By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
Connecticut (CBS) – Christmas is over, and the bowls are now going to come fast and furious. There will now be a total of 23 games in the next 7 days. If you like College Football, this is the best time of year. It is also a good cure for the post-Christmas blues. Buckle up, because it’s going to be a fast ride. Before you know it, only the College Football Playoff National Championship will be left.
Monday, December 26th
St. Petersburg Bowl – Mississippi State (5-7) vs. Miami (OH) 11AM ESPN
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
Line: Mississippi State -15
Bowl Fun Fact: This game is being played at Tropicana Field where the Tampa Bay Rays play baseball.
Mississippi State Points For: 31.5 Points Against: 33.1
Mississippi State is 1 of 3 teams under .500 who qualified for a bowl, 1 of 2 who were 5-7 (North Texas being the other). Mississippi State qualified for a bowl despite being 2 games under .500 by having the 2nd best APR (Academic Progress Rate) after North Texas. The summary being, Mississippi State was the 80th of all bowl eligible teams to qualify.
Does being the 80th bowl eligible team to qualify make them the 80th best team of all the bowl teams? No. Mississippi State played in the SEC West this season, and finished the season strong going 3-2 with wins over Texas A&M and Ole Miss. Nine of their twelve games were played against bowl eligible teams. Sophomore quarterback Nick Fitzgerald had big shoes to fill taking over for Dak Prescott (heard of him?). He did a very good job totaling 3,533 through the ground and the air with 33 total touchdowns.
Miami (OH) PF: 23.4 PA 24.3
It was basically a tale of two seasons for Miami. They started the season losing their first six games, and ended the season by winning their last six. Yes, only two of those final six games were against teams playing in a bowl this season, but winning six in a row is not easy, especially when you factor in Miami’s recent history. They, along with Eastern Michigan who I wrote about earlier, were the lovable losers of the MAC and all of college football. Miami hasn’t made a bowl appearance since 2010 and only totaled 13 wins between 2011 and 2015. This includes 2013 when they finished 0-12.
Miami’s turnaround coincided with Sophomore Gus Ragland taking over at quarterback. He is a perfect 6-0 this season and has a beautiful mark of 15 passing touchdowns with 0(!) interceptions.
Miami is another one of those feel good stories and it will be hard not to root for the perfect ending for this team. Unfortunately it’s hard to ignore the MAC’s performance in bowl games so far and going up against an SEC team, even one that finished under .500, is no easy task.
Mississippi State 34 Miami (OH) 17
Monday, December 26th
Quick Lane Bowl – Maryland (6-6) vs. Boston College (6-6) 2:30PM
Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
Line: Maryland -2
Bowl Fun Fact: This game is played at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions
Maryland PF: 25.4 PA: 29
Boston College PF: 19.1 PA: 24.6
This is another game that people will point to as evidence of their being too many bowl games. Both teams were the definition of mediocre. Neither team had a chance against good opponents. Maryland was outscored by bowl eligible conference opponents 260-73. Their only win against a bowl eligible team was when they beat UCF 30-24. Boston College was outscored 247-76 by bowl eligible teams. They did, however, have two conference wins against Wake Forest and NC State and only lost to Georgia Tech by 3. Boston College got blown out by Virginia Tech, Louisville, Clemson and Florida State. Their out of conference schedule was one of the softest in the country, but they got the job done, going 4-0 vs Wagner, Umass, Uconn and Buffalo.
Even though some may think this game might be a tough watch with two 6-6 teams battling it out on the field, this game should be very close, as evidenced by the betting line. This game should be very competitive as neither team stacked up very well against good competition, but played well against teams as good, or worse, than them. I think Maryland pulls out a very close one in the end.
Maryland 23 Boston College 21
Monday, December 26th
Camping World Independence Bowl – North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6) 5:30 PM ESPN
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
Line: NC State -6
Bowl Fun Fact: The Independence Bowl has been in existence since 1976 and this is the first appearance for both Vanderbilt and NC State.
NC State PF: 25.8 PA: 23.2
Vanderbilt: PF: 23.5 PA: 22.6
The Independence Bowl is the 2nd matchup of two .500 Power Five schools. Vanderbilt has some very impressive wins on the season, beating Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee out of conference, and beating Georgia and Tennessee in conference. They were also very competitive in losses to South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn, losing by a combined 26 points. RB Ralph Webb is the offensive star for Vanderbilt. Webb ran for 1,172 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
NC State opened the season 4-1 and was very competitive in a week 6 overtime loss at Clemson. NC State was a missed 33 yard field goal in regulation away from pulling off one of the biggest upsets this season. The heartbreaking loss seemed to put NC State in a funk as the Wolfpack lost their next three games to fall to 4-5 on the season. They righted the ship at the right time by winning two of their last three, including a win against rival North Carolina in the last week of the season 28-21 to get to 6-6.
Vanderbilt seemed to be the more competitive team this season from start to finish, while NC State seems to be the team with the highest ceiling. If NC State is able to play to their best ability, they should win the game. As we are starting to find out, the best team doesn’t always win in bowl season. I see NC State pulling this one out in another close battle of 6-6 Power Five Teams.
NC State 24 Vanderbilt 20
Overall bowl record 6-7
Follow Mike Bachini on Twitter @MikeBachini