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Going Bowling 2020! An ill-informed effort to predict every college bowl game

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What? You didn’t think that a college football season utterly upended by the pandemic would be enough to keep me from undertaking this annual bit of nonsense, did you? That’s right – for the umpteenth year in a row, I am embarking on my lunatic quest to pick the winners of each and every college bowl game.

Now, 2020 being 2020, this is going to be a significantly different feature than it has been in the past. First of all, we’re starting later than we have in past years because the bowl selection process took place later in the year. This means that a few bowl games will have already taken place before this story sees print – we’ll be looking at games starting on December 23 and going forward. This means that you won’t see predictions for the Myrtle Beach Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl and annual favorite the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Secondly, a number of the usual games have already been cancelled due to the pandemic. Those bowls are as follows:

Birmingham Bowl; Frisco Bowl; Guaranteed Rate Bowl; Bahamas Bowl; Celebration Bowl; Fenway Bowl; Hawaii Bowl; Independence Bowl; Las Vegas Bowl; Los Angeles Bowl; Military Bowl; Pinstripe Bowl; Quick Lane Bowl; Redbox Bowl; and Sun Bowl.

In addition, a number of programs have already opted out of bowl season participation. These schools include:

Arizona State; Boise State; Boston College; Florida State; Georgia Tech; Kansas State; Louisville; Maryland; Michigan State; Penn State; Pitt; San Diego State; SMU; Stanford; UCLA; USC; Utah; Virginia; Virginia Tech; Washington; and Washington State.

(Note: There exists a very real possibility that more games will be canceled and more schools will opt out. The preceding information is accurate as of press time.)

On top of all of that, the NCAA has done away with restrictions on bowl participants with regard to win-loss records. Basically, this means that every single FBS program is bowl-eligible this year, though again, many programs have and/or will opt out.

So what does this mean for Going Bowling?

Well, it means that I have fewer games about which to have unfounded opinions. And it means that I know even less about what is going on than usual. How much less, you ask? Well, would you believe that I have yet to watch any college football at all this season?

That’s right, friends. I am going to attempt to predict the outcome of each of these bowl matchups despite not having watched a single snap by any of the teams involved. Some of my predictions will be informed by research, but some will be simple wild guesses based on zero information. It’s up to you to determine which is which. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t place any bets based on these picks. You wouldn’t think I would be able to make this exercise even more absurd after all these years, but here we are.

Let’s go bowling.

-

Dec. 23

New Orleans Bowl

Georgia Southern (7-5) vs. Louisiana Tech (5-4)

3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN - Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans

This first prediction involves one of the things I love about college football – a triple option team. In this case, it’s Georgia Southern running the ball all over the place. They’re a good team, too. However, Louisiana Tech is riding a six-year bowl winning streak under coach Skip Holtz and the Bulldogs are looking to make it seven. The Eagles are reeling coming in, but Georgia Southern wants to go out on a high note. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will.

Winner: Louisiana Tech

Montgomery Bowl

Memphis (7-3) vs. Florida Atlantic (5-3)

7 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN2 - Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama

This is one of those strength-against-strength matchups that can sometimes result in great games. Memphis has a high-octane offensive attack led by QB Brady White, while Florida Atlantic had a top-10 scoring defense, giving up just over 16 points a game. In this case, though, I think the offense wins out; FAU is going to struggle to keep up with the Tigers attack. Look for the Owls to keep it close, but ultimately, the Tigers will roar.

Winner: Memphis

Dec. 24

New Mexico Bowl

Hawaii (4-4) vs. Houston (3-4)

3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN - Toyota Stadium in Prisco, Texas

Is it weird that the New Mexico Bowl is being played in Texas? It sure is, but that’s the world we live in now. It’s also weird that Hawaii is playing in a game other than the Hawaii Bowl – first time in over a decade. We’ve got dual-threat QBs on either side – Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro and Houston’s Clayton Tune are both exciting guys. Houston had a hell of a time with scheduling and cancellations, and hence consistency, but I think they get it done here.

Winner: Houston

Dec. 25

Camellia Bowl

Buffalo (5-1) vs. Marshall (7-2)

2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN - Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama

The sole Christmas Day bowl game looks like it could be a good one. Sure, both teams kind of crapped the bed in their conference championship games … but they were IN their conference championship games. And it’s a killer strength/strength faceoff – Buffalo RB Jarret Patterson is an absolute stud, but the Marshall rushing defense is one of the nation’s better ones, keeping opponents under 90 yards per game. This will be a close one, but I’m going with Buffalo.

Winner: Buffalo

Dec. 26

Gasparilla Bowl (CANCELLED)

South Carolina (2-8) vs. UAB (6-3)

Noon ET, ABC - Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

I mean, who WOULDN’T want to watch a game featuring a team with just two wins and an interim coach? Whatever fun there is to be derived from this one comes from UAB – it’s a great comeback story, following the 2015 shutdown of the program and subsequent reactivation a couple of years later. And South Carolina is an SEC team. A bad SEC team, but an SEC team nevertheless.

Winner: UAB

Cure Bowl

Liberty (9-1) vs. No. 12 Coastal Carolina (11-0)

Noon ET, ESPN - Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida

If you’d told me that this could be one of the best bowl games, featuring Liberty and Coastal Carolina … well, I’d have had some doubts. But that’s where we are – both of these teams have performed exceptionally. Remember how Coastal Carolina and BYU played the game of the year? That was because Liberty had to pull out due to COVID. Now we get to see what it would’ve looked like. The Chanticleers should probably be playing in a New Year’s Six game, but this is some consolation prize.

Winner: Coastal Carolina

First Responder Bowl

UTSA (7-4) vs. No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette (9-1)

3:30 p.m. ET, ABC - Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas

This one might low-key be one of the better games of the entire bowl season. Louisiana has had a phenomenal year; that one loss came on a last-second field goal to undefeated Coastal Carolina. They can run the hell out of the ball. UTSA is on the lookout for their program’s first-ever bowl win, but this likely isn’t it. It’s a bummer, because they’d probably beat half of the teams on the bowl slate, but the Louisiana ground attack will be too much for them.

Winner: Louisiana-Lafayette

LendingTree Bowl

Western Kentucky (5-6) vs. Georgia State (5-4)

3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN - Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama

These are two relatively hot teams coming into this game – Western Kentucky has won three straight, while Georgia State has won three of four. It was a disappointing year for the Hilltoppers – WKU was a favorite to win it all in Conference USA, but they had a dreadful start before that season-closing winning streak. Georgia State will be game, but it looks like they might be a bit out of their depth against a Western Kentucky team hitting its stride.

Winner: Western Kentucky

Dec. 29

Cheez-It Bowl

No. 18 Miami (8-2) vs. No. 21 Oklahoma State (7-3)

5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN - Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida

It seems appropriate in this crazy year that one of the prime matchups would take place in the Cheez-It Bowl. Miami had a shot at the Orange Bowl before getting annihilated by North Carolina; it’ll be interesting to see if they can get motivated for this one. OSU looked like a potential Big 12 contender early before fading. If nothing else, the QB matchup between Miami’s D’Eriq King and OSU’s Spencer Sanders has some shootout potential. Could go either way, but I’m leaning Hurricanes.

Winner: Miami

Alamo Bowl

No. 20 Texas (6-3) vs. Colorado (4-1)

9 p.m. ET, ESPN - Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas

I have a tendency to overestimate Texas because, again, my understanding of college football calcified long ago. That said, the Longhorns had a pretty good year behind four-year QB starter Sam Ehlinger, who is apparently poised to go four-for-four in bowl games. Colorado, on the other hand, hasn’t won a bowl game in 15 years. While I don’t doubt that the Buffaloes have some talent, it’s tough for me to pick against them; look for Texas to win going away. Hook ‘em Horns.

Winner: Texas

Dec. 30

Duke’s Mayo Bowl

Wake Forest (4-4) vs. Wisconsin (3-3)

Noon ET, ESPN - Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina

I find it hilariously appropriate that Wisconsin is in the Mayo Bowl. That’s not to say the Badgers are a joke; they’re not a particularly explosive offense, but they have one of the best defenses in the country. Meanwhile, Wake Forest is a high-octane offensive team that aims to win by outscoring the opposition – their defense is suspect at best. It will be interesting to see what happens here; both teams have been stung by stop-and-start scheduling. I’m leaning Badgers.

Winner: Wisconsin

Music City Bowl

No. 15 Iowa (6-2) vs. Missouri (5-5)

3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN - Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee

On paper, this looks like a blowout. Coach Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa team had its usual strong season after an iffy start – they’ve won every game they’ve played since starting 0-2. Missouri’s got an exciting young QB in Conner Bazelak, but he’s facing a Hawkeyes defense that’s no joke. Add in the fact that the Tigers D has allowed an average of almost 50(!) points over their last three games, and we’re looking at what will ultimately be an easy Iowa win.

Winner: Iowa

Cotton Bowl

No. 7 Florida (8-3) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma (8-2)

7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN - AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

Oklahoma won the Big 12. Florida came as close as anyone to actually beating Alabama, just missing in the SEC title game. This is going to be an excellent game. Oklahoma has shown one of the best defenses in the country over the latter part of the season. Florida’s offense is as explosive as any in FBS, though TE Kyle Pitts sitting out dings them a bit. Assuming QB Kyle Trask sticks it out, the Gators will be able to hang. Expect tons of points here – the over is 68.5. Boomer Sooner.

Winner: Oklahoma

Dec. 31

Armed Forces Bowl

Mississippi State (3-7) vs. No. 24 Tulsa (6-2)

Noon ET, ESPN - Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas

Yet another example of the mismatches necessitated by the s—tcircus that is the 2020 college bowl season. Mississippi State had a pretty terrible year under first-year coach Mike Leach, but they’re willing to play, so they’re here. Meanwhile, Tulsa’s a top-25 team that just lost to a very good Cincinnati team in their conference championship. The Golden Hurricane far outclasses the opponent here and should have no problem cruising to an easy victory.

Winner: Tulsa

Arizona Bowl

Ball State (6-1) vs. No. 22 San Jose State (6-0)

2 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network - Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona

In a bowl season filled with questionable matchups, this is the real deal: two conference champions facing off. San Jose State won the Mountain West by beating Ball State, while Ball State upset Buffalo to take the MAC crown. San Jose State has a monster RB in Tyler Nevens, averaging eight yards a carry and scoring once for every 12 times he gets the ball. Ball State has an advanced aerial attack, with three wideouts averaging at least five grabs a game. I like SJS to complete the perfect season.

Winner: San Jose State

Liberty Bowl

West Virginia (5-4) vs. Army (9-2)

4 p.m. ET, ESPN - Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis

In the first of what will likely be several shifts, Army replaces Tennessee, the team that was originally scheduled to play here. That's a bummer for anyone hoping for a West Virginia win, because Army is legitimately good and was frankly shafted in being excluded from the initial selection process. West Virginia had a decent enough season, but they're going to be up against an Army squad with a chip on their shoulder. The Mountaineers would have beaten Tennessee with ease, but they'll likely fall to the Black Knights.

Winner: Army

Texas Bowl

TCU (6-4) vs. Arkansas (3-7)

8 p.m. ET, ESPN - NRG Stadium in Houston

On the surface, this seems cut-and-dried. TCU comes in hot, winning five of their last six. Meanwhile, Arkansas lost four in a row to close the season out. However, this Razorbacks team has been deceptively tough, keeping themselves in just about every game. Still, the Horned Frogs have just too much talent for the Razorbacks to overcome. Will it be a close game? Probably, but it’s tough to pick against TCU here.

Winner: TCU

Jan. 1

Peach Bowl

No. 8 Cincinnati (9-0) vs. No. 9 Georgia (7-2)

12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN - Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta

If I’m Cincinnati, I’m miffed that I didn’t get any love from the playoff committee. The consolation is a game against an excellent Georgia squad that’s just a little bad luck from its own playoff contention. This game features a pair of talented QBs – Cincy’s Desmond Ridder and Georgia’s J.T. Daniels – and promises the potential for some offensive fireworks. The Bearcats crushed the AAC, but the Bulldogs are a whole different animal. Go Dawgs.

Winner: Georgia

Citrus Bowl

No. 14 Northwestern (6-2) vs. Auburn (6-4)

1 p.m. ET, ABC - Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Florida

This one could be interesting. Northwestern fell in the Big Ten championship game, but they remain one of the stoutest defensive teams out there, giving up fewer than 16 points a game on average and never once allowing 30. Auburn’s got some explosive skill players, though, led by RB Tank Bigsby and WR Seth Williams. This is a very good Wildcats team, but I’m going with my gut and picking my Uncle David’s beloved Auburn Tigers. War Eagle.

Winner: Auburn

Jan. 2

Gator Bowl

No. 23 NC State (8-3) vs. Kentucky (4-6)

Noon ET, ESPN - TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida

NC State has had quite a season for themselves. The offense is led by the awesomely-named Zonovan Knight, who has nine TDs this year. Meanwhile, Kentucky has had its struggles – they lost four of six to close out the season and haven’t beaten a single team with a winning record this year; they’ve struggled mightily to score. The Wildcats have some talent, but it just doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough to overcome the Wolfpack.

Outback Bowl

No. 11 Indiana (6-1) vs. Ole Miss (4-5)

12:30 p.m. ET, ABC - Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

Historically, this might have been about where you’d expect to find Indiana, but this year is an exception. This Hoosier team just missed a New Year’s Six slot; getting downgraded to a matchup against a mediocre SEC team is kind of a bummer. The one positive regarding this matchup is the wild inconsistency of Ole Miss QB Matt Corral – due has over 30 TD passes and has twice committed six turnovers in a game. Could be interesting, but I’m going with Indiana.

Winner: Indiana

Fiesta Bowl

No. 25 Oregon (4-2) vs. No. 10 Iowa State (9-3)

4 p.m. ET, ESPN

State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

Oregon is here courtesy of their Pac-12 championship, even though everyone seems to be extremely down on the conference this year. They’ve been inconsistent for sure, but a title is a title. And they can definitely put up points, failing to clear 30 just once. Meanwhile, Iowa State lost the Big 12 championship game, but they have a dynamite rusher in Breece Hall, who cleared 1,400 yards and scored 21 TDs. I’m leaning toward the Cyclones here.

Winner: Iowa State

Orange Bowl

No. 13 North Carolina (8-3) vs. No. 5 Texas A&M (8-1)

8 p.m. ET, ESPN - Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

This is the final bowl game of the season, and while they might not have saved the best for last, it’s pretty close. Texas A&M had a real argument for the playoff, getting shunted aside for a Notre Dame team that probably isn’t as good as they are. They get a good matchup against North Carolina, a Mack Brown-led squad that averages over 40 a game and features maybe the country’s best one-two RB tandem in Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. I like UNC, but I think I have to go with the Aggies.

Winner: Texas A&M

College Football Playoff

Jan. 1

Rose Bowl

No. 1 Alabama (11-0) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame (10-1)

5 p.m. ET, ESPN - AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

There are a couple of teams that have reason to gripe at Notre Dame getting the nod, but let’s be real – whoever wound up fourth was going to get their clock cleaned by Alabama. Vegas has Bama as a 20-point favorite as of press time and that seems … about right. The Fighting Irish have an excellent squad, but the loss to Clemson exposed them. Notre Dame’s defense has been great, but the Crimson Tide have multiple Heisman contenders on offense. QB Mac Jones has been great, WR Devonta Smith is the best receiver in the country and RB Najee Harris just scored five times in the SEC championship game. Notre Dame will do their best, but I expect them to get steamrolled. Roll Tide.

Winner: Alabama

Sugar Bowl

No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State

8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN - Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans

This is by far the trickier to pick of the two playoff matchups. It’s the third time in the last five years that the two teams have faced off in a semifinal; last year was one for the ages. Ultimately, I think it’s going to come down to which elite quarterback has the best performance on the night. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence seems to be the consensus first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, though OSU’s Justin Fields likely goes right behind him. One of those guys is going to make the push necessary to push his team over the hump in what will almost certainly be his last college game. It’ll all hinge on who can pull off a deep play or two. In this case, I’m thinking it will be Clemson.

Winner: Clemson

Jan. 11

College Football Playoff National Championship

Rose Bowl winner vs. Sugar Bowl winner

8 p.m. ET, ESPN - Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

As far as my predictions, I have Alabama and Clemson facing off in the championship. Here’s the thing: I don’t think it matters one whit who wins the Sugar Bowl. This Alabama team looks even more dominant than usual, though I’m not sure how this is possible. I think that Nick Saban’s squad pulls off yet another victory, with Alabama winning their 18th title.

National Champion: Alabama

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 December 2020 12:06

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