The second stanza of bowl season kicks off on Monday night and doesn’t end until late on Friday. As far as which network to tune in to, eight of the nine games air on ESPN. That means that there is only one time you’ll need to swap channels, 8pm EST on Friday night, when FS1 covers the Holiday Bowl.
The week kicks off promptly at 2:30pm EST on Monday afternoon with the Gasparilla Bowl. After that, tune in Tuesday evening (Christmas Eve) to the Hawaii Bowl at 8pm EST.
Wednesday (Christmas Day) doesn’t feature a college game, but Thursday offers two – the Independence Bowl at 4pm EST and the Quick Lane Bowl at 8pm EST.
Friday is home to five games – the Military at Noon EST, the Pinstripe at 3:20pm EST, the Texas at 6:45pm EST, and the Holiday at 8pm EST (again, this is the only non-ESPN contest, instead airing over on FS1). The grand finale is the Cheez-It Bowl at 10:15pm EST.
Of the nine games, three feature first-ever matchups (the Military, Pinstripe and Cheez-It), two are reunions between old conference foes (the Gasparilla and Texas) and one is the first ranked vs. ranked matchup this bowl season (the Holiday).
As far as the best under-the-radar pairing – check out the Cheez-It Bowl, featuring the best passing attack in college football taking on a squad that runs the option to perfection. Though it may not come across as sexy at first sight, you’ll likely go to bed happy.
Monday, Dec. 23
Bad Boy Mowers GASPARILLA BOWL
UCF (9-3) vs. MARSHALL (8-4) – AAC vs. C-USA – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. – 2:30pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2008
Previous names: majicJack (2008), St. Petersburg presented by Beef O’Brady’s (2009), Beef O’Brady’s (2010-13), St. Petersburg (2014-16)
Most appearances: Marshall (3-0) and UCF (1-2)
Last year: Marshall 38 – South Florida 20
Marshall is an impressive 12-2 in bowl action. It beat USF 38-20 in last year’s Gasparilla Bowl, also its seventh-consecutive bowl win.
UCF is 4-6 in bowl play. It fell to then (11) LSU 40-32 in last season’s Fiesta Bowl. Its last win came the year before, a memorable 34-27 upset victory over then (7) Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
Marshall and UCF met consecutively from 2002-04 as members of the MAC and from 2005-12 as members of C-USA. The Knights moved to the American in 2013. UCF holds a commanding 8-3 advantage in the series and has won eight-straight.
Line: UCF -16.5
This one will likely be decided by whether Marshall’s defense can manage to shut down UCF’s prolific offense. The Thundering Herd have earned solid numbers defensively – No. 40 in scoring, No. 35 vs. the run and No. 66 against the pass – but will be severely tested by a Knights’ attack ranked No. 6 in the FBS in scoring, No. 21 in rushing and No. 8 in passing. Only (2) Ohio State, (13) Alabama, (1) LSU, (3) Clemson and (4) Oklahoma have scored more points per game than has UCF this season (43).
Players to Watch
Marshall: sophomore RB Brenden Knox (#20) (No. 16 in the FBS in rushing yards per game), junior LB Tavante Beckett (#4) (tied for No. 15 in the FBS in total tackles), senior K Justin Rohrwasser (#16) (tied for No. 17 in the FBS in field goal percentage)
UCF: true freshman QB Dillon Gabriel (#11) (No. 12 in the FBS in passing yards per game), junior WR Gabriel Davis (#13) (No. 8 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), senior K Dylan Barnas (#39) (tied for No. 12 in the FBS in field goal percentage)
Tuesday, Dec. 24
BYU (7-5) at HAWAII (9-5) – Independent vs. MWC – Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii – 8pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2002
Most appearances: Hawaii (4-4)
Last year: Louisiana Tech 31 – Hawaii 14
BYU is 15-20-1 in bowl play. It smashed Western Michigan 49-18 in last year’s Idaho Potato Bowl.
Hawaii is 6-6 in bowl action. It lost 31-14 to Louisiana Tech in last season’s Hawaii Bowl. The most recent win came in the 2016 edition of the same game, a 52-35 victory over Middle Tennessee.
BYU and Hawaii have met 31 times previously, including on 19 occasions when the two shared membership in the WAC from 1979-98. The Cougars lead 23-8 all time and have won five-straight.
Line: BYU -2
Both teams have elite aerial attacks – Hawaii is a lofty No. 6 nationally in passing yards per game (325.9) while BYU is No. 24 (285.6). While the Warriors have been more successful scoring points (a No. 33 rank vs. the Cougars’ No. 71 mark), overall BYU has been more successful defensively (No. 47 in scoring D vs. Hawaii’s No. 97 rank). This should be a high-flying affair with the most effective defense ultimately winning the day.
Players to Watch
BYU: sophomore QB Zach Wilson (#1) (No. 22 in the FBS in passing yards per game)
Hawaii: junior QB Cole McDonald (#13) (No. 16 in the FBS in passing yards per game)
Thursday, Dec. 26
Walk On’s INDEPENDENCE BOWL
LOUISIANA TECH (9-3) vs. MIAMI FLA. (6-6) – C-USA vs. ACC – Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La. – 4pm EST – ESPN
First year: 1976
Previous names: AdvoCare V100 (2013)
Most appearances: Ole Miss (4-1)
Last year: Duke 56 – Temple 27
Louisiana Tech is 7-3-1 in bowl play. It downed Hawaii 31-14 in last season’s Hawaii Bowl, also it’s fifth-consecutive bowl win.
Miami Fla. is 19-21 in bowl action. It fell 35-3 to Wisconsin in last year’s Pinstripe Bowl. The last win came in the 2016 Russell Athletic, a 31-14 victory over then (14) West Virginia.
Miami and Louisiana Tech have met four times previously, first in 1979 and then three times between 2000-04. The Hurricanes are 4-0 vs. the Bulldogs and won the last two games by a combined score of 96-9.
Line: Miami Fla. -10.5
Miami has played solid defense this season – No. 25 nationally in scoring, No. 16 vs. the run and No. 64 against the pass. This should make for a good matchup vs. Louisiana Tech’s No. 31 ranked passing attack, also the Bulldogs’ biggest offensive strength. On the other side of the ball, the Hurricane’s decent passing offense (No. 42 nationally) has an opportunity to shine vs. a La Tech secondary ranked No. 98 in the nation and No. 13 in C-USA vs. the pass.
Players to Watch
Louisiana Tech: senior QB J’Mar Smith (#8) (No. 15 in the FBS in passing yards per game)
Miami Fla.: redshirt freshman DL Gregory Rousseau (#15) (tied for No. 2 in the FBS in sacks and No. 12 in tackles for a loss)
QUICK LANE BOWL
PITTSBURGH (7-5) vs. EASTERN MICHIGAN (6-6) – ACC vs. MAC – Ford Field, Detroit, Mich. – 8pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2014
Most appearances: Minnesota (2-0)
Last year: Minnesota 34 – Georgia Tech 10
Pittsburgh is 13-21 in bowl action. It got nipped 14-13 by Stanford in last season’s Sun Bowl, also its fourth-consecutive bowl loss. The most recent victory came in the 2013 Little Caesars Bowl, a 30-27 win over Bowling Green.
Eastern Michigan is 1-2 in bowl play. The Eagles fell to Georgia Southern 23-21 in last year’s Camellia Bowl.
Pitt and Eastern Michigan have only played twice previously – in 2007 and 1995 – both were played in Pittsburgh and both were wins for the Panthers. The Eagles have never beaten a current ACC member (0-5).
Line: Pitt -10.5
Pitt has struggled epically to score points this season, averaging 20.1 points per game earning it a No. 115 rank nationally and a No. 13 mark in the ACC. The upside is, the Panthers have been successful defensively, currently ranked No. 31 in the FBS and No. 3 in the conference in scoring. This matchup is the story of two teams who’ve not played well offensively but who both have been more successful through the air than on the ground – Pitt is No. 46 in passing yards per game (compared to No. 121 in rushing) while EMU is No. 29 (vs. No. 119 in rushing). This puts the pressure squarely on the two pass defenses – the Panthers are No. 20 vs. the pass while the Eagles are No. 65.
Players to Watch
Pittsburgh: junior QB Kenny Pickett (#8) (No. 29 in the FBS in passing yards per game), sophomore DL Jaylen Twyman (#97) (No. 14 in the FBS in sacks)
Eastern Michigan: senior QB Mike Glass III (#9) (No. 23 in the FBS in passing yards per game), senior LB Kobie Beltram (#10) (No. 14 in the FBS in total tackles), senior DB Brody Hoying (tied for the sixth-most interceptions in the FBS)
Friday, Dec. 27
NORTH CAROLINA (6-6) vs. TEMPLE (8-4) – ACC vs. AAC – Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md. – Noon EST – ESPN
First year: 2008
Previous names: EagleBank (2008-09)
Most appearances: Navy (2-1)
Last year: Cincinnati 35 – Virginia Tech 31
North Carolina is 14-19 in bowl play. It hasn’t gone bowling since 2016 when it got edged 25-23 by then (16) Stanford in the Sun Bowl, also it’s third-consecutive bowl loss. The most recent win came in the 2013 Belk Bowl, a 39-17 win over Cincinnati.
Temple is 3-5 in bowl action. It lost 56-27 to Duke in last season’s Independence Bowl. Its most recent win came the year before in the 2017 Gasparilla Bowl, a 28-3 victory over FIU. The Owls have only scored a bowl win over a current Power 5 member once in history, besting Cal 28-17 in the 1979 Garden State Bowl.
This is the first-ever football meeting between North Carolina and Temple.
Line: North Carolina -6.5
Neither of these teams have stood out statistically this season, both performing reasonably well across the board. They also share the same strength, throwing the ball – North Carolina is No. 25 in the FBS in passing yards per game while Temple is No. 39. This puts the pressure on each team’s defense. The Owls’ are No. 49 vs. the pass but gave up 363 and 457 air yards respectively in back-to-back games vs. (17) Memphis and at SMU in October (the Tigers are currently No. 26 in passing offense while the Mustangs are No. 12). The Tar Heels are No. 78 vs. the pass, coughing up 383 and 359 passing yards to Virginia and at Pitt in consecutive losses in November (the Cavaliers are No. 37 in passing offense while the Panthers are No. 46).
Players to Watch
North Carolina: freshman QB Sam Howell (#7) (No. 18 in the FBS in passing yards per game), junior WR Dazz Newsome (#5) (No. 26 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), junior LB Chazz Surratt (#21) (No. 22 in the FBS in total tackles)
Temple: sophomore WR Jadan Blue (#18) (No. 32 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), junior DE Quincy Roche (#9) (No. 6 in the FBS in sacks and No. 12 in tackles for a loss)
New Era PINSTRIPE BOWL
MICHIGAN STATE (6-6) vs. WAKE FOREST (8-4) – Big Ten vs. ACC – Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y. – 3:20pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2010
Most appearances: Syracuse (2-0), Rutgers (1-1), Boston College (0-2)
Last year: Wisconsin 35 – Miami Fla. 3
Michigan State is 12-16 in bowl action. It fell to Oregon 7-6 in last season’s high-flying Redbox Bowl. Its most recent win came in the 2017 Holiday Bowl when it destroyed then (21) Washington State 42-17.
Wake Forest is 9-4 in bowl play. It edged Memphis 37-34 in last year’s Birmingham Bowl, also it’s third-straight bowl victory.
This is the first-ever football meeting between Michigan State and Wake Forest.
Line: Michigan State -3
When you think of Michigan State in the Mark Dantonio era, you think of stifling defense. While the Spartans are currently ranked No. 15 vs. the run, they’ve struggled – relative to MSU standards – to a No. 44 mark against the pass. Not only does that put them in the bottom half of the Big Ten, it sets up for an intriguing matchup vs. a high-flying Wake Forest offense that’s earned a No. 18 rank in passing yards per game. On the other side of the field, the Spartans have struggled epically to score points (No. 107 nationally) and establish the run (No. 116). The one ray of hope is their No. 60 ranked passing attack. While no where near potent, it may look much improved against Wake Forest’s secondary – ranked No. 97 nationally and No. 10 in the ACC.
Players to Watch
Michigan State: senior DE Kenny Willekes (#48) (tied for No. 20 in the FBS in sacks)
Wake Forest: senior WR Kendall Hinton (#2) (No. 16 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), junior DL Carlos Basham Jr. (#9) (tied at No. 15 in the FBS in sacks and No. 16 in tackles for a loss), sophomore PK Nick Sciba (#4) (No. 2 in the FBS in field goal percentage)
Academy Sports + Outdoors TEXAS BOWL
(25) OKLAHOMA STATE (8-4) vs. TEXAS A&M (7-5) – Big 12 vs. SEC – NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas – 6:45pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2006
Previous names: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (2011-12)
Most appearances: Baylor (1-1), Kansas State (1-1), Texas (1-1), Texas A&M (1-1), Texas Tech (1-1), Minnesota (0-2) and Missouri (0-2).
Last year: Baylor 45 – Vanderbilt 38
Oklahoma State is 19-10 in bowl play. It most recently downed then (24) Missouri 38-33 in the 2018 Liberty Bowl, also its third-consecutive bowl win.
Texas A&M is 18-22 in bowl play. It destroyed NC State 52-13 in last year’s Gator Bowl.
A rematch of the 1981 Independence Bowl (a 33-16 win for the Aggies), Oklahoma State and Texas A&M shared membership in the Big 12 from 1996-2011. The Aggies lead the all-time series 17-10 but the Cowboys have won four-straight. This is the first meeting since Texas A&M bolted for the SEC in 2012.
Line: Texas A&M -3
The stellar matchup in this one is Oklahoma State’s No. 16 ranked rushing attack taking on Texas A&M’s defense, ranked No. 29 vs. the run. Where the Cowboys are averaging 236.25 ground yards per game, the Aggies are allowing a mere 129.08. The other storyline is Oklahoma State’s pass D, even though it’s poor No. 113 ranking is skewed by a full season in the pass-happy Big 12, it’s the third-worst unit in the conference meaning that seven defenses – including that of Kansas – weathered the aerial storm better than OSU. Texas A&M is currently ranked No. 54 nationally and No. 4 in the SEC in passing offense.
Players to Watch
Oklahoma State: sophomore RB Chuba Hubbard (#30) (No. 1 in the FBS in total rushing yards and rushing yards per game), sophomore S Kolby Harvell-Peel (#31) (tied for the fifth-most interceptions in the FBS)
Texas A&M: junior QB Kellen Mond (#11) (No. 4 in the SEC in passing yards per game)
SDCCU HOLIDAY BOWL
(22) USC (8-4) vs. (16) IOWA (9-3) – Pac-12 vs. Big Ten – SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, Calif. – 8pm EST – FS1
First year: 1978
Most appearances: BYU (4-6-1)
Last year: Northwestern 31 – (20) Utah 20
USC is 35-19 in bowl play. It last went bowling in 2017, falling to then (5) Ohio State 24-7 in the Cotton Bowl. The most recent win came in the 2016 Rose Bowl, a 52-49 barnburner win over then (5) Penn State.
Iowa is 16-15-1 in bowl action. It downed then (18) Mississippi State 27-22 in last year’s Outback Bowl.
A rematch of the 2002/03 Orange Bowl (the most recent meeting and a 38-17 win for USC), these two have met nine times previously. The Trojans lead all-time 7-2 and have won six-straight.
Line: Iowa -3
These two teams are virtually polar opposites of one another. USC has a high flying, pass dominant offense and a below average defense while Iowa has an elite D and a questionable offense. The epic matchup – and one of the best strength vs. strength clashes of bowl season – is the Trojan’s No. 5 ranked passing attack taking on the Hawkeye’s No. 10 ranked pass D. Where USC is averaging a cool 336.9 air yards per game, Iowa’s only giving up 184.2. This one will be a lot like watching the History Channel take on the folks over at the Sci-Fi Network.
Players to Watch
USC: true freshman QB Kedon Slovis (#9) (No. 8 in the FBS in passing yards per game), senior WR Michael Pittman Jr. (#6) (No. 6 in the FBS in total receiving yards), sophomore PK Chase McGrath (#42) (tied for No. 12 in the FBS in field goal percentage)
Iowa: junior DE A.J. Epenesa (#94) (tied for the fourth most sacks in the Big Ten), junior K Keith Duncan (#3) (No. 16 in the FBS in field goal percentage)
AIR FORCE (10-2) vs. WASHINGTON STATE (6-6) – MWC vs. Pac-12 – Chase Field, Phoenix, Ariz. – 10:15pm EST – ESPN
First year: 1989
Previous names: Copper (1989-96), Insight (1997-2011), Buffalo Wild Wings (2012-13), Cactus (2015-17)
Most appearances: Kansas State (3-1)
Last year: TCU 10 – California 7 (OT)
Air Force is 12-11-1 in bowl play. This is its first bowl game since the 2016 Arizona Bowl, a 45-21 win over South Alabama.
Washington State is 8-7 in bowl action. It edged then (25) Iowa State 28-26 in last season’s Alamo Bowl.
This is the first-ever football meeting between Air Force and Washington State.
Line: Air Force -2.5
Air Force has fielded a Top 20 defense this season, ranked No. 19 nationally in scoring and No. 14 vs. the run. The only unit to finish out of the top 15% of the nation is its pass D, coming in at No. 40. While this certainly isn’t tragic, it may be exposed vs. Washington State’s aerial attack, ranked No. 1 in the FBS. Though that’s not shocking, keep in mind that the Cougars are the only team in the nation averaging 400-plus passing yards and are averaging 57.5 more yards than the next nearest competitor – (1) LSU’s prolific offense (386.6). The other caveat in this one is how Washington State’s defense – ranked No. 95 in scoring and No. 78 vs. the run – will cope with Air Force’s option offense, ranked No. 3 in the FBS in rushing yards per game. This might just be one of the most entertaining bowl matchups of the season.
Players to Watch
Air Force: senior K Jake Koehnke (#92) (tied for No. 1 in the FBS in field goal percentage and one of only two kickers who are perfect in field goal attempts in 2019)
Washington State: senior QB Anthony Gordon (#18) (No. 1 in the FBS in passing yards per game), senior WR Brandon Arconado (#19) (No. 18 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), junior LB Jahad Woods (#13) (No. 9 in the FBS in total tackles)