New Orleans Bowl Dec. 20, 11:00am ET, ESPN
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (-1.5) (Played in New Orleans, LA)
This is a game of sin. When you think of Nevada you think of Las Vegas. When you think of Louisiana you think of people hunting alligators and the debauchery of New Orleans. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won three consecutive New Orleans Bowls in what amounts to a home game for them. In fact, ULL is one of six schools to have won bowl games the last three years. The others are heavyweights Florida State, South Carolina, Michigan State, Oregon, and Texas A&M. Things will change this year, though. Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack offense will rip through the Cajun defense like water through the Lake Pontchartrain levees.
Pick: Nevada 41 Louisiana-Lafayette 27
New Mexico Bowl Dec. 20, 2:20pm ET, ESPN
Utah State (-10.5) vs. UTEP (Played in Albuquerque, NM)
Most people don’t realize that UTEP is in the state of Texas. With this game being played in Albuquerque, UTEP definitely has a home terrain advantage. The Miners boast a powerful running game and will be looking to control the clock in this game. On the other side, Utah State has used more quarterbacks than the NBA has used Kardashians. The Aggies are on their fourth quarterback, freshman Kent Myers, and he’s played pretty well. Look for UTEP to control the game in the early going, but for Utah State to eventually take the lead in the second half and hold on for the victory. The key is for Myers and the Aggie offense to avoid turning the ball over. With a couple of turnovers, the UTEP running game and Aaron Jones will pull the upset. With a month to prepare for the game, Myers will not give the game away.
Pick: Utah State 31 UTEP 21
Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 20, 3:30pm ET, ABC
Utah (-4.5) vs. Colorado State (Played in Las Vegas, NV)
This is another interesting matchup early in the bowl season. You have a Colorado State team that just lost its coach to an SEC school. CSU actually bragged that as part of the coach’s buyout, they get to play a road game at Florida. Utah is a school that snuck into the PAC 12 when Colorado escaped from the Big 12. They did have a common opponent in Colorado this season. Colorado State blew out the Buffaloes but Utah had a bit of a struggle before winning by less than a touchdown. Sometimes, games come down to intangibles. On paper, Utah appears to have the better team mainly due to its defensive front seven, but other than that these teams appear evenly matched. The intangibles in this game appear to be that Colorado State considers collecting a large buyout for its coach a victory. To brag about something like that means that the game is actually secondary. Take the Utes, and the points.
Pick: Utah 27 CSU 14
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Dec. 20, 5:45pm ET, ESPN
Western Michigan (Pick) vs. Air Force (Played in Boise, ID)
This is one of those games played on blue turf, which makes it really hard to watch. It’s also crazy that neither team made a bowl in 2013 when they combined for a 3-21 record. Yet, here they are, playing each other on blue turf this bowl season. This is a very difficult game to pick, so I’ll just go with Western Michigan since our service academies should no longer play football.
Pick: Western Michigan 28 Air Force 23
Camellia Bowl Dec. 20, 9:15pm ET, ESPN
South Alabama (-2.5) vs. Bowling Green (Played in Montgomery, AL)
Dino Babers is still in shock after his Bowling Green Falcons lost three games in a row down the stretch. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Bowling Green played on different nights of the week instead of just Saturdays. Their schedule lined up like an NBA schedule. South Alabama, however, had their own problems, especially on the offensive side of the football, where they averaged just over 20 points a game. Look for South Alabama to hold Dino’s squad in check, mainly because Bowling Green sounds like some kind of croquet or jarts team.
Pick: South Alabama 21 Bowling Green 6
Miami Beach Bowl Dec. 22, 2:00pm ET, ESPN
BYU vs. Memphis (-1) (Played in Miami, FL)
This is an interesting game. There’s no doubt about it, BYU is not a good football team. They aren’t as physical as they have been in past years and they have absolutely no speed at the offensive skill positions. The Cougars did manage to scrape together a four game winning streak to end the season on a high note after a horrendous start. Memphis, on the other hand, has been kind of a trendy mid-major this year with a defense that has surrendered just 17 points per game. BYU does have one advantage in that the game being played in Miami, which is probably third on the list of places where college students can get in trouble behind New Orleans and Las Vegas. Still, we at HSJ don’t believe that’s enough of an advantage for BYU to pull the upset.
Pick: Memphis 41 BYU 7
Boca Raton Bowl Dec. 23, 6:00pm ET, ESPN
Marshall (-9.5) vs. Northern Illinois (Played in Boca Raton, FL)
Marshall scored 66 points against Western Kentucky for their greatest offensive game of the season. It was also their only loss of the season. Northern Illinois has won at least 11 games for five seasons in a row. In watching Marshall this year, they seemed like a solid football team and probably have more talent than Pitt and West Virginia. They won some close ones down the stretch until that collapse against Western Kentucky. Northern Illinois, though, is just used to winning. They would win against Marshall, Pitt, or West Virginia, all similar teams.
Pick: Northern Illinois 44 Marchall 35
Poinsettia Bowl Dec. 23, 9:30pm ET, ESPN
Navy vs. San Diego State (-2.5) (Played in San Diego, CA)
San Diego State is basically playing a home game in this bowl game. Their opponent, Navy, shouldn’t be fielding a team at all. It is time for the service academies to give up playing football. On the field, both teams are run heavy, with Navy running that service academy triple option game. Look for the superior athletes of the Aztecs to take over this game in the second half.
Pick: San Diego State 22 AFA 17
Bahamas Bowl Dec. 24, 12:00pm ET, ESPN
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky (-3) (Played in Nassau, Bahamas)
This game really isn’t a good idea. The Bahamas would be better suited hosting a badminton tournament or maybe some beach volleyball exhibitions. Western Kentucky did play one of the more exciting games this year when they squeaked by an overrated Marshall team by one point. Central Michigan relied on the lunch pail type of defensive effort to go bowling this year, and they are hanging their hat on a victory over a Big 10 team. Let’s not kid ourselves, though. Western Kentucky has better players and should win this game going away.
Pick: Western Kentucky 49 Central Michigan 0