2017 Military Bowl, Camping World Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Alamo Bowl Preview

December 27, 2017
By K. Becks

The halfway point of the bowl season will be passed on Wednesday, meaning that the postseason is in full swing. The matchups between Power 5 schools will begin to pop up left and right, earning the curiosity of fans that have been spending more time with family and friends over the holiday season thus far.

It also means that there is nowhere to hide in Bowl Mania.

I cannot state it as fact, but it appears that nearly half of the Von Hugendong XI group decided not to rearrange any of their confidence points for games this season. That means those players will have no games worth fewer than 23 points after Wednesday’s games.

There’s a storm brewing, folks, and it’s going to affect this Bowl Mania group in a major way.

Currently, Colin still leads the group, Trent’s pipes a-flexing like there’s no tomorrow. But there will be a tomorrow, and we’ll see if Colin’s entry is up for the challenge of multiple sets or was simply just doing a max out early.

Let’s take a look at the games to be played on December 28.

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman

Navy vs. Virginia (Thursday, 1:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Preparing to play Navy in a game bowl is difficult enough, but when the Midshipmen are granted a literal home game for their postseason berth, it makes things even harder. Luckily for Virginia, the Cavaliers are led by Bronco Mendenhall, who for years rolled out tough-nosed, disciplined squads at BYU. The state of BYU’s program right now is a testament to how important Mendenhall is to the team he coaches.

Virginia isn’t particularly great against the run, but the Cavaliers have had the better part of a month to prepare for Navy’s triple option attack. The point of separation in this game will be if the Cavaliers are able to move the football at ease on the Navy defense. Senior quarterback Kurt Benkert has had a rollercoaster collegiate career but can go off on a high note with a win in this game over a tough opponent. If Benkert is on, I expect Virginia’s offense to look like it did in the first half of the season. Although it’s difficult to pick against the de facto home team, I have the Cavaliers in a close one for 7 points.

My Pick: 37-34 Virginia

Camping World Bowl

#19 Oklahoma State vs. #22 Virginia Tech (Thursday, 5:15 PM ET – ESPN)

The first bowl game featuring two ranked teams is a good one – both the Cowboys and Hokies are not afraid of engaging in an offensive shootout if needed. Oklahoma State leads the nation in passing offense, averaging an astounding 392 yards per game through the air thanks to the rubber arm of senior quarterback Mason Rudolph. Unfortunately for Rudolph, he hasn’t always gotten the support he’s deserved, from either side of the football. In all of the losses for the Cowboys this season, they have managed to post at least 30 points. Virginia Tech boasts the ACC’s second best defense behind Clemson in terms of yards allowed per game, so the Hokies present a stiff challenge for Mike Gundy’s air it out style.

Although the Hokies could come out with their hair on fire and shut down Oklahoma State’s offense, it’s more likely that Virginia Tech will stay in this game if Josh Jackson has a good performance. The freshman quarterback is a do it all talent for Justin Fuentes’s team, posting solid numbers in the passing game and assisting heavily in a rushing attack that is by committee. Unlike Rudolph, Jackson has years left in his college career so he may be the one with more motivation to play well in this one. However, this is a big enough game that Rudolph should be excited and want to go out a winner. I have the Pokes for 35 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 38-28 Oklahoma State

San Diego Credit County Union Holiday Bowl

#16 Michigan State vs. #18 Washington State (Thursday, 9 PM ET – FS1)

This is a bowl matchup that has been on the radar of nearly every college football fan since the games were announced the first weekend of December. How will Michigan State’s stout defense respond to the up tempo passing attack of Washington State, led by a quarterback who has broken records left and right since taking over the starting job at Wazzou midway through his freshman season? Chew on this stat for a minute: in the two games that the Spartans were gashed for more than 216 yards through the air (368 against Northwestern and 401 against Penn State), Mike Dantonio’s team was just a touchdown away in the Northwestern game from coming away victorious in both.

Mike Leach’s offense has always been a bit gimmicky, but has gotten the job done at Washington State. Unfortunately for the Cougars, Michigan State’s defense is better than most of what they saw in the Pac-12 this season. The Spartans may have some trouble moving the football against a Cougars defense that has improved mightily over the past two seasons, but Dantonio is no stranger to defensive struggles. I think that Michigan State will be more comfortable playing in a game that isn’t totally dominated by offense, which is why I have the Spartans for 21 points in what will be a lower scoring game that most would predict.

My Pick: 27-24 Michigan State

Valero Alamo Bowl

#13 Stanford vs. #15 TCU (Thursday, 9 PM ET – ESPN)

What a conundrum it will be, deciding which 9 PM game to focus on Thursday night. The Alamo Bowl could accurately be dubbed the Consolation Bowl, as both of these teams lost their conference title game to end up in San Antonio. However, the matchup is good enough that hopefully both teams will have been focused in the weeks leading up to it, allowing for a competitive game. TCU’s rush defense, fourth best in the country allowing fewer than 100 yards per game, should be excited for the chance to shut down the country’s best running back in Stanford’s Bryce Love. The junior has been kept under the century mark just once this season, which consequently was a loss for the Cardinal.

As good as Love has been this season, the Cardinal will need a strong performance from their quarterback to win this game. K.J. Costello came on near the end of the season, having a breakout performance in which he threw for four touchdowns in a blowout victory over Notre Dame. If Costello is able to keep drives alive late in the third and fourth quarters of this game, I believe he has the ability to take the wind out of TCU’s sail. Stopping Love will be difficult enough, but Costello is the X factor for Stanford. I think this game will be tight for four quarters and Costello will be big on a late drive, propelling the Cardinal to a late victory. I have the Pac-12 North champs for 30 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 30-28 Stanford

If you have interest in offering your insight for any of the bowl games this season, shoot me an email at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or reach out on one of ATC’s social media sites (Facebook, Twitter). I’d be happy to accommodate.

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