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Bowl Picks 2020-21: Camellia to Alamo Bowl (Dec.25-Dec.29)

Sam Noyer, Colorado

 Camellia Bowl (Dec. 25th)

Marshall Thundering Herd (7-2) vs. Buffalo Bulls (5-1)

Two of the best Group of Five teams in the nation collide in Montgomery for the Camellia Bowl. Buffalo began the 2020 campaign 5-0 prior to a loss in the MAC Championship Game, which should provide them plenty of motivation for this one. Superstar tailback Jaret Patterson, my "Group of Five Heisman" winner, was knocked out of the MAC Championship, but the expectation is that he should be able to play in this game. If so, the Bulls have one of the nation's most talented weapons, led by a player that recorded over 1,000 yards in just six total games. Their passing attack hasn't been as strong, but QB Kyle Vantrease can still get the job done. It's not a balanced group but the results speak for themselves, as Buffalo is averaging nearly 47 points per game this fall. On the other side, Marshall has been an interesting story, looking to get back on track after a recent cold streak. They began their 2020 7-0, but have looked very underwhelming in their two straight losses to Rice and UAB. The offensive struggles have been noticeable; true freshman QB Grant Wells began the season on fire but he's really struggled with turnovers down the stretch, tossing five in the Rice game. Not only does Wells have to get back on track, but the rushing attack has to find some momentum as feature back Brenden Knox has been held below four yards per carry in those last two losses. Even if their offense does get it back going, the Marshall defense has been the story of their season. It's allowing just 12.6 points per game on the season and allowing under 280 yards per, which both rank in the Top 3 nationally. However, the recent offensive problems and Patterson's improved health make me lean Buffalo here. The Bulls should still be motivated and get up for this matchup, and they have enough offensive punch to get over the top on the Herd.

The Pick: Buffalo, 26 Marshall, 17

First Responder Bowl (Dec. 26th)

Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (9-1) vs. UTSA Roadrunners (7-4)

Despite flirting with several SEC jobs, Billy Napier is back as Louisiana-Lafayette head coach and will lead the 9-1 Ragin' Cajuns against UTSA. The Cajuns have a balanced offensive attack that leans heavily on dual-threat QB Levi Lewis, who will be eager to get back on the field after a poor showing in his last game against Appalachian State. The ground game is among the most underrated nationally, with Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas both going over 650 yards on the season. Defensively, Louisiana's numbers are fairly average, but they do a great job of forcing turnovers. The main player they'll have to key on is UTSA's Sincere McCormick, who finished second in FBS with 1,345 yards. McCormick isn't the most explosive running back in the nation, but he's a powerful one who excels through contact. The Cajuns are going to need to wrap up and tackle in space, which has been an issue at times for them in 2020. UTSA may be at a slight disadvantage in this one; they were originally scheduled to play SMU in the Frisco Bowl before it was cancelled last week. Of course, the Cajuns didn't have much prep time for the Roadrunners either, but it's a little bit easier for the 9-1 team.

The Pick: Louisiana, 34 UTSA, 23

LendingTree Bowl (Dec. 26th)

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (5-6) vs. Georgia State Panthers (5-4)

Even though they began the 2020 season 2-6, Western Kentucky's three game win streak to end the regular season helped them land a spot in the LendingTree Bowl against a sneaky Georgia State squad. The Hilltoppers are led by a former Power Five transfer at quarterback in Tyrell Pigrome. Pigrome has not only proven himself as a playmaker with his legs, but he's also taken very good care of the ball, without an interception on the 2020 season. However, Pigrome needs more help from a supporting cast that has been awfully inconsistent this fall. Wide outs Xavier Lane and Mitchell Tinsley have shown potential to open up the offense, but drops have also been a problem. Georgia State is a little bit more creative with what they can do offensively and quarterback Cornelious Brown IV has been very effective in his first season as starting QB. The primary weapon all season long for Brown has been dynamic wide out Sam Pinckney, but it will be interesting to see whether any other Panthers can take advantage of this WKU defense. Cornelius McCoy is coming off an 111-yard showing in the victory over Georgia Southern, and looking to keep his recent hot streak going. Defensively, Western Kentucky has played a lot better in their recent three-game win streak than to begin the season, but they also haven't faced elite offenses. It will be interesting to see how they play against a balanced GSU attack. The last time these two programs met was back in 2017 in the Cure Bowl, which was won by Georgia State. Even though WKU is on a hot streak, I think history repeats itself with another Panther victory.

The Pick: Georgia State, 28 Western Kentucky, 20

Cure Bowl (Dec. 26th)

Liberty Flames (9-1) vs. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-0)

Perhaps the most underrated matchup of the bowl season will take place on December 26th in the Cure Bowl, pitting two teams that were supposed to play each other in the regular season before Liberty had to cancel due to COVID problems. Both teams have been fantastic stories, the Flames going 9-1 with their only loss coming to a good NC State team, while Coastal Carolina has been even better, going 11-0 and taking down BYU in a thriller. The Liberty offense averages over 38 points per game, thanks in large part to the play of Auburn transfer Malik Willis at quarterback. The dual threat currently leads the Flames in passing and rushing, and has proven he can play well against strong defenses. Willis hasn't played in nearly a month due to COVID, so it will be interesting to see whether rust is a factor. He also does have to play against a very underrated CCU defense, especially the front seven. The Chanticleers aren't big in the trenches but they play hard through the entire sixty minutes. The Chanticleers are unique offensively, running a lot of triple-option and RPO looks. Freshman QB Grayson McCall has been a revelation in his first season in Conway, but the real playmaker on offense is running back C.J. Marable, who has helped lead the nation's 15th-ranked rush offense. I am curious to see how Liberty and defensive coordinator Scott Symons chooses to play on defense. This is a group that generally plays aggressive and downhill, but Coastal Carolina does a really good job of getting you out of your comfort zone. Overall, I expect a fun, competitive game between two rising programs and two soon-to-be Power Five head coaches in Hugh Freeze and Jamey Chadwell. I think top to bottom, Coastal is the better team but my pick in this one is actually Liberty. Willis will put them in position to succeed, and putting together an undefeated season in modern college football is just such a tall task.

The Pick: Liberty, 38 Coastal Carolina, 33

Cheez-It Bowl (Dec. 29th)

Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-3) vs. Miami Hurricanes (8-2)

Neither Oklahoma State nor Miami finished the 2020 campaign on particularly high notes, with Miami getting run all over by UNC in their final regular season game, while Oklahoma State went 3-3 in their final six after a 4-0 start. A Cheez-It Bowl may not be the most prestigious honor in college football, but both teams are aware a win could give them important momentum entering 2021. Oklahoma State's offense has been crippled by injuries all season, including ones to starting QB Spencer Sanders and tailback Chuba Hubbard. Hubbard has officially opted out, leaving the primary playmaking duties of the offense up to wide out Tylan Wallace, who has been incredibly consistent. It also appears that they've found a nice complementary weapon as well in Dillon Stoner, who had a big day in their blowout of Baylor. The Cowboys should still try and run the ball, as Miami's loss to North Carolina proved this rush defense is terrible. Miami has really improved offensively under coordinator Rhett Lashlee and Houston transfer D'Eriq King, but this Oklahoma State defense has also really improved. The big question before every game for the Hurricanes is whether somebody is able to step up at receiver. It's a group that has had its moments in 2020 but it's also been awfully inconsistent. If it struggles once again, it's hard to imagine the offense having much success leaning on their ground game against a solid OSU defensive front. King has also taken really good care of the ball this year, but the Cowboys do a good job forcing you over. Even without Hubbard, I trust Oklahoma State more than a Miami team that has won a lot of close games, and been blown out in their two biggest of the season. 

The Pick: Oklahoma State, 34 Miami, 24

Alamo Bowl (Dec. 29th)

Texas Longhorns (6-3) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (4-1)

Old Big 12 foes collide in the Alamo Bowl between a relatively disappointing Texas team and a surprising Colorado one. The Longhorns play a similar brand of football that they have throughout the Tom Herman era, running a physical offense that also isn't afraid to take shots down the field. Sam Ehlinger is once again the focal point of the UT attack, although you're never sure who else is going to step up. Freshman back Bijan Robinson has had a tremendous second half of the season but is still unreliable, and the receivers are similarly inconsistent. The offensive line has been pretty good in 2020 but could be susceptible, as their top blocker, Samuel Cosmi, has opted out. Colorado has been a pleasant surprise under first-year head man Karl Dorrell, thanks in large part to a ground game that ranks 17th nationally in yards per game. Sophomore Jarek Broussard has over 800 yards in just five games and has proven he can break open games, putting up over 300 yards in the Arizona win. QB Sam Noyer can also get things going on the ground, but the pass defense problems Texas has had could make the Buffs look to throw the ball more often. The Longhorns have not been very good against the pass all year and that was before one of their top defenders, safety Caden Sterns, opted out. A name to watch on the outside is Brenden Rice, the son of NFL legend Jerry Rice. He's not just notable for his bloodlines, but he's also a dangerous weapon as a deep threat and punt returner. I'm not sure who I like in this game, but I'll lean Texas because they dominated in this exact bowl game last season and they're more talented, even with the opt-outs. With that being said, the Buffaloes are a lot better team than most people realize, and it should be a good one.

The Pick: Texas, 27 Colorado, 18

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