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Bowl Predictions 2014-2015: Armed Forces Bowl to Alamo Bowl

James Conner
Armed Forces Bowl: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas on January 2nd
Houston Cougars (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6)

Before a new era begins for both programs, as Houston ushers in former Ohio State OC Tom Herman and Pitt welcomes former Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi as head coaches, they will try to end their seasons on a high note. The Panthers will be all about running the football in this one, as they have done well all year long. Back James Conner is among the ACC and nation's top ball carriers and Houston does not have the proven rush defense needed to contain Conner. Tyler Boyd will make plays at receiver for Pitt and challenge a Cougars' secondary that has also been far from perfect, while Panther quarterback Chad Voytik only gets better as the season goes on. While Pittsburgh has missed stud defensive linemen Aaron Donald, one of the best players to ever play at the school, their defense is still stout and will still challenge an inexperienced Houston offense. Quarterback John O'Korn was so bad, Tony Levine benched him in favor of converted receiver Greg Ward Jr. Ward has played decent since taking over for O'Korn, leading the Cougars to a 4-3 mark. Though, he still struggles to make the big throws on third downs or down the field, and Pitt could soon be stacking the box to get pressure on him and stop the ground attack. Kenneth Farrow is a playmaker at running back for Houston and he could break open some big runs. At receiver Deontay Greenberry is among the nation's top deep threats when someone can get him the football. Unfortunately, Houston does not have a consistent enough offense to keep up with Pitt's methodical approach. If Ward struggles with turnovers and Pitt runs the ball well, and controls the clock they should be able to pull out a victory and hand Narduzzi some momentum as he enters his first year as head coach.
Pittsburgh, 27 Houston, 17

TaxSlayer Bowl: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, on January 2nd
Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (6-6)

One year after signing a Top 25 recruiting class and re-energizing the fanbase, Butch Jones has Tennessee playing in a bowl game, against a struggling Iowa team. Jones seemingly has found his quarterback in quickly improving Joshua Dobbs. While turnovers and dumb mistakes still plague the youthful Dobbs at times his strong arm and comfort in the Tennessee offense he has shown plenty of signs of being great. It will be interesting to see how Dobbs handles the Iowa pass rush, though. Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat are two of the Big Ten's best tackles and they will be pestering Dobbs all game long. A healthy center Mack Crowder, who has missed a big chunk of the season's second half, and a healthy back will certainly help both Dobbs and the Tennessee offense. Jalen Hurd, a true freshman, led the Vols with 777 yards on the ground this season is healthy once more after missing some action. He will be key in not just running the ball but also making plays as a receiver, considering the Vols are severely banged up in their receiver corps. The Hawkeyes' offense will play their typical brand of football: powerful and tough. Mark Weisman has slowed down after a hot start to the year but the powerful runner still has 14 touchdowns and over 800 yards on the year and is an absolute load to bring down. At quarterback, Jake Rudock put together a solid 2014 and will hope to continue it. While he won't be asked to do too much, Rudock is a solid passer who excels at short to intermediate throws and doesn't make too many mistakes. The Volunteers' defense will need a big day from their star linebacker A.J. Johnson, a tackling machine and will also need a strong performance from the rest of their front seven. If you are not properly prepared, Weisman can go from a good running back to a an absolutely fantastic back and Tennessee must be ready. While Iowa certainly has the grit and power to challenge the youthful (and banged up) Volunteers, Jones has Tennessee rolling. If Dobbs can make some plays and the defense can contain Weisman, Tennessee will in good position to win seven games this year, making great progress on the road back to contention inside the unforgiving SEC.
Tennessee, 24 Iowa, 20

Alamo Bowl: Alamodome, San Antonio, on January 2nd
Kansas State Wildcats (9-3) vs. UCLA Bruins (9-3)

Two teams that had shots at both conference titles and an outside shot of a Playoff berth will hope for redemption in San Antonio. Bill Snyder and his Wildcats will have to find ways to score against a strong UCLA defense, especially against the run. Erik Kendricks is among the most versatile linebackers in the nation, Myles Jack is a tremendous athlete and the Bruins have a number of linemen built to stop the run. Kansas State will not completely abandon the run, considering the success they have had using it this year. Jake Waters is a dual threat quarterback who is dangerous in the read-option or quarterback draw sets, while Charles Jones is a solid back who can break some lanes open for big gains. While containing Waters, UCLA must also be wary about his arm and the two weapons he has on the outside, Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. Both seniors, the pair has combined for over 2,000 yards and has given defenses serious problems. While Lockett uses his speed to stretch defenses vertically, Sexton does his work underneath as a possession guy who is very effective at moving the chains. Kendricks or Jack will have to offer some support in coverage if the Wildcats are going to stop the pair. On offense for UCLA, Brett Hundley is the X-factor. Quite possibly playing in his final collegiate game, Hundley still has moments where he wows and moments where he is far from great. Of course, he will need help from his inconsistent offensive line, along with the ground game, led by Paul Perkins. Hundley will have to avoid solid K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller and a number of other Wildcat defenders who are sure to try to take advantage of the Bruins' porous offensive line. Jordan Payton will have to be available for big plays deep and stretch the Wildcats defense to take them away from the line, which will also open up running lanes for Perkins and Hundley. Along with Mueller, linebacker Jonathan Truman is among the Big 12's best linebackers and a sure tackler. His versatility and instincts allow him to make plays all across the field and he will have to make a number of plays in this one. While the Bruins have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, things have struggled to come together for them this year. They could be exposed against Waters and the deep threats of K-State and unless Hundley has a masterful performance, they will likely fall to 10-4.
Kansas State, 34 UCLA, 28

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