Predictions for Every 2018-19 College Football Bowl Game
If you're a "football should happen every day" kind of person, mid- to late-December is your favorite point of the calendar. Bowl season is back!
Leading up to the national championship Jan. 7, the college football world can enjoy 39 bowl games. While only two—the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl—will help shape which program takes home the 2018 title, 37 exhibitions will occupy our time.
And there are plenty of fascinating matchups, rematches and other storylines to monitor throughout the exciting 17-day stretch.
We've offered a prediction for every contest involving a Football Bowl Subdivision team prior to the national championship.
Pre-Christmas Bowls, Part I
Cure Bowl: Tulane (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (7-6)
Info: Dec. 15, 1:30 p.m. ET (CBSSN), at Camping World Stadium
All season long, the question was which version of Louisiana's offense would show up. At home, the Ragin' Cajuns thrived. On the road, however, they typically struggled. Tulane's sturdy run defense can turn Louisiana into a one-dimensional attack, which is something that hasn't brought positive results for ULL.
Prediction: Tulane 29, Louisiana 23
New Mexico Bowl: North Texas (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2)
Info: Dec. 15, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Dreamstyle Stadium
Seth Littrell had interest in Kansas State, but the North Texas head coach removed himself from consideration. His presence will be key because Utah State will be without now-Texas Tech boss Matt Wells. Still, UNT's tendency to fold in the second half is concerning opposite a defense the quality of Utah State's (5.07 yards allowed per play).
Prediction: Utah State 27, North Texas 24
Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State (7-5) vs. No. 21 Fresno State (11-2)
Info: Dec. 15, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC), at Sam Boyd Stadium
Arizona State wideout N'Keal Harry has declared for the 2019 NFL draft and will not play. His missing production will doom the Sun Devils opposite a balanced Fresno State team. The Bulldogs hold top-30 marks in per-play efficiency on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Fresno State 26, Arizona State 21
Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5)
Info: Dec. 15, 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Cramton Bowl
Both defenses excelled at forcing turnovers in 2018, with Georgia Southern amassing 27 takeaways and Eastern Michigan 24. However, EMU committed at least one in 10 games, while the Eagles totaled only five. In a slow-paced, run-first contest, Georgia Southern's combination of ball control and red-zone efficiency will win out.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 31, Eastern Michigan 23
New Orleans Bowl: Middle Tennessee (8-5) vs. Appalachian State (10-2)
Info: Dec. 15, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Barring a break in the trend, Middle Tennessee's running game is of little concern to Appalachian State. This matchup hinges on MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill, who is averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. App State, though, boasts the second-best pass defense in the nation with 5.3 yards allowed per attempt. The departure of head coach Scott Satterfield to Louisville will affect the Mountaineers, but the remaining staff is sufficient for a bowl victory.
Prediction: Appalachian State 27, Middle Tennessee 23
Boca Raton Bowl: UAB (10-3) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5)
Info: Dec. 18, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium
Points may be difficult to manufacture in Boca Raton, Florida. UAB ranks ninth nationally with 17.3 allowed per game, while NIU is 26th at 21.5. The primary difference is Northern Illinois consistently faltered against decent defenses, so UAB shouldn't need more than 20 points to steal a win anyway.
Prediction: UAB 24, Northern Illinois 17
Frisco Bowl: San Diego State (7-5) vs. Ohio (8-4)
Info: Dec. 19, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Toyota Stadium
San Diego State ripped off a 6-1 start to the campaign with five one-possession wins. The perilous fourth quarters eventually caught up to a subpar offense, and the Aztecs' stingy defense couldn't carry the team. That narrative should remain true against the Ohio Bobcats' dynamic scoring attack.
Prediction: Ohio 34, San Diego State 21
Pre-Christmas Bowls, Part II
Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall (8-4) at South Florida (7-5)
Info: Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Raymond James Stadium
South Florida has an inglorious honor: Streaky Team of the Year. After ripping off seven straight wins, the Bulls dropped five in a row by at least 10 points. Even though USF will host this game, the late-season meltdown on offense is too worrisome to overlook against a decent Marshall defense.
Prediction: Marshall 34, South Florida 23
Bahamas Bowl: Florida International (8-4) vs. Toledo (7-5)
Info: Dec. 21, 12:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium
All right, which program will out-offense the other? Toledo can score with anybody but has ceded 30.2 points per game this season. Florida International is a bit erratic, yet the Golden Panthers have 40-point upside. While that inconsistency pushes us toward Toledo, the Bahamas Bowl should be an entertaining game.
Prediction: Toledo 38, FIU 33
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan (7-5) vs. BYU (6-6)
Info: Dec. 21, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Albertsons Stadium
After a likely touchdown-filled affair in the Bahamas, the bowl schedule rolls along with a potential slog in Idaho. Western Michigan's efficiency has tumbled since losing quarterback Jon Wassink to a right foot injury. BYU seems to have found a long-term answer in Zach Wilson, but it won't be a blowout unless WMU's run defense disappears.
Prediction: BYU 23, Western Michigan 17
Birmingham Bowl: Memphis (8-5) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)
Info: Dec. 22, Noon ET (ESPN), at Legion Field
If the Potato Bowl puts a damper on your point-loving football heart, Saturday begins with an offense-happy tilt. Memphis topped the 50-point barrier in six games, and Wake Forest reached it four times. Red-zone efficiency will shape the result, and the Tigers hold a clear advantage in that category.
Prediction: Memphis 45, Wake Forest 41
Armed Forces Bowl: Houston (8-4) vs. Army (10-2)
Info: Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Amon G. Carter Stadium
Houston defended the most plays in the FBS this year, lining up for 1,023 snaps. Army, on the other hand, ranked first with only 615. This clash of styles is both jarring and fascinating, and it favors Army. The Cadets are no strangers to eight-minute possessions, and a limited number of drives will frustrate Houston's uptempo preference.
Prediction: Army 28, Houston 24
Dollar General Bowl: Buffalo (10-3) vs. Troy (9-3)
Info: Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Despite several mentions on the coaching carousel, Troy boss Neal Brown remains at the Sun Belt school. With his staff intact, the Trojans should present the toughest test Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson has faced. He's dealt with inconsistent play in 2018, and an advantageous Troy defense will atone for an unspectacular offense.
Prediction: Troy 27, Buffalo 23
Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech (7-5) at Hawaii (8-5)
Info: Dec. 22, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Aloha Stadium
Led by NFL-bound lineman Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech has amassed 91 tackles for loss. That's a problematic strength for Hawaii, which ranks 117th nationally (out of 130 teams) with 37 sacks allowed. Though the Warriors are at home, constant pressure will be their downfall.
Prediction: Louisiana Tech 31, Hawaii 24
Dec. 26-27 Bowls
First Responder Bowl: Boston College (7-5) vs. No. 25 Boise State (10-3)
Info: Dec. 26, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Cotton Bowl
Boston College's 2018 had the looks of a breakout season until the offense flamed out down the stretch. The Eagles mustered only 49 points in their last three games after averaging 37.2 to that point. Boise State will cruise past BC.
Prediction: Boise State 38, Boston College 21
Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota (6-6) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)
Info: Dec. 26, 5:15 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Ford Field
In the final game of head coach Paul Johnson's tenure at Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets will likely either have a terrific or awful day. Minnesota surrendered 300-plus rushing yards three times yet limited six offenses to fewer than 100. So, yes, it's a complete guess as to whether the Gophers have a competent defense. But after a promising end to November, we say they ruin Johnson's send-off.
Prediction: Minnesota 31, Georgia Tech 27
Cheez-It Bowl: California (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)
Info: Dec. 26, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN), Chase Field
Good defense is great! Both units own top-25 ranks in yards allowed per play. However, TCU is 87th in yards per play offensively (5.45), while Cal is 119th (4.96). The star will probably be the talking wheel of cheese on the sponsor's commercials. Give us the remotely usable offense—and something to distract our attention until the second half.
Prediction: TCU 20, Cal 17
Independence Bowl: Temple (8-4) vs. Duke (7-5)
Info: Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Independence Stadium
Duke could erupt for 40 points. It might finish with 10. Bowl season adds another layer of difficulty to predictions, and the common theme here is going against inconsistent teams. Temple's defense basically only had letdowns opposite the high-powered attacks of UCF and Houston. We'll take the Owls.
Prediction: Temple 37, Duke 24
Pinstripe Bowl: Miami (7-5) vs. Wisconsin (7-5)
Info: Dec. 27, 5:15 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Yankee Stadium
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook enjoyed a career-best day in last season's Orange Bowl, but he's struggled mightily in 2018. Plus, this 'Canes defense leads the FBS in tackles for loss. Wisconsin doesn't create havoc like it did in 2017, and that difference up front will allow a subpar Miami offense to sneak out an ugly win in New York.
Prediction: Miami 20, Wisconsin 16
Texas Bowl: Baylor (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
Info: Dec. 27, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN), at NRG Stadium
Six of Vanderbilt's nine power-conference opponents scored at least 29 points. That trend is concerning. Still, Baylor hasn't cracked 17 points in four of the last six contests and owns a minus-nine turnover margin compared to Vandy's plus-eight.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 34, Baylor 20
Dec. 28-29 Bowls (CFP Semifinals)
Music City Bowl: Purdue (6-6) vs. Auburn (7-5)
Info: Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Nissan Stadium
Purdue's run defense wavered between quite good and pretty darn bad in 2018. Throw out Alabama State, Liberty and a dreadful Ole Miss defense, and Auburn's rushing offense was flat-out miserable. As long as Purdue wins that battle, head coach Jeff Brohm will likely empty the playbook in pursuit of a quality win for the rising program.
Prediction: Purdue 27, Auburn 24
Camping World Bowl: No. 16 West Virginia (8-3) vs. No. 20 Syracuse (9-3)
Info: Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Camping World Stadium
Will Grier's college career is over, so the Mountaineers will entrust the offense to Jack Allison. He's a talented quarterback who will headline "breakout players" lists for 2019, but West Virginia needs to atone for an understandable drop in efficiency. The combination of a mediocre defense and Syracuse's explosiveness will dispatch the 'Eers.
Prediction: Syracuse 41, West Virginia 34
Alamo Bowl: No. 24 Iowa State (8-4) vs. No. 13 Washington State (10-2)
Info: Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN), at the Alamodome
Washington State has a prolific offense, but Iowa State is stingy in scoring territory. The Cyclones rank 24th in red-zone defensive touchdown rate compared to 88th for Wazzu. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II must be near-perfect for the Cougs to topple Iowa State.
Prediction: Iowa State 27, Washington State 23
Peach Bowl: No. 10 Florida (9-3) vs. No. 7 Michigan (10-2)
Info: Dec. 29, Noon ET (ESPN), at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Michigan controlled the 2015 campaign's Citrus Bowl and the 2017 season opener between the two teams, but head coach Dan Mullen wasn't at Florida for those clashes. Still, quarterback Feleipe Franks has consistently failed to handle top-tier defenses, so the Gators won't spring the upset unless the Wolverines have a meltdown offensively.
Prediction: Michigan 31, Florida 20
Belk Bowl: South Carolina (7-5) vs. Virginia (7-5)
Info: Dec. 29, Noon ET (ABC), at Bank of America Stadium
Turnovers have shaped Virginia's results all year. The Wahoos are 1-4 with a negative margin yet 6-1 otherwise. Despite committing four turnovers in a 25-point beatdown of Akron, South Carolina had done a great job of protecting the ball during the second half of the season. The Gamecocks will avoid big errors and take advantage of a suspect UVA run defense for the victory.
Prediction: South Carolina 35, Virginia 27
Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State (8-4) vs. Nevada (7-5)
Info: Dec. 29, 1:15 p.m. ET (CBSSN), at Arizona Stadium
If nobody is watching as the final second ticks off the clock, does it count? The beginning of the first CFP semifinal will overshadow the fourth quarter in Tucson, but it should be an exciting finish. Arkansas State played its best football of the season in November, and Nevada's defense overcame a sloppy start. Stingy third-down defense will guide the Wolf Pack to a win.
Prediction: Nevada 28, Arkansas State 24
Cotton Bowl: No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson (13-0)
Info: Dec. 29, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN), at AT&T Stadium
Notre Dame matches up with Clemson relatively well thanks to the nation's eighth-most efficient defense in yards allowed per play. But the Irish also have to figure out a way to score on the No. 1 unit. Clemson hasn't played a game within fewer than 20 points since September. The pressure is squarely on Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book to propel the offense, while the defense tries to contain its toughest test of 2018 (by a wide margin). That's a heck of a task.
Prediction: Clemson 31, Notre Dame 17
Orange Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (13-0)
Info: Dec. 29, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Hard Rock Stadium
Kyler Murray will force Alabama to score a bunch. Unfortunately for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, there's hardly any reason to expect Oklahoma can contain the defending champions if Tua Tagovailoa's ankle injuries are healed. The Sooners have ceded a nauseating 85.1 red-zone touchdown rate (worst nationally), so Murray's margin for error is just about zero.
Prediction: Alabama 48, Oklahoma 38
New Year's Eve Bowls
Military Bowl: Cincinnati (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
Info: Dec. 31, Noon ET (ESPN), at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
The nightmare that was 2018 is almost over, Hokies fans. But after Virginia Tech gave up 6.3 yards per carry from October through the end of the regular season, a clash with the nation's No. 26 rushing offense (5.07 yards per attempt) will likely add to the frustration of a middling year.
Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Virginia Tech 24
Sun Bowl: Stanford (8-4) vs. Pitt (7-6)
Info: Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET (CBS), at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas
Can Pitt run effectively? Miami and Clemson crushed the Panthers while holding them to a miserable 3.0 yards per snap because the run-oriented attack flailed. Stanford had a couple of poor showings yet still surrendered only 3.9 per carry. If that holds true, Pitt would need a mediocre secondary to grab a few rare turnovers.
Prediction: Stanford 31, Pitt 20
Redbox Bowl: Michigan State (7-5) vs. Oregon (8-4)
Info: Dec. 31, 3 p.m. ET (Fox), at Levi's Stadium
Although the defense is outstanding, Michigan State has showed approximately zero signs of a threatening offense since September. Oregon often has four-quarter fights in which the running game stalls, and that's likely to happen against MSU. But we don't expect the Spartans to take advantage on offense.
Prediction: Oregon 27, Michigan State 20
Liberty Bowl: No. 23 Missouri (8-4) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
Info: Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Once conference foes, these programs will square off for the second time in a bowl since Missouri left the Big 12 (following the 2011 campaign). The Tigers won the 2013 season's Cotton Bowl matchup 41-31, and a similar result is likely given Oklahoma State's struggles against the pass. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock should pick apart a defense that has allowed 7.5 yards per pass with 24 touchdowns to only five interceptions.
Prediction: Missouri 45, Oklahoma State 35
Holiday Bowl: No. 22 Northwestern (8-5) vs. No. 17 Utah (9-4)
Info: Dec. 31, 7 p.m. ET (FS1), at SDCCU Stadium
Northwestern ranks 124th nationally in yards per snap (4.75). Utah's offense has mustered only 342 yards per game since the season-ending injuries to quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss. Someone has to score, right? We'll lean on a tremendous Utah defense, but it's not without hesitation.
Prediction: Utah 21, Northwestern 17
Gator Bowl: NC State (9-3) vs. No. 19 Texas A&M (8-4)
Info: Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), at TIAA Bank Field
NC State will be without star receiver Kelvin Harmon and leading tackler Germaine Pratt. While both players are understandably focused on NFL draft preparation, that leaves the Wolfpack in a bind. Texas A&M has a high-upside rushing attack and is most vulnerable against the pass. Pratt won't be there to plug running lanes, and Harmon's absence will ease the pressure on A&M's secondary.
Prediction: Texas A&M 34, NC State 28
New Year's Day Bowls
Outback Bowl: No. 18 Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4)
Info: Jan. 1, Noon ET (ESPN2), at Raymond James Stadium
Mississippi State boasts the country's second-most efficient defense (4.14 yards allowed per play), and Iowa is close behind at ninth (4.55). The scoreboard operator figures to have a quiet day anyway. But Iowa star Noah Fant is skipping the game to focus on NFL draft preparation. The Hawkeyes are heavily reliant on their tight ends, so Fant's absence will be too much to overcome.
Prediction: Mississippi State 24, Iowa 14
Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 LSU (9-3) vs. No. 8 UCF (12-0)
Info: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN), at State Farm Stadium
After predicting UCF's perfect 12-0 record this season, we're a Certified Non-Bandwagon Prognosticator—which makes this a disappointing moment to stop conducting the train. McKenzie Milton would be a steadying presence behind center, but this is Darriel Mack Jr.'s first encounter with a nationally elite defense.
Prediction: LSU 38, UCF 21
Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Kentucky (9-3) vs. No. 12 Penn State (9-3)
Info: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ABC), at Camping World Stadium
Kentucky excelled at stopping the run early in the season, but November brought a stark change. Unless the Wildcats reverse that trend and get a rare stellar performance through the air from quarterback Terry Wilson, Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley and a stout Penn State run defense will guide the program to a 10th win.
Prediction: Penn State 26, Kentucky 20
Rose Bowl: No. 9 Washington (10-3) vs. No. 6 Ohio State (12-1)
Info: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN), at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California
This is an enticing clash of strengths and weaknesses. Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins averaged the second-most passing per game in the FBS, while Washington ceded the seventh-fewest yards per attempt (5.7). Ohio State allowed 25.7 points per game—the program's worst mark since 1988—but UW mustered only 26.6. So, which unit do we trust least? Washington's offense.
Prediction: Ohio State 24, Washington 17
Sugar Bowl: No. 15 Texas (9-4) vs. No. 5 Georgia (11-2)
Info: Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. ET (ESPN), at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Despite the loss to the Crimson Tide, Jake Fromm assembled his best showing of the season in the SEC Championship Game. When he plays at that level, only Alabama or Clemson can beat Georgia. Fromm should lead the Dawgs past a Texas defense that has surrendered eight-plus yards per pass attempt in four of the last six games.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Texas 23