Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 28 bowl menu, which features Power Five teams from the ACC and Big Ten, one of which sports the dreaded “5-7” scarlet number.
WHO: Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Navy (10-2)
WHAT: The 8th Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Thanks in very large part to Kennan Reynolds, Navy was in the thick of the Group of Five’s race to a New Year’s Six bid before a loss to Houston in the next-to-last game of the regular season. Still, the Midshipmen have won 10 games in a season for the first time since 2009 and just the fourth time in a history that dates back 123 seasons to 1891, and are one win away from setting the program’s record for wins in a single season. Reynolds was the engine that made the service academy squad hum as he set an FBS record with 85 career rushing touchdowns and has the chance to match or surpass the FBS record for total touchdowns, 87, set by Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon earlier this postseason. This game is your prototypical immovable object vs. unstoppable force as Pittsburgh is ranked 20th in rush defense (126.1) while Navy is third averaging 319.2 yards per game on the ground. After beginning the season 6-1 and having their eyes set on an ACC Coastal title, Pitt, currently still coming to grips with star running back James Connor‘s cancer diagnosis, stumbled to a 2-3 finish, although that trio of losses “only” came by a combined 24 points. In what’s literally a home game for the Midshipmen in the finale of Reynolds’ record-setting career — and with Ken Niumatalolo spurning BYU to remain at the academy while — the odds and trends are certainly stacked against the Panthers in their first bowl game under head coach Pat Narduzzi.
THE LINE: Pittsburgh, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Navy 27, Pittsburgh 17
WHO: Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Minnesota (5-7)
WHAT: The 2nd Quick Lane Bowl
WHERE: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
WHEN: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Nearly three-quarters of Central Michigan’s roster hails from the state of Michigan, so their reward for a seven-win season is a bowl game… in the state of Michigan. That said, CMU is looking for its eighth win on the season, which would be its highest total since winning 12 in 2009, the last season under current Tennessee head coach Butch Jones. The Chips also come into the game on somewhat of a roll, having won five of their last six, with the lone loss coming by five points to 10-2 Toledo. As the Chips averaged just 3.1 yards per carry, any success offensively in this game will very likely be predicated on the arm of Cooper Rush, whose 3,703 yards passing were quietly second in the MAC and 11th nationally. As for Minnesota? I’ll repeat what I wrote about 5-7 San Jose State: I have zero desire to discuss a sub-.500 team that doesn’t deserve a bowl bid. And this isn’t to pick on the Gophers; rather, this will be a running theme throughout these types of posts when it comes to 5-7 teams getting an unwarranted and undeserved invitation to the postseason. [/steps off soapbox]
THE LINE: Central Michigan, +6
THE PREDICTION: Central Michigan 38, Minnesota 24