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Whereas we patiently await the 2021 School Soccer Playoff and nationwide championship, the upcoming slate of video games supplies a pleasant appetizer to the principle course of bowl season.
Bleacher Report’s professional crew—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—have convened once more to supply perception on this subsequent stretch of matchups. The video games coated run from Thursday, Dec. 23, by Thursday, Dec. 30.
Matters embody the not-so-friendly reunion of Mike Leach and Texas Tech, Oklahoma legend Bob Stoops returning to the sideline and a busy day for the Massive Ten.
Oh, a fast notice: You probably have an excessive distaste for mayonnaise, possibly skip instantly from the fourth part to the sixth.
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I did Half 1 of our bowl picks this season, so fortunate for me, my thoughts is already made up on each of those matchups.
First, we have got the Hawai’i Bowl on Christmas Eve between Memphis and Hawai’i. Though the Rainbow Warriors will profit from not having to journey far like Memphis, I just like the Tigers on this one. Memphis’ offense places up 30.1 factors and 435.9 yards per sport. Freshman quarterback Seth Henigan is tenth nationally in passing, having thrown for 3,322 yards and 25 touchdowns. I feel he can have an enormous day towards a protection that offers up 289.7 yards within the air per sport, good for 127th within the nation.
On Christmas Day within the Camellia Bowl, we’ll get Georgia State vs. Ball State. For the Cardinals, this will probably be their second consecutive bowl look after they made historical past a yr in the past with their first-ever bowl win within the Arizona Bowl. Ball State will face a Georgia State group that has received its final three video games, together with an upset highway win over Coastal Carolina on Nov. 13. I might like to see Ball State make historical past once more, however I just like the Panthers and their late-season momentum on this one.
Christmas Eve seems like a simple alternative. Hawai’i quarterback Chevan Cordeiro is transferring, and the protection seemingly will not provide a lot assist. Hawai’i has ceded 465-plus yards in 5 of the final seven video games, and the outliers—San Diego State and Wyoming—are among the many nation’s least environment friendly offenses anyway. Memphis wins.
Georgia State has rushed for 225.4 yards per sport at a decent 5.0 clip, and Ball State has struggled to defend the run for a lot of the yr. Georgia State’s secondary is weak, however BSU’s passing sport ranks 94th. Give me Georgia State, please and thanks.
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Most of the time, the Liberty Bowl goes proper right down to the wire. AutoZone has been the sponsor since 2004, and 14 of the 17 video games since then have been determined by eight factors or fewer.
However I think this yr would be the exception to that rule with Mike Leach’s present group placing a hurting on Mike Leach’s former group.
Texas Tech’s secondary was fairly terrible this season, lowlighted by Oklahoma racking up 469 yards and 7 touchdowns by the air proper after Tech fired Matt Wells as head coach. Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia additionally handed the ball just about at will towards the Crimson Raiders. They could not even do a lot to decelerate Stephen F. Austin. And no person tried extra passes heading into bowl season than Mississippi State, which averaged 385.8 yards, 3.0 touchdowns and 0.7 interceptions per sport. The Bulldogs additionally lead the nation in completion share (74.7) and determine to march proper down the sector again and again.
And except the 49-9 loss to Alabama, Mississippi State’s protection was rock strong for a lot of the yr. The Bulldogs ought to be capable to stifle a Texas Tech offense that was held to 24 factors or fewer in 4 of its remaining 5 video games.
This may not be fairly as ugly as Mississippi State’s 44-7 win over Rice within the 2013 Liberty Bowl, however I just like the Bulldogs by three scores.
Mike Leach is just not over it. Proper or unsuitable, contemplating his controversial exit from Texas Tech, is just not for me to determine. However 12 years later, Leach continues to be combating for cash he believes he is owed.
Look, the postseason may be unusual. Motivation is an unquantifiable issue but appears to matter in these exhibitions. Texas Tech is ending a season that included a training change and 4 losses within the final 5 contests. On the opposite aspect, Mississippi State has a coach who’s undoubtedly motivated to win—and I am guessing his gamers are feeling it, too.
That is sufficient for me to take the Bulldogs, like Kerry, in what I anticipate will probably be a reasonably lopsided sport.
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I am going with the over right here, for some odd cause. It appears each time this yr I’ve thought the Iowa State protection would present up, it laid an egg, and once I thought Clemson merely couldn’t rating, the Tigers confirmed indicators of life.
The start of this season was tough to look at for coach Dabo Swinney’s group. However the offense discovered its stride because the season progressed, scoring at the least 30 factors per sport in a 5-0 spurt to finish the season. Although they’re taking part in with out offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, who left to develop into Virginia’s subsequent head coach, Swinney’s continuity will repay after he promoted quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter. That synchronicity between Streeter and D.J. Uiagalelei will spark the Tigers.
On the flip aspect, it should be troublesome for the Cyclones to churn out factors with out star working again Breece Corridor, who’s skipping the bowl to organize for the NFL draft. With that occuring, Iowa State will open the offense up a bit, and quarterback Brock Purdy will probably be compelled to throw it round extra.
Due to that, I see the Tigers getting ultimately zone thrice and Iowa State twice, and I am going to choose Clemson to win the sport 30-20.
Few developments, if any, stunned me extra in 2021 than Clemson’s offense wanting like a complete non-factor. Though the dashing assault surged in late November, the Tigers mustered simply 5.3 yards per snap total this season. This is not an important matchup, both.
Iowa State has ceded solely 3.6 yards per carry. Clemson will not have prime receiver Justyn Ross (damage/opt-out), so do not anticipate a mediocre passing assault to all of the sudden escape.
The problem for Iowa State is Clemson ranks No. 5 within the FBS with a meager 4.4 yards allowed per snap. Corridor opting out leaves Purdy to satisfy a feisty Clemson protection with out assistance from a constant floor sport. Not nice for the Cyclones.
Turnovers can swing it, however I am going to take the beneath in a slugfest.
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I am not going to lie, the truth that Oklahoma may have legendary former head coach Bob Stoops for this sport is so superior. Stoops will probably be on the sidelines for the primary time since he retired from Oklahoma in June 2017 because the winningest head coach in program historical past.
Stoops was named the interim head coach on Nov. 28, so he is had loads of time to organize for Oregon main as much as the Alamo Bowl towards on Dec. 29.
Each groups will probably be lacking some stars on protection. Oregon, which will probably be taking part in beneath an interim of its personal in passing sport coordinator and receivers coach Bryan McClendon, will even be with out its star defensive finish Kayvon Thibodeaux as he prepares for the NFL draft. OU, in the meantime, will not have defensive linemen Nik Bonitto and Perrion Winfrey.
Nonetheless, it is extremely laborious for me to choose towards a coach who has received 190 video games in his Oklahoma profession. I’ll should go along with QB Caleb Williams and the Sooners on this one, particularly with Thibodeaux not taking part in.
We’ll bear in mind this sport because the Interim Bowl, proper? What a wierd state of affairs for Oklahoma and Oregon.
It is fairly neat to have Stoops pull a Barry Alvarez and are available again to the sideline. However to have it occur after Oregon misplaced Mario Cristobal to Miami is wild. If solely Oregon would’ve allowed Mike Bellotti a shot at revenge for the 2005 Vacation Bowl. Alas.
Oklahoma would’ve landed an uncomfortable nod from me due to Caleb Williams holding an edge on Oregon’s QB state of affairs. Three key absences for Oregon’s protection solely solidified that opinion. Together with Thibodeaux, cornerback Mykael Wright opted out, and cornerback DJ James hit the portal. For good measure, main receiver Devon Williams opted out too. That is a reasonably main record.
Stoops improves to 3-1 towards the Geese.
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It will likely be Mack Brown, and it is going to be superb.
And earlier than I speak about why I consider UNC will win, I wish to spotlight that it’s doable we see a head coach even have a cooler filled with mayo dumped on his head. I like that there’s a charitable part to this. I additionally love that each coaches appear completely cool with the concept.
However Brown will certainly get his mayo tub (at the least we hope). The truth that quarterback Sam Howell is ready to play relatively than decide out is an enormous deal, particularly when you think about how different prime gamers on the place are treating this determination.
South Carolina has been scrappy all season, and it would not shock me to see the Gamecocks hold this sport tight. However Howell and the UNC offense will seemingly be an excessive amount of for South Carolina to take care of.
After which there will probably be mayo.
When somebody tells you there are too many bowl video games, inform them in any other case. No sport can embrace absurdity fairly like this one.
I am selecting to consider Howell is sticking round for the Mayo Bowl for the only real function of Mack Brown receiving this dreadful, hilarious, terrible, unbelievable victory celebration.
North Carolina ought to be capable to maintain a handful of lengthy drives, particularly since South Carolina is down edge-rusher Kingsley Enagbare. The group’s chief in tackles for loss and sacks, he is among the many ranks of the comprehensible opt-outs.
Nevertheless, a runaway win is unlikely; UNC’s protection places up about as a lot resistance as mayonnaise does to a knife. Even a reasonably mediocre South Carolina floor sport ought to discover some working lanes.
Nevertheless it all ends in majestic trend: Brown coated in mayonnaise, and at the least $10,000 to charity.
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I am going to go along with 2-1.
Had you requested about Purdue-Tennessee earlier than Purdue defensive finish George Karlaftis and receiver David Bell opted out of the bowl sport, it might have been extraordinarily shut, even in what’s a digital dwelling sport for the Vols in Nashville. However with out these two key gamers, the Boilermakers haven’t got the firepower to hold with Josh Heupel’s explosive offense.
The opposite two video games, although, ought to form up fairly nicely. The Peach Bowl matchup with Pittsburgh regarded bleak for Michigan State earlier than Kenny Pickett opted out. However with out him, there isn’t any telling how the Panthers will probably be throwing the ball, even towards the nation’s worst cross protection.
On the opposite aspect, Sparty should take care of working again Kenneth Walker III not taking part in. Looks as if a type of video games the place it evens out some, and Michigan State goes to get an enormous win to shut the yr.
Lastly, within the Las Vegas Bowl, it actually relies on which Wisconsin group reveals up, however there isn’t any solution to belief Arizona State this yr. Are the Solar Devils able to beating the Badgers? Certain. However they have been so inconsistent—most notably, QB Jayden Daniels—it is laborious to ascertain them doing sufficient towards a stellar protection to win the sport. I am going to go along with the Badgers in a sloppy, defensive-minded win.
Identical report, similar picks.
Purdue had a memorable season with two main upsets, however Bell is such a pivotal piece of that offense. With out him drawing additional consideration, Milton Wright in all probability will not have one-on-one alternatives to check Tennessee’s protection vertically. The Vols will as a substitute make him their prime precedence to cowl.
Pickett opting out is clearly a large loss for Pitt, and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple is off to Nebraska, too. Michigan State is healthier suited to soak up its star again’s absence.
Wisconsin was ridiculously irritating this season. Whereas the protection allowed solely 16.4 factors per sport, the offense stunk for six weeks. The unit improved considerably, then completely stunk once more with an opportunity to make the Massive Ten Championship Sport anyway. But right here I’m as soon as once more, believing that protection can carry the Badgers reverse a shorthanded Arizona State group.
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As of Wednesday, I am seeing three video games with an 8.5- to 9.5-point underdog: Hawai’i within the Hawai’i Bowl, Texas Tech within the Liberty Bowl and South Carolina within the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
Nevertheless, I do not assume any of them will win.
Hawai’i has home-field benefit, however that may be a program in turmoil that already misplaced Cordeiro and working again Dae Dae Hunter to the switch portal. Howell is suiting up for North Carolina within the Duke’s Mayo Bowl whereas South Carolina will probably be with out one in all its prime weapons, working again ZaQuandre White. And I’ve already made my case for Mississippi State blasting Texas Tech.
So though it isn’t as huge of an upset, give me Arizona State (+6.5) as a landing canine towards Wisconsin within the Las Vegas Bowl. The Solar Devils will probably be with out two of their finest working backs, Rachaad White (NFL draft) and DeaMonte Trayanum (switch portal). However they nonetheless have Jayden Daniels at quarterback, they nonetheless have Daniyel Ngata within the backfield, and so they nonetheless have a decent protection. Plus, I feel the ten:30 p.m. ET kickoff may very well be a problem for the Badgers.
Nevada (+6.5) mustn’t make sense. The offense will probably be with out NFL-bound QB Carson Sturdy and tight finish Cole Turner. Head coach Jay Norvell bolted for Colorado State. This system is headed for an entire overhaul throughout the offseason.
However the Wolf Pack would possibly’ve been a 6.5-point favourite earlier than all of these departures. Whereas the roster is fractured, it isn’t damaged. I assume. I hope? Most likely the latter.
So long as Nevada’s secondary—which is seventeenth nationally at 6.4 yards allowed per cross try—comes by, the Pack can steal a win over Western Michigan.
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I do know there are opt-outs, but it surely nonetheless feels just like the Music Metropolis Bowl will probably be a thriller.
Sure, Purdue stars Bell and Karlaftis are already making ready for the draft. These two losses will definitely sting. However that Purdue offense nonetheless can transfer the ball, and the protection was a lot extra than simply its star defensive finish, though Karlaftis was excellent this yr.
Tennessee, after all, will try to maneuver the ball at breakneck tempo, identical to at all times. And whereas the Vols completed 7-5, they actually put a scare into some actually good groups.
By way of leisure, I need factors and touchdowns in my bowl video games. That needs to be a theme of all exhibitions, and I feel it is going to be right here. With a complete hovering round 63 factors—one of many largest within the bowl season—I anticipate there to be loads of motion on either side.
In the end, I anticipate Tennessee to win. However Purdue will battle, identical to it has all season. The tip outcome will probably be fantastic soccer.
Adam and I share a definition of leisure: factors.
On condition that data, it may appear odd to decide on the First Responder Bowl. However I consider there’s sneaky upside on this conflict of Air Power’s possibility assault and Louisville’s dynamic quarterback, Malik Cunningham.
Air Power has averaged 458.3 yards and 4.7 touchdowns on the bottom in its final three video games. Louisville, in the meantime, ranks 94th nationally in yards allowed per carry and simply watched Kentucky slice the protection to the tune of 362 dashing yards and 7 scores.
Certain, Air Power might management the clock, restrict possessions and shorten the sport. However I feel they’re going to be too busy scoring touchdowns for that to occur, which then requires Cunningham to chase factors with the intention to hold Louisville within the sport.
And that’s perfect! Cunningham is 266 passing and 32 dashing yards shy of becoming a member of the three,000/1,000 membership. He could be solely the eleventh particular person within the FBS to ever accomplish that in a season.