College Football Playoff, Bowl Game First Thought Predictions

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

College Football Playoff, Bowl Game First Thought Predictions

College Football Predictions

College Football Playoff, Bowl Game First Thought Predictions


The first predictions, early lines, and quick analysis on all college football bowl and College Football Playoff games. 

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Future College Football Playoff Sites & Dates

Get ready for the sprint.

Usually we have the bowl announcement on the first weekend of December, we get a few weeks to go over it all and figure out what we’ve got, and then we dive in.

Not this year. It all gets going NOW, and we’re getting slammed with bowl games up through New Year’s Day. We’ll do the previews, predictions and breakdowns for each one over the next week or so, but here’s the first look, first thought, and knee-jerk analysis for each one.

Like they tell you in third grade, though, always go with your first answer.

All of the bowls will be done later today. Here are the first five to get this all going.

December 31, New Year’s Day
New Year’s Six Bowls
College Football Playoff

Myrtle Beach Bowl

Monday, December 21
ESPN, 3:30 pm
Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC
North Texas vs. Appalachian State

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Nothing whatsoever against North Texas, but this has the potential to be the most lopsided of all of the bowl games, and it’s coming right out of the gate. Appalachian State has a fantastic defense, the offense was the best in the Sun Belt, and this program doesn’t lose bowl game and North Texas – at least lately – does.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Appalachian State 47, North Texas 20
Early Line Guess: Appalachian State -17.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Appalachian State -21
Update after originally published: Appalachian State 56, North Texas 28

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Tuesday, December 22
ESPN, 3:30
Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID
Tulane vs. Nevada

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Nevada passing game vs. Tulane ground attack and a veteran head coach in Willie Fritz who’s been good at these things over his two seasons at Tulane. How much will the weather matter? It’ll be in the 60s in New Orleans this week and in the 30s in Boise, but the Green Wave has been too strong over the second half of the season.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Tulane 38, Nevada 30
Early Line Guess
: Tulane -3
Actual BetMGM Line: Tulane -3 Boca Raton Bowl

Tuesday, December 22
ESPN, 7:00 pm
FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, FL

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Ohhhhhhh, yeahhhhhh. UCF has been a killer lately in bowl games, BYU has been a killer, period. The Knights will make this interesting with a whole slew of big plays, but the Cougar lines will grind away and end up bashing their way to the win. Zach Wilson will cement his place as a first round pick with a brilliant statistical day.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction
: BYU 34, UCF 27
Early Line Guess: BYU -5.5
Actual BetMGM Line: BYU -6
Update after originally published: Switched pick to UCF in the game preview

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Wednesday, December 23
ESPN, 3:30 pm
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Georgia Southern vs. Louisiana Tech

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Warning … I’m probably going to change this pick once I really dive into the game – Louisiana Tech is awesome in bowl games under Skip Holtz. My instant reaction is that Georgia Southern has the option offense and ground game to pull this off, and it’s the better team, but again, I’m going with my first answer here, but will likely switch fast.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Georgia Southern 27, Louisiana Tech 23
Early Line Guess:  Georgia Southern -7
Actual BetMGM Line: Georgia Southern -6

Montgomery Bowl

Wednesday, December 23
ESPN or ESPN2, 7:00 pm
Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, AL 
Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Has Willie Taggart ever won a bowl game? I’ll look that up to make sure once the preview is written, but I’m almost sure he left just when his past teams got good and to a bowl. FAU has a fantastic defense, and Memphis isn’t Memphis like we remember from last year, but the Owl O shouldn’t be able to keep up.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Memphis 30, FAU 17
Early Line Guess: Memphis -9
Actual BetMGM Line: Memphis -9.5

New Mexico Bowl

Thursday, December 24
ESPN, 3:30 pm
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX
Hawaii vs. Houston

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: It’s an annual tradition that I riff through this piece and don’t look up anything, but I did check the weather on this. It’s going to be in the 80s all week in Honolulu and maybe hit 50 in Frisco on Thursday. It’s not that Hawaii isn’t tough, but it’s asking so much for such a major change – the loss at Wyoming this year was in frigid temptations. There’s one other problem – all of Houston’s losses have been to strong teams. Hawaii will play well, but the Cougars break out here.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Houston 37, Hawaii 27
Early Line Guess
Houston -8.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Houston -11.5

Camellia Bowl

Friday, December 25
ESPN, 2:30 pm
Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, AL
Last Season: Arkansas State 34, FIU 26
Buffalo vs Marshall

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Is Buffalo overhyped or did it just not show up to the MAC Championship? Marshall’s defense is really that good, but the offense took the end of the 2020 regular season off. Expect a low scoring game but with the UB offense to a little more, especially not he ground.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Buffalo 24, Marshall 20
Early Line Guess: Marshall -4.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Marshall -3

Union Home Mortgage Gasparillia Bowl

Saturday, December 26
ABC, 12:00 pm
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Last Season: UCF 48, Marshall 25
UAB vs South Carolina

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: The Power Five snob in me can’t do this. It can’t take UAB in a bowl game over an SEC team – any SEC team. South Carolina might be a mess, and there’s a question mark about how interested it’ll be to play, it’s the SEC vs. Conference USA in a bowl game. Hold your nose and don’t ask questions.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: South Carolina 30, UAB 23
Early Line Guess: UAB -1.5
Actual BetMGM Line: UAB -5

Cure Bowl

Saturday, December 26
ESPN, 12:00 pm
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
Last Season: Liberty 23, Georgia Southern 16
Liberty vs Coastal Carolina

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Can I pick both teams? This is about as dead-even a matchup as the bowl season will get. Coastal Carolina is the real deal, but there’s one thing I can’t get past – Liberty beat two ACC teams on the road and came within a blocked kick of beating a third. The Flames have real talent in the backfield to get that ground game going, but this is as coin-flippy of a pick as it gets.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Liberty 26, Coastal Carolina 24
Early Line Guess: Coastal Carolina -5
Actual BetMGM Line: Coastal Carolina -6

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

Saturday, December 26
ESPN, 3:30 pm
Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX
Last Season: WKU 23, Western Michigan 20
Louisiana vs UTSA

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: UTSA will bring the effort and a good running game, and the line is a bit high, but the Louisiana has the ability to play ticked off. If it cares enough to make a statement that it’s here and not somewhere on New Year’s Day, that running game will take over fast and turn the lights out.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Louisiana 30, UTSA 20
Early Line Guess: Louisiana -11.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Louisiana -13

LendingTree Bowl

Saturday, December 26
ESPN, 3:30 pm
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL
Last Season: Louisiana 27, Miami University 17
WKU vs. Georgia State

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Georgia State is as steady as it comes offensively points-wise except for two games – Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina. WKU picked up the offense over the last few games, but it’s not going to be able to keep up if and when the Panther offense gets moving early.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Georgia State 28, WKU 23
Early Line Guess: Georgia State -7
Actual BetMGM Line: Georgia State -4.5

Cheez-It Bowl

Tuesday, December 29
ESPN, 5:30 pm
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
Last Season: Notre Dame 33, Iowa State 9
Note: Was Camping World Bowl last season
Miami vs Oklahoma State

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Let’s just say I’ll believe Miami is good against the better teams when I see it. This has been a totally miserable bowl team over the last several years, but Oklahoma State hasn’t exactly been anything special. The defense will find its early season self against D’Eriq King.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Oklahoma State 36, Miami 24
Early Line Guess: Oklahoma State -2.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Oklahoma State -1.5

Valero Alamo Bowl

Tuesday, December 29
ESPN, 9:00 pm
Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Last Season: Texas 38, Utah 10
Texas vs Colorado

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: It’s Tom Herman in a bowl game. Texas is going to win, so the question is by how much against a Colorado team that’s sneaky-good and should be able to hold up enough to keep this from getting out of hand. Texas will get a big game out of Sam Ehlinger in his finale, and once again in a bowl, Texas will look like the team we wish it was all season long.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Texas 37, Colorado 20
Early Line Guess: Texas -10
Actual BetMGM Line: Texas -12

Duke’s Mayo Bowl

Wednesday, December 30
ESPN, 12:00 pm
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Last Season: Kentucky 37, Virginia Tech 30
Wake Forest vs Wisconsin

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Wisconsin doesn’t have any offensive skill parts. Graham Mertz got dinged up against Minnesota but should be okay, and the defense is going to take over fast, but can the Badgers score. It’ll do just enough to slip by in an uggo thanks to a revived D. Whatever the point total, take the under. 

Note: looking it up after the fact, it’s 53.5. GO UNDER.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Wisconsin 23, Wake Forest 16
Early Line Guess: Wisconsin -4.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Wisconsin -6.5

TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Wednesday, December 30
ESPN, 3:30 pm
Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Bowl Tie-Ins: Big Ten vs. SEC
Last Season: Louisville 38, Mississippi State 28
Iowa  vs Missouri

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Iowa has turned into a killer in bowl games lately after being a dog for so many years. However, USC is the only win in the last three that’s been a blowout. Missouri has a better defense than it showed late – it looked like a team in need of a break. Iowa wins, Mizzou makes it interesting.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Iowa 34, Missouri 24
Early Line Guess: Iowa -7.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Iowa -15

December 31, New Year’s Day
New Year’s Six Bowls
College Football Playoff

NEXT: December 31, New Year’s Day First Thought Predictions


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