Bowl Picks 2015: Bahamas Bowl, Hawai'i Bowl
|Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State, Hawai'i Bowl|
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (7-5) vs. Western Michigan Broncos (7-5)
Last year's inaugural Bahamas Bowl, which featured Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky, was absolutely epic. A late, crazy, lateral play by Central Michigan nearly was able to claim them a victory, but they were just a few inches short, leading then head coach Dan Enos to proclaim "The Nassau miracle...almost". This year, Middle Tennessee and Western Michigan will square off in a game that is sure to be exciting as well. P.J. Fleck, who was a popular candidate for some big time job openings, leads his Western Michigan team, who finished off the year 7-5. The Broncos will be lead by big-armed QB Zach Terrell, who threw for well over 3,000 yards on the campaign. The Broncos will also bring a balanced rushing attack to the equation, that features Jamauri Bogan, along with a dynamic change-of-pace in backup quarterback Tom Flacco (the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens' QB Joe). Though, Middle Tennessee's defense has been decent all year long, and has faced some very explosive offenses throughout the year in the Conference USA. They should match up actually pretty favorably against WMU. On offense, the Blue Raiders should also an offense that can put up points in a hurry, particularly through the air. Brent Stockstill, the son of head coach Rick, has had a big year under the leadership of his father. He has recorded 3,678 yards and 27 touchdowns and is still learning and improving every single week. Western Michigan's secondary is far from completely shutdown, so Stockstill could have plenty of opportunities in this one. Expect to see him heaving the ball to receiver Richie James quite a bit in this one. James, about as sure-handed as they come, has 100 receptions on the season, and continues to hurt defenses in a variety of different and unique ways. This bowl appears to be pretty evenly matched in nearly every part of the game. Both teams should move the ball aplenty, and while neither defense is dominant, they can play pretty well. This Bahamas Bowl looks like it could come to a photo finish, but I'll pick Middle Tennessee, only because I trust their defense only slightly more.
Middle Tennessee, 38 Western Michigan, 37
Hawai'i Bowl, Honolulu, Aloha Stadium (Dec. 24th, 7 pm CT on ESPN)
San Diego State Aztecs (10-3) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (7-5)
After years of continued success in the Mountain West, it appears this may be San Diego State's breakthrough. The Aztecs won the conference this year (beating Air Force) and enter their bowl game with ten victories. San Diego State has done it in a rather unexciting fashion, using a suffocating defense, and smart rushing attack to beat down opponents. The Aztecs' defense is rated tenth in the entire nation in points against on the year, and they will be eager against a backup quarterback. Gunner Kiel, former five-star recruit switched from LSU, to Indiana and then Notre Dame, where he never played a single snap. At Cincinnati, Kiel has transformed into a reliable and dynamic quarterback. Unfortunately, injuries have haunted the quarterback all year, and Hayden Moore will start in his place in this one. Moore hasn't been bad by any means in replacing Kiel, but lacks the playmaking ability that he possesses. If Moore does make mistakes, the Aztecs should likely feast on every opportunity. That could force Cincy to lean on their ground attack more in this one, but back Hosey Williams will not have much space to operate. On the other side of the ball, SDSU will hand the ball off early and often to back Donnel Pumphrey, who has dominant on the year. Pumphrey, a hard-nosed runner with a mix of speed, has 1,554 yards on the year and will punish Cincinnati if they aren't completely prepared for him. Another player to note is quarterback Maxwell Smith. Smith, a transfer from Kentucky, hasn't been asked to do too much this season but has performed well. He won't spurn Cincy deep too often, but he is a smart and methodical quarterback who gets the job done. Paired with Pumphrey, they really are a great backfield duo. Rocky Long continues to do a great job leading SDSU after the departure of Brady Hoke to Michigan (which we all know how that went) a few years to go. A bowl victory on top of a conference championship would only further solidify the Aztecs as a rising power out West.
San Diego State, 31 Cincinnati, 20