The 2019 college football season moves into the second week of bowl games next week. There are games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 26-28. Included in these bowl games are the two College Football Playoff semifinals.
Independence Bowl: Miami vs. Louisiana Tech – Shreveport, LA
The Miami Hurricanes average 28 points per game and allow 21 points per game. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs score an average of 34 points per game and allow 24 per game. Yet, they play in very different conferences, Miami in the ACC and Louisiana Tech in Conference USA. How will they react when they play each other? It is not an easy equation to figure out. However, Miami got embarrassed by a Conference USA team late in the regular season, losing to Florida International. That game is an interesting reference point for this game. Will Miami be mad and want to erase that bad memory against Florida International, or will the Hurricanes not care about this bowl game and therefore go through the motions? That is the question people have to answer if they are going to make an attempt at picking the over-under total in this game. The thought here is that yes, Miami will be mad. The Hurricanes will care about this game. If they do, they should score over 30 points and lift this game over the total. If the Canes don’t care, this game is likely to stay under the number.
Quick Lane Bowl: Eastern Michigan vs. Pittsburgh – Detroit, MI
This is a game in which the ACC team, Pittsburgh, ought to win. Pittsburgh has an improved defense compared to previous years. The Panthers contained the UCF offense when they upset the Knights early in this 2019 regular season. Pittsburgh also managed to defeat North Carolina for the first time in several seasons. The Panthers have an inconsistent offense which has held them back at times, but against Eastern Michigan, Pitt will have the superior athletes, especially on defense. The Panthers’ defense should thrive in this game, which is a central reason this contest should stay under the number.
Military Bowl: North Carolina vs. Temple – Annapolis, MD
North Carolina scores 31 points per game and allows an average of 25 points per game. Temple scores 27 points per game and allows 23.5 points per game. The real key to this game in terms of the over-under is young North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell. Many people in the Atlantic Coast Conference think that Howell will be the best non-Clemson quarterback in the conference next season. Howell could use this game as a launching pad which will carry him into the 2020 season with a lot of momentum. If you think Howell will do great in this game, you should take the over. If you think Howell is overrated and that the Temple defense, which did contain a strong Memphis offense earlier this season, should do well against Howell, you should take the under. The feeling here is that Howell will have a great game. Take the over.
Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest – The Bronx, NY
This game is a game based on Michigan State’s level of motivation. The Spartans began the year with a defensive front which was seen as one of the very best in the United States, but the Spartans didn’t come anywhere close to fulfilling their potential. Michigan State scored an average of 22 points per game and allowed 28, whereas Wake Forest scored 33 per game and allowed 29. Many people feel that Michigan State has lost its way as a football program, and that the Spartans are headed downward. Will they find inspiration in this game or continue their downward slide? If Michigan State plays well, its defense will lead the way and keep this game under the total. If Michigan State is uninspired, the Wake Forest offense should run wild and push the game over the number. Take the over here. Michigan State simply doesn’t look like a team which is ready to play its best.
Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M – Houston, TX
This game matches two teams with inconsistent offenses. Texas A&M failed to score large numbers of points in its final regular-season games against Georgia and LSU. Oklahoma State failed to score big (only 16 points) against the Oklahoma Sooners in their final regular-season game in late November. The quarterbacks in this game have not been able to play at a high level from one game to the next. They have their moments but have shown they can’t carry one good performance into the next week’s game. Will Spencer Sanders of Oklahoma State and Kellen Mond of Texas A&M suddenly become much better in the bowl game than they were in the regular season? If you think so, you should take the over, but if you are skeptical, you should take the under. Go with the under here.
Holiday Bowl: USC vs. Iowa – San Diego, CA
The numbers won’t tell the story of this particular game. USC surprisingly retained head coach Clay Helton despite a disappointing 8-4 season. A lot of people in and around the USC program are frustrated that the Trojans didn’t get Urban Meyer or another high-profile head coach. The players left behind could be glad that Helton is staying on, or they might be inwardly disappointed that they won’t be playing for a bigger-name coach next year. It is really hard to gauge how USC’s players will react to this moment, but given the swirling controversies which have hounded the program in recent weeks, it is more likely that USC will be distracted than not. It is less likely that USC will play a crisp, focused, energetic game. Given that USC depends on its high-powered offense to win games, USC playing poorly will probably mean a lower-scoring game. Take the under in San Diego.
Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force vs. Washington State – Phoenix, AZ
This game has a 10-2 Air Force team against a 6-6 Washington State team. Will the 10-2 team care about playing in this game? Will the 6-6 team be inspired to play well, or will it quit on its season after struggling for the past three months? These are familiar questions about bowl game motivation. Ultimately, if you think these teams will be motivated, you should probably take the over, because both offenses can score. Air Force scores 34 points per game, while Washington State scores 39. If the offenses are ready, they will do extremely well. If these teams are bored or uninspired, then the game will go under the total. Given the nature of this bowl game and how little Air Force might be jazzed to play this game, the under seems like the better play.
Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Iowa State
This game will have a fired-up crowd. Iowa State will bring a ton of fans to this bowl game. The Cyclones don’t have a great offense, but they have a solid defense. If this game is as emotional and fierce as many people think it is, the defenses – not the offenses – should hold the upper hand. Take the under in this game, because both defensive lines should be able to do really well in this matchup.
Cotton Bowl: Memphis vs. Penn State
The Group of Five champion normally plays well in its New Year’s Six bowl game. Boise State won its New Year’s Six bowl in 2014. Houston won in 2015. Western Michigan lost but played close in 2016. UCF won in 2017 and was competitive in a loss in 2018. Now Memphis takes on that role in 2019. If this game is indeed close, Memphis will likely wind up scoring a lot and the game will go over. If the game is not competitive, the odds are that Penn State will smother Memphis’ offense and keep the game under the number. The chances are good that Memphis will play Penn State close, so go with the over.
College Football Playoff Semifinal
Peach Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 LSU
The Sooners’ offense was outstanding for most of the season, but quarterback Jalen Hurts regressed as a passer in the latter weeks of the season. If Hurts cannot throw the ball well, Oklahoma won’t score very much. The Sooners scored just 23 points against Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game. They won’t score much more than 23 – and might score less – if Hurts doesn’t throw well. LSU’s offense should score at least 35 points, but if Oklahoma doesn’t score a lot, the game will stay under the number, and that is the more likely outcome. Oklahoma probably won’t score enough to push the total upward.
College Football Playoff Semifinal
Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 2 Ohio State
The last time these teams played in a playoff semifinal, Clemson shut out Ohio State, 31-0. This game doesn’t figure to be a shutout, but it does figure to be controlled more by the defenses than the offenses. Ohio State has a legitimately strong defense led by pass rusher Chase Young. Clemson has not faced a defense this good in 2019, and the Tigers probably aren’t going to score 35 or more points. Ohio State’s offense is talented, but Clemson’s defense has had an answer for every opponent it has faced this season. That probably won’t stop now. This should be a defensive game and an under.