2018 Birmingham and Armed Forces Bowl Preview

December 22, 2018
By K. Becks

Ready for another day filled with college football?

If not, prepare yourself, because Saturday is one of those days. Four bowl games span the afternoon into the late night as college football takes center stage for the second of three action packed Saturdays in December.

Given my activities on Friday evening, I’m scrambling to get these previews out in time before the games begin. As a result, I’ve broken the previews into two articles today – one for the two earlier games and one for the two later ones.

As the day begins, my dad is still holding onto his lead in the Von Hugendong Bowl Mania group, but with several games to trip over, shuffling at the top of the board is to be expected. He has already told me his goal is just to have the lead heading into Christmas.

Without any further delay, let’s take a look at a couple of the games on Saturday’s slate.

Jared Birmingham Bowl

Memphis vs. Wake Forest (Saturday, 12 PM ET – ESPN)

The Demon Deacons come into this game on a high note, having defeated North Carolina State in the final game of the regular season to become bowl eligible. Memphis would not have been in this game had the Tigers been able to hold onto an early lead against UCF in the AAC title game, but defensive struggles came back to bite the team in the second half. Given both teams’ struggles on the defensive end, this game should feature a lot of scoring.

Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman saw most of the action this year from the sideline but has been impressive in his three starts since taking over the starting job. Newman will play a big role in this game because with Wake Forest’s defensive issues and the ability of Memphis to score at will, the Demon Deacons won’t win without a strong performance on the offensive end. Memphis has the nation’s third best rushing offense and it will be difficult for the Demon Deacons to prevent the Tigers from dictating the pace of this game. While the ACC representative is clearly able to score as well, Memphis should be excited for the opportunity to beat a Power 5 opponent and has the talent on offense to simply outscore Wake Forest. I have the Tigers for 21 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 48-44 Memphis

Armed Forces Bowl presented by Lockheed Martin

Army vs. Houston (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Under normal circumstances, Army’s second best rushing offense in the country would come into this game knowing that it needed to get a handle on All-American defensive end Ed Oliver. But Oliver will be standing on the sideline for the Houston in this game, opting to forgo the bowl experience to prepare himself for the 2019 NFL Draft. While the decision is understandable, it will put considerable strain on Houston’s defense, which outside of Oliver has had trouble at times this season stopping the opposition’s strength. Not surprisingly, Army will be looking to punish the Cougars on the ground in this one and will probably be able to do so.

In addition to Oliver being out, the Houston offense also will have to deal with its best asset being unavailable in this game. Quarterback D’Eriq King went down with an injury in the second to last game of the regular season, which is a tremendous blow to the AAC’s most potent passing attack. In fact, without King the Cougars aren’t truly all that potent. Clayton Tune will be expected to do the nearly impossible and match King’s production, which would be difficult for an experienced backup, let alone a freshman. Given that Army will show up for this game as it does for every other, 14  points in Bowl Mania may be a bit low on the Black Knights. But I’m rolling with it anyway.

My Pick: 35-24 Army

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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