Previewing the Independence, Pinstripe, Foster Farms and Texas Bowls

From Shreveport to Houston, here's your quick guide to a Dec. 27 bowl slate that features a handful of former dark horse Heisman candidates and two potential shootouts in prime time.
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All month long in the Daily Bowl Digest, we’ll be setting the table for each day of bowl action, with game-by-game previews and a quick look back at the previous day’s action.

What happened on Tuesday: Utah pulled away for a 30–14 win over West Virginia in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, kick-started by a 58-yard touchdown run by Utes running back Zack Moss, who finished with 150 yards on 20 carries. The Mountaineers’ absences due to injuries and draft declarations were glaring, as the offense picked up just five first downs all afternoon without starting quarterback Will Grier and starting running back Justin Crawford. Duke took care of Northern Illinois in the Quick Lane Bowl 36-14. Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Alex Delton pushed Kansas State past Josh Rosen-less UCLA in the Cactus Bowl 35-14. He rushed 20 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 7-of-10 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Walk-On’s Independence Bowl (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Why you should watch: It was obviously a down year for Florida State, but this bowl still has a David vs. Goliath feeling to it. The Seminoles are a traditional powerhouse that has spent the last five years playing in either a BCS bowl, a New Year’s Six Bowl or the national championship game. This is FSU’s 36th consecutive bowl appearance; it kept the streak alive by winning four of its final five games after a 2–5 start—and refuting a Reddit commenter who pointed out that one of those six wins shouldn’t have counted because less than 90% of FCS opponent Delaware State’s roster was on athletic scholarship. (Because the NCAA rule in question also counts academic scholarships and other non-athletic forms of institutional aid, Delaware State was in fact above the 90% line.)

Despite a tumultuous year that started with an injury to QB Deondre Francois and ended with Jimbo Fisher jumping to Texas A&M, the Seminoles are still favored by over two touchdowns on Conference USA representative Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles’ best chance at an upset probably hinges on their 24th-ranked pass defense, which Florida State QB James Blackman will need to navigate. If he struggles, the Seminoles will lean hard on freshman running back Cam Akers, whom Southern Miss shouldn’t have an answer for in terms of athleticism.

Most Interesting Player on the Field: Southern Miss WR Korey Robertson. The Golden Eagles’ leading receiver has crossed the 100-yard mark five times this season, helping him rank 15th in the country in receiving yards (1,070) and tied for ninth in receiving TDs (11). Robertson will test the Florida State secondary, which will be without star safety Derwin James, who is skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft. — Molly Geary

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Why you should watch: Football games in baseball stadiums might not be for everyone, but something about events at Yankee Stadium in cold weather makes it hard to look away. If the scenery isn’t enough to convince you to tune into the Pinstripe Bowl, the actual football game pits two pretty evenly matched teams from the middle of the Big Ten and ACC against each other. Boston College finished the season by quietly winning five of six, including a 45–42 road win over Lamar Jackson and Louisville.

Iowa has had no problem reaching the postseason—the Hawkeyes are in a bowl game for the ninth time in ten seasons—but the bowl games themselves have been a different story: Iowa has lost five in a row, the last three by a combined 73 points. The university has fully committed to head coach Kirk Ferentz, who was inked to a contract extension last year that will keep him in Iowa City until 2026, but another non-competitive bowl game will further frustrate an Iowa fan base that wants to see the program take the next step.

Most interesting player on the field: Boston College RB A.J. Dillon. Boston College’s true freshman running back was unanimously named first-team All-ACC and was also the unanimous pick for the conference’s newcomer of the year. Dillon has been the focal point of Boston College’s offense all season and racked up 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns on more than five yards per carry. Interestingly enough, he did not catch a pass the entire season: Two hundred sixty-eight carries, zero receptions. — Daniel Rapaport

Foster Farms Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

Why you should watch: Arizona and Purdue both finished 3–9 a season ago, then took separate paths to turnaround years that landed them in Santa Clara. Purdue replaced head coach Darrell Hazell with Jeff Brohm, whose innovative offensive mind helped boost that side of the ball as the defense held its own in Big Ten play. Khalil Tate started off the season as Arizona’s backup quarterback, then took the college football world by storm after filling in for an injured Brandon Dawkins in October. The Wildcats sit sixth in the nation in scoring with 41.8 points per game, thanks in large part to Tate’s video-game numbers at the head of a multi-pronged rushing attack that also featured backs J.J. Taylor, Nick Wilson and Zach Green. Purdue’s 30th-ranked run defense (133.3 yards per game) will be facing its most unique challenge of the season stopping Arizona’s spread attack with a quarterback at the helm who can take it the distance himself on any given play.

Most interesting player on the field: Arizona QB Khalil Tate. Purdue allowed its most points of the season when Lamar Jackson and Louisville scored 35 in Week 1. Tate is a poor man’s Jackson, blowing past the opposition consistently with his legs while creating big plays through the air when the defense gives him a window. The fact that Tate was considered a Heisman candidate despite barely playing in September shows how dominant he was in the games he did appear in. — Max Meyer

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Why you should watch: It is downright amazing that Missouri is playing football in December. After giving up 43 points to FCS Missouri State in a season-opening win, the Tigers went on to lose their next five games, sitting at 1–5 on Oct. 21 and looking desperately in need of a shakeup. Fans called for the head of second-year coach Barry Odom, and they got their change—in the form of an impassioned speech from Odom after the final game of September that turned the season around. The Tigers have gone 6–0 since a 53–28 loss to Georgia, and although offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has left for the top job at UCF, they still will feature one of the most fun offenses in college football under quarterback Drew Lock in the matchup with Texas.

Most interesting player on the field: Missouri QB Drew Lock. Lock piled up ridiculous numbers in his junior season, setting the SEC single-season record with 43 touchdown passes as the Tigers woke up from their start on the strength of one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. He could feast on a Texas defense that will be without several stars sitting out ahead of the NFL draft process. — Joan Niesen