Whoa, the Holiday Bowl snuck up on me. In the way that a Thursday night game played in a former NFL stadium between two secondary teams in power conferences sneaks up on you, y’know?
Anyways, Mike Leach is still in Pullman, somehow, and not in Fayetteville or Knoxville or whatever other weird also-ran power conference school’s town was looking for a coach. And that’s exciting, because it’ll maybe turn the Holiday Bowl from last year’s snooze-fest into an entertaining game!
...you know, if you forget that last year’s snooze-fest was also caused by Mike Leach’s inability to beat a Minnesota Golden Gophers squad that...yeah. Let’s move on.
Three entertaining games today for three very different reasons, plus Stanford-TCU, so hop to the picks and enjoy!
(All time zones remain GTZ, in case that was confusing. Assimilate, coasties.)
Virginia Cavaliers (6-6) vs. Navy Midshipmen (6-6)
12:30pm | ESPN | Navy -1.5 | O/U 52
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Field, Annapolis, MD
Kurt Benkert is a very real quarterback, no matter how much you or I will scratch our heads and say “never heard of him.” You have never heard of him, and that is just fine, but he’s thrown for 25 TDs, nearly 60% completion percentage, and nearly 10.8 ypc. So if he decides he’s going to have a good game, watch out, because he put up video game numbers in the Hoos’ loss to Miami. Navy has a pass D with ranks in the 100s, so...Good Benkert means Good Virginia.
Navy will do things that involve Zach Abey running a lot, drives that take whole quarters to finish, and pounding away at an average run defense that doesn’t stuff teams at the line well. This has all the makings of a 45-42 finish, because I don’t think either team is particularly predisposed to stopping the other’s strength.
ESPN Pick: 70% Navy
My Pick: Virginia in a shootout, 45-42. (22 points confidence)
Camping World Bowl
#22 Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3) vs. #19 Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3)
4:15pm | ESPN | OSU -5.5 | O/U 61.5
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
DO YOU LIKE OFFENSE? DO YOU LIKE MULLETS? DO YOU LIKE FANS WITH MULLETS? THERE’S SOMETHING HERE FOR YOU, BROTHER.
I don’t know, to be honest. Mason Rudolph to James Washington might be the best 1-2 combo in college football. VaTech locks down the underneath stuff decently but is prone to giving up the big play. Josh Jackson and the Hokies’ offense is fine, I guess, and they’ll look even better against the Oklahoma State defense, which I’m pretty sure is still a theory, like gravity being made of tiny apples that push you down or clean coal or Jesus riding dinosaurs.
Don’t look at me, these are all things you’re tested on to pass the 8th grade in Muskogee.
ESPN Pick: 84% Oklahoma State
My Pick: Oklahoma State, 51-41. (35 points confidence)
#13 Stanford Cardinal (9-4) vs. #15 TCU Horned Frogs (10-3)
8pm | ESPN | TCU -3 | O/U 48.5
Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Two teams who love the Rodney Dangerfield angle, then get the doors blown off ‘em when it counts. At least this season.
TCU’s rush defense is 3rd in S&P+, and Bryce Love is really, really good at running with the football. So that’ll be a fun matchup, if watching David Shaw call power left, then power right, then a TE drag is entertaining to you.
It’s worth noting that Stanford is +7.4 in what Football Study Hall calls “turnover luck,” but the Cardinal’s +15 in the take-give is still nothing to be trifled with. Meanwhile, their more pedestrian defense might struggle to contain Kenny Hill and the Horned Frogs, if they get out and run a little bit. I think I’ve talked myself into TCU here.
ESPN Pick: 58% TCU
My Pick: TCU, 24-17. (23 points confidence)
#16 Michigan State Spartans vs. #18 Washington State Cougars
8pm | FS1 | MSU -2 | O/U 47.5
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
We’ll try to get the graphic up later in the afternoon—look for it if I have time when I get back to Minnesota early this evening.
In the meantime, Mike Leach remains the best:
Mike Leach cooling off his hot coffee while Mark Dantonio answers a question during the Holiday Bowl press conference is the best Mike Leach moment ever. pic.twitter.com/jN6QyuUhDS— Sam Adams (@SWXSamAdams) December 27, 2017
ESPN Pick: 63% Michigan State
My Pick: I forgot Wazzu was coming back to the site of Tracy Claeys' greatest triumph. The Spartans are 12th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, but the volume that will hit you from all directions when you're playing the Cougs is...something else. But Luke Falk's been picked off a whole bunch, and Michigan State is gonna pound the ball relentlessly against a defense that is surprising good against the run (16th S&P+).
I wouldn't be entirely surprised if these two reprise last year's Holiday Bowl in a 21-17 slobberknocker. And that favors Sparty.
White Speed Receiver: Last year the Wazzu came into the Holiday Bowl against a viciously undermanned Minnesota defense as prohibitive favorites and proceeded to shit the bed/get spectacularly outsmarted by Jay Sawvel. This year they come in as slight underdogs to Sparty, which means they should probably win by 21. Don't ask me how this sort of thing works, it's just how the universe works when you're dealing with Mike Leach.
Boilerman31: An interesting matchup as you have a physical MSU team versus a runnin' gunnin' team lead by a pirate. Sparty will likely control the trenches, but Wazzou abuses MSU's secondary like I abuse an all-you-can-eat buffet. Cougs by 10.
This poll is closed
The Dread Pirate and Crew
Sam the Eagle and the rest of the Muppet Gang
Here’s your Open Thread for the day’s bowl games. Updates coming. Behave.