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by Big Al

Well, I have missed the first few games of bowl season, mostly because work has been crazy. However, I am back on top of things and ready to make some predictions.

UAB vs. Ohio

Unfortunately, this part of the year involves a whole lot of teams that I know nothing about. Just like everybody else. So I just pick against the Ohio school and move on. UAB it is.

Central Michigan vs. Wyoming

This is likely Josh Allen's last game at Wyoming. Or at least it should be. I seriously doubt he can get his draft stock any higher by staying in school for another year. Of course, if he lays an egg here, then that will put a ding in that whole plan. He won't. Neither will Wyoming.

Texas Tech vs. South Florida

South Florida was one of Central Florida's biggest wins of the season. However, neither Central Florida nor South Florida really had a major, signature win where they could measure themselves against an upper-tier, major-conference team. So they are still a real mystery. Texas Tech, of course, plays in a major conference, and didn't do anything particularly remarkable to distinguish themselves. I think there will be a lot of point, but South Florida will squeak out a victory.

San Diego State vs. Army

Heck, I don't know. San Diego State?

Appalachian State vs. Toledo

Toledo are champions of the MAC. Appalachian State are co-champions of the Sun Belt. This usually goes bad for the MAC. So Appalachian State it is.

Fresno State vs. Houston

Oh, how about, Fresno State.

Utah vs. West Virginia

In the battle of underwhelming teams who everyone expected to be better, I expect Utah to get the win.

Duke vs. Northern Illinois

Duke keeps getting back to bowls these days. For those familiar with Duke football, this is no mean feat. They'll even get a bowl win this season.

Kansas State vs. UCLA

A very interesting game between two teams that aren't great, but are good enough to be worth watching every week. Look for UCLA to pull out the win.

Southern Miss vs. Florida State

So which Florida State team is going to show up? Actually, doesn't much matter. Florida State has good enough athletes to win this game even if they don't give a shit.

Iowa vs. Boston College

Another intriguing game between good but not great teams. Iowa has enough talent to pull out the win.

Arizona vs. Purdue

Purdue very quietly put together a solid season of football. Arizona rather quietly put together a mediocre season of football. Honestly, considering the fact they are playing each other in a bowl game, this says a lot about the relative levels of success expected from both teams. Anyway, Arizona wins.

Texas vs. Missouri

A couple of former Big XII rivals square off here. Not that there was ever really a Texas-Missouri rivalry, the were just in the same conference for a little while. Both teams had middling sorts of years, which is actually a bad year for Texas. With the additional practice, Texas should have things at least in better shape by game time. Texas wins.

Virginia vs. Navy

I'll go with Navy to pull off the win.

Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State

Virginia Tech always seems like they were about to be good, then they weren't. Oklahoma State takes advantage of that.

Stanford vs. TCU

I love what David Shaw has been doing and is doing at Stanford. But I don't see much offense beyond Bryce Love against a very good TCU defense. TCU it is.

Washington State vs. Michigan State

Which Washington State is attending? The one that knocked off USC or the one that didn't show up against Cal? Those are just the two examples I could think of, but it was a pattern for them. Considering how Ohio State's passing offense livened up against Michigan State, I'll go with Washington State's to figure out the trick.

Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

Kevin Sumlin arrived at Texas A&M at exactly the wrong time: right when Alabama was at their height. He had some success, but couldn't get over the hump even during the Johnny Manziel years (who, by the way, was an incredibly good college quarterback). Anyway, Texas A&M at least finishes strong.

NC State vs. Arizona State

NC State was another team perpetually on the verge, but never actually past it. But they are a good enough team to knock off Arizona State.

Kentucky vs. Northwestern

Oh yeah, Kentucky is in a bowl game! Good news for Northwestern if you ask me.

New Mexico State vs. Utah State

In the last obscure matchup of the bowl season, I'll go with Utah State to ruin New Mexico State's return to the bowl season.

USC vs. Ohio State

I so want to pick Ohio State in this game. But I just keep coming back to, "Ohio State's receivers can't catch." It will cost them here.

Louisville vs. Mississippi State

I'm going with a mediocre Mississippi State team to be able to handle a great quarterback surrounded by a bad team.

Iowa State vs. Memphis

Now this is a fascinating matchup. Iowa State had a penchant for knocking off top teams, while Memphis is two losses to UCF away from being in a top-tier bowl game, if not the playoffs. I'll go with Memphis to pull off the big win.

Washington vs. Penn State

Another fantastic matchup here. Washington never found last year's magic, and Penn State was an incomprehensible loss to Ohio State and probably a hangover loss to Michigan State away from being the playoffs. Let's face it, if Penn State had beaten either of those teams, they would be in the playoffs ahead of Alabama. Turnabout could have been fair play for Penn State and Ohio State following last year's weirdness.

Anyway, this game really hinges on Penn State. Saquon Barkley has not been himself since that Iowa game where he almost single-handedly pulled out a win for Penn State. Trace McSorley makes his weirdness work right up until it doesn't, and then it goes bad. I'll go with Penn State to show up for this one, though.

Wisconsin vs. Miami

Who is going to dictate the terms under which this game will be played. Wisconsin is fast enough that, if they can turn this into a slugging match, they can take hits and dish them out well enough to grind Miami's legs into gelatin. Miami hits hard enough that, if they can turn this into a track meet, they can run away from Wisconsin. I just don't think that Wisconsin is going to keep up though, and Miami's admittedly poor offense should be able to connect on enough long runs and yards after catch to put away the Badgers.

Michigan vs. South Carolina

Michigan had a weird year. They didn't seem able to figure out quite how get over the hump against anybody. Some people have complained about their quarterback play, but their quarterback play would have been much better if their receivers would make some key catches for them. But they will be good enough at every position to get a win over South Carolina.

UCF vs. Auburn

My favorite matchup of the bowl season. Yes, including the playoffs. Not kidding about that.

UCF is very good in every phase of the game, but they are so untested, we hardly know what to expect from them against a top-notch team. Auburn had a couple of great games to get themselves into the playoff conversation, then one bad game to get right back out of it. Auburn is plenty good at every position and is going to give UCF an interesting look at just what a top-to-bottom top-notch team looks like. UCF runs an unusual offense (though not as unusual as it was 15 years ago) and they run it very well. Neither team really knows what they are getting from the other. It's like two different-colored litmus papers testing each other.

UCF needs to get a fast start so that Auburn will be confused. They won't stay confused forever though, and will start figuring things out. After that, they will start grinding UCF. If UCF doesn't get a fast start, then they have a problem, because Auburn can grind UCF enough to loosen up the downfield game.

Which do I think will happen? I'm figuring that Auburn has enough experience with the current iteration of the spread to keep UCF from going nuts early. Auburn wins. But I'm going to be watching to find out if I'm wrong.

Notre Dame vs. LSU

Notre Dame lost something more than a football game against Miami. They just weren't themselves after that. If they can use the bowl practices to right themselves, then they will be fine. LSU, however, will have other ideas for them.

Georgia vs. Oklahoma

I'm not all that inspired by this year's crop of title contenders. Georgia got hammered by Auburn, Oklahoma lost to Iowa State, Clemson dropped a game to Syracuse, and Alabama looked so pedestrian against Auburn that a two-loss Ohio State team seemed like a viable alternative to some people.

Both Georgia and Oklahoma seem to be facing legal troubles in the leadup to the bowl. Oklahoma has put together some defensive gems, but has had to spend plenty of games sweating out a shootout. And Baker Mayfield has been doing the Heisman circuit rather than preparing for the biggest game of the year.

Georgia has been pretty quiet all year, mostly because they play in the SEC East. But they have enough to pull off the win over Oklahoma. So they will.

Alabama vs. Clemson

Clemson-Alabama, Part III.

Clemson was supposed to be a year away. Shows you what you can do when you have a great defense. Alabama, meanwhile, was off the radar entirely between the first and last games of the year. Well, except for that game against an unremarkable LSU team. But they are still Alabama, so they are good enough to get into the playoffs. Clemson rolls back the Tide here.

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