Did it seem like OTE ran better all week this week? It did, and that’s because the missus and I spent some time on a tropical island that’s divided into two separate polities. It was very nice.
Now I have come back, and a day before the weekend to boot. And while she has taken Friday off, I, of course, missed you all so much that I am going to write something in anticipation of one of my favorite times of the year—BOWL SEASON.
Of course, now that I’ve traded in 28 Celsius for 28 Fahrenheit, I feel...well...
And it is with that HOT HOT HOT spirit of Michael Scott, freshly turned from Sandals, Jamaica, that I approach these Saturday games.
AutoNation Cure Bowl
Tulane Green Wave (6-6) vs. Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (7-6)
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
12:30pm | CBSSN | Tulane -3.5 | O/U 59
Why you should watch: DWT;WT TEAM OF CHOICE TULANE.
Willie Fritz’s goofy triple option offense did juuuuust enough after a slow start, finishing on a 4-1 tear with a win at South Florida to get to bowl eligibility with a win over Navy. Some of that was Justin McMillan’s maturation as a passer, some was just playing shittier teams.
The Green Wave are fun, though, because they’re just swinging for the fences the whole damn time. They’re not great in short yardage, they get backed up a great deal, but occasionally a prayer to WR Darnell Mooney or a pitch to RBs Darius Bradwell or Corey Dauphine gets answered.
Meanwhile, the Ragin’ Cajuns...they bust the big play, and that’s what Tulane yields. ULL is 15th in marginal explosiveness, with RBs Trey Ragas (5.8 YPC) Elijah Mitchell (6.8) doing the heavy lifting on the ground and speedster Raymond Calais breaking big ones. This is fun, on-the-ground football that will take to the air and have no idea why it’s doing that, but damn if a 35-yard prayer down the sideline doesn’t get picked up once in a while.
B1G Tie-Ins: Ohio State pounded Tulane. That’s not as fun.
Michael Scott’s reaction: Should these teams be in a bowl? Maybe not! Can they move the ball efficiently? Probably not! But...
MNW’s Pick: Tulane. 26 points confidence. Let’s say a 35-32 win. I have no idea why. DON’T LET ME DOWN, WILLIE.
CURE BOWL. TWO LOUISIANA TEAMS. IN FLORIDA. PICK’EM.
This poll is closed
DWT;WT TEAM OF CHOICE TULANE
some other team
New Mexico Bowl
Utah State Aggies (10-2) vs. North Texas Mean Green (9-3)
Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
1:00pm | ESPN | USU -7.5 | O/U 68
Why you should watch: North Texas has been, all season, a DWT;WT Team of Choice, and that doesn’t stop tomorrow, when they play a MWC juggernaut in the Aggies, who put up points. Mean Green QB Mason Fine (8.2 YPA, 27:5 TD:INT) is phenomenal for an “undersized” QB, and with Seth Littrell sticking around, I would take UNT making this closer than the USU -7.5 line indicates, especially in the absence of HC Matt Wells, who took the Texas Tech job and will not coach the bowl game.
On offense, the Aggies’ QB Jordan Love is gonna stick in the pocket, with time to throw (Aggies yield 11th-best blitz down sack rate, Mean Green are a not-as-nice 69th in sack rate), and that’s when the Aggies march up and down, with Ron’quavion Tarver the main target but six others over 200 yards receiving. And when the Mean Green commit to stopping the pass, Darwin Thompson (7.2 YPC, 14 TD, just 132 carries!) slashes you underneath.
Utah State doesn’t do a whole lot bad, but if they do, it’s defend the pass (44th S&P+). So tune in, and...maybe take the over? We could have a 45-42 classic on our hands.
B1G Tie-Ins: Utah State should’ve taken down Michigan State. You’ll sense that theme throughout this piece.
Michael Scott’s reaction: THE BEST GAME OF THE DAY GETS THE BEST GIF
MNW’s Pick: In deference to DWT;WT Team of Choice North Texas, I picked Utah State, something like 41-24, but only with 4 points confidence.
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5) vs. #21 Fresno State Bulldogs (11-2)
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
2:30pm | ABC | Fresno -5.5 | O/U 55
Why you should watch: Wait...really? Like, ,this is a legitimately good game. Arizona State isn’t as fun as when Mike Bercovici was running around just hucking the ball wherever and Todd Graham was fielding calls to 15 different programs on the sidelines, but they’ll do just fine still. Oh, and Fresno State, they of future CFL Grey Cup MVP Marcus McMaryion, is a damn good team despite an awful road loss to one of the worst bowl-eligible teams in CFB.
McMaryion’s 25 TDs to 3 INTs is elite, as is his nearly-70% completion rating. The Bulldogs will chunk their way down the field, which is exactly what the Sun Devils yield when opponents drop back to pass (89th passing S&P+, 109th efficiency). So it’ll be on Arizona State’s top-notch rushing attack led by some guy named Eno Benjamin (1524 yards on 5.5 ypc, 15 TDs)—I hear some other Big Ten school is familiar with him? But I get ahead of myself—and the running threat of QB Manny Watkins, whose 19:4 ratio and 7.5 YPA are nothing to sneeze at, either.
Oh, and Fresno’s D is, like, Top 10 in almost everything. Tune the fuck in.
B1G Tie-Ins: WELL!
You’ll remember that Michigan State, in a preview of their 2018 season, shat the bed in Tempe by forgetting how to offense good.
Then, in possibly the most baffling loss in college football this side of Purdue-Ohio State, Fresno went on the road to some shit B1G West team and completely forgot how its offense worked, dropping a bad road game.
Also, can you imagine how wasted Eno Benjamin would’ve been in Iowa City? Jesus—think of what they did to Noah Fant. Now triple it, because a running back in that Iowa offense, with Fant and the white kid catching passes out of a 2-TE set. My God.
Michael Scott’s reaction: This one, though, may not offer the high-flying, pointsiness (shut up, Chrome doesn’t put the squiggles under it, it’s a word) of UNT-USU:
MNW’s Pick: Will the Herm Edwards Experience fare well in bowl situations, with a month to strategize and synergize and innovate and efficientize? I honestly have no idea. Fresno should win this one going away, but...it’s still P5 vs. G5, and everything that’s worth. Give me Fresno State, 31-24, but note my 6 points confidence.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Georgia Southern Eagles (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-5)
Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, AL
4:30pm | ESPN | GASo -3 | O/U 47.5
Why you should watch: The Southern flavor of Eagles are just fun, old-school option football. Well, not so much old school, but QB Shai Werts leads an exciting modern variety of the triple option attack that blends in a relatively efficient passing game (Werts has 10 TD passes and no picks).
With the gritty EMU Eagles, though, Southern will have to chew clock and yardage efficiently—Eastern rates in the top 25 in marginal explosiveness defense, and Southern is just average (60th stuff rate on offense) in tight situations. When they drive, though, they finish—at 5.29 points/drive, Southern is daaaamn good (12th nationally). It should be an in-the-trenches game in Montgomery.
Southern’s weakness, though, if you can call it that, is their pass defense, and...well, the Tyler Wiegers-led Eagles are good at tossing it around a little. The EMU offense isn’t particularly efficient and tends to get behind the chains, but they thrive in passing downs, and if Shaq Vann isn’t finding holes in the running game, Wiegers can turn to WR favorite Blake Banham for yards.
Oh, and somehow, both these teams love winning the field position battle—Southern ranks 3rd, while EMU is 5th in S&P+ field positioning, oddly. EMU punter Jake Julien booms a 43.6 average, though Eastern concedes a few returns here and there. Southern, on the other hand, relies on its offense to flip fields, and punter Magill Bauerle does his job—just a 38.9 ypp clip, but a 38.3 net average, with about 40% of those fair caught. PUNTING IS WINNING, KIDS.
Southern impresses the hell out of me. Chad Lunsford, formerly in a plethora of jobs at Southern and elsewhere (including Director of Scouting at Auburn), has stepped into the head coaching job in his first year without the interim label and thrived. A win would give Southern their first 10-win season in half a decade,
B1G Tie-Ins: Well. WELL.
Georgia Southern ain’t played nobody B1G, Pawl.
Michael Scott’s reaction: It will be about this time that Mrs. MNW will be getting off work and texting me all the things I should be doing to get ready to host her friends’ Ugly Sweater Christmas Party. My reaction will be “But honey, the Camellia Bowl is on!”
MNW’s Pick: Ugh. I hate to pick against the Eagles, because I respect the shit out of Chris Creighton and what he’s done at the Factory. But the Eagles have their classic option football rolling, and it’s on their turf. Southern, 27-21 (7 points).
This poll is closed
The Southern ones
The Eastern ones
The Don Henley ones
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-5) vs. Appalachian St. Mountaineers (10-2)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
8pm | ESPN | App -6.5 | O/U 47.5
Why you should watch: This is also, apparently, a point in the basketball season where the Big Ten teams too stupid (or studious or whatever; it was just Finals season) to play their rivalries last weekend are playing them now. I will rank those games for you (not including Bucknell-Ohio State, WMU-Michigan, and ETSU-Illinois, classics though they are):
5. NC State vs. Penn State (1pm, ESPN) — Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Boardwalk Classic: OK, so it’s not a true rivalry. But my God, you have to take a breath just to say the fucking name of that “tournament.” Awful. Irredeemable.
4. Rutgers at Seton Hall (1pm, FS1): My goodness, this shit-stomping hasn’t taken place yet? I could’ve sworn it had already happened. Who did Rutgers beat, then? Was it really Miami? I guess the ‘Canes are 0-2 against Ivy League schools, 0-1 against schools that definitely probably could’ve been Ivies if they really wanted to, and also 0-1 against teams from New Jersey. (Yale, Penn, Rutgers, and Seton Hall, if case you’re keeping track at home.)
3. Butler vs #25 Indiana (2:45pm, CBS) — Crossroads Classic: Really? Does this have the cache of a real basketball rivalry? I will humbly defer [no I won’t] to the opinions of our Hoosier friends. But give me IU-ND and Butler-Purdue every year. Just make it easy on us.
2. Notre Dame vs. Purdue (12:30pm, CBS) — Crossroads Classic: See above, only with “rivals” at least bolstered by proximity.
- #22 Iowa vs. Northern Iowa (6pm, BTN) — Hy-Vee Classic: WHEN IT’S THE HY-VEE CLASSIC YOU THROW OUT THE RECORDS, BROTHER.
In all seriousness, though, I’ll probably be in Iowa City for the Iowa-Western Carolina game next Tuesday. Should I go? And I’m actually in the process of choosing between Drake and UNI for some mop-up research on Wednesday night. Drake hosts Rider, UNI hosts Grand Canyon. I need to go to Des Moines more, but watching GCU would be more fun. VOTE IN MY POLL:
To which basketball game should I go?
This poll is closed
UNI-GCU: The ‘Lopes are too good to pass up.
Drake-Rider: Can’t miss the BRONCS, Des Moines is a nicer town than Cedar Falls
You’re a sick, sick man, MNW
It’s really just bothering me that you began this poll question with "to which" so you wouldn’t end with a preposition
I didn’t miss these rambling poll questions
B1G Tie-Ins: Lots! Well, actually just one, but beezer is a huge App State guy. I had also convinced myself that Minnesota played MTSU this year because it seems like they do every year, but it turns out I was wrong.
Anywho, you’ll remember that with Zac Thomas running the show, App State scared the bejesus out of Penn State in Happy Valley before succumbing to the Nittany Lions in overtime. It was a damn shame. Now dynamic RB Jalin Moore is out with injury, HC Scott Satterfield has left for Louisville, and Thomas has been less efficient (though still hasn’t thrown a pick) since returning from his own injury.
Michael Scott’s reaction:
MNW’s Pick: The Mountaineers are still nothing to sneeze at, and I have Stockstill fatigue. Give me the Mountaineers, 24-7 (35 points).
Battle of I-40 (kinda)
This poll is closed
/prepares a long answer about how exactly you ACTUALLY get from MTSU to ASU, deletes
Your responsibilities for the comment section:
- Tell me your favorite Caribbean vacation spot and why.
- Debate the merits of all-inclusive packages.
- Explain your favorite episode of The Office.
- Pick the games or whatever.