The 2019 college football season moves into the third week of bowl games next week. There are games every day on Monday through Saturday, leading into 2020.
First Responder Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
This is a game in which control by Western Kentucky is more likely to lead to an under result, while a game largely dictated by Western Michigan is more likely to lead to an over result. Western Kentucky averages almost 26 points per game and allows close to 20. Western Michigan scores 34 points per game and allows 26. Either Western Michigan’s offense will bust loose in this game, or Western Kentucky will contain WMU and keep the scoring relatively low. The thought process here is that Western Kentucky’s defense will be strong. The Hilltoppers shut down Army and have faced a lot of different styles of offense this season. Western Kentucky has shown that it is good at making adjustments on defense. This game is therefore more likely to be an under game.
Music City Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State
The Louisville Cardinals have a great offense and a bad defense. They are the kind of team perfectly suited to an over bet if the number isn’t astronomically high. Louisville scores just under 33 points per game and allows just under 34 points per game. The Cardinals have been behind the curve on defense this season in year one under new coach Scott Satterfield. It is widely accepted that Louisville does not have the quality players on defense it needs to be an elite team. However, Louisville’s offense did have some good natural talent from previous coach Bobby Petrino. That talent simply needed a good coach, and Satterfield has enabled that talent to emerge. Louisville is probably going to thrive on offense and struggle on defense in this game. Mississippi State’s offense isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible, either, averaging just under 28 points per game. Mississippi State’s defense isn’t terrible, but it isn’t spectacular, allowing 28 points per game. There is probably enough offense on this field – and enough mediocre defense – to get this game over the number.
RedBox Bowl: Illinois vs. California
Illinois scores 27 points per game and allows 25. California scores 20 points per game and allows 22. Neither offense is especially good, and this game will be played on a grass field in Santa Clara, California, which should make the playing conditions even slower. If there is rain in this game, it could get even more ugly, with the offenses having a very difficult time. California has played legitimately strong defense for most of the season. Cal allowed just 17 points to Pac-12 champion Oregon on the road. Illinois has pulled off some remarkable rallies over the course of the regular season, none more spectacular than a 27-point fourth quarter to beat Michigan State, 37-34, after trailing 28-3. One gets the sense that Illinois has had a few really good bursts this season but has generally struggled. This game is likely to be a very tough, very physical defensive game. The game should go under, even with the relatively low number.
Orange Bowl: Florida vs. Virginia
The Florida Gators have scored 33 points per game and allowed just under 15 points per game. The Virginia Cavaliers have scored 32 points per game and allowed just over 26. The offensive averages of these two team might suggest a high-scoring affair, but Florida has a good defense and has played a portion of the season with a thin and injury-ravaged defensive line. With a month to get healthy for this bowl game, Florida’s defense should be able to play at a very high level. Meanwhile, Virginia’s defense – which was shredded by Clemson in its most recent outing at the ACC Championship Game – has a lot to prove and should be able to contain Florida’s offense. The over might seem like a good bet on the surface, but the under is the better play.
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky
This is a game in which the raw stats matter less than the emotions on the field. This is the last game that Bud Foster will coach for Virginia Tech as the Hokies’ defensive coordinator. Foster has been with Virginia Tech for more than 30 years. The players on the defense will want to run through a wall for him. If there was a time to expect Virginia Tech’s defense to play well, it is in this game. Kentucky has normally had strong defenses in recent years under head coach Mark Stoops. The various tension points involved in this game point to a hard-fought defensive game, the kind of game which will finish under the number.
Sun Bowl: Florida State vs. Arizona State
The stats don’t mean a whole lot in this game, either. Consider the fact that neither team has a firmly established offensive or defensive coordinator. The Florida State Seminoles just hired a new head coach, Mike Norvell, which means they are bringing in new offensive and defensive coordinators. They are going into this bowl game with a temporary staff and a very temporary approach. It is similar for Arizona State, who has its permanent head coach, Herman Edwards, but lacks permanent offensive or defensive coordinators. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens was fired before this bowl game against Florida State, and defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales left ASU to become the new head coach at the University of New Mexico. There is so much uncertainty surrounding these coaching staffs that it is hard to know what to expect. Treat this game with caution. However, if you had to pick one side in this game, the under is better, because Florida State running back Cam Akers is skipping this bowl game to prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Liberty Bowl: Navy vs. Kansas State
This is a very intriguing game. Kansas State averages 31 points per game and allows close to 22. Navy scores 39 points per game and allows just under 23. Kansas State’s Chris Klieman and Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo are both very skilled as offensive coaches. Yet, their knowledge of offense will make them focus on stopping the other team. This game could break in so many different directions, and the defenses could be a lot better than many people expect. However, a game played in the high 20s is enough to go over the number. That seems like a realistic proposition here.
Arizona Bowl: Wyoming vs. Georgia State
The Wyoming Cowboys score 24 points per game and allow 18. The Georgia State Panthers score 32 and allow 36. The Georgia State defense is a real concern for anyone who thinks this game will stay under the number. Go with the over.
Alamo Bowl: Utah vs. Texas
This is a game in which the under clearly looks like the right play. Utah’s defense is a lot better than its offense. The Utes handled ordinary Pac-12 offenses this season, but they weren’t ready for the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The big question is if Texas is ready to play at an Oregon-like standard on offense. Given what we have seen from the Longhorns – who got contained by Iowa State and shut down by Baylor late in the regular season – it is unlikely that Texas’s offense will figure things out against Utah’s well-coached defense. Unless Utah’s offense has a surprisingly great night in San Antonio, this game should stay under.
Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama
This game should enable Alabama to vent some frustrations after an Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. Alabama’s defense should play with physicality and ferocity. Michigan’s offense is likely to be overwhelmed by the athletes from Alabama. Given that Tua Tagovailoa is not playing in this game due to injury, an under seems like the better play here.
Outback Bowl: Minnesota vs. Auburn
The Minnesota coaching staff just received a shakeup, with offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca bolting for Penn State. It is bad enough to lose an offensive coordinator just before a big bowl game, but it has to feel worse for Minnesota to lose an offensive coordinator to a rival Big Ten school. Bowl games are fragile, because you can never fully know what the college athletes are thinking, but if you had to guess, it is more likely now that Minnesota’s offense will struggle in the Outback Bowl, pushing the game under the number.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon
The Badgers and Ducks both like to play physical, tough, run-first football. That lends itself to a low-scoring game in which the defenses contain the opposing team’s running game and force the quarterbacks to throw down the field. Neither offense is likely to bust through and score a large number of points in this game. The under looks like a reasonably good play.
Sugar Bowl: Baylor vs. Georgia
The Georgia Bulldogs are missing an offensive lineman in this game due to off-field reasons. Georgia’s offense looked slow and unimaginative in the SEC Championship Game against LSU. Baylor’s defense limited Oklahoma’s high-powered offense to just 23 points in regulation time in the Big 12 Championship Game. Both teams are excellent on defense and mediocre on offense. This game certainly sets up to stay under the total.
Birmingham Bowl: Boston College vs. Cincinnati
This game should feature defense. Boston College has a mediocre offense, and Cincinnati has had a generally solid defense under coordinator Marcus Freeman and head coach Luke Fickell. Cincinnati should be able to put the clamps on Boston College, which would keep this game under the number.
Gator Bowl: Tennessee vs. Indiana
The Indiana Hoosiers just lost offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer to Fresno State, where DeBoer will become the Bulldogs’ new head coach. This disruption to the Indiana offense is likely to matter in this game and hold the total under the number.
Potato Bowl: Ohio vs. Nevada
The Ohio Bobcats got involved in a lot of shootouts this season, so whether they win or not, the style of this game should be conducive to a high-scoring event. If you had to lean to one side, pick the over.
Armed Forces Bowl: Southern Mississippi vs. Tulane
The Tulane offense was contained by some of the Green Wave’s AAC opponents, but an opponent from Conference USA should enable Tulane’s offense to run wild in this one. If Tulane scores at least 40 points, Southern Miss would need to score just 17 points to hit the over. That is likely to happen.