College Football Playoff, Bowl Game First Thought Predictions

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

College Football Playoff, Bowl Game First Thought Predictions

Fearless Predictions

College Football Playoff, Bowl Game First Thought Predictions

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December 31, New Year’s Day First Thought Predictions

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Thursday, December 31
ESPN, 12:00 pm
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Last Season: Tulane 30, Southern Miss 13
Tulsa  vs Mississippi State

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Oh, if you think I was a Power Five snob when picking South Carolina over UAB, take that uppity attitude times 11 when it comes to this. Tulsa really has been good – it pushed Cincinnati to almost overtime and gave Oklahoma State an issue – but Mississippi State is going to be an underdog. SEC an underdog in a bowl to a Group of Five program – and the Bulldogs have started to play better. 

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Mississippi State 24, Tulsa 20
Early Line Guess: Tulsa -2.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Tulsa -2.5


AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Thursday, December 31
ESPN, 5:00 pm
Liberty Bowl, Memphis, TN
Bowl Tie-Ins: Big 12 vs. SEC
Last Season: Navy 20, Kansas State 17
West Virginia vs Army

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: I went back and changed this after Tennessee dropped out and Army filled in. Army has made me look ridiculous in bowl games time after time, and a man in my position is not allowed to look ridiculous. I’m taking West Virginia and that strong defensive front to get it done against an Army team that hasn’t really beaten anyone.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: West Virginia 26, Army 20
Early Line Guess: West Virginia -4
Actual BetMGM Line: Not Available


Arizona Bowl

Thursday, December 31
CBS Sports Network, 4:00 pm
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
Last Season: Wyoming 38, Georgia State 17
Ball State vs San Jose State

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: This seems like it should be great, but it probably won’t be if San Jose State plays as well as it should. Ball State has experience and enough offensive talent to keep up a little bit, but San Jose State beaten everyone by double digits and should turn this into a rout after generating just enough takeaways to be comfortable.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: San Jose State 36, Ball State 24
Early Line Guess: San Jose State -11
Actual BetMGM Line: San Jose State -7


Mercari Texas Bowl

Thursday, December 31
ESPN, 8:00 pm
NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Last Season: Texas A&M 24, Oklahoma State 21
TCU vs Arkansas

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: My annual default to the SEC team in a dead-even matchup takes a hit here because Gary Patterson is so good in bowl games. TCU has won four of its last five with the loss coming to … an SEC team – Georgia. TCU is playing well late, but … go with the first answer. SEC over Big 12. Always. 

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Arkansas 30, TCU 27
Early Line Guess: Arkansas -6
Actual BetMGM Line: TCU -5


Vrbo Citrus Bowl

Friday, January 1
ABC, 1:00 pm
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
Last Season: Alabama 35, Michigan 16
Northwestern vs Auburn

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Nothing against Auburn interim head coach Kevin Steele, but Northwestern is going to care and it still has Pat Fitzgerald for at least one more game before he goes off to the NFL. The Wildcat defense should be able to keep the middling Auburn defense from doing much of anything – don’t be freaked by the Trey Sermon rushing day against the NU defensive front in the Big Ten Championship.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Northwestern 26, Auburn 20
Early Line Guess: Northwestern -4.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Northwestern -3.5


TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Saturday, January 2
ESPN, 12:00 pm
TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, FL
Last Season: Tennessee 23, Indiana 22
NC State vs Kentucky

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Don’t be shocked if this is one of the better bowl games. Kentucky has played a few thrillers over the last few years, and NC State is good enough to keep this close throughout. Both teams have massive flaws. The line is going to be off because NC State beat a lot of bad teams to close and Kentucky got rocked by good teams. This should be a dead even, low scoring fight.

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Kentucky 23, NC State 20
Early Line Guess: NC State -4
Actual BetMGM Line: NC State -3


Outback Bowl

Saturday, January 2
ESPN, 12:30 pm
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Last Season: Minnesota 31, Auburn 24
Indiana vs Ole Miss

Knee-Jerk Instant Analysis: Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of scoring. Ole Miss will keep firing, but Indiana should be able to hold up just enough, and the offensive balance should be enough to get by. Whatever the over is, go with it.

Note: looking it up after the fact, it’s 67. GO OVER

Knee-Jerk No Research Prediction: Indiana 44, Ole Miss 37
Early Line Guess: Indiana -6.5
Actual BetMGM Line: Indiana -8

NEXT: New Year’s Six Bowls First Thought Predictions

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