The 2018 bowl season winds down with the rest of the non NY6 bowls being played over the two day New Year’s holiday period. Our panelists take a look at the last bowl action of the season and offer up their previews and predictions, including Kentucky vs Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.
Military Bowl: Cincinnati (10-2) vs Virginia Tech (6-6) (Monday at 12:00)
Line: Cincinnati by 5.5
John Bava: Cincinnati’s only 2 losses came to UCF and to Temple in overtime while Virginia Tech needed a season-ending win over Marshall to become bowl eligible. The Bearcats should roll in this one. Cincinnati 41, Virginia Tech 20
Steen Kirby: The Bearcats two losses came against bowl eligible teams as coach Luke Fickell has guided his team to their first 10 win season since 2012. Virginia Tech endured a disappointing season where they had to win their final two games to become bowl legible. Cincy is the better team and should be favored to prevail. Cincinnati 38, Virginia Tech 24
Yesh Ginsburg: Luke Fickell is doing a tremendous job at Cincinnati. Virginia Tech barely sneaked into a bowl, and won’t be able to move against the Cincinnati defense. Cincinnati 34, Virginia Tech 17
Mike Loveall: This is the take-it-to-the-bank moneyline bet of the bowl season. Cincinnati is underrated and motivated. Cincinnati 37, Virginia Tech 20
Sun Bowl: Stanford (8-4) vs. Pitt (7-6) (Monday at 2:00) Line: Stanford by 5.5
John: Bryce Love should be extra motivated to boost his draft stock with a standout performance in El Paso against a Pittsburgh team who struggles defending the run. Stanford 33, Pitt 17
Steen: Pitt stumbled their way into the ACC title game but Stanford is the better team and their strong end to the year should continue with a Sun Bowl victory. Stanford 24, Pitt 17
Yesh: Stanford is just a better team than Pitt, across the board. The Cardinal might have struggled for much of this year–and Pitt certainly overachieved–but I find it hard to imagine this game being anything other than Stanford slowly grinding out a relatively comfortable victory. Stanford 28, Pittsburgh 17
Mike: The Cardinal fly away from the ACC Runner Ups. Stanford 31, Pitt 14
Redbox Bowl: Michigan State (7-5) vs Oregon (8-4) (Monday at 3:00) Line: Oregon by 2.5
John: Mark Dantonio’s MSU teams knows how to flummox opposing offenses in bowl games. They did so last year against Washington State and should continue the trend against Justin Herbert and the Ducks. Michigan State 27, Oregon 20
Steen: Two teams that expect better than to be unranked at this time of the year. Michigan State’s offense sputtered when it mattered this season, and Oregon should score enough to secure a win. Oregon 35, Michigan State 28
Yesh: Michigan State is the more talented team, but the Spartans absolutely collapsed this season. Oregon 31, Michigan State 13
Mike: Oregon is quietly getting back to the top – this will serve as a springboard to next season. Oregon 42, Michigan State 28
Liberty Bowl: #23 Missouri (8-4) vs Oklahoma State (6-6) (Monday at 3:45) Line: Missouri by 9
John: This is the first time these two programs have met since Missouri departed the Big XII for the SEC. It’s also Oklahoma State’s first-ever appearance in the Liberty Bowl. The Cowboys come into this game in a bit of a funk, having lost three of their last four. The Tigers, on the other hand, are in the midst of a four-game winning streak which has seen them crack the top 25. It’s a big reason why the betting line is fairly skewed in Mizzou’s favor.
Both quarterbacks can sling it around. Both Oklahoma State’s Taylor Cornelius and Missouri’s Drew Lock threw for over 3,000 yards this year. Lock was considered one of the top pro prospects heading into this season and he can certainly up his draft stock with a standout performance in Memphis. Cornelius is a bit more mistake-prone and that ultimately gives the Tigers the advantage in this one. Missouri 31, Oklahoma State 24
Steen: OK State was just 2-5 down the stretch after a solid start, while Missouri won their last four games. Oklahoma State won’t be able to stop the Tigers offense in what should be a high scoring contest. Missouri 42, Oklahoma State 24
Yesh: I don’t like this line, mostly because I don’t like predicting Oklahoma State. The Cowboys can play down to just about anyone’s level, but they can also step up and beat anyone. In their biggest games, they blew out Boise State, beat Texas and West Virginia, and almost upset Oklahoma. This team will come out motivated, and Missouri won’t know what happened. Oklahoma State 41, Missouri 30
Mike: Missouri should be healthy, and they’ve got a ton of offensive weapons. Their defense has been getting better as the season moves on as well. The big variable here is the inconsistency of Oklahoma State. At times they’ve been great and at times they’ve been terrible. The Tigers will impress. Missouri 45, Oklahoma State 33
Holiday Bowl: #22 Northwestern (8-5) vs #17 Utah (9-4) (Monday at 7:00) Line: Utah by 7
John: This year’s edition of the Holiday Bowl pits two teams who played for conference championships and ultimately lost. But both of them surprised quite a bit of observers just by winning their respective divisions. It underscores the fact that these two head coaches, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, are among the more underrated in college football.
Each of these teams are a bit banged up heading into this contest. Utah’s regular starter at quarterback, Tyler Huntley, is questionable after suffering a broken collarbone in November. And the Northwestern defense will be missing a few key playmakers. That’s particularly worrisome as the Wildcats are one of the Big Ten’s worst teams defending the pass. Look for the Utes to go 12-1 in bowls under Whittingham. Utah 27, Northwestern 17
Steen: Neither conference championship participant was able to crack the top 15 in the pre-bowl rankings but the winner has a shot at doing so. Northwestern was great in the BIG 10, recovering from a slow start to the season to earn 8 wins. Utah’s defense has put them within striking distance of 10 wins but the more balanced Northwestern team should prevail. Northwestern 21, Utah 17
Yesh: This game is going to be a grinder. I don’t know who will win, but unless you like old-fashioned football this might not be a game for you. Either way, I think this will come down to a late score. I don’t think either team can really impose its will on the other, so expect this to be tight. Turnovers and mistakes will make the difference here. Northwestern 24, Utah 21
Mike: This is a great matchup for Northwestern. They’ve shown the capacity to play with the best teams, just not for a full sixty minutes and at depth. Utah can’t pressure the Wildcats evenly for a complete game. Both teams are well coached and fundamentally sound. Northwestern 24, Utah 21
Gator Bowl: NC State (9-3) vs #19 Texas A&M (8-4) (Monday at 7:30) Line: Texas A&M by 7
John: Jimbo Fisher’s first season as Texas A&M head coach concludes with him facing a familiar foe from his time with Florida State. He went 5-3 against NC State during his tenure with the Noles and is favored to get win number six when these teams meet in Jacksonville. But the Wolfpack will prove a challenge. They should be a motivated bunch as they’re in search of just the second double-digit win season in program history.
These teams sport differing identities on offense. NC State boasts a dynamic passing game behind quarterback Ryan Finley who ranks eighth nationally in passing yardage. Meanwhile, the Aggies have an incredibly potent rushing attack led by Trayveon Williams whose 127 yards per game is fourth in FBS. But the Wolfpack are fairly stout against the run while A&M has struggled defending the pass this season. The Aggies could be ripe for the picking. NC State 26, Texas A&M 23
Steen: Texas A&M was hoping for better under new coach Jimbo Fisher but he has guided them to a ranking and nine wins if they win this bowl. The Aggies were solid to finish the season including an upset win against LSU and I just don’t see NC State stacking up. The Wolfpack won 9 games with a weak schedule, TAMU is the better team if they are focused. Texas A&M 35, NC State 20
Yesh: Texas A&M was solid in its first year under Jimbo Fisher. N.C. State was ranked for most of the second half of the season, but that was almost entirely the product of a weak early schedule. The team has talent, sure, but it hasn’t been tested, really. I think N.C. State gets a shocking dose of reality at the hands of the Aggies. Texas A&M 41, NC State 17
Mike: The Aggies seemed to find their stride as the season wore on. People forget the quality of Texas A&M’s losses – they really haven’t played a bad game all season. NC State has a potent offense, but can’t match up with the speed and athleticism of A&M across the board. This will be an interesting coaching match up. Texas A&M 35, North Carolina State 21
Outback Bowl: #18 Mississippi State (8-4) vs Iowa (8-4) (Tuesday at 12:00) Line: Mississippi State by 7
John: The hallmark of both these teams’ identities centers around playing gritty, hard-nosed defense. That becomes apparent when taking notice of the fact that they’re both top 10 among FBS teams in yards allowed. With that in mind, this has all the makings of a physical, low-scoring, slobberknocker of a contest.
Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald hopes to close out his collegiate career with an impressive performance in Tampa. He’s a dual threat sensation and already has more rushing yards than any quarterback in SEC history. What gives the Bulldogs the advantage is the return of running back Kylin Hill who missed the last two games of the season due to injury. Expect them to ground and pound their way to victory. Mississippi State 24, Iowa 13
Steen: Iowa remains a steady and tough team but they should be overwhelmed by an effective MS State offense that can put up points and yards very quickly thanks to the talents of QB Nick Fitzgerald. The SEC should beat the BIG 10 here. Mississippi State 27, Iowa 14
Yesh: This line seems a little high. I think Mississippi State is the slightly better team, but Iowa is plenty talented and doesn’t make too many mistakes. The Hawkeyes should turn this game into a grind, which means that they really can beat the Bulldogs if Iowa can force just a few mistakes. Mississippi State 24, Iowa 21
Mike: The Hawkeyes don’t have the best luck with SEC teams in bowl season. Look for the Bulldogs defensive line to be the dominant factor in this game; along with a balanced offense. Mississippi State 30, Iowa 21
Citrus Bowl: #14 Kentucky (9-3) vs #12 Penn State (9-3) (Tuesday at 1:00) Line: Penn State by 6.5
John: Kentucky was one of the more pleasant surprises in the SEC, finishing second in the SEC East. In search of just their third-ever 10-win season, they face a Penn State team looking to post a third consecutive 10-win campaign for the first time in 36 years. This is the second bowl matchup between these two schools with them having played in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day 1999.
Nittany Lion quarterback Trace McSorley is the most prolific passer in program history, having thrown for a school record 9,653 career yards. He can also make plays with his feet as he’s 16 yards away from becoming Penn State’s all-time rushing leader among quarterbacks. Both teams boast dynamic running backs in PSU’s Miles Sanders and UK’s Benny Snell. But look for Wildcat linebacker Josh Allen to turn in a performance that solidifies himself as one of the first picks of the 2019 NFL Draft. Kentucky 31, Penn State 27
Steen: The winner of this game will end the year with 10 wins, which is a bigger accomplishment for traditional laggards Kentucky compared to regular contenders PSU. Kentucky had two big wins this year and should be highly motivated in this one. Penn State is not an elite team and they should slip up here. Kentucky 27, Penn State 21
Yesh: Both of these teams drastically underperformed all season. Each has a ton of talent, but both teams never really showcased it. They just did the bare minimum to win, even against bad teams. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will play better this game, but Penn State has more talent. I think The Nittany Lions will want to show off in Trace McSorley’s final game, and will unleash more than even a good Kentucky defense can stop. Penn State 41, Kentucky 21
Mike: The magic may have run out for the Wildcats. After a great start Kentucky faltered down the stretch. Penn State comes in after another disappointing, oh-so-close season. The Nittany Lions are better all around and will attack the Kentucky quarterback situation. Penn State 42, Kentucky 26