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Bowl Picks 2017-2018: Heart of Dallas Bowl to Independence Bowl

Josh Rosen, UCLA (Cactus Bowl)
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
Utah Utes (6-6) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5)
Two teams with vastly different philosophies square off in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. West Virginia has one of the nation's most explosive offensive units, headlined by quarterback Will Grier, running back Justin Crawford and receivers David Sills and Gary Jennings. They pose a big challenge for Utah, who has long been more conservative offensively and leans more on the defense. However, in order to keep up with WVU, the Utes will need the offense to have a big day. Back Zack Moss and Oregon transfer Darren Carrington give the unit some weapons, but unless the defense shuts down Grier and company, the Mountaineers should be able to snatch up their eighth win of the year.
West Virginia, 33 Utah, 23

Quick Lane Bowl
Northern Illinois Huskies (8-4) vs. Duke Blue Devils (6-6)
Northern Illinois has earned a reputation as a small school dark horse over the past decade in college football, and now they have a shot to take down an ACC school in 6-6 Duke. The Blue Devils aren't very imposing offensively but have still proven they can move the ball with the help of QB Daniel Jones and wide out T.J. Rahming, but there real strength is on defense, where they allow just 20.8 points per game (25th nationally). That is also the case for the Huskies, who have struggled to move the ball through the air consistently all season long, but rely on a methodical rushing attack and strong defense. It should be a competitive game, but Duke brings just more experience and overall talent to the table.
Duke, 27 Northern Illinois, 21

Cactus Bowl
Kansas State Wildcats (7-5) vs. UCLA Bruins (6-6)
Even though both teams dealt with injuries, it was a very disappointing 2017 for K-State and UCLA. The Wildcats couldn't get consistent QB play for a big chunk of the year, but youngster Skylar Thompson has played great down the stretch and orchestrated the upset of Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, UCLA struggled mightily after beating Texas A&M and plan to bring in Chip Kelly to turn around the program. The Bruins have a proven star in junior QB Josh Rosen, but the weak ground attack continues to make the offense very one-dimensional. That isn't going to work against a Wildcats' defense that is well-coached and has solid experience throughout. If Thompson and the offense can pound a lackluster UCLA defense, K-State should roll.
Kansas State, 31 UCLA, 20

Walk On's Independence Bowl
Florida State Seminoles (6-6) vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (8-4)
After losing star quarterback Deondre Francois to a season-ending knee injury, Florida State had a rollercoaster of a 2017, barely sneaking into bowl play with a 6-6 mark. They hope to give new head coach Willie Taggart some momentum to work with by ending the year with a win over Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are a good football team, and have one of the country's most under-the-radar superstars in running back Ito Smith, who ran for 1,321 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. FSU has loads of talent defensively, including cornerback Tavarus McFadden and safety Derwin James, but the unit has underperformed for much of the year. That puts more pressure on a young offense, which leans on QB James Blackman and true frosh back Cam Akers. Even so, the Seminoles impressive talent and recent hot streak should guide them to a victory.
Florida State, 34 Southern Miss, 28

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