Bowl Previews and Picks: December 31 Games

AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona vs. Boston College 

Schedule analysis: Arizona (7-5) ended the season losing three of their last four but it could’ve been worse. They shocked Oregon 42-16 in the second to last game of the season. Their losses in that span were against UCLA, Washington State and at Arizona State. The Wildcats started Pac-12 play with losses at Washington and USC. They won three straight games against Utah, Colorado and California, who were the only Pac-12 teams not to make a bowl game. Boston College (7-5) ended the season winning four of their last five including victories against Virginia Tech and at Maryland. Their losses came against bowl-bound USC, Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina and Syracuse.

Miles from stadium: Arizona is 1,105 miles away from Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana. Boston College is 1,630 miles away. Both fan bases  have a hard time showing up for home games so there’s no chance they will travel to this bowl.

Motivation: After solid seasons from both teams, this is not a great bowl game to be in. Neither team will have much motivation to play in Shreveport. However, each team has a running back who will look to boost their NFL draft stock. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey (1,716 yards) and Boston College’s Andre Williams (2,102 yards) will look to impress scouts.

Pick: Boston College +7.5

The Arizona and Boston College defenses will use the extra bowl practice to prepare to stop the run. This will be a close game so I will take the underdog.

Sun Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. UCLA

Schedule analysis: Virginia Tech (8-4) stayed competitive in their season opener against Alabama. After the loss they went on to win six straight games including a Thursday night upset at Georgia Tech. The Hokies dropped three of their last five games. They were upset at home by Duke and Maryland. They defeated Miami the week after the Hurricanes lost for Florida State. Virginia Tech closed the season with a 16-6 win at Virginia. UCLA (9-3) lost in back-to-back weeks on the road at Stanford and Oregon. They lost later in the season to Arizona State at home. The Bruins most impressive non conference win was at Nebraska and they earned city bragging rights by beating USC 35-14  in the last game of the season.

Miles from stadium: Virginia Tech is 1,716 miles away from Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas. UCLA is 816 miles away. There might more UCLA fans but there won’t be a big fan advantage.

Motivation: Hard to predict the motivation for both teams. Virginia Tech has been in 21 straight bowl games since 1993. Playing in the Sun Bowl can’t be too exciting after a bad ending to their season. UCLA lost to three great teams this year so maybe they think they should be in a better bowl game.

Pick: Virginia Tech +7

Virginia Tech has experience of playing in bowl games. I don’t think they will win but they should cover a spread of a touchdown or more.

Liberty Bowl: Rice vs. Mississippi State 

Schedule analysis: Rice (10-3) started the season with a 52-31 loss at Texas A&M, who were a common opponent with Mississippi State. The Owls also lost to in-state foes Houston and North Texas. They ended the season on a four-game win streak including the Conference USA championship game against Marshall. Mississippi State (6-6) had to win back-to-back games in overtime against Arkansas and Ole Miss to gain bowl eligibility. Their other wins this season were against Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green and Kentucky. Not the best resume of wins but they played a very strong schedule. They lost to Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama.

Miles from stadium: Rice is 577 miles away from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. Mississippi State is 165 miles away. This bowl is nice for Mississippi State fans because of a short travel and I can see a hidden home field advantage.

Motivation: Rice will look forward to the opportunity to play a SEC team. Mississippi State will be motivated to play in nearby Memphis. However, after playing a very difficult schedule and needing two overtimes to make a bowl, I can’t see the Bulldogs being excited about playing a C-USA team.

Pick: Rice +7

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Duke vs. Texas A&M 

Schedule analysis: Duke (10-3) went on an eight-game win streak before losing in the ACC championship game to Florida State. The Blue Devils defeated Navy, Virginia Tech, Miami and North Carolina in that span. The victory at North Carolina earned Duke an ACC Coastal title. Texas A&M (8-4) ended the season with losses at LSU and Missouri. Quarterback Johnny Manziel was contained in both games. The Aggies other losses were home games against Alabama and Auburn. Even in their wins this season, the Aggies struggled defensively and gave up at least 28 points in wins against Rice, Sam Houston, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Miles from stadium: Duke is 379 miles away from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Texas A&M is 815 miles away. There are more Texas A&M fans but I don’t think there will be enough in this stadium to create a big advantage. Duke will travel well for their standards.

Motivation: Duke has never been a good college football team so they will be motivated to play in a bowl game on New Years Eve. Texas A&M had national title hopes before the season but their defense let them down. Manziel might be thinking about the NFL.

Pick: Duke +12.5

Texas A&M will allow points. Based off the last two game of their season, Manziel can be contained with the right game planning. Duke is too big of an underdog here.

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