Heart of Dallas Bowl
Army was a 10 1/2 point favorite over North Texas at the Heart of Dallas Bowl, but had to battle it out over former Alabama quarterback Alec Morris, who played a super game, and outlast the Mean Green in overtime, 38-31.
Army showed their mental toughness and discipline in overtime when they were facing a 3rd and 8 on the North Texas 14. Army is not a passing team at all having only attempted 119 passes in 12 games, less than 10 per game, but quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw answered the bell completing a 10 yard pass to wide out Edgar Poe, as the poet/author pulled it in at the 6. Then facing a 4th and goal at the 2, Coach Jeff Monken elected to go for it instead of kicking a field goal which would have put the Cadets up by 3, but given North Texas a chance to get a six and win it. If they didn't make it, the Cadets were in serious trouble. It was a brave decision. And it worked out well. Bradshaw faked a handoff to the fullback and ran it around right end for a seven, as Army took the 38-31 lead and held North Texas on downs to secure the victory.
Morris, a senior, did play an excellent game for the Mean Green though, completing 26-of-38 passes for 304 yards with 3 TDs and one int. But the Army defense stood tall in the overtime. Super game.
Wake Forest used some explosive offense and good defense at times to knock off Temple, 34-26, at the Military Bowl in Annapolis. That was despite an outstanding comeback effort by Owls quarterback Phillip Walker and wide receivers Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant. Walker completed 28-of-49 passes for 306 yards, 2 sevens and an int. Jennings caught 7 passes for 154 yards and 2 TDs, and Bryant caught 11 passes for 151 yards. Temple was down 31-10 at halftime but made a furious comeback. Wake held on to secure the victory. I'm trying to find logic in these bowl games for predicting purposes, so in retrospect, Temple's coach left and Wake has a good coach along with the ACC is now at 3-0 in bowls.
Minnesota played stellar defense and just out-physicaled Washington State in a 17-12 victory at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Washington State quarterback Luke Falk had no clue on how to solve a really solid Golden Gophers' defense. Again, a solid defense prevailed from the Big Ten over a high flying offense from the Pac-12. One other note, the referee for the game, Gary Patterson, from the ACC, had a distinct resemblance to Bill Murray. I guess he took his Urban Assault Vehicle back to the hotel after the game.
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
Another surprise. Baylor, a 7 point underdog, blasted Boise State, 31-12, at Chase Field in Phoenix. The Bears new coach, Matt Rhule, who comes over from Temple, must have had an impact along with a staff from the Art Briles regime. Baylor running back Terrence Williams ran for 103 yards on 25 carries and wide out K.D, Cannon caught 14 passes for 226 yards and two 7's. Quarterback Zach Smith connected on 28-of-39 passes for 375 yards and 3 TDs against 1 int. The light was on for Baylor; They didn't leave the light on for Boise State.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
Yankee Stadium, The City That Never Sleeps, 54,251
1 PM CT/2 PM ET
Ryan Ruocco, Mike Golic, Mike Golic, Jr (Father-son double team), Paul Caracaterra
Aladdin: Big 12, Dan Romeo
Pittsburgh features their major success story in James Connor, who missed all of last season recovering from leukemia. The 6'2", 235 pound hoss of a running back came back this season to rush for 1,060 yards and 16 TDs. The Panthers can throw it, too, and their line gave up only seven sacks all season. On defense, Pitt's Ejuan Price finished with 12 sacks this season, and while their pass defense is 127th in the country, next to last just above Arizona State, they rush the passer well and the Northwestern o line has given up 35 sacks this season.
For Northwestern, wide out Austin Carr has caught 84 passes for 1,196 yards and 12 TDs, so he and quarterback Clayton Thorson will try to make some mileage through the air against the porous Panthers secondary. Running back Justin Jackson is a stud as he rushed for 1,300 yards and 12 TDs this season. Defensively Ifeadi Odenigbp ranks second in the Big Ten with 10 sacks. Can Odenigbo and the Northwestern front line get pressure on Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman, who threw for 2,600 yards, 26 TDs against just 6 ints. That's a major question mark for the Wildcats.
Pitt is obviously terrible in pass defense but can really play some offense. I'm liking a shootout because Northwestern can play some offense, too. But James Connor and that passing game will edge out a team that is always solid but is 1-10 in bowls since 1948, at the awesome venue in the Bronx. Pitt's 43-42 victory over Clemson @ Clemson on November 12th, tips the scales in the Panthers' favor for me.
Pitt 38, Northwestern 35
Russell Athletic Bowl
No. 16 West Virginia (10-2) vs. Miami (8-4)
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, 70,000
4:30 PM CT/5:30 PM ET
Dave Pasch, Gregory McElroy, Tom "Lugues" Luginbill
Vogue: SEC, Ken Williamson
The West Virginia offensive line is a major strength for Coach Dana Holgerson and has allowed running back Justin Crawford to rush for 1,169 yards. Miami running back Mark Walton rushed for 1,065 yards. Miami has a good quarterback, Brad Kaaya, who has thrown for 3,250 yards and 23, sevens against 7 ints. Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard threw for 3,194 yards, 26 TDs and 10 ints. He has thrown 24 picks in his career in Morgantown. He is a senior but just became the undisputed starter his junior year. West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas picked off eight passes this season so Kaaya will be tested.
I've always liked Mark Richt. He's a good guy and he's at his alma mater, a good place where he can do well. Dana Holgerson's defense was better this season, but in two of their biggest games, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, they lost 56-28 and 37-20 respectively. I like Mark Richt, Brad Kaaya and a more physical Miami team to get the job done.
Miami 34, West Virginia 30
Foster Farms Bowl
No. 19 Utah (8-4) VS, Indiana (6-6)
Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Cal (68, 500)
7:30 PM CT/8:30 PM ET
Gus, Joel, Shannon
Laudromat: SEC, David Smith
Minnesota's performance last night proved the Big Ten is a solid, physical group of football teams in these bowl games. But Utah has always been a physical group, too. And Utah's bowl record under Kyle Whittingham is 9-1 since 2005. Since 1996, Utah is 6-0 vs other Power Five teams. Utes running back Joe Williams has rushed for 1,185 yards and 9 sevens. He's a dynamite runner who combines power and take it to the house speed. That's enough for me to like the Utes.
Utah 38, Indiana 31
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl
Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Kansas State (8-4)
NRG Stadium, Houston, home of Super Bowl 51 on February 5, 2017, (72,200)
8 PM CT/9 PM ET
Dave Flemming, Jess, Laura Rutledge
Wash and Go Coin (for those who do their own): Big Ten, Jerry McGinn
A&M has been really inconsistent this season like they have been under Kevin Sumlin the last three years. They seem to start out fast then play Alabama and run out of gas. I like Kevin a lot, and want him to keep coaching at A&M because he is a good guy and a good coach. He just needs to start doing better than 8-4, though the SEC West is no bargain for any coach, particularly one trying to win a west title and get to Atlanta with Nick Saban always looming. This should be a solid game as K State always plays most people tough. They are solid fundamentally, they make few mistakes and are very well coached under 77 year old Bill Snyder.
The difference for A&M in this game will be the ultra explosive Christian Kirk. Kirk has 77 receptions for 842 yards and 9 TDs and he's taken 3 punts back to the house. Tailback Trayveon Williams is also outstanding, as he's rushed for 1,024 yards and 8, sevens. So I'm going with the SEC in this one, but I like it close. Kansas State is very solid, but I like A&M to get a victory and head into the rest of the recruiting season, which they always do well in, they're 8th this season, with a lot of momentum and prepare for an even better 2017.
A&M 35, Kansas State 31