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Bowl Picks 2015: Miami Beach Bowl to GoDaddy Bowl

Tyler Matakevich, Temple, Boca Raton Bowl
Miami Beach Bowl, Miami, @Marlins Park (Dec. 21st, 1:30 pm CT on ESPN)
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (11-2) vs. South Florida Bulls (8-4)

Get ready for the "Willie Taggart Bowl". Taggart, who helped develop Western Kentucky into a considerable Group of Five power, is experiencing his first dose of real success at South Florida, who won eight games this year after a slow start to his tenure. Now, Taggart will hope to lead USF to a victory against his former Hilltoppers, which could be quite the challenge. Over the past few years, WKU has been among the nation's most explosive teams, and that has not changed a bit this season. The Hilltoppers are averaging 44.2 points per game on the year, behind a passing attack that is ranked sixth in the nation. Much of that is due to Brandon Doughty's huge arm. The senior quarterback has been on fire all year long, with 4,594 yards and 45 touchdowns. He'll be joined by a dynamic group of receivers that should give the Bulls' defense plenty of fits. Taywan Taylor is the most legit of the deep group of wide outs; he has 1,363 yards and 17 touchdowns on the campaign. Though, guys like Nicholas Norris, Jared Dangerfield and more should find ways to contribute. The Hilltoppers will also bring a dangerous back to the equation, in Anthony Wales. Wales is an extremely explosive runner that can break open games at any chance. He has 986 yards total on the year, with seven touchdowns, while averaging seven yards a rush. South Florida's defense will clearly have their hands full. The tough thing about WKU is that not any can they can score at any moment and unbelievably quickly. That means the momentum of the game can flip like a switch at any moment. Though, the Bulls have a sound defensive unit that should be up for the fight. On offense, expect South Florida to lean heavily on their ground attack, which is averaging well over 200 yards per game on the year. Their feature back, Marlon Mack, is a stud who has 1,273 yards on the year (6.6 yards per carry), while dual threat QB Quinton Flowers can do it all. South Florida doesn't have the explosive offense that the Hilltoppers possess, but they should still definitely compete in this one. They are blazing hot, winners of four straight, with wins over Temple and Cincinnati. They don't have to absolutely shut down Doughty, Taylor and Wales, but at least contain them. I think they can, and increase their win streak to five, while granting Taggart his first bowl win in South Florida.
South Florida, 38 Western Kentucky, 34

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise, @Albertsons Stadium (Dec. 22, 2:30 pm CT on ESPN)
Akron Zips (7-5) vs. Utah State Aggies (6-6)

This bowl game features two teams trending in very opposite directions. Akron, which is seeking it's first bowl win in their history, has used a great second half to improve to 7-5, with four straight victories. They closed things out with absolutely dominant victories over Buffalo and rival Kent State. Meanwhile, Utah State has kind of limped down the stretch, entering this game at 6-6, a pretty large disappointment. The Aggies' chances all year long have been hurt seriously by an early-season injury to star quarterback Chuckie Keeton. It was the third straight year that Keeton has suffered a pretty serious injury, overshadowing the unbelievable talent the longtime veteran has. Though, Keeton has returned the past few games, and hopes to end his Utah State career on a high note. His favorite target, receiver Hunter Sharp, will hope to help out the senior quarterback, while the Aggies will also try to push a mediocre running game. Defensively, Akron is very strong, though some of the teams they have played in the MAC are terrible. Their secondary has been stout, but Keeton could still get something going. The Zips have an offense that is far from explosive, particularly through the air. Akron will still roll with sophomore Thomas Woodson, though he has had his fair share of ups-and-downs on the year and has been prone to turnovers. Running back Conner Hundley has been strong all campaign, especially in short yardage and goal line situations. Though, he'll be tasked with quite the challenge. The Aggies have a strong rush defense, headed by Nick Vigil, the brother of longtime linebacker Zach. Nick has made quite the name for himself though, recording 140 tackles on the season. He also recorded 12.5 tackles for loss, and made a living constantly disrupting opposing backfields. He'll be supported by Kyler Fackrell, another stud linebacker who has 76 tackles this year, with 13.5 of them going for a loss. On paper, Utah State looks like the much better game, but it is very tough to bet against a very hot Akron team. I think the Zips should do enough defensively to help them pull out a very close win.
Akron, 24 Utah State, 21

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton (FL), @FAU Stadium (Dec. 22, 6 pm CT, on ESPN)
Temple Owls (10-3) vs. Toledo Rockets (9-2)

For a decent chunk of the 2015 college football season, it appeared these two teams could be battling in out for the lone spot for a Group of Five team in a New Year's Six Bowl. Though, Toledo had some tough losses down the stretch, while Temple lost to Houston (who did earn that New Year's Six bid) in the AAC Championship Game. Even though they didn't win the conference, it was still one great year for Temple. The Owls went 10-3 on the year, beat Penn State, won their division, and just as importantly, managed to retain rising head coach Matt Rhule for the foreseeable future. Temple is a very good offensive team, one that is very balanced. Quarterback P.J. Walker has put together a strong campaign, while back Jahad Thomas rushed for well over 1,000 yards and 17 scores. The Rockets had their moments on the defensive side of the ball this season, but they could still struggle against the Owls' balanced attack. While their offense should play a major role, it may be defensively where Temple can win this game. The defense is led by the Chuck Bednarik Award winner (given to the nation's best defensive player) Tyler Matakevich. Matakevich, a relatively little known recruit, has had over 100 tackles every single season since stepping on Temple's campus. He finished off this year with 126 tackles, along with 15.5 tackles for loss and five interceptions. He will lead an extremely aggressive front seven, one that should wreak some serious havoc against Toledo. The Rockets will try to respond offensively with a combination of different weapons. Former Alabama backup QB Phillip Ely has found a second life in Toledo, finishing off the campaign with 2,680 yards and 21 touchdowns. He'll be joined by running back Kareem Hunt (894 yards, 10 touchdowns) and a veteran-laden group of receivers. Toledo's offensive line will also have to be up for a task against a Temple defense that loves to dial up a variety of blitzes. The Rockets first rose up on the college football landscape this year with a magical victory over Arkansas. They'll need some similar magic in this one, against a Temple team that is better than them in nearly every major category. Even so, expect Toledo to put up a legitimate fight.
Temple, 27 Toledo, 17

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego, @Qualcomm Stadium (Dec. 23, 3:30 pm CT on ESPN)
Boise State Broncos (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (8-5)

Over the past few seasons, Northern Illinois and Boise State have positioned themselves as some of the voice of the underdogs in the college football world. Boise State stirred up constant chaos in the BCS picture and has had some unbelievable moments, capped by their famous "Statue of Liberty" victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl years ago. Meanwhile, NIU earned themselves a berth in the Orange Bowl just a couple years ago and continues to be the most consistent program in the MAC. Both teams have had bumpy roads all year long, with Boise finishing off 8-4 and NIU going 8-5 after losing in the MAC Championship. The Broncos have been effective all year long offensively, even after the loss of stud running back Jay Ajayi. Jeremy McNichols has taken over for Ajayi this year and responded by running for 1,244 yards and 18 scores. McNichols has shown amazing vision, power and balance. The Huskies will also have their hands full containing explosive receiver Thomas Sperbeck on the perimeter. Sperbeck, who has quickly emerged as QB Brett Rypien's favorite target, recorded 82 catches and eight scores on the year. On the other side, Northern Illinois also will be rolling with a very balanced, multi-dimensional offensive attack. Quarterback Drew Hare hasn't been much more than average this year, but he has a plethora of weapons at receiver that he can get the ball to. Back Joel Bouagnon has emerged as a quiet star for this Northern Illinois team. He has now rushed for 1,269 yards and 18 touchdowns. Though, Boise State does have a strong defense, and a fierce front seven. That front seven is led by defensive end Kamalei Correa, an absolute monster off the edge, who could play a huge role in this one. Correa will be the ringleader of a defense that loves to create pressure, and will hope to feed off it this game. Both of these Group of Five teams are established programs who should once more be scary next year. I think Boise State is the more sound football team, and rides into this game with a solid dose of momentum.
Boise State, 30 Northern Illinois, 21

GoDaddy Bowl, Mobile (AL), @Ladd-Pebbles Stadium (Dec. 23 7 pm CT on ESPN)
Georgia Southern Eagles (8-4) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (10-3)

The coaching carousel of the 2015-2015 college football scene was quick and frantic. It included Dino Babers, the former head coach of Eastern Illinois and then Bowling Green, who would take the head coach gig at Syracuse. It will be a tough loss for Bowling Green, but the Falcons enter the GoDaddy Bowl fresh off a MAC Championship. BG's success this year can be mainly credited to quarterback Matt Johnson. Johnson threw for 4,700 yards and 43 scores on the year, I'm surprised there were no strong efforts to push him to a Heisman finalist. Johnson is a dynamic player that thrives on the open play. Georgia Southern defenders will have to be careful about how they defend the opposing quarterback, and must stay disciplined. The Falcons will also certainly lean on the services of back Travis Greene, as well. Greene had 1,219 yards and 14 touchdowns on the campaign, and dazzled with his incredible burst. He will certainly help bring more balance to the Bowling Green offense. That will only give Southern even more issues on the defensive side of the ball, where they have been inconsistent. On offense though, the Eagles have been rock solid, running their triple-option attack. Georgia Southern may not exactly be pretty, but they have run through the Sun Belt for two straight years, going 8-4 this year. Matt Breida (1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns), LA Ramsby and quarterback Kevin Ellison have led a truly scary unit. It will be interesting to see how Bowling Green defends the triple option. The Falcons have played pretty good defensively this year, but have made mistakes. They haven't had a ton of time to prepare for this unorthodox offense, which could spell problems. While Boise State and NIU feature two Group of Five powers, this game features two rising teams. A win would prove Bowling Green has a bright future after Babers. Meanwhile, Georgia Southern will be eager to continue their recent hot streak. Though, their offense just may not be explosive enough to firmly keep in place with BG.
Bowling Green, 35 Georgia Southern, 28

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