Bowl Game Preview - December 20 & 21

Game 1: Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, Nassau Bahamas

Buffalo (7-5) vs. Charlotte (7-5)
Vegas: Buffalo -6.5, o/u 57.5
ESPN FPI: Buffalo 63.3% chance to win

Buffalo Bulls, Head Coach: Lance Leipold (30-32 all time)

Rushing Offense: 254.3 YDS/G, 5.0 YPC
Passing Offense: 143.2 YDS/G, 6.6 YPA
Rushing Defense: 95.3 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 197.8 YDS/G

Charlotte 49ers, Head Coach: Will Healy (20-26 all time)

Rushing Offense: 210.4 YDS/G, 5.1 YPC
Passing Offense: 212.6 YDS/G, 8.6 YPA
Rushing Defense: 190.8 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 216.6 YDS/G

Prediction: This game features two teams that make their living running the ball. I expect Buffalo to move the ball effectively on the ground but struggle in the pass game due to the disruptive senior defensive end Alex Highsmith playing his final game at Charlotte. The 49ers offense will struggle to run the ball against a Buffalo defense that has only allowed 95.8 yards per game on the ground this season, but first-year head coach Will Healy will mix in enough creativity to the pass game to help them keep this one tight. The deciding factor in this game will be the fact that the boys travelling down from dreary Buffalo will be enjoying the Bahamas a little more than a Charlotte team that is used to the nice weather. The 49ers will pull the first upset of bowl season in a tight one: Charlotte 27, Buffalo 24

Game 2: Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl, Frisco, TX

Utah State (7-5) vs. Kent State (6-6)
Vegas: USU -7, o/u 65
ESPN FPI: Utah State 64.6% chance to win

Utah State Aggies, Head Coach: Gary Andersen (33-29 all time)

Rushing Offense: 149.2 YDS/G, 4.3 YPC
Passing Offense: 275.9 YDS/G, 7.1 YPA
Rushing Defense: 197.8 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 233.7 YDS/G

Kent State Golden Flashes, Head Coach: Sean Lewis (8-16 all time)

Rushing Offense: 181.3 YDS/G, 4.4 YPC
Passing Offense: 212.3 YDS/G, 7.8 YPA
Rushing Defense: 248.6 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 221.4 YDS/G

Prediction: This as much of an open-and-shut case as you’ll see this entire bowl season. The Aggies of Utah State can air it out, passing for 275.9 yards per game this year, and this Kent State defense just flat out stinks. Kent State will find their way to score a little bit in this game, but they won’t be able to keep up with the Aggies offense. Utah State 48, Kent State 27

Game 3: Celebration Bowl, Atlanta, GA

Alcorn State (9-3) vs. North Carolina A&T (8-3)
Vegas: NCAT -1.5

Alcorn State Braves, Head Coach: Fred McNair (30-18 all time)

Total Points per Game: 32.8
Rushing 1st downs: 102
Passing 1st downs: 128

North Carolina A&T Aggies, Head Coach: Sam Washington (18-5 all time)

Total Points per Game: 34.6
Rushing 1st downs: 107
Passing 1st downs: 91

Prediction: There aren’t a lot of stats on these two teams so I’ll focus my attention on the coaches and team names. First off, NC A&T gets a huge bump for being called the Aggies. That is just an elite name and one that is far more common in college football than you might expect. Alcorn State Braves just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Point NC A&T. The one huge advantage Alcorn State does have is that their head coach is Fred McNair, the brother of the late great Steve McNair. Unfortunately for Fred, he has to square off against THE Sam Washington and his 18-5 career record as the head coach of North Carolina A&T. The Aggies win a close one: North Carolina A&T 35, Alcorn State 31

Game 4: New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, NM

Central Michigan (8-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3)
Vegas: SDSU -3.5, o/u 41
ESPN FPI: San Diego State 63.2% chance to win

Central Michigan Chippewas, Head Coach: Jim McElwain (52-32 all time*)

*McElwain also fucked a shark while at Florida

Rushing Offense: 186.7 YDS/G, 4.9 YPC
Passing Offense: 258.9 YDS/G, 7.6 YPA
Rushing Defense: 115.1 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 236.4 YDS/G

San Diego State Aztecs, Head Coach: Rocky Long (80-38 as SDSU HC)

Rushing Offense: 133.4 YDS/G, 3.3 YPC
Passing Offense: 195.6 YDS/G, 6.4 YPA
Rushing Defense: 72.3 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 216.3 YDS/G

Prediction: San Diego State just plays absolutely disgusting games. They average only 329 yards of total offense per game while holding opposing offenses to 288. They aim to suck all the points out of every game they play in. On the other side of this game, Central Michigan averages 445 yards per game of total offense while only allowing 351. The outlier in this whole thing seems to be the Chippewas offense, but I think this Aztecs defense can do enough to neutralize them in this one to win a repulsive game: San Diego State 17, Central Michigan 14

Game 5: Cure Bowl, Orlando, FL

Liberty (7-5) vs. Georgia Southern (7-5)
Vegas: GASO -6, o/u 57.5
ESPN FPI: Georgia State 60.8% chance to win

Liberty Flames, Head Coach: Hugh Freeze (49-37 all time)

Rushing Offense: 152.0 YDS/G, 4.6 YPC
Passing Offense: 290.5 YDS/G, 8.4 YPA
Rushing Defense: 192.7 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 229.8 YDS/G

Georgia Southern Eagles, Head Coach: Chad Lunsford (19-12 all time)

Rushing Offense: 260.9 YDS/G, 5.0 YPC
Passing Offense: 72.8 YDS/G, 6.4 YPA
Rushing Defense: 136.7 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 240.6 YDS/G

Common Opponents:

Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns:

  • Liberty: 35-14 Loss at ULL
  • Georgia Southern: 37-24 Loss at Home

New Mexico State Aggies:

  • Liberty: 20-13 Win at NMSU, 49-28 Win at Home
  • Georgia Southern: 41-7 Win at Home

Prediction: There’s a lot to break down here between these two teams. They have two common opponents this year and Georgia Southern had the slight edge in both, although it wasn’t anything definitive. Then there’s the head coaching matchup. Hugh Freeze is a name we all know, but that doesn’t mean he’s good, while Chad Lunsford is a no-name guy who has only ever coached Georgia Southern. I think that part of this is a wash. This game comes down to two simple statistics: Georgia Southern averages 260.9 rushing yards per game (8th in FBS). Liberty allows 192.7 rushing yards per game. The Eagles are going to run the ball. The Flames can’t stop the run. That’s all we really need to know: Georgia Southern 38, Liberty 24

Game 6: Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, FL

SMU (10-2) vs. Florida Atlantic (10-3)
Vegas: SMU -3.5, o/u 72
ESPN FPI: Florida Atlantic 53.2% chance to win

SMU Mustangs, Head Coach: Sonny Dykes (56-55 all time)

Rushing Offense: 185.9 YDS/G, 4.5 YPC
Passing Offense: 309.3 YDS/G, 8.2 YPA
Rushing Defense: 153.8 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 284.9 YDS/G

Florida Atlantic Owls, Head Coach: Interim HC Glenn Spencer

Rushing Offense: 164.3 YDS/G, 4.2 YPC
Passing Offense: 278.7 YDS/G, 7.8 YPA
Rushing Defense: 136.7 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 233.6 YDS/G

Prediction: The storyline heading into this game will be the departure of FAU head coach Lane Kiffin, who took the head coaching job at Ole Miss. Interim coach Glenn Spencer will step in to coach this game for the Owls, who come in as a 3.5 point underdog despite having the slight edge in FPI. Both teams’ offensive strength is their passing attack. Both teams’ defensive weakness is their ability to stop the pass. This game will be an aerial attack and could go either way in the end, but I’m going to give the edge to the guys who are playing with a chip on their shoulder: FAU 56, SMU 49

Game 7: Camellia Bowl, Montgomery AL

Florida International (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)
Vegas: ARST -3, o/u 63
ESPN FPI: Arkansas State 56.7% chance to win

Florida International Panthers, Head Coach: Butch Davis (86-58 all time)

Rushing Offense: 168.0 YDS/G, 4.5 YPC
Passing Offense: 203.5 YDS/G, 7.0 YPA
Rushing Defense: 201.3 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 178.5 YDS/G

Arkansas State Red Wolves, Head Coach: Blake Anderson (46-30 all time)

Rushing Offense: 126.8 YDS/G, 3.6 YPC
Passing Offense: 305.3 YDS/G, 8.8 YPA
Rushing Defense: 221.8 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 258.8 YDS/G

Prediction: I must say I feel confused when looking at the spread on this game. These two teams seem pretty evenly matched on paper but the matchup actually appears to favor FIU, so I’m surprised to see the Red Wolves favored here. For starters, FIU wins the head coaching matchup easily – I’ll take Butch Davis over Blake Anderson any day. On top of that, Arkansas State loves to pass the ball and FIU has been tremendous at stopping the passing attack. On the other side of the ball, FIU will look to move the ball on the ground and Arkansas State has given up a whopping 221.8 rushing yards per game (the ninth-lowest mark in FBS). Everything in this matchup favors the Panthers. I’m not here to overthink this: Florida International 42, Arkansas State 27

Game 9: Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, NV

Boise State (12-1) vs. Washington (7-5)
Vegas: Washington -3.5, o/u 49.5
ESPN FPI: Washington 58.2% chance to win

Boise State Broncos, Head Coach: Bryan Harsin (71-21 all time)

Rushing Offense: 174.2 YDS/G, 4.5 YPC
Passing Offense: 267.4 YDS/G, 8.1 YPA
Rushing Defense: 112.3 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 234.4 YDS/G

Washington Huskies, Head Coach: Chris Petersen (146-38 all time)

Rushing Offense: 150.3 YDS/G, 4.2 YPC
Passing Offense: 245.1 YDS/G, 7.8 YPA
Rushing Defense: 130.4 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 225.1 YDS/G

Common Opponents:


  • Boise State: 59-37 Win at Home, 31-10 Win at Home
  • Washington: 52-20 Win at Home


  • Boise State: 28-25 Loss at BYU
  • Washington: 45-19 Win at BYU

Prediction: The storyline of this game is going to be Washington Head Coach Chris Peterson facing off against the school he used to coach. Petersen was 92-12 as the Head Coach of Boise State from 2006 to 2013 before leaving for the Washington job. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin served as the offensive coordinator under Peterson from 2006-2010 before leaving for the Texas OC job, so these two guys know each other. Harsin is 3-1 in bowl games in his career, with last year’s First Responder Bowl being cancelled due to inclement weather. Petersen, while being 146-38 all time, is only 6-6 in the 12 bowl games he’s coached. The two teams are statistically very similar, with a slight edge going to Boise State against an easier schedule. I’m going with Peterson in what will be his final game as the Huskies’ HC: Washington 27, Boise State 20

Game 10: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans, LA

Appalachian State (12-1) vs. Alabama-Birmingham (9-4)
Vegas: APP -16.5, o/u 48
ESPN FPI: Appalachian State 83.4% chance to win

Appalachian State Mountaineers, Head Coach: Interim HC Shawn Clark

Rushing Offense: 229.2 YDS/G, 5.3 YPC
Passing Offense: 206.3 YDS/G, 7.8 YPA
Rushing Defense: 136.2 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 199.7 YDS/G

Alabama-Birmingham Blazers, Head Coach: Bill Clark (45-22 all time)

Rushing Offense: 159.3 YDS/G, 3.9 YPC
Passing Offense: 193.6 YDS/G, 8.3 YPA
Rushing Defense: 107.2 YDS/G
Passing Defense: 186.8 YDS/G

Common Opponent:

South Alabama

  • Appalachian State: 30-3 Win at South Alabama
  • Alabama-Birmingham: 35-2 Win at Home

Prediction: Appalachian State Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz resigned after the regular season to accept the HC job at Missouri, so this is another game that will feature an interim coach. Despite the departure, Appalachian State still finds themselves as heavy favorites against a UAB team that has been somewhat surprising in the C-USA. While App State has been fantastic this season, this matchup looks pretty unfavorable for them on paper. The Mountaineers are a ground-and-pound team who averaged 229.2 rushing yards per game this season and they find themselves in a matchup with a UAB team who only allowed 107.2 yards per game on the ground. I don’t think the Blazers have enough offensive firepower to win this game, but I think their defense keeps it close: Appalachian State 23, UAB 20

About the Author

  • Matt Shanahan (mshanahan)

  • Matt Shanahan is an engineer by trade and firmly believes in data-driven analytics. He grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. His betting strategy is to develop theories, create models to test those theories, and then collect data to see what works and what doesn’t.


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