UTSA is better than its 6-6 record, but it’s asking a lot of the Roadrunners — playing the first bowl in school history — to win in a true road game.
New Mexico 31, UTSA 27
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Las Vegas Bowl: Houston (-3.5) vs. San Diego State
Any question whether former Top 10 team Houston would be motivated went out the door with Major Applewhite’s promotion to head coach. The Aztecs will see more of the team that beat Oklahoma and Louisville, less of the one that lost to SMU.
Houston 34, San Diego State 24
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Cure Bowl: Arkansas State (+5.5) vs. UCF
Arkansas State comes in having won seven of its last eight but went 0-4 in non-conference play. UCF’s strong defense carries the way in front of a friendly crowd.
UCF 24, Arkansas State 20
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Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State (+1) at Toledo
Toledo’s explosive offense, led by QB Logan Woodside and RB Kareem Hunt, may meet its match against a talented Mountaineers defense that only allows 17.0 points per game.
Appalachian State 37, Toledo 20
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New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss (-4.5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Southern Miss dipped late in the year when veteran QB Nick Mullens missed two-plus games. As soon as he returned, the Eagles beat C-USA division champ Louisiana Tech. ULL finished fifth in the Sun Belt.
Southern Miss 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Chuck CookUSA TODAY Sports
Miami Beach Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Tulsa (-12.5)
Tulsa scored at least 35 points against all but two foes — Ohio State and Houston. The Hurricane should tee off on the 6-6 Chippewas’ defense.
Tulsa 45, Central Michigan 28
Aaron DosterUSA TODAY Sports
Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis (+5) vs. Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky QB Mike White has been mostly unstoppable, but don’t sleep on Memphis’ Riley Ferguson. First-year Tigers coach Mike Norvell gets to nine wins with a mild upset.
Memphis 48, Western Kentucky 44
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Poinsettia Bowl: BYU (-8.5) vs. Wyoming
After nearly a full year on the bench, BYU QB Tanner Mangum is back in place of the inured Taysom Hill. The guy who beat Nebraska and Boise State as a true freshman is poised for a big night against Wyoming’s 106th-ranked pass defense.
BYU 33, Wyoming 21
Rick BowmerAP photo
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Idaho (+13) vs. Colorado State
I refuse to believe Idaho will get kicked around in its home state in what will be its second-to-last (or last) bowl opportunity before slipping down to FCS in 2018.
Colorado State 31, Idaho 28
Joshua DahlUSA TODAY Sports
Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion (-4)
Two great stories — Eastern Michigan’s first bowl in 29 years, Old Dominion’s first one of any kind. Not exactly great teams, but hopefully it’s entertaining.
Old Dominion 30, Eastern Michigan 24
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Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech (-4.5) vs. Navy
The Midshipmen suffered a crushing blow when they lost QB Will Worth in the AAC title game. It certainly showed in their first loss to Army in 14 years. The high-scoring Bulldogs could make for a long day if Navy can’t sustain drives.
Louisiana Tech 42, Navy 27
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Dollar General Bowl: Ohio (+4) vs. Troy
Troy should have more than a few home-state fans on hand for its first bowl trip since 2010. The Trojans stuff the Bobcats’ run game just enough for the win.
Troy 24, Ohio 22
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Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Middle Tennessee State (no line)
Middle Tennessee has enough weapons on offense — RB I’Tavius Mathers, WRs Richie James and Ty Lee — to put points on the board regardless of its quarterbacks’ injury woes.
Middle Tennessee State 52, Hawaii 28
Denny MedleyUSA TODAY Sports
St. Petersburg Bowl: Mississippi State (-13) vs. Miami of Ohio
Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald quietly emerged as a budding dual-threat star, rushing for 258 yards in the Egg Bowl and 1,243 on the season. He and the Bulldogs should cruise.
Mississippi State 38, Miami of Ohio 14
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Quick Lane Bowl: Maryland (-1) vs. Boston College
Which 6-6 Power 5 team is less mediocre? Tough call. They both rank in the 90s in the F/+ efficiency ratings. Flip a coin. Or take D.J. Durkin over Steve Addazio.
Maryland 23, Boston College 20
Patrick McDermottUSA TODAY Sports
Independence Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. NC State (-4)
The Commodores came on strong down the stretch but still rank just 80th nationally in yards per play allowed (5.93). NC State has been decent on that side of the ball and should hold Vandy’s offense largely in check.
NC State 27, Vanderbilt 20
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Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army vs. North Texas (+10)
Army is coming off the high of its Navy win and facing a 5-7 Conference USA team. There could be somewhat of a letdown even in its first bowl in six years.
North Texas 17, Army 14
Danny WildUSA TODAY Sports
Military Bowl: Wake Forest (+13) vs. Temple
How is Temple supposed to beat Wake Forest without knowing Wake’s plays? Kidding. Two good defenses and two limited offenses could turn this ugly.
Temple 20, Wake Forest 12
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Holiday Bowl: Washington State (-9.5) vs. Minnesota
This looked like a lopsided matchup even before the news that Minnesota would be without 10 suspended players. QB Luke Falk and the Cougars might not put up their usual 40 points per game, but Mitch Leidner and the Gophers won’t keep up.
Washington State 34, Minnesota 20
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Cactus Bowl: Baylor vs. Boise State (-7.5)
It’s hard to imagine how Baylor is keeping it together these last few weeks pre-Matt Rhule. Boise RB Jeremy McNichols goes off against Baylor’s mediocre rushing defense.
Boise State 49, Baylor 24
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Pinstripe Bowl: Northwestern (+5.5) vs. Pittsburgh
Northwestern has gone 1-5 in bowl games under Pat Fitzgerald in part because it is often punching up with the matchup. But while the Panthers have two Top 5 wins (Penn State and Clemson), their defense is porous enough for Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson and WR Austin Carr to take advantage.
Northwestern 31, Pittsburgh 28
Mike CarterUSA TODAY Sports
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia vs. Miami (-3)
Mark Richt’s Hurricanes have an opportunity to close out his first year by getting to nine wins and cracking the Top 25. The Mountaineers’ defense keeps Miami’s running game in check, but QB Brad Kaaya has a big night.
Miami 30, West Virginia 21
Rob KinnanUSA TODAY Sports
Foster Farms Bowl: Indiana (+7.5) vs. Utah
New Indiana coach Tom Allen earned the job by dramatically elevating the Hoosiers’ defense. The Hoosiers may be able to contain Utah RB Joe Williams and keep it interesting, but the Utes’ defensive front will control the game.
Utah 21, Indiana 17
Mark J. TerrillAP photo
Texas Bowl: Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (-2)
Few teams in the country needed a break more than the reeling Aggies. They’ll run into a much-improved K-State team, but Myles Garrett and the defense should be able to keep the Wildcats largely in check.
Texas A&M 28, Kansas State 24
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Birmingham Bowl: USF (-10.5) vs. South Carolina
Bulls QB Quinton Flowers won’t quite have a “Lamar Jackson in the 2015 Music City Bowl” type performance, but Will Muschamp’s defense will only be able to contain him for so long.
USF 35, South Carolina 24
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Belk Bowl: Arkansas (+7) vs. Virginia Tech
Hokies dual-threat QB Jerod Evans has the ability to take over the game, especially given the Razorbacks’ defensive struggles. But Arkansas has a decent passer of its own in Austin Allen. He helps Bret Bielema end a thus-far disappointing season on a high note.
Arkansas 38, Virginia Tech 34
Tony GutierrezAP photo
Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Colorado (-3)
The terrific Buffs defense is led by a whole bunch of seniors looking to go out on a high note. The matchup of star Cowboys WR James Washington against stud Buffs CB Chidobe Awuzie should be particularly intriguing.
Colorado 31, Oklahoma State 27
Kyle TeradaUSA TODAY Sports
Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. TCU (+1)
They might as well rename this the Disappointment Bowl. Neither team performed up to its usual standard this season. In a fairly even matchup, I decide based on the coaches. I’ll take Gary Patterson.
TCU 26, Georgia 22
Matthew EmmonsUSA TODAY Sports
Sun Bowl: North Carolina vs. Stanford (-3.5)
After struggling for much of the season, Stanford’s offense found its groove with third-year sophomore QB Keller Chryst. His emergence opened things up for RBs Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love, both of whom could have a huge day against UNC’s rushing defense.
Stanford 30, North Carolina 21
Kelley L CoxUSA TODAY Sports
Arizona Bowl: South Alabama vs. Air Force (-13)
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun does not get nearly enough credit. This year’s 9-3 team became his seventh in 10 years to post at least eight wins, including an upset of Boise State its last time out. The Falcons should handle their 6-6 foe.
Air Force 27, South Alabama 10
Ron ChenoyUSA TODAY Sports
Music City Bowl: Nebraska vs. Tennessee (-3)
The Vols desperately need to bounce back here and give their fans something to erase the sting of losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Their defense can regain some confidence by slowing down a Nebraska offense that will be without top receiver Jordan Westerkamp and possibly QB Tommy Armstrong.
Tennessee 24, Nebraska 16
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Orange Bowl: Florida State (+7) at Michigan
The 'Noles’ defense got much better over the second half of the season once it got done facing one star quarterback after another. But Michigan’s defense was dominant largely the entire season up until overtime against Ohio State. The Wolverines limit FSU star Dalvin Cook’s big plays and bottle up QB Deondre Francois.
Michigan 27, Florida State 23
Citrus Bowl: LSU (-3.5) vs. Louisville
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson was the nation’s most outstanding player this season, but LSU fielded one of its most outstanding defenses, allowing just 16 touchdowns in 11 games. Its athletic front could overpower a Cardinals O-line that faltered down the stretch. And then there’s LSU’s rushing attack ...
LSU 38, Louisville 24
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TaxSlayer Bowl: Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech (-4)
Kentucky made it to Jacksonville on the strength of a season-ending upset of Louisville, but the Jackets quietly finished the season with three straight wins — including upsets of Virginia Tech and Georgia. Tech overwhelms the Wildcats' 97th-ranked defense.
Georgia Tech 38, Kentucky 31
James GuilloryUSA TODAY Sports
Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. Florida (-2)
Punting, punting and more punting. QB Austin Appleby is unlikely to lead the Gators on a bunch of touchdown drives, but Florida’s defense can flip the field thanks to the nation’s No. 1 punter, Johnny Townsend (48.1 yards per kick) and set up some short fields.
Florida 16, Iowa 12
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Cotton Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin (-7.5)
The Broncos would have been better off getting matched up with a Power 5 team that tries to outscore teams. But Wisconsin played solid defense all year up until the fourth quarter of the Big Ten title game. It can contain Broncos QB Zach Terrell.
Wisconsin 28, Western Michigan 20
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Rose Bowl: USC (-6.5) vs. Penn State
Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley and his receivers may have success on some deep balls much like they did against Wisconsin. But Trojans CB Adoree’ Jackson can change the game in other ways. He has a big day on the brightest stage of his career as the Trojans please the hometown crowd.
USC 30, Penn State 23
Kirby LeeUSA TODAY Sports
Sugar Bowl: Auburn (+3) vs. Oklahoma
Auburn’s offense slumped late in the year when it lost stud RB Kamryn Pettway to injury. The sophomore, who rushed for at least 169 yards against four straight SEC foes, should be back at full strength and ready to exploit Oklahoma’s 74th-ranked rushing defense. Carl Lawson pressures Baker Mayfield.
Auburn 34, Oklahoma 31
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Peach Bowl: Washington vs. Alabama (-15)
Washington’s best hope is to turn this into LSU-Alabama part II, keeping the score close and low going into the fourth quarter. But no one has yet figured out how to run the ball on the Tide’s defense (allowing 63.4 yards per game), and the Huskies’ pass protection might not hold up long enough for QB Jake Browning to hit John Ross for enough big plays downfield.
Alabama 29, Washington 13
John David MercerUSA TODAY Sports
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State (-3) vs. Clemson
Deshaun Watson and the Tigers’ offense may get off to a hot start, but Tyquan Lewis and the Buckeyes’ D eventually get pressure on Watson and force a couple of momentum-swinging turnovers (possibly a pick six). Conversely, Ohio State’s offense starts slow but eventually breaks some big plays on the ground with J.T. Barrett and Curtis Samuel.