College Football Bowl Picks 2016-2017: Miami Beach Bowl to Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
|Brian Hill, Wyoming|
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (9-3) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6)
Since his days as offensive coordinator at Baylor, Tulsa head coach Phillip Montgomery has known how to run octane offenses, and that has not changed for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa averages 41 points and nearly 261 rushing yards per game. Much of that impressive rushing yardage comes from tailback James Flanders. Flanders has quietly been dominant, rushing for 1,529 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. Helped by quarterback Dane Evans and dangerous receiver Keevan Lucas, points should not be a huge issue for the Golden Hurricane in this one. Meanwhile, on the other side, Central Michigan has had an up-and-down, chaotic 2016. They opened up the year with an epic hail mary over Oklahoma State in a controversial call, and then improved to 3-0. However, they tailed off during the backend of the year, and lost four of five. They will need a huge day from veteran quarterback Cooper Rush to keep pace with Tulsa. Rush finished up the campaign with 3,299 yards and 23 touchdowns, and had some big days against solid defenses. Tulsa has an aggressive defense that can force turnovers, but has also been inconsistent. Rush doesn't turn the ball over much, so he could find some success. The Chippewas have had some moments defensively as well, but the group will have to be prepared for the versatility and diversity of the Tulsa offense. They will also have to play well on third downs, as Tulsa converts on third down 44.6 percent of the time, good enough for 13th in the land. CMU has a heavy dose of experience and plenty of talent, but they may be overmatched in this one. Unless something crazy happens, the Golden Hurricane could record a 10-win season.
Tulsa, 42 Central Michigan, 28
Boca Raton Bowl (December 20th)
Memphis Tigers (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (10-3)
A new era begins for Western Kentucky football, as they begin their first game without head coach Jeff Brohm, who left to take the job at Purdue. The Hilltoppers will be led by former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, who will hope to keep the hot Hilltoppers going, as they are fresh off a Conference USA crown. WKU won't have an easy win, as Memphis looks to continue what has been a strong first showing in their first post-Justin Fuente season. The Tigers sit at 8-4, behind the big arm of Tennessee transfer Riley Ferguson, who has thrown for 3,326 yards. Because of their own explosive offense, Western Kentucky has been able to deal with a relatively weak defense. That may not fly against Memphis, who is very balanced and knows how to exploit opponents' weaknesses. That should put more pressure on a lethal WKU offense that thrives in creating big plays. Underrated signal-caller Mike White has thrown for over 4,000 yards on the season, and Taywan Taylor is one of the best wide outs in the entire nation, with 1,586 yards in '16. Memphis will also have to be up and ready to stop the rushing attack, as back Anthony Wales (1,376 yards and 24 touchdowns) can dominate himself. Those three, along with a solid offensive line, have helped the Hilltoppers averaged 44.9 points per game this season. Not helping Memphis is the fact this whole Western Kentucky team is scary hot. WKU has now won seven straight, and has looked like one of the best non-Power Five teams in the country. Even though the Tigers' defense isn't terrible, they should still be in store for a tough one. Much like Tulsa-CMU, a shootout could be in order, with the hotter team (Western Kentucky) likely to prevail.
Western Kentucky, 45 Memphis, 35
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (December 21st)
BYU Cougars (8-4) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (8-5)
While much was made of Mike MacIntrye and Colorado's turnaround, along with many others, not enough credit was given to Craig Bohl and Wyoming's wild improvement. Under the first two seasons of Bohl, the former NDSU head coach, the Cowboys went 4-8 in 2014 and a lowly 2-10 last season. Behind a fabulous offense and wonderful running back, Wyoming has quickly improved to 8-5 and played in the Mountain West Championship Game, where they lost to San Diego State. The next step would be a bowl victory, where they have a great chance against 8-4 BYU. Longtime Cougar quarterback Taysom Hill suffered yet another season-ending injury, but youthful QB Tanner Mangum has been wonderful. Paired with terrific Jamaal Williams (who has spent plenty of time in Provo himself), BYU's offense is plenty of dangerous themselves. Defensively, BYU has long been very tough to score against, and that has not changed in 2016. The group always plays hard and ferocious, and they will have to be up for the task in this one. Back Brian Hill is among the nation's leading rushers, recording 1,767 yards on the season. Blessed with great elusiveness, Hill is also deadly when he gets into the open field. The Cougars will not win this game if they let Hill get any type of space. The Cowboys' passing game is not quite as dangerous, but it should not be overlooked either. Steady quarterback Josh Allen has nearly 3,000 yards on the season, and is wonderful in the play action, so BYU must stay disciplined. Reliable receiver Tanner Gentry and explosive Jacob Hollister give Allen other options to work with to stretch the Cougs' D. Even though we are nearly done with the season, I'm still not completely sure how good Wyoming truly is. They have had moments where they have looked like a Top 25 team (beating Boise State) but they also have a tendency to come out flat. BYU has loads of experience, and Hill and Williams will be eager to end their BYU career in a big way.
BYU, 34 Wyoming, 31
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (December 22nd)
Colorado State Rams (7-5) vs. Idaho Vandals (8-4)
Despite the fact they are beginning a transition to the FCS level, Idaho has shown some signs of vitality in one of their final opportunities to at the FBS level. Head coach Paul Petrino has led the Vandals to an 8-4 record, which has included winning five of six. Idaho is not extremely talented, but they are disciplined and fight every game. They will be in for an interesting battle against Colorado State, who started off slow (lost 44-7 to rival Colorado), before a strong finish. Junior Nick Stevens didn't start the year, but has been Colorado State's guy since the midpoint of the year. Stevens has been great, most importantly throwing for 374 yards in a slim loss to Air Force. He will be helped by dangerous receiver Michael Gallup, who caught 70 passes and had 11 touchdowns. Statistically, Idaho's defense is pretty good, but they played some poor Sun Belt offenses. They will be in store for a tough showing against an efficient and confident Rams' offense. On the other side, Colorado State's defense has also had bouts of inconsistency, and they have allowed 27.8 points per game on the season. However, the group does let up big plays, but they know how to get stops when needed. They are near the top end of the country in third and fourth down stops, which should make things even more difficult for an Idaho team that could be overmatched talent-wise in this one.
Colorado State, 28 Idaho, 20