SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg tells you which players to have on your radar this bowl season.
USA TODAY Sports
Counting the College Football Playoff semifinals and national title game, there are 41 bowl games ahead, starting with a Saturday slate that includes Middle Tennessee State taking on Arkansas State in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. So there are 80 teams competing in the postseason. And to that you say, “Outrageous.”
But you know what’s outrageous? That from Jan. 9 until Labor Day weekend — nearly eight long months — we are going to get zero college football. So laugh at the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl if you must. Lament the bloat and the ridiculous money bowl executives make, and wonder aloud if we’ll ever trim the fat. (Also, go ahead and wonder why this state’s two SEC teams aren’t among the 80 bowl teams). You’re not wrong. It’s kind of like when I wonder why I always go for the extra piece of pie around the holidays, heartburn be darned. And you know what the answer is? It’s that time of year. January will be here soon enough with its celery stalks and fake promises.
So I suggest you dive right in and gorge on this football, savoring every bite until it’s gone for a long, long time. I also suggest that, if you enter a bowl confidence pool this season — picking each game, assigning 40 points to the pick you’re most confident in, all the way down to 1 for the toughest call — you look elsewhere for guidance. Here are my picks anyway:
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Pick: Grambling over North Carolina A&T
Confidence points: 5
Comment: A second straight HBCU national title for the storied Grambling program.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Pick: Troy over North Texas
Confidence points: 16
Comment: There’s no Tennessee this bowl season, but there’s plenty of Tennessee coaching search residue. Troy’s Neal Brown could’ve been a contender.
AutoNation Cure Bowl
Pick: Western Kentucky over Georgia State
Confidence points: 15
Comment: WKU’s Mike White will get the win and eclipse 4,000 passing yards.
Las Vegas Bowl
Pick: Oregon over Boise State
Confidence points: 17
Comment: Hard to keep up with who’s coaching the Ducks anymore, but they have better players.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Pick: Colorado State over Marshall
Confidence points: 12
Comment: Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup is worth the price of a ticket.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Pick: Middle Tennessee State over Arkansas State
Confidence points: 7
Comment: The Red Wolves score in bunches, but the Blue Raiders are 3-1 since Brent Stockstill’s return, and he should be as healthy as he’s been in a long time.
FAU’s Lane Kiffin after the WKU game
Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl
Pick: Florida Atlantic over Akron
Confidence points: 40
Comment: Lane Kiffin. Football genius. Twitter troll.
DXL Frisco Bowl
Pick: SMU over Louisiana Tech
Confidence points: 21
Comment: Too much confidence in a team that lost its head coach? Chad Morris is off to Arkansas, and Sonny Dykes is ready to win with his players.
Bad Boy Motors Gasparilla Bowl
Pick: Temple over Florida International
Confidence points: 33
Comment: Nothing says excitement like Temple and Florida International meeting in the Gasparilla Bowl.
Pick: Ohio over UAB
Confidence points: 29
Comment: Remember when Nebraska fired Frank Zolich and opted for Bill Callahan?
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Pick: Wyoming over Central Michigan
Confidence points: 13
Comment: This is assuming Wyoming quarterback/NFL early-round prospect Josh Allen’s throwing shoulder is healthy enough for him to play.
Pick: South Florida over Texas Tech
Confidence points: 4
Comment: Both defenses are hosed here, and South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers is the player way too few people in this country are discussing.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Pick: San Diego State over Army
Confidence points: 32
Comment: I feel like Lockheed Martin will soon be one of our iconic bowl brands.
Dollar General Bowl
Pick: Toledo over Appalachian State
Confidence points: 34
Comment: App State coach Scott Satterfield — another would-be contender for the Vols.
Pick: Houston over Fresno State
Confidence points: 9
Comment: Basing this pick on one player, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, a future NFL star.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Pick: Utah over West Virginia
Confidence points: 24
Comment: Kyle Whittingham pretty much doesn’t lose bowl games, y’all.
Quick Lane Bowl
Pick: Duke over Northern Illinois
Confidence points: 23
Comment: David Cutcliffe to Tennessee: Nah, I’m good.
Pick: UCLA over Kansas State
Confidence points: 22
Comment: Maybe some of Chip Kelly’s brilliance will rub off on Jim Mora’s lame-duck staff.
Watch new #FSU coach Willie Taggart’s introductory press conference
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Pick: Florida State over Southern Miss
Confidence points: 39
Comment: No Jimbo required.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Pick: Boston College over Iowa
Confidence points: 19
Comment: The Hawkeyes are as erratic as they come. The Golden Eagles are reliably average.
As the coaching search rolls on, Tennessee has turned its sights on Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm, according to multiple reports.
Here’s five things to know about Brohm
Angela Gosnell/News Sentinel
Foster Farms Bowl
Pick: Arizona over Purdue
Confidence points: 20
Comment: Jeff Brohm, another Vols coulda-been, won’t enjoy trying to stop Khalil Tate.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Pick: Missouri over Texas
Confidence points: 27
Comment: Drew Lock is going to light up Texas, which continues to be a college football power in name only.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Pick: Navy over Virginia
Confidence points: 14
Comment: I was going to look up Northrop Grumman to see what kind of company it is, but never mind.
Mike Gundy announced on Twitter that he will stay at Oklahoma State after reportedly meeting with Tennessee athletic director John Currie earlier Tuesday in Dallas about the Volunteers’ coaching vacancy.
Camping World Bowl
Pick: Virginia Tech over Oklahoma State
Confidence points: 31
Comment: Call me crazy, but I think Bud Foster’s defense will limit the Cowboys’ aerial attack, and I think just about any offense would gouge the Cowboys’ defense. Plus, maybe Mike Gundy is still thinking about how he used Tennessee to remind Oklahoma State fans how coveted he is.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Pick: TCU over Stanford
Confidence points: 6
Comment: A coaching matchup this good belongs on a bigger stage.
As Tennessee football’s coaching search rolls on, the Vols and athletic director John Currie reportedly turned their sights on Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Angela Gosnell/News Sentinel
San Diego Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Pick: Michigan State over Washington State
Confidence points: 30
Comment: Washington State is missing two of its top three receivers, and Mike Leach is probably still missing all the fun he would have had in Knoxville.
Pick: Texas A&M over Wake Forest
Confidence points: 8
Comment: Moving forward, this bowl won’t do for you, Jimbo.
The ever-changing Tennessee football coaching search of 2017 has reportedly turned to N.C. State’s Dave Doeren.
Angela Gosnell/News Sentinel
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Pick: N.C. State over Arizona State
Confidence points: 37
Comment: Another near-Tennessee coach, Dave Doeren, takes it to what is officially the weirdest program in college football now that Herm Edwards has been hired as Coach and Sorta GM and CEO Person.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Pick: Northwestern over Kentucky
Confidence points: 28
Comment: Nashville’s annual game is known this year as The Nerdy Cats vs. The Dirty Cats. Just kidding, Kentucky! No one thinks you cheat in football.
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Pick: Utah State over New Mexico State
Confidence points: 1
Comment: The lack of confidence here is really just a lack of interest.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
More: Ohio State over USC
Confidence points: 10
Comment: When they’re right, the Buckeyes can beat anyone. When they’re wrong, well, ask Iowa.
Pick: Louisville over Mississippi State
Confidence points: 36
Comment: “TaxSlayer” is appropriate because apparently former Louisville AD Tom Jurich paid little mind to taxes, laws, ethics, etc.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Pick: Memphis over Iowa State
Confidence points: 18
Comment: Matt Campbell is a bright young coach who went out of his way to let people know he didn’t want the Tennessee job, but he’s about to get torched by a former Tennessee quarterback.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Pick: Penn State over Washington
Confidence points: 11
Comment: James Franklin could use this one because people are already wondering what he’ll do without offensive coordinator and new Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead.
Capital One Orange Bowl
Pick: Miami over Wisconsin
Confidence points: 25
Comment: Alex Hornibrook was meant for Miami’s turnover chain.
Pick: Michigan over South Carolina
Confidence points: 38
Comment: The quaint thought of a “New Year’s Day” game as something sacred is challenged here by two unranked teams with eight losses between them meeting in Tampa.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Pick: Auburn over UCF
Confidence points: 35
Comment: Scott Frost is going to have a Nebraska T-shirt and Nebraska long underwear on under his UCF gear, isn’t he?
Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton’s
Pick: Notre Dame over LSU
Confidence points: 26
Comment: Long offseason for Orgeron.
College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
Pick: Oklahoma over Georgia
Confidence points: 2
Comment: Go with the best player, Baker Mayfield. Yeah, Oklahoma’s defense has been brutal, but Georgia’s offensive style will be a welcome change from the Big 12. Also, does the title of this game really have to be 12 words long?
College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl
Pick: Alabama over Clemson
Confidence points: 3
Comment: The real national title game, again. Jeremy Pruitt will coordinate a strong Alabama defensive effort while giving Tennessee football some free advertising. Three years ago, there was a lot of screaming when Ohio State got into the playoff, and the Buckeyes responded by pounding Bama and Oregon. Here comes a similar response from the Crimson Tide.
BONUS PICK: National title game
Pick: Alabama over Oklahoma
Comment: It’s fitting that a new “Star Wars” movie just got released — Darth Vader is back in charge of college football.
Contact Joe Rexrode at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @joerexrode.