It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Sure, the holidays are great, but we’re just days away from bowl season kicking off with the Bahamas Bowl.
40 games over the next month will have to hold college football fans over until August, when next season begins. All eyes are on the New Year’s Six games and the College Football Playoff semifinals, but there’s a few other games in that I’m looking forward to watching...
Las Vegas Bowl
(19) Boise State vs. Washington
Saturday December 21, 2019 | 7:30 PM EST
Sam Boyd Stadium
ESPN Spread: Washington -3.5
Washington head coach Chris Petersen will coach his final game against the Boise State program he put on the college football map. Although Washington hoped to finish better than 7-5 in the regular season, the Las Vegas Bowl presents a chance for the team to enter the Jimmy Lake era - currently the defensive coordinator and incoming head coach - on a high note.
Washington quarterback Jacob Eason has thrown for 22 touchdowns in his first year as the Huskies’ starter. A big game against a Broncos defense that only allows 20.6 points per game could create early-round NFL Draft buzz for the redshirt junior.
Boise State’s only blemish this season was a three-point loss at BYU in October. If that game had gone the Broncos’ way, Boise State would have been in the Cotton Bowl at the Group of Five representative. But, after the team’s bowl game last season was cancelled due to weather, the Broncos will still have plenty of motivation in Las Vegas. Hank Bahcmeir may return from injury to start the Las Vegas Bowl, but third-string quarterback Jaylon Henderson has thrown for 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns in his absence.
I think the difference in this game will be Petersen’s coaching; he’ll get his talented Washington team prepped to play an explosive Boise State team. I’ve got the Huskies 38-28.
(12) Auburn vs. (18) Minnesota
Wednesday January 1, 2020 @ 1:00 PM EST
Raymond James Stadium
ESPN Spread: Auburn -7
This game is going to be a fun one to watch. Auburn had one of the toughest schedules in college football and earned nine hard-fought wins. Minnesota started 9-0 in an easy start to the season before losing two of its last three games. SEC and Big Ten fans often argue about which conference is the best in the nation, and this game will be one of three bowl matchups between the two conferences. Both teams are playing for bragging rights in Tampa.
Auburn is led by two elite defensive linemen in Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. The duo has combined for 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. As leaders of a defense that allows just 18.6 points per game, they will certainly be playing with a passion in their final game at Auburn.
Minnesota has two threats at wide receiver in Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson. Bateman has 1,170 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, while Johnson has caught 74 passes for 1,114 yards and 11 touchdowns. Both have been reliable targets for sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan, who has completed about 66% of his passes this year.
Auburn’s tough schedule has prepared them well for games against solid teams like Minnesota. I’ve got Auburn winning this one 31-17.
(23) Navy vs. Kansas State
Tuesday December 31, 2019 @ 3:45 PM EST
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
ESPN Spread: Navy -2
Navy has been one of the season’s best stories. After winning just three games last year, the Midshipmen went 10-2 this year with road losses to AAC champion Memphis and Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Kansas State owns perhaps the best win of any team in the country, a 48-41 win over Oklahoma.
As consistent as the Midshipmen have been all season, the Wildcats have been just as inconsistent. Kansas State’s loss to West Virginia is a curious one, and wins against TCU and Texas Tech didn’t help the Wildcats on their quest to break into the top tier of the Big 12. Momentum for next season is at stake for both teams.
Navy’s triple-option offense keeps the ball out of opponents’ hands. Navy leads the country with 363.7 rushing yards per game and averaged 33 minutes of possession per game. But, Kansas State is third in the nation with 34 minutes of possession per game. This game will be a game of keepaway. Whichever rushing offense can be more effective in creating long drives will fly home with the Liberty Bowl trophy.
This game will be close, as evidenced by the two-point spread. I trust Navy’s consistency to lead the Midshipmen to their 11th win of the year in a 28-27 victory.