With Christmas fast approaching, the quality of the bowls is improving as well. It has been a dreary first week, brimming with blowouts, bad teams, awful defense, new coaches, and/or some combination of the above.
Today, however, we get three games that all have to potential to be competitive for different reasons and across the unique spectrum of schemes that only college football can provide: from the air raid, to spread option, to pro-set power running, to a triple option flexbone.
Texas Tech at South Florida (-3, O/U 66)
Birmingham Bowl - 12:00 PM ET ESPN/WatchESPN
Don’t expect much defense in this one, and there are higher stakes at play than you’d expect. Tech started the season a blistering 4-2 against a competitive schedule. Then, the realities of 1-4 conference play set in, and the Red Raiders faced a win-and-in Thanksgiving game against Texas. Kliff bought himself some time with that victory, but this is an important game, dare we say a must-win, after five disappointing seasons in Lubbock. Unfortunately, the Raiders drew one of the three excellent AAC teams in bowl play this winter, the South Florida Bulls. Charlie Strong’s squad also stars the best individual player in that conference as well, Quinton Flowers. On paper, this is a mismatch, but two suspect defenses should give you plenty of fireworks. Can TTU keep up? Can the Bulls secondary avoid the sound roasting it took against Memphis and UCF? Take the over.
San Diego State at Army (+6.5, 46)
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - 3:30 PM ET ESPN/WatchESPN
I hope you’re a fan of power football and timely defense, because that’s what the Aztecs and the surprising Black Knights are bringing to this one. SDSU features the nation’s leading runner, Rashaad Penny, while an amazingly 10-win Army team leads the nation in rushing. The triple option is a monster to prepare for, but one wonders if Army can compete up front with the physical SDSU lines. After watching UCF and Texas Tech throw for 1100 yards, tune in to see a game where about a dozen forward passes are completed. If you’ve not seen Rashaad Penny play, give him some eyeballs: he’s the best running back that you’ve never seen. I suspect the Aztecs send him out on a winning note, snapping Army’s 8-game winning streak, even if San Diego State doesn’t cover the touchdown.
Appalachian State at Toledo (-6.5, 61)
Dollar General Bowl - 7:00 PM ET ESPN/WatchESPN
This has the potential to be the best bowl of the day. These teams combined for 19 wins, one conference title, and one conference runner-up. In Toledo’s case, it is helmed by Jason Candle and one of the nation’s most efficient passing attacks. The Rockets’ opponent is the App. State Mountaineers, no stranger to big games, having opened the season at Georgia and outplaying most of the ‘Dawgs SEC opponents in Athens. ASU has won with defense most of the season, and they are one of the more fundamentally sound clubs in the G5. Toledo has more talent, to be sure, but they have had moments where the defense can be beaten at the point of attack by a power offense. This is going to be a good one.
Today’s best bowl matchup is:
This poll is closed
Texas Tech - USF
App. State - Toledo
San Diego State - Army