Bowl season is finally here, after four long months of regular season football. It has been a crazy up and down season for many teams and like usual we have had upsets left and right. Now it is time to finish off this long gruelling season with joy for some and heartbreak for others as teams are going bowling. On tap for this week are some conference champions, conference runner ups and a few top 25 teams in action.
Don’t miss out on our preview of our College Football Picks for the five best games of this week’s schedule!
Friday, December 17th
Northern Illinois vs Coastal Carolina – 6 pm ET
Northern Illinois finished at 9-4 and won the MAC Championship game over Kent State. Coastal Carolina finished the year at 10-2. Now, these two teams will meet in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl which is played in Orlando, Florida. Northern Illinois is one of eight MAC schools to participate in a bowl game, while Coastal is one of four Sun Belt teams.
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are coming off a solid 10-2 season where they were second in the Sun Belt Conference. Unfortunately, a lot of Coastal Carolina fans will be thinking “what if?”, after quarterback Grayson McCall missed multiple games, likely causing them to miss out on a Sun Belt Conference Championship. Still, they’ll look to end the season on a positive note as they face the Mid-American Conference Champion Northern Illinois Huskies.
Northern Illinois were able to capture the conference championship despite being 9-4. They had one of the nation’s top rushing attacks, averaging over 234 yards per game. Running back Jay Ducker had over 1,000 yards and other running back Clint Ratkovich crossed the goal line 12 times. They’ll use that plan of attack to keep things interesting against this Coastal Carolina team that sits right behind them in rush yards with 231 yards per game. This one will be won on the ground, but I expect it to come down to coaching and Coastal Carolina is led by Jamey Chadwell, who’s rocketed to the top of the list of a lot of Power Five school coaching vacancy lists. I’ll go with the Chanticleers to cover.
Michael’s College Football Pick: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers -10.5 (-110)
This game between the Mid-American Conference champion and one of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference is sure to be a very competitive and entertaining match-up. Northern Illinois had a great season and won the Mid-American Conference Championship over Kent State by a score of 41-23. By winning that game they avenged a heartbreaking loss to the Golden Flashes only a few weeks earlier and captured yet another conference title.
— Coastal Football (@CoastalFootball) December 16, 2021
Coastal Carolina had a great start to the season, much like last year. However, the wheels fell off after quarterback Grayson McCall went out injured. He was supposed to miss the entire season but made it back after two games, unfortunately by that point the damage was done and the Chanticleers were out of the Sun Belt Conference Championship game. They still managed to put together a great season at 10-2. However, I have them winning this game against Northern Illinois but not covering the spread.
Tony’s College Football Pick: Northern Illinois +10.5 (-110)
The Tailgreeter Cure Bowl gives us a matchup of MAC champs Northern Illinois, who sits at 9-4 on the season, and 10-2 Coastal Carolina, who somehow, despite only two losses, managed to miss out on a shot at even competing in the Sun Belt title game. I think there are going to be a lot of people who are expecting a shoot-out in this matchup, but I don’t think that’s the case. Northern Illinois has shown the ability to put up points, but for the most part they seem much more interested in staying in the 27-31 point range, and Coastal, while still having an explosive offense, hasn’t looked quite as good as they did last year.
If you recall, this was a Chanticleers team that went 10-0 in last year’s regular season, before falling to Liberty in OT in this same Cure Bowl. I think that experience with a successful year last year, as well as going back to Orlando for a second consecutive year, looking to get a bowl win, pushes them just over the edge against the Wolfpack here. However, with the line sitting at double-digits, I’m not completely confident in their ability to edge the 10.5 needed, and I think a much safer bet is to take the under here, as I think both defenses come out and play a bit better than expected. Instead of taking a bet on the spread, go the alternative route and lean into the under 63.5.
Noah’s College Football Pick: Under 62.5 (-110)
Saturday, December 18th
Western Kentucky vs Appalachian State – 11am ET
The runner up is the Conference USA and the runner up in the Sun Belt Conference will meet in this game after both teams lost their respective conference championship games by one possession. Western Kentucky finished the season at 8-5, while Appalachian State was 10-3 now they will play each other in the Roofclaim.com Boca Raton Bowl.
After a rough 1-4 start, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers came roaring back into bowl game contention, finishing the season 8-5. Unfortunately that fith loss came in the Conference USA Championship where they were lost to UTSA in a shootout. Western Kentucky was led by Conference USA MVP Brady Zappe who threw 56 TDs and over 5,500 yards. If people are looking for an offense that can impress through the air, this one should be on the TV come Saturday.
Meanwhile, Appalachian State is a bit more of a balanced offense. But, they have had more success on the ground thanks to the running back duo of Nate Noel and Camerun Peoples. Noel had over 1,000 years and Peeples scored 14 touchdowns, as these two both averaged over five rush yards per game. This one should have a lot of offense in it and even with the total being at a high 66.5, I think I like the over.
Michael’s College Football Pick: Over 66.5 (-110)
Western Kentucky just could not get past UTSA this season. They lost both games against them by a combined 14 points, and both games were absolutely shootouts that ended by 8 or less points. Following the initial loss to the Road Runners, Western Kentucky won seven straight games to put themselves back into the title picture for the Conference USA. It was a great finish to the year for a team that started their season 1-4 after some tough close losses to a couple of power 5 teams and Army. Now they will look to pick up another win over a tough Appalachian State team in this one.
The Appalachian State Mountaineers will always be a part of college football history after they upset a #3 ranked Michigan team when they were in the FCS back in 2007. However since moving to the FBS they have yet to seem to capture a huge moment like that, while still being pretty successful. This year’s team was no different as they finished 10-3 but still failed to claim the big moment, by winning a conference title. Now they will look to knock off Western Kentucky. I look for them to do exactly that as I have App State winning this hard fought game and finishing the year at 11-3.
Tony’s College Football Pick: App State (-142)
Despite App State coming into this one at 10-3 on the year, with two of the three losses coming to a ranked Louisiana team, I’m not sold on the Mountaineers quite yet. Their defense has played good ball for much of the season, as has the offense, but there’s just something about this team that makes me question whether it’s safe to take them in this game.
For Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers come in at 8-5, but the losses are all acceptable, as they’ve come against a good Army team, two Big Ten schools, and twice to a UTSA team that was undefeated coming into the last week of the season. This WKU passing attack is the real deal, led by QB Bailey Zappe, but the defense is extremely questionable. The fact that both of these schools have good offenses, even with App State having a good defense, makes me think the Over may be the safe play in this one. It does sit a touch high at 67.5, but I think this is a game that we see 73-75 hit, so the Over actually hits with ease.
Noah’s College Football Pick: Over 66.5 (-110)
UAB vs #13 BYU – 3:30pm ET
Since practically rising from the ashes UAB has been nearly dominant since returning to the football field after a couple years absence. After finishing the season at 8-4 they will get a chance to knock off a top 15 opponent. The BYU Cougars finished the year at 10-2 and ranked inside the top 15. Now they will get another chance to pick up win number 11 in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl.
The first ranked team to play this bowl season is the #13 BYU Cougars, who finished the season 10-2 with impressive wins over teams including the Pac-12 Champion Utah Utes. BYU’s offense was anchored by running back Tyler Allgeier who was quietly one of the best running backs in the NCAA with over 1400 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground. Allgeier’s ground game also helped open the air attack for quarterback Jaren Hall who had 20 touchdowns and a 64% completion rate.
BYU’s final opponent for the year will be the UAB Blazers. The Blazers finished 8-4, with two of their losses being against ranked opponents (Georgia and UTSA). But in the UTSA loss they only lost by three, so they’re fully capable of competing. BYU will be their second toughest opponent behind Georgia (who beat them by 49), but UAB has shown some improvements on offense since then. Still, I think BYU is a very good football team, deserving of their high ranking. Their only losses came against an (at the time) #6 Baylor, and the always competitive Boise State Broncos. I think they deserve to be in a more competitive game than this. I’ll pick them to cover.
Michael’s College Football Pick: BYU -6.5 (-110)
UAB put together a decent season, finishing 8-4 and behind UTSA in the Conference USA West division. Now they will get a chance to make it nine wins as they meet BYU in the Independence Bowl. They finished the regular season with a huge win over UTEP by a score of 42-25. Now they will be going for their second straight win to close out the year in this one. In only their fifth season back since shutting the program down they have made it to five bowl games and four conference championship games. However they have only won, one of those bowl games so far so history is not on their side.
What bowl week is all about!
— Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl (@IndyBowl) December 17, 2021
As for the BYU Cougars they put together a great season, finished at 10-2 and even beat the PAC-12 conference champions, Utah. After losing two in a row to Boise State and Big 12 champion Baylor, BYU would finish the season with a five game winning streak. Along with beating the Utah Utes, BYU would beat four other PAC-12 schools as a well. They come into this game with more than enough momentum. I look for the momentum, and the fact that they are the more talented team to be enough to carry them to a Independence Bowl win in this game over UAB.
Tony’s College Football Pick: BYU -6.5 (-110)
UAB is a pretty good mid-major, finishing the year at 8-4, with their only truly inexcusable loss coming in October to Rice. They’re decent on both sides of the ball, which does add a good element of balance to what it is they’re trying to do, but I’m not sure how much good that does against a BYU team that is quite simply better than they are.
BYU enters this one at number 13 in the country, with a 10-2 record, and the only losses being to a decent Boise State team and a Baylor team that just won the Big 12 title and is getting ready to play in the Sugar Bowl. The offense is extremely solid, scoring 50+ a few times, and consistently hovering in the upper 30’s in terms of points per game, while the defense isn’t quite as good, but is still a pretty solid unit. With the fact that head coach Kalani Sitake was rumored at one point for multiple jobs during this year’s wild coaching carousel before ultimately signing an extension to stay in Provo, I like this BYU team to come out excited not only to be bowling, but also knowing that their coach is around for years to come. Give me the Cougars here, with ease.
Noah’s College Football Pick: BYU (-260)
Utah State vs Oregon State – 7:30pm ET
The first annual Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl kicks off with a bang as Mountain West Championship winner Utah State meets the Oregon State Beavers. Utah State finished the season 10-3, while Oregon State finished 7-5 on the year. Now they will meet to determine the first Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl champion.
The Oregon State Beavers had a solid season, finishing 7-5 while sitting at third in the Pac-12 North. They even had a big win over eventual Pac-12 Champions the Utah Utes in October. A big part of this is thanks to running back B.J. Baylor, who had nearly 1,300 yards on the ground this season.
Oregon State will face the always competitive Utah State Aggies who finished 10-3 and won the Mountain West Championship over San Diego State. Their quarterback/wide receiver combo of Logan Bonner and Deven Thompkins was one of the most lethal in the conference. They’ll look to continue the momentum they had at the end of the season against this up-and-coming Beavers squad in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. I think Utah State is the go-to choice here despite going against a team from a better conference.
Michael’s College Football Pick: Utah State (+235)
The LA Bowl is one of the new bowl games to debut this season and for the first inaugural one we get the Mountain West champion against one of the better teams in the Pac 12 conference. Utah State comes into this game with a record of 10-3, as they finished the season with a huge win over San Diego State in the Mountain West Championship game. They won seven out of their last eight games to end the year, with their only loss in that span coming to Wyoming in blowout fashion. Now they will be looking to add to their trophy case this season with a win in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
The Oregon State Beavers were kind of a surprising team in the lacklustre PAC 12 this season. They finished the year 7-5, which was their best finish since the 2012 season where they finished 9-4 under Mike Riley. Now they will be looking to cap off their improvements this season with a huge bowl victory over a group of 5 conference champion. However I don’t expect that to happen as I look for Utah State to come out victorious in the LA Bowl.
Tony’s College Football Pick:Utah State (+235)
In the first annual Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, we get an intriguing matchup between two schools that could go either way. Utah State enters this one at 10-3, with it’s only bad loss coming in ugly fashion to Wyoming, and they have a huge win over a really good San Diego State team in the Mountain West title game to make them conference champions.
Oregon State comes in at 7-5, but they’re a team that plays better than their record in most games. Under head coach Jonathan Smith, we’ve consistently seen this program get better and better, and this might’ve been the year with the best all-around progress made. The only question I have with this Beavers team is the offense, as they do disappear at times. By and large the defense has played well for much of the year, but the offense remains the key. If they show up, OSU wins. If they don’t, the Beavs lose. I actually like Oregon State to pull off a bit of an upset here, as I think their defense slows down a good USU offense, and their own offense comes out and puts up 30+ in route to a huge bowl win for Smith’s program.
Noah’s College Football Pick: Oregon State (-300)
#23 Louisiana vs Marshall – 9:15pm ET
The nationally ranked Ragin’ Cajun will meet the Thundering Herd in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Both teams put together decent seasons as Louisiana won the Sun Belt and finished with a record of 12-1 on the year. While Marshall finished the season at 7-5 this season.
The Ragin’ Cajuns have been one of NCAA Football’s pleasant surprises this season. They were led by head coach Billy Napier—who has now left to go to the University of Florida. They’ll be without their head coach’s wisdom in this one but they still will have a balanced team that’s looking to add a cherry on top of a 12-1 season.
Louisiana’s competition will be the Marshall Thundering Herd, who finished 7-5 and second-place in Conference USA-East. Marshall will try to play upset here with their stellar running back Rasheen Ali who scored 20 touchdowns this season. Still, I think Louisiana is just the more complete team in this one. Even without their coach they are a more complete team than Marshall.
Michael’s College Football Pick: Louisiana -5 (-110)
Louisiana responded from their week 1 loss to the Texas Longhorns in a huge way. It would end up being their lone loss of the season as they would go on to win their next 11 games in the regular season. Then they would also go on to win the Sun Belt Conference Championship game over Appalachian State in a close hard fought game that ended with a score of 24-16. Now they will be looking to make it 13 straight wins and secure a top 25 finish to the season in this game against Marshall.
We are … going to New Orleans! 👀🦬🏈
— Marshall Football (@HerdFB) December 5, 2021
The Thundering Herd come into this game with a 7-5 record. They put together a decent season and finished with a winning record. Now they will be looking for win number eight to close out the year with a win after being blown out by Western Kentucky in their regular season finale. However I think Louisiana is going to pick up the victory over Marshall in this game, even without head coach Billy Napier who accepted the Florida job after the conference title game.
Tony’s College Football Pick: Louisiana -5 (-110)
How does Louisiana respond to losing head coach Billy Napier to Florida, as it’s been reported that Napier won’t be coaching the program in the New Orleans Bowl this season. Louisiana enters this one ranked in the top-25, as they sit at 11-1 on the year, with the sole loss coming to Texas on opening weekend. Outside of Cincinnati, they’ve arguably been the best Group of 5 team in the country this season, as they honestly haven’t been tested much throughout the regular season.
They face up against Marshall in this one, and it’s a Marshall team that’s hard to pin down. The Thundering Herd enter at 7-5 on the season, but four of those five losses come by a total of 18 points. They’ve been extremely close to having the potential to look up and have their record by 10-2 or 9-3, but they just haven’t been able to actually get wins in these close games. And I don’t think that changes in this one, as I think they lose another tight one. Despite losing their coach, this Ragin Cajun team just has more talent, and with it being a glorified home game for them, I think they managed to pull one out late. Take the Cajuns.
Noah’s College Football Pick: Louisiana -5 (-110)
*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.
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