Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 26 bowl menu, which, for the first time this postseason cycle, features multiple teams from Power Five conferences. The ACC makes its 2015 bowl debut with three teams in action, while the Big Ten sees a pair of teams kicking off the postseason for the conference. The Pac-12, which was already the first P5 league to see the field for a bowl this year — Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl exactly a week ago — will also field a trio of teams.
WHO: UConn (6-6) vs. Marshall (9-3)
WHAT: The 8th St. Petersburg Bowl
WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re a fan of solid defensive battles, consider this your post-Christmas present from Santa Football. Marshall is 13th nationally and second among Power Five schools in scoring defense (18.4 points per game), while UConn is four spots behind nationally at 19.8 ppg. The Huskies have made one of the bigger one-season turnarounds in the country this season, going from two wins in 2014 to six in 2015, winning four of their last five to secure bowl eligibility for the first time since the 2010 season. One of those six wins this year included, some would say inexplicably, handing AAC champion Houston its one and only loss in 2015. Marshall is one win away from back-to-back-to-back 10-win seasons, which would make them the first Power Five program to ever accomplish that feat. The Herd has a talented quarterback in Chase Litton, but the fact that he’s a redshirt freshman could play right into the hands of Bob Diaco‘s aggressive, stingy defense.
THE LINE: UConn, +5
THE PREDICTION: UConn 17, Marshall 14
WHO: Miami (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)
WHAT: The 82nd Sun Bowl
WHERE: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
THE LINE: Miami, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.
WHO: Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (9-4)
WHAT: The 5th Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
WHERE: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
WHEN: 2:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: After winning just four games combined the past three seasons, Southern Miss more than doubled that total with a nine-win season; one more win would give the Eagles double-digit wins for the first time since 2011, Larry Fedora‘s last season, and just the third time in the football program’s FBS history. Washington, meanwhile, won two in a row to close out the year to become bowl-eligible. They possess some significant albeit young talent on the offensive side of the ball, and, at least statistically, they had the best defense in the Pac-12 and one that was 12th nationally in scoring (17.7 points per game). The Huskies played 10 games against teams that played in bowl games, while the Eagles played against five such teams. That tougher slate should prove to be a significant bonus for UW as they’ve seemingly been hardened by the competition afforded them in the Pac-12 compared to the softer Conference USA for their opponents.
THE LINE: Southern Miss, +9
THE PREDICTION: Washington 38, Southern Miss 13
WHO: Indiana (6-6) vs. Duke (7-5)
WHAT: The 6th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, New York City, New York
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
THE SKINNY: You could call this a postseason football game in a baseball stadium between schools more well-known for their basketball prowess, although Duke has been one of the best teams in the ACC the past few seasons. Just how far have the Blue Devils come as a football program? From 1995-2011, Duke didn’t win more than five games in a single season; this season, their seven wins, coming off a combined 19 the previous two seasons, is a cause for concern. Entering the 2015 season on one of the hottest seats in college football, Kevin Wilson pushed Indiana to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007 in his fifth season with the Hoosiers. IU had an odd season, sandwiching a four-game winning streak to start the year and a two-gamer to end it around a six-game losing streak. After beginning the year 6-1, the Blue Devils blew a transmission and threw a couple of rods in losing four in a row before righting itself with a regular season-ending win over woebegone Wake Forest. Despite all of their recent success, including four straight bowl appearances for the first time in program history, the Blue Devils will be looking for their first bowl win since winning the Cotton Bowl following the 1960 season. Indiana’s last bowl win wasn’t exactly in the recent past as they last tasted postseason success in 1991. Duke will be playing without All-American safety Jeremy Cash, which could prove problematic as the Blue Devils, with the 72nd-ranked pass defense, will be looking to contain Nate Sudfeld, the Big Ten’s most efficient passer. The Hoosiers have their own injury issue, though, as Jordan Howard, 30th in the country with 1,213 rushing yards, is questionable because of a knee injury.
THE LINE: Off the board because of Howard’s uncertainty
THE PREDICTION: Duke 31, Indiana 28
WHO: Tulsa (6-6) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
WHAT: The 30th Camping World Independence Bowl
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
WHEN: 5:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: As it should be, this game is all about Frank Beamer. The long-time Virginia Tech head coach announced during the season that he was retiring at the end of the year, making this his last game in the sport to which he’s given so much. The bonus game very nearly didn’t happen as Tech needed a win in the finale against rival Virginia to secure bowl eligibility. This is the 23rd straight season, all under Beamer, that Tech has played in a bowl, the second-longest streak in the country behind Florida State’s 34. The first of those 23 bowl appearances? Against Indiana… in the 1993 Independence Bowl. Beamer is 10-12 in bowl games thus far, and a win against Tulsa would give him back-to-back bowl wins for just the second time in his career (2008 Orange Bowl, 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl). Tulsa, meanwhile, is playing in its first bowl game since 2012, but has seen tremendous postseason success this century — the Golden Hurricane has won five of their last seven bowl games. With an offense that is 25th in scoring (35.9 points per game) and 14th in yards (502.8 yards per game) — they put up 38 points and 603 yards on College Football Playoff semifinalist Oklahoma — Tulsa will prove to be one of the stiffest tests this season for a Tech defense that’s 47th in giving up 24.3 ppg. Still, the whole send-Coach-Beamer-out-with-a-win angle is what most non-Tulsa fans are hoping for as the retiring legend is one of the classiest in the sport.
THE LINE: Tulsa, +13½
THE PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 31, Tulsa 27
WHO: UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)
WHAT: The 14th Foster Farms Bowl
WHERE: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
WHEN: 9:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE LINE: Nebraska, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.