By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
Connecticut (CBS) – Four more bowl games today. Sixteen more bowl games between today and Friday. If you have time off from work, it’s a perfect opportunity to just kick back and relax before reality sets in after New Year’s Day. If you are scoreboard watching at work, hopefully the days aren’t so busy that you can’t catch a little of the action from time to time.
Tuesday, December 27th
Xaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl – Army (7-5) vs. North Texas (5-7) Noon ESPN
Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
Line: Army – 11
Bowl Fun Fact: This is a rematch of a game played on October 22nd in which North Texas won 35-18
Army Points For: 29.2 Points Against: 18.9
North Texas PF: 24.2 PA: 32.2
It was mentioned in yesterday’s column that Mississippi State was the 80th team out of 80 to receive a bowl bid due to their high APR. North Texas was the 79th. They had the highest APR out of all 5-7 teams in college football this season. I also mentioned yesterday that even though Mississippi State was the 80th team to be chosen, it did not mean that they were the 80th best team playing in bowl games. It’s reasonable to ask whether or not North Texas is the 79th best team in college football this season.
It’s also reasonable to ask how Army can be 11 point favorites over North Texas after the Mean Green beat the Black Knights by 17 points just two months ago. Well, a lot can happen in two months in college football and this North Texas team is a good example of that. North Texas will be playing this game without a lot of key contributors on offense. Mason Fine, who was the quarterback in the October 22nd meeting, is dealing with a shoulder injury and is not expected to play. Also out for this game are 2nd string RB Willy Ivery (academic issues), WR Willie Robinson (team suspension) and 2nd leading WR Tee Goree (team suspension).
Who Army QB Ahmad Bradshaw will have to be mindful of is North Texas CB Eric Jenkins. Jenkins picked off Bradshaw twice in the October meeting, taking one all the way back for a touchdown. Bradshaw threw four interceptions in that game and the Black Knights turned the ball over a total of seven times.
Since that loss to North Texas, Army has gone 3-2 with a win over Navy for the first time since 2001. North Texas has gone 1-4. If Army can control the pace of play and limit the turnovers, they should come out on top.
Army 33 North Texas 20
Tuesday, December 27th
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman – Temple (10-3) vs. Wake Forest (6-6) 3:30 ESPN
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
Line: Temple – 12
Bowl Fun Fact: Both teams are making their 2nd appearance in the Military Bowl. Wake Forest won in the bowl’s inaugural season in 2008, 29-19 over Navy. Temple lost the following season to UCLA 30-21.
Temple PF: 32.8 PA: 17.2
Wake Forest PF: 19.2 PA 21.8
Temple used to be one of the worst Division 1 programs in all of college football. Between 1989 and 2008 Temple’s overall record was 47-151 and there were twelve seasons in which the team had 9 or more losses. They were so bad that they were voted out of the Big East in 2002 and went Independent for two seasons starting in 2005 before finding a home in the MAC. Things turned around in the MAC and they eventually re-joined the Big East in 2012, before the Big East disbanded in football only and turned in to the American Athletic Conference in 2013.
While things at Temple have been very good since 2009 (only two losing seasons in this time), the winning hasn’t come without a cost. Coaches who have found success at Temple have been quick to cash in the new fame at bigger schools. First it was Al Golden who left for Miami. Then it was Steve Addazio who left for Boston College. This season it is Matt Rhule, who left to take on the mountain sized task of reshaping Baylor’s image.
Temple is a prideful team, with one of the best defenses in all of college football. Temple’s defense has allowed just 33 total points in their last 5 games, including the AAC conference championship win over Navy’s high powered offense 34-10. Temple has also won seven games in a row since losing 34-27 at Memphis in week 6.
Wake Forest started the season 5-1 and was one of the biggest surprises in college football this season. They faded down the stretch as their schedule became tougher, with losses to Florida State, Army, Louisville, Clemson and Boston College. With the exception of wins over Indiana and Syracuse, the Deamon Deacons have had trouble putting points on the board, averaging 14.2 points per game in their 1-5 slide to end the season.
We have already seen both sides of the coin when head coaches leave their teams right before bowl games. Houston looked lost in the 2nd half against San Diego State and got blown out. Western Kentucky kept on rolling and beat up on Memphis. This is a very prideful Temple team whose identity is tough, gritty defense. Factoring in Wake Forest’s inability to consistently score points at times, this game sets up to be a tough one for Wake Forest.
Temple 30 Wake Forest 14
Tuesday, December 27th
National Funding Holiday Bowl – Washington State (8-4) vs. Minnesota (8-4) 7PM ESPN
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Line: Washington State -10
Bowl Fun Fact: This is the second bowl game to be played at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers. The first was the Poinsettia Bowl, which was won by BYU on December 21st.
Washington State PF: 40.3 PA: 27.2
Minnesota PF: 30.3 PA: 22.9
For the second straight year, Washington State started slow out of the gate, losing to an FCS team at home. Last year it was Portland State, this season it was Eastern Washington. This year they followed up that loss with another loss at Boise State. With Oregon, Stanford and UCLA looming after a home game against Idaho, the Cougars were set up to be one of this year’s disappointments. But just like last year, they turned their season around, beating those four teams by a combined score of 176-76. They didn’t stop there either. They won their next four games as well and were 8-2 and the 20th ranked team in the country. Unfortunately they couldn’t finish strong, and lost their last two against the two teams that represented the Pac-12 in the conference championship game, Colorado and Washington.
Washington State has a high powered offense led by Junior QB Luke Falk. Falk followed up his stellar sophomore season with 4,204 yards passing and 37 touchdowns this season. His favorite target is future NFL WR Gabe Marks. Marks has a 189-2,059-28 line in his past two seasons.
If you’ve been paying attention to the college football news the past few weeks, it’s been hard to miss the scandal surrounding the Minnesota football team. The school decided to suspend 10 players (Including key depth players on offense and defense) after an investigation into an alleged sexual assault at an off-campus apartment in September. Later, on December 16th, the players held a players only meeting that resulted in a potential boycott of the Holiday Bowl. The boycott lasted all of three days, but it generated enough press that people started to question the mindset of the Gophers heading in to tonight’s game.
Minnesota is another prideful team that is coached very well. But it’s hard to ignore the suspensions of some key contributors in the defensive backfield, and the distractions that the scandal may have caused leading up to the game. I also expect the crowd to be heavily in favor of the Cougars.
Washington State 37 Minnesota 23
Tuesday, December 27th
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl – Boise State (10-2) vs. Baylor (6-6) 10:15 ESPN
Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
Line: Boise State -7
Bowl Fun Fact: This game is another game being played on a baseball field, Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Boise State PF: 35.6 PA: 22.7
Baylor PF: 34.9 PA: 30.4
It seems as though Boise State has been a forgotten team this season, but make no mistake about it; the Broncos have had a very good season. They slipped up twice to Wyoming by two points and to Air Force by a touchdown. Other than that, they enjoyed great success, winning seven games against bowl-eligible teams. They were even ranked as high as 13th in the country after week 7.
Boise State is led by junior RB Jeremy McNichols, who announced yesterday that he was going to forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft after this game. McNichols also needs 161 rushing yards to pass Jay Ajayi to hold the single season rushing record at Boise State.
The Broncos quarterback is Brett Rypien. Brett is the nephew of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien who won two Super Bowls with the Redskins.
Baylor right now is a team in complete disarray. Last year’s head coach, Art Briles, was fired on May 26th following a detailed report into Baylor’s history of sexual assault within the football program. Ex Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was hired to be the interim coach for the season. Baylor started the season 6-0 with a win over Oklahoma State. They then proceeded to lose their next six to finish the regular season at 6-6. Quarterback Seth Russell broke his ankle in a week 9 loss at Oklahoma. Star RB Shock Linwood was suspended in that game against Oklahoma and recently announced that he would skip the Cactus Bowl game to focus on the NFL draft.
To be completely honest, I’m very surprised this line is only Boise -7. Baylor is a team that just can’t wait for the season to end and even when things were going well, their defense was suspect. Even though Boise State’s season didn’t end with a Cotton Bowl appearance, they are still a program that plays with a chip on its shoulder, so I do not expect any sort of a let-down in this game. If Baylor shows some pride, I will admit I was wrong. I just don’t see this game being that close. Feel free to get to bed early.
Boise State 41 Baylor 24
Yesterday’s record 2-1, Overall record 8-8
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