College Football Bowl Games: Predicting the First 15 Matchups

Josh SachnoffContributor IIIDecember 20, 2013

College Football Bowl Games: Predicting the First 15 Matchups

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    Louisville junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
    Louisville junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

    College football’s bowl season is just one day away, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups to be watched. 

    Two of the biggest games will pit the Mountain West Conference against the Pac-12. Fresno State and Southern Cal will battle it out in Las Vegas while Oregon State and Boise State will face off in Hawaii.  

    Jordan Lynch will play his final game in a Northern Illinois uniform, as the Huskies will try to knock off a pesky Utah State squad in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

    Up north, there will also be an even matchup between BYU and Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. 

    The week rounds out with Louisville facing Miami (Fla.) in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Michigan meeting Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

    With the fun just beginning, here are some predictions for the first 15 games of the 2013-14 bowl season: 

     

Dec. 21: Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, N.M.)

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    Washington State junior quarterback Connor Halliday.
    Washington State junior quarterback Connor Halliday.William Mancebo/Getty Images

    Washington State vs. Colorado State

    2 p.m. ET, ESPN

    After Washington State went a disappointing 3-9 in 2012, second-year head coach Mike Leach’s Cougars became bowl eligible for the first time since 2003.

    Junior quarterback Connor Halliday leads a Cougars offense averaging 364.5 yards passing, which is fourth best in the nation. Halliday’s main target in this matchup will be wide receiver Gabe Marks, who has 770 receiving yards and six touchdowns.  

    Like Washington State, Colorado State ended its bowl drought by becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. The Rams suffered through four seasons where they had a combined 13 total wins.

    The Colorado State offense is led by 1,000-yard rusher Kapri Bibbs, who leads the nation with 28 rushing touchdowns. The defense is led by linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who is tied for third in the nation with 12 sacks. While the Rams have been solid against the run, they have struggled against the pass.  

     

    Prediction: Washington State 42, Colorado State 30

    Result: Colorado State 48, Washington State 45

Dec. 21: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas)

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    USC senior wide receiver Marqise Lee.
    USC senior wide receiver Marqise Lee.USA TODAY Sports

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

    College football’s bowl season is just one day away, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups to be watched. 

    Two of the biggest games will pit the Mountain West Conference against the Pac-12. Fresno State and Southern Cal will battle it out in Las Vegas while Oregon State and Boise State will face off in Hawaii.  

    Jordan Lynch will play his final game in a Northern Illinois uniform, as the Huskies will try to knock off a pesky Utah State squad in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

    Up north, there will also be an even matchup between BYU and Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. 

    The week rounds out with Louisville facing Miami (Fla.) in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Michigan meeting Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

    With the fun just beginning, here are some predictions for the first 15 games of the 2013-14 bowl season: 

     

Dec. 21: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, Idaho)

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    Buffalo senior running back Branden Oliver.
    Buffalo senior running back Branden Oliver.Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

    College football’s bowl season is just one day away, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups to be watched. 

    Two of the biggest games will pit the Mountain West Conference against the Pac-12. Fresno State and Southern Cal will battle it out in Las Vegas while Oregon State and Boise State will face off in Hawaii.  

    Jordan Lynch will play his final game in a Northern Illinois uniform, as the Huskies will try to knock off a pesky Utah State squad in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

    Up north, there will also be an even matchup between BYU and Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. 

    The week rounds out with Louisville facing Miami (Fla.) in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Michigan meeting Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

    With the fun just beginning, here are some predictions for the first 15 games of the 2013-14 bowl season: 

     

Dec. 21: R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans)

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    Tulane sophomore quarterback Lorenzo Doss.
    Tulane sophomore quarterback Lorenzo Doss.Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

    College football’s bowl season is just one day away, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups to be watched. 

    Two of the biggest games will pit the Mountain West Conference against the Pac-12. Fresno State and Southern Cal will battle it out in Las Vegas while Oregon State and Boise State will face off in Hawaii.  

    Jordan Lynch will play his final game in a Northern Illinois uniform, as the Huskies will try to knock off a pesky Utah State squad in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

    Up north, there will also be an even matchup between BYU and Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. 

    The week rounds out with Louisville facing Miami (Fla.) in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Michigan meeting Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

    With the fun just beginning, here are some predictions for the first 15 games of the 2013-14 bowl season: 

     

Dec. 23: Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.)

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    East Carolina junior quarterback Shane Carden.
    East Carolina junior quarterback Shane Carden.James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

    College football’s bowl season is just one day away, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups to be watched. 

    Two of the biggest games will pit the Mountain West Conference against the Pac-12. Fresno State and Southern Cal will battle it out in Las Vegas while Oregon State and Boise State will face off in Hawaii.  

    Jordan Lynch will play his final game in a Northern Illinois uniform, as the Huskies will try to knock off a pesky Utah State squad in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

    Up north, there will also be an even matchup between BYU and Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. 

    The week rounds out with Louisville facing Miami (Fla.) in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Michigan meeting Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

    With the fun just beginning, here are some predictions for the first 15 games of the 2013-14 bowl season: 

     

Dec. 24: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu)

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    Oregon State junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
    Oregon State junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks.Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Boise State vs. Oregon State

    8 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Both teams will face off in Hawaii after disappointing seasons. 

    Not only did Boise State fail to win more than eight games during the regular season for the first time since 2002 in its first year in the WAC, it didn’t qualify for the MWC title game either and lost eight-year head coach Chris Petersen to Washington. 

    There is no word whether quarterback Joe Southwick, who missed four games with a broken ankle, or Grant Hedrick will start under center for the Broncos. Regardless, Boise State’s balanced attack will rely heavily on playmakers Jay Ajayi (1,328 rushing yards, 18 TDs) and Matt Miller (934 receiving yards, 11 TDs). 

    The Broncos defense, which hasn’t been as successful against the pass this season, will have its hands full against one of the most dangerous quarterback-wide receiver duos in the country. 

    After being upset, 49-46, by FCS school Eastern Washington on opening weekend, Oregon State won six straight. Unfortunately, the season didn’t end as planned for the Beavers, who come into the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on a five-game losing streak that includes a 69-27 home loss to Washington and a 36-35 heartbreaker at rival Oregon. 

    Quarterback Sean Mannion is second in the nation with 4,403 yards passing and is tied for third with 36 touchdowns. Mannion’s weapon in the passing game is Brandin Cooks (1,670 receiving yards, 17 TDs), who won the prestigious Biletnikoff Award for best wide receiver and will look to cause problems for the Boise State secondary. 

    While Oregon State struggled tremendously at the end of the regular season, it will get past a Boise State team that has won its past four bowl games.  

    Prediction: Oregon State 35, Boise State 27

Dec. 26: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Detroit)

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    Bowling Green sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson.
    Bowling Green sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green

    6 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Pittsburgh finished the the regular season with its second consecutive 6-6 record under second-year head coach Paul Chryst.

    Bowling Green has its first 10-win season since 2003 after upsetting potential BCS-buster Northern Illinois, 47-27, in the MAC Championship Game on Dec. 6. 

    If Pittsburgh wants any chance in this game, it will depend on its success in the passing game. The running game averages 114.9 yards for one of the worst ground games in the nation. 

    Quarterback Tom Savage will look to 1,000-yard wide receiver Tyler Boyd and Devin Street, who is listed as questionable with ankle and elbow injuries, to make big plays in the passing game. 

    The Pittsburgh defense is led by talented senior defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who was named Defensive Player of the Year.   

    After its most successful season since Gregg Brandon was at the helm in 2003, Bowling Green will be without head coach Dave Clawson, who accepted the head coaching position at Wake Forest. 

    The Falcons offense has weapons in quarterback Matt Johnson, who threw for a career-high 393 yards and five touchdowns against Northern Illinois, and 1,000-yard rusher Travis Greene

    Bowling Green’s defense is fifth in the nation in points allowed per game with 14.8 and eighth in the nation in average yards allowed at 308.7. 

    With the talent that the Falcons have on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to pick against the MAC champions. 

    Prediction: Bowling Green 38, Pittsburgh 34

Dec. 26: S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego)

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    Northern Illinois senior quarterback Jordan Lynch.
    Northern Illinois senior quarterback Jordan Lynch.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Utah State vs. Northern Illinois

    9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Utah State and Northern Illinois head into San Diego after a pair of tough conference championship losses. 

    Utah State has a balanced offense behind running back Joey DeMartino leading the way with 1,078 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. The Aggies are averaging 32.6 points, but it's been their defense that has been impressive, only surrendering 17.3 points per game. It was able to hold an explosive Fresno State offense to only 24 points in the MWC championship game.

    Utah State's rush defense, which ranks ninth in the nation, has the chance to be a big factor against a Huskies offense that is sixth best in the nation. 

    Heisman Trophy finalist and senior quarterback Jordan Lynch has taken the program to new heights for a second consecutive year, nearly leading the Huskies to two BCS bowl games. Unfortunately, things got out of hand in Detroit on Dec. 6 when they were blown out by Bowling Green, 47-27, in the MAC championship game. 

    Lynch, who has passed for 2,676 yards, rushed for 1,881 yards and scored 45 touchdowns this season, will have a chance to end his impressive career on a high note. The offense also consists of running back Cameron Stingily, who has rushed for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns.  

    It's an even matchup that could come down to whether Northern Illinois enters ready to play or not after its difficult MAC loss. The Huskies must be able to run the ball on the Utah State defense if it plans on having success in this ball game as well.   

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 34, Utah State 27

Dec. 27: Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman Bowl (Annapolis, Md.)

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    Maryland senior quarterback C.J. Brown.
    Maryland senior quarterback C.J. Brown.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Marshall vs. Maryland

    2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 

    After rough 2012 campaigns, Marshall and Maryland both rebounded to reach bowls this season.

    Marshall lost its Conference USA championship game to Rice, but it didn't take away the school's first nine-win season since 2002.

    The Thundering Herd’s Rakeem Cato has passed for an astounding 3,579 yards and 36 touchdowns this season. Cato has benefited from 1,000-yard wide receiver Tommy Shuler and from 1,000-yard rusher Essray Taliaferro in the backfield. 

    Marshall's defense is giving up an average of 23.2 points and has been good against the run. 

    Maryland won its first four games of the season before being dismantled by high-powered Florida State, 63-0. Quarterback C.J. Brown plays a critical role in not only the Terrapins passing game, but in the rushing game as well. Brown has thrown for 2,045 yards, rushed for 538 yards and scored 23 touchdowns.

    The Maryland defense, led by junior linebacker Matt Robinson, faces the challenge of containing Cato and Marshall's offense.

    This matchup will not be decided until late in the fourth quarter. 

    Prediction: Maryland 30, Marshall 27

Dec. 27: Texas Bowl (Houston)

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    Minnesota junior running back David Cobb.
    Minnesota junior running back David Cobb.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Syracuse vs. Minnesota

    6 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Minnesota exceeded everyone's expectations by competing for a Big Ten Legends Division title and winning eight games for the first season since 2003.

    Syracuse snuck into its second consecutive bowl game with a must-win over Boston College on Nov. 30. 

    The Orange have struggled to put points up on offense this season. Not only is that an issue, but their passing game hasn’t been a major strength either. The running game, led by Jerome Smith (840 yards, 12 TDs), will need to be factor if Syracuse is going to compete with Minnesota. 

    With an offense that cannot put up points, the Orange defense has had a lot of weight on its shoulders this season. In all but one of Syracuse’s six wins, the defense has held opponents to 17 points or less. 

    Like the Orange, the Golden Gophers offense focuses heavily on its running game. While sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson can manage a game under center, running back David Cobb has been the catalyst. Cobb, who has rushed for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns, leads a ground attack averaging 200.9 yards.

     A key in this matchup will be whether Minnesota, which has held opponents to an average of 22.3 points, shuts down Syracuse’s running game.

    The Golden Gophers should come away with a convincing win in the Texas Bowl.  

    Prediction: Minnesota 31, Syracuse 17

Dec. 27: Fight Hunger Bowl (San Francisco)

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    Washington junior running back Bishop Sankey.
    Washington junior running back Bishop Sankey.Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    BYU vs. Washington

    9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

    It will be two evenly matched teams in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl this year. 

    BYU lost two close games to Virginia and Utah by a combined 10 points, and were defeated at Wisconsin and Notre Dame by another combined 10 points.  

    The Cougars offense features one of the best rushing attacks in the country at 274.6 yards per game. Not only has quarterback Taysom Hill passed for 2,645 yards and 19 touchdowns, but he also leads the team in rushing with 1,211 yards and nine touchdowns. 

    While Hill has put the offense on his back, running back Jamaal Williams has contributed 1,202 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. 

    Washington will bring its own offensive attack to the Bay Area, but it will be without head coach Steve Sarkisian, who left for the USC head coaching job. Senior quarterback Keith Price will play his final game in a Huskies uniform after bouncing back this season with 2,843 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. 

    The offense also has one of the best running backs in the country in Bishop Sankey, who has 1,775 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a key in the passing game. 

    With both squads boasting talented running games, it will be up to which defense can make the big plays in the fourth quarter. 

    Prediction: Washington 31, BYU 24 

Dec. 28: New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, N.Y.)

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    Notre Dame senior wide receiver TJ Jones.
    Notre Dame senior wide receiver TJ Jones.Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    Rutgers vs. Notre Dame

    Noon, ESPN

    Notre Dame didn’t expect to end up in New York at the beginning of the 2013 season.

    After playing for a national championship, the Irish lost twice in September to Michigan and Oklahoma, which basically ended their chances of making a second consecutive BCS bowl game. 

    After an up-and-down regular season for quarterback Tommy Rees, the senior will get his last opportunity to play under center for the Irish. Rees has the chance to have a big game through the air with 1,000-yard wide receiver TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels going against a Rutgers defense that is the second worst in the nation against the pass.  

    Notre Dame's defense, meanwhile, has played well against the pass this season and held opponents to just 22.9 points per game. The defense will put a lot of pressure on a Rutgers offense that will likely have Chas Dodd making his third start at quarterback.

    The Scarlet Knights offense must depend on running back Paul James, who rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns against South Florida on Dec. 7, to help drive the offense down the field. 

    Rutgers struggled this season and was barely bowl eligible. The Irish have the weapons on offense to cause problems for the Rutgers defense, and should easily be able to put points on the scoreboard. 

    Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Rutgers 20

Dec. 28: Belk Bowl (Charlotte, N.C.)

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    Cincinnati senior wide receiver Anthony McClung.
    Cincinnati senior wide receiver Anthony McClung.Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

    Cincinnati vs. North Carolina

    3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Cincinnati will make its second consecutive trip to the Belk Bowl while North Carolina will play its first bowl game since 2011 after missing out last year due to a one-year bowl ban. 

    In the one year under Tommy Tuberville, the Bearcats came close to winning the AAC and had their third  consecutive nine-win season.

    Cincinnati’s passing attack, led by quarterback Brendon Kay and wide receiver Anthony McClung, are racking up 313.8 yards per game and averaging 33.3 points. 

    Not to be overlooked by the offense, the Bearcats defense is holding opponents to only 98.7 rushing yards per game and 19.5 points. 

    North Carolina started off the season a disappointing 1-5, but managed to reel off five wins despite having starting quarterback Bryn Renner suffer a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. 

    The Tar Heels like to air it out on offense, much like Cincinnati, and are averaging 286.3 yards passing. Sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams has been solid since stepping into the starting role and has been fortunate to have tight end Eric Ebron, who made ESPN.com’s 2013 All-America Team by averaging 16.3 yards per reception. 

    We could have a tight one on our hands in Charlotte. 

    Prediction: Cincinnati 35, North Carolina 30

Dec. 28: Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)

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    Louisville junior wide receiver DeVante Parker.
    Louisville junior wide receiver DeVante Parker.Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    Miami (Fla.) vs. Louisville

    6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Both teams had high hopes of winning their conferences, but fell short. 

    Louisville was a lock to win a title in the rather inferior American Athletic Conference with potential Heisman Trophy quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the helm of the offense, but a touchdown in the last minute by Central Florida on Oct. 18 cost the Cardinals their chance at an undefeated season and a second straight BCS bowl game. 

    Miami looked to be back in the national spotlight after starting the season 7-0, but reality struck when it was blown out at Florida State, 41-14, and lost running back Duke Johnson for the season. The Hurricanes then lost their next two games, but still managed to hit nine wins for the first time since 2009. 

    With 3,523 passing yards, 28 TDs and only four interceptions this season, Bridgewater is a potential No. 1 draft pick were he to leave after the season. His main targets in the passing game are DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland. Both have combined for 1,433 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. 

    The Cardinals defense, led by senior safety Hakeem Smith and the secondary, are holding opponents to 262.9 yards per game (second in the nation) and 12.4 points per game for third best in the nation.  

    The Hurricanes have relied on running back Dallas Crawford (523 rushing yards, 13 TDs) in the backfield since Johnson was injured, but it has continued to to bank on its passing game behind senior quarterback Stephen Morris and senior wide receiver Allen Hurns. Morris has passed for 2,868 yards and 21 touchdowns while Hurns has 1,138 receiving yards and six touchdowns. 

    Louisville is the favorite in this matchup with its talented offense and defense, but Miami has a chance to at least put up a fight if its defense can contain Bridgewater and the passing game.  

    Prediction: Louisville 35, Miami (Fla.) 24

Dec. 28: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.)

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    Michigan senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon.
    Michigan senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Michigan vs. Kansas State

    10:15 p.m. ET ESPN

    What was supposed to be a potential run at a Big Ten title this season for the Wolverines, went south once Michigan hit its conference schedule.

    The Wolverines finished the regular season with a 1-4 record in the Big Ten and failed to win six games in league play for the first time under Brady Hoke

    Michigan's offense showed what it was capable of doing against Ohio State, but it is still undetermined whether quarterback Devin Gardner will be ready to go against Kansas State because of a turf toe injury.

    If Gardner is unable to go, it will be up to freshman Shane Morris to move the offense through the air. 

    The Wolverines have struggled on the ground this season and will again be dependent on big plays from wide receivers Jeremy Gallon (1,284 receiving yards, nine TDs) and Devin Funchess (727 receiving yards, six TDs). 

    Blake Countess, who has accounted for six interceptions this season, leads a Wolverines defense that will have to defend two quarterbacks, as well as threats in both the Kansas State running and passing game. 

    Bill Snyder’s Wildcats got off on the wrong foot, but bounced back by winning five of their last six games.

    The two-quarterback system has seemed to be the right fit for the offense. Jake Waters has passed for 2,198 yards and 15 touchdowns while Daniel Sams has caused problems with his legs by rushing for 784 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

    The receiving corps is led by explosive wide receiver Tyler Lockett (1,146 receiving yards, eight TDs), who has the ability to give to Wolverines secondary problems. The running game consists of senior John Hubert, who is 32 yards shy of reaching 1,000 for the first season in his career. 

    The Wildcats defense is holding opponents to 145.3 rushing yards per game and has the opportunity to give a subpar Wolverines running game problems, especially with defensive end Ryan Mueller leading the way on the line with 11 1/2 sacks and 18 1/2 tackles for loss this season. Star safety Ty Zimmerman is  listed as questionable due to an injured right foot.  

    The main factor in this matchup will be if Gardner is able to play, and if he does play, will he be able to be at the top of his game? Kansas State has the ability to move down the field on offense and force Michigan to move the ball through the air on defense. 

    Kansas State has lost three consecutive bowl games in the desert, and look for it to be four, as Michigan will sneak out a close victory in what will be a back-and-forth game. 

    Prediction: Michigan 32, Kansas State 31