College football bowl game predictions: Every contest analyzed, picked

After a few grueling months of conference play, a select number of teams will seek to win their final game of the year.

Let’s look at all of the bowl games that will take place within the month, while predicting winners and scores for each.

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Frisco Bowl

SMU vs. Louisiana Tech

The Mustangs have the best quarterback on either side in Ben Hicks, who’s thrown for 3,442 yards and 32 touchdowns. SMU scores more than 40 points per game, and Louisiana Tech’s offense has had a down year by its standard.

MORE: Full football coverage

Prediction: SMU 38, Louisiana Tech 34

Gasparilla Bowl

Temple vs. Florida International

FIU has scored 104 points in its last two games — both wins — against Western Kentucky and Massachusetts. The Golden Panthers often struggle defensively, but their ceiling feels higher here.

Prediction: FIU 31, Temple 26

Bahamas Bowl

UAB vs. Ohio

In their first season since 2014, the Blazers have impressed, going 8-4. Spencer Brown is a dynamic running back; he has 1,292 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season, and the defense is comfortably in the upper half of FBS units at 24.3 points per game.

Prediction: UAB 33, Ohio 30

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Wyoming vs. Central Michigan

Josh Allen’s hype has exceeded his play this season — he’s averaging just 6.6 yards per attempt after nearly averaging nine in his first two seasons. The Central Michigan defense will be extra motivated against one of the most well-known prospects in the country.

Prediction: Central Michigan 28, Wyoming 27

Birmingham Bowl

Texas Tech vs. South Florida

After a brutal October stretch, the Red Raiders have reeled off two of three – and while it’s not saying a ton, this is the best defense they’ve had in a while. Outside of UCF, the Bulls haven’t faced an opponent as good as Texas Tech.  

Prediction: Texas Tech 32, South Florida 28

Armed Forces Bowl

Army vs. San Diego State

It’s hard to pick against Rashaad Penny here, who has 2,027 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. Army has a lethal rushing attack of its own, but Penny is the best back they’ll have faced by a long shot.

Prediction: San Diego State 20, Army 16

Dollar General Bowl

Appalachian State vs. Toledo

The Mountaineers have been stingy defensively – they’re allowing just a hair over 20 points per game. Momentum is on Appalachian State’s side – it’s won three in a row, and hasn’t allowed more than 14 points during that span.

Prediction: Appalachian State 35, Toledo 32

Hawai’i Bowl

Fresno State vs. Houston

Speaking of defense, Fresno State’s unit has been outstanding. The Bulldogs rank ninth in scoring defense at 17.2 points per game. Quarterback Marcus McMaryion doesn’t throw it a ton, but he’s effective when he slings it – McMaryion is averaging nearly eight yards per attempt.

Prediction: Fresno State 27, Houston 20

Heart of Dallas Bowl

Utah vs. West Virginia

It’s been a down year for the 6-6 Utes, but they’ve played good teams tightly — they lost to USC, Washington and Washington State by a combined 12 points. West Virginia is solid, but Utah has hung with better squads. It won’t be easy, but Utah could end its season on a high note.

MORE: Final CFP rankings

Prediction: Utah 37, West Virginia 31

Quick Lane Bowl

Duke vs. Northern Illinois

David Cutcliffe will have to solve one of the country’s sneaky-best defenses, though the Huskies haven’t faced a great level of competition. Daniel Jones was erratic this season, but he’s had big performances – he’s capable of scoring enough on NIU to lead the Blue Devils to victory.

Prediction: Duke 24, Northern Illinois 18

Cactus Bowl

Kansas State vs. UCLA

It’s been a blah season for both of these teams, but the Chip Kelly hire has reenergized UCLA and the Bruins still have Josh Rosen on their side in what will likely be his last college game. Tough to go against him when we’re dealing with an equal or inferior opponent.

Prediction: UCLA 31, Kansas State 30

Independence Bowl

Florida State vs. Southern Miss

For as rough of a season as it’s been for the Seminoles, there’s still a lot of talent in Tallahassee. Southern Miss has had a nice year, but it will likely be overmatched.

Prediction: Florida State 36, Southern Miss 20

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Boston College vs. Iowa

Is this game being played in Iowa City? No? OK. The Hakweyes are a different team at home – just ask Ohio State – but have been pedestrian away from friendly turf. The Golden Eagles are secretly decent.

Prediction: Boston College 23, Iowa 19

Foster Farms Bowl

Arizona vs. Purdue

Khalil Tate is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, and even though the Wildcats lost three of their last four, they’ll have had plenty of time to prepare against an opponent who’s less talented than them. Expect Tate to run for well more than 100 yards.  

Prediction: Arizona 31, Purdue 28

Texas Bowl

Texas vs. Missouri

It’s been a nice turnaround for Missouri after an uninspiring couple of years. Drew Lock has been remarkable – he’s thrown for 3,695 yards and 43 touchdowns on a whopping 9.6 yards per attempt. The Texas defense is solid, but banged up — star linebacker Malik Jefferson isn’t expected to play.

Prediction: Missouri 35, Texas 33

Military Bowl

Virginia vs. Navy

Navy lost a heartbreaker to Army, but has a good shot against a Virginia team that’s allowing nearly 180 yards per game on the ground. The Hoos struggled to defend Georgia Tech’s triple option attack earlier this year, allowing the Yellow Jackets to score 36 points.

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Prediction: Navy 24, Virginia 23

Camping World Bowl

No. 19 Oklahoma State vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech

In terms of arm talent, it doesn’t get much better than Mason Rudolph. And in terms of a quarterback guru, it doesn’t get much better than Justin Fuente. But Rudolph and James Washington are nearly unstoppable, and while the Hokies are decent offensively, they don’t have the kind of firepower the Cowboys do.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Virginia Tech 35

Valero Alamo Bowl

Stanford vs. TCU

TCU was considered a College Football Playoff contender until the very end — then Baker Mayfield happened in the Big 12 championship game. Stanford is a tad one-dimensional offensively and the Horned Frogs simply check more boxes than the Cardinal.

Prediction: TCU 27, Stanford 17

Holiday Bowl

No. 16 Michigan State vs. No. 18 Washington State

Luke Falk wasn’t terribly efficient this season — he averaged less than seven yards per attempt — but he’s still one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the country, and the Spartans overachieved this season. The Cougar defense is underrated and should be able to put the clamps on L.J. Scott and company.

Prediction: Washington State 31, Michigan State 29

Belk Bowl

Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

While Texas A&M is going through a coaching transition, Dave Clawson has Wake Forest on a steady path. The Demon Deacons have won two of three and have a top-35 scoring offense. Quarterback John Wolford has 25 touchdowns throws to just six picks this season.

Prediction: Wake Forest 35, Texas A&M 27

Sun Bowl

No. 24 NC State vs. Arizona State

The Wolfpack finished a surprising 6-2 in the ACC this season and are extremely well-rounded offensively. Ryan Finley threw for more than 3,000 yards. Nyheim Hines ran for more than 1,000 and Kelvin Harmon needs only seven receiving yards to reach 1,000. N.C. State is less predictable on offense than the Sun Devils.

Prediction: N.C. State 27, Arizona State 22

Music City Bowl

Kentucky vs. No. 21 Northwestern

Northwestern is one of the hottest teams in the country, having won its last seven games, including a thriller over Michigan State. Clayton Thorson and the ruggedly reliable Justin Jackson form one of the best quarterback-running back duos in the nation.

Prediction: Northwestern 21, Kentucky 17

Arizona Bowl

Utah State vs. New Mexico State

Head coach Doug Martin had never won more than three games with the Aggies – until this season. Quarterback Tyler Rodgers is a roller-coaster — he has high passing yardage totals and 26 touchdowns, but has thrown 16 interceptions. This is a toss-up, but Rodgers and running back Larry Rose III give the Aggies two guys who are difference-makers on the right night.

Prediction: New Mexico State 37, Utah State 30

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State

It’s hard to know what to make of the Big Ten this year, and like last season, USC is playing its best ball down the stretch. Have the Buckeyes recovered from getting so close to the College Football Playoff, but missing it? The Trojans have a flair for the dramatic in bowl games. USC generally plays to its level of competition, and is likely unhappy that most didn’t even consider it for a Playoff spot.

Prediction: USC 27, Ohio State 24

Taxslayer Bowl

Louisville vs. No. 23 Mississippi State

Heisman runner-up Lamar Jackson was arguably better this year than when he won the trophy, and the Bulldogs will be without Nick Fitzgerald. The lopsided quarterback matchup is too much to ignore here.

Prediction: Louisville 34, Mississippi State 28

Liberty Bowl

Iowa State vs. No. 20 Memphis

This could be the highest-scoring bowl game. The Tigers are averaging 47.7 points — second in FBS — and the Cyclones have been in some barnburners this season, too. But Memphis is simply playing better than ISU right now — the Cyclones have lost three of four, and they’ve been inconsistent in all facets as of late.

Prediction: Memphis 48, Iowa State 41

Fiesta Bowl

No. 11 Washington vs. No. 9 Penn State

When Washington loses, it loses close. When it wins, it smokes foes – the Huskies just beat Washington State by 27 and pasted Oregon State, California and Oregon by 30-plus points. Penn State is better than those teams — but it feels like the Huskies are better than their record indicates. And at 10-2, their record is pretty darn good.

Prediction: Washington 40, Penn State 31

Orange Bowl

No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami

These teams followed similar trajectories this season, but it’s hard to look much worse than Miami did in its final two games against Pittsburgh and Clemson. The Hurricanes got manhandled by the Tigers in the ACC title game, and the Badgers are similarly stout up the middle.

MORE: CFB championship history

Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Miami 17

Outback Bowl

Michigan vs. South Carolina

Michigan’s quarterback situation is in flux, but the defense is so strong. The Wolverines allow just 18.2 points per game. South Carolina had a nice bounce back year, but Michigan will have the best unit on the field.

Prediction: Michigan 24, South Carolina 16

Peach Bowl

No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 12 UCF

One of the most intriguing matchups on the bowl schedule — but it’s tough to pick against Auburn, whose peak level is as high as anyone in the country. The Tigers proved it against Georgia (in the first matchup) and Alabama. With UCF going through a coaching change, the stable Tigers should have an edge.  

Prediction: Auburn 28, UCF 27

Citrus Bowl

No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU

Notre Dame just lost its touch near the end of the season. A great rushing attack turned into a solid rushing attack, and a solid passing game turned into a below-average passing game. The LSU defense is legitimate and the 9-3 Tigers won their last three games. None were competitive.

Prediction: LSU 26, Notre Dame 22

Rose Bowl Game

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Georgia

Mayfield hasn’t faced a defense as good as Georgia’s — including Ohio State. Georgia hasn’t faced a quarterback as good as Mayfield. This is a true toss-up, but if you believe great offense beats great defense, you have to roll with the Sooners.

Prediction: Oklahoma 39, Georgia 30

Sugar Bowl

No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Alabama

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We think Alabama is great. We know Clemson is great. Why is that the case? Strength of schedule. The Tigers have just been roasting teams lately, as Miami and South Carolina know – while the Crimson Tide barely survived Mississippi State and got outplayed by Auburn. This Alabama defense looks to be a notch below previous Nick Saban-led units.

Prediction: Clemson 27, Alabama 20

Joe Boozell has been a college basketball writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and Joe’s claim to fame since joining he’s predicted the correct national championship game twice… and picked the wrong winner both times. Growing up, Joe squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene. You can imagine how that went.

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