Posted on December 14, 2017, by Travis Pulver
It is finally here! The time of year that college football fans love and their significant others despise. It’s Bowl Season! Over the next few weeks several teams from around the country will get the chance to play in front of a national television audience; many, for the first time this season. When the Season opens up Saturday with a six-game slate, there will certainly be a number of great players worth watching taking the field.
They may be from teams you’ve never seen and could care less about, but what else are you going to do? Go Christmas shopping?
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: Grambling Tigers (11-1) vs. North Carolina AT&T Aggies (11-0) at Noon ET
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Wait a minute. What in the world are two teams with 11 wins and only one loss between them doing playing on the opening day of Bowl Season? Shouldn’t they be playing at the end of Bowl Season with the other awesome teams?
Eh—maybe. But since they are FCS teams, they don’t get the attention other 11-win teams get. The game also serves as the de facto national championship for HBCU’s (historically black colleges).
But don’t let the lack of notoriety and attention fool you. North Carolina AT&T won it in 2015 and Grambling won the game last year.
While North Carolina AT&T comes into the game undefeated, Grambling will likely garner more attention because of former Ole Miss quarterback Devante Kincade. He didn’t pay much at Ole Miss, but he has been an excellent dual-threat for the Tigers (six rushing touchdowns, 21 passing touchdowns this season).
But he’ll face a tough Aggies defense that has allowed just 135 points all season (12.3 points/game). North Carolina AT&T’s defense gave the offense quite a boost as well helping them score 117 points off turnovers.
This one will come down to whether Grambling’s offense can move the ball on the North Carolina AT&T defense. It will not be easy, but if they can, it will be a good close game. However, if you have to pick a winner, go with North Carolina AT&T.
R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL: Troy Trojans (10-2) vs. North Texas Mean Green (9-4) at 1 PM ET
Most college football fans will be aware of Troy thanks to their upset win over LSU earlier this season. What fans may not know is that the Trojans have one of the stingiest defenses in college football. They’ve been tough to run on all season (No. 14; 114.3 yards/game allowed) and have only allowed 17.5 points/game (No. 11).
They will have their hands full trying to stop Jeffrey Wilson (188 carries for 1215 yards and 16 touchdowns). But they may not have to worry too much about him if they can’t contain North Texas quarterback Mason Fine (3749 yards, 28 touchdowns, 13 interceptions).
Troy will hope to get more out of running back Jordan Chunn. In three of the five games he played in since running for 191 against LSU he didn’t go over 33 yards. Luckily, the biggest weakness of the North Texas is their run defense (No. 107; 208.1 yards/game allowed).
This one has the potential to be a close, well-played, hard-fought game. But North Texas appears to have too much offense for the Troy defense to handle. Troy is favored by 6.5; take the points and the Mean Green of North Texas.
AUTONATION CURE BOWL: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (6-6) vs. Georgia State Panthers (6-5) at 2:30 PM ET
The winner of this one will either be the team that disrupts the other from doing what they do well or the one that succeeds at doing something else well. Both have good passing games (Western Kentucky- ninth; Georgia State- 31st). But neither is capable of doing much in the run game (Western Kentucky- 129th; Georgia State- 116th).
Georgia State will need to get their run game going (not impossible against Western Kentucky’s 76th ranked run defense). If they can’t, one of the best passers in the country, Hilltoppers QB Mike White, will enjoy picking apart their 91st ranked pass defense.
However, while White has done well this season, the Hilltoppers haven’t put up a ton of points (26.2 points/game). This suggests that there is a hole in the Western Kentucky game—and there is, pass protection. White was sacked 38 times this season.
But Georgia State does not have much of a pass rush (100th) so that may not be an issue.
Georgia State is favored by 6.5 in this one but feel safe taking Western Kentucky and the points.
LAS VEGAS BOWL: No. 25 Boise State Broncos (10-3) vs. Oregon Ducks (7-5) at 3:30 PM ET
Had both of these teams played to the best of their abilities throughout the entire season, they would not be playing for another couple weeks. But Boise State lost in triple OT to Washington State and played flat against Virginia (and lost). Oregon could have had a much better season had they not lot quarterback Justin Herbert for five games (of which they lost four).
Boise State has a good quarterback-running back combo in Brett Rypien and Alexander Mattison. They help the Broncos generate 400 yards of offense a game and 32 points. But the Ducks have a much better combo of Herbert and Royce Freeman.
If the Broncos are going to have a shot, they need to disrupt Herbert and slow down Freeman as much as possible. The Broncos are good against the run (20th; 125.8 yards/game allowed) and pass (210.8 yards/game allowed) so maybe they can.
It has the look of a good game, but in the end, Herbert and Freeman are the best quarterback-running back combo the Broncos have faced. While Boise State may be able to slow them down a little, they will not slow them down enough.
Oregon is favored by seven and should have no trouble covering the spread.
GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL: Marshall Thundering Herd (7-5) vs. Colorado State Rams (7-5) at 4:30 PM ET
Theoretically, this one could end up being a great game between two teams whose strengths could counter the others. Or it could end up being boring as can be because no one succeeds at doing anything.
Marshall has a strong defense (25th overall; 19th against the run, 47th against the pass). But their offense leaves something to be desired (94th overall; 103rd rushing, 57th passing, and 81st scoring). Can they generate enough offense to withstand one of the better offenses in the country?
Colorado State has a talented running back in senior Dalyn Dawkins (216 carries for 1349 yards and eight touchdowns). They have a decent quarterback as well in senior Nick Stevens (63.6 percent completion percentage, 3479 yards, 27 touchdowns, 10 interceptions). But the guy Marshall has to stop is wide receiver Michael Gallup (94 receptions for 1345 yards and seven touchdowns).
Colorado State’s lackluster defense (90th overall) will help Marshall keep the game from turning into a blowout. But Michael Gallup is going to use this game to show the world he’s worthy of a first-round selection.
The Rams are favored by 5.5 but will win by at least seven.
RAYCOM MEDIA CAMELLIA BOWL: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (6-6) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-4) at 8 PM ET
If the coach feels the need to buy $10,000 in tickets to encourage students to make the drive from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Montgomery, Alabama, that says something about the perception of the game.
The Blue Raiders offense has been much improved since it got quarterback Brent Stockstill back from injury a few weeks ago. The junior QB had three touchdown passes in three of the last four games. But only had one in a game that went to 3OT.
They are not particularly good on offense, but make up for it with one of the better defenses in the country (30th overall). But the Blue Raiders are not equipped to handle a sack master like Ja’Von Rolland-Jones. While their pass defense isn’t terrible, it is not good enough to control Red Wolves quarterback, Justice Hansen.
Neither team is very good at running the ball which means this one will be decided via the passing game. Arkansas State is the better passing team and the better pass rushing team. The Red Wolves are only favored by four but will win by at least seven.