Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news this bowl season in college football (Camellia Bowl hysteria sold separately, at reduced rates):
WELCOME TO THE CRAPSHOOT
In the vast majority of the 40 bowl games that will be apportioned to us like eyedrops over the next 24 days—a droplet here, a droplet there—nobody knows what’s going to happen. Some teams are happy to still be playing, some teams mentally checked out in November. Some coaches have departed. Some players have departed. Some fail to be enthused by the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on the day after Christmas.
All of which makes that staple of the American holidays, the college bowl pool, the most ridiculous speculative endeavor this side of slot machines. But it won’t stop us, no sir. Bets will be made, stands will be taken, money will change hands.
In the interest of trying to help you earn some holiday side cash, The Dash is here with predictions and other insights on every bowl. It’s up to you to decide whether the best source of help from this column is to follow the picks or go the exact opposite direction. Good luck.
MAKERS WANTED BAHAMAS BOWL (1)
Who: Buffalo vs. Charlotte
When: 2 p.m. ET, Dec. 20
Where: Nassau, The Bahamas
Line: Buffalo favored by 6 1/2
Buffalo season in a sentence: Back-to-back bowls for the first time ever.
Charlotte season in a sentence: Shirtless coach wearing the mascot head.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A partridge in a pear tree. The start of something endless.
Dash pick: Buffalo 35, Charlotte 24. The 49ers are on a roll, having won five straight to lock up their first-ever bowl bid. But they’re also only 1-5 against other bowl teams, whereas the Bulls are 3-5. Buffalo loves to pound the rock (a whopping 613 rushing attempts this season) and Charlotte is No. 110th nationally in yards allowed per rush (4.94).
TROPICAL SMOOTHIE CAFE FRISCO BOWL (2)
Who: Utah State vs. Kent State
When: 7:30 p.m., Dec. 20
Where: Frisco, Texas
Line: Utah State by 7
Utah State season in a sentence: Recycling is better for the environment than for most football programs.
Kent State season in a sentence: All bowl bids are great bowl bids.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A leg lamp. Fun but fairly useless.
Dash pick: Utah State 44, Kent State 31. Aggies quarterback Jordan Love has declared for the draft but will play in the bowl game, which shows he’s no dummy. After a mediocre season (16 interceptions), he can leave a strong final impression against the No. 120 defense in the nation.
CELEBRATION BOWL (3)
Who: Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T
When: Noon, Dec. 21
Line: No line
Alcorn State season in a sentence: Back-to-back in the SWAC.
N.C. A&T season in a sentence: Back-to-back-to-back in the MEAC.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A DVD of the halftime show.
Dash pick: N.C. A&T 17, Alcorn State 14. Both teams are in the FCS top 15 in fewest yards allowed per play, but the Aggies are No. 1 at 4.34. Go with the better defense and give A&T its third straight Celebration Bowl victory and second straight over the Braves.
NEW MEXICO BOWL (4)
Who: Central Michigan vs. San Diego State
When: 2 p.m., Dec. 21
Where: Albuquerque, N.M.
Line: San Diego State by 3 1/2
Central Michigan season in a sentence: Bounced back with Mac.
San Diego State season in a sentence: Best defense since the 1970s.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Socks from your aunt Nancy. Again.
Dash pick: San Diego State 24, Central Michigan 14. The Aztecs haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a game since Oct. 12, and have only done so twice all season. They’re also plus-15 turnover margin going up against a team that is minus-7. If that stat holds form this could get ugly.
FBC MORTGAGE CURE BOWL (5)
Who: Liberty vs. Georgia Southern
When: 2:30 p.m., Dec. 21
Line: Georgia Southern by 5
Liberty season in a sentence: From the hospital bed to the dental chair to the first bowl bid in school history, it has not been dull.
Georgia Southern season in a sentence: The only team to beat Appalachian State.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A Disney Fast Pass that only gets you on the monorail.
Dash pick: Georgia Southern 30, Liberty 23. The record of the FBS teams the Flames have defeated is 12-36. The Eagles aren’t world beaters, but in addition to the App State upset they had Minnesota on the ropes in September before letting that one get away late.
CHERIBUNDI BOCA RATON BOWL (6)
Who: SMU vs. Florida Atlantic
When: 3:30 p.m., Dec. 21
Where: Boca Raton, Fla.
Line: SMU by 3
SMU season in a sentence: We’re back.
FAU season in a sentence: Fun while it lasted, Lane.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Wind-up monkey clanging cymbals together.
Dash pick: SMU 37, FAU 24. The Owls closed with a flourish, winning their final six games and routing UAB for the C-USA championship. But Lane Kiffin is gone now, and it’s up to interim coach Glenn Spencer to get FAU through this game. The Mustangs’ only two losses are to ranked teams (Memphis and Navy) and both by a single score. They’ve had a great season.
CAMELLIA BOWL (7)
Who: Florida International vs. Arkansas State
When: 5:30 p.m., Dec. 21
Where: Montgomery, Ala.
Line: Arkansas State by 2 1/2
FIU season in a sentence: Beat Miami and going bowling; the rest is just details.
Arkansas State season in a sentence: Cliffhanger November, going 3-1 with every game decided by one score.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Coal in the stocking.
Dash pick: FIU 28, Arkansas State 27. If Butch Davis can devise a way for his defense to cover star ASU wide receiver Omar Bayless at least a little bit (he’s second nationally in receiving yards per game), they can win. The Panthers were upset winners last year in the Bahamas Bowl.
MITSUBISHI MOTORS LAS VEGAS BOWL (8)
Who: Boise State vs. Washington
When: 7:30 p.m., Dec. 21
Where: Las Vegas
Line: Washington by 3
Boise State season in a sentence: Best year yet under Bryan Harsin, despite all the injuries.
Washington season in a sentence: Disappointing throughout, shocking at the end.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: The overly generous Secret Santa gift that makes you feel guilty about going cheap on what you bought.
Dash pick: Boise State 23, Washington 21. The Dash feels for the Vegas Bowl, which often has a quality matchup that is underappreciated amid the flotsam and jetsam of less compelling early bowls. This is just such a matchup—a 12-1 Boise team taking on former coach Chris Petersen in his last game before retirement. The Huskies have been inconsistent and prone to games where their offense just grinds to a halt. If this is one of those games, the Broncos will win.
R + L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL (9)
Who: Appalachian State vs. UAB
When: 9 p.m., Dec. 21
Where: New Orleans
Line: Appalachian State by 16 1/2
Appalachian State season in a sentence: Coaches come and go, App keeps winning.
UAB season in a sentence: Pick-six for the division title; don’t ask about the C-USA championship game.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Sazerac in a Yeti cup.
Dash pick: App State 28, UAB 21. This is another coaching transition situation, although the Mountaineers are keeping the job in-house after the departure of Eliah Drinkwitz, which should enhance preparation for this game. The Blazers led C-USA in total defense and should show up ready to play, but they just aren’t as talented as App.
BAD BOY MOWERS GASPARILLA BOWL (10)
Who: UCF vs. Marshall
When: 2:30 p.m., Dec. 23
Line: Off the board
UCF season in a sentence: We will not be claiming a national championship this year.
Marshall season in a sentence: Two wins on the final play, three in the final minute, four by five points or less.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A Bad Boy Mower from your miscreant cousin who stole it from his neighbor’s garage.
Dash pick: UCF 42, Marshall 24. The Thundering Herd played one AAC opponent (Cincinnati) and lost by 38. The Knights should be solid enough defensively to make Marshall pass in an attempt to match points, and that’s not really a strong suit for the Herd.
SOFI HAWAII BOWL (11)
Who: BYU vs. Hawaii
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 24
Line: Off the board
BYU season in a sentence: Highs and lows and not much in between.
Hawaii season in a sentence: Best since 2010, but still haven’t played a bowl on the mainland in 12 years.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: The one where you can’t resist peeling back the wrapping paper on Christmas Eve, when nobody is watching.
Dash pick: Hawaii 20, BYU 19. The Cougars have been one of the harder teams to figure out this season: upsetting USC and Boise State and Tennessee; losing to Toledo and South Florida. Given that unpredictability, The Dash is going with the team playing at home over the team that will be thrilled to hit the beach. (Disclaimer: The Dash also readily acknowledges that Hawaii QB Cole McDonald may arbitrarily decide to turn the ball over four times and turn this game into a circus.)
WALK-ON’S INDEPENDENCE BOWL (12)
Who: Louisiana Tech vs. Miami
When: 4 p.m., Dec. 26
Where: Shreveport, La.
Line: Miami by 6
Louisiana Tech season in a sentence: A hometown bowl victory away from the first 10-win season in 35 years.
Miami season in a sentence: A quagmire of mixed emotions, most of them negative.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Camo hip waders.
Dash pick: Louisiana Tech 28, Miami 23. For starters, Tech is 5-0 in bowl games under Skip Holtz. Second, this will be a home game in Shreveport, even if it’s not in Tech’s on-campus stadium. Third, there would seem a high likelihood that the Hurricanes—coming off two dismal performances to end the season—will not be super motivated to spend Christmas in Shreveport and come to play the day after.
QUICK LANE BOWL (13)
Who: Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 26
Line: Pitt by 11
Pittsburgh season in a sentence: If it’s ending in Detroit on Dec. 26, it wasn’t that great.
Eastern Michigan season in a sentence: If it’s ending in Detroit on Dec. 26, it’s pretty good.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Fruitcake.
Dash pick: Pittsburgh 26, Eastern Michigan 10. The Panthers aren’t much offensively, but they won’t have to be to win this game. EMU’s struggles running the ball plays into the hands of Pat Narduzzi’s defense, which was the second-best in the ACC after Clemson.
MILITARY BOWL PRESENTED BY NORTHROP GRUMMAN (14)
Who: North Carolina vs. Temple
When: Noon, Dec. 27
Where: Annapolis, Md.
Line: North Carolina by 4 1/2
North Carolina season in a sentence: A pair of two-pointers shy of something special.
Temple season in a sentence: The first six games were fun.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Zoo Zitta Ka Zay, a roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet.
Dash pick: North Carolina 29, Temple 21. Rod Carey was winless in bowl games as coach at Northern Illinois, so don’t expect that to change now at Temple playing against the Tar Heels. UNC quarterback Sam Howell’s excellent freshman season should carry over here, although the Owls defense is solid.
NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL (15)
Who: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest
When: 3:20 p.m., Dec. 27
Where: New York
Line: Michigan State by 4 1/2
Michigan State season in a sentence: We’ve fallen and we can’t get up.
Wake Forest season in a sentence: This was the Deacons’ third eight-win regular season since the 1970s, so pardon them for celebrating.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A knockoff Rolex purchased from a street vendor in Times Square.
Dash pick: Michigan State 35, Wake Forest 30. The Spartans have done nothing noteworthy since September, but have certainly played a more difficult schedule than the Demon Deacons. Wake comes into this game having lost three of its last four and with the health of quarterback Jamie Newman still a question mark after being injured in the regular-season finale against Syracuse.
ACADEMY SPORTS + OUTDOORS TEXAS BOWL (16)
Who: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
When: 6:45 p.m., Dec. 27
Line: Texas A&M by seven
Cowboys season in a sentence: Thank God for Chuba.
Aggies season in a sentence: So much money spent, so little to show for it.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Sliced brisket that doesn’t taste as good as it looks.
Dash pick: Oklahoma State 28, Texas A&M 24. Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher, has indicated he will play for the Cowboys, and there is a chance that quarterback Spencer Sanders is back after missing action late due to thumb surgery. The Aggies have zero wins over FBS opponents with winning records.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION HOLIDAY BOWL (17)
Who: USC vs. Iowa
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 27
Where: San Diego
Line: Iowa by two
USC season in a sentence: No, we can’t believe our coach is still Clay Helton, either.
Iowa season in a sentence: Same as it ever was.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Egg nog.
Dash pick: USC 24, Iowa 21. The Hawkeyes haven’t given up more than 24 points all season. They also haven’t faced a pass-and-catch combination on par with Kedon Slovis and Michael Pittman. Retaining offensive coordinator Graham Harrell should give an added boost to the Trojans heading into this game.
CHEEZ-IT BOWL (18)
Who: Air Force vs. Washington State
When: 10:15 p.m., Dec. 27
Line: Off the board
Air Force season in a sentence: Best year in a long time, but failing to finish the Navy game hurt.
Washington State season in a sentence: Blow a 32-point lead and give up 50 points in 18 minutes, it’ll leave a mark.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A framed picture of TCU’s sports information director falling down on the field and penalizing his team during last year’s epic malfunction of a game.
Dash pick: Air Force 45, Washington State 42. Neither team has spent much time dealing with what the other does well. The Falcons don’t see passing attacks like Wazzu’s, and the Cougars don’t see option offenses like Air Force’s. Which defense can adjust, prepare and at least momentarily slow down the opponent?
CAMPING WORLD BOWL (19)
Who: Notre Dame vs. Iowa State
When: Noon, Dec. 28
Line: Notre Dame by 3 1/2
Notre Dame season in a sentence: When you go from the playoff to the Camping World Bowl, it’s hard to feel too chesty.
Iowa State season in a sentence: More was expected.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A glamping kit of bougie accessories designed to turn the outdoors into a Ritz-Carlton cabana experience. Plus a case of Busch Light.
Dash pick: Notre Dame 28, Iowa State 17. Fighting Irish record against 2019 bowl teams: 6–2. Cyclones record against 2019 bowl teams: 1–5. The only reason the line is this small is because the motivation could be tilted toward Ames. If it’s not, this should be a comfortable Notre Dame victory.
GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL (20)
Who: Memphis vs. Penn State
When: Noon, Dec. 28
Where: Arlington, Texas
Line: Penn State by 6 1/2
Memphis season in a sentence: Best season ever—other than the whole lose-the-coach thing.
Penn State season in a sentence: After a decade of flux, it’s back on autopilot—but the Ohio State ceiling remains unbroken.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Something you didn’t ask for but wound up enjoying.
Dash pick: Penn State 34, Memphis 24. The Tigers have some dudes at skill positions and on the defensive front. They also have an interim coach. The last three Group of Five coaches who made it to a New Year's Six bowl but had a Power 5 job waiting (Scott Frost, P.J. Fleck) coached the game. Mike Norvell? Not so much.
SERVPRO FIRST RESPONDER BOWL (21)
Who: Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan
When: 12:30 p.m., Dec. 30
Line: Western Kentucky by 3 1/2
Western Kentucky season in a sentence: The coaching change worked, big-time.
Western Michigan season in a sentence: These may not be the Row The Boat glory days, but consecutive winning seasons isn’t bad.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A toy subject to recall, if you recall that last year’s game was canceled in the first half due to storms.
Dash pick: Western Kentucky 28, Western Michigan 21. Hilltoppers finished strong, blowing out Arkansas (and getting Chad Morris fired), then beating Southern Mississippi and Middle Tennessee to finish 8–4. The Broncos were a rank-and-file member of a down Mid-American Conference.
FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL (22)
Who: Louisville vs. Mississippi State
When: 4 p.m., Dec. 30
Line: Mississippi State by four
Louisville season in a sentence: Scott Satterfield was a steal, after Bobby Petrino finished stealing money.
Mississippi State season in a sentence: A guy pretending to be a dog and take a pee in the end zone may be the biggest reason Joe Moorhead is still the coach of the Bulldogs.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: An Easy-Bake Oven.
Dash pick: Mississippi State 36, Louisville 31. Classic matchup problem in the place where it matters most—the Bulldogs pound the rock, and the Cardinals can be pounded by teams that pound the rock. Louisville camouflaged that weakness most of the season but it was a glaring issue in the season finale against Kentucky, and the Bulldogs can look at tape.
REDBOX BOWL (23)
Who: California vs. Illinois
When: 4 p.m., Dec. 30
Where: Santa Clara, Calif.
Line: Cal by 6 1/2
California season in a sentence: So much defense, so little offense.
Illinois season in a sentence: Takeaways, comebacks, going bowling for the first time in five years.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A gift card you put in a drawer and forget about until 2023.
Dash pick: California 19, Illinois 7. The Illini have the most turnovers of any team that has played 12 games, at 28. When they’ve produced fewer than three takeaways in a game, they’re 0–3. The Bears don’t turn it over much—13 times on the season and just four lost fumbles, only one since the season opener. So it’s pretty simple for Cal: hold the ball, win the game.
CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL (24)
Who: Florida vs. Virginia
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 30
Where: Miami Gardens, Fla.
Line: Florida by 14 1/2
Florida season in a sentence: The gap between the SEC elite and the Gators is narrowing.
Virginia season in a sentence: So this is what it’s like to be good in football, huh?
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A Pet Rock.
Dash pick: Florida 30, Virginia 12. Dan Mullen has a great bowl record (6–2) and that isn’t changing here. The Gators aren’t going to be beaten by a one-man offense, and they’ll have a few areas to exploit offensively after watching the Cavaliers give up 27 or more points in their last six games.
BELK BOWL (25)
Who: Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky
When: Noon, Dec. 31
Line: Virginia Tech by 2 1/2
Virginia Tech season in a sentence: Just inconclusive enough to leave everyone unsure where the program is going.
Kentucky season in a sentence (fragment): Lynn Bowden.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A case of Bud.
Dash pick: Virginia Tech 23, Kentucky 17. It just seems highly unlikely that in the last game of his career, with four weeks to get ready, Bud Foster is going to see his defense gouged by the most one-dimensional offense this side of the service academies. Lynn Bowden is awesome, but the Wildcats have completed an average of 4.6 passes over their last seven games. That’s not going to fly here.
TONY THE TIGER SUN BOWL (26)
Who: Florida State vs. Arizona State
When: 2 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: El Paso, Texas
Line: Arizona State by 4 1/2
Florida State season in a sentence: Spent an absolute fortune in search of light at the end of the Taggart tunnel.
Arizona State season in a sentence: Not apologizing for killing the Pac-12’s playoff hopes.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A Chia Pet.
Dash pick: Arizona State 27, Florida State 24. This is the Defection Bowl. The Sun Devils’ top rusher (Eno Benjamin) and leading receiver (Brandon Aiyuk) are not expected to play, which strips talented quarterback Jayden Daniels of playmaking options. The Seminoles will be without leading rusher Cam Akers. Try to contain your excitement for seeing their backups play.
AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL (27)
Who: Navy vs. Kansas State
When: 3:45 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: Memphis, Tenn.
Line: Navy by 2 1/2
Navy season in a sentence: Commander in Chief Trophy, 10 wins, kept their coach—what’s not to love?
Kansas State season in a sentence: There is life after Bill Snyder, and it’s a good life.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Sensible shoes.
Dash pick: Navy 38, Kansas State 31. The Wildcats had an overachieving season but tied for last in the Big 12 in yards allowed per rush at 4.91. Navy, in case you hadn’t heard, knows how to run the ball. Look for Malcolm Perry to have one last big game for the Midshipmen.
NOVA HOME LOANS ARIZONA BOWL (28)
Who: Wyoming vs. Georgia State
When: 4:30, Dec. 31
Where: Tucson, Ariz.
Line: Wyoming by seven
Wyoming season in a sentence: Everything after shocking Missouri on Aug. 31 was an anticlimax.
Georgia State season in a sentence: Everything after shocking Tennessee on Aug. 31 was an anticlimax.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A succulent that never needs watering. In effect, you could ignore it.
Dash pick: Wyoming 34, Georgia State 25. These are not very good teams but if you need some pre-party entertaining while getting ready for New Year’s Eve, well, here you go. Wyoming absolutely cannot throw the ball, but the Panthers have been trucked on the ground several times this season.
VALERO ALAMO BOWL (29)
Who: Utah. vs. Texas
When: 7:30 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: San Antonio, Texas
Line: Utah by seven
Utah season in a sentence: So good until Santa Clara.
Texas season in a sentence: Texas is not back.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Not what you asked for.
Dash pick: Utah 26, Texas 17. Quite a clash of successful bowl coaches—Kyle Whittingham is 11–2 and Tom Herman is 3–0 without being favored in any of them. But this Longhorns team has been such a crashing disappointment, and it is matched up against a Utes team that has been really good.
VRBO CITRUS BOWL (30)
Who: Michigan vs. Alabama
When: 1 p.m., Jan. 1
Line: Alabama by seven
Michigan season in a sentence: Third in the Big Ten East has a familiar ring to it.
Alabama season in a sentence: An absolute flaming disaster of a 10–2 year.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A Peloton. And everything that entails.
Dash pick: Alabama 42, Michigan 31. Perhaps you saw what Ohio State’s passing game did to the Wolverines (again). Perhaps you’ve seen the Crimson Tide receivers (all of whom seem like they will play in the bowl). Perhaps you know how this is likely to turn out.
OUTBACK BOWL (31)
Who: Minnesota vs. Auburn
When: 1 p.m., Jan. 1
Line: Auburn by seven
Minnesota season in a sentence: Pinch us.
Auburn season in a sentence: When you combine a brutal schedule with a freshman quarterback and come away with nine wins, including an epic Iron Bowl, that’s a good year.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A rowboat. Or a bus. A rowbus? May the best mode of transport win.
Dash pick: Auburn 36, Minnesota 21. The Tigers have played five teams better than anyone the Gophers have played. It’s been a great season in the Twin Cities, but Minnesota has met its physical and athletic match here.
ROSE BOWL PRESENTED BY NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL (32)
Who: Wisconsin vs. Oregon
When: 5 p.m., Jan. 1
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
Line: Wisconsin by 2 1/2
Wisconsin season in a sentence: The 2018 slump was officially an aberration.
Oregon season in a sentence: One defensive stop in Arlington away from awesome.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A blue Tiffany box.
Dash pick: Oregon 24, Wisconsin 20. Offensive line play may rank well below the sunset over the San Gabriels on the list of reasons to watch this game, but these are two of the best. There also is some star/NFL appeal between Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert and Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor—they’ve been college stars for years, but will they translate? Oregon may just have one or two more playmakers.
ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL (33)
Who: Georgia vs. Baylor
When: 8:45 p.m., Jan. 1
Where: New Orleans
Line: Georgia by 7 1/2
Georgia season in a sentence: Time to modernize the offense, Kirby.
Baylor season in a sentence: Every dream come true except beating OU.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Pajamas. You’ll be in them by the time this matchup reaches the fourth quarter.
Dash pick: Georgia 28, Baylor 13. Viewer discretion advised—this could be a stultifying game offensively. Which is to say, it could be like a lot of Georgia games this season. But if the draft-eligible Bulldogs show up and play with the motivation that was missing last year, Baylor will be up against it.
TICKETSMARTER BIRMINGHAM BOWL (34)
Who: Boston College vs. Cincinnati
When: 3 p.m., Jan. 2
Where: Birmingham, Ala.
Line: Cincinnati by seven
Boston College season in a sentence: Too many guys, not enough dudes, goodbye Addazio.
Cincinnati season in a sentence: Other than two weekends in Memphis, it was outstanding.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Fruitcake. Aged and re-gifted.
Dash pick: Cincinnati 27, Boston College 12. The Eagles are down their all-time leading rusher (AJ Dillon) and their head coach (Steve Addazio). On top of that, they weren’t the better team to begin with. All Bearcats, all the time.
TAXSLAYER GATOR BOWL (35)
Who: Indiana vs. Tennessee
When: 7 p.m., Jan. 2
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.
Line: Off the board
Indiana season in a sentence: The most wins in a quarter century and first Florida bowl game in school history should be enough to briefly interrupt basketball for a spike in football fever.
Tennessee season in a sentence: Almost good enough to forget how it started.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Something you didn’t want but tried really hard to pretend you were excited to receive.
Dash pick: Tennessee 31, Indiana 28. These are the kind of midpack Big Ten vs. midpack SEC games that somehow become referendums on league superiority. The Hoosiers have had a great season but could struggle to deal with Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings, after being lit up by several Big Ten opponents.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL (36)
Who: Ohio vs. Nevada
When: 3:30 p.m., Jan. 3
Where: Boise, Idaho
Line: Ohio by 7 1/2
Ohio season in a sentence: The highlight was a cartwheel by a 300-pound lineman in the middle of a play.
Nevada season in a sentence: The highlight was a 57-yard, walk-off field goal by a walk-on freshman kicker in the season opener.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: An ugly Christmas sweater that isn’t even ironically humorous. It’s just ugly.
Dash pick: Ohio 37, Nevada 34. Nathan O’Rourke. That is all.
LOCKHEED MARTIN ARMED FORCES BOWL (37)
Who: Southern Mississippi vs. Tulane
When: 11:30 a.m., Jan. 4
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
Line: Tulane by seven
Southern Mississippi season in a sentence: The year without drama—exactly one game decided by fewer than 14 points.
Tulane season in a sentence: Beat all the bad teams on the schedule, lost to all the good ones.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: Lost in the mail.
Dash pick: Tulane 37, Southern Mississippi 28. The Green Wave have lost three straight. The Golden Eagles have lost two straight. But Tulane has played better competition. After 35 days off since their last games, we’ll see who still wants to play.
LENDING TREE BOWL (38)
Who: Louisiana vs. Miami (Ohio)
When: 7:30 p.m., Jan. 6
Where: Mobile, Ala.
Line: Louisiana by 14
Louisiana season in a sentence: Really great, other than App State.
Miami season in a sentence: The MAC championship nobody saw coming after a 2–4 start.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: The last speck of Who Hash.
Dash pick: Louisiana 44, Miami 27. If you’re still watching at this point, the Football Bowl Association (it is a thing) should send you a medal.
CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL (39)
Who: LSU vs. Oklahoma
When: 4 p.m., Dec. 28
Line: LSU by 13
LSU season in a sentence (fragment): Perfect.
Oklahoma season in a sentence: Have transfer quarterback, will make playoff.
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A luxury car with a bow on top.
Dash pick: LSU 52, Oklahoma 31. For all the offense rep in the Big 12, the Sooners haven’t seen anyone who can sling it and catch it the way the Tigers sling it and catch it. And while the defense is better than 2017 and ’18, it’s not good enough to handle what LSU is bringing to Atlanta. The only hope is to win a shootout, and the Tigers secondary should be good enough to prevent that from happening.
PLAYSTATION FIESTA BOWL (40)
Who: Clemson vs. Ohio State
When: 8 p.m., Dec. 28
Where: Glendale, Ariz.
Line: Clemson by two
Clemson season in a sentence: The most disrespected undefeated season in history (if you ask the Tigers).
Ohio State season in a sentence: Urban Who?
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: The Roast Beast.
Dash pick: Clemson 30, Ohio State 24. The Tigers are in their garden spot—undefeated and disrespected, at least in their own minds. They are ridiculously talented and playing at a ridiculously high level, just not against the kind of competition the Buckeyes have faced. It won’t matter. Clemson lives for the big moment and has the mentality to succeed in that moment. This could be a classic.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (41)
Who: LSU vs. Clemson
When: 8 p.m., Jan. 13
Where: New Orleans
If the bowl were a Christmas present it would be: A Red Ryder BB gun.
Dash pick: Clemson 37, LSU 35. If there has been a single significant problem for the Tigers this season, it’s place kicking. So here is how the season is going to end—with B.T. Potter, once ripped all over the Clemson sideline by Dabo Swinney, kicking the winning field goal at the gun in the Superdome.