Bleacher Report Expert Picks for Every 2014-15 College Football Bowl Game

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2014

Bleacher Report Expert Picks for Every 2014-15 College Football Bowl Game

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Bowl season is the most wonderful time of year, and this year's slate of games will bring you a compelling matchup nearly every day for three straight weeks.

    From the national semifinals between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State, and No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State, to the seemingly annual Gildan New Mexico Bowl shenanigans, if you miss a minute of bowl action this holiday season, you could miss the play people talk about for the next eight months.

    B/R's experts picked against the spread all season long. Unfortunately, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee played to a three-way tie at the end of the regular season. The good news is that "co-champions" don't exist in the world of picking against the spread.

    To keep the fun going, let's determine "one true champion" with the bowl games.

    Standings (as of Jan. 5, 2015):

    Adam Kramer: 59-55

    Ben Kercheval: 56-58

    Barrett Sallee: 54-60

    Michael Felder: 48-66

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

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    Nevada LB Brock Hekking
    Nevada LB Brock HekkingCathleen Allison/Associated Press

    Matchup: Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)

    Date: Dec. 20 at 11 a.m. ET

    Location: Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans

    Spread: Louisiana-Lafayette (-1)


    Kercheval: Nevada

    Kramer: Louisiana-Lafayette

    Sallee: Nevada

    Felder: Nevada

    Why You Should Watch

    Louisiana-Lafayette will be playing in New Orleans for its bowl game for the fourth straight season, while Nevada will travel to the Big Easy and battle the Ragin' Cajuns and their crowd, which will undoubtedly be against it. Wolf Pack's Cody Fajardo threw 18 touchdowns and rushed for 13 and will provide quite a challenge to head coach Mark Hudspeth's crew.

    Tune in for Fajardo, but stay for Nevada linebacker Brock Hekking's "Brian Bosworth-esque" approach to football.

    Final: Louisiana-Lafayette 16, Nevada 3

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

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    Utah State LB Zach Vigil
    Utah State LB Zach VigilEugene Tanner/Associated Press

    Matchup: Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)

    Date: Dec. 20 at 2:20 p.m. ET

    Location: University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Spread: Utah State (-10.5)


    Kercheval: Utah State

    Kramer: Utah State

    Sallee: Utah State

    Felder: Utah State

    Why You Should Watch

    Unfortunately, Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton will miss this after suffering a season-ending knee injury in late September. That's OK, though, because Kent Myers completed 69.2 percent of his passes down the stretch to get the Aggies into a bowl game.

    Down to a third-string quarterback, Utah State head coach Matt Wells did a tremendous job this season with a team that navigated through personnel issues on offense with a defense that finished third in the Mountain West in yards allowed per game (362.3).

    "Matt Wells is doing a really good job and will likely end up with a better job soon," said B/R national college football analyst Michael Felder.

    Final: Utah State 21, UTEP 6

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

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    Colorado State RB Dee Hart
    Colorado State RB Dee HartDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Matchup: Colorado State (10-2) vs. Utah (8-4)

    Date: Dec. 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas

    Spread: Utah (-3.5)


    Kercheval: Colorado State

    Kramer: Utah

    Sallee: Colorado State

    Felder: Utah

    Why You Should Watch

    Kyle Whittingham has quietly put together a solid season in Salt Lake City, posting an 8-4 record and boasting the fourth-best defense in the Pac-12. Defensive end Nate Orchard earned second-team All-American honors from The Associated Press this year, after posting 17.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss.

    "Utah, very quietly, put together a tremendous year against quality opponents," said B/R national college football writer Adam Kramer. "I think the Utes close out strong."

    Colorado State lost its head coach, Jim McElwain, to Florida but still boasts a trio at the offensive skill positions who are as good as it gets in college football. Quarterback Garrett Grayson, AP first-team wide receiver Rashard Higgins and former Alabama running back Dee Hart will test that Utes defense.

    "Give me Colorado State in this one," said B/R SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee. "The loss of McElwain stings, but the program is on solid footing, and a win over a Pac-12 team in the bowl is the logical next step."

    Final: Utah 45, Colorado State 10

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

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    Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun
    Air Force head coach Troy CalhounJustin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Matchup: Air Force (9-3) vs. Western Michigan (8-4)

    Date: Dec. 20 at 5:45 p.m. ET

    Location: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho

    Spread: Air Force (-1)


    Kercheval:Air Force

    Kramer: Air Force

    Sallee: Air Force

    Felder: Western Michigan

    Why You Should Watch

    Air Force capped off its season with a home win over Colorado State, spoiling what ended up being Jim McElwain's final game as the Rams' head coach. It finished the season with the second-best rush defense in the Mountain West (140.33 yards per game) and runs that option offense as well as any team in the country.

    Meanwhile, Western Michigan has a coach on the rise in P.J. Fleck and a running back in Jarvion Franklin who broke the 1,500-yard mark and scored 24 touchdowns.

    "The Falcons run the ball an average of, wait for it, 61 times a game," wrote B/R national college football writer Ben Kercheval. "The Broncos probably won't stop it all, but limiting Air Force on the ground is their only chance."

    That sounds like a recipe for some fun during the first day of bowl season.

    Final: Air Force 38, Western Michigan 24

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)

    Date: Dec. 20 at 9:15 p.m. ET

    Location: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama

    Spread: South Alabama (-3)


    Kercheval: Bowling Green

    Kramer: South Alabama

    Sallee: South Alabama

    Felder: Bowling Green

    Why You Should Watch

    The inaugural Camellia Bowl will feature a local flavor, as South Alabama will make the trek up I-65 to Montgomery to take on Bowling Green out of the MAC.

    Led by quarterback Brandon Bridge, the Jaguars finished the season 6-6 and will be pumped to play in their first bowl game in program history.

    For Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers, three straight losses to close the season including the 51-17 MAC Championship Game loss to Northern Illinois haven't made this a joyous holiday season. The program could use a win to go out on a high note.

    Final: Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28

Miami Beach Bowl

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    Memphis head coach Justin Fuente
    Memphis head coach Justin FuenteLM Otero/Associated Press

    Matchup: Memphis (9-3) vs. BYU (8-4)

    Date: Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. ET

    Location: Marlins Park, Miami, Florida

    Spread: Memphis (-1)


    Kercheval: Memphis

    Kramer: Memphis

    Sallee: Memphis

    Felder: BYU

    Why You Should Watch

    If you're looking for the next star on the coaching circuit, look no further than Memphis' Justin Fuente. All Fuente has done since taking over the Memphis program is transform the Tigers from a team that won three games over the two seasons prior to his arrival into a 9-3 AAC power that's no longer one of the laughingstocks of college football.

    "It's Justin Fuente's world right now, we're just living in it," said Kramer.

    Meanwhile, BYU has overcome the loss of quarterback Taysom Hill and managed to average 463.4 yards per game. 

    Get ready for some fun in Marlins Park.

    Final: Memphis 55, BYU 48

Boca Raton Bowl

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    Marshall QB Rakeem Cato
    Marshall QB Rakeem CatoJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Matchup: Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2)

    Date: Dec. 23 at 6 p.m. ET

    Location: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida

    Spread: Marshall (-9.5)


    Kercheval: NIU

    Kramer: NIU

    Sallee: Marshall

    Felder: Marshall

    Why You Should Watch

    If Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato isn't enough to draw your attention, Northern Illinois' consistency within the wild MAC should do the trick.

    Both teams boast top-40 offenses and defenses that leave a little bit to be desired. Cato—one of the most electric players in the country—plus a Northern Illinois team that won't be intimidated in front of a national television audience should provide a nice appetizer to your Christmas Day feast.

    "Rakeem Cato goes out with a bang," said Felder.

    It should be a fun one in South Florida. 

    Final: Marshall 52, Northern Illinois 23

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

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    Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo
    Navy head coach Ken NiumataloloRob Carr/Getty Images

    Matchup: Navy (7-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5)

    Date: Dec. 23 at 9:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

    Spread: San Diego State (-2.5)


    Kercheval: San Diego State

    Kramer: San Diego State

    Sallee: San Diego State

    Felder: Navy

    Why You Should Watch

    Navy, which runs the true triple-option as well as anybody in college football, will head to Southern California to take on a San Diego State team that finished the season with the nation's 21st-ranked defense (337.6 yards per game).

    The quarterback battle is no joke either, as Navy's Keenan Reynolds will square off against San Diego State's Quinn Kaehler in a game that features contrasting styles that produce similar results.

    "This is one of the more underrated games of this slate," said Kramer. "I'll take San Diego State by a field goal. Seriously, watch this game."

    Final: Navy 17, San Diego State 16

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

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    Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty (left)
    Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty (left)Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Matchup: Western Kentucky (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (7-5)

    Date: Dec. 24 at noon ET

    Location: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas

    Spread: Western Kentucky (-4)


    Kercheval: Western Kentucky

    Kramer: Central Michigan

    Sallee: Western Kentucky

    Felder: Western Kentucky

    Why You Should Watch

    If warm weather and beautiful bump shots of the sand and surf aren't enough to warm up your Christmas Eve, seeing a coach on the rise will certainly do the trick.

    Western Kentucky made waves last year when it hired Bobby Petrino for his one-year reclamation project. His successor, Jeff Brohm, has taken Hilltopper football to the next level. Brohm's crew is averaging 44 points per game and won four straight to close the season, including the 67-66 overtime win over previously unbeaten Marshall.

    "Brohm is one of the bright young stars on the coaching circuit and has worked wonders with quarterback Brandon Doughty this season," said Barrett Sallee.

    Central Michigan has been up and down this season but does have a win over MAC powerhouse Northern Illinois in its back pocket.

    Final: Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48

Hawai'i Bowl

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    Fresno State QB Brian Burrell
    Fresno State QB Brian BurrellUSA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: Fresno State (6-7) vs. Rice (7-5)

    Date: Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. ET

    Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu

    Spread: Rice (-2.5)


    Kercheval: Fresno State

    Kramer: Rice

    Sallee: Fresno State

    Felder: Fresno State

    Why You Should Watch

    It's Hawai'i, so why wouldn't you watch and dream of sipping fruity drinks in the sand?

    A late three-game winning streak got Fresno State into the Mountain West Championship Game, which it lost to Boise State. Over that stretch, quarterback Brian Burrell tossed eight touchdowns and four picks and kick-started an offense that had struggled with consistency in the passing game.

    Meanwhile, Rice has slowly developed into a consistent Conference USA contender, and while it missed out on the title this year, a trip to Honolulu isn't a bad consolation. 

    Final: Rice 30, Fresno State 6

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

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    Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol
    Louisiana Tech QB Cody SokolUSA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: Illinois (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5)

    Date: Dec. 26 at 1 p.m. ET

    Location: Cotton Bowl, Dallas

    Spread: Louisiana Tech (-6)


    Kercheval: Louisiana Tech

    Kramer: Illinois

    Sallee: Louisiana Tech

    Felder: Louisiana Tech

    Why You Should Watch

    Seeing Illinois in a bowl game might seem like spotting Sasquatch in the mountains or a unicorn in a field. This is the fifth bowl game for the Illini this century, and head coach Tim Beckman's crew had to win games over Penn State and Northwestern to close out the season just to get to bowl eligibility.

    "Illinois in a bowl is interesting enough, but how about Illinois winning a bowl? I'm buying in," said Kramer.

    Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz—yes, the same Manny Diaz who was fired by Texas in the middle of last season—have led the Bulldogs back to a bowl game for the first time since 2011 on the heels of a defense that's giving up just 355.7 yards per game.

    Final: Louisiana Tech 35, Illinois 18

Quick Lane Bowl

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: North Carolina (6-6) vs. Rutgers (7-5)

    Date: Dec. 26 at 4:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Ford Field, Detroit

    Spread: North Carolina (-3)


    Kercheval: North Carolina

    Kramer: North Carolina

    Sallee: North Carolina

    Felder: North Carolina

    Why You Should Watch

    Prior to its loss to N.C. State in the regular-season finale, North Carolina got hot with wins in four of five games, which culminated with a huge win at Duke—ruining its rival's dreams of back-to-back ACC Coastal Division titles. The Tar Heels topped the 500-yard mark four times over the final two months of the season, and quarterback Marquise Williams provided much-needed stability with 20 touchdowns and just nine picks on the year.

    Meanwhile, Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova has tossed 20 touchdowns of his own and is facing a Tar Heels pass defense that's only slightly better than air (263.5 yards per game).

    "The number of passing yards between these two teams in this game could be set at about 800 or 900, especially with it taking place in a dome setting," wrote Kercheval.

    Final: Rutgers 40, North Carolina 21

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

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    UCF RB William Stanback
    UCF RB William StanbackUSA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: UCF (9-3) vs. N.C. State (7-5)

    Date: Dec. 26 at 8 p.m. ET

    Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

    Spread: UCF (-2)


    Kercheval: UCF

    Kramer: N.C. State

    Sallee: N.C. State

    Felder: N.C. State

    Why You Should Watch

    UCF has established itself as one of the AAC's power brokers and will face off against an N.C. State squad that quietly won three of four to close the season. Former Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett put together a solid campaign, tossing 22 touchdowns and only five picks during his junior season in Raleigh.

    For Knights head coach George O'Leary, this has been a stressful season, as his crew reeled off nine wins in its final 10 games, which included nail-biters over Houston and BYU and a Hail Mary win at East Carolina to claim a share of the conference title.

    "UCF is a program that has slowly but surely become consistent, while N.C. State is undoubtedly on the rise in the ACC," said Sallee.

    Final: N.C. State 34, UCF 27

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman

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    Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel
    Cincinnati QB Gunner KielUSA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)

    Date: Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. ET

    Location: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland

    Spread: Cincinnati (-3)


    Kercheval: Cincinnati

    Kramer: Cincinnati

    Sallee: Cincinnati

    Felder: Cincinnati

    Why You Should Watch

    Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel started living up to some of the recruiting hype this year, breaking the 3,000-yard mark and throwing for 30 touchdowns for the Bearcats and head coach Tommy Tuberville. He'll get quite the challenge in the Military Bowl against a Virginia Tech pass defense that ranks 14th in the nation (186.8 yards per game).

    Not a bad matchup to say the least. If Cincinnati has some success, it will be up to the Hokies and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to keep up.

    "The Hokies might need their best game of the year from quarterback Michael Brewer," wrote Kercheval.

    Final: Virginia Tech 33, Cincinnati 17

Hyundai Sun Bowl

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    Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong
    Arizona State WR Jaelen StrongRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Matchup: Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)

    Date: Dec. 27 at 2 p.m. ET

    Location: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas

    Spread: Arizona State (-7.5)


    Kercheval: Arizona State

    Kramer: Arizona State

    Sallee: Arizona State

    Felder: Arizona State

    Why You Should Watch

    November losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina prevented the Blue Devils from repeating as ACC Coastal champs, but they got back to their winning ways in the regular-season finale against Wake Forest to post a very respectable 9-3 record.

    The reward for head coach David Cutcliffe's crew is a trip to El Paso to take on an Arizona State team that was on the periphery of the College Football Playoff discussion into November.

    Duke's pass defense is giving up just 204 yards per game but hasn't seen many receivers like the Sun Devils' Jaelen Strong. Add in running back D.J. Foster, and the Blue Devils have their work cut out for them.

    "As good as Duke is, I believe Arizona State will be on another level," said Kramer. "Too much Strong and Foster."

    Final: Arizona State 36, Duke 31

Duck Commander Independence Bowl

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    Miami QB Brad Kaaya
    Miami QB Brad KaayaJoel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Matchup: Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)

    Date: Dec. 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana

    Spread: Miami (-3)


    Kercheval: Miami

    Kramer: Miami

    Sallee: South Carolina

    Felder: Miami

    Why You Should Watch

    The combination of quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Duke Johnson brought Miami back to respectability this season, but a three-game losing streak to close out the campaign has left a sour taste in the mouths of the Hurricanes. Their defense is a veteran group that has improved tremendously from a year ago and would love nothing more than to go out on a high note.

    Meanwhile, South Carolina sputtered to a 6-6 season on the heels of a defense that was more punchline than power. 

    "Miami wins thanks to a big day from Brad Kaaya and weapons that will tax South Carolina's defense," said Felder.

    Final: South Carolina 24, Miami 21

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

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    Penn State head coach James Franklin
    Penn State head coach James FranklinMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    Matchup: Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)

    Date: Dec. 27 at 4:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.

    Spread: Boston College (-2.5)


    Kercheval: Boston College

    Kramer: Boston College

    Sallee: Boston College

    Felder: Boston College

    Why You Should Watch

    It's college football in Yankee Stadium. What's not to like?

    If that's not enough, the matchup between the run-first Boston College offense led by quarterback Tyler Murphy against a Penn State defense that's giving up a Big Ten-best 269.8 yards per game is quite appetizing.

    The Nittany Lions will surely be pumped up to be in a bowl game since the NCAA lifted the sanctions midseason, but a few hits from the physical Eagle offense will bring them back down to Earth in a hurry.

    "Boston College wins because Tyler Murphy proves to be the better, safer quarterback option in this slugfest," said Felder.

    Final: Penn State 31, Boston College 30 (OT)

National University Holiday Bowl

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    USC QB Cody Kessler
    USC QB Cody KesslerStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Matchup: USC (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3)

    Date: Dec. 27 at 8 p.m. ET

    Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

    Spread: USC (-6.5)


    Kercheval: USC

    Kramer: USC

    Sallee: Nebraska

    Felder: USC

    Why You Should Watch

    USC quarterback Cody Kessler will be near the top of many Heisman lists in a few months, and a strong performance in the Holiday Bowl in what could be wide receiver Nelson Agholor's final game would be a good way to kick off the campaign.

    Meanwhile, Nebraska is a team in transition, as Mike Riley observes his new team against an opponent that he's familiar with from his time in the Pac-12 at Oregon State. 

    "There's no logical reason for me to pick Nebraska to win, because USC is, by far, the better team," said Sallee. "I think Nebraska finds a way to keep up for a while and gets a garbage touchdown late for a backdoor cover."

    For that to happen, the Cornhuskers will need another solid performance from star running back Ameer Abdullah in his final game.

    Final: USC 45, Nebraska 42

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

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    West Virginia WR Kevin White
    West Virginia WR Kevin WhiteDavid Purdy/Getty Images

    Matchup: West Virginia (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)

    Date: Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. ET

    Location: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee

    Spread: West Virginia (-3.5)


    Kercheval: Texas A&M

    Kramer: West Virginia

    Sallee: West Virginia

    Felder: West Virginia

    Why You Should Watch

    If you want points and very little defense, the Liberty Bowl is here for you.

    Texas A&M and West Virginia have become synonymous with new-school football, which puts an emphasis on tempo offensively and forcing turnovers on defense.

    Unfortunately for both, consistency has been a problem this season.

    Mountaineers wide receiver Kevin White is one of the best in the nation, and the Aggies boast a small village of potential superstars outside including Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noil. This should be an entertaining matchup between teams that have been up and down during the 2014 season.

    Final: Texas A&M 45, West Virginia 37

Russell Athletic Bowl

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    Clemson DL Vic Beasley
    Clemson DL Vic BeasleyTyler Smith/Getty Images

    Matchup: Clemson (9-3) vs. Oklahoma (8-4)

    Date: Dec. 29 at 5:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida

    Spread: Oklahoma (-3)


    Kercheval: Clemson

    Kramer: Oklahoma

    Sallee: Oklahoma

    Felder: Oklahoma

    Why You Should Watch

    Clemson boasted the nation's best defense in 2014 led by star defensive end Vic Beasley. As a reward, that stout defense led by defensive coordinator Brent Venables will go up against his former employer.

    This isn't where Oklahoma wanted to play after jumping into the national championship picture with its win over Alabama in last season's Sugar Bowl, but injuries to quarterback Trevor Knight and wide receiver Sterling Shepard coupled with defensive inconsistencies prevented the Sooners from taking the next step.

    Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will miss this game with a torn ACL, while Oklahoma will get Knight back after he missed the final three games of the regular season. That might make the difference.

    "Knight is in; Watson is out," said Felder. "While I love the Clemson defense, not sure the Tigers will score enough."

    Final: Clemson 40, Oklahoma 6

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl

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    Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema
    Arkansas head coach Bret BielemaWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Matchup: Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6)

    Date: Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. ET

    Location: NRG Stadium, Houston

    Spread: Arkansas (-6)


    Kercheval: Arkansas

    Kramer: Texas

    Sallee: Arkansas

    Felder: Texas

    Why You Should Watch

    The reason to watch this one is simple: It's old-school, smashmouth football with two teams, who, while in different conferences now, once had a major rivalry in the old Southwest Conference.

    Arkansas got hot down the stretch, shutting out back-to-back SEC opponents and notching its first two SEC wins since 2012. The running back tandem of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins comprises one of the toughest one-two punches in college football, and quarterback Brandon Allen will have a month to recover from injuries suffered in the Missouri game.

    Meanwhile Texas' first season under head coach Charlie Strong hasn't gone as smoothly as planned, but the defense is solid, and quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has a good one-two punch behind him in running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray.

    "Whichever team dominates the line of scrimmage has the upper hand," wrote Kercheval.

    Final: Arkansas 31, Texas 7

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

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    Notre Dame QB Everett Golson
    Notre Dame QB Everett GolsonChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Matchup: Notre Dame (7-5) vs. LSU (8-4)

    Date: Dec. 30 at 3 p.m. ET

    Location: LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee

    Spread: LSU (-7)


    Kercheval: Notre Dame

    Kramer: Notre Dame

    Sallee: LSU

    Felder: Notre Dame

    Why You Should Watch

    Quarterback intrigue, plain and simple.

    Everett Golson and Malik Zaire will both see time under center for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, while sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris could split snaps for head coach Les Miles' LSU Tigers squad.

    Simply put, this game will serve as the opening act to what could be two high-profile quarterback battles heading into the 2015 season. That's what makes this matchup in Nashville intriguing, but it could also lead to some disjointed drives and overall sloppiness.

    "I'll somewhat reluctantly take the dog here," Kramer said. "If the Irish avoid turnovers, they should keep it within the spread."

    Final: Notre Dame 31, LSU 28

Belk Bowl

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    Georgia RB Nick Chubb
    Georgia RB Nick ChubbScott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Matchup: Georgia (9-3) vs. Louisville (9-3)

    Date: Dec. 30 at 6:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

    Spread: Georgia (-6.5)


    Kercheval: Louisville

    Kramer: Georgia

    Sallee: Louisville

    Felder: Louisville

    Why You Should Watch

    Former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will bring Louisville—the nation's sixth-best defense—into Charlotte to take on a Georgia team that he coordinated for four seasons. 

    If that weren't enough, current Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino isn't exactly the most well-liked character in the Peach State after the way he left the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. 

    That potent Cardinals defense will have quite the challenge on its hands slowing down running back Nick Chubb, wide receivers Chris Conley and Michael Bennett and quarterback Hutson Mason. 

    "Welcome to the Nick Chubb Show," Kramer said. "Please pay for your tickets here."

    Final: Georgia 37, Louisville 14

Foster Farms Bowl

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    Stanford head coach David Shaw
    Stanford head coach David ShawUSA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: Stanford (7-5) vs. Maryland (7-5)

    Date: Dec. 30 at 10 p.m. ET

    Location: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California

    Spread: Stanford (-14)


    Kercheval: Stanford

    Kramer: Maryland

    Sallee: Maryland

    Felder: Maryland

    Why You Should Watch

    What else are you going to do at 10 p.m. the night before New Year's Eve?

    Stanford's defense is legit, and Maryland's offense has struggled mightily since wide receiver Stefon Diggs went out on Nov. 1 with a kidney injury. He could be back in time for the bowl game, which would give the Terrapins a boost and a puncher's chance against head coach David Shaw's Cardinal.

    "Close games haven't exactly favored the Cardinal, but the defense has carried them this far," Kercheval wrote. "It should be able to carry them one more game."

    Final: Stanford 45, Maryland 21

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

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    Matchup: TCU (11-1) vs. Ole Miss (9-3)

    Date: Dec. 31 at 12:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

    Spread: TCU (-3)


    Kercheval: TCU

    Kramer: Ole Miss

    Sallee: Ole Miss

    Felder: TCU

    Why You Should Watch

    Simple—it's TCU's potent offense led by quarterback Trevone Boykin going up against an Ole Miss defense that's fast and physical and forces mistakes.

    Get your popcorn ready.

    "This is the best bowl matchup of the bowl season—national semifinals included," said Sallee. "Boykin will team up with wide receivers Kolby Listenbee and Josh Doctson to test that Landshark defense, but Cody Prewitt, Senquez Golson and the rest of that secondary will come up big in the fourth quarter with a couple of game-changing turnovers."

    Final: TCU 42, Ole Miss 3

VIZIO Fiesta Bowl

26 of 38

    Matchup: Boise State (11-2) vs. Arizona (10-3)

    Date: Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. ET

    Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

    Spread: Arizona (-4)


    Kercheval: Arizona

    Kramer: Boise State

    Sallee: Arizona

    Felder: Arizona

    Why You Should Watch

    Well, aside from the obvious—it's Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, and weird things happen—you may also get a look at a young Arizona team that could be setting the stage for a Pac-12 and College Football Playoff run in 2015.

    Quarterback Anu Solomon nursed an injured foot down the stretch and left the Pac-12 Championship Game with a walking boot. With time to heal and a full camp session to continue the team's development, Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez should have a creative game plan for the Broncos at University of Phoenix Stadium on New Year's Eve.

    It's Boise State, and it's the Fiesta Bowl, so anything's possible.

    "I think we rekindle some Boise State magic," said Kramer. "The Broncos are live here."

    Final: Boise State 38, Arizona 30

Capital One Orange Bowl

27 of 38

    Matchup: Georgia Tech (10-3) vs. Mississippi State (10-2)

    Date: Dec. 31 at 8:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

    Spread: Mississippi State (-7)


    Kercheval: Georgia Tech

    Kramer: Mississippi State

    Sallee: Mississippi State

    Felder: Mississippi State

    Why You Should Watch

    It will be strength versus strength when the dynamic Georgia Tech triple-option attack squares off with a fast and physical Mississippi State front seven that buckles down in the red zone.

    Will Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas have success in South Beach? Or will the Bulldogs come together following the departure of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and prove that, while inconsistent down the stretch, they are still well-coached and ready to move on to the next challenge?

    "There's a great underlying matchup here," wrote Kercheval. "Georgia Tech leads the nation in third-down conversions, while Mississippi State is the best team in the country in opponents' red-zone conversions."

    Converting those third downs in the red zone and scoring seven instead of three will be what decides whether Georgia Tech wins or loses.

    Final: Georgia Tech 49, Mississippi State 34

Outback Bowl

28 of 38

    Matchup: Auburn (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)

    Date: Jan. 1 at noon ET

    Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

    Spread: Auburn (-6.5)


    Kercheval: Auburn

    Kramer: Wisconsin

    Sallee: Auburn

    Felder: Auburn

    Why You Should Watch

    If you like top-tier running back matchups, this game is for you. 

    Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon rushed for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior, while Auburn senior Cameron Artis-Payne led the SEC with 1,482 yards and 11 touchdowns while splitting carries with quarterback Nick Marshall.

    The last time we saw Wisconsin's defense, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot hung 222 on it in the Big Ten Championship Game. Can Auburn do the same?

    "Auburn doesn't run the most plays per game of any team in the country—it actually averages about 73 a game—but it knows how to use tempo effectively," wrote Kercheval. "If Wisconsin starts giving up big plays on defense, Gordon may not even be able to come to the rescue."

    Final: Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31 (OT)

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

29 of 38

    Matchup: Michigan State (10-2) vs. Baylor (11-1)

    Date: Jan. 1 at 12:30 p.m. ET

    Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

    Spread: Baylor (-3)


    Kercheval: Baylor

    Kramer: Michigan State

    Sallee: Baylor

    Felder: Michigan State

    Why You Should Watch

    Well, for starters, there's a quarterback battle for the ages in Baylor's Bryce Petty versus Michigan State's Connor Cook and a battle of two tremendous running backs in the Bears' Shock Linwood versus Jeremy Langford.

    Where the difference could come, though, is on defense. Michigan State boasts one of the nation's top defenses (293.5 yards per game), while Baylor's defense (367.7 yards per game) is giving up 74.2 more yards than the Spartans'.

    "Give me Michigan State," said Felder. "The Spartans can score with just about anyone, and their defense will be the difference."

    Final: Michigan State 42, Baylor 41

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

30 of 38

    Missouri QB Maty Mauk
    Missouri QB Maty MaukButch Dill/Associated Press

    Matchup: Missouri (10-3) vs. Minnesota (8-4)

    Date: Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET

    Location: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida

    Spread: Missouri (-5.5)


    Kercheval: Missouri

    Kramer: Missouri

    Sallee: Missouri

    Felder: Missouri

    Why You Should Watch

    Minnesota running back David Cobb will have his work cut out for him running against a very underrated Missouri front seven. Missouri will want to get the Gophers in passing downs so that defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden can pin their ears back and get after quarterback Mitch Leidner.

    "If Minnesota can win first down consistently, it's going to be a long day for head coach Gary Pinkel's crew," said Sallee. "It won't, though, and Ray and Golden will shine in sunny central Florida."

    Final: Missouri 33, Minnesota 17

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

31 of 38

    Matchup: Oregon (12-1) vs. Florida State (13-0)

    Date: Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET

    Location: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

    Spread: Oregon (-9.5)


    Kercheval: Florida State

    Kramer: Oregon

    Sallee: Oregon

    Felder: Florida State

    Why You Should Watch

    Well, let's see—it's the Rose Bowl and a national semifinal, and it features the last two Heisman Trophy winners, the defending national champ, which hasn't looked as polished this season as it did during its title run, and a high-octane offense that thrives with tempo.

    What's not to like?

    For the first time in his college career, 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston won't be the best quarterback on the field. That honor belongs to 2014 winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Will Mariota and the Ducks end Florida State's 29-game winning streak that has spanned three seasons?

    "I like the Ducks here," said Kramer. "I originally planned on taking those 9.5 points, but I am laying them instead. The Oregon offense will just be too much."

    Final: Oregon 59, Florida State 20

Allstate Sugar Bowl

32 of 38

    Matchup: Ohio State (12-1) vs. Alabama (12-1)

    Date: Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans

    Spread: Alabama (-9.5)


    Kercheval: Ohio State

    Kramer: Ohio State

    Sallee: Alabama

    Felder: Ohio State

    Why You Should Watch

    Coaching legends in Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Alabama's Nick Saban will head to the Big Easy to rekindle a rivalry that started in the late 2000s when the two were duking it out for SEC titles while Meyer was at Florida.

    The stakes have been raised.

    In addition to two traditional powers meeting in the second semifinal, Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones threw a curveball when he lit up Wisconsin with three touchdown passes in his first career start in the Big Ten Championship Game. 

    Now Saban—who's 21-7 at Alabama with more than a week to prepare for an opponent—has nearly a month to prepare for Jones with game tape in hand, which will add a little spice to this showdown.

    "Saban with tape and time is a frightening thought, especially for a team with a quarterback who's making his second career start," said Sallee.

    Final: Ohio State 42, Alabama 35

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

33 of 38

    Pitt RB James Conner
    Pitt RB James ConnerGene Puskar/Associated Press

    Matchup: Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Houston (7-5)

    Date: Jan. 2 at noon ET

    Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

    Spread: Pittsburgh (-3)


    Kercheval: Pittsburgh

    Kramer: Pittsburgh

    Sallee: Pittsburgh

    Felder: Pittsburgh

    Why You Should Watch

    You'll get to watch the Houston team that Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman is taking over, but more importantly, you'll get to watch Pitt running back James Conner. Conner rushed for 1,675 yards and 24 touchdowns this season en route to second-team All-American honors from The Associated Press.

    "James Conner is going to carry it 50 times for 400 yards in a win," said Kramer. "I'm kidding. Maybe."

    Coaching changes for both programs will be a nice little subplot for this showdown in the Lone Star State.

    Final: Houston 35, Pittsburgh 34

TaxSlayer Bowl

34 of 38

    Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs
    Tennessee QB Joshua DobbsMark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Matchup: Iowa (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)

    Date: Jan. 2 at 3:20 p.m. ET

    Location: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

    Spread: Tennessee (-3.5)


    Kercheval: Iowa 

    Kramer: Iowa

    Sallee: Iowa

    Felder: Iowa

    Why You Should Watch

    The Tennessee roster is loaded with youth, and the matchup between freshman defensive end Derek Barnett and first-team Associated Press All-American tackle Brandon Scherff will be well worth the price of admission.

    On the other side of the ball, the physical Hawkeyes front seven will be chomping at the bit to get after Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs and Tennessee's inconsistent offensive line. It likely will be a slugfest, but if things get weird, Iowa can handle it.

    "Iowa actually is more efficient in the passing game than the running game, if you can believe that," wrote Kercheval. "So the idea that the Hawkeyes would be in trouble if the game turned into a shootout doesn't entirely hold up." 

    Final: Tennessee 45, Iowa 28

Valero Alamo Bowl

35 of 38

    UCLA QB Brett Hundley
    UCLA QB Brett HundleyMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Matchup: UCLA (9-3) vs. Kansas State (9-3)

    Date: Jan. 2 at 6:45 p.m. ET

    Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

    Spread: Kansas State (-1)


    Kercheval: UCLA

    Kramer: Kansas State

    Sallee: Kansas State

    Felder: Kansas State

    Why You Should Watch

    Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder's crew is always well-prepared, and a month between games will only add to its discipline. On the other side, UCLA hoped to be playing in Texas in January but was probably thinking more about the National Championship Game in Arlington rather than the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

    Will Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley go out with a bang, or will Snyder's crew finish off the season on a high note?

    "Bill Snyder, resident wizard, will take advantage of this extra time to prepare," said Kramer. "Kansas State in a close one."

    Final: UCLA 40, Kansas State 35

TicketCity Cactus Bowl

36 of 38

    Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy
    Oklahoma State head coach Mike GundySue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Matchup: Oklahoma State (6-6) vs. Washington (8-5)

    Date: Jan. 2 at 10:15 p.m. ET

    Location: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

    Spread: Washington (-5.5)


    Kercheval: Washington

    Kramer: Washington

    Sallee: Oklahoma State

    Felder: Washington

    Why You Should Watch

    Because on the day after New Year's Day, you still will need football at 10:15 p.m.

    Oklahoma State finished the season off strong with a dramatic overtime win in Bedlam over Oklahoma, while Chris Petersen's first season at Washington was up and down. 

    Linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson is worth staying up late for, as is the Husky defense that includes first-team Associated Press All-American tackle Danny Shelton and linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha.

    "The Washington defense is going to put on a show for NFL scouts," said Kramer. "I'll take the Huskies and lay the 5.5."

    Final: Oklahoma State 30, Washington 22

Birmingham Bowl

37 of 38

    Florida RB Kelvin Taylor
    Florida RB Kelvin TaylorMark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Matchup: Florida (6-5) vs. East Carolina (8-4)

    Date: Jan. 3 at noon ET

    Location: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama

    Spread: Florida (-7)


    Kercheval: ECU

    Kramer: Florida

    Sallee: Florida

    Felder: ECU

    Why You Should Watch

    Even though new Florida head coach Jim McElwain won't be coaching in this game, quarterback Treon Harris will be auditioning for the starting quarterback role with a small taste of what McElwain's offense will look like in 2015.

    The real intrigue in this one is when East Carolina has the ball, though. Third-team Associated Press All-American Justin Hardy will be going up against second-team Associated Press All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in a matchup for the ages.

    "Hargreaves will get the better of Hardy, give the Florida offense good field position and lead the Gators to a big win," said Sallee.

    Final: Florida 28, East Carolina 20

GoDaddy Bowl

38 of 38

    Arkansas State RB Michael Gordon
    Arkansas State RB Michael GordonUSA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: Toledo (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)

    Date: Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. ET

    Location: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama

    Spread: Toledo (-3)


    Kercheval: Arkansas State

    Kramer: Toledo

    Sallee: Arkansas State

    Felder: Toledo

    Why You Should Watch

    Two Group of Five teams will meet in Mobile in a matchup that will feature enough offense to fill Mobile Bay.

    Arkansas State ranks 21st in the country with 477.2 yards per game, while Toledo is two spots better at 486.3 yards per game.

    "This is one of those games that is just waiting to get weird, and weird football is the best kind of football—especially during bowl season," said Sallee.

    This game is going to take place at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night in January. What else would you do?

    Final: Toledo 63, Arkansas State 44

    All lines are courtesy of All picks are against the spread.