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Bowl Picks 2020-21: Mayo Bowl-Texas Bowl (Dec. 30th-Dec. 31st)

Kyle Trask, Florida

 Duke's Mayo Bowl (Dec. 30th)

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-4) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (3-3)

While several other big-name Big Ten programs decided to opt-out of bowl season this year, Wisconsin choose to go forward with their matchup against Wake Forest in the illustrious Duke's Mayo Bowl. The Badgers started off the season hot before their offense really stalled down the stretch, putting up double-digits just once in their final four games. The hope is that QB Graham Mertz can find some rhythm after his recent struggles, but he needs other pieces in this offense to step up. The receiver group has been hit hard by injuries, but veterans like tight end Jake Ferguson and wide out Jack Dunn have to get back on track. The ground game has also been very suspect all season and the injury to stud freshman Jalen Berger hasn't helped. Wake Forest's defense is decent, but their defensive front is not up to par with the Badgers. A typical ground-and-pound offensive attack should be expected from Wisconsin here. The good news is that their defense remains one of the best in the entire country, which will be quite useful against a Top 25 Wake Forest offense. Quarterback Sam Hartman has put together a strong 2020 showing and has also been very efficient (10 TD, 1 INT). He's aided by an interesting cast of offensive playmakers, which includes receivers Jaquarii Roberson and Donovan Greene, as well as an effective ground game. The Demon Deacons don't do anything particularly special on offense, but they execute well and attack opposing weaknesses really well. There aren't a lot of weaknesses on this Badger defense, aside from the fact they could be susceptible to the deep pass. Their rush defense is absolutely elite and although the pass rush doesn't have many big names, they'll get after Hartman. It could certainly be the toughest defense Wake has seen since they opened the year back in early September against Clemson. Although both teams appear evenly matched on paper, the Badgers do have a better bowl tradition and they enter with slightly more momentum after an OT victory in their rivalry game against Minnesota. 

The Pick: Wisconsin, 27 Wake Forest, 17

Cotton Bowl Classic (Dec. 30th)

Florida Gators (8-3) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (8-2)

The first of this season's New Year's Six Bowls pits two explosive offenses against each other in Florida and Oklahoma. The Gators are led by two players who finished Top 10 in Heisman voting, QB Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts. Trask eclipsed 4,000 yards on the year so far and is the perfect quarterback for head coach Dan Mullen's system, while Pitts became the first TE to finish in Heisman voting since the late 1970s. Opposing defenses usually have to commit one of their best coverage defenders to stop Pitts, which then allows the rest of this Gator offense to get going. Receivers Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland are a pretty potent trio themselves, and will test this Sooner defense vertically. The big question mark for Florida on offense is whether they can find any semblance of balance. The ground game has been nearly non-existent all season and while UF has made do without, they need it to beat really strong teams. If not, an improved Oklahoma secondary will drop back in coverage and force Trask to beat them. Trask certainly can do it, but it makes life significantly more difficult without a ground game to also lean on. This improved Sooner defense should be getting more attention; after a poor start to 2020, they've been tremendous down the stretch. The defense is currently allowing just 20.5 PPG in their seven game win streak and that number was a little bit inflated by Texas dropping 45 on them. Oklahoma's offense looks similar to what it has in year's past, even if Spencer Rattler is not a Heisman finalist QB. He was very mistake prone early on, but Rattler has really settled down into his comfort zone. He still has a rocket of an arm and can make things happen with his legs, a real test for a bad Gator defense. Oklahoma's skill positions were beat up to begin 2020, but they've played well down the stretch. Rhamondre Stevenson is back from his suspension and leads the ground attack, while the cast of Marvin Mims, Theo Wease and Charleston Rambo make things happen at receiver. It's an offense that might not be as talented as past editions, but one that is still highly effective. There's nothing this Gator defense has done this season to make me feel confident they can stop the Sooners. Although it has good individual pieces, such as linebacker Brenton Cox and defensive back Kaiir Elam, the numbers speak for themselves. A shootout should definitely be expected, but I trust the Sooner defense a little bit more at this point. They also enter the game on a seven game win streak, while Florida has dropped their last two.

The Pick: Oklahoma, 44 Florida, 35

Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 31st)

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-2) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-7)

Despite going just 3-7 on the season, Mississippi State accepted a bowl invite to square off against the American Athletic runner-up Tulsa. It's been a tough transition for Mike Leach as he brings his air raid attack to the SEC. After a great start against LSU, the offense has been wildly inconsistent and has seen a host of players opt-out. QB Will Rogers appears to have taken ahold of the job and is the quarterback of the future in Starkville, but you never quite know what you're getting out of the young signal-caller. He is a fairly good decision-maker for his age and has had his moments, but the inconsistency is still there. Mississippi State doesn't really have an elite wide out on the perimeter, but they have a bunch of pass-catchers that can open things up downfield. The bigger question for them is their O-Line play, which has been decent this season, but faces a very good Tulsa pass rush. The Golden Hurricane defense as a whole deserves much more credit for the season it has had in 2020, but it is notable that they will be without their top player in Zaven Collins, the Bronko Nagurski Award winner who opted out. Perhaps his absence will force the Bulldogs to run more, but that's unlikely. On offense, Tulsa is far from elite but they do get the job done. QB Zach Smith, who started his career at Baylor, is an efficient passer who can face any type of defense. He's joined by a group of playmakers that aren't big names, but can make things happen. Wide out Josh Johnson is probably the most dangerous of that group, leading the Golden Hurricane with six receiving touchdowns. Mississippi State's defense is pretty poor, as is common with Leach teams. They do have a good defensive line, but the back seven just hasn't put it together in 2020. This is actually a tough game to pick for me. While Mississippi State has had a bad season, Leach offenses are tough to prepare for, and they probably have a talent advantage. But, I still lean Tulsa primarily because this Bulldog defense is so bad, and the Golden Hurricane's own defense inspires more confidence even without Collins.

The Pick: Tulsa, 30 Mississippi State, 21

Arizona Bowl (Dec. 31st)

Ball State Cardinals (6-1) vs. San Jose State Spartans (7-0)

Even with shortened schedules, San Jose State and Ball State going a combined 13-1 is one of the most surprising developments of the 2020 college football season. Both are hoping to cap off their magical seasons by winning the Arizona Bowl in Tucson. San Jose State's success can be attributed primarily to an improved aerial attack with the addition of former Texas A&M QB Nick Starkel, as well as a defense that ranks in the Top 25 in scoring defense. Starkel will face a quality Ball State defense in this one, but he's proven that he can put together some of his best performances against the best defenses he's seen, such as going for 453 and three touchdowns against Boise State. Several big-play threats on the perimeter, namely Bailey Gaither and Tre Walker, are sure to stretch the Cardinal defense. SJSU's defense is really strong against the run and does a decent job forcing turnovers. They'll be an interesting matchup against a Ball State offense that is very balanced, with a punishing ground game and efficient passing attack. QB Drew Plitt has put together a solid 2020 campaign but the rush offense, led by Caleb Huntley, can still move the chains. The player SJSU has to be the most concerned about is wide out Justin Hall, who not only leads Ball State in receptions and yards, he's also dangerous on jet sweeps and other creative plays. These two match up fairly well top to bottom, and I'm conflicted on who to take. Usually I'll roll with the better QB (Starkel in my opinion) or the better defense, but my theory that undefeated seasons are so difficult holds. That remains the case for the Spartans, even with a shortened season.

The Pick: Ball State, 28 San Jose State, 27

Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31st)

West Virginia Mountaineers (5-4) vs. Army Black Knights (9-2)

The harsh realities of 2020 are on display in the Liberty Bowl, where 5-4 West Virginia was slated to play Tennessee before the Volunteers had to drop out due to COVID issues. Their replacement is the 9-2 Army Black Knights, whose triple-option offense offers a very unique challenge. Army has the No. 4 rush offense in the nation, one that uses a wide variety of playmakers to eat up yardage and clock. Christian Anderson has taken the reigns of the offense as the starting QB, but it wouldn't be surprising to see multiple Army quarterbacks running the show in this one. Backs Tyrell Robinson and Jakobi Buchanan will be focused on heavily by the West Virginia defense, while Sandon McCoy is the short yardage monster (10 TDs in 2020). It will be fascinating to see how WVU controls the triple-option; defensively they've been solid all year, but will be without one of their top players in linebacker Tony Fields, who opted out. They also haven't had a ton of time to prepare for Army, which always makes stopping this offense much more difficult. The Mountaineers are certainly a different offense in how they choose to attack opponents, running a fairly balanced attack. Quarterback Jarret Doege has put together a fine 2020 campaign, but the real star on offense has been tailback Leddie Brown, who has 945 yards in just nine contests. The big question for Brown is whether he can keep it going against one of the best defenses he's seen this fall. Army might not have the talent of some Big 12 defenses, but they fill gaps really well and do what they do very well. They're one of the top rush defenses in the entire nation, and will force Doege to beat them over the top. For me, this is a similar matchup to the Tulsa-Mississippi State game. WVU may be more talented on paper, but I think Army is the better team top to bottom. I think they come home with their tenth victory of 2020 in a defensive struggle.

The Pick: Army, 23 West Virginia, 20

Texas Bowl (Dec. 31st)

Arkansas Razorbacks (3-7) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (6-4)

Arkansas is back in a bowl game for the first time since competing in the 2016 Belk Bowl against Virginia Tech, matched up against a sneaky TCU squad. These two teams are going in opposite directions to end 2020; Arkansas has lost four straight after a .500 start, while TCU has won five of their last six. To be fair to Arkansas, it hasn't been like they've fallen off a cliff. Their final four games have included two Top 10 teams in Alabama and Florida, and their other two losses were by a combined five points. Veteran QB Feleipe Franks has been a great story finding success with the Razorbacks, but he hasn't been completely healthy, sitting out the Missouri game due to a rib injury. Franks isn't necessarily an elite QB, but he's done a really good job running OC Kendall Briles' system, and he is a dual threat. The greater concern for TCU may end up being the Razorback ground game, spearheaded by Trelon Smith. Smith took over feature back duties about halfway through 2020 when starter Rakeem Boyd opted out, and he's been terrific. TCU does a good job stopping the run but Smith can be really dangerous, as shown in his 172-yard, 3 touchdown domination of Missouri. The greater strength for Arkansas is their own defense, which matches up well against the Horned Frogs. The Razorbacks play a physical, smash-mouth brand of football that relies heavily on their top two linebackers, Grant Morgan and Bumper Pool. TCU's offense leans heavily on the run game, particularly with freshman Zach Evans surging down the stretch. QB Max Duggan can throw the ball, but he's much more dangerous as a runner, currently leading TCU in rushing yards. It's going to be interesting to see whether TCU tries to do things a little bit different here to possibly capitalize on Arkansas' inconsistent secondary. The Horned Frogs have several interesting weapons on this roster, such as do-it-all speedster Taye Barber, who has gotten hot down the stretch. Despite TCU's recent hot streak, I think Arkansas remains the smarter pick here. They match up really well against the Horned Frogs, and play a brand of football vastly different than what TCU sees every week in the Big 12.

The Pick: Arkansas, 28 TCU, 19

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