Bowlmas is the best time of year, and one of the best parts is watching Group of Five teams truly enjoy their bowl games. There’s less pressure on draft picks and avoiding injuries, and more visible pride. 20 of the 40 scheduled bowl games this year feature at least one G5 team. Below, they’ve been reviewed in chronological order.
New Orleans Bowl
Troy vs. North Texas
Winner: Troy Trojans
Troy is going to win this thing in a blowout. North Texas is a good football team, but not as big and fast as Troy. The Trojans had a late season stumble after beating LSU earlier in the season, but put it back together to win their last game. They’ll be way too much for North Texas.
Cure Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Georgia State vs. Western Kentucky
Winner: Georgia State Panthers
Georgia State is probably the overachiever between these two teams, coming in 4th in the Sun Belt. The Hilltoppers ended up 6-6 with a best win over (drumroll, please) Middle Tennessee. Georgia State will continue their overachieving ways by doubling their win % from last year by going 6-6 and winning their first bowl game ever.
Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon vs. No. 25 Boise State
Basically, Boise is 100 duck sized horses, and Oregon is one horse sized Duck. (h/t @fakecoachharsin) The Las Vegas bowl could settle reddit.com’s most obnoxious question once and for all. Oregon has a new, player picked coach and their #1 QB back (think there’s some emotion about that in Eugene, maybe?), and Boise has a ton of heart in addition to their shiny Mountain West Championship trophy and top 25 ranking. This one is a tossup and will be close, but what remains is whether that will be a defensive battle or a WAC-style shootout.
New Mexico Bowl
Marshall vs. Colorado State
Winner: Colorado State Rams
CSU should spatter Marshall in this game of green, but that just means that it will end up being way too close, because ain’t nobody that plays to their opponent’s level like Colorado State.
Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL)
Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State
Winner: Arkansas State Red Wolves
Arkansas State is on a hot streak, and Middle Tennessee is not good enough to stop them. TBH, this bowl game is probably not at the top of very many folks’ viewing lists for this bowl season, but it is football, so a lot more than are thinking about it will be checking it out in that late game slot on the 16th.
Boca Raton Bowl
Akron vs. Florida Atlantic
Winner: Florida Atlantic Owls
FAU very well could put up approx. one million points vs. Akron. If you like touchdowns and watching Kiffin teams do Kiffin things, check this one out.
SMU vs. Louisiana Tech
Winner: Southern Methodist Mustangs
SMU is the better team here, and should run roughshod over Louisiana Tech. While SMU didn’t always win this season, they did always put up points. That’s more than LA Tech has been able to do with any consistency.
Gasparilla Bowl (St. Petersberg, FL)
Temple vs. Florida International
Winner: Florida International Panthers
FIU has had a fine season, and likely would be C-USA conference champs if it weren’t for those pesky Owls from FAU. They deserved better than Temple, and I’m pretty sure that Temple is just as not ready as the girl you see up there. Temple’s program is not actually on fire yet, but getting whipped by a surging Panthers team might kick up some sparks.
UAB vs. Ohio
Winner: UAB Blazers
UAB is hot in their first season back in football, going 8-4 and undefeated at home. Ohio…is not like that. But, the C-USA East isn’t exactly the strongest division, and UAB hasn’t really been tested much outside of a lot of close conference games. This one will be entertaining, and I think UAB finishes their excellent season with their first bowl win.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Wyoming vs. Central Michigan
Winner: Central Michigan Chippewas
At the start of the season, _yoming (who had their W taken away after losing to Boise, as decreed by Bronco Twitter,) was supposed to be playing in the Fiesta Bowl, not heading back to Boise to play a middling MAC team. Unfortunately after doing stuff like freaking losing to San Jose State to finish the season, they will be meeting a directional Michigan for some MACtion on The Blue. Calling for the upset here – Central Michigan is going to help Boise make sure that the Pokes stay defeated in Boise.
Texas Tech vs. South Florida
Winner: University of South Florida Bulls
USF vs. Texas Tech is going to be a shootout, if nobody shows up with a defense. Both of these teams have stumbled against other good teams, but facing off against each other should be fascinating. If you like offense, this is the bowl game for you. I think the Bulls win by one score, but I also like Group of Five underdogs. Bottom dwelling in the Big 12, even if you do end up beating Texas, does not always a good team make.
Armed Forces Bowl (Ft. Worth, TX)
Army vs. San Diego State
Winner: San Diego State Aztecs
Army put on a SHOW vs. Navy and won impressively in a blizzard, but in all likelihood, Ft. Worth will not be under several inches of snow. Army may not be able to contain Rashaad Penny like some other teams have been fortunate enough to do. This is going to be a fun watch, if only to watch these two teams trade off big runs. SDSU will be ahead at the finish, but Army winning this thing isn’t that far-fetched, if SDSU fails to come in ready to go.
Dollar General Bowl (Mobile, AL)
Appalachian State vs. Toledo
Winner: Appalachian State Mountaineers
The Dollar General bowl could end up being much more fun than it has any right to be. App State and Toledo were both pretty good this season, with Toledo winning the MAC and App State being second only behind Troy. Pretty sure that Appalachian State is going to win this with a defensive masterpiece.
Fresno State vs. Houston
Fresno and Houston are both extremely solid mid-major football programs that are on the up-swing. Both teams are capable of big scores and stifling defense, and both teams are probably just a little disappointed with how their seasons turned out – runners up to teams that were just a little bit better. Expect this to be a battle over on the islands on Christmas Eve.
Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI)
Duke vs. Northern Illinois
Winner: Northern Illinois Huskies
In the most Duke thing ever, (they do suck after all), their kicker got kicked out of school before the bowl game. But NIU is the epitome of ain’t played nobody. Maybe watch this if you have nothing better to do? Which is odd, seeing as it’s a P5/G5 matchup. Um…NIU will win, I guess, because their mascot is better.
Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA)
Florida State vs. Southern Miss
Winner: Florida State Seminoles
Back in the long long ago, when both Florida State and Southern Miss were powerhouses of independent football, they were rivals. The last time they played was in 1996, but before that, through the 70’s and 80’s, these teams were at each other’s throats. FSU joined the ACC in 1991, and the rivalry effectively when Southern Mississippi joined the Sun Belt instead of a major conference. Today, the Seminoles are supposed to win this bowl by 15 points, but TBH, that puts this thing in “so there’s a chance” territory. Never know how Florida State will melt down – its always new and innovative. Maybe they’ll do it in such a way that the Golden Eagles could capture one last win against their old rival.
Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD)
Virginia vs. Navy
Winner: Virginia Cavaliers
Pretty excited for the matchup, because it feels so even. Virginia is capable of playing with anybody in the country, and Navy is tougher than just about any other team. If Virginia with the good defense shows up, they’ll be fine. But if they don’t…Navy will make them pay.
Utah State vs. New Mexico State
Look, these teams are Not Great. Luckily for us, there are two other games on at this time, and this thing is on CBS Sports, which half the country doesn’t get. It’s okay that only the fans of these teams will watch this bowl, because its likely to be the biggest snoozer outside of whichever NY6 game ends up in a blowout.
Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN)
Iowa State vs. No. 20 Memphis
Winner: Memphis Tigers
I feel like Iowa State is going to come hard with that whole defense thing and hold Memphis to a point total that nobody else has – under 30. Just not sure the Clones are going to be able to out score the AAC runner-up. This game will be a fun watch, but sorry Cyclones. Not winning this one.
Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA)
No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 12 UCF
Winner: Auburn Tigers
UCF has had an incredible undefeated season, and deserved better than a matchup with a dangerous Auburn team in a bowl that doesn’t matter to the championship. They beat everyone on their schedule, and that’s all we can ask of a football team. However, that letdown of the reality of the system is going to leave them vulnerable and if Auburn shows up, the Golden Knights are freaking toast. They’ll be sucking wind by the middle of the third quarter after coming out punching hard, and lose by two or three scores.
Happy holidays, and have a merry bowlmas, one and all!