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Bowl Picks 2021-22: Myrtle Beach Bowl - Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 20 - Dec. 22)


Sincere McCormick, UTSA (Frisco Bowl)

Myrtle Beach Bowl (December 20)

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-6) vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (6-6)

Both Tulsa and Old Dominion began the 2021 campaign slow, but used strong finishes to work their way into the postseason. After beginning 1-6, Old Dominion won five straight to get to the Myrtle Beach Bowl, while Tulsa began 0-3 but won five of their last seven. The fact that both programs enter with so much momentum ensures we should have a fun one early in the week.

Tulsa leaned heavily on Zaven Collins and their stout defense in 2020, but the offense has stepped up this year. They have a primary trio that operate as their chief playmakers, with others able to step in and make things happen when needed. Quarterback Davis Brin has put up decent passing yardage on the season, but has struggled with a low completion percentage and a 16-16 TD-INT ratio. It hasn't helped that he has had to deal with an inconsistent offensive line and receiver corps, but the Golden Hurricane need more from him if they want to come out on top. Even so, the ground game could take center stage, even as they face an Old Dominion defense that has been strong against the run most of the season. Veteran Shamari Brooks has proven himself to be one of the American Athletic's most potent game-breakers, coming just short of three straight 1,000 yard seasons. He hasn't been able to rack up as many long runs in 2021 as in the past, but should still be featured heavily. Sophomore Anthony Watkins is the player to watch, as he is averaging 7.6 yards per carry and has proven himself against quality defenses on the year, going for over 100 yards against Cincinnati earlier on in the fall. It's unclear who Tulsa will look to against the Monarch secondary; Josh Johnson has been their top wide out all season long, but they'd really like another receiver or two to make things happpen.

After a brutal start to 2021, Old Dominion has figured things out offensively. The offensive success has coincided with the Monarchs switching things up at quarterback, moving on from former UCF transfer D.J. Mack Jr. to Hayden Wolff. Wolff hasn't put up gaudy numbers, but he's proven he can take care of the ball and make the right reads when necessary. Instead, Old Dominion also relies primarily on their rushing attack to move the ball, which has been dominant over the last several months. Sophomore Blake Watson has had a breakout campaign, totaling over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. He'll pair with fellow sophomore Elijah Davis to create a fairly dangerous 1-2 combo. They're both averaging over five yards per rush and have been extremely consistent over the season's second half. As for the Monarch pass-catchers, they'll look to wide out Ali Jennings III and tight end Zack Kuntz. Kuntz in particular has been a real pain for opposing defenses; he followed his former coordinator, head coach Ricky Rahne, from Penn State to Old Dominon and has had a massive year, causing defenses real issues with his mix of size (6'8") and speed.

Two 6-6 teams without obvious strengths over the other should make for a quality football game. There's enough playmaking for there to be points on the board, although both defenses have also proven they can be stingy when necessary. Although Tulsa is a tougher opponent than most Old Dominion has seen this year, I still like the Monarchs. It's been a complete change for the entire team down the stretch in the way they've played and I figure they can keep it rolling into the postseason.

The Pick: Old Dominion, 24 Tulsa, 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (December 21)

Wyoming Cowboys (6-6) vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (7-6)

Although its name gets a lot of chuckles, the fact of the matter is that the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is usually pretty compelling postseason football. That should be the case again in 2021, as a pair of teams with opposing strengths should create a fun sixty minutes of football.

Kent State once again has one of the most explosive offenses in the Group of Five playing under head man Sean Lewis. They're particularly potent on the ground, where they have the nation's fourth-ranked rush offense, averaging 243.3 yards per game. The Golden Flashes not only have two backs who went over 800 yards on the season, but also a quarterback that has proven he can create with his legs, as Dustin Crum notched 633 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing the ball. His ability to extend plays and take chances should give the Wyoming defense some real pains, even though this is a group that has been traditionally strong under coach Craig Bohl. Crum's not a slouch through the air either; he doesn't have a huge arm but is accurate and effective, totaling 2,922 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has several weapons to work with through the air, including Dante Cephas and Syracuse transfer Nykeim Johnson. Cephas is your traditional, prototypical wide out who is fresh off a 100-yard performance against Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship, while Johnson is undersized, but a speedster. Up front, Kent State had real struggles on their offensive line early on, but they seem to have figured it out. That will be crucial against the Cowboys, who always play physical at the line of scrimmage.

In contrast to Kent State's explosive, up-tempo offense, Wyoming is all about defense and ball control, as they've always been under Bohl. They're going to pound and pound the ball with the occasional passing shot, typically off play action. Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen have been their 1-2 punch in the backfield, with Valladay leading the way with 984 yards. Swen's proven to be a slightly more dangerous playmaker, notching nearly six yards a carry and leading the team with seven touchdowns on the ground. Those two will make things happen, but the fact of the matter is that the passing game has to show up against a high-scoring Kent State offense. Sean Chambers and Levi Williams have split time all-season, with Chambers gaining the slight edge in attempts. Both quarterbacks have proven they can run the ball and create, but they just haven't done much through the air. Chambers has more passing yardage but has struggled with turnovers, while Williams has a stronger arm. Wyoming leans heavily on wide out Isaiah Neyor on the perimeter, but the Golden Flashes don't much to fear beyond him. Valladay is a great receiver out of the backfield and Wyoming features tight ends frequently, but there just hasn't been much consistency there beyond Neyor.

It's the classic battle between a high-scoring offense and tough, physical defense that makes bowl season so intriguing. The Cowboys are always a tough foe because they play so hard for the entire sixty minutes, but Kent State might just have too many weapons to contain. Crum is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country and there's enough elsewhere to put the Golden Flashes over the top.

The Pick: Kent State, 34 Wyoming, 20

Frisco Bowl (December 21)

UTSA Roadrunners (12-1) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (11-2)

Two teams that came just short of undefeated seasons and potential New Year's Six Bowls (if not for Cincinnati's success) square off in Frisco here. Much like Wyoming-Kent State, these two programs have varying strengths that should create interesting matchups. UTSA has a potent offense spearheaded by one of the nation's best tailbacks in Sincere McCormick, while San Diego State has a tough defense that is particularly strong against the run.

After going for 1,467 yards in 2020, McCormick has put on an even greater encore this fall, with 1,479 yards and 15 touchdowns. He's put up monster numbers against multiple teams on the year, fresh off a 204-yard, three touchdown performance against Western Kentucky in the C-USA Championship Game. It's going to be fascinating to see whether he can keep it up against this San Diego State rush defense, which allows less than 78 yards per game. McCormick has had success even against tough defenses, but the Aztecs have terrific linebackers and fill gaps as well as anybody in the country. The Roadrunners will still run the ball, but they could turn to QB Frank Harris more for this game. Harris has been the type of steadying presence at quarterback that every program would love have; he has thrown for 2,906 yards and 25 touchdowns, with a 66% completion percentage. He is also a dual threat who should put the Aztec linebackers in a much more difficult spot than they are used to. On the outside, UTSA has a trio of receivers that should be able to make things happen in Zakhari Franklin, Joshua Cephus, and De'Corian Clark. Franklin has been their most consistent, but Clark is the type of big-play threat that always seem to show up in bowl games.

The Aztecs have an elite defense, but they absolutely need their offense to still show up. They also lean on their ground game, even though they don't have a superstar like McCormick. Greg Bell has been their workhorse all season long, coming up just short of 1,000 yards on the year. He has hit 220 attempts on the season and has a blend of speed and power that could cause even the most experienced defenses issues. With that being said, the rest of the offense hasn't been able to put up the consistent numbers necessary to help San Diego State get truly over the top. Quarterback Lucas Johnson came over from Georgia Tech and has played in an offense quite different than the one where he came from. He's been serviceable, but don't be surprised if senior Jordon Brookshire continues to see more playing time. He saw action in both the Boise State and Mountain West Championship loss and it wouldn't be surprising if SDSU uses both signal-callers. As for the receivers, it's been an interesting blend over the course of the fall. When the Aztecs have chosen to throw the ball, they've had success but there hasn't been one true, signature star. Jesse Matthews is their top weapon and leader in nearly every receiving category, but also keep an eye on tight end Daniel Bellinger and Tyrell Shavers, who originally began his career in the SEC.

These two programs have had successful seasons, but they're coming off two very different championship games. UTSA scored 49 points and overcame a very difficult and fun Western Kentucky team, taking home their first C-USA Title in school history. San Diego State on the other hand had their worst defensive showing of the year, as they were pummeled by Utah State. I've long thought the Aztecs deserve a lot of credit for their 11-2 season, but I'm not quite sure if their record indicates the quality of team they have. They could be in store for a really rough showing, even if they are able to slow down McCormick, as Harris and company can push the Roadrunners over the top.

The Pick: UTSA, 30 San Diego State, 17

Armed Forces Bowl (December 22)

Missouri Tigers (6-6) vs. Army Black Knights (8-4)

It's always a fascinating watch to see triple-option teams go up against Power Five opponents, and this Armed Forces Bowl should be no different. It's a vintage Army team that actually has shown they're willing to throw more than past Black Knight teams, while Missouri had an up-and-down year but beat South Carolina and Florida down the stretch to make a postseason berth in the second season of Eli Drinkwitz.

For Missouri's offense, it's all about tailback Tyler Badie, who was a Doak Walker Award finalist after totaling nearly 2,000 yards of total offense and 18 scores in 2021. Badie's a chore for opposing defenses to take down; he's lightning quick and extremely elusive, but is also a patient runner with good vision. The fact that he's such a good receiver out of the backfield also gives defenses reason to worry, as he's gone over 300 yards receiving three consecutive years. He's obviously the focal point of the offense, but Missouri is hoping for more from QB Connor Bazelak and the passing game. Bazelak had an impressive 2020 but hasn't quite built on that in 2021, dealing with turnovers and accuracy issues that weren't there a season ago. His group of receivers to throw to is short on big names, but Tauskie Dove and Keke Chism have proven they can make the occasional big play and Badie coming out of the backfield is always a factor. As for the line of scrimmage, I'm curious to see the chess match between these two. Missouri has the size advantage up front and SEC athletes are a different breed, but Army has never shied away from anyone. They play incredibly hard and are very creative in getting pressure and extra run support where it's needed.

The Missouri defense has been their Achilles Heel on the season, allowing nearly 35 points per game. They have athletes, but the consistency has not been there this fall and they haven't defend the run or pass very effectively. Even though the defense has now spent several weeks preparing for the triple-option, it is always tough to stop in the heat of the game and the Army option has been on fire in 2021. Despite the fact the Black Knights run an offense specifically designed to bleed the clock and slow down the game, they're averaging nearly 33 points per game. Of course, the way the offense is designed it doesn't lean too much on one or two characters, but instead the entire O-Line and backfield working simultaneously. Quarterback Christian Anderson has had an impressive campaign and has proven he can throw the ball, while tailback Tyrell Robinson led the team with 603 rushing yards. Also sure to see plenty of action is powerful fullback Jakobi Buchanan and Anthony Adkins. Buchanan is a beast in the short-yardage who runs about as hard as any rusher you will see in college football this year, while Adkins can bring much-needed explosiveness. Of course, the receivers won't get too much attention but playing at a program like Army, they're all good blockers and extremely unselfish in getting the offense where it needs to go.

I'm always conflicted when it comes to these types of games. On one hand, the triple-option is always incredibly hard to play against and this Army team has been running it well all season. On the other, Missouri has a clear edge in talent and will be one of the toughest teams the Black Knights have seen all year. I would seriously consider Army here, but I'm actually going with the Tigers in what is technically an upset, at least according to Vegas. This is a flawed Mizzou team in a lot of ways, but Badie helps put them over the top in this one.

The Pick: Missouri, 20 Army, 14

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