2015 Armed Forces Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl, Alamo Bowl and Cactus Bowl Previews

January 2, 2015
By K. Becks

Now that the first two games of the College Football Playoff have been played, many casual fans will not watch another college football game until January 12.

But for the diehard fans, there are still six more bowl games before the national championship is to be played.

Let’s take a look at the four that will be played on January 2.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Houston vs. Pittsburgh (Friday, 12 PM ET – ESPN)

Both of these teams will employ heavy use of the run game. Pittsburgh has one of the best backs in the ACC in sophomore James Conner, a beast of an athlete at 6’2″ 250 pounds who has had three games with over 200 rushing yards this season. Houston’s rush defense is one of the better units in the AAC, but the Cougars haven’t faced someone as bruising and deceptively quick as Conner. Additionally, the vaunted UCF defense was eaten up by N.C. State in the most recent bowl game played between these two conferences.

The Cougars could benefit from a quick strike offense in this one, but that’s just not the way that Houston operates this season. Pittsburgh should be able to run the ball effectively with Conner and take large chunks of time off the clock when it has the ball. I have the Panthers for 2 points in this one despite former head coach Paul Chryst leaving the program for the same position at Wisconsin.

My Pick: 31-23 Pittsburgh

TaxSlayer Bowl

Iowa vs. Tennessee (Friday, 3:20 PM ET – ESPN)

What appears to be a very even matchup would have been better placed in the middle of the bowl season when fans were still interested in a 7-5 squad going to battle against a 6-6 team. The Hawkeyes have had an interesting season, winning seven games but not earning a single victory over a team with a winning record. That being said, it’s difficult to determine if the Hawkeyes are really the No. 2 pass defense in the Big Ten or just benefited from an easy schedule.

Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, they may not have to prove much in this game. Tennessee lost starting quarterback Justin Worley to a season ending injury midway through the season and the quarterback situation has been fluid since that point. If Iowa is even decent against the pass, it should be able to stifle Tennessee’s offensive production in this one. I think that the Hawkeyes will win this game for 5 points.

My Pick: 28-24 Iowa

Valero Alamo Bowl

#11 Kansas State vs. #14 UCLA (Friday, 6:45 PM ET – ESPN)

Hands down the best game of the day, the Alamo Bowl is the only one that the casual fans might actually keep an eye on. Both teams have looked strong at various points in the season and a bowl victory would be a nice cap to a good season. Kansas State will play typical Bill Snyder football, so don’t expect the Wildcats to do anything crazy on fourth down. UCLA could be much more creative in its play calling, but it won’t be to kickstart the offense. Jim Mora’s team has been moving the ball quite well during the second half of the year.

If this game ends up turning into an offensive shootout, the Bruins will win this game comfortably. But Coach Snyder doesn’t normally lose control of a football game, so expect this one to be close. In the end, I think that UCLA has enough playmakers on the offensive end to win an exciting one in San Antonio. I have the Bruins for 24 points in this one.

My Pick: 35-28 UCLA

TicketCity Cactus Bowl

Washington vs. Oklahoma State (Friday, 10:15 PM ET – ESPN)

It would look like both of these teams took a step back this season, but the Huskies and Cowboys are proof that not every program in the country brings in the talent each offseason to “reload”. Washington experienced less of a drop under head coach Chris Petersen, who did a great job with an offense that didn’t have much of a passing game to speak of this season. Oklahoma State is terrible on the offensive end, but gives up so many yards on defense that it is hard for Mike Gundy’s squad to stay in games without a nearly perfect offensive performance.

The Huskies are the favorite in this one and for good reason. Coach Petersen should have his team ready to play and the offense may look good against a porous Cowboys secondary. But I think that Oklahoma State will be excited to be playing in this game after earning a victory over Oklahoma in the season finale to become bowl eligible. I have the Cowboys for 34 points in this one, which doesn’t reflect how confident I am that they’ll win but rather than I have nowhere else to move this game.

My Pick: 34-30 Oklahoma State

If you’d like to share your opinion on Around The Corn for any of the upcoming bowls, shoot me an email with your thoughts and prediction to kbecks@aroundthecorn.com. You can also like Around The Corn’s Facebook page or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. As long as you send your thoughts at least two days before the game is to be played, I can assure you that your thoughts will show up in an article.

- K. Becks

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