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Bowl Picks 2015: Pinstripe Bowl to Foster Farms Bowl

Jordan Howard, Indiana, Pinstripe Bowl
New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Bronx, @ Yankee Stadium (Dec. 26th, 2:30 pm CT on ESPN)
Indiana Hoosiers (6-6) vs. Duke Blue Devils (7-5)

It used to be that late December meant basketball at Indiana and Duke. But, both teams are in bowls this season, and both are building respectable football programs. Duke is playing in yet another bowl, as head coach David Cutcliffe continues to show he has staying power, while Indiana might have saved head coach Kevin Wilson's job by sneaking into this one at 6-6. The Hoosiers began the year 5-0 before poor defense and just terrible luck wrestled them to six straight losses. Indiana has proven they have an offense to be feared, which has been the norm under Wilson. Quarterback Nate Sudfield continues to shred apart opposing defenses, something he has done throughout his time at Bloomington. He managed 3,184 yards and 24 scores on the year, and cut down on his turnovers. He was also helped by running back Jordan Howard, a late transfer from UAB. Howard had to come from the then-defunct program at UAB and fill in for the departed Tevin Coleman, who only rushed for over 2,000 yards prior (while doing it injured for the second half of 2014). Howard is a versatile runner with excellent vision and incredible burst. Duke which has been stout defensively all year long, will have to be well disciplined and make tackles in space in this one. Duke floundered towards the end of the season, losing four straight before they won their final game of the regular season. Though, one of those losses to Miami easily could be seen as a win, as the refs infamously blew a number of calls en route to the 'Canes winning a thriller full of laterals. Their offense is led by the dual threat ability of Thomas Sirk at quarterback (who led them in passing and rushing) as well as Max McCaffrey, who has taken over as their top option with the departure of record-setting Jamison Crowder. Their offense is far from flashy, but Cutcliffe is a great football mind, and he recognizes opposing defenses as well as anybody. Indiana's defense is full of holes, and Sirk and McCaffrey should attack them. If their defense, headlined by a solid core of veterans, including safety Jeremy Cash, can contain Indiana, Duke should come away with what will be another accolade to their recent success.
Duke, 34 Indiana, 30

Camping World Independence Bowl, Shreveport (LA), @ Independence Stadium (Dec. 26th, 4:45 pm CT on ESPN)
Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-6)

A bowl meeting between two 6-6 teams may not hold much appeal normally, but the intrigue in this game is clear. Frank Beamer, the longtime head coach at Virginia Tech, will be coaching in his final game with the Hokies in this one, where he hopes to leave on a high note. Beamer has never been flashy, he has prided himself in Blacksburg on "Beamer Ball", a combination of defense and special teams. Though, the Hokies have tailed off recently and it was clear that Beamer's time had to come to an end (he will leave the job to former Memphis head coach, the rising Justin Fuente). Virginia Tech will be highly motivated in this one, but it remains to be seen if they can get the job done offensively. The Hokies have long lacked much pop on offense, particularly so this season, even when Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer has been healthy at QB. He does have weapons on the perimeter in Bucky Hodges at tight end and Isaiah Ford, but the offense just hasn't clicked. Perhaps playing a very inconsistent Tulsa defense will finally be the right medicine. Tulsa finished off the year 6-6, respectable for head coach Phillip Montgomery's first year. Montgomery, the former OC at Baylor, has transformed Tulsa back into a high-scoring machine, as the Golden Hurricane put up 36 points per game this year, much of it through the air. QB Dane Evans has had major success, as Montgomery has built the scheme around the veteran quarterback. It has also helped that Keyarris Garrett has transformed into one of the nation's best receivers, with 1,451 yards and 88 receptions on the year. Virginia Tech has long been great defensively, as defensive coordinator Bud Foster just continues to be innovative. But, the defense has been just sort of average this year, and this matchup is worrying. The Hokies are without cornerback Kendall Fuller, an absolute monster, who tore his ACL weeks ago. Evans should obviously recognize this and hope to take advantage of the absence of a future NFL stud. Even so, I think I have to stick with Virginia Tech in this one. Emotions should be running high, and motivation will not be lacking on Tech's sideline. Not only do they want to send Beamer out on a high note, but they also want to impress the incoming Fuente. If they can find some sparks offensively, they should skate by.
Virginia Tech, 27 Tulsa, 24

Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, @ Levi's Stadium (Dec. 26th, 8:15 pm CT on ESPN)
UCLA Bruins (8-4) vs. Nebraska Huskers (5-7)

 It has not been ideal first year in Lincoln, Nebraska for head coach Mike Riley. The former Oregon State head man was a surprising and confusing hire over the offseason and his Huskers faltered to a weak 5-7 record, marked by dozens of close losses that should have never happened. Even so, due to the large amount of bowl games, Nebraska was awarded a bowl and will get an opportunity to show their stuff against a good UCLA squad. Nebraska has been a weird offensive team all year long; they have had some great games and some terrible games and enter this game searching for consistency. Junior Tommy Armstrong has had his ups-and-downs throughout his tenure as Nebraska QB but is an experienced QB with plenty of talent. UCLA's secondary has been inconsistent as well throughout the year, so Armstrong could have a chance at success, connecting with lightning quick Jordan Westerkamp. Though, that Bruins' defense does include some studs, even without linebacker Myles Jack, who tore his ACL earlier in the year. Defensive linemen Kenny Clark is an established NFL prospect and he could make running the ball very difficult, putting even more weight on Armstrong's shoulders. Offensively, UCLA will lean on "Chosen Rosen", as he has been affectionately nicknamed by some. Josh Rosen, the top quarterback prospect in the 2015 recruiting cycle, has been absolutely amazing. He has shown incredible poise, a huge arm and great playmaking ability throughout the year. Turnovers have been few and far between as well, for the most part. Nebraska's defense will have to be aggressive against the young quarterback, they will get eaten alive if they are not. The Huskers will also have to deal with underrated back Paul Perkins, who finished the year with 1,275 yards and dominated weak defenses. That 1-2 punch of Rosen and Perkins, supported by receiver Jordan Payton as well, could prove to be brutal for Nebraska. Unless Armstrong can have a career day, they just don't have much else to pull an upset against a frustrated UCLA team coming off a loss to archrival USC that cost them a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game.
UCLA, 31 Nebraska, 21

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