2015 Bahamas Bowl and Hawaii Bowl Previews

December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve bowl games have long been some of my favorite postseason contests of the entire bowl season.

What’s better than sitting at home on the couch the day before Christmas, doing nothing but watching football being played in places much warmer and nicer than where you are currently?

That’s right…absolutely nothing.

Let’s take a look at the Christmas Eve double dose of college football.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Middle Tennessee State vs. Western Michigan (Thursday, 12 PM ET – ESPN)

Last year’s inaugural Bahamas Bowl was one of the most exciting of the season thanks in part to this final play of regulation, so this year’s matchup has a lot to live up to. There should be plenty of offense between these two teams, so don’t be surprised if the 2015 edition of this young bowl game rivals that sort of intensity and excitemement.

Both the Broncos and Blue Raiders feature a dangerous passing attack, so the defensive coordinators in this game should be kept on their toes for the entirety of this contest. Middle Tennessee State is led by the son of head coach Rick Stockstill, Brent, and the redshirt freshman is certainly making his father proud. He is No. 22 in the country in total passing yards and has thrown 27 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions this season. He may well be outshined by Western Michigan signal-caller Zach Terrell, however. Terrell has an identical TD-to-INT ratio as Stockstill and also has two of the top receivers in the MAC at his expense in Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis. Additionally, the Broncos average nearly 200 yards rushing per game as well. The Blue Raiders will be tested mightily by the ultra-balanced Western Michigan offense.

It’s extremely difficult to pick a winner in this game because neither team appears to have an immediately detectable weakness that the other can expose. But Western Michigan played a tough out of conference schedule, facing Michigan State and Ohio State early. If what they learned in those games about stopping dangerous passing attacks stuck with them, then the Broncos should have a slight advantage. I have Western Michigan for 14 points in Bowl Mania, but it was once much higher. This one will be close.

My Pick: 44-42 Western Michigan

Hawai’i Bowl

Cincinnati vs. San Diego State (Thursday, 8 PM ET – ESPN)

The longstanding winner of my favorite non-New Year’s Six bowl game, the Hawai’i Bowl starts on Christmas Eve and generally ends in the early hours of Christmas Day in the Eastern timezone. That being said, it will be interesting to see how Cincinnati, who is used to that timezone, reacts to a week in the sun and Hawaii Standard Time. San Diego State should be much more aligned with both weather and time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an advantage as far as game preparation.

In past years, teams that pride themselves on strong defense but that lack offensive firepower generally do not fare well in the Hawai’i Bowl. In fact, only once in the bowl’s 13 year existence has the winner scored fewer than 30 points. But San Diego State is primed to give Cincinnati’s powerful offense a run for its money with defense and a strong running game that takes chunks of time off the clock. The Aztecs are the Mountain West Conference’s best defense statistically, and running back Donnel Pumphrey is one of the shiftiest rushers in the country. Pumphrey has the ability to get four yards out of plays that should have gone for a loss. And while Cincinnati does have the nation’s No. 4 offense in terms of yards per game, they also like to engage in longer drives than many of the other teams in the top 10. San Diego State has the ninth fewest turnovers in the country this season, so if they can keep the ball out of Cincinnati’s hands they have the ability to dictate the pace of this game.

The allure of Cincinnati’s offense is hard to shake, but San Diego State’s tough defense has the ability to shut it down. A large part of picking the Hawai’i Bowl winner is determining which team is more excited to actually play a football game, not just enjoy the island itself. While San Diego State is sure to have some fun, I think the Aztecs will be more focused which is why I have them for 12 points.

My Pick: 33-28 San Diego State

As always, I hope that everyone has a safe and Merry Christmas. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my work, and please continue to come back as the bowl season rolls onward.

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