College Football Bowl Picks, Part I (Dec. 20-Dec. 22)
[Joseph Lisi, the owner of college football site GoForThe2.com, will be supplying his picks for the 2014-2015 Bowl Season here on SportsGrid over the next couple weeks. You can follow Joe @GoForThe2]
As an avid college football fan, this is the most entertaining time of the year, with an unprecedented 39 games on tap for the start 2014-2015 college football bowl season. Teams from across the country will battle it out in cross-sectional match-ups that fans could only dream of. While the more intriguing games will not take place until after Christmas Day, the early slate of opening bowl games provide a kicker of what looks to be a great bowl lineup.
When breaking down bowl games, it is important to recognize coaching changes (head coach assistants taking other jobs), injuries (players that were not available at the end of the season-might be playing due to the long layoff), team tendencies and the weather in a particular bowl city (i.e. Boise, ID).
The college game is different than breaking down the NFL because of the age of the players. Certain teams and programs respond differently to adversity during a particular season due to the recruiting depth on their team (i.e Ohio State). Rivalries or the fact that a respective program has made it to a bowl game can have an unexpected outcome on the final score.
With all that said, college football is the best game in town and with the inaugural four-team playoff taking place on New year's Day 2015, this should be a bowl season to remember.
On to my selections for the first six bowl games starting on Saturday December 20th, 2014.
Saturday Dec. 20th 11:00 am ESPN
R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL: Nevada +1 over Louisiana Lafayette
Reason: Nevada has faced 7 bowl teams on their schedule this season-Arizona, Boise State, Colorado State, BYU , San Diego State, Air Force and Fresno State. The Wolfpack are very balanced offensively averaging 197 passing yards per game and rushing for 215 yards per game. Quarterback Cody Fajardo is a dual threat signal caller that has thrown for 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season. On the ground, Fajardo leads the team with 997 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Wolfpack offensive line has done a fantastic job in protecting Fajardo giving up 16 sacks through 12 games this season. While Louisiana-Lafayette has won the last 3 New Orleans Bowls by an average margin of victory of 4 points per game, look for Nevada to strike the upset. The Wolfpack have a very opportunisitic defense that is +11 in turnover margin (+10 in turnover margin on the road) on the year.
Saturday Dec. 20th 2:20 pm ESPN
GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL: Utah State -10 over UTEP
Reason: Utah State is ranked 4th in the nation with 47 sacks on the season. The Aggies are solid in run support allowing 129 rushing yards per game and have been very opportunistic in turnover margin this year with a +10 ratio. Over their last 9 games of the season, the Aggies were 7-2 with victories over BYU and Air Force during that stretch. Wide receiver Hunter Sharp is a big play threat for the Aggies offense and has recorded 918 receiving yards with 7 touchdowns this year. The strenght of the UTEP offense is to rush the football and the Miners hold the 34th best rushingn attack in the nation (averaging 212 yards per game). However, the Miners 7 victories on the season have come against opponents with a combined record of 29-55. Look for Utah State to stifle UTEP's rushing attack and pull out the victroy in the New Mexico Bowl.
Saturday Dec. 20th 3:30 pm ABC Sports
ROYAL PURPLE LAS VEGAS BOWL: Colorado State + 3 over Utah (Best Bet)
Reason: Colorado State is averaging 497 total yards per game and has a dynamic trio of offensive talent in QB Garrett Grayson, RB Dee Hart and WR Rashard Higgins. Grayson has 32 touchdown passes on the year and has thrown for 3,779 yards. Hart (the former running back at Alabama) has racked up 1,254 rushing yards on the season along with 16 touchdowns on the ground. However, the Rams most explosive player could be Higgins, who has emerged as the team's big play threat. Higgins has been recently named as an All-American and has 1,640 receiving yards with 17 touchdowns on the year. While Utah has the most sacks in the nation with 52 sacks, the Utes have struggled with speed teams such as USC, Arizona and Oregon. The Utes have been mediocre in the secondary allowing 245 passing yards per game. Look for Grayson and Higgins to connect over the top of the defense as the Rams strike the upset in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Saturday Dec. 20th 5:45pm ESPN
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL: Air Force -1.5 over Western Michigan
Reason: The Falcons are very difficult to prepare for with the 8th best rushing offense in the country averaging 272 rushing yards per game. Air Force has compiled an overall record of 9-3 in the Mountain West Conference and dominated Boise State earlier this season knocking off the Broncos 28-14 at home. Western Michigan is at a significant speed disadvantage in this game on the defensive side of the football and has not faced an option attack all season. The Broncos are allowing 142 rushing yards per game and must play discplined football in order to get the victory. Look for Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette (764 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns) to get behind the Broncos secondary on play action passes and have a big afternoon on the Broncos secondary.
Saturday Dec. 20th 9:15 pm ESPN
RAYCOM MEDIA CAMELLIA BOWL: South Alabama -3 over Bowling Green (Best Bet)
Reason: The game will be played in Montgomery, Alabama and expect a huge turnover for the "away" team. The Jaguars played Mississippi State, South Carolina and Navy on their schedule losing all three games and still finishing their season with a 6-6 overall record. South Alabama has a solid offensive line that is averaging 182 rushing yards per game (48th in the country) and has shown the ability to move the football on "bigger" defenses. Look for senior running back Kendall Houston (652 rushing yards) to carry the rock often to wear down the Falcons defensive front. Defensively, the Jaguars have a solid secondary yielding 199 passing yards per game and have recorded 25 sacks on the year.
Monday December 22nd 2:00pm ESPN
MIAMI BEACH BOWL: Memphis -1.5 over BYU
Reason: BYU is not the same team since quarterback Taysom Hill went down with a broken leg earlier in the year against Utah State. BYU's QB Christian Stewart is not the same dual threat quarterback as Hill, but has put up solid stats throwing for 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions this year. A main concern for BYU is their offensive line that has given up 34 sacks this season and will be facing a solid Memphis front seven. On the year, Memphis has the 5th best scoring defense in the nation yielding 17.1 points per game. The Tigers are very solid in run support allowing 125 rushing yards per game and will look to force Stewart to throw over the top of their defense. Memphis is very balanced offensively averaging 230 passing yards per game and rushing for 191 yards per game. Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has completed 64% of his passes with 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Look for Lynch and the Tigers to exploit a BYU defense that is allowing 266 passing yards per game this year.
Joseph Lisi, a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. Joe is currently the content editor at www.2FiveSports.com and contributes to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com. He has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson (www.sportsxradio.com). Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network (Razzball Radio) and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter @Goforthe2. Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: THE NCAA WEEKLY BLITZ.
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