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Bowl Games 2017-18: Schedule and Winning Predictions for College Football Slate

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2017

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 25:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during the game at Commonwealth Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Clear your calendar for the rest of December because college football bowl season is set to kick off Saturday, with 40 games taking place over roughly two weeks.

Naturally, the College Football Playoff and rest of the New Year's Six matchups are receiving the lion's share of attention. Much of the fun from bowl season, though, comes from watching the games that fall a little lower down the pecking order.

Below is the full schedule for this year's slate of bowl games and five clashes that should be highlighted on your calendar.

           

2017-18 Bowl Schedule (All times are ET)

Saturday, December 16

New Orleans Bowl (1 p.m., ESPN): Troy vs. North Texas

Prediction: Troy

     

Cure Bowl (2:30 p.m., CBSSN): Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State

Prediction: Western Kentucky

     

Las Vegas Bowl (3:30 p.m., ABC): Boise State vs. Oregon

Prediction: Oregon

     

New Mexico Bowl (4:30 p.m., ESPN): Marshall vs. Colorado State

Prediction: Colorado State

     

Camellia Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN): Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State

Prediction: Arkansas State

     

Tuesday, December 19

Boca Raton Bowl (7 p.m., ESPN): Akron vs. Florida Atlantic

Prediction: Florida Atlantic

     

Wednesday, December 20

Frisco Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN): Louisiana Tech vs. SMU

Prediction: Louisiana Tech

      

Thursday, December 21

Gasparilla Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN): Temple vs. Florida International

Prediction: Florida International

        

Friday, December 22

Bahamas Bowl (12:30 p.m., ESPN): UAB vs. Ohio

Prediction: UAB

          

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (4 p.m., ESPN): Central Michigan vs. Wyoming

Prediction: Central Michigan

          

Saturday, December 23

Birmingham Bowl (12 p.m., ESPN): Texas Tech vs. South Florida

Prediction: South Florida

          

Armed Forces Bowl (3:30 p.m., ESPN): San Diego State vs. Army

Prediction: San Diego State

     

Dollar General Bowl (7 p.m., ESPN): Appalachian State vs. Toledo

Prediction: Toledo

      

Sunday, December 24

Hawai'i Bowl (8:30 p.m., ESPN): Fresno State vs. Houston

Prediction: Fresno State

           

Tuesday, December 26

Heart of Dallas Bowl (1:30 p.m., ESPN): Utah vs. West Virginia

Prediction: Utah

        

Quick Lane Bowl (5:15 p.m., ESPN): Duke vs. Northern Illinois

Prediction: Duke

        

Cactus Bowl (9 p.m., ESPN): Kansas State vs. UCLA

Prediction: UCLA

        

Wednesday, December 27

Independence Bowl (1:30 p.m., ESPN): Southern Miss vs. Florida State

Prediction: Southern Miss

       

Pinstripe Bowl (5:15 p.m., ESPN): Iowa vs. Boston College

Prediction: Iowa

        

Foster Farms Bowl (8:30 p.m., Fox): Arizona vs. Purdue

Prediction: Purdue

     

Texas Bowl (9 p.m., ESPN): Texas vs. Missouri

Prediction: Texas

          

Thursday, December 28

Military Bowl (1:30 p.m., ESPN): Virginia vs. Navy

Prediction: Virginia

          

Camping World Bowl (5:15 p.m., ESPN): Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State

Prediction: Oklahoma State

       

Alamo Bowl (9 p.m., ESPN): Stanford vs. TCU

Prediction: Stanford

       

Holiday Bowl (9 p.m., Fox): Washington State vs. Michigan State

Prediction: Michigan State

        

Friday, December 29

Belk Bowl (1 p.m., ESPN): Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

Prediction: Texas A&M

         

Sun Bowl (3 p.m., CBS): NC State vs. Arizona State

Prediction: NC State

     

Music City Bowl (4:30 p.m., ESPN): Kentucky vs. Northwestern

Prediction: Kentucky

     

Arizona Bowl (5:30 p.m., CBSSN): Utah State vs. New Mexico State

Prediction: New Mexico State

     

Cotton Bowl Classic (8:30 p.m., ESPN): USC vs. Ohio State

Prediction: Ohio State

         

Saturday, December 30

TaxSlayer Bowl (12 p.m., ESPN): Louisville vs. Mississippi State

Prediction: Louisville

           

Liberty Bowl (12:30 p.m., ABC): Iowa State vs. Memphis

Prediction: Memphis

     

Fiesta Bowl (4 p.m., ESPN): Washington vs. Penn State

Prediction: Washington

     

Orange Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN): Miami vs. Wisconsin

Prediction: Miami

          

Monday, January 1

Outback Bowl (12 p.m., ESPN2): Michigan vs. South Carolina

Prediction: Michigan

           

Peach Bowl (12:30 p.m., ESPN): UCF vs. Auburn

Prediction: UCF

            

Citrus Bowl (1 p.m., ABC): Notre Dame vs. LSU

Prediction: Notre Dame

           

Rose Bowl (5 p.m., ESPN): Georgia vs. Oklahoma

Prediction: Georgia

        

Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m., ESPN): Alabama vs. Clemson

Prediction: Clemson

     

Monday, January 8

College Football Playoff National Championship (8 p.m., ESPN)

          

Games to Watch

Bahamas Bowl

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 25:  Head Coach Bill Clark of the UAB Blazers on the sidelines during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Blazers 45-17.  (Photo
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

While only around for three years, the Bahamas Bowl has already become a cult favorite for college football fans.

The inaugural edition included Central Michigan scoring 34 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The Chippewas' final touchdown came on a Hail Mary that featured three laterals before Titus Davis scored. Central Michigan's two-point conversion failed, giving Western Kentucky a 49-48 win.

That was Jeff Brohm's first season as Hilltoppers head coach. He left the school after three years to coach Purdue and helped the Boilermakers overachieve and win six games in 2017.

The 2015 Bahamas Bowl was won by Western Michigan, which had P.J. Fleck at the helm. It was the first bowl win in school history, and the Broncos used the 2015 season as a springboard to their 13-win campaign in 2016.

Fleck moved on to Minnesota before this start of this year.

UAB head coach Bill Clark could be the next to parlay success at the Bahamas Bowl into a better job down the line.

Brandon Marcello @bmarcello

UAB's Bill Clark should win every coach of the year award.

Bryan Fischer @BryanDFischer

Eight wins for Bill Clark and UAB this season. If he’s not coach of the year, not sure why you have the award.

The Blazers didn't even technically have a team in 2015 and 2016 after the school ceased operations for the football program in December 2014. Now, UAB is in a bowl game for the second time, while the Blazers' eight wins represent their most in a single season.

In terms of on-field excitement in this year's Bahamas Bowl, look no further than UAB true freshman running back Spencer Brown, who rushed for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season.

Leading passer A.J. Erdely and top two receivers Andre Wilson and Collin Lisa are juniors as well, so the Bahamas Bowl could showcase what will be a dangerous Blazers team in 2018.

            

Pinstripe Bowl

SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  AJ Dillon #2 of the Boston College Eagles celebrates a touchdown during the first quarter that makes the score 14-7 Boston College leading Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on November 25, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

For neutral observers, little about this game is all that attractive.

With a 5:15 p.m. ET kickoff, the Pinstripe Bowl will have the cold temperatures and limited daylight that come with night games without the perceived prestige that comes with playing an actual night game. And it's in a ballpark (Yankee Stadium), which always creates a weird viewing experience for fans in attendance and those watching on TV.

According to Football Outsiders, Boston College and Iowa respectively rank 95th and 102nd in offensive S&P+ rating, so scoring may come at a premium as well. 

With that said, Iowa showed out against Ohio State, and Boston College averaged a little over 40 points in its final five wins of the regular season. The Eagles also have freshman running back AJ Dillon, whose 1,432 rushing yards were 12th-most in FBS.

The Pinstripe Bowl may be a tight-scoring affair, or both coaches could throw caution to the wind in the last game of the season. There's always a bowl game or two that looks dreadful on paper and proves to be a pleasant surprise. The Pinstripe Bowl could fall into that group.

           

Foster Farms Bowl

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Quarterback Khalil Tate #14 of the Arizona Wildcats warms up before the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty I
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What's great about Dec. 27 is that fans could watch the Pinstripe Bowl, which is shaping up to be a defensive struggle, and then move right on to the Foster Farms Bowl, which promises to be the exact opposite.

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate alone is worth tuning into the game for. The Wildcats sophomore passed for 1,289 yards and nine touchdowns and ran for 1,353 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez calmed fears a sprained left shoulder could leave Tate unavailable for the Foster Farms Bowl. According to the Arizona Daily Star's Michael Lev, Rodriguez said Tate will be "good to go."

On the other side, the aforementioned Brohm has Purdue bowling for the first time since 2012. Tennessee had Brohm on its radar to replace Butch Jones, per Mike Griffith of SEC Country, before he reaffirmed his commitment to the Boilermakers, per Mike Carmin of the Journal & Courier.

Purdue appears to be a program on the rise, and beating Arizona would be a great way for Brohm to cap off a promising first season in charge.

Almost all of the Boilermakers' key playmakers should return in 2018, and Brohm is assembling a recruiting class that is 49th in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. It may not be that fanciful to think the Foster Farms Bowl could be a prelude for Purdue to make a run at the Big Ten West next year.

            

Camping World Bowl

BLACKSBURG, VA - NOVEMBER 18: Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds #49 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts following a defensive play against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the first half at Lane Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael S
Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The Camping World Bowl should be an excellent clash of styles.

Oklahoma State ranks fourth in offensive S&P+ rating, per Football Outsiders. Mason Rudolph is the leading passer in FBS with 4,553 yards and 35 touchdowns, and James Washington is FBS' leading receiver with 69 catches for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns. Justice Hill (1,347 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns) shouldn't be overlooked, either.

Virginia Tech is sixth in defensive S&P+ rating, according to Football Outsiders. Junior linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is the leading tackler (102 total tackles) and has a team-high 5.5 sacks. Senior cornerback Greg Stroman (three interceptions and 11 pass breakups) joined Edmunds on the All-ACC first-team defense.

In addition to Oklahoma and Virginia Tech's contrasting strengths, the two teams are also likely heading in diverging directions next year.

Rudolph and Washington are seniors, and their departures will hit the Cowboys offense in a big way.

The Hokies, on the other hand, have a redshirt freshman, Josh Jackson, at quarterback. Running backs Travon McMillian and Deshawn McClease and wide receiver Sean Savoy are juniors or younger too. Of Virginia Tech's top 10 tacklers, only linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka is a senior.

After winning 19 games in Justin Fuente's first two years, an ACC title should be the target for the Hokies in 2018.

           

TaxSlayer Bowl

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 18:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals  runs with the ball against the Syracuse Orange during the game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

You should watch Lamar Jackson in college for as long as you can.

The fact Jackson can be a Heisman Trophy finalist on an 8-4 Louisville team speaks to how good he has been after winning the award in 2016. The junior quarterback has 3,489 passing yards, 1,443 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Lamar Jackson can become the 2nd player ever to win multiple Heisman trophies. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won the award in 1974 & 1975. He has a higher Total QBR, completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and more passing yards per game than last season https://t.co/Ni6lm4VGre

In his most recent 2018 mock draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller projected Jackson going 22nd overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Should Jackson's draft stock hold or improve in the weeks to come, he should move on to the NFL; he would have nothing left to prove in college.

Watching Jackson take the step up will be somewhat bittersweet because he's likely to be assimilated into the NFL machine, thus losing something about what makes him so much fun. Even Marcus Mariota, who has been good the past two years after an underwhelming rookie season, is nowhere near as electrifying as he was when he starred at Oregon and won a Heisman in 2014.

If the TaxSlayer Bowl proves to be Jackson's last game at Louisville, you don't want to be disappointed with yourself that you missed it.

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