2016 Pinstripe Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, Foster Farms Bowl and Texas Bowl Preview

December 28, 2016

Some days in Bowl Mania will humble you, which I guess is a good thing in the long run.

On December 27, I had a potential 123 points to earn. By the time the clock had hit zero at Chase Field in Phoenix, I had collected a measly 25 of those points.

The bulky section of the bowl season is where the winner typically does very well, especially if they have put a lot of points on those games. And for the first time this season, we have a new leader in the Von Hugendong X group. My dad has taken a slight lead over Taylor, which after talking to him about it was a result of Army and subsequent losses more than anything else.

In other words, not very many people had a good Tuesday.

Four more bowls will be played on Wednesday, providing the chance for even more shake up in the standings.

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

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Northwestern vs. #23 Pittsburgh (Wednesday, 2 PM ET – ESPN)

The mild weather expected in the Bronx this afternoon (sunny, high of 42 degrees) should translate into conditions that will allow both of these offenses to thrive. Pittsburgh will be bidding ado to one of its best and most courageous running backs in program history, as James Conner has already announced he will forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. Conner’s battle with leukemia last season was an inspiration to many, especially with the way he came back in 2016 to play as if nothing ever happened. Expect Pittsburgh’s offensive line to run through a brick wall for this guy in his final collegiate game.

On the other side, Northwestern could have a field day with Pittsburgh’s defense. The Wildcats have a solid passing attack bolstered by senior wideout Austin Carr, who will almost surely eclipse the 1,200 yard receiving mark in this game. Carr has gashed Ohio State and Wisconsin for 100+ yards this season, so finding room to work against the No. 127 pass defense in the country shouldn’t be an issue. The Panthers will bring the pressure against Northwestern, however, and try to force Clayton Thorson into bad decisions. If Pittsburgh’s defensive front can get to Thorson throughout this game, the Panthers can dictate the pace of the game via Conner and win.

My Pick: 31-27 Pittsburgh

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 28

Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami (FL) vs. #16 West Virginia (Wednesday, 5:30 PM ET – ESPN)

A throwback to an old Big East rivalry is renewed in Orlando on Wednesday evening as the Hurricanes look to win their first bowl game since 2006. The Mountaineers finished with 1o regular season victories for the first time since Dana Holgorsen was hired in 2010, potentially saving the head coach’s job. Although West Virginia was clearly a step below the Oklahoma teams in the Big 12, the Mountaineers were still a complete football team and will be a difficult opponent for Miami.

Brad Kaaya had a bit of a stagnant 2016, failing to emerge as the ACC’s top passing threat as many believed he would do this season. While Kaaya had flashes of greatness (multiple four touchdown, zero interception games), Miami’s four losses came in games where Kaaya’s production stuttered. This game looks like the type that will come down to which quarterback plays better, and Skyler Howard is no joke, either. If Howard can avoid the costly interceptions that crippled his team against Oklahoma State and nearly cost them another game against Texas, I think that the Mountaineers will emerge with a well earned victory over a Miami team that is only going to get better under Mark Richt.

My Pick: 35-34 West Virginia

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 29

Foster Farms Bowl

Indiana vs. #19 Utah (Wednesday, 8:30 PM ET – FOX)

The details of Kevin Wilson’s dismissal from Indiana following the regular season are muddy and will likely never be completely clear, but the fact is that the Hoosiers have let go the first coach since Bill Mallory in the early 1990s to take the program to back-to-back bowl games. It will be interesting to see how Wilson’s absence affects an offense that was ranked third in the Big Ten in total yards per game. On the bright side, the Hoosiers improved tremendously on the other side of the ball in 2016, going from one of the worst defenses in college football to a respectable unit that allows just over 370 yards per contest.

Unfortunately for Indiana, no one likes to see Kyle Whittingham’s Utah team in a bowl game. Whittingham is 9-1 in bowl games as a head coach and has won the last two with the Utes. His teams always seem to show up in the postseason, and if they do so tonight then the results will likely be positive. Utah gets after the quarterback well, leading the Pac-12 with 40 sacks this season. The Utes are also opportunistic on defense, coming into this game with a +7 turnover margin. Only Purdue has thrown more interceptions than Indiana in the Big Ten this season, and the Hoosiers turned the ball over at least twice in all but one loss this season. If Utah can continue the trend of takeaways, Whittingham will be 10-1 in bowl games.

My Pick: 33-24 Utah

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 38

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl

Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (Wednesday, 9 PM ET – ESPN)

Old Big 12 foes will face off in the Lone Star State, setting up a battle between teams that ended the regular season in very different ways. The Aggies limped, literally, into the postseason, losing four of their last six games as both quarterback Trevor Knight and defensive end Myles Garrett struggled with injuries during that stretch. Kansas State, meanwhile, won five of its last six games and the last three victories haven’t been all that close. This game could come down to which team is willing to put their bodies on the line for a victory.

While Garrett is the defensive star and possible No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft, Kansas State also has a pretty good defensive end in Jordan Willis. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year has 11.5 sacks on the season and will be itching for more against the Aggies. If Willis and the rest of the Kansas State line are able to get pressure on Knight, it could be a long night for Texas A&M. I’m not convinced that while Garrett is suiting up the the Aggies, his mind isn’t telling him “don’t get hurt”. This could impact his effectiveness and be a blessing for Kansas State’s offense. While the Aggies are a bowl game wild card, Bill Snyder’s team always shows up which is why I feel more comfortable taking the Wildcats in this one.

My Pick: 41-36 Kansas State

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 21

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.

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