Welcome back for Part 2 of the Bowl picks. This article covers the remaining four Saturday, December 21st games. Part 1 covered both Friday games and the two early Saturday games.
The Boca Raton Bowl
SMU (10-2) vs FAU (9-3)
The SMU Mustangs are coming off a tremendous season. They’ve got a very high-powered offense and they’re limiting their offensive turnovers to just 1.3 per game. The Mustangs average 43 points per game (6th in the country).
It’s pretty amazing to see the numbers this offense puts up as their average total yardage is 495 yards per game. However, the SMU defense is terrible. They average 1.7 turnovers per game, but those numbers are skewed due to the positive game scripts they typically find themselves in.
Over the past four games against Memphis, East Carolina, Navy, and Tulane, the Mustangs are averaging 40 points against on defense and the team has gone 2-2 in that span. Texas transfer Shane Buechele leads the offense with 33 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions on the year.
The FAU Owls recently lost their Head coach, Lane Kiffin, to the vacancy at Ole Miss. Fortunately for the Owls, the team has been on fire over the past six games (6-0) and are fresh off a dominating performance in the C-USA Championship game (49-6 victory over UAB).
The team has two quality losses against Ohio State and UCF and feature an offense ranked 16th in the nation in scoring at 35 PPG. The Owls are an opportunistic defense, averaging 2.4 takeaways per game. Conversely, the offense protects the ball well by averaging just .8 turnovers per game. Quarterback Chris Robison has shown dramatic improvement since his rocky freshman season (12 TD & 12 INT). He has 26 TDs to just 6 INTs this season.
Both these teams feature high-powered offenses and offer little resistance on the defensive side of the ball, but one team is playing much better defense of late and has shown to be much more opportunistic on the defensive side of the ball.
I think this game will be a shootout, but I like the Owls to force more turnovers and pull away in this one. I think the Owls will win outright in what will essentially be a home game for them.
Pick: FAU +3.5
The Camellia Bowl
FIU (6-6) vs Arkansas State (7-5)
FIU is just 2-3 over their past five games, but they did beat Miami (the Florida one!) in that stretch so that’s cool, right? The Victory essentially earned them a signature win and helped them secure a bowl berth.
FIU isn’t particularly great at anything. They have a big of an issue with fumbles (.8 per game) but they’ve only thrown four interceptions on the season, so at least they’re not compounding their turnovers. The big issue with this team is their rushing defense. They average 205 rushing yards allowed per game. It’s an insane number when you really think about it. It’s even more insane when you consider they aren’t in a conference with the likes of Navy or Army or any other triple-option offense.
Arkansas State has a negative turnover margin. In bowls, that always scares me. It’s also alarming the Red Wolves were beaten by a 2-10 South Alabama team to end the season. The team’s first quarterback was injured just four games into the season following a hot start (10 TD & 1 INT).
Backup Layne Hatcher has filled in adequately; going for 23 TDs and 9 INTs but averaging a whopping 9.9 YPA. This team loves to take shots and risks in games. Remember how I said FIU is awful on run defense? Arkansas State is even worse at 224 YPG. Though the team has won four out of their last five, they certainly have a bad taste in their mouths with how the season ended.
Arkansas State is a team that will make games interesting. They like to take chances and play dangerously. I think that’s going to bite them in the butt in this game. FIU averages nearly one interception per game on defense. I think they’ll get a few here and I love how FIU controls the ball on offense and doesn’t take too many risks.
They are only going to need a decent effort on the ground to be able to exploit this poor rush defense from Arkansas State. I like FIU to pull the upset here.
Pick: FIU +2.5
The Las Vegas Bowl
#19 Boise State (12-1) vs Washington (7-5)
The Broncos of Boise State are back in the national spotlight again. The big question going into the game will be whether or not Hank Bachmeier plays. The quarterback is dealing with a shoulder injury and is questionable for Saturday’s game still. In his stead, Jaylon Henderson is a decent replacement.
Though he isn’t as daring a passer (7.8 YPA to Bachmeier’s 9.2), he protects the ball (11 TDs & 2 INTs) and offers more upside rushing the ball. The X-factor for Boise is their deep threat receiver, John Hightower. Hightower is averaging 19.2 Yards Per Reception (YPR) on the season and has a team-high 8 receiving touchdowns.
George Holani leads the rushing attack this season with 979 yards on 5.4 YPC. The Broncos feasted on a weak schedule this season (95th ranked SOS). The Broncos are solid on both sides of the ball (14th ranked scoring offense & 24th on defensive PPG), but not particularly stout as far as yardage surrendered.
The Washington Huskies are coached by Boise State’s old coach, so one could make a case that one of these teams should have a leg up on the opponent but come on, it’s not like these coaches do the same thing every year. Jacob Eason leads the Huskies offense with 22 TDs and 8 INTs on the season, while Salvon Ahmed leads the rushing attack with 1,000 yards rushing (5.5 YPC) and 9 TDs on the year.
The Huskies are +5 on turnover differential on the season, averaging 1.6 takeaways per game. The Husky defense only averages one passing touchdown per game but is beatable on the ground (133 YPG).
If Hank Bachmeier plays, I think the Broncos will have a strong chance at winning, but with Henderson in, I’m not sure the Broncos will be able to challenge or stretch the Husky defense. I like the Huskies here to roll to a close victory and cover in what should be a high-quality bowl game.
Pick: Washington -3
The New Orleans Bowl
#20 Appalachian State (12-1) vs UAB (9-4)
Appalachian State has had an amazing season, though they haven’t exactly been challenged. They likely won’t be in their bowl game either. Aside from the setback against Georgia Southern and their triple-option offense, App St. has been killing teams, more or less. Nationally, they’re 9th on offense and 22nd on defense.
They’re also a very disciplined team, averaging just .7 turnovers per game and 1.6 takeaways per game. The Mountaineers are led by quarterback, Zac Thomas and his 26 TDs and just 6 INTs. Running back Darrynton Evans averages 5.6 YPC and has over 1,500 scrimmage yards and a whopping 22 touchdowns.
UAB has the 129th ranked Strength of Schedule (SOS) in the nation. That should be red flag number one. The second big issue with them is their turnovers. The team has a negative turnover margin, averaging .4 more giveaways per game than takeaways. Problem number three is their quarterback situation.
Quarterback Tyler Johnston is nursing a knee injury and his backup, Dylan Hopkins, has 3 TDs and 5 INTs in interim action this season. Johnson himself had just 15 TDs to 14 INTs but at least he wasn’t in the negative. The good thing about the Blazers is that they don’t allow a lot of yards either passing or rushing on defense. On defense, the team averages just under 300 yards allowed.
UAB has a lot of issues heading into the game here and Appalachian State has very few. One team is especially good on turnover differential while the other isn’t. One team can kill you in the air and on the ground and the other really only does damage on the ground.
All the arrows here point to Appalachian State and it’s difficult to find much about UAB here to like. I think Appalachian State will win by at least three touchdowns and easily cover.
Pick: Appalachian State -16.5