College football bowl picks 2017: Predicting every winner

Bowl season begins on Dec. 16 with five FBS contests (and the FCS Celebration Bowl). It basically plays out in four rounds:

  1. The first round stretches from this Saturday through Christmas Eve. Of the 28 teams in these games, only two — Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl and Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl — are from power conferences.
  2. After a Christmas Day break, the second round stretches from December 26 through the afternoon of December 29. It features 30 teams, 25 of which are from power conferences and eight of which are in the CFP top 25.
  3. The third round begins when Ohio State and USC kick off in the Cotton Bowl late on December 29. These are the big ones. These 10 bowls feature 18 power conference teams, 16 ranked teams, and every top 10 team.
  4. The fourth round is one game: the CFP national championship.

Below are picks and projections using the S&P+ projections you can find in full in the Football Study Hall stat profiles. This document breaks games (and S&P+’s season performance to date) out into their decimal glory. After a midseason funk as preseason projections were being phased out in favor of in-season numbers, S&P+ finished strong against the spread in 2017:

  • Weeks 1-4: 111-83-2 (57%)
  • Weeks 5-9: 130-144-7 (48%)
  • Weeks 10-14: 136-117-6 (54%)

Spread pick in bold.

  • Troy 31, North Texas (+6.5) 27 (Dec. 16, 1:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Western Kentucky (+6.5) 28, Georgia State (+6.5) 25 (Dec. 16, 2:30 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • No. 25 Boise State (+7) 29, Oregon 28 (Dec. 16, 3:30 PM ET, ABC)
  • Colorado State 30, Marshall (+5.5) 27 (Dec. 16, 4:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Arkansas State (-4) 32, Middle Tennessee 24 (Dec. 16, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Florida Atlantic 40, Akron (+22.5) 18 (Dec. 19, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • SMU 35, Louisiana Tech (+5) 32 (Dec. 20, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Florida International (+7.5) 28, Temple 27 (Dec. 21, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Ohio 30, UAB (+7.5) 24 (Dec. 22, 12:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Wyoming (PK) 24, Central Michigan 21 (Dec. 22, 4:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • South Florida (-2.5) 33, Texas Tech 25 (Dec. 23, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • San Diego State 31, Army (+7) 27 (Dec. 23, 3:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Toledo 31, Appalachian State (+8) 28 (Dec. 23, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Fresno State (+2.5) 27, Houston 26 (Dec. 24, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN)

The headliners are projected to be extremely close. MWC champ Boise State is projected to beat Oregon by just one point, and what might be the two other primary mid-major showcase games — Toledo-Appalachian State and Fresno State-Houston — are projected within three points. This is good.

  • Utah 33, West Virginia (+6.5) 29 (Dec. 26, 1:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Northern Illinois (+5) 25, Duke 22 (Dec. 26, 5:15 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Kansas State 33, UCLA (+2.5) 32 (Dec. 26, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Southern Miss (+15.5) 27, Florida State 23 (Dec. 27, 1:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Iowa (-3) 25, Boston College 22* (Dec. 27, 5:15 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Purdue (+3.5) 31, Arizona 30 (Dec. 27, 8:30 PM ET, Fox)
  • Missouri (-3) 31, Texas 27 (Dec. 27, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Virginia 29, Navy (+1) 28** (Dec. 28, 1:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 19 Oklahoma State (-4.5) 30, No. 22 Virginia Tech 25 (Dec. 28, 5:15 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 15 TCU (-2.5) 29, No. 13 Stanford 25 (Dec. 28, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 16 Michigan State (+2.5) 23, No. 18 Washington State 23*** (Dec. 28, 9:00 PM ET, FS1)
  • Wake Forest (-3) 31, Texas A&M 26 (Dec. 29, 1:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 24 NC State 34, Arizona State (+6) 28**** (Dec. 29, 3:00 PM ET, CBS)
  • No. 21 Northwestern (-7) 32, Kentucky 23 (Dec. 29, 4:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Utah State 30, New Mexico State (+4) 27 (Dec. 29, 5:30 PM ET, CBSSN)

One note: despite no changes to the formula, it appears S&P+ has been over-estimating mid-majors a bit this season when projected against power-conference opponents.

I am not sure the cause of that — my guess is that the connectivity between the conferences hasn’t been as strong this season, but it’s only a guess at this point — but keep that in mind when looking at games like Southern Miss-FSU above and UCF-Auburn below.

Something else to keep in mind about Southern Miss-FSU: The Seminoles were much better down the stretch than the Golden Eagles, who rode a mid-season hot streak to a favorable rating.

* Actual projection: Iowa 25.1, BC 21.8
** Actual projection: Virginia 28.5, Navy 28.1
*** Actual projection: MSU 23.1, Wazzu 22.9
**** Actual projection: NC State 33.8, ASU 28.3

  • No. 5 Ohio State (-7.5) 36, No. 8 USC 24 (Dec. 29, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Louisville 31, No. 23 Mississippi State (+6.5) 29 (Dec. 30, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 20 Memphis (-3.5) 34, Iowa State 29 (Dec. 30, 12:30 PM ET, ABC)
  • No. 11 Washington (+2) 27, No. 9 Penn State 26 (Dec. 30, 4:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 6 Wisconsin (-6.5) 28, No. 10 Miami 20 (Dec. 30, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Michigan (-7.5) 28, South Carolina 20 (Jan. 1, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 12 UCF (+9.5) 31, No. 7 Auburn 30 (Jan. 1, 12:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 14 Notre Dame (+3) 28, No. 17 LSU 26 (Jan. 1, 1:00 PM ET, ABC)
  • No. 3 Georgia (-2) 34, No. 2 Oklahoma 32* (Jan. 1, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 4 Alabama (-2.5) 26, No. 1 Clemson 22 (Jan. 1, 8:45 PM ET, ESPN)

Of these 10 games, seven are projected within a touchdown. The committee did a nice job of pairing teams off, and we got some fun non-CFP games like Memphis-Iowa State and Notre Dame-LSU as well.

This is going to be fun.

* Actual projection: UGA 34.2, OU 32.0

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