Getty Images

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

7 Comments

2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.

Part-time starting DB Cameron Watkins leaving Illinois

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the fourth time this offseason, Lovie Smith has lost a scholarship player to transfer — and that’s not including a wide receiver who signed with the school but opted to return to Miami.

On his personal Twitter account this week, Cameron Watkins announced that “it is now time for me to start another chapter in my life as I will be moving on from the University of Illinois after graduating in May.” As a graduate transfer, the defensive back would be eligible to play at another FBS school in 2019 if that ends up being his next move.

Watkins started 16 games the past three seasons for the Fighting Illini, including seven in 2018.

Watkins joins wide receiver Carmoni Green and offensive linemen Zeke Martin and Adam Solomon as Illini players who have left the program this offseason.

Green was one of five Illini players suspended for the 2018 opener, and then went on to catch 10 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown last season. Martin (12 games) and Solomon (11) played primarily on special teams in 2018.

At least 11 Penn State players have either transferred or placed names in NCAA database

Getty Images
5 Comments

There are significant exoduses, and there’s what’s transpired in Happy Valley recently.

A total of five Penn State football players opted to leave eligibility on the table and make themselves available for the 2019 NFL Draft — offensive tackle Ryan Bates (HERE), defensive tackle Kevin Givens (HERE), offensive lineman Connor McGovern (HERE), defensive end Shareef Miller (HERE) and running back Miles Sanders (HERE). Additionally, the Centre Daily Times notes, a whopping 11 players (thus far) have, since the end of the regular season, either decided to transfer or put their names in the NCAA transfer database signaling a probable intent to move on.

Three of those transfers/potential transfers, tight end Danny Dalton, offensive lineman Alex Gellerstedt and safety Ayron Monroe, were the most recent additions to the list of potential player personnel attrition at the football program. The other eight with at least one foot out the door are (deep breath) linebackers Dae’lun Darien (HERE) and Brelin Faison-Walden; wide receivers Juwan Johnson (HERE) and Brandon Polk; safeties Isaiah Humphries (HERE) and Lamont Wade; cornerback Zech McPhearson; and offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins.

The biggest of the losses would be Johnson, who started seven games this past season and caught 25 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown, and Polk, who also started seven games and totaled 162 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. Monroe (pictured) played in 33 games during his time with the Nittany Lions and was viewed as a potential starting safety in 2019, while McPherson (23 games played/12 in 2018) and Wade (24/12) saw significant action the past two seasons.

The only other transfer/potential transfer who played in more than 10 games while in Happy Valley was Darien, whose 15 appearances included eight this past season.

Texas QB Shane Buechele putting name in transfer database

Getty Images
5 Comments

There’s little question that, for the next couple of seasons and barring injury, Texas is Sam Ehlinger‘s football team.  In that vein, another member of UT’s quarterback room is looking into the possibility of moving out.

Overnight, multiple media outlets reported that Shane Buechele has informed the football program of his intention to enter his name into the NCAA transfer database.  According to 247Sports.com, SMU is already considered the favorite to land Buechele.

Buechele, a four-star 2016 signee, started every game as a true freshman, then started seven games in 2017 while Ehlinger started six his true freshman season.  Ehlinger won the job during summer camp and was the starter for this past season as Buechele played in just two games, which seemingly served as the trigger for the transfer.

Scheduled to graduate from UT in May, Buechele would not only be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school in 2019, but he’d have another season of eligibility he could use in 2020 as well.  As Buechele played in fewer than four games this past season, he can take advantage of the new NCAA redshirt rule and save a year of eligibility.

In other UT quarterbacking news, Cameron Rising, who was one of two Longhorn signal-callers to put their names in the transfer database around Christmastime last year, has visited Utah and is expected to sign with the Utes, 247Sports.com reported.

There was a bit of good news under center for the Longhorns as Casey Thompson, the other UT quarterback in the database, will return to Austin.  Thompson, a four-star 2018 signee who is the son of former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson, did not see the field as a true freshman this past season.

Butch Jones eschewing Maryland job to remain at Alabama

Getty Images
2 Comments

It appears Butch Jones will get the opportunity to light up a second victory cigar after years of going cold turkey.

In early December, after Mike Locksley accepted a head-coaching job, it was reported that Butch Jones, the former Tennessee head coach-turned-offensive analyst for Alabama in 2018, would follow the Crimson Tide offensive coordinator and take a job on Locksley’s first Terrapins coaching staff. Between then and now, however, Nick Saban‘s offensive staff has been hit by significant attrition, with four assistants on that side of the ball (including Locksley) leaving for jobs at other schools.

In that light, multiple reports surfaced Wednesday in which it’s expected Jones will remain with the Crimson Tide in an unspecified on-field role.

When it comes to offensive roles, Saban has plenty to offer.

Locksley was hired to take the head job at Maryland and was expected to be replaced by quarterbacks coach Dan Enos; instead, Enos left to take over as the coordinator at Miami. Wide receivers coach Josh Gattis also bolted to become the coordinator at Michigan, while offensive line coach Brent Key left to take a job at Georgia Tech.

It’s been reported that Steve Sarkisian is expected to return to Tuscaloosa, presumably as offensive coordinator. In his career, Jones has coached running backs, tight ends and wide receivers; it was expected that he would coach tight ends with the Terrapins.

Now, about the defensive side of the ball