Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 23 bowl menu, which not only gives us our first multi-bowl GameDay since the opening Saturday of the postseason but also the first matchup involving a team ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25.
WHO: Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3)
WHAT: The 3rd Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Nearly three decades ago, Eastern Michigan won the first bowl game in the first postseason appearance in the football program’s history. Since then, the Eagles have been searching for the school’s second postseason win — mainly because they haven’t played in a bowl game in the ensuing 29 years. Chris Creighton has led a remarkable turnaround in Ypsilanti, with EMU winning just three combined games his first two seasons before the jump to seven in Year 3; those seven wins are the most since they won the same number in 1989. An eighth win would be just the third time they’ve hit at least that mark in their FBS history. Old Dominion is also in uncharted territory as they didn’t become an FBS program until 2014, and this will mark the Monarchs’ first-ever bowl appearance. The two teams come into their first-ever matchup on different trajectories, with ODU riding a five-game winning streak in winning eight of its last nine — all of those wins came by double digits — while EMU went 3-4 after 4-1 start. Both the Eagles and Monarchs average more than 30 points per game offensively, while their defenses aren’t in the top half of the country in keeping the opposition off the scoreboard. The final scores in the first two Bahamas Bowls, also featuring Conference USA and MAC teams, were 49-48 and 45-31. I’m guessing this game won’t deviate too much from those previous offensive matchups. If there is one player to watch, it might be ODU’s David Washington. Washington (28-4) was one of just three starting quarterbacks at the FBS level who threw 28 or more touchdowns and four or fewer interceptions during the 2016 regular season, the others being Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell (32-3) and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky (28-4).
THE LINE: Eastern Michigan, +4
THE PREDICTION: Eastern Michigan 37, Old Dominion 36
WHO: Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. No. 25 Navy (9-4)
WHAT: The 14th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE LINE: Navy, +6
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.
WHO: Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy (9-3)
WHAT: The 18th Dollar General Bowl
WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This might be my most favorite not-even-remotely relevant fun fact of the entire 2016 postseason: Ohio head coach Frank Solich (72) is exactly twice as old as his Troy counterpart Neal Brown (36). The former Nebraska coach, though, has turned his Bobcats into an annual postseason presence. After just one bowl game his first four years, OU will be playing in its seventh the last eight years. While a postseason game has become an annual expectation in Athens, Brown will be leading Troy, playing in its home state, to its first bowl appearance since 2010 in just his second season with the program. OU won by 16 points at Kansas — hey, technically, they are a Power Five team — lost by just nine points at Tennessee and then took Western Michigan, unbeaten and headed for a New Year’s Six game, to the brink in losing the MAC championship game by six points. Ohio’s last three losses? By a combined 20 points to three teams that will be bowling this season. Then there’s Troy, which held a first-quarter lead on College Football Playoff semifinalist Clemson in Week 2 and was down just 13-10 at the half before dropping a 30-24 road decision to the No. 2 team in the country. A win here would give the Trojans their first-ever 10-win season in their 16 years as an FBS program. If the latter portion of the 2016 season is any indication this could be a close game as eight of Ohio’s last nine games were decided by 10 points or less, with seven of those decided by seven or less. There might be one certainty in this game: don’t expect much when it comes to the ground game as Troy is 19th nationally in stopping the run (123.7) while Ohio is seventh (105.8).
THE LINE: Ohio, +4
THE PREDICTION: Ohio 24, Troy 20