2013 Military Bowl, Texas Bowl and Fight Hunger Bowl Previews

December 27, 2013

My Bowl Mania group has gotten off to a sluggish start.

Although I’m at 3-5 overall, I am still tied for the group lead along with Matt Bidinger (Week 3 guest prognosticator). There wasn’t much movement at the top yesterday evening after the MAC did not come through in its two bowl games.

Fortunately, the number of games coming at us each day is increasing, and today there are three contests on the slate. Hopefully I can correctly predict all of these games and not lose any more valuable points.

Here are the previews for the Military Bowl, Texas Bowl and Fight Hunger Bowl.

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman (Friday, 2:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Marshall vs. Maryland

The Conference USA runner-up will take on a Maryland team making its first bowl appearance since 2010, the last being…the Military Bowl. Only this time, the Terrapins won’t have to travel far at all as the game has been moved to Annapolis and is essentially a home game for the ACC squad. This game will pit Marshall’s thundering offense against a Maryland defense that isn’t too shabby.

Marshall has one of the most powerful offensive attacks in the country averaging over 500 yards per contest thanks to a little known quarterback named Rakeem Cato. The junior, who is fourth in the nation in touchdown passes, has been tearing up pass defenses all season en route to leading his team to nine victories. However, Cato has a tough task in this game when he takes on the first BCS squad defense he has seen since Virginia Tech back in September. Despite his ability to pick C-USA defenses apart, his completion percentage does not place him amongst the top quarterbacks in the country. Luckily, Maryland only has 11 interceptions on the season and he might be able to get away with it in this game.

On paper, there is nothing particularly special about this Maryland squad. However, there was nothing particularly special about the Pittsburgh squad that played in the Little Caesars Bowl last night, but that team went on to beat Bowling Green despite being largely understaffed and losing its quarterback at the end of the first half. The point is the Terrapins should have the size and athletic prowess to hang with Marshall for four quarters. Coach Edsall’s squad is probably excited to play in front of a lot of fans, so the motivation factor shouldn’t tilt terribly in one direction. We’ve seen some terrific rushing performances over the past few days, so perhaps quarterback C.J. Brown will get things done with his legs in this game. The advantage of a dual threat quarterback will be nice for Maryland, whose offensive line could eventually overpower Marshall’s defensive front and create a lot of running room.

On paper there isn’t much to separate these two teams, but quite frankly I’m tired of picking the teams from smaller conferences and coming away with no points. I’m going to go with Maryland in this one, but only for 11 points. It should be close and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of lead changes.

My Pick: 33-28 Maryland

Texas Bowl (Friday, 6 PM ET – ESPN)

Syracuse vs. Minnesota

The Golden Gophers will make it back-to-back trips to Reliant Stadium for the Texas Bowl and will try to come away with the hardware the second time around. Syracuse is coming off of an interesting inaugural ACC campaign in which the Orange handled who they were supposed to beat but got crushed by the teams they weren’t. Both teams love to run the ball, so expect a physical affair.

For Syracuse, running is the name of the game on both sides of the ball. The Orange are a respectable fourth in the ACC in both rushing offense and defense, and continuing the success on the ground will be key in this game. Junior back Jerome Smith is a wrecking ball at 6’0″, 226 pounds and leads the offensive charge. Quarterback Terrel Hunt is also in on the attack, and will more than likely surpass the 100 attempt barrier in this game. This team takes very good care of the football (only four fumbles lost all season) and will attempt to wear down Minnesota’s defense with a downhill rushing attack.

The Golden Gophers were the feel good story of the Big Ten this season, experiencing a considerable amount of success without head coach Jerry Kill on the sideline. Similar to Syracuse, Minnesota likes to get things done on the ground offensively. However, the attack is far more unbalanced, with junior David Cobb getting twice the carries compared with everyone else on the team. Cobb is a 1,000 yard rusher and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after not getting much playing time last season. While the running game will be the focus, Minnesota may be able to catch Syracuse off guard with some well-timed passing plays. The Golden Gophers are No. 118 in the country in passing yards per game, but that isn’t abysmal. The team attempts less than 20 passes per game.

Both teams employ a similar offensive style, so it should be interesting to see which team can find running room. I’ve had the chance to see Minnesota play a few times this year and while that while the Golden Gophers don’t pass, the offense is still exciting. Syracuse may have to hope Minnesota plays sloppy in this one, because it’s likely that the Big Ten squad really wants to win this game. I have the Golden Gophers for a whopping 27 points in this one.

My Pick: 28-20 Minnesota

Fight Hunger Bowl (Friday, 9:30 PM ET – ESPN)

BYU vs. Washington

Two teams in the western half of the United States will travel to the Bay Area to play in the Fight Hunger Bowl, which lost its title sponsor Kraft from last year but retains its original mission to end hunger in the community (nice, huh?). It’s too bad that the bowl doesn’t donate a meal for every point scored, because this one could produce a lot of them.

Washington will look to cap off what has been a somewhat unsatisfying 8-4 campaign with a bowl victory over the Cougars, who are always difficult to beat in bowl season. The Huskies have the added challenge of getting excited to play this game after the departure of former head coach Steve Sarkisian, who left for the USC job. In his place will be Marques Tuiasosopo, current quarterbacks coach and former Huskie quarterback himself. Despite Tuiasosopo’s background, Washington will look to get things going on the ground first with the help of running back Bishop Sankey. The junior rushed for 1,775 yards this season and tacked on 18 rushing touchdowns, which has propelled him into the discussion as a mid-round NFL draft pick. Along with Keith Price leading a fairly potent passing attack, Washington will try to run away with this one by scoring, scoring and scoring some more.

BYU is normally known for its stingy defense, but this year’s squad has been getting it done on the other side of the ball as well. Led by dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill, the Cougars are averaging nearly 500 yards of offense per game, just fewer than 275 of which come from the run game. While Hill has become much better in the passing game, it is still in scrambling around and making plays with his feet that has made him such a difficult player to stop. Washington is balanced defensively, so there isn’t one area that Bronco Mendenhall’s team can focus on beating and expect to win this game. But using Hill in the run game to open up the passing game is a concern for the Huskies, who have been obliterated by dual threat quarterbacks already this season.

More than likely, new head coach Chris Petersen will be in attendance which will give the younger Washington players a reason to care. As for the seniors, this is a Huskie squad that had dreams of winning the Pac-12 North, and losing in a pre-January 1 bowl game would be a bit embarrassing. BYU is a solid squad, but if Washington comes out ready to play, I don’t see any reason why the Huskies won’t be able to put up a lot of points as they did several times during the regular season. I have Washington for 17 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 45-31 Washington

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. Or you can like Around The Corn’s Facebook page or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. As long as you send your thoughts at least two games 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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