Breaking Down the 2018 College Football Bowl Season

Cole Thomas, Editor

Bowl season is once again upon us, bringing us 80 teams attempting to etch their name into college football history. With 2018 giving us so many marquee matchups and questionable comparisons, Cole Thomas, accompanied by Pac 12 expert and ESPN commentator Brock Huard, has broken down each matchup from mid December to early January.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Utah State vs North Texas

Line: Utah State (-11)


Coles Take: After a turbulent beginning of December for Utah State, the Aggies will look to avenge last years bowl loss without head man Matt Wells, who took the head coaching job at Texas Tech after former head coach Kliff Kingsberry was shown the door. Associate head coach Frank Maile will lead the Aggies into Albuquerque along with offensive coordinator David Yost, a Broyles award finalist this year. Yost will join Wells in Lubbock after the bowl game. Linebackers coach Stacy Collins will call the defense for the Aggies. Despite the majority of the USU staff jumping ship, sophomore Jordan Love will be the man under (or over) center for the Aggies. Love has been one of the best underclassmen quarterbacks in the nation, and his favorite targets Ron’quavion Tarver and Jalen Green will attest to that. Tarver and Green have combined for an even 100 receptions, over 1,200 yards, and 12 touchdowns. The Aggie defense is led by sophomore All-American linebacker David Woodward, tallying 124 total tackles on the year. For North Texas, Mason Fine has had another fantastic year in Seth Littrell’s pass first offense. Fine has tossed 27 touchdowns and only been picked off 5 times, an impressive ratio for having put the ball in the air 457 times this year. Fine has an opportunity to surpass the 4,000 yard mark in 2018 with another stellar performance, and will look to Rico Bussey to do so. Bussy is just over 1,000 yards on the season. North Texas has the advantage in schematics, as they arrive at Dreamstyle Stadium with an intact coaching corp. But with Yost calling the offense for Utah State, the firepower of the Aggie skills units as well as an athletic secondary will give the Mean Green fits. Utah State will complete their second 11 win season with a win over North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl.


FInal Score- Utah State 38, North Texas 16


AutoNation Cure Bowl

Tulane vs Louisiana-Lafayette

Line: Tulane (-4.5)


Coles Take: In a bout between two very average teams, Tulane comes in with the most battle scars. The Green Wave finished 6-6 (5-3) on the year, their most significant losses coming at the hands of Ohio State, Cincinnati, Houston, and in a week 1 overtime loss to Wake Forest. Darious Bradwell has been a force on the ground for Tulane, as his 166 rushes for just over 1,000 yards has carried the Tulane offense. Bradwell has also found paydirt 9 times. LSU transfer Justin McMillan took over the starting job at quarterback week 9, and has put out  consistent performances even since, going 4-1 as a starter. ULL has had their only significant offense come by way of sophomore running back Trey Ragas, who will surpass the 200 carry mark in this game. There is no true pass game for the 6-6 Rajun’ Cajuns, and without any defense to bail them out, a more seasoned Tulane team will prevail.

Final Score- Tulane 28, ULL 13


Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

Arizona State vs Fresno State

Line: Fresno State (-3)


Coles Take: Their starting quarterbacks are close to identical in their stature and style of play, their backs are the premier runners in their respective conferences, and their coaches follow the same blueprint. You’re in for one of the best bowl games of the year with this matchup. The Jeff Tedford coached Fresno State Bulldogs prevailed on the blue snow covered turf over Boise State in the Mountain West championship just 2 weeks ago. This was a game won with physicality and preparation, as the Broncos outplayed Fresno State just 2 weeks prior. Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims have split the work on the ground for the Bulldogs this year. Both are scrappy, strong runners who are more than happy to meet anyone in the hole. However, the standout unit on the year has been Fresno State’s defense. The list of playmakers on this squad goes on and on, and Bert Watts’ crew has left the OC’s of the Mountain West scratching their heads. Arizona State comes into the game 7-5, finishing second in the Pac 12 South. Manny Wilkins will be without receiver N’Keal Harry, who has made the decision to forgo this game in light of the NFL combine this winter. Harry was a huge part of the Sun Devil offense and is a freak athlete, making him one of the best players in the country. Arizona State will look to stud running back Eno Benjamin to carry the weight. Benjamin was a first team all Pac 12 selection for good reason, going for over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns on the year. The same is to be expected from him in Vegas, as his performance will be imperative to any offensive success of the Sun Devils. When the dust settles in the Sin City, the absence of N’Keal Harry will have been felt, and the tough defense of Fresno State will be too much for a dilapidated ASU offense.

Final Score- Arizona State 20, Fresno State 24

Brocks Take: This will be an incredibly physical game. Boise State is without a doubt the most physical team in the Mountain West, and Jeff Tedford took his guys in there and outplayed them in tough conditions. However, Herm Edwards has given the Sun Devils a sneaky physical mantra, and this playstyle will be complimented by offensive coordinator Danny Gonzales’ gameplan for the Fresno State defense. This will be a low scoring game, finishing in the 20’s. If Manny WIlkins can play to his abilities and the Sun Devil run game can get going, ASU will come out on top.  

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Eastern Michigan vs Georgia Southern

Line: Eastern Michigan (-3.5)


Coles Take: This is a game flying way under the radar (pun intended). Do not be wary of the 7-5 Eastern Michigan Eagles, as they have lost all but one of their games by a touchdown (2 of them in OT). Their signature win came in week 2 against Purdue, as a last second field goal lifted EMU over their Big 10 opponent. The Eagles are winners of 5 of the last 6 which is due large in part to their balanced offensive attack. As for Georgia Southern, a hot start to 2018 had the program buzzing. Before week 9, GSU posted a 7-1 record, their only loss being a week 2 shelaking at the hands of Clemson. However, they followed up that hot start by finishing the season 2-2, 3 of those 4 games being on the road. This game will be incredibly competitive, as both teams will balance out each others strengths and weaknesses. I can see this game going into overtime, which is why I will give the nod to Georgia Southern. If 2018 has proven anything, it is that GSU can score at pivotal times and EMU can’t finish.

Final Score- Eastern Michigan 35, Georgia Southern 38 (OT)


R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Appalachian State vs Middle Tennessee

Line: MTSU (-9)


Coles Take: The Sun Belt Champion Appalachian State Mountaineers enter the big easy with a 10-2 record and all the momentum in the world. Despite a convincing loss to Georgia Southern, the mountaineers have exceeded expectations. A week one loss is the only other blemish on their record, as they took a then 9th ranked Penn State team to overtime in State College. Darrynton Evans leads the App State offense into this game with his rushing yardage just over 1,100 and 7 touchdowns. Through the air, quarterback Zac Thomas is a couple home run plays short of 2,000 yards on the season. With 18 touchdowns and 4 picks, Thomas has been a great field general and the team goes as far as he lets them. App States defense is led by the best linebacking corp in the Sun Belt, as the 4 main rotators (Akeem Davis-Gaither, Anthony Flory, Jordan Fehr, and Noel Cook) combine to have over 200 tackles between the 4 of them. Middle Tennessee is hoping to get the bad taste of a 27-25 Conference USA championship loss out of their mouths. The 8-5 Blue Raiders were matched well with similar sized schools all year, but went 0-3 against power 5 opponents. A pass first offense orchestrated by senior quarterback Brent Stockstill has proven successful all year for MTSU, but a solid App State pass defense which averages opponents 188 yards a game will prove to be fatal for Middle Tennessee, and the Mountaineers will pull the upset in NOLA.

Final Score- Appalachian State 27, MTSU 20

Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

UAB vs Northern Illinois

Line: NIU (-1)


Coles Take: UAB head coach Bill Clark is as good as it gets for group of 5 teams. The recipient of the CBS Sports National Coach of the Year Award, Clark has revived a program that was not even around a short time ago. The 10-3 Blazers avenged their final regular season loss to Middle Tennessee by edging out the Blue Raiders only a week later,  taking the C-USA championship. Spencer Brown has been phenomenal out of the UAB backfield this year, rushing for 1,167 yards and 16 touchdowns. Brown’s success is not without the solid play of the UAB offensive line. The UAB defense has been a force to be reckoned with as well, as a talented secondary has thrown opposing offenses for a loop. Northern Illinois comes into Boca Raton off the heels of an impressive MAC Championship game over Buffalo. The 8-5 Huskies will look to the legs of Tre Harbison, who is 4 yards shy of a 1,000 yard season, along with the hope of continued success from receivers Jauan Wesley and DJ Brown. This game will be incredibly close as both teams match up well. However, the inconsistency of Northern Illinois quarterback Marcus Childers will come back to bite the Huskies, and UAB will cap off their season with an 11th win.

Final Score- UAB 28, Northern Illinois 13

DXL Frisco Bowl

Ohio vs San Diego State

Line: Ohio (-5.5)


Coles Take: The story of the 2018 Ohio Bobcat football team is pretty straight forward- they’ve beaten the teams they should beat and lost the games they were outmatched. There were no surprises for them this year. Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke has a stellar season, throwing for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Bobcats also have the play of running back AJ Ouellette in their favor, as his 1,142 yards and 12 touchdowns have lived up to the standard he has set for himself in his long and decorated career in Athens. In terms of the standard head coach Rocky Long has set, San Diego State has had a very disappointing year. SDSU were losers in 4 of the final 5 games of the year (including a 3 game losing streak to cap the season). The Aztecs have relied on premier backs the past 4 years to propel the smash mouth style of football they want to play. This year, however, SDSU didn’t have a stud running back such as Donnel Pumphrey or Rashaad Penny to lean on. Juwan Washington has been a good asset in their offense, as he is closing in on 1,000 yards, but the Aztecs have gone through an identity crisis of sorts. Kyahva Tezino has been a force on defense for the Aztecs, tallying 120 total tackles and 8.5 sacks in 12 games for SDSU. Expect Tezino to create momentum changing plays from his linebacker spot. Despite this prediction, the Aztec offense lacks true playmakers, and Ohio will hop on the back of Ouellette and run away with a win in Frisco.

Final Score- Ohio 28, San Diego State 20


Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

USF vs Marshall

Line: Marshall (-3)


Coles Take: As a football team, you want consistency. But in the case of the USF Bulls, their consistency may have the hairs on head of their coaches turn prematurely gray. The Bulls have squeaked out 4 of their 7 wins by one possession. The other 3 games were track meets where the Bulls gave up 30 + points (with the exception of a 34-14 week 1 win over FCS Elon).  A 5 game losing streak leading up to the bowl has tainted a season that initially seemed promising, as USF started 7-0. So they’re consistent, but in the worst ways. Jordan Cronkrite has been the offensive star for USF, rushing for just over 1,100 yards and 9 TD’s. Blake Barnett has posted great passing yardage this year as the Bulls’ quarterback, but a 1-1 TD to INT ratio has a very ugly look to it. Marshall thunders their way into Florida with an 8-4 record. The Herd felt the repercussions of hurricane Florence as their week 3 matchup with South Carolina was canceled. They made it up by paying a visit to Virginia Tech in week 14 to lose by 21. Before that impromptu regular season finale, the Herd was riding a 3 game win streak, giving them half of their conference wins in that stretch (6-2 in C-USA).  Isaiah Green has been fantastic all year at quarterback for Marshall, and with his continued success along with a solid showing from the Marshall defense, the Herd will round out 2018 with a win.

Final Score- USF 16, Marshall 31

Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

Toledo vs Florida International

Line: Toledo (-4.5)


Coles Take: Toledo rounded out their regular season by putting up back to back 50 point games, both wins, against Kent State and Central Michigan. 2 of their 5 losses on the year came to top 25 programs Miami (FL) and Fresno State. Additionally, the Rockets suffered a 14 point home loss to a good Buffalo team. Toledo’s strength comes at the wideout position, as 3 rocket receivers have over 500 yards on the year (and 24 touchdowns between them). Florida International boasts the 3 headed run game monster of Napoleon Maxwell, D’Vonte Price, and Shawndarrius Phillips, all of whom have 80+ carries and 4 or more TD’s on the year. The FIU defense plays well as a unit, but the Toledo pass game and experience will give the rockets the edge.

Final Score- Toledo 24, FIU 13


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Western Michigan vs BYU

Line: BYU (-8)


Coles Take: Western Michigan has had a very up and down year, snapping a 3 game losing streak in the final regular season game with a win over Northern Illinois. The Broncos are no stranger to top 25 talent, as they saw the likes of Syracuse and Michigan (both losses) to begin their season. LeVante Bellamy has been a workhorse all year, his average yards per game just under the century mark. Drake Spears and Alex Grace are the unprecedented leaders for the WMU defense, both being the only 2 players with 80+ tackles for the Broncos. The WMU defensive line is led by Ali Fayad and Ralph Holley, both of whom wrapped up the quarterback 7 times this year. BYU turned heads in week 3 with a last second field goal that shocked then 6th ranked Wisconsin. Since then, the Cougars have gone 4-5, including a monumental collapse against rival Utah in their final game. With a shaky quarterback situation, BYU has looked to a quad of backs to run their offense. Their defense has given up big points to teams with several offensive weapons and have had a hard time finishing games. If WMU can get up early, which I think they will, they will ride away into the Boise night with a win and a sack full of taters.

Final Score- Western Michigan 24, BYU 17


Birmingham Bowl

Wake Forest vs Memphis

Line: Memphis (-2)


Coles Take: Wake Forest football has played like, well, Wake Forest football. Yet another  average year where the Demon Deacons just qualified for a bowl. Sam Hartman has been stellar for a true freshman, slinging it for just under 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. The ground attack is led by Cade Carney and Matt Colbum II, both racking up 700+ yards and finding the endzone a combined 13 times. Memphis has seen its coaching staff go to every corner of the country in the last week. Both their offensive and defensive coordinators have taken jobs elsewhere, and to add insult to injury, all american running back Darrell Henderson has announced his entry into the NFL draft. It will take a miracle for Memphis to pull off a bowl win without Henderson and their coordinators. Wake Forest needed a break, and they got one. Still, this game isn’t going to be pretty. But hey, it’s still a bowl game!

Final Score- Wake Forest 16, Memphis 9


Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Houston vs Army

Line: Army (-5)


Coles Take: First and foremost, Houston will be without their human soap opera of a defensive tackle Ed Oliver in this game. Oliver is an incredibly talented player, but injuries holding him out have forced the Cougars to find a way to win without him. Still, 8-4 Houston has put together a good year. D’Eriq King has been a fantastic field general all year, passing for 2,800+ yards and 36 touchdowns. In addition to his arm, King has run for 784 yards and 14 TD’s, making him one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. Army comes in capping one of their best seasons in the modern college football era, finishing 10-2 and riding an 8 game win streak. The triple option offense has proved successful once again, giving he modern style of college football a slap in the face. The Cadets took College Football Playoff semi finalist Oklahoma down to the wire in Norman and prevailed over their fellow servicemen Navy and Air Force to secure the Commander-In-Chief trophy for 2018. The only blemish on Army’s season is their strength of schedule. The Black Knights took on FCS teams such as Liberty, Lafayette, and Colgate all in regular season play. Their FBS opponents weren’t much better, as cupcakes Miami (OH) and San Jose State were both wins for the Academy. Make no mistake, Army is a solid team and should be proud of an outstanding year, but a good Houston team with a joystick for a quarterback will be too much for them.

Final Score- Houston 38, Army 20


Dollar General Bowl

Troy vs Buffalo

Line: Buffalo (-4)


Coles Take: This will be yet another scrappy, close game. BJ Smith has been a stellar runner all year for Troy, racking up 1,119 on 199 carries, scoring on 12 of those runs. At 9-3, the Trojans had one of their better years in school history and will look for the ground game as well as momentum to keep them riding high. Buffalo is one of the more underappreciated teams in college football. At 10-3, the Bulls were edged out by a single point by foe Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship. The Bulls’ offense has been their focal point all year, averaging just under 35 points a game and registering around 420 total yards. This game will be close, but the holes in the Buffalo defense will be too big to patch up, and Troy will come out on top.

Final Score- Troy 27, Buffalo 20

Hawai’i Bowl

Hawaii vs Louisiana Tech

Line: Hawai’i (-2.5)


Coles Take: After a hot 6-1 start, Hawaii hit a rough patch in the latter half of the season, dropping 4 in a row. The Warriors finished 8-5 behind the emergence of quarterback Cole McDonald and the run and shoot style offense implemented by head coach Nick Rolovich and offensive coordinator Brian Smith. The Warriors essentially get an 8th home game when the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs head to the middle of the pacific. With a 5-2 record at Aloha Stadium, Hawaii has “defended pride rock” well, their only losses coming to a top 25 Utah State team and Nevada. Louisiana Tech enters paradise at 7-5, losing their last 2. The Bulldogs are just under .500 on the road (4-3) and will have to face a strenuous travel before competing in the bowl. Head coach Skip Holtz made an effort to get his players to the island as early as possible in order to minimize non-football related elements playing a factor in the game. Tech will lean on the play of quarterback J’Mar Smith in order to run the table. Smith has thrown for 2,875 yards and 14 TD strikes on the year, complimenting that with just over 320 yards on the ground. Will the La Tech passing offense will hurt Hawaii, the home field advantage will give the Warriors their extra boost. Rolovich will win his first bowl game as head man on the island.

FInal Score- Hawaii 34, Louisiana Tech 24


SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

Boston College vs Boise State

Line: Boise State (-4)


Coles Take: An average year was the culminating scene on Chestnut Hill as the Boston College Eagles finished 7-5. Streaks were a familiar sight for BC, as they won their first 3 to begin the season, stirred up another 3 game winning streak in October, then dropped their final 3 to finish the regular season. AJ Dillon has been fantastic at running back for the Eagles, going for 1,154 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year. Quarterback Anthony Brown has also been stellar for BC, throwing for just over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Boston College was 0-3 on the year against ranked opponents, which is unsettling for fans of the maroon and gold given Boise State hung around in both the AP and CFB Playoff polls for all of October and November, until getting the boot after their Mountain West championship loss to Fresno State. Boise is anything but a wide eyed G5 team coming into their game, as the Broncos have a long lasting tradition of winning in December. Head coach Bryan Harsin has kept the blue train rolling since their rise to fame in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, and will have the 1-2 punch of quarterback Brett Rypien, the Mountain West offensive player of the year, and bruising running back Alexander Mattison on the ground. Boise State’s defense is led by a solid group of linebackers, and with the way Boston College has struggled with top tier talent in 2018, the Broncos will reign superior.

Final Score- Boston College 17, Boise State 35


Quick Lane Bowl

Georgia Tech vs Minnesota

Line: Georgia Tech (-3)


Coles Take: Georgia Tech will put the triple option on display for the country, their calling card for the program. The team has combined for over 4,000 yards on the ground this season, a testament to their old fashioned style of play. This style of play will come in handy against a Minnesota defense who gives up 170 yards a game to their opposition. With a lack of offensive firepower from the Gophers, Tech will squeak one out through the legs of their skills.

Final Score- GT 28, Minnesota 19


Cheez-It Bowl

Cal vs TCU

Line: Cal (-1.5)


Coles Take: Both Cal and TCU are coming off of mediocre seasons. Cal, however, is in their first bowl game under Justin Wilcox. The Bears have relied on a hard nosed defense to provide momentum to their other units, and when they do, running back Patrick Laird has answered the call and carried the Cal offense. The TCU coaching staff has the high ground in experience, as head coach Gary Patterson is no stranger to playing (and winning) bowl games. The 6 losses TCU has suffered came by way of close losses at the hands of Texas Tech, Kansas, and Ohio State, all of which were lost by 12 points or less. Throw in blowouts by Oklahoma and West Virginia, as well as a 2 possession loss to Texas, and you see where the underwhelming outcome is derived from. If the Horned Frogs get a few more bounces in those games, they could be looking at an 8-4 record. However, the TCU offense has proved to be inconsistent all season, and that will be the factor which determines the outcome of the game.

Final Score- Cal 17, TCU 14

Brocks Take: Despite Gary Patterson’s respectable bowl record, the Cal defense will prove to be too much for his offensive unit. The Golden Bears’ athleticism on special teams and defense is what gives them the edge in this one. Throw in a solid day rushing by Laird, and Cal will walk away with a win in a low scoring affair.

Walk-On’s Independence Bowl

Temple vs Duke

Line:  Temple (-3.5)


Coles Take: When a head coach leaves a program, it is never easy. And when players meet their interim head man, there is usually some skepticism. Not in the city of brotherly love, though. Go on Twitter and you’ll see a barrage of videos showing Temple interim head coach Ed Foley getting the media, and his players, ready to run through a brick wall. The Owles enter the game 8-4. This record saw a major turn around, as a week 1 loss to FCS Villanova had fans calling for the head of the program. This turn around is due large in part to the play of running back Ryquell Armstead, going for 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns. Duke comes into the game at 7-5, led by quarterback Daniel Jones. Jones has seen an average year and the same could be said for all of his teammates. I believe Temple will come in playing a physical, inspired brand of football and walk away with a win in Shreveport.

Final Score- Temple 31, Duke 27


New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Miami (FL) vs Wisconsin

Line: Miami (FL) (-3.5)


Coles Take: The 2017 Orange Bowl rematch will feature the same 2 teams whose spirits will be significantly down from 365 days ago. Both Miami and Wisconsin had disappointing years, both winding up 7-5. Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will return to the U to call the defense for the Hurricanes’ bout with Wisconsin after being hired at Temple. Miami’s defense has been the catalyst of the team in 2018, forcing 24 turnovers on the year. For Wisconsin, a tremendous ground display from running back Jonathan Taylor has propelled the Badgers to their 7 wins. Taylor is just over 2,000 yards on the season and has 15 house calls. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook is expected back for the Badgers as he will look to end a rather disappointing season on a high note. With Diaz calling the shots for the Miami defense, Taylor will be slightly limited, but the return of Hornibrook will give Wisconsin their extra edge which will lift them to a win in a low scoring affair.

Final Score- Miami (FL) 17, Wisconsin 20

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl

Baylor vs Vanderbilt

Line: Vanderbilt (-7.5)


Coles Take: Baylor finished the season right at .500 (6-6), 4 of those losses coming to top 25 teams (Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, and Iowa State). While the Bears won a few games convincingly, there were no true surprises for the 2018 BU squad. Jalen Hurd, a standout transfer from Tennessee, has been a bright spot on the Baylor offense, catching 69 balls for 946 yards and 4 touchdowns. Baylor also has the upper hand in location, as drawing an in state bowl game will help the green and gold faithful act as the 12th man for their team. Vanderbilt also finished the year 6-6, playing in the always tough SEC. Kyle Shurmur has been an outstanding field general for the Commodores, having a 64% completion rate with 2,844 yards and 23 touchdowns. Ke’Shawn Vaughn has been a fantastic compliment on the ground to the Vandy air attack, rushing for just an eyelash over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Baylor’s defense has struggles with the up tempo, fast paced style of play in the Big 12, a style similar to that of the Vanderbilt offensive scheme. With this being the case, a struggling Bear defense will once again succumb to talented skill position players, and Vandy will walk out of the Lone Star State with a bowl win.

Final Score- Baylor 13, Vanderbilt 30


Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Purdue vs Auburn

Line: Auburn (-5)


Coles Take: On October 20th, 2018, Purdue was the king of the college football world. An absolutely shellacking of then 2nd ranked Ohio State, all eyes were on West Lafayette as the Boilermakers had turned heads. What did they do with this momentum you ask? Finish the season 6-6. However, it could be said that their record does not reflect the talent of their team. Quality wins over a 19th ranked Iowa team and 23rd ranked Boston College team were additional high points of the Boilermakers’ season. With a few more plays going their way in a triple overtime loss to Wisconsin and falling to Eastern Michigan on a last second field goal, and the Purdue bowl discussion could be very different. David Blough has thrown for 3,500+ yards and 25 touchdowns. 1,164 of those yards have come in the hands of receiver Rondale Moore. Moore has hauled in over 100 receptions on the year, scoring on 12, For Auburn, a 7-5 record was hard earned. All losses came from quality, SEC opponents. The Tigers opened the season with an impressive win over a good Washington Husky team in Atlanta. After an impressive sophomore campaign, Jarrett Stidham has underwent a junior slump. While the stats are solid, it is clear that Stidham, as well as the rest of the Tiger offense, has not lived up to their potential. Auburn’s defense, however, has has a stellar year. Giving up just under 20 points a game and have created 20 turnovers. The tough Tiger defense will be a lot to handle, and while Purdue has shown signs of being a very good football team, Auburn will just sneak by a bowl season victory.

Final Score- Purdue 27, Auburn 28


Camping World Bowl

Syracuse vs West Virginia

Line: West Virginia (-7.5)


Coles Take: Syracuse has come out of the woodwark in 2018 and shocked the ACC. At 9-3, the Orange are riding high and coach Dino Babers has taken a basketball school to the top of the CFB totem poll. With a narrow 4 point loss to Clemson in Death Valley and an overtime loss to Pittsburgh, the Orange have established themselves as a dark horse in 2018. Much of the success ‘Cuse has seen is credited to quarterback Eric Dungey. While the flashy stats may not follow his name, Dungey is an excellent decision maker and steps up in crucial situations. West Virginia has also had a fantastic year. Projected first round pick WIll Grier has quarterbacked what is perhaps the most explosive offense in the country, establishing the Mountaineers as a team that you don’t want to get into a track meet with. However, Grier has declared for the draft and will not participate in the bowl game. In his absence, sophomore Jack Allison, who has attempted a meer 10 passes this season, is expected to start. With the momentum of a landmark season for Syracuse and the absence of Grier, all signs point to Syracuse earning a 10th win and capping their most successful season in the 21st century.

Final Score- Syracuse 31, West Virginia 20


Valero Alamo Bowl

Washington State vs Iowa State

Line: Washington State (-7)


Coles Take: A tough loss to rival Washington put a blemish on the face of a very successful season for Washington State. Graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew has been phenomenal for the Cougars, garnering national attention and being a finalist for several awards, including a 4th place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting. With the Cougars playing in the Alamodome in San Antonio, a temperate, dry setting will pair perfectly with Mike Leaches air raid offense. The Washington State offensive line has given Minshew solid protection all season, solidifying their season long performance as one of the best in the country. In fact, the Cougar oline is a finalist for the Joe Moore award, given to the best offensive line in college football. .The Wazzu defense is anchored by Peyton Pelluer, who has been in the center of the WSU “Speed D” for several years now. Iowa State finished the year 8-4, losses all coming to quality opponents. David Montgomery has been a force in the run game for the Cyclones, snaring past Big 12 defenses for 1,126 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year. The Cyclones post an average pass defense which may prove fatal for them in this matchup. I can see the Pac 12 picking up a bowl season win behind the arm of Minshew and the mind of Mike Leach.

Final Score- Washington State 38, Iowa State 24

Brocks Take: Washington State and Mishew will have their Apple Cup performance flushed by the time this game rolls around. In a controlled environment, WSU will have a good ability to run and convert on short throws. The Cougars, while undersized, will be rejuvenated and healthy. Iowa State will come out with a good plan for the offense of their opponents, but the undynamic offense of Iowa State will be the deciding factor. Washington State will take the game with a high scoring final.


NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Arkansas State vs Nevada

Line: Arkansas State (-1.5)


Coles Take: Ironically, both these teams have shared an opponent. Arkansas State beat UNLV in week 4 by a score of 27-20, while Nevada dropped their week 13 matchup with the Rebels 34-29. Arkansas State heads to the desert at 8-4, 2 of those losses coming from top 25 teams. Justice Hansen has had a fantastic year quarterbacking the Red Wolves, throwing fo 3,172 yards and 27 touchdowns. And even better, Hansen has only been intercepted 6 times. Nevada has not matched up well with above average opponents, the exception being a 4 point home win against San Diego State. Similar to ASU, Nevada has been led by quarterback Ty Gangi’s solid performance all year. Gangi has thrown for 3,000+ yards and 23 touchdowns in 2018. Despite a similar appearance, Arkansas State has more talent to show, and I will give this matchup to the Red Wolves.

Final Score- Arkansas State 27, Nevada 17


Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

Florida vs Michigan

Line: Michigan (-6)


Coles Take: Florida put together a 9-3 record in 2018, which is solid considering their SEC opposition. Against top ranked LSU and Mississippi State, the Gators just narrowly escaped with a win. Georgia was undoubtedly the best team on Florida’s schedule this season, and the Bulldogs lived up to that reputation with a 19 point win. The Gators also fell victim to a top 15 Kentucky squad. I include these specific games to highlight the shaky track record Florida has set against top tier opponents. When the Gators re matched up with not even superior but similar talent, they can’t get it done. Michigan, however, has risen to the occasion and posted 3 wins against their top 25 matchups. Their 2 losses were bookends of their season, losing week 1 to College Football Playoff semi finalist Notre Dame and week 13 to bitter rival and Big 10 Champion Ohio State. Michigan has gone through the ringer this season and has come out on the other side with a lot to show for. I will give the Wolverines the upperhand in Atlanta.

Final Score- Florida 17, Michigan 27

Belk Bowl

Virginia vs South Carolina

Line: South Carolina (-7)


Coles Take: Bronco Mendenhall has Virginia headed back in the right direction with a berth in the Belk bowl. The Cavaliers come into Charlotte at 7-5 and look to snap a 2 game losing streak. The tandem of Bryce Perkins and Jordan Ellis has combined for nearly 2,000 yards rushing and 18 total touchdowns. Virginia will lean heavily on Perkins and Ellis to expose the weak run defense of South Carolina, as the Gamecocks on average give up 194.5 rushing yards per game. A weak South Carolina defense will use the offensive passing game as a crutch, as quarterback Jake Bently has gone for nearly 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns on the year. Though the Gamecocks are favored by a touchdown, I can see the offensive backfield for Virginia rising to the occasion and the Cavs pulling off an upset.

Final Score- Virginia 31, South Carolina 30


Redbox Bowl

Michigan State vs Oregon

Line: Oregon (-2.5)


Coles Take: For some odd reason, Michigan State has had the inability to produce points in the last 3 games of the season. The scoreboard read 6,6,and 14 for the Spartans in November, the final game being a narrow 4 point victory over lowley Rutgers. At 7-5, the Spartans are certainly not pleased with a poor 2018 campaign, and it couldn’t have been relieving to see they matched up with an athletic Oregon team in their bowl. Well, actually, it depends on what Oregon team shows up. The Ducks have played very sound football at times, as evident in their wins over Washington and Cal. Other times though, they seem like a completely different team. They struggled with a doormat San Jose State team for 3 quarters at home and they got blown out on the road against an average at best Arizona team. The Ducks seem to show up for the big games- the rivalries, the primetime matchups, and quite possibly a bowl game. The athleticism and poise of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert will be too much for a beat up Spartan defense, and the Ducks will be quacking.

Final Score- Michigan State 16, Oregon 24

Brocks Take: Oregon has been unreliable in the latter half of the season, earning themselves a “wild card” mantrea. Both these teams have been beat up throughout the year, but despite this, Michigan State has had a solid defense and Oregon’s athleticism has continued to shine. This game won’t have the fireworks we are used to seeing from Oregon, but their athletes will prevail along with a Jim Levitt led defense. Oregon takes this game with a final score in the low to mid 20’s.


Military Bowl Presented by Northop Grumman

Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech

Line: Cincinnati (-6.5)


Coles Take: At 10-2, Cincinnati was caught in the shadow of UCF in the American Athletic Conference all season. December is where the sleeper group of 5 teams take the world by storm though, and the Bearcats are ready to do just that. Their only losses being to the “defending national champion” UCF Knights and an overtime loss to Temple, Cincy has put themselves in a good position coming into the game. Led by Michael Warren with 1,163 yards and 17 touchdowns, the Bearcats have been “sneaky fast” with their up tempo offense. Speaking of offense, the mechanic behind the well oiled offensive machine is dual threat quarterback Desmond Ridder, accounting for 2,359 yards in the air and nearly 800 more on the ground with a grand total of 24 total touchdowns. For Virginia Tech, a 4 game losing streak in October is where the low has come in 2018. Throw in a canceled game with East Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, and it is clear the 2018 season has not been kind to the Hokies. Ryan Willis has been a consistent playmaker under center for VT, but the dynamic attack of Cincinnati will be too much for this pedestrian Hokie team, and the Bearcats will ring in the new year with a W.

Final Score- Cincinnati 34, Virginia Tech 17


AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Missouri vs Oklahoma State

Line: Missouri (-12.5)


Coles Take: To be blunt, there won’t be much of a game here. If it weren’t for a 3 game losing streak for Missouri (losses coming to Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina), the Tigers would be in playoff contention. Quarterback Drew Lock has been an absolute stud all year, slinging it for a total of 3,125 yards and 25 touchdowns. Oklahoma State comes into the game with firepower on O, but the 6-6 Cowboys are undoubtedly outmatched. A quality win against Boise State was promising for OSU in early September, but it has been down hill sledding for the Pokes ever since, and they’ll need Drew Lock to get lost on the way to the stadium for a shot at this one.

Final Score- Missouri 45, Oklahoma State 17


San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Utah vs Northwestern

Line: Utah (-7)


Coles Take: If you are in the market for a smash mouth football game, search no further. In a matchup of second place finishers in their respective conferences, Utah and Northwestern will both bring an old school play style to San Diego. Utah comes into the game at 9-4, 2 of those losses coming at the hands of Pac 12 Champion Washington. Jason Shelley took over the starting spot at QB for the Utes after starter Tyler Huntley went down against Arizona State in early November. The Utah offense has struggled ever since the untimely departure of Huntley, but both players and coaches alike remain optimistic. Huntley says he’ll start if cleared and this was confirmed by Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. As for Northwestern, it is business as usual as the Wildcats look to avenge their Big 10 title loss to Ohio State and complete an 10 win season. There isn’t much else to say about this game until the status of Huntley is confirmed. So for good measure, I will put two final score scenarios down for this one.

(With Huntley) Final Score- Utah 27, Northwestern 21

(Without Huntley) Final Score- Utah 17, Northwestern 24

Brocks Take: This will be a hard hitting, tough ball game. Northwestern plays tough defense with physicality across the board. Similarly, the Utah defense is hard hitting, playing a lot of man coverage. Along with the secondary, the defensive line provides a steady pass rush which I’m not sure the Northwestern offensive line can handle. Kyle Whittingham, the Utah head coach, has a fantastic bowl record and knows how to get it done. But without Huntley, I don’t think Utah can pull it out. We will have to wait and see his status in order to get a more clear outlook on this game.


Taxslayer Gator Bowl

NC State vs Texas A&M

Line: Texas A&M (-3.5)


Coles Take: NC State capped a 9-3 regular season and looks to put double digits in their win column with a victory in the sunshine state. With a balanced offense that constantly puts up points, I can see a slow start for the Wolfpack build up to their offense catching fire in the 3rd quarter. However, year one of the Jimbo Fisher dynasty at Texas A&M has gone about as well as Aggie fans could have hoped. Ending the season with a 74-72 win over a talented LSU team in not one, not two, not three, but seven overtimes is the wave A&M is riding into this game. Trayveon Williams has rushed for 1,500+ yards and 15 touchdowns on the year. In the air, A&M has big, physical receivers who can make great plays on the ball. Their strength of schedule has proven them to be the more talented team in this matchup, which is why I’ll give this round to the maroon and white.

Final Score- NC State 16, Texas A&M 28


Hyundai Sun Bowl

Pittsburgh vs Stanford

Line: Stanford (-6.5)


Coles Take: Stanford didn’t think standout running back Bryce Love would catch the injury bug this year. But this is football, and absolutely nothing goes according to plan. The Cardinal played some good teams tight, such as Washington, Washington State, and Notre Dame, but just couldn’t get over the hump in any of those games. Their other loss was to playoff contender Notre Dame, being beaten soundly by 21. KJ Costello has put together yet another commanding year in Palo Alto, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns. Pitt saw much of their success come at home, going 5-1 at Heinz Field in 2018. When they were away from the steel city, the Panthers were a PITTiful 2-5. Quadree Ollison and Darrin Hall are both 1,000+ yard rushers for the Panthers, accumulating 20 touchdowns between the 2 of them. These two teams match up well, but the edge will go to Stanford due to the lack of production from Pitt away from home.

Final Score- Pitt 13, Stanford 21

Brocks Take: Stanford has had a disappointing year, but the selection of quarterback KJ Costello to the all Pac 12 second team is promising. Stanford uses their tight ends incredibly well and always look to them in red zone opportunities. The Pitt run game is effective, and Pat Narduzzi will want to get his offense rolling early. Neither of these teams will travel well, so expect an empty stadium in El Paso. However, when it is all said and done, Stanford will have the edge in coaching schematics.


Outback Bowl

Mississippi State vs Iowa

Line: Mississippi State (-2.5)


Coles Take: Mississippi State, similar to so many other teams previewed, has struggled with their top 25 opponents. And the Iowa team they will be squaring off with is no push over. However, Bulldog quarterback has displayed his duel threat attack all season, passing and rushing for over 1,000 yards each and scoring 27 total times. Iowa has felt the heat from playing in the Big 10, finishing the regular season at 8-4. Hawkeye quarterback Nate Stanley has led the Iowa offense, passing for 2,638 yards and 23 touchdowns. However, unlike Fitzgerald, Stanly is a solid pocket passing style QB, limiting the threat of a big play to a rather shaky Mississippi State defense. The victor will be the one with the more dynamic style of play. So, to recap, Hail State!

Final Score- Mississippi State 31, Iowa 27


Citrus Bowl

Penn State vs Kentucky

Line: Penn State (-2.5)


Coles Take: In year one without Saquon Barkley, Penn State has held their own. With some minor turbulence along the way, the Nittany Lions touchdown in bowl season with a 9-3 record. Penn State, winners of their last 3, have been led on offense by quarterback Trace McSorley, passing for 2,000+ yards and rushing for 869 more. His performance has been backed by the PSU defense, giving up an even 20 points a game while having forced 25 total turnovers, all while playing in arguably the toughest conference in college football. Kentucky enters the game ridin one of their most successful seasons in the last 15 years. At 9-3, the Wildcats managed to navigate their way through the SEC and took their place as the kings of  bluegrass state with a win over rival Louisville to cap the season. Benny Snell JR was the main catalyst of a successful offensive year, going for 1,340 yards and 14 touchdowns. As much as I want Kentucky to continue their streak of excellence in 2018, I just don’t think the Joey’s the Wildcats have can compete with the Joe’s of Penn State. The Nittany Lions will take this one, quite possibly in dramatic fashion.

Final Score- Penn State 27, Kentucky 24


Playstation Fiesta Bowl


Line: LSU (-7)


Coles Take: I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. UCF has been a fantastic story the past 2 years and they are a very good ball club. However, with no McKenzie Milton quarterbacking them, there is no way the Knights can win their second NY6 bowl. Milton suffered a gruesome leg injury late in the season, and while UCF was able to mount a comeback in the AAC championship game, they won’t have what it takes to compete with the likes of LSU without their leader.

Final Score- LSU 38, UCF 10


Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

Washington vs Ohio State

Line: Ohio State (-6)


Coles Take: Chris Petersen brings a Washington squad to Pasadena for the first time since 2001. While the quality of play has not been as fluent as recent years, the Huskies managed to win their second Pac 12 title over a well coaches and aggressive Utah team. Led by Myles Gaskin on offense, Washington will have to score early and often in order to hang with the Buckeyes. Quarterback Jake Browning has not had the year he had hoped for, as the offense has been less than stellar. However, the Husky “death row” defense has bailed out their offensive counterparts many a time. With a lockdown secondary and tenacious pass rush, Washington constantly gives opposing quarterbacks fits on how to move the ball on them. But the answer to the Dawgs’ close to perfect style of defense may be on the opposing sideline. Dwayne Haskins, quarterback of THE Ohio State University, has had a tremendous year, reflected in this third place finish in Heisman Trophy voting. In addition to the play of Haskins, you can bet Ohio State will come out of the locker room guns a blazin’ for their head coach Urban Meyer’s final game as head man. This will be a great contest, but the lack of offensive efficiency from Washington will come back to hurt them against a tremendously talented Ohio State squad. Urban Meyer will go out on top with a victory in the grand daddy of em all.

Final Score- Washington 17, Ohio State 35

Brocks Take: There is simply too much Ohio State power in every facet of their game an too many limitations on this Washington team. The Ohio State defense struggles with speed, and Jimmy Lake, the Washington defensive coordinator, will come out with a good plan for Dwayne Haskins and the Ohio State offense. But in the end, Jake Browning won’t be enough to beat the Bucks, and Ohio State will win comfortably.


Allstate Sugar Bowl

Texas vs Georgia

Line: Georgia (-13)


Coles Take: To begin, please, nobody say Texas is back. While the Longhorns have had a stellar year, including a walk off field goal to win the red river rivalry, Georgia is going to come out absolutely fuming with the image of their SEC Championship loss to Alabama being replayed in their heads. Sam Ehlinger has had an outstanding year quarterbacking the Longhorns, throwing for over 3,000 yards and posting a 4-1 touchdown to interception ratio. But Kirby Smart and Jake Fromm have been the closest thing to the kryptonite of a seemingly perfect Alabama team. I will take anyone who can hang with the Tide over any team. Smart knows how to coach in bowl games and Georgia has too many weapons on their side. Skill and motivation will be the deciding factors in this bout, giving the Bulldogs the upper hand,

Final Score- Texas 20, Georgia 42


Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (CFB Playoff)

2 Clemson vs 4 Notre Dame

Line: Clemson (-11.5)


Coles Take: Where to start with Clemson. Their freshman sensation quarterback Trevor Lawrence has kept the train moving and didn’t miss a beat when stepping in for Kelly Bryant earlier this season. They have a defensive line with 2 projected top 5 picks anchoring the trenches for the Tigers, making the run game close to non existent and guaranteeing your quarterback having a dirty jersey. Head coach Dabo Swinney knows how to win against premier competition, as he has taken his team to the CFB playoff 2 national title games, winning one in 2017. Clemson seems locked and loaded to take their shot at Santa Clara. However, a Notre Dame squad who faced the toughest schedule in the FBS came out unscathed and ready to bring glory back to South Bend. Ian Book has been a commanding presence in the pocket for the Irish in 2018 and is familiar with the 12 separate defenses he’s faced. By playing as an independant, Notre Dame is battle tested and seems ready for whatever Clemson has. But what the Tigers have is talent with depth at every position, and with a smooth operation, Clemson will be back in the national title.

Final Score- Clemson 30, Notre Dame 21  


Capital One Orange Bowl (CFB Playoff)

1 Alabama vs 4 Oklahoma

Line: Alabama (-14)


Coles Take: Here we go. One of the greatest dynasties in college football history vs the Heisman Trophy winner. National Championship implications on the line. It doesn’t get better than this matchup. Tua Tagovailoa leads Alabama into their 5th consecutive playoff semifinal appearance. The Crimson Tide, 12-0, have Najee Harris and Damien Harris pounding the rock on the ground while Tua slings it to the likes of Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, and Henry Ruggs III through the air. On defense, linebacker Dylan Moses is the commander in the center, while defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs terrorizes offensive lines. Throw in an airtight secondary and a consistent kicking and return game, and you’ve got your average Nick Saban football team. Oklahoma cokes into Miami led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray, who may be the greatest athlete to walk this earth since Bo Jackson. Murray will undoubtedly make big plays, but the status of his primary receiver Hollywood Brown is still uncertain. Brown has incredibly big play ability and has been a main cog in a very successful Oklahoma offensive operation. Life will be hard enough for the Sooners, but without Brown, there is no way they can keep up with the Tide. Alabama will head to Northern California to play for yet another national title.

Final Score- Alabama 35, Oklahoma 24


So there you have it football fans, the 2018 bowl season broken down. Enjoy the holidays, be with family, and watch some great football. Oh, and as always, the yellow line is unofficial.