Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan (-3) vs. Air Force
It's sea versus sky in this one! Row, row, row your boat and other nautical themed references! The SS PJ Fleck righted the ship in 2014, making a run at the MAC West title en route to an 8-4 campaign. WMU (8-4) boasted the top scoring offense and the number 4 ranked defense in the MAC this season. Zach Terrell was the league's most efficient passer. Corey Davis led the MAC in receiving yards per game, and MAC Freshman of the Year Jarvion Franklin rushed for over 1500 yards and 24 touchdowns. The WMU turnaround happened quicker than I expected. Whatever.
Obviously the Air Force (9-3) offense is primarily on the ground. In fact the Falcons threw for only 151 yards per game and rushed for a staggering 272 yards a contest, 8th best in the nation. Jacobi Owens is no Franklin, but he topped 1,000 yards to go with 5 TDs. Kale Pearson is a dual threat QB, 1500 yards, 14 TDs, and 3 picks with his arm, 646 yards and 6 TDs with his legs. Air Force had a couple of impressive wins this season, knocking off Boise State and Colorado State. Western Michigan has no wins that jump off the page at you. The Broncos have come a long way, but they're not there yet. Take the Falcons, and the points.
Camellia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green (-1.5)
Is there a team less excited to be in a bowl game than BGSU? Bowling Green (7-6) limps into the Camellia Bowl losers of three in a row, including a 51-17 destruction at the hands of Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game. After the loss of Matt Johnson for the season, Bowling Green rebounded behind quarterback James Knapke to come out on top of a weak MAC East. Travis Greene had flashes of brilliance, and when he hit a slide, sophomore Fred Coppet filled in nicely.
Maybe there is a team less pumped to be in a bowl game than the Falcons! On October 24th, South Alabama (6-6) took care of Troy 27-13 to move to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the Sun Belt. Instead of challenging for a conference title, losses in 4 of the final 5 games followed. For their efforts, South Alabama was rewarded with a trip to south central Alabama. Quarterback Brandon Bridge, he's ok. Running backs Kendall Houston and Xavier Johnson, they're ok. Wide receiver Shavarez Smith, he's pretty good. Most these guys are just ok. The game? Meh. This is one you have to bet on to stay interested. MONTGOMERY ALABAMA BELONGS TO THE FALCONS. I guess. Take Bowling Green, lay the points.
Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois (+11) vs. Marshall
Yeeeeeeeeeeah. Now here's one we want to see. On October 11th it looked like the dynasty that is Northern Illinois football had crumbled. Drew Hare, supplanting the legendary Jordan Lynch at quarterback had been unable to guide the Huskies past Central Michigan, falling to the Chippewas 34-17. That dropped NIU to 4-2 overall, 1-1 in the MAC West, and kickstarted the discussion that we could see a new representative from the West in the conference championship game. What followed was seven consecutive wins, including a blowout victory last Friday in Detroit over Bowling Green 51-17. Cameron Stingily leads a balanced Huskie rushing attack, and receiver Da'Ron Brown topped 1,000 yards through the air.
And they get Marshall (12-1), and Marshall hates it. That's the rumor anyway. Were it not for a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky on November 28th.....well, the Thundering Herd would probably be here anyway. The CFP hates the G5 even more than the BCS did. The quicker you realize that the better. Marshall has the fifth ranked offense in the nation, led by quarterback Rakeem Cato. The senior topped 3600 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2014. Devon Johnson, 1600 yards on the ground and 16 scores. Tommy Shuler 958 yards through the air and 8 scores. Only two of Marshall's wins were by fewer than two scores. Here's the kicker, it was the last two. I think Marshall will win the game, but 11 points is a huge number. I cant turn that many down. Take the Huskies and the points.
Bahamas Bowl: Central Michigan (+1.5) vs. Western Kentucky
I think this one will be fun. Central Michigan may not have a three headed monster offensively, but it's a pretty scary dog. Cooper Rush was a top five MAC quarterback. Thomas Rawls was a top five MAC running back. Titus Davis was a top five MAC wide receiver. Dan Enos was.....a MAC coach. Actually I'm an Enos supporter. Stop your pouting CMU fans. Anyway here's how the Central season went: won when they should've won, lost when they should've lost, you get to go to a bowl game.
Western Kentucky (7-5) may be bowl season's most unlikely invitee. The Hilltoppers were destroyed by Louisiana Tech, 59-10 on November 10th, and fell to 3-5. WKU won the last four, including that thriller against Marshall, to sneak into the bowl party. Western racks up 44 points a game, sixth best in the country. Here are some staggering offensive numbers, quarterback Brandon Doughty threw for 4,344 yards and 44 touchdowns. Running back Leon Allen was just shy of 1,500 yards. Eight Hilltoppers caught three or more touchdowns this season, led by Jared Dangerfield with 10 touchdowns. If this was a fatter spread, I'd think twice about it, but WKU has too much momentum at this point. Few teams light up the scoreboard like the Hilltoppers. Take Western Kentucky, lay the points.
GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo (-1) vs. Arkansas State
The Rockets (8-4) kind of flew under the radar all season didn't they? November 11th was essentially a MAC West championship game, with Northern Illinois headed to Detroit and Toledo headed to Alabama. The Rockets had no especially impressive wins, and didn't put up much of a fight against P5 competition with the exception of Iowa State. Quarterback Logan Woodside didn't air it out as much as his MAC peers but was third in the league in passing efficiency. Kareem Hunt was the class of the class of the conference by a mile, rushing for better than 150 yards per game. Corey Jones helped provide enough of a threat through the air to allow the Rockets to dominate on the ground.
Arkansas State (7-5) finished fifth in the Sun Belt this year. They nearly missed bowl season after dropping two of the final three, but then the football gods smiled as the Red Wolves finished their season with New Mexico State. I'll make this quick for you, for the indefinite future if ASU is bowl eligible, you can always write them in for the GoDaddy Bowl. That's not to say there's not talent. Quarterback Fredi Knighten and running back Michael Gordon help provide a balanced attack. The Red Wolves score more than 36 points a game. The defense has been wildly inconsistent at times though. Take Toledo and the point.