Military Bowl: Marshall vs. Maryland
Schedule analysis: Marshal (9-4) split their four non conference games. They routed Miami (OH) and Gardner-Webb early and lost at Ohio and at Virginia Tech in triple overtime in a game they should’ve won. The rest of Marshall’s schedule wasn’t very strong because they played in Conference USA. They defeated 7-5 UTSA and lost 51-49 to 8-4 Middle Tennessee. Their most impressive showing was a 59-28 victory over East Carolina to send them to the Conference USA championship game. They had a let down in the championship game the next week against Rice in a 41-24 loss. Maryland (7-5) played in the better conference but didn’t have many strong wins. Their non conference wins came against FIU, Old Dominion, UConn and West Virginia. Then they lost 63-0 to Florida State. Two out of Maryland’s three ACC wins came against Virginia and NC State. Both those teams didn’t win a game in the ACC. The Terrapins other victory was at inconsistent Virginia Tech in overtime. Maryland also lost to Clemson, Syracuse, Boston College and Wake Forest. They played the last five games of the season without leading receiver Stefon Diggs.
Miles from stadium: Marshall is 434 miles away from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. Maryland is only 27 miles away. There will probably be more Maryland fans wouldn’t be surprised if many showed up.
Motivation: Marshall will be happy to in a bowl game and showcase their explosive offense on national TV. Maryland might be thinking ahead to playing in the Big Ten next season and probably won’t be too excited about playing a Conference USA team.
Pick: Marshall -3
Marshall and Maryland didn’t have many impressive victories this season. I think Marshall’s motivation will be significant and their offense will put up points.
Texas Bowl: Syracuse vs. Minnesota
Schedule analysis: Syracuse (6-6) is familiar with Big Ten teams. They started the season with losses to Penn State and Northwestern. They evened up their record with easy non conference wins against Wagner and Tulane. Their first ever ACC game was a 49-14 loss to Clemson. The Orange then won three of their next four with wins at North Carolina State, home against Wake Forest and at Maryland. The lost was a 56-0 embarrassment at Georgia Tech. At 5-4, Syracuse only needed to win one of their last three games to be bowl eligible. They lost 59-3 at Florida State, which was a expected. Then the lost 17-16 to Pittsburgh at home. With their bowl hopes on the line, Syracuse came through to beat Boston College 34-31. Minnesota (8-4) had a great season and were one of the only Big Ten teams to overachieve in 2013. They started the season 4-0 win solid wins against UNLV and San Jose State. They stumbled at the beginning of Big 10 play with losses to Iowa and Michigan. After a bye week, they beat Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State. They dropped their last two games but played Wisconsin and Michigan State tough.
Miles from stadium: Syracuse is 1,634 miles away from Reliant Stadium in Houston. Minnesota is 1,187 miles away. Can’t see many fans at this game.
Motivation: Syracuse almost wasted a great chance to make a bowl by losing to Pittsburgh at home. They waited to be eligible until the final game. I think having to win that last game means they won’t motivated for the bowl game. If Minnesota had a better traveling fan base, there would be a good chance they would be playing in one of the New Years Day games. I think they will be motivated to prove they were disrespected.
Pick: Minnesota -4.5
Minnesota played great in the last six games of the season and will carry the momentum into Houston against a Syracuse team who barely made a bowl.
Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU vs. Washington
Schedule analysis: Independent BYU (8-4) played eight bowl teams this season. They bounced back from a Week 1 loss at Virginia with a dominant 40-21 victory over Texas. BYU lost their big rivalry game to Utah and lost when they had to travel to Wisconsin and Notre Dame in November. Washington (8-4) started the season on fire with wins against Boise State, Illinois, Idaho State and Arizona. Then the tough part of their schedule came up in October and they lost in consecutive weeks to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. The Huskies lost later in the year at UCLA and also beat California, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State in Pac-12 play. The Oregon State and Washington State games were the last two games of their season.
Miles from stadium: BYU is 775 miles away from AT&T Park in San Francisco. Washington is 808 miles away. Far trips for both fan bases, but Washington is familiar with the Northern California area.
Motivation: BYU lost three of their four games going to the eastern or central time zone. Now they will travel west and should be excited to play Washington. The Huskies are one of the programs that lost their coach to a bigger program. Steve Sarkisian left for USC and Washington has already hire Boise State’s Chris Petersen.
Pick: BYU +3
I like picking against teams who have gone through a coaching change before the bowl. I’ll do that again and take BYU with the points.