The long, tumultuous college football season is coming to an end, and while there’s still plenty of heated playoff arguments to take place in, one thing is cemented into surety: the college bowl schedule.
The top teams in the nation get their chance to shine and rival against another big dog. For some teams, the journey was painful and filled with twists. For others, the road was paved with an easy schedule or big wins. Whatever the cost may be, fans are excited to leave ESPN on 24/7 for the season ending finales.
Get out your fan gear, hit the message boards, set your college playoff fantasy lineups, and ponder the strange sponsorships…it’s time for bowl season. Here’s my predictions for the first week of the season closing.
Celebration Bowl: North Carolina A&T vs. Grambling
Noon ET on ABC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
While both offenses are dynamic in put-up or shut-up situations, North Carolina’s quarterback Lamar Raynard has 26 touchdown passes this season. Grambling might have won the low-scoring matchup at last year’s bowl 10-9, but I’m siding with the heavy arm.
Winner: North Carolina A&T
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas
1 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans
The Trojans have a super hot six-game winning streak, and the last time they played in the lovely state of Louisiana, they beat the mighty LSU. This one seems a little easier to pick than the rest, and that might be my downfall, but I refuse to stray.
AutoNation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State
2:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN at Camping World Stadium in Orlando
WKU has had a checkered season, remembering not-so-fondly the loss to 2-10 Illinois. Western Kentucky has also dropped four of its past five games. Although Georgia State has been outscored this season 280-217, their work ethic has looked a little big stronger than their opponent’s.
Winner: Georgia State
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon vs. No. 25 Boise State
3:30 p.m. ET on ABC at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas
Oregon coach Willie Taggart’s murky future aside, the Ducks face some challenges with the return from injury of quarterback Justin Herbert. Though Oregon will no doubt put up a tough fight offensively, Boise State’s killer defense will get the job done in the end.
Winner: Boise State
GILDAN New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State
4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque
Marshall has bombed the last four games out of five, and that’s bad news when you take into account Colorado State’s diamond in the rough, Michael Gallup. The nation’s best under-the-radar player will simply win with his hands.
Winner: Colorado State
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State
8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama
To say Arkansas’ quarterback Justice Hansen is hot and cold might be the understatement of the season. He’s had six games with at least three touchdowns, and three games with at least three interceptions. Middle Tennessee is terrible at capitalizing on important moments, though, with only four picks all season. Even with his drastic temperature changes, this game rides on Hansen.
Winner: Arkansas State
Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Florida Atlantic vs. Akron
7 p.m. ET on ESPN at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida
Florida Atlantic is sitting pretty with home field advantage and a record-setting offense. Akron’s defense allowed 45 points to Toledo in the MAC title game, so it’s no stretch to guess the same might happen here.
Winner: Florida Atlantic
DXL Frisco Bowl: SMU vs. Louisiana Tech
8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas
SMU let down a fan base by losing three of the last four games. While SMU was nothing but incredibly lucky to win at their finale, Louisiana Tech doesn’t inspire hope and admiration, either. Bottom line: SMU receivers Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn will put too much stress on Louisiana Tech to recover from.
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International
8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida
Both teams have a lot to be grateful for, including their first-year coaches who took them straight through a successful bowl-contending season. However, the Owl’s defense is the deal breaker, and ultimately deal maker, in this scenario.
Do you agree with my picks? Am I off my rocker? Let me know below and on Twitter.
Kristen Ashly is an editor and senior contributor for Nuts & Bolts Sports. You can follow her on Twitter @KristenAshly.
Featured image: Bronco Sports