Bowl Record: 4-1, curses Arizona State!
Welcome to the second weekend of the Bowl season. Today’s slate features four games that should all be competitive, and, if offense is your thing, there’s probably not a better day for shootouts.
Here’s your schedule in Eastern time, why-to-watch, and our picks — we’re off to a good start so far!
Wake Forest +3 (6-6) vs. Memphis (8-5)
Memphis got hot midway through the season, and even played in the AACCG. But, as is their wont, after getting another huge lead on UCF, the defense collapsed. That has been a common theme for the Tigers this year: they can light it up but get smoked on the defensive side of the ball. In many respects, the Clawfense at Wake Forest is similar. The Deacs have had a high-powered RPO offense all season that can score in scads. But, again, the defense has been overwhelmed. The Tigers are favored here, and you can see why — Darrell Henderson is a beast and the passing game didn’t go anywhere. That said, Memphis has struggled mightily with the RPO: UCF will be Wake’s road map and it’s already their offense. Over 70 1⁄2 seems like the better play than taking either team in what should be a close shootout under clear skies.
Armed Forces Bowl
3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Army -6.5 (9-2) vs. Houston (8-4)
Don’t let Houston’s 8-4 record fool you. This team has been appalling down the stretch. The loss of D’Eriq King at QB and Ed Oliver’s injuries/DGAF has made a bad defense worse and a lethal offense somewhat pedestrian. Still, it should be a test for a Black Knights team that played solid if not spectacular defense. Houston is 98th against the rush — and that’s with Oliver playing off-and-on throughout the season. Anyone familiar with the Army-Oklahoma game knows the play here: ground-and-pound for the Knights and limit the killshots. King’s playmaking will be missed for UH. It’s not often West Point gets to see a 10-win season. They’ll be celebrating after this one. Take the Knights.
Dollar General Bowl
7 p.m. (ESPN)
Buffalo -1 (10-3) vs. Troy (9-3)
These two teams are almost identical — below average passing games, strongish-to-average rushing attacks, and neither one has done much spectacular on defense. The exception is that Buffalo has standout Tyree Jackson under center and the far better secondary. Jackson was mentioned as a possible early NFL entry in this down-year for QBs, but the 6’7” monster is probably better off as a grad transfer at a major conference program: There will be plenty of takers too. So, this is an audition of sorts. Slightly better offense, slightly better defense, and the best individual player makes Buffalo the pick here. Still, with Mobile just three hours away from Troy, this is going to be a tough de facto road trip for UB. Hesitantly take the Bulls.
10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Hawaii -1 (8-5) vs. La. Tech (7-5)
Hawaii QB-turned-HC Rolovich went back to future with the Warriors, scrapping his preferred balanced offense and bringing back the only one that should ever be seen in Honolulu — the run-and-shoot. During the offseason, he took road trips to visit Mike Leach and June Junes and has added some air raid elements to the offense. It’s worked. UH went from three wins to eight wins in one year, and the offense, which was among the worst last year, is now 9th in the nation. We think of La. Tech as having been a passing team of late, but the Bulldogs aren’t very good at it, and turn the ball over a ton through the air — almost a pick per week. If that’s bad, you should see the rushing attack. Woof. Hawaii will give up some points; it’s just what they do. But this is the toughest road trip in the nation and nothing about Skip Holtz’s team suggests they’re equipped to dethrone the Warriors at home. Take Hawaii, but it probably won’t be a blowout. A good Bulldog secondary likely keeps La. Tech in this one.
Enjoy this round of bowls, folks. The Shield takes center stage on Sunday, then we have a Christmas break — and the dreck that is the NBA. But, the heart of the CFB postseason schedule returns on 12/26. Still, 72 hours is a lot of time without college football.