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Bowl Picks 2019: Gasparilla Bowl to Cheez-It Bowl (Dec.23-27)

Isaiah Green, Marshall (Gasparilla Bowl)
Gasparilla Bowl
(9-3) UCF Knights vs. (8-4) Marshall Thundering Herd
Although UCF wasn't able to win a third straight AAC Title, the Knights may actually be better than a 9-3 record indicates. Their three losses were by a combined seven points, and still have plenty to play for at Raymond James Stadium. Marshall is a well-rounded team who has won six of their last seven. Sophomore running back Brenden Knox is going to be the go-to guy on this offense against a streaky UCF defense. Can Isaiah Green and the aerial attack match UCF's, which is built on the arm of true freshman Dillon Gabriel? Gabriel has been a revelation in 2019, tossing for 3,393 yards and 27 touchdowns over the course of the fall. This Knights team is still one of the best in the Group of Five, and while the Herd will keep things close, I'll roll with Gabriel and UCF.
UCF, 38 Marshall, 28

Hawai'i Bowl
(9-5) Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors vs. (7-5) BYU Cougars
Hawai'i came up short against Boise State in the Mountain West Championship Game, but they could still end the season with double-digit wins. Head coach Nick Rolovich runs an aggressive offense that really zips the ball all over the field. Junior quarterback Cole McDonald has 29 passing touchdowns on the year, but also has 14 touchdowns. He'll create some big plays with Warrior wide outs Cedric Byrd II, Jared Smart and JoJo Ward (all over 900 receiving yards), but he has to take care of the football. BYU is a program known for being to capitalize off turnovers. The Cougars beat Tennessee and USC in the month of September, but slowed down over the second half. However, they're finally starting to get healthy, and had won five straight prior to the regular season finale loss to San Diego State. They're going to win built on their defense, but this offense is still going to have to make things happen. QB Zach Wilson missed a month with injury, he tossed for 316 yards against the Aztecs, and will attack a porous Hawai'i secondary.
BYU, 31 Hawai'i, 29

Independence Bowl
(9-3) Lousiana Tech Bulldogs vs. (6-6) Miami Hurricanes
It's been a rocky Year One for Manny Diaz at Miami, but he could still build momentum for 2020 with a win here. Quarterback Jarren Williams has been streaky all year long, and the Hurricane defense has been pretty disappointing. The 'Canes need to find their rush offense, which is 120th nationally, with just 121.8 YPG. Louisiana Tech won't be intimidated of the big name program, although they don't enter with much momentum, losing two games in November. The Bulldogs feature a decent offense, behind QB J'Mar Smith and tailback Justin Henderson. Their offensive line will have some difficulty against a physical Hurricane defensive front, but I actually like Louisiana Tech in this one. The 'Canes are trending down, and it's hard to see the motivation factor this team.
Louisiana Tech, 27 Miami, 24

Quick Lane Bowl
(7-5) Pittsburgh Panthers vs. (6-6) Eastern Michigan Eagles
Eastern Michigan plays in just their fifth bowl game in school history, and third since 2016, but they have never faced a Power Five school in the postseason. It's a tough challenge for the .500 Eagles, although the passing offense should be really effective. Senior Mike Glass III is going to be aggressive in his final collegiate game, although the Pittsburgh secondary is not easy to move the ball against. The Panthers' offense limped down the stretch this fall, but it still has some tools to attack EMU. Kenny Pickett recorded just a 10-9 TD-INT ratio on the year, even though he moved the ball efficiently. He's going to have to make some important throws, even against a MAC school.
Pittsburgh, 23 Eastern Michigan, 18

Military Bowl
(6-6) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (8-4) Temple Owls
UNC has been a great story over the course of the 2019 season, and head coach Mack Brown hopes to end his return season with a victory. Temple is a sneaky tough team, beating two Power Five programs and Memphis on the year. They don't have an elite offense, although junior QB Anthony Russo is underrated, but the Owl defense remains incredibly stingy. That defense is going to have to be on its "A" game, as they face McGowanMania's "Freshman of the Year", Sam Howell. Howell has 3,347 yards and 35 TD in his first season with the Heels, showcasing impressive arm talent and a veteran's poise. I don't think he'll have much difficulties with the Owls, and I like the Heel defense. They've been streaky for a big chunk of 2019, but allowed just 17 total in their last two. I think Howell is the difference here, and the coaching advantage is also notable.
UNC, 34 Temple, 27

Pinstripe Bowl
(6-6) Michigan State Spartans vs. (8-4) Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Although both of these teams are certainly excited to be going bowling in 2019, neither ended the season on a high note. Wake Forest was 7-1 before losing three of their last four, while Michigan State needed to beat Rutgers and Maryland in their final two games to get a bowl bid, ending a five-game skid. The Spartans still offer a very quality defense that is tough to run on, but the offense has to figure things out. They looked to be turning a corner early in Big Ten play, scoring 71 total in their first two games, before really falling apart down the stretch. They've really missed wide out Darrell Stewart Jr,, who hasn't played since the Penn State loss, but should be active. The Demon Deacons have also missed one of their go-to guys, wide receiver Sage Surratt, although he won't be back. Instead, Dave Clawson's group is going to have to lean more on the ground game, behind veteran Cade Carney and explosive Kenneth Walker III. I'm not super confident in either one of these teams the way they're playing, but I lean Wake simply because the offense has been more balanced and effective.
Wake Forest, 27 Michigan State, 17

Texas Bowl
(8-4) Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. (7-5) Texas A&M Aggies
Former Big 12 foes collide, as 8-4 Oklahoma State hopes to take down an A&M in the midst of a frustrating year. Granted, the Aggies have had such a tough season due to a brutal schedule, which not only includes the rest of the SEC West, but also a cross-division meeting with Georgia, as well as a non-conference duel with Clemson. The Aggie offense has been underwhelming, but having a proven veteran QB like Kellen Mond is still a distinct advantage come bowl season. A&M also features one of their better defenses in some time, allowing just 22.7 points per game. They will be in store for a tough matchup, as Oklahoma State year-in, year-out features an explosive offense. This season, the Cowboys are particularly good on the ground, with Doak Walker Award finalist Chuba Hubbard leading the way. The X-factor for Oklahoma State is instead the arm of young signal-caller Spencer Sanders. He has had some moments, but turnovers and bad decisions have too often doomed OSU on the year. With that being said, I think their offense gets the job done, particularly with the way A&M has played down the stretch.
Oklahoma State, 37 Texas A&M, 28

Holiday Bowl
(8-4) USC Trojans vs. (9-3) Iowa Hawkeyes
Winning five of their final six games may have saved Clay Helton's job, but USC still has to prove they're moving in the right direction in the Holiday Bowl. This is going to be a tough matchup for the Trojans, as the Hawkeyes are a well-rounded, experienced team that should have a clear advantage in the trenches. The Trojan offense has been a revelation under offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, with youthful QB Kedon Slovis putting together an impressive year, and Michael Pittman Jr. having a real breakout campaign. With that being said, they still struggle to defend, and Iowa has an efficient, if not explosive, offense. Veteran QB Nate Stanley should continue to play well against a thin 'SC secondary, while the Iowa three-headed monster at running back is led by freshman Tyler Goodson. The Holiday Bowl is always entertaining, and these are two well-respected programs on a national scale. However, I'm rolling with Iowa, who is a better balanced team and has an advantage in the coaching department as well.
Iowa, 28 USC, 27

Cheez-It Bowl
(10-2) Air Force Falcons vs. (6-6) Washington State Cougars
As a service academy that plays in the Mountain West, Air Force doesn't get much national attention, but the Falcons quietly went 10-2 on the year and have won seven straight entering bowl season. That's a far cry from Washington State, who only earned their way into a bowl because of a one-point victory over Oregon State in their second-to-last game of the season. These two teams also represent two polar opposite styles; Washington State is an air-it-out, typical Mike Leach team, while Air Force still runs the triple-option. The Cougars have an electrifying QB in Anthony Gordon, but you never know if the rest of this team is going to show up. The defense is particularly inconsistent, but has been very bad for much of the season. I wouldn't be surprised if they have a real tough time defending the triple-option, which is difficult for even the best defenses. The Falcons average nearly 293 yards per game on the ground this year, with a whole bunch of guys that can hurt you, namely QB Donald Hammond III and tailback Kadin Remsberg. Even as a Power Five team, I simply don't trust the 2019 Cougars. I think Air Force is a much superior team, and I could actually see this turning into a blowout if the Falcons' defense plays well.
Air Force, 38 Washington State, 24

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