College Football Bowl Games Preview, TV Schedule — December 24-January 2
The second week of bowl season boasts some intriguing matchups that will make for great watching before we get to the playoffs. Here’s the schedule for this week’s bowl games. (All times Eastern.)
*Note: we will have separate in-depth previews of the Big Six bowl games—including the playoff semifinals—coming next week.
Dec. 24 at 8:00 PM (ESPN)
Hawai’i (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-4)
Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill is expected to return after missing three games with a shoulder injury. The redshirt sophomore has thrown for over 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns in nine games, and his return will bolster an already potent Blue Raider offense that averages 40.1 yards per game. That could spell trouble for a Hawai’i defense that ranks 115th nationally in scoring.
St. Petersburg Bowl
Dec. 26 at 11:00 AM (ESPN)
Miami, OH (6-6) vs. Mississippi State (5-7)
After an 0-6 start to the season, Miami rebounded to win six straight. They’ll look to continue their hot streak against a Bulldog squad that only got in to a bowl because there weren’t enough teams with .500+ records to fill the spot. But Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is still an SEC talent who ranks 20th nationally in total offense and could pose a good test for a tough RedHawk defense that has given up less than 355 yards per game.
Quick Lane Bowl
Dec. 26 at 2:30 PM (ESPN)
Maryland (6-6) vs. Boston College (6-6)
Maryland running back Ty Johnson only has 95 carries on the season but has made the most of them, averaging 8.9 yards per carry (the best average among players with at least 70 carries since 1953). However, he’ll face a tough test against a Golden Eagle defense that ranks ranks eighth nationally in both rushing and total defense.
Camping World Independence Bowl
Dec. 26 at 5:00 PM (ESPN2)
North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
Both teams give up fewer than 24 points per game, so points could be at a premium in this one. After a hot start, the Wolfpack stumbles into this game after losing five of its last seven. Vandy, meanwhile, upset No. 17 Tennessee in the season finale to get into a bowl game. The key matchup in this one will be Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb (1,100+ yards) against the ACC’s best rush defense.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Dec. 27 at 12:00 PM (ESPN)
Army (7-5) vs. North Texas (5-7)
Army is making its first bowl appearance since 2010 and has a good chance against a Mean Green unit that lost four of its last five games by an average of over 25 points per game. The Golden Knights rank second nationally in rushing and will face a North Texas rush defense ranked 105th against the run.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Dec. 27 at 3:30 PM (ESPN)
No. 24 Temple (10-3) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)
Wake Forest ranks 125th nationally in total offense (306.8 yards per game) and should struggle to move on a Temple unit that ranks third in total defense. But Temple is merely average on offense, so look for this to be a low-scoring affair. A win would give the Demon Deacons their first winning season since 2008 while Temple is seeking the first 11-win season in team history.
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
Dec. 27 at 10:15 PM (ESPN)
Boise State (10-2) vs. Baylor (6-6)
This game could come down to a question of motivation as both teams limp in off of disappointing seasons. Baylor lost six straight games to close the season, quarterback Seth Russell is out with an injury and leading rusher Shock Linwood is skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft. Boise State, meanwhile, had legitimate New Year’s Six bowl game hopes before ending the season with an upset loss at Air Force. Bronco running back Jeremy McNichols is the nation’s fifth-leading rusher and faces a Baylor defense giving up more than 210 yards per game on the ground (96th nationally).
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Dec. 28 at 2:00 PM (ESPN)
No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
It will be a clash of styles as Pitt’s high-scoring offense takes on one of the Big Ten’s best defenses. Pitt running back James Conner should be able to post big numbers in his final collegiate game. But he’ll likely have to as the Panthers rank 109th in total defense. The last two Pinstripe Bowls have gone to overtime, and this could be another exciting finish.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Dec. 28 at 5:30 PM (ESPN)
No. 16 West Virginia (10-2) vs. Miami (8-4)
Miami rushed for 701 yards and seven scores in a season-ending four-game winning streak and will go against a Mountaineer defense that surrendered 920 yards and seven touchdowns in that same span. So with West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas having more interceptions (eight) than Miami quarterback Bard Kaaya has thrown (seven), look for Miami to pound the ball. However, they’ll have to be effective to outscore a West Virginia offense that averages nearly 507 yards and 33 points per game.
Foster Farms Bowl
Dec. 28 at 8:30 PM (Fox)
Indiana (6-6) vs. No. 19 Utah (8-4)
In his last five games, Utah defensive end Hunter Dimick has had 23 tackles and 9.5 sacks. He could be in for a big day against an Indiana offense that has given up 26 sacks this year and was held under 270 total yards in both of its final two games. Indiana is just 3-7 all-time in bowl games and has not won since the 1991 Copper Bowl. Utah, meanwhile, has won 12 of its last 13 bowl games.
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl
Dec. 28 at 9:00 PM (ESPN)
Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Kansas State (8-4)
Kansas State won five of its last six, thanks to a rushing offense that ranks 25th nationally. However, Kansas State does not have a win over anyone with a winning record, so that eight win record might be exaggerating things just a bit. While Texas A&M isn’t a powerhouse, they’re certainly better than anybody else the Wildcats have beaten this year and should have success against a K-State squad that struggles to move the ball (83rd nationally in total offense). A&M lost three of its last four coming in, but quarterback Trevor Knight should be able to play in his final collegiate game after suffering a shoulder injury against LSU.
Dec. 29 at 2:00 PM (ESPN)
South Florida (10-2) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
Remember the name Quinton Flowers. The South Florida quarterback should show up in many 2017 Heisman watch lists after racking up nearly 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns this season. He could be in for a breakout game against a Gamecock defense that ranks 87th nationally against the run.
Dec. 29 at 5:30 PM (ESPN)
Arkansas (7-5) vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech (9-4)
The key in this one will be Virginia Tech’s run defense: Arkansas is 6-0 this year when rushing for 180+ yards and the Hokies have allowed at least that much in five of their last six games. However, Virginia Tech averages 35 points per game, so look for this to be a fairly high-scoring and entertaining ballgame.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Dec. 29 at 9:00 PM (ESPN)
No. 12 Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. No. 10 Colorado (10-3)
Colorado was the nation’s biggest surprise this year, going from worst-to-first in the Pac-12 South and earning its first bowl bid since 2007 thanks to a stout defense. The key matchup will be the Buffs’ secondary (third nationally in pass efficiency defense) against OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph and the nation’s eighth-ranked passing attack.
Autozone Liberty Bowl
Dec. 30 at 12:00 PM (ESPN)
Georgia (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)
TCU has given up 859 rushing yards and six touchdowns in its last three games, which bodes well for the Bulldog backfield of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. TCU quarterback Kenny Hill has shown flashes of the play that made him a Heisman candidate at A&M a couple years ago and Georgia has the second-worst red-zone defense in the nation. The Horned Frogs will have to capitalize on scoring opportunities that present themselves.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Dec. 30 at 2:00 PM (CBS)
No. 18 Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4)
The big storyline is what we won’t see in this one as Stanford’s record-setting running back Christian McCaffrey has announced he wants to avoid injury and prepare for the NFL draft, so he will not suit up. However, his backup Bryce Love has averaged over seven yards per carry and could shine against a Tarheel defense that ranks 113th nationally in rush defense. On the other side, however, UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky has garnered a lot of NFL draft buzz and will be looking for a showcase game.
Franklin American Mortgage City Music Bowl
Dec. 30 at 3:30 PM (ESPN)
Nebraska (9-3) vs. No. 21 Tennessee (8-4)
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong is not practicing after a hamstring injury and, as of press time, coach Mike Riley has still not indicated if he will be able to go. So expect a healthy dose of running back Terrell Newby and a Cornhusker rushing attack against a Tennessee defense that ranks 111th nationally against the run. On the other side of the ball, the Vols will go as far as quarterback Joshua Dobbs—the team’s leading passer and rusher—will take them. The senior has racked up nearly 1,200 total yards and 12 touchdowns in his last three games.
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Dec. 30 at 5:30 PM (ASN)
South Alabama (6-6) vs. Air Force (9-3)
Air Force has won five straight—including a season-ending upset of Boise State—and is playing for just its second ten-win season since 1998. The Falcons rank fourth nationally in rushing and should have a big day against a South Alabama defense giving up 4.9 yards per carry.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Dec. 31 at 11:00 AM (ABC)
No. 20 LSU (7-4) vs. No. 13 Louisville (9-3)
Heisman winner Lamar Jackson will have the chance to get rid of the bad taste of two straight losses to end the regular season. But he’ll have to do so against a stifling LSU squad that ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense. And that defense will need a strong performance as the Tiger offense will be without star running back Leonard Fournette, who is opting to sit out the game to avoid injury in preparation for the NFL draft.
Dec. 31 at 11:00 AM (ESPN)
Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
If you like strong running games, you’ll enjoy this as two of the nation’s better rushing offenses square off. The two teams average almost 500 rushing yards per game between them and neither defense is great, so this could turn into a shootout decided by who can make one or two big pass plays.
Jan. 2 at 1:00 PM (ABC)
No. 17 Florida (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4)
Florida was riding high after clinching the SEC East, but is coming into this game after back-to-back blowout losses by Florida State and Alabama. Iowa, meanwhile, is coming in with the momentum of a three-game winning streak that included an upset of No. 6 Michigan. Look for a low-scoring affair as two of the nation’s better defenses square off.