It’s officially bowl season. Christmas come early (even if only by a few days). Your favorite mediocre score pickers are back to pick all the bowl games. Ross and I are going to clear the records and keep score for the bowl season. If you want to play along with us we also have an ESPN group named 4 Down Territory and password “wafflehouse”. Five games tomorrow so here we go. Lou Holtz can probably express all of our excitement better than I can.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl- Nevada vs. UL Lafayette
Nevada is no stranger to talented running quarterbacks. They were once led by a guy named Colin Kaepernick, you may have heard of him. Now, they are led by Cody Fajardo (pronounced like the first syllable of “fudge”, followed by the word “jar”, then that expression that Homer Simpson is famous for). He has 2,374 passing yards on the season and is only 3 yards south of a thousand rushing. UL Lafayette was my preseason pick to win the Sun Belt. They were barely edged out by the new kids on the block, Georgia Southern. UL Lafayette is fairly one dimensional, but they boast a top 30 rushing attack led by 1,100-yard rusher Elijah McGuire. The Cajun rushing attack is augmented by Alonzo Harris and dual-threat QB Terrance Broadway, who each have over 500 yards on the ground. The three have also combined for 29 rushing TDs. At the end of the day, I think the Wolfpack and their mascot, Allen from The Hangover, win this shootout 45-34.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will be in a familiar place this Saturday. This is their 4th straight trip to New Orleans, and will be like a home game for the local team. Nevada will lean on a pair of almost 1,000 yard rushers in quarterback Cody Fajardo (997 yards) and running back Don Jackson (932 yards). I think UL-Lafayette’s familiarity with New Orleans and the Superdome as well as the home crowd will be enough to lead them to victory. Ragin’ Cajuns 34, Wolfpack 27.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl- Utah State vs. UTEP
Only a college bowl game would have a 4th tier undershirt company as a primary sponsor. Utah State was another missed pre-season conference title pick of mine. In my defense, I was banking on a full season of Chuckie Keeton at quarterback. He only made it three games into the season before tearing his ACL and MCL against Wake Forest. The Aggies did end up with a top 25 scoring defense, and if Hunter Sharp has a decent game then he could get to 1,000 yards receiving. UTEP comes into the game with a 7-5 record, but a negative point differential…impressive. The Miners do have a 1,200-yard rusher, however, in Aaron Jones. I’ll go with the Aggies 24-7.
Utah State is eyeing its 2nd double-digit win season in three years. UTEP overcame a slow start to the season to finish strong winning 5 out of their last 7. The Aggies were giving up only 18.3 points per game until their season finale against Boise State, who hung 50 on them. Boise State is playing in the Fiesta Bowl, however, so they are no slouch. Neither team has a very good offense, but both have adequate defenses. I think this is a defensive struggle in the desert. I like Utah State 20, UTEP 13.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
New question: Would you rather have your bowl game question sponsored by a color or a 4th tier undershirt company? Easy question: Would you rather be playing in a bowl game in Albuquerque, New Mexico or Las Vegas? Now a confession: I really hate trying to pick bowl games when a team has had a coach leave prior to the game. I honestly have no earthly idea how Colorado State is going to look this afternoon with Jim McElwain moving on to greener pastures, not literally though because Colorado State’s primary color is green. Utah, on the other hand, has put together an 8-4 season that, in all likelihood, saved their coach’s job. They also managed to upset both Los Angeles teams. I’ll take the team that still has a coach 31-24.
Utah comes into this game leading the nation in sacks with 52 on the year. Jim McElwain got the Ram Train rolling in Fort Collins leading Colorado State to a 10-win season. But, he was just hired in Gainesville to be the head man of the Florida Gators. I think he is a huge loss and one that will be tough to overcome. Utah plays in the Pac-12. Colorado State does not. Loss of a coach, and inexperience in big games is too much to overcome. I like the Utes 28 – 17.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl- Western Michigan vs. Air Force
Obligatory sponsor comment/question: Is Idaho famous or are the potatoes or is it Idaho potatoes that are famous? Anyway, ponder that while you read this. I have a good friend named Kyle Shaw who went to the Air Force Academy. He recently (a.k.a. last night) told me that it was irritating to him to see Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, because his Falcons upset them earlier this season 28-14. Granted, the had lost to Wyoming two weeks prior to that and lost later in the season to Utah State and San Diego State, but I understand the frustration. Another man who’s frustrated is Air Force coach Troy Calhoun who called the current college football playoff system “un-American”. Shots fired. Western Michigan boasts one of the most underrated QB-RB-WR trios in the country. Listen to these stat lines: 70% completion percentage on 330 attempts for over 3,000 yards and 23 TDs to 10 picks, 1,525 rushing yards for 24 touchdowns, 1,232 receiving yards for 12 touchdowns. Those numbers belong to Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell, Jarvion Franklin and Corey Davis respectively. I realize that’s against MAC competition, but still you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody in the country that wouldn’t take those numbers for their team’s quarterback, leading rusher, and leading receiver. However, I’ll stay loyal to Kyle, because loyalty is American. Falcons win 24-21.
If you aren’t a fan of Air Force, Army or Navy, then you just aren’t an American. This game features teams who last year won a combined 3 games. That’s a dramatic turnaround for both programs. The Falcons handed Boise State their only conference loss on the year, and now get to play on the Bronco’s home field. This game will feature the ground game heavily. Air Force is 7th in the nation in rushing and Western Michigan features running back Jarvion Franklin, who has over 1,500 yards on the year. There is one thing that I think sets these two teams apart, the uniforms. If Air Force is the home team (which I think they are), they will be wearing their home blues. That just happens to be the same color as the turf in Boise. I mean military academies are masters of camouflage right? Give me the Falcons for the win and for America 31–23.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl- South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
My hometown finally gets a bowl game. This really is exciting news as a kid who grew up in Montgomery loving college football. Obviously this isn’t like the Rose Bowl or anything, but I’m glad the “Cradle of the Confederacy”, as it’s called, got a bowl game. South Alabama makes the 3ish hour drive up from Mobile, while the Bowling Green Falcons make the trip from Ohio. The Falcons have two guys looking to reach the 1,000-yard milestone on the season: RB Travis Greene for rushing yards and WR Roger Lewis for receiving yards. Their defense, however, is just trying to look competent after giving up almost 34 points per game in the regular season. South Alabama has a balanced attack, and runs the ball for north of 180 yards per game. The Jags win 24-17.
That’s right people; the Gump has its own bowl game. Excitement is in the air in Montgomery. South Alabama has sold out their allotment of tickets to the inaugural bowl, with many more expected to make the trip up I-65. Bowling Green comes limping into Montgomery on a 3-game losing skid. Joey Jones has the Jags playing good football in only their 6th year to have a football team. Give me the home state team in their 1st bowl game for the win. South Alabama 31 Bowling Green 20.