Bowl Games 2015-16: Full Postseason Schedule and Predictions for Top Battles

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2015

Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams, Jr., goes through warmups  before of an NCAA college football game, in Eugene Ore., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.  (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
TIMOTHY J. GONZALEZ/Associated Press

The temperatures across the country are dropping, but college football's bowl season is starting to warm up. 

So far, the bowl action has been limited to mostly teams without a little number beside their name—those who were never in the hunt for the title to begin with but certainly earned the right to play one more game through the proliferation of smaller bowls. 

However, those who have earned a Top-25 ranking will be making their way to fans' television screens very soon. And with the dawn of bigger bowls comes more matchups that are must-see TV. 

Here's a look at what's on tap along with a look into some of the better matchups that are coming down the pike. 

Matchups to Watch

Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Auburn

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

OK, so this is another game between unranked teams on the slate, but it's a bowl game that is intriguing for both programs involved. 

Memphis has completed a huge turnaround behind now-Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente. In his first two seasons, the Tigers lost seven games but have won 19 over the last two seasons, with a chance to have a second 10-win season if they beat the Tigers of Auburn. 

It's also a big game for quarterback Paxton Lynch. He is Bleacher Report NFL Draft Analyst Matt Miller's No. 2 rated quarterback heading into the draft and will face a secondary in Auburn that ranks 76th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game. 

That's a big opportunity for him to get another great game on film before competing to be the top quarterback taken in next season's draft. 

However, the game carries even greater importance for Auburn. After a disappointing 6-6 season, Gus Malzahn's seat has gotten surprisingly warm as the season advances. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee discusses in the video below, Malzahn isn't likely in serious danger as it stands, but next season will be crucial.

Auburn is a program that expects to compete with Alabama, not struggling to beat a Group of Five team. If Auburn is defeated by a Group of Five team—albeit a good one—in Memphis, that seat isn't cooling off any in what is going to be a long offseason. 

Despite the mismatch between Lynch and the Auburn secondary, Malzahn's team is still a three-point favorite, according to Odds Shark

That could have to do with some of the struggles that Memphis has had stopping the run against the teams that beat them. In three losses, the Tigers have given up 4.6 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns on the ground in their three losses.

When Auburn has won games, they've been able to win on the ground. Memphis' late woes in stopping the run game could come back to bite them again. Gus Mazahn's squad averages 4.87 yards per carry in their six wins, but just 3.75 when coming out on the losing side.

If Auburn gets a downhill running game going early on, they will cover the spread rather easily.

Prediction: Auburn 27, Memphis 20

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

If you're a fan of offensive football, you may walk away from this one offended. 

This game doesn't have all the makings of a barn-burner. Both Florida and Michigan have strong defenses but aren't exactly adept at moving the ball—by air or by land. A look at the S&P+ rankings from Football Outsiders—which measures efficiency on both sides of the ball—shows a matchup of two lopsided teams: 

Michigan vs. Florida S&P+ Rankings
Football Outisders

Both teams had their lack of offense exposed toward the end of the season.

Michigan was trounced by Ohio State at the end of the season, managing just 13 points and 364 total yards against a tough Buckeyes defense. 

Florida's offensive woes were on full display in its season finale against Alabama. The Gators mustered just 15 points on 180 total yards. 

In addition to the motivation to end the season on a high note, this is also an important game in terms of recruiting. As Alejandro Zuniga of Maize n Brew notes, the Wolverines have made an effort to expand their recruiting footprint in the Sunshine State:

In a battle of elite defenses, it might come down to the quarterback that is the most capable of not making too many mistakes. In this case that's Jake Rudock. The Iowa transfer has provided some stability at the position, completing 64 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns to seven interceptions. 

Treon Harris—on the other hand—has been an unmitigated disaster at times. He has completed only 51 percent of his passes while taking over for Will Grier with nine touchdowns to five interceptions. 

Eventually, one of these quarterbacks is going to have to make a play to win the game. That's an advantage for Michigan. 

Prediction: Michigan 20, Florida 13

Valero Alamo Bowl: TCU vs. Oregon

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Simply put, this game is going to have all the points. 

Both TCU and Oregon have showed this season that they could light up scoreboards on a week-to-week basis. The Ducks were sixth in the country in points per game (43.2), while TCU (41.7) was eighth.

Unfortunately for both the Ducks and the Frogs, their defenses each let them down at various points in the season. They were ranked No. 114 and No. 59 in scoring defense respectively, leading to both teams needing every point they could get from their explosive offenses. 

TCU's offense might not be quite as explosive as usual, though. All-American wide receiver Josh Doctson has been ruled out of the game due to an injury that he suffered during a loss to Oklahoma State, according to Carlos Mendez of the Star-Telegram.

The senior set school records in nearly every major statistical category despite sitting out against Baylor and Oklahoma. 

However, Trevone Boykin should be healthy for the Frogs after battling through an ankle injury over the final stretch of the season. He led the team to a victory over Baylor to close out the season after missing the Oklahoma game. 

It sets up an interesting quarterback duel, as Vernon Adams ended the season as one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. The FCS transfer provided a huge boost for the Ducks offense in his one season, easing the transition in the post-Marcus Mariota era. 

Adams is hoping that a strong performance against the Frogs will springboard a shot at playing in the same league that Mariota now plays in, per Tyson Alger of the Oregonian

"I feel like it is," Adams said. "I try not to look at it like that, but deep down I think it is. If our team plays well and I do good in this game and the East/West shrine game then hopefully I get an invite to the combine or something and pro day.

"From here on out it's got to be, I got to play my A game."

Adams will certainly get his opportunity. The TCU secondary has been prone to giving up the big play. They are 52nd in the nation in total pass defense, giving up 214.3 yards per game. 

However, in a game where both offenses are so dynamic and potent, it's going to come down to which team can find ways to get stops. 

TCU's defense has been inconsistent. The Frogs finished the season ranked No. 56 in the defensive S&P+. Oregon's is downright bad. It finished No. 88 by the same metric. 

In a game that could go either way, TCU should be counted on to get the most stops. 

Prediction: TCU 45, Oregon 40

All statistics used courtesy of unless otherwise noted. 


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