The bowl season commences Saturday, and while the college football playoff will be the headliner on Saturday, December 29th, featuring No.2 Clemson facing No.3 Duck Crepe in the Cotton Bowl (3 PM CT, ESPN) and No.1 Alabama vs No.4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl (7 PM CT, ESPN), No.2 Clemson facing No.3 Duck Crepe the bowls are highly interesting and entertaining with the excitement of the holiday season synonymous with bowl season.
Some nice matchups throughout the holidays beginning this Saturday as the Cure Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl, the Las Vegas Bowl, the Camellia Bowl and the New Orleans Bowl kickoff this riveting time of year in college football.
Here’s a look at the first 5 games. There are 40 of them including the National Championship game (Monday, January 7, 2019, 7 PM CT, ESPN) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, about 45 miles south of the Golden Gate City. My older daughter is hoping the Crimson Tide comes will be out there, so she can entertain her Alabama friends on her home soil.
But first things first. Here’s a look at Saturday’s games along with predictions.
Record: 229-72, 76%
Tulane (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (7-6)
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL., 65,000
12:30 PM CT
CBS Sports Network
Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, Jenny Dell
Whistles, C-USA, Jon Noli, lead yella
Tulane by 3 1/2
Both teams run the football very well, so the defense that can stop the run better and win the turnover battle, as always, gives its team a chance to be successful at the end of the game. Tulane is led by running back Darius Bradwell, who rushed for 982 yards and 9 TDs, averaging 6 yards a pop. Running back Corey Dauphine added 754 yards on the ground and pitched in 7 TDs. Southpaw and LSU transfer quarterback Justin McMillan completed 68 of 136 passes, 52%, for 1,074 yards, 9 TDs against 3 ints. McMillan’s favorite target is wide out Darnell Mooney, who recorded 47 receptions for 987 yards and 8 TDs. McMillan has a strong arm. I like his ability. He can be very good passing the football. On defense, senior outside linebacker Zachary Harris (6’0”, 220) leads the team in tackles with 86. D end Patrick Johnson (6’3”, 255) leads the team with 14 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. Cornerback Donnie Lewis has posted 3 interceptions, one he took back to the house, to lead the team. The Green Wave defense has 11 ints on the season.
For LA Lafayette, their running game is as prolific led by tailback Trey Ragas, who rushed for 1,141 yards and 8 TDs. Running back Elijah Mitchell chipped in 959 yards and 12 TDs. Quarterback Andre Nunez completed 174 of 270 passes for 2,136 yards, 19 TDs against 12 ints. Ja’Marcus Bradley and Ryheem Malone are Nunez’s favorite targets. Bradley caught 38 passes for 557 yards and 10 TDs, while Malone posted 41 receptions for 466 yards and 3 TDs. Junior inside linebacker Jacques Boudreaux (6’1”, 228) was the team leader in tackles with 87. Redshirt sophomore Chauncey Manac (6’3”, 252) led the team in tackles for loss with 7 1/2 for -43 yards and tied with senior linebacker Chaiziere Mailbrue (6’2”, 213) in sacks with 4. Junior corner Michael Jacquet led the defense with 2 interceptions. The defense has combined for only 7 ints on the season.
This is an evenly matched game with 2 prolific rushing attacks and quarterbacks who can throw it around some. I expect a close contest here with the winner determined in the final minutes. The Green Wave converted a 2 point conversion in the last minute against Navy to become bowl eligible in a 29-28 victory at home on November 24th. I see something like that happening here with the Green Wave just getting over the top against the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Tulane 31, LA-Lafayette 28
New Mexico Bowl
Utah State (10-2) vs. North Texas (9-3)
Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, 39,224
1 PM CT
Mark Neely, John Congemi, Quint Kessenich
Laundry, Sun Belt, Lead wood, Kyle Olson
Utah State by 7 1/2
Both teams have explosive offenses led by talented quarterbacks. For the Mean Green, it’s junior Mason Fine, who has completed 295 of 457 passes, 65%, for 3,734 yards, 27 TDs against only 5 ints. On the Aggies side, sophomore Jordan Love has connected on 246-of-374 passes, 66%, for 3,208 yards, 28 TDs against only 5 ints. The Utah State Aggies are led by running back Darwin Thompson, who rushed for 951 yards and 14 TDs. Gerold Bright added 785 yards and 8 TDs. The leading receiver for the Aggies is Ron’Quavion Tarver, who caught 62 passes for 676 yards and 7 TDs. Wide receiver Jalen Greene, a USC graduate transfer, registered 38 receptions on the season for 538 yards and 5 TDs. On defense, sophomore inside linebacker David Woodward (6’2”, 210) led the team in tackles with 124. Woodward posted 12 1/2 tackles for loss and 5 sacks as well, which also led the team. The Aggies have 18 interceptions on the season, which is tied for best in the country with Maryland, Iowa and Boston College, and have taken 6 of them back for TDs. The Aggies 6 defensive touchdowns are tied for 2nd in the country with Fresno State, 1 behind nation leading Temple. Linebacker Jontrell Rocquemore (6’1”, 210) has 3 ints and is tied with safety Aaron Wade for the team lead. Both have taken an int back to the house.
For North Texas tailback Deandre Torrey led the team in rushing with 942 yards and posted 14 TDs. Wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr, who is a game time decision due to a leg injury, caught 68 passes for 1,017 yards and 12 TDs. Jalen Guyton added 50 receptions for 702 yards, and 5 TDs. On defense, inside linebacker E.J. Ejiya led the team with 113 tackles, 23 1/2 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. Middle linebacker Brandon Garner posted 61 tackles, with 17 for loss and 6 1/2 sacks. Cornerbacks Nate Brooks and Kenon Hall are tied for the team lead in interceptions with 5 apiece. Hall has taken 1 back to the house.
Utah State lost their coach, Matt Wells, after the season concluded as Wells took the Texas Tech job. Interim Coach Frank Maile, a defensive line coach, will run the team in the bowl game as former Utah State, Wisconsin and Oregon State head coach Gary Anderson prepares to come back to Logan to take over the Aggie program in 2019. The Aggies just got by a pretty below average Colorado State team in the next to last game of the season, 29-24, and that was after Colorado State had scored what looked like was the game winning TD on the final play of the game, but the TD was nullified due to too many men on the field for the offense. Then they lost to Boise State on the Blue Turf, 33-24. I think the players were hearing rumors of Wells leaving and it deflated them at the end of the season. North Texas had a super season and defeated Arkansas on the road, 44-17, the third game of the year. I like that a lot, even though it was early. With the transition at Utah State, I’m going to take North Texas and Coach Seth Littrell, who has taken his Mean Green team to 3 consecutive bowls in his 3 seasons there. While they’ve lost their first 2, I like them to get over the top at Albuquerque.
North Texas 35, Utah State 34
Las Vegas Bowl
Arizona State (7-5) vs. Fresno State (11-2)
Sam Boyd Stadium, Vegas, 36,800
2:30 PM CT
Rece, Kirk, Tom Rinaldi
Stripes, American, Charles Lamertina
Fresno State by 5
The big story for the Sun Devils is star receiver N’Keal Harry, who posted 73 receptions for 1,088 yards and 9 TDs this season, is sitting this one out and preparing for the draft. While I disagree with his decision as I do with any player who sits out their bowl game, it seems to be the mindset for some talented players now in college football. Hopefully not too many will do this during the postseason, but some have already declared themselves out of their respective bowl games. It’s a real letdown to your team, but I’m not a player, I don’t understand their circumstances. But they get a chance to go to a bowl game, which is a huge reward for a successful season and play with their teammates one more time and showcase their talents even more. I would love an NCAA rule on disallowing this practice, but, unfortunately, it probably won’t happen, so we’re going to have to live with these guys’ decisions. So that hurts the Sun Devils, which put together a nice season under first year coach Herm Edwards. Quarterback Manny Wilkins played well completing 228-of-362 passes, 63%, for 2,896 yards, 19 TDs against only 4 ints. Running back Eno Benjamin will probably be called on more to carry the load and he looks up to the task. Benjamin rushed for 1,524 yards and 15 TDs. The Sun Devils second leading receiver is Kyle Williams who caught 39 passes for 411 yards but only 1 TD. Wide out Brandon Alyuk caught 24 passes for 413 yards and 3 TDs. On defense, Zona State is led by freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson (6’3”,235) who finished the season with 77 tackles, 8 1/2 TFLs and 5 sacks. Freshman safety Aashari Crosswell led the team in interceptions with 3.
For Fresno State, quarterback Marcus McMaryion completed 70 percent of his passes, 278-of-398, for 3,453 yards, 25 TDs against only 3 ints. Ronnie Rivers led the team in rushing with 531 yards and 8 TDs. KeeSean Johnson caught 93 passes for 1,307 yards and 8 TDs. On defense, middle linebacker Jeffrey Allison (6’0”, 250) led the team in tackles with 109. Defensive end Mykal Walker (6’3”, 215) recorded 13 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. Safety Juju Hughes and cornerback Anthoula Kelly led the team with 3 ints. The Bulldogs 17 interceptions were tied for 2nd in the country.
Final Analysis and decision
If Zona State had Harry, I might, might, go with them because he’s such a dynamic, dominant player. But he’s checked out, so I’m going with the amazing Bulldogs which went to Boise State and knocked off a Broncos team that was 121-8 at home since 1999 and had defeated the Bulldogs twice in the last 2 years at home. The Bulldogs won 19-16 in overtime in a driving snowstorm to capture the Mountain West Conference championship. I like Jeff Tedford and his team to cap off a remarkable season with their 12th victory in 2018.
Fresno State 28, Arizona State 21
Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Georgia Southern (9-3)
Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, 25,000
4:30 PM CT
Mike Corey, Rene Ingoglia, Lauren Sisler
Refs, American, Anthony Calabrese
GA. Southern by 3
Eastern Michigan quarterback Tyler Wiegers completed 171-of-264 passes, 65%, for 1,887 yards, 11 TDs against only 3 ints. Shaq Vann is the leading rushed with 590 yards and 5 TDs. Ian Eriksen is a tough, north-south running back for the Eagles who rushed for 337 yards and 4 TDs. He played when Vann was hurt and did well. The Eagles leading receiver is Arthur Jackson III who registered 43 receptions for 506 yards and 3 TDs. Mathew Sexton chipped in 36 receptions for 401 yards and 3 TDs. Inside linebacker Kyle Rachwal (6’3”, 240) led the team in tackles with 115 and added 9 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Defensive end Maxx Crosby (6’5”, 265) led the defense with 18 tackles for loss and 7 1/2 sacks. Crosby also has an interception he took back to the house. Corner Kevin McGill and safety Vince Calhoun lead the team with 3 ints apiece.
For Georgia Southern, quarterback Shai Werts completed 65-of-109 passes, 60%, for 954 yards, 10 TDs and 0 ints. But the Georgia Southern Eagles made their change on the ground as Wesley Fields rushed for 959 yards and 9 TDs and Werts rushed for 822 yards and 13 TDs. Monteo Garrett added 478 yards and 5 TDs. On defense, safety Joshua Moon led the team in tackles with 68. Corner Kindle Vildor posted a team leading 4 interceptions.
Final Analysis and decision
I really like this Georgia Southern Eagles running game. I see Eastern Michigan having a tough time stopping it. See Georgia Southern finishing the season with double digit victories.
Georgia Southern 31, Eastern Michigan 24
New Orleans Bowl
Middle Tennessee State (8-5) vs. Appalachian State (10-2)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Crescent City, 74,295
8 PM CT
Jason Benetti, Kelly Stougger, Olivia Dekker
Whistles, American, Adam Savole, lead laundry
App State by 7
App State is in a coaching transition as Scott Satterfield took the Louisville job after the season. App State is set to hire North Carolina State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz as its new head coach. Mark Ivey, the defensive line coach, will be the interim head coach for the bowl game. The Mountaineers are led by quarterback Zac Thomas, who completed 144-of-230 passes, 63%, for 1,862 yards, 18 TDs against only 4 ints. His leading receiver is Corey Sutton, who had 36 receptions for 695 yards and 8 TDs. The running game is strong led by Darrynton Evans, who rushed for 1,079 yards and 7 TDs. Marcus Williams added 536 yards and 4 TDs. Thomas rushed for 476 yards and 10 TDs. Thomas, from Hewitt-Trussville in Birmingham, is a talent. On defense, inside linebacker Anthony Flory (5’11”, 229) led the team with 90 tackles. Inside linebacker Jordan Fehr (6’2”, 227) posted 83 tackles and led the team with 5 1/2 sacks. Free safety Franklin Desmond led the team with 4 interceptions, 1 for a house call.
For Middle Tennessee, senior quarterback and head coach’s son, Brent Stockstill completed 299-of-425 passes, good for 70%, for 28 TDs against 8 ints. Stockstill’s favorite target is wide out Ty Lee who posted 67 receptions for 828 yards and 7 TDs. Patrick Smith added 54 receptions for 526 yards and 6 TDs. On defense, strong safety Reed Blankenship led the team in tackles with 101. Linebacker D.Q. Thomas (6’2”, 215) posted 69 tackles and led the team with 14 tackles for loss along with 8 sacks. Free safety Wesley Bush had 6 ints on the season for 149 yards and 2 house calls.
I’m taking my talents to….
The team that won the Sun Belt even though they lost their coach. They are still super talented and have a strong winning tradition.
App State 38, MTSU 30