Tailgate Pick ‘Em Week 1 Bowl Picks Including Oregon vs Boise State

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College football’s bowl season starts Saturday and our experts Steen Kirby, Yesh Ginsburg, John Bava, Brett Margolies, and Mike Loveall are on hand to take you through each matchup in the first week. There are five marquee games and then a host of other ones for FBS teams with six wins or more. Here is your full preview.

Marquee Week 1 Bowls

New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas (Saturday 1:00 P.M.)
Line: Troy by 6.5

Brett: These two schools are familiar with each other meeting ten times in the Sun Belt before North Texas moved to Conference USA. North Texas is coming off a loss to FAU in the CUSA title game while Troy won the Sun Belt. North Texas quarterback Mason Fine should bounce back and have a big game to close out the season, I like North Texas to win the game outright. North Texas 31 Troy 24

Steen: Troy won six straight to finish the year out strong, UNT has had a great season but this Troy team beat LSU and is a really good football team. Troy 38, North Texas 21

John: The first of 37 non-CFP bowl games gets underway Saturday at the SuperDome, site of one of those semifinal matchups. It pits two former conference foes who both finished at or near the top of their respective leagues this year. Troy shared the Sun Belt title with Appalachian State while North Texas, now in C-USA after leaving the Sun Belt in 2012, made it to the conference title game before falling to Florida Atlantic.

It will certainly be strength against strength with the Mean Green’s dynamic offense facing off against the Trojans’ stingy defense. North Texas quarterback Mason Fine and running back Jeffrey Wilson finished among C-USA’s top players in yards gained at their respective position. As a team, they average 35.9 points per game. But they’re in for a challenge against a Troy defense ranked 11th nationally in scoring defense. Troy 33, North Texas 24

Mike: Troy might be best known for their upset of LSU – in Baton Rouge no less – this season than for their conference title. But that’s better than North Texas, who are really not known for anything around the country. But the coaching job done by Seth Littrell in Denton shouldn’t be overlooked, nor should the Mean Green’s quarterback
Mason Fine. Nine wins in a competitive Conference USA isn’t something to balk at, either. Offense rules the day, and the Mean Green shine more than Silvers. North Texas 42, Troy 34

Yesh: The Trojans had one heck of a season, including a win over LSU. What people don’t realize, though, is that North Texas had a pretty incredible season too. This team has a blistering offense and will look to end on a high note after getting walloped by FAU in the Conference-USA Championship Game. Whatever happens as the final result, take the over. North Texas 45, Troy 41

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State vs. Oregon (Saturday 3:30 P.M.)
Line: Oregon by 7.5

Brett: It’ll be interesting to see how Oregon responds after everything that’s taken place since their last game. Naming Mario Cristobal as the permanent head coach should give this team some added motivation to show that they made the right choice. Oregon running back Royce Freeman is questionable heading in to the game on Saturday, if he plays look for him to close out his college career in a win and another huge game. Oregon 41, Boise State 27

Steen: When the Oregon offense is clicking other teams get scared. Mario Cristobal should provide a smooth transition from Willie Taggart for the Ducks but Boise State has put together yet another strong season, and although they weren’t in the G5 bowl bid conversation in the end, they should still cap the year with a good P5 win. Boise State 45, Oregon 35

John: These two Pacific Northwest programs have met just twice all-time, with Boise State coming out victorious on both occasions in 2008 and 2009. Given the departure of Willie Taggart to Florida State after just a season, it might be easy to give the advantage to the Broncos. But don’t tell that to the Vegas oddsmakers who have the Ducks favored by over a touchdown.

Oregon quickly addressed their coaching situation by naming co-offensive coordinator under Taggart, Mario Cristobal, head coach and handing him a five-year deal. His first game in charge comes against a Broncos team that just clinched its third Mountain West championship since joining the conference in 2011. A win over the Ducks on Saturday will give the program its 11th season of 11 or more wins since 2000. Boise State 27, Oregon 24

Mike: Don’t know how you go against Boise State in the post season. Since the turn of the century, they’re 11-6, including 6-2 in the last eight years, including five wins against Power 5 teams in that eight year span. They are as consistent as any program in the nation, notwithstanding Alabama and Ohio State. Meanwhile, Oregon had to find a new coach after only one season under Willie Taggart. That usually doesn’t have as much of an effect as many would think – but when you are going up against a steady program like Boise State, it might make just enough of a difference. Boise State 41, Oregon 38

Yesh: The Ducks being favored by so much here really is a shocker. Yes, they’ve been a different team with Justin Herbert at quarterback. And yes, Boise laid an absolute egg in its bowl game against Baylor last year. Still, I would be confident in the Broncos here. They are well-coached and Brett Rypien is far less turnover-prone. Boise wants to end the year ranked, and they need a win for that. Boise State 42, Oregon 38

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida (Saturday 12/23 at 12:00 P.M.)
Line: South Florida by 2.5

Brett: I don’t see how Texas Tech is able to contain USF quarterback Quinton Flowers. Their defense has looked vulnerable throughout the season against good offensive teams like West Virginia, and Oklahoma. USF has to be ready to get back on the field after the heartbreaking loss to rival UCF a couple weeks ago, both teams will put up points but USF will do what most good offenses did to Texas Tech’s defense this year. South Florida 38, Texas Tech 34

Steen: This is frankly a disappointing bowl for USF, the Bulls had a great season and with some better defense they probably finish the year with 1 loss or less. Texas Tech barely made it into a bowl and had a disappointing season despite an improved defense. Expect lots of points with the Bulls prevailing. South Florida 42, Texas Tech 38

John: The first of a Saturday triple-header two days before Christmas, these two programs have never met on the gridiron. South Florida is coming off an impressive 9-2 regular season under first-year head coach Charlie Strong. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders snuck into this bowl after narrowly beating Texas 27-23 in the season finale to get to 6-6.

Both quarterbacks, USF’s Quinton Flowers and Texas Tech’s Nik Shimonek, are ranked top 20 nationally in total offense. However, Flowers’ contribution to the Bulls’ offense is much more multifaceted. He’s currently seventh among FBS signal callers in rushing yards. Contrast that with Shimonek whose much more one-dimensional, but he is one of 14 quarterbacks in the country with over 3,500 passing yards. Considering these two teams average 36.3 points per game, be prepared for a shootout at Legion Field. South Florida 51, Texas Tech 45

Mike: American Athletic Conference Commissioner Michael Aresco likes to use the term “Power Six” rather than “Power 5” to imply that his conference is just as good as the five major conferences. If that’s the case, teams like UCF and USF have to win games like this. And in USF’s case, they absolutely can. With Charlie Strong having a redemption assignment in Tampa and Quinton Flowers putting up massive numbers late in the season, it’s quite the opposite from things in Lubbock. Kliff Kingsbury is squarely on the hot seat (if not having one foot out of the door) and star quarterback Nic Shimonek has cooled off in the second half of the season. USF steals one in the south’s Steal City. South Florida 52, Texas Tech 42

Yesh: This game should be one heck of a shootout. Seriously, the first one to get a defensive stop wins. I like USF in this matchup, solely because they have the most to prove after how they ended the season. South Florida 55, Texas Tech 52

Armed  Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army (Saturday 12/23 3:30 P.M.)
Line: San Diego State by 7

Brett: Army has to have a ton of confidence heading in to this game after defeating Navy for the second straight season. SDSU has played well to close out the season after dropping back to back games in October to two good teams in Boise State, and Fresno State. They’ve had about a month to prepare for Army’s unique offense, look for them to be the fresher of the two teams and win in a low scoring game. SDSU 27 Army 14

Steen: If not for a pair of bad back to back conference losses, SDSU is in the Peach Bowl right now. Army is a gritty team that just came off a big win vs. Navy but they don’t throw the ball, and SDSU has a multidimensional squad. San Diego State 35, Army 17

John: If there’s one thing to expect the most of in this game, it’s the prominence of “ground and pound” on offense. No team in FBS is averaging more than Army’s 355.8 rushing yards per game. It played a prominent role in the Black Knights clinching consecutive bowls and eight-win seasons for the first time since 1985. They face an Aztecs team whose star running back Rashaad Penny led the nation in rushing but inexplicably didn’t get an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Under fourth-year head coach Jeff Monken, Army is slowly establishing itself as the top service academy team for the first time in a while. They boast two straight wins over Navy for the first time in 21 years and with a win over the Aztecs, they can clinch just the second 10-win season in the program’s 128 year history. Meanwhile, San Diego State’s in the midst of unprecedented success themselves. During Rocky Long’s seven seasons in charge, the team has never had a losing record. No other Aztecs head coach can claim such an extended track record of success. And their ability to defend the run should help them against Army. San Diego State 31, Army 21

Mike: Army is coming off an incredible win against arch-rival Navy and has their first chance for a 10-win season since 1996. But don’t be fooled by those nine wins. None of those nine wins came against an FBS team with a winning record. Meanwhile, San Diego State has already got their ten wins against some quality Mountain West competition and a big win over Stanford. The Aztecs speed blitzes past the Black Knights. San Diego State 42, Army 21

Yesh: Army had one heck of a season, but they did it very quietly. Ahmad Bradshaw is a great option quarterback, and he’s surrounded by weapons on defense. This team’s defense is very suspect, though, so expect Rashaad Penny to end his college career with a huge day. San Diego State 35, Army 14

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo (Saturday 12/23 7:00 P.M.)
Line: Toledo by 8

Brett: MAC champion Toledo led by quarterback Logan Woodside has had a historic collegiate career for the rockets. He’s been a three year starter and holds the school record in passing yards, and passing touchdowns. Besides giving up 52 points in a loss to Louisiana Monroe, Appalachian State’s defensive hasn’t been too bad this year. I think this game will be close early on, but Toledo has too much on offense for Appalachian State to pull off the upset win. Toledo 41, Appalachian State 31

Steen: App State finished the year strong but Toledo can really air it out and is another team that was really good outside of the major conferences this season. The Rockets deserve respect and they will get it here. Toledo 52, Appalachian State 28

John: Ironically enough, the only meeting between these two programs to date came in Alabama as part of a bowl game. Last year, App State prevailed over Toledo 31-28 in the Camellia Bowl. This time around, instead of playing in Montgomery, the Mountaineers and Rockets renew pleasantries in Mobile.

The fanbase for each team will be saying farewell to long-time starting quarterbacks who rewrote the record books at their respective schools. Both Toledo’s Logan Woodside and App State’s Taylor Lamb will finish their college careers having set school records in both pass yards and touchdown throws. In 2017, the two are among the nation’s most efficient passers. Woodside ranks fifth in FBS in pass efficiency rating, while Lamb is just a few spots back at 16. Expect a close game with the Rockets eventually sending Woodside out in style. Toledo 41, Appalachian State 35

Mike: Hard game to call here. Both teams are just about even against the lines this season. Appalachian State has had a little bit of a disappointing Sun Belt campaign, while Toledo has handled the MAC with relative ease and has received some Top 25 votes in our Top 25 poll. Mobile might be a long way from Toledo, but the Mountaineers are out of place by the Bay. Toledo 34, Appalachian State 27

Yesh: Appalachian State is 2-0 in bowl games, and 2-0 against the MAC. Last year, the Mountaineers beat Toledo in one of the most underrated games of bowl season. Don’t expect that to happen again. Even without standout wide receiver Cody Thompson, the Rockets are one of the better teams in the country. Expect Toledo to win easily, even against a solid App State team. Toledo 41, Appalachian State 24

Other Bowls

Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State
Line: Western Kentucky by 6.5

Brett: WKU’s high powered offense hasn’t been as good as past years. Senior QB Mike White and the hilltoppers didn’t have the season they were hoping for, but look for them to close out the season strong with a blowout win. Western Kentucky 41 Georgia State 27

Steen: Georgia State made big improvements this season but played poorly to close out the season. WKU scores just enough to win in this battle of weak teams. Western Kentucky 48, Georgia State 35

John: One year removed from a C-USA title, Western Kentucky took a step back this year and need a win over Georgia State to avoid a non-winning season for the first time since 2010. Western Kentucky 41, Georgia State 24

Mike: Probably the most curious line of the Bowl season. While the Hilltoppers aren’t the same without Jeff Brohm, they still have the ability to move the ball and there are accustomed to December success. Western Kentucky 31, Georgia State 23

Yesh: Western Kentucky just wasn’t the same this year without Jeff Brohm. The team barely made a bowl, and won’t get a win in this one. Georgia State 24, Western Kentucky 21

New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State
Line: Colorado State by 5.5

Brett: After starting the season 6-1 Marshall has fallen apart as of late losing 4 of their last 5 games. Look for that trend to continue as the rams win.
Colorado State 34, Marshall 21

Steen: Marshall started 6-1 and then fell off a cliff to finish 7-5, they are limping into this bowl. Colorado State isn’t an elite team but they are consistently bowl elgible these days and that should be enough. Colorado State 38, Marshall 28

John: Under former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Colorado State has gone 7-6 and lost their bowl game two seasons running. That changes in Albuquerque as their tenth-ranked offense runs wild over the Thundering Herd. Colorado State 40, Marshall 27

Mike: Mike Bobo has the Rams on an upward trajectory, and a couple of close losses skew the record for this team. Even with some coaches departing for Tennessee, State handles the Herd. Colorado State 38, Marshall 28

Yesh: Colorado State was not the offensive juggernaut of last year, but the Rams should be solid enough to win this game. Colorado State 28, Marshall 21

Camellia Bowl: MTSU vs. Arkansas State
Line: Arkansas State by 4

Brett: MTSU is a much better team when starting quarterback Brent Stockstill is healthy, he seems to be ready to go for the game on Saturday. MTSU wins a close one. MTSU 28, Arkansas State 24

Steen: MTSU isn’t healthy and Arkansas State is a good team, this probably won’t be close. Arkansas State 42, MTSU 24

John: Fourth-year Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson hasn’t had a losing season during his tenure. Against a MTSU team beset by injuries, the Red Wolves should cruise to their second straight bowl win. Arkansas State 38, MTSU 24

Mike: MTSU’s offense just hasn’t found its stride this year, and the Red Wolves have the confidence and motivation going into this game. Arkansas State 31, MTSU 24

Yesh: Arkansas State is a good team this year. A heartbreaking loss to Troy won’t change that, and MTSU will be overmatched. Arkansas State 41, MTSU 17

Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. FAU
Line: FAU by 22.5

Brett: Lane Kiffin and FAU are playing too good right now for anything to get in their way. If they win in convincing fashion there’s a good chance the owls finish the season ranked in the top 25 for the first time in program history.
FAU 45, Akron 17

Steen: Akron put together a solid conference record but FAU had a 10 win season and the gap between these teams should be made clear. FAU 45, Akron 21

John: This is the most lopsided line of all the bowls. With Florida Atlantic’s top six rushing attack facing an Akron team ranked 100th against the run, that can’t come as much of a surprise. Oh, and the Owls are also playing a glorified home game. FAU 52, Akron 20

Mike: Yes, 22.5 is a crazy line to take in bowl season, but Kiffin killed it against North Texas and will be out for vindication after being passed up in the December coaching carousel. It’s also a home game for the Owls. FAU 45, Akron 21

Yesh: Florida Atlantic has improved all year, but Akron quietly has as well. This should be an easy win, but beware a backdoor cover. FAU 42, Akron 21

Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU
Line: SMU by 5

Brett: You don’t often see a coach who was just hired coach the teams bowl game. New head coach Sonny Dykes will be coaching SMU against Louisiana Tech who he coached for from 2010 to 2012 before going to Cal. This should be close throughout with SMU winning with a late score to win. SMU 31, Louisiana Tech 27

Steen: SMU struggled to close the year but the Mustangs can score, despite losing Chad Morris look for SMU to keep putting up points. SMU 42, Louisiana Tech 35

John: Skip Holtz has led the Bulldogs to a winning season in three of his four seasons in Ruston. That streak is in jeopardy if they can’t extend their bowl winning streak to four games against SMU who just hired former LA Tech coach Sonny Dykes. Louisiana Tech 27, SMU 24

Mike: SMU finished the season strong and is playing in their own back yard, but their defense is atrocious. SMU 35, Louisiana Tech 31

Yesh: SMU faltered down the stretch, but Chad Morris has his team up for big games. SMU 35, Louisiana Tech 24

Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. FIU
Line: Temple by 7.5

Brett: Butch Davis has done a great job this year changing the FIU program in just one year. Senior quartback Alex McGough gets a chance to close out his collegiate career with a win in his hometown. Look for him to do just that.
FIU 28 Temple 27

Steen: Rivals FAU had the more memorable season but FIU also put together a great year down in South Florida and they should have a chance to show off against a pedestrian Temple team. FIU 31, Temple 20

John: FIU’s Thomas Owens led C-USA in receiving yards per game this year, but might struggle against Temple who led the AAC defending the pass. The Owls come into this game having made a midseason quarterback change and have certainly taken a step back after two dominant 10-win seasons. FIU 23, Temple 20

Mike: Two teams fitting for the Tropicana Dome. This might be the least anticipated Bowl Game of the season. FIU 28, Temple 27

Yesh: This line stuns me. Temple is decent, but nowhere near as good as last year. FIU 35, Temple 28

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio
Line: Ohio by 7.5

Brett: UAB head coach Bill Clark was recently named CBS Sports coach of the year. He’s rebuilt the program and has them playing in a bowl game after dropping football in 2014. It’s a historic season for the blazers and they haven’t received the attention that they deserve. Look for them to close out the season with their first bowl win in program history. UAB 30 Ohio 24

Steen: The head may say Ohio but the heart says UAB and Ohio struggled to finish the year. I’ll back the Blazers. UAB 28, Ohio 21

John: UAB’s first season back after the program was disbanded in 2014 ends with a trip to the Bahamas. But they could get a cold reception on the field with Ohio’s Nathan Rourke leading the nation in rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks. Ohio 38, UAB 23

Mike: If you don’t think Bill Clark is the coach of the year, we can’t be friends. Ohio 35, UAB 24

Yesh: The Bobcats closed the season in horrendous fashion, but they’re more talented than UAB. Ohio 28, UAB 24

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming
Line: Central Michigan by 1

Brett: If Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen plays look for him to try and make a statement in what has been a down season for the future first round pick. Wyoming wins a close one. Wyoming 24 Central Michigan 21

Steen: It’s been a disappointing season for Wyoming and Central Michigan is on a long winning streak to finish the season. Look for the underrated Chips to win. Central Michigan 28, Wyoming 24

John: Josh Allen’s last chance to salvage his tanking draft stock comes in Boise against a Central Michigan team hoping to erase a three-game bowl losing streak. He’ll have his hands full trying to elude defensive linemen Joe Ostman and Nathan Brisson-Fast who’ve combined for 18.5 sacks. Wyoming 34, Central Michigan 27

Mike: Josh Allen says his shoulder is finally healthy. He’s probably lost the chance to be a first rounder this draft, but could vault up there with an impressive showing in Boise. Wyoming 35, CMU 24

Yesh: Central Michigan got along okay in its first year without Cooper Rush, but Wyoming has a better quarterback and a better coach. Wyoming 21, Central Michigan 20

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