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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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.
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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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Miami 17
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
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
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
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Alabama
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