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Bowl Matchups 2018: The Ultimate Fan Guide

There are 40 college football bowl games between Saturday and the College Football Playoff national championship game on Jan. 7, 2019.

College football's bowl season is here!

There are 40 college football bowl games between Saturday and Jan. 7, 2019.

Journalists/wannabe college football insiders Mark Bergin and Lara Saavedra try to answer some of the most pressing questions ahead of the start of bowl season.

Note: Bowls organized by date.

Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: North Carolina A&T vs. Alcorn State (noon ET, ABC)

Mark Bergin: Before I begin my thorough analysis of North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State, I want to point something out.

There were 82 bowl-eligible teams for 78 bowl births. It means 82 teams won six games or more this season.

Four teams with exactly six wins – Louisiana-Monroe, Miami (Ohio), Wyoming and Southern Mississippi – were left out of bowl games this year. What a brutal way to end a season, especially if you’re a senior on one of these teams!

Here’s a proposition: Why don’t these teams arrange to play in self-created bowl games against each other? Get American Standard or Swisher to sponsor the games. Call it the Toilet Bowl because it’s a contest of the worst two teams that are bowl-eligible. Problem solved.

Onto my breakdown of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.

Alcorn State quarterback Noah Johnson was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year with 2,079 yards passing, 15 touchdown passes, 960 yards rushing and nine rushing touchdowns. Johnson averaged 7.38 yards per carry, which is fourth best in the country.

Lara Saavedra: Two nine-win teams going head-to-head in Atlanta should make for an exciting matchup.

New Mexico Bowl: North Texas vs. Utah State (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Remember North Texas’ fake fair catch that led to a 90-yard punt return touchdown against Arkansas earlier this year? I want to see what other trick plays the Mean Green have up their sleeves!

Saavedra: Utah State must remain focused despite being in the middle of personnel changes. Matt Wells left the program to coach at Texas Tech. Gary Andersen will begin his second stint with the program.

AutoNation Cure Bowl: Louisiana vs. Tulane (2:30 p.m. ET, )

Bergin: Ragin’ Cajuns’ running backs Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell have combined for 25 total touchdowns this season.

Saavedra: If the Green Wave win on Saturday in Orlando, it will be their first winning season since 2013, which was the last time they went to a bowl game.

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl: No. 21 Fresno State vs. Arizona State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bergin: I’m still in disbelief Herm Edwards led his Pac-12 team to a bowl game this season and Chip Kelly didn’t.

Saavedra: I’m a fan of Herm Edwards and I’m impressed with what he’s done at Arizona State in his first season. He’s a good passionate coach and the players will be prepared come game day. Herm’s the ultimate GIF machine and I can’t wait to see what great moment comes his way next.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Eastern Michigan is making its third bowl-game appearance in program history.

Saavedra: If Georgia Southern wins, they will record its 15th 10-win season in program history, but its first at the FBS level.

Georgia Southern has only had five turnovers this season, which would be a new NCAA FBS single-season low. The current NCAA record is eight turnovers in a season by six teams, last done by LSU in 2017.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Middle Tennessee (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Scott Satterfield will not coach Appalachian State in this bowl game after taking the head coaching job Louisville.

Saavedra: Appalachian State earned my respect when they pulled off the upset against Michigan in 2007 nearly pulled off the upset against Penn State early in the season. Even though Satterfield won’t be a part of the bowl game, I still think the Mountaineers have the ability to beat Middle Tennessee.

Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: UAB vs. Northern Illinois (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: First Team Associated Press All American defensive end Sutton Smith leads the country with 15 sacks. The redshirt junior also has 24.5 tackles for loss.

Saavedra: Since the UAB football program returned to the field in 2017, the Blazers are 18-8 and 14-3 in conference play (including the title game). The 18 total wins are the most in a two-year span in school history, while the 14 league wins are the most of any team in Conference USA.

Side note: In researching this bowl game, I now have a new appreciation of the health benefits of tart cherry juice.

Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018

DXL Frisco Bowl: Ohio vs. San Diego State (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: San Diego State lost four of its last five games to end the regular season. Can the Aztecs end the season on a high note?

Saavedra: First-year Ohio offensive line coach Bart Miller played for San Diego State head coach Rocky Long at New Mexico but other than that connection - the two teams don’t know a lot about each other.

"We really don't have any kind of ongoing relationship,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said in a recent news conference. “We've been limited to really no communication between us; I've got a lot of respect for him [head coach Rocky Long], what he's done, how long he's been in the business, how well he's operated and his ability to put together staffs.”

Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall vs. USF (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: South Florida enters the Gasparilla Bowl on a five-game losing streak.

Charlie Strong’s contract is among the nation’s best, but how much longer will he coach USF before moving back to a Power 5 Conference school?

A shoulder injury forced USF quarterback Blake Barnett to miss two of his team’s last three games. Barnett is questionable to play against Marshall.

This contest is a defacto home game for USF, which also plays its home games at Raymond James Stadium. This year marks the end of Tropicana Field’s 10-year run as home of the Gasparilla Bowl.

Saavedra: RIP to the Gasparilla Bowl being held at Tropicana; you’ll be missed.

In the past, this bowl was also called the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl Presented by Beef 'O' Brady's, Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl and St. Petersburg Bowl.

Friday, Dec. 21, 2018

Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl: FIU vs. Toledo (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: FIU is 9-2 against the spread this season, which is second best in the country. The Golden Panthers enter the game as 5.5-point underdogs.

Saavedra: This will be the fourth all-time meeting between FIU and Toledo. It marks the first between the schools since the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, where FIU won 34-32.

FIU leads the series over Toledo, 2-1.

The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl series between Conference USA and the MAC is tied, 2-2.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: BYU vs. Western Michigan (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Blue turf! This contest is played at Albertsons Stadium, which is where Boise State plays its home games.

Saavedra: BYU will be making its first appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has been played since 1997 and was formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl.

Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018

Birmingham Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Memphis (Noon ET, ESPN)

Bergin: It would be a shame for fans if junior running back Darrell Henderson sits out this game.

Henderson announced he is foregoing his senior season to enter the 2019 NFL Draft. He ranks second in the country with 1,909 rushing yards.

However, Memphis still has a potent offense. It racked up 6,946 total yards, which ranks fourth in the country.

Saavedra: Memphis should have beat the University of Central Florida, twice this season.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Army (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Houston star defensive lineman Ed Oliver and quarterback D’Eriq King won’t play against Army.

The Black Knights run a triple-option attack. Can Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. eclipse 1,000 passing yards on the season? He has 956 entering the Armed Forces Bowl.

Saavedra: Army had 10-win season for the second consecutive season. Before 2017, the Black Knights hadn’t won 10 games since 1996.

Their triple-option offense is no joke and the team shouldn’t have a problem against Houston. With a win against Houston, it’ll be interesting to see if they end the season in the top 25.

Dollar General Bowl: Troy vs. Buffalo (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: A victory over Buffalo would give Troy its fourth consecutive bowl game victory.

Saavedra: With a 10-3 record, Buffalo is having the finest season in school history.

The 10 wins are a school record for a single season. Buffalo’s 7-1 conference record is its best finish since joining the Mid-American Conference in 1999.

SoFi Hawai’i Bowl: Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Hawaii redshirt junior John Ursua leads the country with 16 receiving touchdowns. It’s hard not to root for a guy who has come back from a torn ACL injury in his right knee just one season ago.

Saavedra: Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson was named Third Team All-American by the Associated Press. As a senior in 2018, Ferguson totaled a single-season record 15 sacks for the Bulldogs. His sack total is tied for first in the country.

Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Boston College vs. 25 Boise State (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Boston College lost its last three games both straight up and against the spread to end its season. The Eagles are a 3-point underdog in this contest.

Saavedra: BC will play a bowl game in Texas for the third time in school history.

Quick Lane Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Minnesota (5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: After this game, coach Paul Johnson is retiring after 11 seasons at Georgia Tech. Johnson is a three-time ACC coach of the year and Georgia Tech’s winningest coach in more than five decades.

Saavedra: Minnesota finished the season with a 6-6 record and earned a bowl berth after beating rival Wisconsin 37-15 on the road in the final game of the season. The Gophers reclaimed Paul Bunyan's Axe and beat the Badgers for the first time since 2003 and won at Wisconsin for the first time since 1994.

Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018

Walk-On’s Independence Bowl: Temple vs. Duke (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Earlier this season, Temple racked up 670 yards against last year’s “national champion” UCF. The Knights were coming off of a bye week too.

Saavedra: The 2018 Temple football team was led by a record-setting senior class. Collectively, the group has become the winningest class in school history with 35 wins. They are the only senior class to play in four bowl games, which is half the amount that Temple has played in over the school's 120 football seasons.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Miami vs. Wisconsin (5:15 p.m., ESPN)

Bergin: This game is played at Yankee Stadium in New York. I’m a huge advocate for playing football games at non-traditional football venues.

Here’s to hoping Wrigley Field in Chicago can host a bowl game in the near future.

Running back Jonathan Taylor is the latest in a long line of great Wisconsin running backs. He leads the country with 1,989 rushing yards.

Saavedra: This will be the Miami football program’s fifth bowl game in a Northern city in its history, according to caneswarning.com. Two of the previous games were on the East Coast and two were out west.

Friday, Dec. 28, 2018

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Purdue vs. Auburn (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Coach Jeff Brohm turned down the Louisville job and is staying put at Purdue for now. Yahoo reports he’s due to make as much as $6 million annually even though he is 13-12 in two seasons.

Saavedra: The Boilermakers have an opportunity to get another sizeable win under their belts if they can beat Auburn (7-5).

We may also get an update on cancer warrior Tyler Trent, whose story and spirit has touched college football fans this season.

Camping World Bowl: No. 20 Syracuse vs. No. 16 West Virginia (5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: West Virginia quarterback Will Grier will not play in this game to begin preparations for the NFL Draft.

If Syracuse can win its first bowl game since 2013, let’s hope Syracuse coach Dino Babers has another epic postgame speech.

Saavedra: One of America’s favorite coaches Dino Babers will be staying in Syracuse for a little while longer.

In an email to fans sent Wednesday, athletic director John Wildhack said the contract "will keep him coaching the Orange well into the future."

Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 13 Washington State vs. 24 Iowa State (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: In November, Washington State head coach Mike Leach posed perhaps the most important question this college football season. Who would win in a brawl among the Pac-12 coaches?

Saavedra: Washington State has been a fun team to watch this season. Quarterback Gardner Minchew has racked up some impressive numbers with 4,477 yards passing, 36 passing TDs and nine interceptions.

Minchew finished fifth in Heisman voting.

Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Michigan (Noon ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Despite losing to Kentucky for the first time since 1986 earlier this season, Florida is putting up points again.

This season, Florida averaged its most points per game (34.5) since 2008. A victory over Michigan gets head coach Dan Mullen to 10 wins in his first year as Gators’ head coach.

Saavedra: With wins over No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 5 LSU (at the tiem), Florida beat consecutive ranked teams for the first time since the 2012 season.

Belk Bowl: Virginia vs. South Carolina (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bergin: The Cavaliers will try to win their first bowl game since 2005.

Saavedra: South Carolina first-team All-SEC wide receiver Deebo Samuel posted on Instagram that he won’t play in the Belk Bowl so he can focus on the NFL Draft.

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Nevada (1:00 p.m. ET, CBSSN)

Bergin: For the gamblers out there, Arkansas State is 1-3 in bowl games both straight up and against the spread during head coach Blake Anderson’s tenure with the team.

Saavedra: Nevada (7-5) and Arkansas State (8-4) have met six times previously with the last meeting coming in 1999. The Wolf Pack are 4-2 all-time against the Red Wolves.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl: No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Clemson (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Regardless of how the Tigers fare against the Fighting Irish, only one true freshman quarterback has won a national championship in the modern era.

Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway won a national title as a freshman at Oklahoma during the 1985 season when Troy Aikman broke his leg in the fourth game of the season.

Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence looks to join Holieway in what could become an exclusive club.

Saavedra: Clemson’s defensive line has been nothing short of amazing all season and freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence has stepped up well to lead the team to their perfect record.

The Tigers have too many weapons and should be able to win.

Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Alabama (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: The last time a Heisman winner played the Heisman runner-up in a bowl game was in the 2005 season when Reggie Bush and the USC Trojans lost to Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns.

Perhaps fans might be able to settle the debate between Kyler Murray versus Tua Tagovailoa.

Saavedra: Alabama proved mortal in the SEC title game against Georgia. I expect a Big 12-style shootout with whoever has the ball last winning. This game will live up to the hype.

Monday, Dec. 31, 2018

Military Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (Noon ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Virginia Tech is appearing in its 26th consecutive bowl game.

It is the longest bowl streak in the country since Florida State's streak ended this year after 36 seasons.

Saavedra: Cincinnati (10-2, 6-2 American Athletic Conference) has been one of the great turnaround stories of college football in 2018, improving its win total by six games after a 4-8 campaign in 2017.

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Stanford vs. Pittsburgh (2 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bergin: Throwback to when Stanford running back Bryce Love was a preseason Heisman favorite. Here’s to hoping an average season doesn’t drop his draft stock too much.

Saavedra: Stanford has kind of had an up-and-down season. The bowl appearance will be the 30th overall for Stanford, and fifth trip to the Sun Bowl.

The Cardinal is 14-14-1 in bowl games, and 3-1 in the Sun Bowl, most recently defeating North Carolina, 25-23, in 2016.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: No. 23 Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Most Missouri (8-4) fans believe the Tigers could easily be 10-2 after losses against South Carolina and Kentucky, which each ended on the last play of the game. Missouri wallops inferior opponents and folds against formidable ones.

Entering this game, head coach Barry Odom has a 4-16 record against teams that finish the season with a winning record.

In their careers, Odom is 1-7 against ranked teams and senior quarterback Drew Lock is 1-9. However, since Oklahoma State (6-6) is neither ranked nor above .500, I’ll take the Tigers in this contest against former Big 12 foes.

I can’t wait to see how Clemson graduate transfer Kelly Bryant fares next season for Missouri.

Saavedra: Oklahoma State wide receiver Tylan Wallace enters this game with the third in the country with 1,408 receiving yards.

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: No. 17 Utah vs. No. 22 Northwestern (7 p.m. ET, FS1)

Bergin: Two losers of their respective conference championship games do battle.

Saavedra: Northwestern football strength coach Alex Spanos went viral this season for his off the charts energy and enthusiasm on the sidelines. Let’s just hope he never loses his spark.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: No. 19 Texas A&M vs. NC State (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Both teams enter the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on three-game winning streaks.

Saavedra: This bowl should have been renamed the “RecordSlayer Bowl” in honor of Texas A&M’s win against LSU.

Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019

Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. No. 18 Mississippi State (Noon ET, ESPN2)

Bergin: Happy New Year! Football is on while you recover from your New Year’s Eve festivities!

Saavedra: The Outback Bowl likes Iowa for some reason. New Year’s Day marks the second time in three years the Hawkeyes have played in the game dubbed “football in paradise.”

Florida walloped Iowa the last time the Hawkeyes played in the Outback Bowl in 2017.

VRBO Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Penn State (1 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bergin: Running back Benny Snell Jr. powers the offense with 1,305 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.

The NCAA named senior linebacker Josh Allen a consensus All-American. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year earned Kentucky's first consensus All-America honor since 2002.

Saavedra: Up until Georgia’s whipping, Kentucky was America’s Cinderella team this season. I didn’t foresee Mark Stoops being the only Stoops left coaching college football.

At least for one season, Kentucky has competed in the SEC SEC East.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 LSU vs. No. 8 UCF (1 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: UCF enters on a 25-game winning streak, which is the longest active streak in the country. However, UCF has beaten only three Power 5 conference teams during that span.

The Knights will be without starting quarterback McKenzie Milton, who left the USF game with a season-ending knee injury.

Saavedra: If UCF beats LSU, are they going to print new shirts that say “Back-to-Back National Champions”?

If LSU can put up its season averages against UCF, the Tigers should be able to hold off the Knights.

Rose Bowl: No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Washington (5 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: Urban Meyer’s last game coaching the Buckeyes is the first time he’s coached in the Rose Bowl.

Saavedra: I think No. 9 Washington can pull off this “upset.” Ohio State has gotten no love from the college football faithful aside from their own peanut gallery in Columbus. I think people are tired of the antics and the unpredictability the coaching leadership has shown. Washington comes out wanting to prove they are still a contender come next season.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 15 Texas vs. No. 5 Georgia (8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Bergin: It’s battle of weird sideline reactions between head coaches Kirby Smart and Tom Herman.

Saavedra: I’m curious to see if Herman makes fun of Jake Fromm or any other Georgia player.

Monday, Jan. 7, 2019

National championship game

Bergin: If the College Football Playoff semifinal games go how the oddsmakers predict, we’re going to see Alabama versus Clemson, round four.

Saavedra: I know the TV ratings say otherwise, but I know I'm not the only one who would like to see a matchup other than Alabama - Clemson round four.

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