Tailgate Pick ‘Em Bowl Week 1 Predictions Including Army vs Houston

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The college football bowl season kicks off today and our experts are back to preview and pick every upcoming game including Army vs Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Marquee Bowls

New Mexico Bowl: Utah State (10-2) vs North Texas( 9-3) (Saturday at 2:00) Line: Utah State by 8

Mike Loveall: The Aggies’ are a 10-win team, and they’re deserving of the respect that comes with that. But the Mean Green have the dangerous Mason Fine at quarterback and a quality head coach that will be getting job offers soon. This is a classic offense versus defense matchup. In the good weather of New Mexico, expect North Texas to pull the upset. North Texas 31, Utah State 27

Yesh Ginsburg: What will Utah State do without head coach Matt Wells? That’s the biggest question in this game. North Texas is a good team and this should be a great game, but the Aggies have more talent and the more explosive offense. As long as Utah State stays focused, it should win. Utah State 38, North Texas 31

John Bava: This is one of the more intriguing bowl matchups involving two non-Power Five schools. Both achieved unprecedented success in 2018. Utah State won 10 games in a season for the first time in school history, while only once before has North Texas put together back-to-back nine-win seasons. The Aggies and Mean Green have a somewhat shared past as the two were formerly a part of the Big West and Sun Belt.

Expect both teams’ pass games to be heavily involved in Albuquerque. Each team boasts an immensely dynamic quarterback in Utah State’s Jordan Love and North Texas’ Mason Fine. Both are top 20 nationally in passing yardage and have thrown a combined 55 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. What pushes the Aggies over the top in this one is a playmaking defense that leads FBS with six interceptions returned for touchdowns. Utah State 38, North Texas 31

Steen Kirby: North Texas has had a great season but the MWC is a better conference and Utah State has the edge in this game, this is another team that would be undefeated with a couple of extra scores this season. Utah State 28, North Texas 17

Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State (7-5) vs #21 Fresno State (11-2) (Saturday at 3:30) Line: Fresno State by 4

Mike: The Bulldogs have quietly put together a banner season behind Marcus McMaryion’s 3.453 passing yards. They’re going against an Arizona State team that many people are watching like a laboratory experiment, with new head coach Herm Edwards installing a pro-style approach to his program. With Eno Benjamin in the backfield, it’ll likely be a track meet. Can Fresno get to 12 wins? Arizona State 35, Fresno State 30

Yesh:  It’s hard to know what to make of Arizona State, but this Fresno State team is really good. Other than the struggle early in the season against Minnesota, the Bulldogs have brought their best just about every week. Avenging the loss to Boise State feels really good, but a bowl win over a Pac 12 team will feel even better. Fresno State 28, Arizona State 21

John: Fresno State’s last appearance on a football field was sweet in so many ways. Not only did the Bulldogs finally exorcize the curse of the blue turf, getting their first-ever win on it, but it also sealed their third Mountain West title and first since 2013. Their reward is a trip to Las Vegas to face an Arizona State team who put together a decent 7-5 season in Herm Edwards’ return to coaching.

One of the more prominent storylines heading into this game is how the Sun Devils will cope with not having stud wide receiver N’Keal Harry. Harry decided against playing in his team’s bowl game and instead will prepare for next year’s NFL Draft. He totaled 1,088 receiving yards this season, which underscores the fact that ASU will be hard-pressed to replace that kind of production. Fresno has their own dynamic pass-catcher in KeeSean Johnson who finished with 1,307 yards receiving which ranks eighth nationally. The Pac-12 didn’t exactly impress in bowls last season, and the trend continues in Sin City. Fresno State 31, Arizona State 20

Steen: MWC Champions Fresno State have a great QB and would be undefeated if a couple of touchdowns had gone the other way. Arizona State is rebuilding under Herm Edwards but I don’t see this game being that close. Fresno State 42, Arizona State 24

New Orleans Bowl: Middle Tennessee State (8-5) vs Appalachian State (10-2) (Saturday at 9:00) Line: Appalachian State by 7

Mike: You knew it was going to come to end at some point, and Scott Satterfield was finally snatched up by a larger program (Louisville). If Satterfield were coaching this game, it might be different. MTSU has a pass happy offense, and Appalachian State has struggled in that area this season. The Blue Raiders are coming off a disappointing loss to UAB in the Conference USA Championship Game; look for them to have the motivation to end the season on a high note in the Big Easy. Middle Tennessee 37, Appalachian State 33

Yesh:  Appalachian State is a really good team. No offense to MTSU, which is solid in its own right, but the Mountaineers are just better. Of course, the Mountaineers also just lost their head coach. This game will be determined by how motivated App State is. As long as the Mountaineers come locked in, they’ll win. Appalachian State 41, Middle Tennessee 27

John: This is just the third meeting between Appalachian State and Middle Tennessee and the first since 1992. The Mountaineers come into this contest having won their third straight Sun Belt title. They face a Blue Raiders side that came up just short in their bid at conference championship glory, losing 27-25 to UAB in the Conference USA title game.

App State will be without their head coach as Scott Satterfield left for the Louisville job. It will be interesting to see how the team responds. Defensive line coach Mark Ivey is taking over on an interim basis. That might be a good thing as the Mountaineers rank fifth nationally in total defense. Even though MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill’s 70.5 percent completion percentage is fourth-best in the nation, the Mountaineers should be able to keep him in check. They’re one of 20 FBS teams who’ve crossed the 15-interception threshold as a team. Appalachian State 33, Middle Tennessee 21

Steen: Brent Stockstill is a great QB for MTSU but Appalachian State is a really good team (perhaps the second best in the group of 6) and they will find a way to win this game even with coach Scott Satterfield leaving for Louisiville. Appalachian State 35, Middle Tennessee 24

Boca Raton Bowl: UAB (10-3) vs Northern Illinois (8-5) (Tuesday at 7:00) Line: UAB by 2.5

Mike: The Blazers are one of the feel good stories of the 2018 season. Bill Clark takes his charges into Boca Raton looking to get one more win against Northern Illinois. This won’t be the most exciting game to watch, but it’ll be interesting to see how UAB finishes. UAB 20, Northern Illinois 17

Yesh: UAB is absolutely one heck of a story, and Bill Clark definitely earned his Coach of the Year award. Unfortunately, Northern Illinois is underrated and has a tremendous defense. As long as the Huskies offense can get minimal production (which is not at all a given, this season), NIU should be able to squeak out a victory. It will be a great game, though. Northern Illinois 21, UAB 17

John: The feel-good story that is UAB continues. In their second season since returning to college football, the Blazers won their first conference title of any kind when they knocked off Middle Tennessee in the C-USA championship game. Standing in the way of their first-ever bowl victory is Northern Illinois who has to be feeling good themselves. They pulled off a massive upset of Buffalo to win their first MAC title in four years.

This is the only bowl game involving two conference champions not part of the New Year’s Six. It’s also the first time these two schools have met. The Blazers will try to get their ground game going through Spencer Brown who’s one of three C-USA running backs who eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing this year. But it may prove a challenge against a Huskie defense which gave up the fewest rushing yards per game among MAC sides. Northern Illinois 27, UAB 24

Steen: Both teams won conference titles as UAB has risen like a Phoenix to notch 10 wins this year, while NIU recovered from a slow start to win the MAC. NIU’s defense is tough and should stifle UAB enough to notch the win. Northern Illinois 24, UAB 21

Armed Forces Bowl: Army (10-2) vs Houston (8-4) (Saturday 12/22 at 3:30) Line: Army by 3

Mike: Houston is an underdog that will get a lot of action. The Cougars are talented, but they’ve been plagued by injuries, inconsistency, and a little turmoil this season. Ed Oliver won’t play in his last opportunity with his hometown team, and D’Eriq King is out for the season as well. Army isn’t the team you want to play when your team’s mindset is shaken. They’re motivated and they will grind down an opponent. Army 35, Houston 28

Yesh: Army has had a heck of a season. The Black Knights were less than a minute away from shocking Oklahoma, and they have been cool and consistent all year, on both sides of the ball. It’s always tough to predict triple-option teams in bowl games because of the extra prep time, but I think Army will come prepared and disciplined enough to barely earn a win. Army 31, Houston 20

John: The balance of power in service academy football has completely swung in Army’s favor over the past few years. They’ve clearly supplanted Navy as the top dog among the three FBS Armed Forces programs. Under fifth-year head coach Jeff Monken, the Black Knights are on the cusp of history. Never before has this storied program finished a season with 11 wins. But they can do exactly that with a victory over Houston in this year’s iteration of the Armed Forces Bowl.

Ed Oliver is bucking the trend of top NFL Draft prospects sitting out their school’s bowl game. He and the Cougars defense has a tall task ahead of them neutralizing Army’s vaunted triple option. His ability to force tackles for loss will certainly aid his team’s chances. However, Houston as a whole ranks 99th in FBS in rushing yards allowed. Army is second nationally in rushing offense. That bodes well for the Cadets from West Point making history. Army 24, Houston 20

Steen: This is a huge game for Army, after a 10th win that came against heated rivals Navy, they now have a chance to knock off a credible Houston team that went 1-3 down the stretch. Army’s option should control the game and earn them a win. Army 27, Houston 20

Other Bowls

Cure Bowl: Tulane (6-6) vs Louisiana-Lafayette (7-6)
Line: Tulane by 3.5

Steen: To reach a bowl Tulane finished the year strong, they should continue that momentum and beat their in-state rivals ULL. Tulane 35, ULL 17

Mike:  The Green Wave have shown glimpses of potential this season. Tulane 34, ULL 23

Yesh: ULL has really turned its program around in recent years, but Tulane is better this season. Tulane 34, ULL 28

John: Tulane is making just its third bowl appearance since 2000. They face in-state foe Louisiana in Orlando and can wrap up their fifth ever bowl win if they can overcome the Ragin’ Cajuns. Tulane 24, ULL 17

Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern (9-3) vs Eastern Michigan (7-5) Line: Georgia Southern by 1

Steen: Georgia Southern has built a strong offense with the option and they should run over EMU in this one. Georgia Southern 31, Eastern Michigan 17

Mike: Neither of these teams will set the world on fire; might be the least attractive of the bowl games this season. Georgia Southern 20, Eastern Michigan 17

Yesh: This line baffles me. Georgia Southern is a far superior team. Georgia Southern 35, Eastern Michigan 17

John: This all-Eagles affair pits an Eastern Michigan side that has a transitive victory over Ohio State against a Georgia Southern team who handed Appalachian State its only loss in Sun Belt play. Georgia Southern 33, Eastern Michigan 24

Frisco Bowl: San Diego State (7-5) vs Ohio (8-4)
Line: Ohio by 3

Steen: San Diego State is struggling late in the year and Ohio has a great dual-threat QB. Ohio 38, San Diego State 24

Mike: The Aztecs will be motivated and still have a bad taste in their mouth from last season’s Texas bowl game. San Diego State 27, Ohio 20

Yesh: San Diego State has more talent, but absolutely collapsed this season. Ohio 31, San Diego State 14

John: Ohio’s Nathan Rourke is one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks but he could be in for a challenge against a San Diego State side which led the Mountain West in rush defense. San Diego State 30, Ohio 23

Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall (8-4) vs South Florida (7-5)
Line: Marshall by 2.5

Steen: Despite tanking late in the season, this is a home game for USF and they play in a tougher conference. USF 35, Marshall 28

Mike: The Bulls are too talented not to get to eight wins this season, even with some key injuries. USF 31, Marshall 28

Yesh: South Florida is on a five-game losing streak, but Marshall has looked really bad at times this year, especially in its final game. USF 41, Marshall 38

John: This game could hinge on who steps up on the defensive side of the ball, which might be an issue with South Florida who’s on a five-game losing streak and ranked 104th nationally in total defense. Marshall 27, USF 17

Bahamas Bowl: FIU (8-4) vs Toledo (7-5)
Line: Toledo by 5.5

Steen: Toledo’s losses have come to good teams but FIU is playing closer to home and should have an edge. FIU 24, Toledo 17

Mike:  The Bahamas game is always tricky with just too many variables, not the least of which is the distraction of paradise. Take FIU athleticism. FIU 38, Toledo 34

Yesh: FIU mostly flew under the radar this year, while Toledo did not quite live up to its expected production. Toledo 31, FIU 28

John: Florida International boasts a 9-4 record against the spread as an underdog over the past few years and are a fashionable pick in this year’s Bahamas Bowl as a result. Toledo 31, FIU 28

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan (7-5) vs BYU (6-6)
Line: BYU by 12

Steen: Both teams have been inconsistent, BYU is better but this line is too high. BYU 24, Western Michigan 21

Mike: It’s no coincidence that BYU and Blue Turf both start with the letter “B”. BYU 42, Western Michigan 35

Yesh:  I don’t understand this line either. BYU struggled all year. Western Michigan 31, BYU 24

John: This is a puzzling line considering BYU snuck into bowl eligibility with a 6-6 record. The Cougars are in for a challenge against a Western Michigan team that includes the MAC’s leading rusher, LeVante Bellamy. BYU 26, Western Michigan 23

Birmingham Bowl: Memphis (8-5) vs Wake Forest (6-6)
Line: Memphis by 5

Steen: The AAC west champions will spread the field and air it out against a poor Wake secondary. Memphis 42, Wake Forest 21

Mike: This is the one bet that tempts you to bet the house. Memphis 41, Wake Forest 23

Yesh: This should, very quietly, be a very good game. Memphis played awful on defense against Mizzou, and will want to rectify that against another P5 team. Memphis 45, Wake Forest 35

John: Memphis quarterback Brady White led the AAC in passing yards and has the potential to feast on a Wake Forest team that ranked dead last among ACC teams defending the pass. Memphis 41, Wake Forest 17

Dollar General Bowl: Buffalo (10-3) vs Troy (9-3)
Line: Buffalo by 2.5

Steen: Both teams were great this year, especially in conference. Troy is playing closer to home though and should have momentum. Troy 28, Buffalo 24

Mike: Probably the toughest game on this slate to call; so go with the home team. Troy 34, Buffalo 31

Yesh: Buffalo and Troy are both really good teams, and this should be an exciting game. Buffalo 41, Troy 38

John: Buffalo pulled off one of the worst choke jobs you’re likely to see in the MAC championship game. It’s likely they’re still reeling against a Troy side who should have a sizable contingent of fans in Mobile. Troy 27, Buffalo 21

Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii (8-5) vs Louisiana Tech (7-5)
Line: Hawaii by 1

Steen: An extra home game for the Rainbow Warriors, they started an impressive 6-1 and although they haven’t finished strong they should find a ninth win here. Hawaii 49, Lousiana Tech 35

Mike: The Warriors can sling the ball all over the field; this is a tough bowl game for a traveling team (at least on the field). Hawaii 38, Louisiana Tech 31

Yesh: It’s hard to pick against Hawaii on the Islands, but the Rainbow Warriors weren’t that good this year. Louisiana Tech 35, Hawaii 31

John: Cole McDonald has brought the fun and gun back to the islands with his 3,790 passing yards ranking fifth nationally. It’s a big reason Hawai’i has a chance to win at least nine games for the first time since 2010. Hawai’i 45, Louisiana Tech 31