Of all the stuff you have to do this week, you get to watch nine college football games.
The second stanza of bowl season kicks off on Tuesday night and doesn’t end until late on Saturday. As far as which network to tune in to, all nine games air on ESPN, so set your channel once and you’re done.
Tuesday night the Boca Raton Bowl has a 7pm EST start time. Wednesday and Thursday nights – the Frisco and Gasparilla Bowls – both go at 8pm EST. The week wraps up with two Friday afternoon starts – the Bahamas Bowl at 12:30pm EST and then the Potato Bowl at 4pm EST.
That leaves Saturday’s offerings: the Birmingham Bowl at Noon EST, the Armed Forces Bowl at 3:30pm EST, the Dollar General Bowl at 7pm EST, and finally the Hawaii Bowl at 10:30pm EST.
Though there aren’t a lot of obvious headliners in this set – don’t be fooled, there are some fascinating storylines to get caught up in.
- The Boca Raton Bowl is one of only three FBS bowl matchups that feature two conference champions going head-to-head.
- UAB and Buffalo will both try to win their first bowl game in program history.
- The Boca Raton, Frisco, Gasparilla, and Dollar General Bowls all feature first-ever matchups.
- The Potato and Birmingham Bowls feature matchups we haven’t seen in almost 50-years.
- USF and Hawaii will both play their bowl games on their home fields.
As far as the best under-the-radar, on-field pairing – check out the Frisco Bowl, featuring one of the best strength vs. strength matchups this bowl season. Though it may not come across as sexy at first sight, you’ll likely go to bed happy.
Tuesday, Dec. 18
Cheribundi Tart Cherry BOCA RATON BOWL
UAB (10-3, C-USA Champion) vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (8-5, MAC Champion) – C-USA vs. MAC – FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla. – 7pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2014
Most Appearances: FAU, Marshall, Toledo and WKU (all 1-0) and Akron, Memphis, Northern Illinois and Temple (all 0-1)
Last year: FAU 50 – Akron 3
UAB has never won a bowl game. It got blown out 41-6 by Ohio in last year’s Bahamas Bowl. Its only other bowl appearance in program history was a 59-40 loss to Hawaii in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl.
Northern Illinois is 4-8 in bowl play. It lost 36-14 to Duke in last season’s Quick Lane Bowl, also it’s fifth-straight bowl loss. The most recent win came in the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl, a 38-20 win over Arkansas State.
UAB and Northern Illinois have never met in football. The Blazers have never beaten a current MAC member, losing one game apiece, both in 2017, to Ohio and Ball State. The Huskies are 7-15 vs. the current Conference USA.
Line: Northern Illinois -1
Both teams have excellent defenses (the Blazers are No. 9 nationally in scoring while the Huskies are No. 26) and are paired with offenses that have struggled to score points. Overall, UAB has been more successful finding the end zone than has NIU. The key matchup is the Blazers’ rushing attack – ranked No. 28 nationally – taking on a Huskie D ranked No. 14 vs. the run. The ground game has been essential to UAB’s success this season, to illustrate it rushed for minus-one yards in its 27-3 loss to Middle Tennessee in the final game of the regular season and then turned around, a week later, and hung up 225 rushing yards on the same Blue Raider team to win the C-USA title 27-25.
Players to Watch
UAB: sophomore running back Spencer Brown (#28) (No. 7 in the FBS in rushing touchdowns), senior defensive lineman Jamell Garcia-Williams (#99) (No. 14 in the FBS in sacks).
Northern Illinois: junior defensive end Sutton Smith (#15) (No. 1 in the FBS in sacks and No. 2 in tackles for a loss).
Wednesday, Dec. 19
DXL FRISCO BOWL
San Diego State (7-5) vs. Ohio (8-4) – MWC vs. MAC – Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas – 8pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2017
Last year: Louisiana Tech 51 – SMU 10
San Diego State is 5-8 in bowl play. It lost 42-35 to Army in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl. The most recent win came a year earlier, in 2016, when it downed Houston 34-10 in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Ohio is 3-8 in bowl action. It blasted UAB 41-6 in last year’s Bahamas Bowl, snapping a three-game bowl skid.
This is the first-ever football meeting between San Diego State and Ohio. The Aztecs are 13-0-1 all-time vs. the current MAC – the sole non-win coming in a 21-21 draw with Bowling Green in 1974. The Bobcats are 2-5 vs. the Mountain West, most recently edging Utah State 24-23 in the 2011 Idaho Potato Bowl.
Line: Ohio -3
This game features one of the best strength vs. strength matchups this bowl season. While you’d expect San Diego State to have an elite ground game, in a twist, it’s Ohio’s No. 8 nationally ranked rushing offense taking on an Aztec D ranked No. 4 vs. the run. Where the Bobcats are averaging 261.9 rushing yards a game (just shy of Wisconsin’s 268.4), SDSU is holding opponents to a mere 94.5 yards ground yards per game (just shy of Clemson’s 92.9). The Aztecs are one of only four teams in the nation allowing fewer than 100-yards per game. The others? Michigan State (No. 1 in rushing D), Texas A&M (No. 2) and, again Clemson (No. 3). Mighty Alabama is No. 19, giving up 117 yards per game.
Players to Watch
San Diego State: junior linebacker Kyahva Tezino (#44) (No. 4 in the MWC in total tackles, No. 2 in sacks and No. 3 in tackles for a loss).
Ohio: junior quarterback Nathan Rourke (#12) (No. 4 in the FBS in rushing touchdowns by a QB), senior running backs A.J. Ouellette (#45) (No. 2 in the MAC in rushing yards per game) and Maleek Irons (#21) (No. 4 in the MAC in rushing yards per game).
Thursday, Dec. 20
Bad Boy Mowers GASPARILLA BOWL
MARSHALL (8-4) vs. SOUTH FLORIDA (7-5) – C-USA vs. AAC – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. – 8pm 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: UCF (1-2)
Last year: Temple 28 – FIU 3
Marshall is an impressive 11-2 in bowl action. It beat Colorado State 31-28 in last year’s New Mexico Bowl, also its sixth-consecutive bowl win.
South Florida is 6-3 in bowl play. It edged Texas Tech 38-34 in last season’s Birmingham Bowl, its second-straight bowl victory, both over Power 5 members (the Bulls beat South Carolina in overtime in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl).
Marshall and South Florida have never met in football. The Thundering Herd is 29-37-1 all-time vs. the current AAC while the Bulls are 14-9 against the C-USA.
Line: South Florida -2
South Florida kicked off 2018 with seven-straight wins, climbing all the way to No. 21 in the AP, only to lose its last five games. What killed the Bulls was the inability to score points at the same pace, racking up an average of 35.6 points through the first seven and freefalling to 20.2 points in the last five. It makes Marshall – the owner and operator of the No. 32 scoring defense in the country – a tough opponent. The Herd hold a higher rank in scoring defense than three of the Bulls’ last five opponents, the exceptions being Cincinnati (No. 7) and UCF (No. 24). Marshall’s biggest defensive weakness is against the pass where its No. 68 nationally (vs. No. 10 against the run). This puts the pressure squarely on USF’s aerial attack – ranked No. 56 nationally – to make the difference.
Players to Watch
Marshall: junior defensive lineman Ty Tyler (#1) (No. 5 in the C-USA in sacks).
South Florida: junior running back Jordan Cronkrite (#2) (No. 4 in the ACC in rushing yards per game), junior quarterback Blake Barnett (#11) – who’s status is “day-by-day,” still suffering from a lower-leg injury – (No. 3 in the ACC in passing yards per game).
Friday, Dec. 21
Makers Wanted BAHAMAS BOWL
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (8-4) vs. TOLEDO (7-5) – C-USA vs. MAC – Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas – 12:30pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2014
Most appearances: Ohio, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky and Western Michigan (all 1-0) and Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Middle Tennessee and UAB (all 0-1)
Last year: Ohio 41 – UAB 6
FIU is 1-2 in bowl play. It lost 28-3 to Temple in last year’s Gasparilla Bowl. Its 34-32 win over Toledo in the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl is the only bowl win in program history.
Toledo is 10-7 in bowl action. It got blanked 34-0 by Appalachian State in last season’s Dollar General Bowl. Its most recent win came in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl when it downed (24) Temple 32-17.
This is the third-ever meeting between FIU and Toledo. Other than the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl, the two also played a home-and-home in 2008 and 2009. The Panthers lead 2-1.
Line: Toledo -4.5
The biggest mismatch in this one is Toledo’s No. 23 ranked rushing attack taking on an FIU D that’s ranked No. 100 vs. the run. It amounts to the second-best ground game from the MAC clashing with the second-worst rush D in Conference USA. The best opportunity for the Panthers to balance the scales is to fire up its passing attack (No. 51 in the FBS, No. 5 in the C-USA) and take advantage of the Rockets’ struggling secondary (No. 105 nationally and No. 11 in the MAC).
Players to Watch
FIU: junior linebacker Sage Lewis (#3) (No. 13 in the FBS in total tackles), junior quarterback James Morgan (#12) (No. 3 in the C-USA in touchdown passes).
Toledo: freshman running back Bryant Koback (#22) (tied for the eighth-most rushing touchdowns in the FBS).
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL
WESTERN MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. BYU (6-6) – MAC vs. Independents – Albertson’s Stadium, Boise, ID – 4pm EST – ESPN
First year: 1997
Previous names: Humanitarian (1997-2003), MPC Computers (2004-06), Humanitarian (2007-10)
Most appearances: Boise State (3-1) and Utah State (1-3)
Last year: Wyoming 37 – Central Michigan 14
Western Michigan is 1-7 in bowl action. It hasn’t been bowling since 2016, when it memorably went 13-0 and lost 24-16 to (8) Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Its only-ever bowl win came the year before, in 2015, a 45-31 victory over Middle Tennessee in the Bahamas Bowl.
BYU is 14-20-1 in bowl play. Its most recent action came it the 2016 Poinsettia, a 24-21 win over Wyoming.
Western Michigan and BYU haven’t met on the gridiron since 1970. In total, they’ve played five times, all between 1962 and 1970. The Cougars lead 3-2.
Line: BYU -12.5
Western Michigan has a solid offense (ranked No. 36 nationally in points per game) and a questionable defense (ranked No. 102 in scoring D). In a case of opposites, BYU has an offense that has struggled to score points (No. 95 in points per game) and a stingy defense (No. 28 in scoring). It makes this matchup a classic battle of strength vs. strength – the Broncos’ offense vs. the Cougars D – AND a clash of weaknesses – BYU’s O vs. WMU’s defense.
Players to Watch
Western Michigan: junior running back LeVante Bellamy (#2) (No. 1 in the MAC in rushing yards per game).
BYU: senior linebacker Sione Takitaki (#16) (No. 26 in the FBS in solo tackles).
Saturday, Dec. 22
MEMPHIS (8-5) vs. WAKE FOREST (6-6) – AAC vs. ACC – Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala. – Noon EST – ESPN
First year: 2006
Previous names: PapaJohns.com (2006-10), BBVA Compass (2011-14)
Most appearances: South Florida (3-0) and Pittsburgh (1-2)
Last year: (25) South Florida 38 – Texas Tech 34
Memphis is 4-6 in bowl action. It’s lost three-straight bowl games, most recently falling 21-20 to Iowa State in last year’s Liberty Bowl. The most recent win came in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl, a thrilling double-overtime win vs. BYU.
Wake Forest is 8-4 in bowl play. It edged Texas A&M 55-52 in last season’s Belk Bowl.
Memphis and Wake Forest haven’t met in 51-years. The two have played four times total, all between 1964-67. All but one (in 1966), were played in in Memphis. The series is deadlocked at two wins apiece.
Line: Memphis -4
On paper this one looks like an epic mismatch. On one side of the ball it’s a Memphis offense that has soared to a No. 7 national ranking in scoring and a No. 4 mark in rushing yards per game. On the flip side, it’s a Wake Forest D ranked No. 102 in scoring and No. 92 vs. the run. The rest of the story has two key components – first, the Tigers’ leading rusher – junior Darrell Henderson (No. 2 in the FBS in yards per game) – has opted to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Next up, Memphis’ defense has struggled mightily – ranked No. 91 nationally, No. 73 vs. the run and No. 99 vs. the pass. It means that the Demon Deacons will have to be better than they’ve been defensively and then score like the wind on the back of their rushing attack, ranked No. 24 in the FBS and No. 4 in the ACC (vs. their passing attack, ranked No. 68 in the FBS and No. 8 in the ACC).
Players to Watch
Memphis: junior running back Patrick Taylor, Jr. (#6) (No. 9 in the FBS in rushing touchdowns), junior linebacker Bryce Huff (#55) (No. 9 in the FBS in tackles for a loss).
Wake Forest: junior running back Cade Carney (#36) (No. 7 in the ACC in rushing yards per game), senior running back Matt Colburn II (#22) (No. 12 in the ACC in rushing yards per game).
Lockheed Martin ARMED FORCES BOWL
HOUSTON (8-4) vs. ARMY (10-2) – AAC vs. Independents – Amon G. Carter Stadium, Ft. Worth, Texas – 3:30pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2003
Previous names: Fort Worth (2003-05)
Most appearances: Air Force (1-4)
Last year: Army 42 – San Diego State 35
Houston is 11-14-1 in bowl action. It lost 33-27 to Fresno State in last season’s Hawaii Bowl, also its second-straight bowl loss. The most recent victory came in memorable fashion in the 2015 Peach Bowl, when the then (14) Cougars upset (9) Florida State 38-24.
Army is 5-2 in bowl play. This is its second-straight appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl, downing San Diego State 42-35 in last year’s game.
Houston and Army have met seven times previously, all regular-season games played between 1998-2004. The Cougars lead 5-2 and have won three-straight.
Line: Houston -1.5
First up, this pairing offers a fascinating strength vs. strength matchup – Houston’s potent offense (No. 4 in the FBS in scoring, No. 20 in rushing and No. 14 in passing) taking on a stingy Army D (No. 17 in scoring, No. 12 vs. the run and No. 30 vs. the pass). While that part has “epic” written all over it, the mismatch comes when you imagine the Cougars defense (ranked No. 99 nationally vs. the run) trying to contain Army’s triple-option attack (ranked No. 2 in the FBS in rushing yards per game). To complicate matters, Houston’s stellar defensive tackle – Ed Oliver – is skipping the bowl game to prep for the NFL draft.
Players to Watch
Houston: senior linebacker Austin Robinson (#22) (No. 13 in the FBS in solo tackles).
Army: senior running back Darnell Woolfolk (#33) (No. 14 in the FBS in rushing touchdowns).
DOLLAR GENERAL BOWL
BUFFALO (10-3) vs. TROY (9-3) – MAC vs. Sun Belt – Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala. – 7pm EST – ESPN
First year: 1999
Previous names: Mobile Alabama (1999-2000), GMAC (2001-2010), GoDaddy (2011-15)
Most appearances: Arkansas State (2-2)
Last year: Appalachian State 34 – Toledo 0
Buffalo has never won a bowl game. It last went bowling in 2013, suffering a 49-24 defeat to San Diego State in the Idaho Potato Bowl. Its only other bowl experience came in the 2008 International Bowl, a 38-20 loss to UConn.
Troy is 4-3 in bowl action. It beat North Texas 50-30 in last season’s New Orleans Bowl, also it’s third-consecutive bowl win.
Buffalo and Troy have never met in football. This is the first time the Bulls have ever played a current member of the Sun Belt. The Trojans are 4-3 vs. the MAC, most recently beating Akron during the 2017 regular season.
Line: Buffalo -4
Statistically speaking, these two teams have turned in solid performances from top to bottom. The best strength vs. strength matchup is Buffalo’s No. 28 ranked scoring offense (averaging 34.8 points per game) taking on a Troy D ranked No. 23 in scoring (allowing 21.2 points per game). Overall, it looks to be one of the more evenly matched pairings in the postseason.
Players to Watch
Buffalo: senior linebacker Khalil Hodge (#4) (No. 7 in the FBS in total tackles), freshman running back Jaret Patterson (#26) (No. 21 in the FBS in rushing touchdowns), senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson (#83) (No. 11 in the FBS in receiving touchdowns).
Troy: senior safety Cedarius Rookard (#5) (tied for the fourth-most interceptions in the FBS), senior bandit linebacker Hunter Reese (#47) (No. 2 in the Sun Belt in sacks and No. 3 in tackles for a loss).
HAWAII (8-5) vs. LOUISIANA TECH (7-5) – MWC vs. C-USA – Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii – 10:30pm EST – ESPN
First year: 2002
Most appearances: Hawaii (4-3)
Last year: Fresno State 33 – Houston 27
Hawaii is 6-5 in bowl action. It last went bowling in the 2016 edition of the Hawaii Bowl, beating Middle Tennessee 52-35.
Louisiana Tech is 6-3-1 in bowl play. It smashed SMU 51-10 in last season’s Frisco Bowl, also it’s fourth-consecutive bowl victory.
This is the 11th all-time meeting between Hawaii and Louisiana Tech. All ten previous games were played during the regular season between 2000 and 2011, all but one when both schools were members of the WAC. The Rainbow Warriors lead 8-2 and have won two-straight.
Line: Hawaii -2.5
This matchup features two key components. First, in a battle of strengths its Hawaii’s prolific passing attack (No. 9 in the nation in yards per game) squaring off with Louisiana Tech’s No. 30 ranked passing defense. Next up, it’s each team’s most blaring weakness – the Bulldogs’ No. 100 ranked scoring offense trying to reach the endzone vs. a Warrior D ranked No. 111 in the FBS in scoring. And where La Tech has been especially ineffective running the ball (No. 113 nationally), Hawaii has been equally as poor at stopping the run (No. 106 in the FBS).
Players to Watch
Hawaii: sophomore quarterback Cole McDonald (#13) (No. 5 in the FBS in passing yards per game and No. 7 in touchdown passes), junior wide receiver John Ursua (#5) (No. 8 in the FBS in receiving yards per game and No. 1 in touchdown receptions)
Louisiana Tech: senior defensive end Jaylon Ferguson (#45) (No. 1 in the FBS in sacks and tackles for a loss).