game since 2009.
Pick: Central Michigan wins outright
Prediction: Central Michigan 27, Western Kentucky 24
Spread: San Jose State (-7)
This certainly isn’t a matchup between two powerhouse programs, but it’s definitely a game that will be worth watching considering the clash of styles at play.
San Jose State has one of the most potent offensive attacks in the country, led by quarterback David Fales, running back DeLeon Eskridge, wide receivers Chandler Jones and Noel Grigsby and tight end Ryan Otten. The Spartans average 35 points and 451 yards per game.
Bowling Green, on the other hand, has one of the toughest defenses in college football, led by defensive tackle Chris Jones and linebackers Dwayne Woods and Gabe Martin.
The Falcons come into this game ranked seventh in the nation in total defense and ninth in scoring defense, giving up an average of just 15 points and 289 yards per game.
So, which unit will prevail? San Jose State’s powerful offense or Bowling Green’s dominant defense?
Ultimately, the key player that will make the biggest difference is Fales, who has had an absolutely magnificent 2012 campaign. The athletic, instinctive and accurate junior signal-caller can make every throw in the book. He should be able to pick apart the Falcons’ secondary, as long as his line can give him time and keep Jones out of his face.
Pick: San Jose State wins and covers
Prediction: San Jose State 36, Bowling Green 23
Spread: Cincinnati (-7)
Duke will be making its first postseason appearance since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl, when it takes on Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27.
Unfortunately, in terms of overall talent, the Blue Devils will be at a clear disadvantage.
Cincinnati features a ton of talented veterans on both sides of the ball, and they will have an advantage over Duke at many key positions.
On offense, running back George Winn, wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Anthony McClung and tight end Travis Kelce will present plenty of matchup problems for a porous Duke defense that gives up an average of 35 points and 462 yards per game.
On defense, the Bearcats have plenty of difference-makers as well, such as linebackers Greg Blair and Maalik Bomar, defensive end Dan Giordano, cornerback Camerron Cheatham and safety Drew Frey.
You have to wonder about the Bearcats’ motivation for this game, since they just lost head coach Butch Jones, who accepted a job at Tennessee. Plus, this is a team that had its sights set on a Big East championship and a BCS bowl game not too long ago.
Even with their late-season shortcomings, however, the Bearcats should beat Duke rather comfortably.
Prediction: Cincinnati wins and covers
Pick: Cincinnati 48, Duke 34
Spread: UCLA (-1)
It will be interesting to see what type of mindset UCLA comes into this game with after coming up short against Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game and blowing a chance to make it to the Rose Bowl.
The Bruins have been one of the surprise stories of the 2012 season, as Jim Mora Jr. has really helped change the culture within the program.
UCLA’s offense features a dynamic duo in the backfield comprised of quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin.
Both players should have plenty of opportunities to create big plays against a Baylor defense that is statistically one of the worst in the nation.
The question is, can the Bruins defense contain the Bears’ explosive passing attack? Quarterback Nick Florence and his dangerous receiver trio of Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson are capable of lighting any secondary up.
If Baylor’s passing game gets hot, UCLA could be in a world of trouble.
Pick: Baylor wins outright
Prediction: Baylor 47, UCLA 37
Spread: Louisiana-Monroe (-7.5)
After starting the year 7-0, Ohio has really taken a nosedive in the latter part of the season, losing four of its last five games. The Bobcats clearly don’t come into this game with much momentum.
Louisiana-Monroe, on the other hand, has never played in a bowl game before, so it’s tough to judge how the team will react to the new postseason environment.
The two quarterbacks in this game, Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton and Louisiana-Monroe’s Kolton Browning, are both athletic, dual-threat signal-callers that can do damage in various ways.
This game will likely come down to which quarterback can create the most big plays, both throwing the ball and running it. That edge goes to Browning, although Tettleton should be able to give the Bobcats a shot to win.
Pick: Louisiana-Monroe wins, Ohio covers
Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe 35, Ohio 31
Spread: Virginia Tech (-2.5)
Virginia Tech’s 2012 campaign turned out to be a big disappointment.
The Hokies finished just 6-6 and barely even made it into the postseason. However, this is a team that is much more talented than its record would indicate.
Quarterback Logan Thomas may have struggled immensely throwing the ball this season, but when he was actually on his game, he showed why he was such a highly-touted NFL prospect coming into the season.
It will be interesting to see what Thomas can do against a tough Rutgers defense that features two future high NFL draft picks in linebacker Khaseem Greene and cornerback Logan Ryan.
If the 6’6’’, 250-plus pound signal-caller can limit his bad decisions and create some big plays with his legs, the Hokies should be able to salvage their season with a nice bowl win down in Orlando.
Pick: Virginia Tech wins and covers
Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Rutgers 17
Spread: Texas Tech (-13)
Texas Tech is the second biggest favorite of the bowl season, and rightfully so. Minnesota is a 6-6 team that probably doesn’t even deserve to be playing in the postseason considering the teams it beat to get there.
The Red Raiders may have lost head coach Tommy Tuberville, who bolted from Lubbock to become the new head coach at Cincinnati, but they still have quarterback Seth Doege and an explosive group of receivers including Eric Ward, Darrin Moore, Jace Amaro and Alex Torres.
The Golden Gophers do have some impressive players on defense such as defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, defensive end D.L. Wilhite, linebackers Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper and cornerbacks Troy Stoudermire and Michael Carter.
Still, they lack the playmakers on offense to keep up with Doege and crew.
Pick: Texas Tech wins and Minnesota covers
Predictions: Texas Tech 31, Minnesota 21