There are 40 bowls and then the national championship game on Monday, January 9, 2017 in Tampa @ 7 PM CT/8 PM ET on ESPN. The playoff games are interesting of course, particularly around these parts. On December 31st, The No. 1 Crimson Tide, 13-0, faces No. 4 Washington, 12-1, in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at 2 PM CT/3 PM ET on ESPN. The second playoff games pits No. 2 Clemson, 12-1, vs. No. 3 Ohio State, 11-1, in the Fiesta Bowl at 7 PM CT/8 PM ET on ESPN. Should be a riveting day in college football, but in the meantime, and on New Years Eve and January 2, 2017, there are a lot of other games to dissect. Here's a look at the first five bowl games tomorrow.
2016 Season record: 203-93, 69%
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico (8-4) vs Texas-San Antonio (6-6)
University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico (39,224)
1 PM CT/2 PM ET
Adam Amin, Mack Brown, Dawn Davenport
Refs: Sun Belt, Jason McArthur, lead stripe
It'll be windy tomorrow during the game with winds at 20 MPH, and these teams love to run it, so there will be plenty of ground game fireworks on display. The New Mexico Lobos led the country in rushing at 360 per game and were led by Teriyon Gipson and Tyrone Owens, who ran for 1,209 yards and 12 touchdowns and 1,084 yards and 7 TDs respectively. Running back Richard "The Rock" McQuarley has rushed for 588 yards and 16 TDs. Quarterback Lamar Jordan is a dangerous, game-breaking runner also. Jordan ran for 658 yards and three TDs. Jordan and Austin Apodaka split snaps under center. Apodaka has completed 53-of-96 passes, 55%, for 654 and 5 TDs against 2 ints, while Jordan has completed 37-of-71, 52%, 6 TDs, and 4 ints. New Mexico makes a ton of explosive plays on the ground via Gipson, Owens or Jordan.
The Roadrunners like to run it as well with Jarveon Williams posting 775 yards and 8 TDs this season and Jalen Rhodes running for 756 and 9 TDs. But quarterback Dalton Sturm has completed 58% of his passes, 159-of-273 for 2,052 yards, 18 TDs against 5 ints. Jared Johnson can come in relief of Sturm, and has completed 55% of his passes, 41-of-75, for 564 yards, 4 TDs and 1 int. Johnson gives the Roadrunners more of a running/athletic threat.
On defense, middle linebacker Dakota Cox leads the Lobos with 80 tackles, while defensive end Nik D'Avanzo leads the team with 9 tackles for loss of 47 yards. Defensive end Garrett Hughes leads the Lobos with 6.5 sacks for a loss of 43 yards. For UTSA, middle linebacker Josiah Tauaefa leads the defense in tackles with 104, while outside linebacker La'Kel Bass leads them in tackles for loss with 11 for -47 yards. Outside linebacker Marcus Davenport leads the D in sacks with 6.5 for -23 yards. There won't be many interceptions in this game because there won't be a lot of passing, and New Mexico only has 5 ints on the season and UTSA has only 7.
The ground game of New Mexico is going to be difficult for the Roadrunners to stop. It'll be competitive, but the combination of the explosive Gipson and Owens will push the Lobos over the top.
New Mexico 35, UTSA 27
Las Vegas Bowl
Houston (9-3) vs San Diego State (10-3)
Sam Boyd Stadium, Vegas (40,000)
2:30 PM CT/3:30 PM ET
Brent, Jess, Kaylee
Refs: C-USA, Daniel Gautreaux
What looked like a possible epic season for Houston turned into a good season, but not what they had hoped for. Their coach, Tom Herman, left to take the Texas job, and I really think that those rumors swirling around about Herman early and mid-season affected this team. I watched them throttle Oklahoma the opening game of the season and saw the first six games they played and they definitely looked like a playoff team. The uncertainty with the status of their coach and some injuries kept this team from being really special. Now that Major Applewhite has taken over, I see this team being pretty charged up for the Vegas Bowl. Quarterback Greg Ward, who accounted for 31 TDs this year, running for 9 and passing for 22, and running back Duke Catalon, who rushed for 510 yards and 4 TDs, lead the way for the offense, while stud five star freshman defensive end Ed Oliver, who accounted for 19.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks, leads the defensive effort. San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey had a super year running for 2,018 yards and 16 TDs. This should be a competitive game, but I like the Cougars to prevail and get some momentum heading into serious recruiting time. And there will be some serious recruiting going on in Texas with UT, A&M, Houston, Baylor, Texas Tech and SMU going at it. Talk about game on. Wow.
Houston 38, San Diego State 31
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Toledo (9-3) vs. Appalachian State (9-3)
Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, AL. (21,000)
4:30 PM CT/5:30 PM ET
Eamon McAnaney, John Congemi, Lauren Sisler
Stripes: C-USA, Ken Antee
I really like this App State team. They gave the Tennessee Vols everything they wanted in Knoxville in the opener, losing 20-13 in overtime. Running back Jalin Moore has rushed for 1,367 yards and 10 TDs, and Marcus Cox has added 872 yards and 8 TDs on the ground. Quarterback Taylor Lamb has rushed for 8 TDs, and thrown for 14 more, completing 183-of-293 for 2,162 yards, 14 TDs against 8 ints. For Toledo, running back Kareem Hunt had a huge year running for 1,355 yards and 8 TDs, and quarterback Logan Whiteside threw for 3,882 yards 43 TDs against 9 ints. Toledo started off as a 2 1/2 point favorite, but it's a pick'em now. I like App State in a thriller.
App State 31, Toledo 28
AutoNation Cure Bowl
Central Florida (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL. (70,000)
4:30 PM CT/5:30 PM ET
CBS Sports Network
Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, Jenny Dell
Whistles: Mountain West, Kevin Mar
Warm weather, so there should be some scoring going on in this bowl. Central Florida Coach Scott Frost has done a nice job in his first year after taking over from an 0-12 team last year. The former Oregon offensive coordinator had some good athletes to work with as George O'Leary, the previous coach, who had some really good years, had recruited well. And he's done a good job with his talent. Like his team to get the job done in what is a home game for UCF.
UCF 42, Arkansas State 34
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Southern Miss (6-6) vs Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, N'Awlins (76,468)
8 PM CT/9 PM ET
Jason Benetti, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich
Laundry: MAC, Lead Yeller Wood, Tom Stapleton
Like Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullins, from Hoover High School, who threw for 2,926 yards on 218-of-344 passing, 63%, 22 TDs-9 ints, and running back Ito Smith, who rushed for 1,321 yards and 15 TDs, to carry the load for the Golden Eagles over the Rajin' Cajuns, who won this bowl from 2011-2014. This isn't a road game for Southern Miss. Hattiesburg, MS. is only 113 miles from New Orleans, a 1 hour 50 minute drive. It's a 135 miles from Lafayette to New Orleans, a 2 hour 15 minute drive. Lafayette is in the southwestern most part of Louisiana and New Orleans is southeast. So that's a wash. Like the Golden Eagles to put on a good show on Saturday Night. Then the Quarter will be rockin with Mississippians.
Southern Miss 38, La Lafayette 31