Breaking news, rankings, predictions and analysis all in one place.

Bowl Picks 2019: Camping World Bowl-Alamo Bowl (Non-NY6, Dec.28-31)

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame (Camping World Bowl)
Camping World Bowl
(10-2) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. (7-5) Iowa State Cyclones
While Notre Dame will not be returning to the College Football Playoff this year, they could still finish the season 11-2 with a significant bowl victory. The Irish enter winners of five straight, as their offense has finally founds its legs down the stretch. Senior QB Ian Book in particular is playing terrific, with 12 touchdowns to zero interceptions in his last three games. The Cyclone defense is tough, but the secondary remains inconsistent. They also could be in store for a tough matchup against ND's top target, Chase Claypool, a 6'4", 230-pound weapon. On the other hand, Iowa State has a superb quarterback of their own, as Brock Purdy has wrapped up his sophomore campaign with 3,760 yards and 27 TD's. He has played well in ISU's biggest games, but this is a very difficult defense to play against. They pressure the quarterback for the entire sixty minutes, and the secondary has some real talent, including true freshman Kyle Hamilton. The Cyclones are really going to need to strike a balance on offense, which puts significant pressure on tailback Breece Hall. The youngster has flashed serious potential, but he has averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt over the last three games. It's hard to see Iowa State keeping up with this rapidly improving Irish offense unless he can create some big plays on the ground.
Notre Dame, 34 Iowa State, 24

First Responder Bowl
(8-4) Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. (7-5) Western Michigan Broncos
Western Kentucky quietly was one of the better stories of the 2019 college football season. First-year head coach Tyson Helton took over a 3-9 Hilltopper team and transformed them into a pretty formidable 8-4 squad. They don't play a super exciting brand of football was a defense-first team that controls the ball, but the offense still has interesting pieces with junior running back Gaej Walker and senior wide out Lucky Jackson. Their defense is quality, but it could be in store for a tough one against WMU's LeVante Bellamy. One of the most underrated running backs in the country, Bellamy has 1,412 yards and 23 scores on the season. He has only had one single game where he didn't score a touchdown this year, which just happened to come against one of the nation's premier rush defenses, Michigan State. Western Michigan also features a veteran QB in Jon Wassink and a physical defense, but there are notable questions to ask when talking about special teams. They're just 8-15 on field goals this season, and the punting has been questionable at times as well. In bowl games between two competitive foes, those special teams issues could make all the difference.
Western Kentucky, 24 Western Michigan, 20

Music City Bowl
(7-5) Louisville Cardinals vs. (6-6) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Their wacky win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl might have allowed Mississippi State to sneak into a bowl, but they'll get nothing easy against Louisville, who I believe may actually be better than their 7-5 record indicates. The resurgence from the Cardinals has been centered around an innovative offense that spreads the ball around. Running backs Hassan Hall and Javian Hawkins, as well as dual threat QB Micale Cunningham, are a load to handle for any defense, especially one that has lacked leadership like Mississippi State's. The Bulldogs also need to identify someone who can contain Tutu Atwell, an electrifying sophomore who had four straight 100-yard receiving games before the loss to Kentucky. That Kentucky lost exposed just how much room Louisville's defense still has to grow under head coach Scott Satterfield. They may be in store for a real learning experience against Miss. State's Kylin Hill, who has declared for the NFL Draft, but still plans to play in their bowl game. With that being said, the Bulldogs still struggle to pass the ball, and remain frightfully one-dimensional. Joe Moorhead also simply isn't the coach Satterfield is, giving Lousiville the ever-important edge on the sidelines.
Louisville, 36 Mississippi State, 21

Redbox Bowl
(7-5) California Golden Bears vs. (6-6) Illinois Fighting Illini
Both Cal and Illinois have gone opposite directions over the course of their 2019 seasons. The Golden Bears started off 4-0 before an injury to starting QB Chase Garbers essentially doomed their season, losing five of their last six prior to his return. Illinois on the other hand started off 2-4 before a stunning upset of Wisconsin jumpstarted a four-game winning streak. Although they lost their final two games of the year, the Illini still have some momentum. They're going to need that to show up against a vaunted Cal defense that includes tackling machine Evan Weaver. Cal is especially hard to run on, so whoever starts at QB will have to make plays. The likely starter is still Brandon Peters, although he isn't 100 percent after a concussion in the Iowa game. The health of Garbers is huge for the Golden Bears; although he may not be a superstar QB, he makes a huge difference for this offense (just look at their numbers when he was out). The ground attack is also solid, and the Illinois defense is still tough to get a read on. I like Cal here, a team who would be a lot better than 8-5 if Garbers was indeed healthy for the whole year.
Cal, 20 Illinois, 17

Belk Bowl
(8-4) Virginia Tech Hokies vs. (7-5) Kentucky Wildcats
The fact that both of these teams ended up in a bowl is pretty miraculous, and a testament to the coaches on the sidelines. Kentucky lost starting QB Terry Wilson for the season early on, and struggled mightily under backup Sawyer Smith. In turn, they decided to turn to the emergency QB Lynn Bowden, their star wide out. Bowden didn't pass the ball much at the position (62 attempts) but his running ability still kept the Wildcat offense firing. Bowden is fresh off a 284-yard, 4 TD showing against Louisville, and he'll hope that hot play carries over into the bowl. For Virginia Tech, they started the year off 2-2, but a 45-10 loss to Duke seemed to validate concerns that the program was going in the wrong direction under Justin Fuente. Instead, the Hokies responded by winning six of their final eight, with their only losses coming by one to Notre Dame and nine to Virginia. The big reason for the turnaround was an improved defense, but more importantly the play of quarterback Hendon Hooker. Hooker was superb down the stretch, and he has some impressive talent at wide out in Tre Turner and Damon Hazelton. They should have success against this UK defense, even against a unit that allows just 18.4 PPG. I think there's a good chance the Wildcats still keep it rolling under Bowden, but Bud Foster's final bowl game as VT defensive coordinator should prove again why he is one of the best in the business.
Virginia Tech, 31 Kentucky, 28

Sun Bowl
(6-6) Florida State Seminoles vs. (7-5) Arizona State Sun Devils
Even though it has been another frustrating year for Florida State, they still have a chance to audition for their new coaching staff in the Sun Bowl. This is going to be a tough one for the Seminoles, who will have to find a way to contain freshman phenom Jayden Daniels, as well as score against a stout Arizona State defense. That chore for FSU got even more difficult when star running back Cam Akers announced that he was skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Seminoles will be forced to turn to Khalan Laborn at running back, but will he have success against this ASU defense? The Sun Devils are particularly strong at linebacker, so I expect them to be flying all over the field in this one. Can the Florida State aerial attack pick up the slack? James Blackman is going to get the start, but he has really struggled to get this offense going. The FSU defense has some pieces, but stopping Daniels has proven to be easier said than done. Not only is he a dual threat, but Daniels also plays his best in the big moments, including a 408-yard, 3 touchdown shredding of a really good Oregon defense. Don't forget about his supporting cast either; junior tailback Eno Benjamin has put together his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, while wide out Brandon Aiyuk has had a breakout 2019. That's just too much for Florida State, even if they can figure out some new offensive playmakers quickly.
Arizona State, 35 Florida State, 21

Liberty Bowl
(10-2) Navy Midshipmen vs. (8-4) Kansas State Wildcats
This may not get much attention in the grand scheme of things, but I think the Liberty Bowl could actually be a real fascinating matchup. On one hand, Navy has had a resurgent 2019 and is always worth a watch as a triple-option team, while Kansas State has had a nice debut under first-year head coach Chris Kleiman and is a well-coached, physical football team. The Wildcats don't play a pretty brand of football, but they still averaged nearly 31 points per game on the season. Running back James Gilbert and dual threat Skylar Thompson are effective, powerful runners who benefit from a really experienced and deep K-State offensive line. Navy has consistently fielded great defenses over the tenure of Ken Niumatalolo, but even they could have difficulties staying in front of the Wildcats over the course of four quarters. The Midshipmen aren't very flashy on offense either, leaning on a triple-option attack that relies on the right reads and excellent timing. QB Malcom Perry has had a tremendous 2019, leading Navy in passing and rushing on the year. K-State is going to have to tackle well in space, particularly as Perry is fresh off a 304-yard performance against Army. This triple-option is always difficult to contain, but I think this Wildcats team is up to the task. They're the type of disciplined, well-rounded team necessary to take down a Navy.
Kansas State, 24 Navy, 20

Arizona Bowl
(7-5) Wyoming Cowboys vs. (7-5) Georgia State Panthers
Both Wyoming and Georgia State burst on to the scene in 2019 with upsets of SEC East opponents, as Wyoming shocked Missouri, while Georgia State took down Tennessee. Neither was able to turn that momentum into a conference title, but a berth in the Arizona Bowl is not a terrible consolation prize for two Group of Five teams. This will be a really fascinating showdown between a dominating defense (Wyoming) and an explosive Panthers offense. The Cowboys allow just 17.8 points per game, but they haven't seen a lot of offenses quite like the one at GSU. Not only is Georgia State QB Dan Ellington difficult to stop, Wyoming will have to find to contain back Tra Barnett, who has 1,389 yards on the year. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can keep up; they've really struggled to strike any balance on offense on the year, with their leading passer being freshman Sean Chambers, who totaled just 915 yards. Even so, in competitive Group of Five matchups, I tend to go with the team that has the better defense. That is unquestionably Wyoming, who has developed into a consistent winner under head coach Craig Bohl.
Wyoming, 27 Georgia State, 19

Alamo Bowl
(11-2) Utah Utes vs. (7-5) Texas Longhorns
It's been a frustrating campaign for Texas, who has lagged through injuries en route to a 7-5 record. However, beating a really strong Utah team in the Alamo Bowl could set the stage for a resurgent 2020. The Utes are a difficult team to score on, with the No. 6 scoring defense in the country and a physical, experienced defensive front. Not only is this is a major challenge for UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger, but can the Longhorn O-Line hold up? They've been up-and-down all year, and this may be the best D-Line they've seen in 2019. The Longhorns do have a slight advantage at the skill positions, where veterans Devin Duvarney and Collin Johnson can open things up, but I still don't expect the scoreboard to be lit up regularly in this one. On the Texas defensive side, they won't face an explosive offense, but still a very efficient one. Utah QB Tyler Huntley and tailback Zack Moss are two of the most under-the-radar stars in the country. They know how to hit weak spots against opposing defenses, and Moss was the Offensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12 this year. There are certainly a lot of weak spots to hit against this Longhorn defense, which was forced to move on from coordinator Todd Orlando after such a frustrating year. There is still enough talent to keep this one interesting, but I simply don't trust this Longhorn team at the moment. Until they prove they can beat a quality opponent like the Utes, I roll with Kyle Whittingham and Utah.
Utah, 30 Texas, 21

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.