40 bowls in 17 days and reasons to watch every single one


By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

Doing its best to challenge the premise that there can never be enough college football, the bowl system gives fans 40 FBS games from Dec. 17 through Jan. 2 that include 17 teams with 6-6 records and two more that went 5-7.

Too much, you say?


Every game is special in its own way, and for the third straight year we are here with a reason to watch each and every one. And to pick the winners, which may also provide a reason to watch. Strictly for entertainment purposes, of course.


New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque

UTSA (plus 6 ½) vs. New Mexico, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

You can’t watch them all if you miss the first one. Duh. … NEW MEXICO 31-20.

Las Vegas Bowl

San Diego State (plus 4) vs. Houston, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Aztecs star Donnel Pumphrey, all 5-foot-9, 180 pounds of him, can break the FBS career rushing record held by Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne (6,397) with 108 yards in his last college game — and do it in his hometown … HOUSTON 28-17.

Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.

Toledo (minus 2 ½) vs. Appalachian State, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Rockets RB Kareem Hunt is going to run for 1,000 yards for an NFL team at some point in the near future and you will look like a genius when you have him on your fantasy team … TOLEDO 27-24.

Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

UCF (minus 6 ½) vs. Arkansas State, 5:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

Disney World is in Orlando, so there is at least a chance for a Disney character appearance. Might not be a big enough game for Mickey. Feels more like a Goofy assignment. … ARKANSAS STATE 24-17.

New Orleans Bowl

Southern Miss (minus 4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

The Ragin’ Cajuns had gone to — and won — four straight New Orleans Bowls before missing last year’s. And it just was not the same without them … LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 30-24.


Miami Beach Bowl

Tulsa (minus 11 ½) vs. Central Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The Chippewas have pulled off two of the craziest last-play of the game touchdowns in recent years, first at the Bamahas Bowl two years ago and then to beat Oklahoma State this season. Never count them out … TULSA 42-28.


Boca Raton (Florida) Bowl

Memphis (plus 5) vs. Western Kentucky, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

See the American Athletic Conference’s next rising-star coach: 35-year-old Mike Norvell of Memphis … WESTERN KENTUCKY 48-45.


Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego

BYU (minus 9) vs. Wyoming, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Old WAC rivals playing in San Diego, so the ingredients are here for some old-school Holiday Bowl madness … BYU 27-23.


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise

Idaho (plus 13 ½) vs. Colorado State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

The other Coach Petrino had a pretty good season, too. Paul Petrino, brother of Bobby, led the Vandals to a bowl for the first time since 2009 … COLORADO STATE 38-21.


Bahamas Bowl in Nassau

Eastern Michigan (plus 4) vs. Old Dominion, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

The Eagles have only one bowl appearance in program history and it came almost 30 years ago. And now they’re going to the Bahamas. Happiest. Team. Ever. … OLD DOMINION 34-28.

Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas

Navy (plus 3 ½) vs. Louisiana Tech, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Potential to be one of the most entertaining bowls if Navy’s triple-option can get rolling again without injured QB Will Worth … LA TECH 35-28.

Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Ohio (plus 4) vs. Troy, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Ohio’s 72-year-old Frank Solich tries to beat a coach half his age — 36-year-old Neal Brown of Troy … OHIO 27-26.


Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu

Middle Tennessee (off) vs. Hawaii, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Jeopardy: This Ole Miss transfer is averaging more yards from scrimmage than Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Donnel Pumphrey. Who is I’Tavius Mathers of MTSU? … MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE 38-28.


St. Petersburg (Florida) Bowl

Mississippi State (minus 13) vs. Miami University, 11 a.m. (ESPN)

The RedHawks started the season 0-6 and could end it on a seven-game winning streak. Playing an SEC team is not ideal, but, hey, who thought they would have gotten this far? … MISSISSIPPI STATE 45-21, BEST BET.

Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit

Boston College (plus 1) vs. Maryland, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Two 6-6 teams with zero combined victories against winning FBS opponents. Well, it’s better than waiting in line to return those ugly sweaters you got for Christmas … MARYLAND 16-12.

Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

N.C. State (minus 4 ½) vs. Vanderbilt, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)

Watch or Commodores All-America LB Zach Cunningham will tackle you. Actually, even if you do watch he might tackle you. He pretty much tackles everyone … VANDERBILT 24-21.


Heart of Dallas Bowl

Army (minus 10 ½) vs. North Texas, Noon (ESPN)

You recorded the regular-season meeting between the Black Knights and Mean Green, but your 6-year-old erased it from the DVR to record a Doc McStuffins marathon before you could watch it. Lucky you. They’re playing again … ARMY 24-17.

Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md.

Wake Forest (plus 13) vs. Temple, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

DB-turned-DE Hassan Reddick of Temple leads the nation in tackles for loss (21.5). Wake has the second-worst offense of any bowl team. Watch to see Reddick’s draft stock improve … TEMPLE 24-14.

Holiday Bowl in San Diego

Minnesota (plus 7) vs. Washington State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

The Golden Gophers threw eight TD passes this season. Cougars QB Luke Falk has thrown at least half that many in a game 12 times in his career … WASHINGTON STATE 34-21.

Cactus Bowl in Phoenix

Boise State (minus 7) vs. Baylor, 10:15 p.m. (ESPN)

The Bears try to avoid a seven-game losing streak in a game that will essentially bring the Art Briles’ era to a close … BOISE STATE 42-31.


Pinstripe Bowl in New York

Northwestern (plus 5 ½) vs. Pittsburgh, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

Pitt star and cancer survivor James Conner plays his last college game in Yankee Stadium. Pretty cool. … PITT 38-31.

Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Miami (minus 3) vs. West Virginia, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The Hurricanes are involved so one day this game could be the subject of an ESPN 30-for-30 … WEST VIRGINIA 28-24.

Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif.

Indiana (plus 7 ½) vs. Utah, 8:30 p.m. (FOX)

The first game as Indiana head coach for former defensive coordinator Tom Allen … UTAH 24-20.

Texas Bowl in Houston

Kansas State (plus 2) vs. Texas A&M, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Get a preview of a Kansas State team that will be a trendy dark horse pick to win the Big 12 next season … KANSAS STATE 28-23.


Birmingham (Alabama) Bowl

South Florida (minus 10 ½) vs. South Carolina, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

Like watching Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson play? Then you will enjoy USF QB Quinton Flowers … USF 38-31.

Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.

Virginia Tech (minus 7) vs. Arkansas, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

If the game gets boring follow @belkbowl, the most entertaining bowl on Twitter … VIRGINIA TECH 28-23.

Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas

Oklahoma State (plus 3 ½) vs. Colorado, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Is this the end of Mike Gundy’s mullet? Or the first step toward a Bon Jovi cover band for the Cowboys’ coach? … COLORADO 34-27.


Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.

Georgia (pick’em) vs. TCU, Noon (ESPN)

The Bulldogs (7-5) try to avoid their worst season since 2010, coincidentally the last time they went to the Liberty Bowl — which they lost — to finish 6-7 … GEORGIA 24-20.

Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas

North Carolina (plus 4) vs. Stanford, 2 p.m. (CBS)

Christian McCaffrey’s last game at Stanford and you won’t have to stay up late to watch it … STANFORD 28-27.

Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.

Tennessee (minus 3) vs. Nebraska, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Two fanbases that seem to be in a constant state of existential crisis. And one of them will end what looked not long ago like a promising season with a two-game losing streak … TENNESSEE 35-28.

Arizona Bowl in Tucson

Air Force (minus 13) vs. South Alabama, 5:30 p.m. (ASN)

Air Force DB Weston Steelhammer is exactly the type of player you would expect a guy named Weston Steelhammer who plays for Air Force to be … AIR FORCE 35-14.

Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Florida State (plus 7) vs. Michigan, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

It is not a playoff game, but it feels a lot like one … MICHIGAN 28-20.


Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

LSU (minus 3 ½) vs. Louisville, 11 a.m. (ABC)

Lamar Jackson against one of the most talented and athletic defenses in the country is what’s for breakfast … LSU 28-21.

TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

Kentucky (plus 5) vs. Georgia Tech, 11 a.m. (ESPN)

This season’s bowl most likely to be confused for pre-season NIT basketball in the TV listings … KENTUCKY 31-24.



Peach Bowl in Atlanta

Alabama (minus 15 ½) vs. Washington, 3 p.m. (ESPN)

You are running out of chances to see Nick Saban yell at Lane Kiffin … ALABAMA 37-14.

Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

Clemson (plus 3 ½) vs. Ohio State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Tigers-Buckeyes crowded bar with $100 cover charge … CLEMSON 29-26.


Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Florida (minus 2 ½) vs. Iowa, 1 p.m. (ABC)

If the New Year’s Eve party turned into a New Year’s Day party, the expected Gators-Hawkeyes punt-fest should help you nap off that hangover … FLORIDA 21-14.

Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas

Western Michigan (plus 7) vs. Wisconsin, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

So Western Michigan is known as the Broncos and their slogan is Row the Boat? This will all make sense after you see coach P.J. Fleck give his pregame speech … WISCONSIN 28-23

Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Penn State (plus 6 ½) vs. Southern California, 5 p.m. (ESPN)

Every season there is a bowl that is almost certain to send the winner into the following season with an exorbitant amount of hype. This is that bowl … PENN STATE 31-27.

Sugar Bowl in New Orleans

Oklahoma (minus 4) vs. Auburn, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

There was a lot of talk about this being a down year for the SEC. You will be able to hear those “S-E-C!” chants all the back in Norman if an 8-4 team that stumbled into the Sugar Bowl beats the Big 12 champion … AUBURN 34-27.



Championship in Tampa, Fla.

Alabama vs. Clemson, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The Crimson Tide could become the first FBS team to go 15-0 and stake a claim as the greatest team in college football history … ALABAMA 38-23.


Record: Last week 9-1 straight; 6-4 vs. points.

Season: 201-86; 126-155-3.

Upset specials: 4-9.

Best bets: 4-9.

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

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