MUSIC CITY BOWL – Nashville, TN
3:30 / ESPN : #24 Nebraska (6-4-2,9-3) vs. 33 Tennessee (5-7,8-4) – Tennessee -10, 59
Nebraska can get to 10 wins with a victory in Nashville but where are the quality wins on this resume? @Northwestern? @Indiana? Minnesota at home? The running game has been lackluster with Newby and Ozigbo (3.8ypc), while both QB’s have hovered around 50% completions for the season. Needless to say, this is one of the least explosive offenses in the nation (#107). Tommy turnover will be out for this one (possibility to play in an emergency) so it will be up to fellow SR, Ryker Fife, to get this passing game going. Nebraska does have four receivers averaging over 14 yards per catch in Westerkamp, Morgan, Reilly, and Moore (Westerkamp out in this game). They should allow Fyfe some time to operate, as they have only allowed 11 sacks on the year (#5 in nation in adjusted sack rate).
Tennessee came into the season as one of the most hyped teams in the nation and early wins over Virginia Tech, Florida, and @Georgia only built on the title talk. Three consecutive losses @A&M, Bama, and @South Carolina, along with the departure of Jalen Hurd sent the program into a tailspin. With all the midseason turmoil, the Vols seem to have found some answers on the offensive side of the ball with a 3-headed monster in the rushing attack with Alvin Kamara, John Kelly and Dobbs all averaging over 6 yards a carry in the last four. Dobbs actually ended up with 900+ rushing yards and 9 scores to go along with his 26 TD passes. Kamara has also been a dynamic threat out of the backfield in the passing game to go along with two massive receivers on the outside, Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings. The size of these two could give Nebraksa some issues on the outside. However…
Tennessee’s defense has regressed significantly this season, allowing over 35 pts each to Kentucky, Missouri, and @Vandy (3 teams not known for offense no less). The only real threat on this defense is Derek Barnett at the DE position but Nebraska should be able to keep Fyfe clean and move the ball regularly throughout. The other factor here is some key guys for Nebraska who will be out in this one in Armstrong, Westerkamp (torn meniscus), and #2 tackler S Nate Gerry (Academics). The Husker defense has been surprisingly solid but their SR leader at safety being out will be a huge loss and the Vols should be able to put points on the board. I think this turns into somewhat of a shootout. Take the points and the over.
BET : Nebraska +10, Over 59
ARIZONA BOWL – Tucson, AZ
5:30 / Campus Insiders : South Alabama (3-9,6-6) vs. 31 Air Force (6-6,9-3) – AFA -14, 55
South Alabama has had a very interesting season with wins over the two best teams on their schedule @Mississippi St and against San Diego St at home but also losses at three of the worst teams on their schedule @UL Lafayette, @UL Monroe, and @Idaho. The South Alabama passing game has been pathetic this season but SR TE Gerald Everett is one of the best in the nation and will be one of the top drafted in April. The running game is solid but Air Force has completely shut down better running games this year, namely Navy and Boise St. In fact, Air Force ranks #8 in S&P+ rushing defense, so it will be very tough for South Alabama to get the ground game going here.
Speaking of Air Force, they’ve been able to navigate a schedule that included ever style of football you can think of and they have handled it extremely well, coming away with 9 wins. They shut down Navy to only 57 rushing yards, dominated a solid Army team on the road, won a shootout with a very hot Colorado St team, and finished with a very impressive win over Boise. The Air Force option attack has been particularly strong this season but it has been the big plays in the passing game that have been the big surprise this year. Air Force has 7 guys averaging over 17 ypc but only one receiver with more than 10 catches on the season, big 6’4” WR Jalen Robinette. While South Alabama has been gashed on the ground this season, they have actually been fairly strong in the back end with a disruptive set of DB’s. Shut down the big plays in the passing game and you can key in on the option attack, especially with a month to prepare.
Air Force is coming off a huge season but this could be a monstrous season for Joey Jones at South Alabama if they can pull off the first bowl win in school history. Air Force QB, Nate Romine, is very questionable for this one with an ankle and they may have to turn to SO Arion Worthman, who has actually been an awesome running threat this season with over 600 yards and 6 scores. The month off to prepare for this option attack, along with the strength of the South Alabama secondary is too much of an advantage, especially when getting a two TD head start. Take the points, as bowl teams favored by 7+ are 2-11 ATS this year.
BET : South Alabama +14
ORANGE BOWL – Miami, FL
8:00 / ESPN : #6 Michigan (7-5,10-2) vs. #10 Florida St. (7-5,9-3) – Michigan -7, 51
Here we go!! We’ve finally made it to the big time matchups of the bowl season. Michigan is coming into this one after a disappointing 1-2 finish, following a dominating 9-0 start, while FSU was feeling extremely down and out after the beatdown at the hands of Louisville and a tight loss to UNC two games later. The Florida St running game has been one of the best in the nation obviously with Dalvin Cook going for over 1,600 yards and 18 scores on 6 ypc. FSU has also been explosive in the passing game with Francois hitting numerous deep balls to Rudolph, Wilson, Whitfield and Tate. The major issue has been the ability to protect Francois, as they’ve allowed 32 sacks and several monster hits on Francois but he has shown that he will stand tall and deliver the ball down the field under heavy pressure.
Michigan has pounded the rock with the best of them this year, with 4 guys going for over 400 yards on the season. The difference with this year’s team has been Wilton Speight and the passing game. He’s been extremely efficient, throwing 63% with only 6 INT’s and the O-Line has allowed him room to operate with only 16 sacks on the season. Amara Darboh and Jake Butt have been the main threats in the passing game but this is really a running and play action, ball control type of team and will try to do so in this one, as well.
The defenses will be dominant in this game, as both front 7’s should be able to slow the running games and force unfavorable down and distances. Michigan comes into this game with 112.5 tfl and 46 sacks, while FSU is no slouch with 78 tfl and 46 sacks. Both defensive lines are dominant and should be in the backfield all night. FSU has possible the #1 DE in the draft in DeMarcus Walker (16 tfl, 15.5 sacks), paired with Josh Sweat (10tfl, 5.5sks), and FR Brian Burns (9.5tfl, 8.5sks). Michigan also has the nation’s #1 pass defense but those numbers are greatly boosted by the incredible defensive line combined with never really facing a strong passing attack all season. This is going to be an extremely close, defensive battle and points will be hard to come by all game. One major factor and possible difference maker could be the banged up secondary for the Noles. They will be without their best playmaker on this defense, Derwin James, who has been out all season since Game #2 with a torn meniscus, along with fellow safeties, Nate Andrews (torn pec) and Ermon Lane (broken foot). FSU will really only have 3 healthy safeties, who were all backups to start the season. Michigan will hit at least one bomb, which could turn out to be the game. However, with two very strong defenses and Florida State’s balance on offense, I will gladly take close to a touchdown.
BET : Florida St +7