The Belk Bowl pitting Wake Forest versus Texas A&M, the Sun Bowl featuring N.C. State versus Arizona State, the Music City Bowl pitting Kentucky-Northwestern, the Nova Loans Arizona Bowl featuring New Mexico State vs Utah State and the featured matchup of the day, the Cotton Bowl, pitting Ohio State vs USC are on the slate today for bowl season. Now we're into some major bowl action. It's all been good and it's getting even better starting today. Here's a look at the action.
Navy 49, Virginia 7, Military Bowl
Midshipmen quarterback Zack Abey, filling in for an injured Malcolm Perry, scored 5 TDs and ran for 88 yards in the Navy rout. Perry ran for 114 and 2 TDs before he left the game with an injury, and fullback Chris High added 101 yards. Super performance by the Academy. Navy finishes 7-5 while UVA fell to 6-7. Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo aims to get his Midshipmen squad back to the 8 to 10 win threshold next season and "Beat Army!"
Oklahoma State 30, Virginia Tech 21, Camping World Bowl
Mason Rudolph completed 21-of-32 passes for 351 yards and 2 TDs, Justice Hill rushed for 120 yards and a TD, and the Cowboys survived a super effort by Virginia Tech which was missing some players. Bud Foster and his Hokie defense gave Mike Gundy and his offense everything they wanted. Rudolph now looks forward to late April and the NFL Draft. Ok State finishes the season 10-3, VA. Tech dropped to 9-4, but building for a solid future. Ok. State even aiming for higher heights next year, a conference championship, a playoff or New Year's Six Bowl berth. The sky's the limit for both programs.
Michigan State 42, Washington State 17, Holiday Bowl
Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke completed 13-of-21 passes for 213 yards and 3 TDs, and the awesome L.J. Scott rushed for 110 yards and 2 TDs as the Spartans capped off a stellar season finishing 10-3 by blasting the Cougars, which fell to 9-4.
TCU 39, Stanford 37, Valero Alamo Bowl
The Horned Frogs (11-3) came back from a 21-3 first half deficit to capture the victory behind Kenny Hill's 314 yards passing. Hill threw a couple of interceptions, but also tossed 2 TDs. A gigantic 4th quarter, 76 yard punt return for a TD by senior Desmon White, was the game changing play that put TCU ahead 36-30. Stanford finished the season 9-5. The superb Bryce Love rushed for 145 yards and 2 TDs including a 69 yard gallop for a 7. Love is a junior and will decide whether to come out for the draft or return to school for his senior season. Proud of him for playing in the game. He could have easily sat it out like Christian McCaffrey did last year, but he showed a lot of character and played for his team. He wants to go to med school and become a doctor eventually, so there is a chance he will return to Stanford for his senior year. it would be sensational for college football if he did. Love represents the best of college football. Can't say enough about Bryce. He may want to go ahead and play in the league, but if he came back, look out for him and the Cardinal in 2018.
Texas A&M (7-5, 4-4 SEC) vs Wake Forest (7-5, 4-4 ACC)
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., 75,412
12 PM CT
Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer, Kris Budden
Refs: PAC-12, Steve Strimling
Wake by 3
The Aggies will be commandeered by special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Jeff Banks as the team awaits the Jimbo Fisher era in College Station. Both Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond will play quarterback for the Aggies today in all likelihood. Starkel completed 81-of-142 passes, 57%, for 1,294 yards, 10 TDs and 5 ints while missing several games with a broken ankle. Mond, a true freshman, showed signs of being a really good quarterback for the Aggies this year and in the future, He was 117-of-227, 52%, for 1,375 yards, 8 TDs and 5 interceptions. He was inconsistent, but has a chance to do some super things under Fisher in the upcoming years. Of course, Starkel is a redshirt freshman, so this could be an audition for next year with both quarterbacks making their first statement to start in 2018. Wake is favored and they have a very good quarterback in John Wolford, who completed 207-of-325 passes, 64%, for 2,792 yards, 25 TDs against only 6 ints, but I like the fact that A&M has been through the SEC wars and they're probably fired up that Fisher is coming in and want to impress him today. Watch for the awesome Christian Kirk, a junior, who's returned a punt and a kickoff for TDs this season and now has 7 kick returns for TDs in his career, 1 kickoff and 6 punt house calls, along with 22 TDs receiving, to have a massive impact on this game and be the difference maker.
Texas A&M 38, Wake Forest 35
Hyundai Sun Bowl
No. 24 North Carolina State (8-4, 6-2 ACC) vs Arizona State (7-5, 6-3 PAC-12)
Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, TX., 51,500
2 PM CT
Brad, Gary, Allie
Refs, Big Ten, Mike Cannon
N.C. State by 7
I look for N.C. State's big, powerful defensive end Bradley Chubb to have a massive day. Chubb, a senior and a likely first round pick, has 26 tackles for loss on the season, 2nd in the country only to Northern Illinois' Sutton Smith, who has 29 1/2. He also posted 10 sacks, which is tied for 7th in the country. Joe Ostman of Central Michigan led with 14. I see Chubb really impressing the scouts. N.C. State's Ryan Finley is a solid quarterback who completed 287-of-449 passes, 64%, for 3,196 yards, 16 TDs against 6 interceptions. Running back Nyheim HInes rushed for 1,040 yards and 9 TDs this season. So this is a potent team on both sides of the ball. The Sun Devils are going through a coaching change with Herm Edwards taking over. The Zona State administration gave Todd Graham a bad deal when they fired him after Graham had just beaten Arizona to go 7-5 this season and 46-31 in 6 seasons. . We'll see if Edwards can transition back to the sidelines from the broadcasting arena and be successful. That's questionable to me.
N.C. State 35, Zona State 27
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Kentucky (7-5, 4-4 SEC) vs. No. 21 Northwestern (9-3, 7-2, Big Ten)
NIssan Stadium, Nashville, 69,143
3:30 PM CT
Taylor Zarzour, Andre, Olivia Harlan
Refs, PAC-12, Chris Coyte
Northwestern by 8
This is a battle of running backs as Kentucky's Benny Snell Jr., who rushed for 1,318 yards and an SEC leading 18 rushing TDs, squares off against the Northwestern Wildcats' Justin Jackson, who rushed for 1,154 yards and 9 TDs, and became only the 9th player in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards in 4 consecutive seasons. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson completed 61% of his passes and posted 15 TDs, but he also threw 12 ints. Kentucky's Stephen Johnson was pretty erratic at times too, completing 61% of his passes, a good percentage, for 2,048 yards, 10 TDs against 4 ints. But he struggled down the stretch.
This game looks like a Northwestern victory, but I'm going to go against the grain and pick the Kentucky Wildcats. Really believe in Benny Snell Jr.
Kentucky 35, Northwestern 34
Nova Loans Arizona Bowl
Arizona Stadium, Tuscon, AZ. 57,400
4:30 PM CT
CBS Sports Network
Dave Ryan, Corey Chavous, Melanie Collins
Refs: C-USA, Rodney Burnette
Utah State by 4 1/2
Like the Utah State Aggies over the New Mexico State Aggies in a battle of similar mascots again today.
Utah State 35, New Mexico State 30
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No.5 Ohio State (11-2, 8-1 BIg Ten) vs. No. 8 USC (11-2, 8-1 PAC-12)
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX. 100,000
7:30 PM CT
Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard, Allison Williams
Refs: SEC, David Smith
Ohio State by 7 1/2
Classic matchup here. The Buckeyes and the Trojans are led by sometimes spectacular, sometimes not so swift quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Sam Darnold of the aforementioned Buckeyes and Trojans respectively. Barrett has put together a terrific year most of the time, completing 65% of his passes for 2,928 yards, with 35 TDs against 9 interceptions. Still he can be questionable with his accuracy at times. He can also be sensational. Darnold has been more erratic than Barrett, completing 64% of his passes for 3,787 yards, 26 TDs but 12 interceptions. He has also lost 7 fumbles for 19 total turnovers this season. NFL scouts will be watching him both for his assets and his deficiencies. Barrett will be watched closely, too.
There are some super running backs in this game as well. Freshman J.K. Dobbins has rushed for 1,384 yards and 7 TDs for the Buckeyes. Barrett, who can really scamper, rushed for 743 yards and 10 TDs, and Mike Weber rushed for 608 yards and 10 TDs. On the Trojans' side, Ronald Jones has put together a superb year, rushing for 1,486 yards and 18 TDs along with another TD receiving. Freshman Stephen Carr has been hurt a good bit of this season, but he's electric. He rushed for only 363 yards and 3 TDs, but he was limited with injuries, and when he played was very explosive. He's the next great USC running back.
At wide receiver for the Buckeyes, Terry McLaurin is a major target. He caught 28 passes for 434 yards and 6 TDs. Johnnie Dixon only caught 18 passes, but 8 of them were for TDs. Binjimen Victor caught 23 passes, 7 for TDs.
For the Trojans, Deontay Burnett caught 74 passes for 975 yards and 9 TDs. Burnett is an electric playmaker. Tyler Vaughns caught 51 passes for 690 yards and 5 TDs, and their super tight end, Tyler Petite, caught 22 passes for 305 yards and 3 TDs. Look for Darnold to be finding Petite some tonight. He's a weapon.
Sophomore defensive end Nick Bosa led the Buckeyes in tackles for loss with 14 1/2, and sacks with 7. Safety Damon Webb led the team in interceptions with 4. For USC, leading tackler linebacker Cameron Smith (102 tackles) is out with injury, but stellar defensive end Christian Rector is tied for the lead in tackles for loss with 11 1/2,. He is tied with the other bookend Rasheem Green. Green leads the team in sacks with 9. Rector is second with 7 1/2. They are disruptive forces coming off the edges.
The Trojans survived a lot of injuries this season and won the PAC-12, which is always a regular season goal for them. Now they face a loaded Buckeyes team particularly on offense. They are still pretty banged up, but healthier, however I don't see them having enough explosiveness to defeat the Big Ten champion Buckeyes. J.T. Barrett ends his Ohio State career with an exclamation point and Darnold is shaky again. But I'm expecting an excellent game.
Ohio State 42, USC 34