2016 St. Petersburg Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl and Independence Bowl Preview

December 26, 2016

The conclusion of Christmas may upset some that enjoy the build up to the holidays, but generally people are still in the festive mood. This goes for both everyday life as well as on the football field, as Boxing Day represents the first of a string of multiple bowl game days that make up the bulk of the college football postseason.

To some it can be overwhelming, but to others it’s a terrific excuse to kick back the feet and relax for a few days while college football takes center stage in the sports world.

Let’s take a look at the games being played on December 26.

St. Petersburg Bowl

Miami (OH) vs. Mississippi State (Monday, 11 AM ET – ESPN)

The RedHawks are the first team in FBS history to begin 0-6 and finish the regular season 6-6, so expect Miami to be one of the most fired up teams of the entire bowl season. Chuck Martin’s squad doesn’t move the football with ease like some of their MAC counterparts, but the RedHawks do have the conference’s second best defense behind Western Michigan. That unit will be tasked with stopping one of the country’s lesser known dual threat quarterbacks in Nick Fitzgerald, who like Dak Prescott before him is a do-it-all talent for the Bulldogs.

Fitzgerald leads Mississippi State in both rushing yards and passing yards and is one of three players in the country to pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 this season. Normally, I’d warn fans that this could be a trap game for a team like Mississippi State, which doesn’t have much to play for in a mid-tier bowl against a MAC opponent. But Fitzgerald is only a sophomore and the coaching staff will surely use this game to continue to develop their star in the making. The Bulldogs may run away with this one.

My Pick: 38-20 Mississippi State

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 27

Quick Lane Bowl

Boston College vs. Maryland (Monday, 2:30 PM ET – ESPN)

This battle in the Motor City is a throwback to when both teams competed in the ACC conference, and it is the first matchup since 2013, a game which Boston College won 29-26. Neither team is particularly potent on offense, with the Eagles being especially bad averaging just 288.3 yards per contest (No. 127 in the country). However, Steve Addazio’s team has built a reputation on strong defense and for the second year led the ACC in fewest yards allowed. The Eagles also have 39 sacks on the season and are going up against a Maryland team that allowed more sacks (41) than any other team in the Big Ten.

Maryland won’t be putting up 40+ points in this game, but of the two teams the Terrapins are the one that won’t be relying almost solely on its defense to keep them in the game. If the offense line can keep senior Perry Hills upright, then the Terrapins will be able to move the football more effectively than Boston College. Expect a defensive struggle in this one where the kicking game could play a major role in the final score.

My Pick: 23-21 Maryland

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 15

Camping World Independence Bowl

North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt (Monday, 5 PM ET – ESPN2)

Neither one of these teams were going bowling until regular season ending upsets over in-state rivals (North Carolina for the Wolfpack, Tennessee for the Commodores) got them both to 6-6 and postseason eligible. However, it’s hard to argue that the wins will serve as the catalyst to a tremendous bowl game performance. Both North Carolina State and Vanderbilt are mired in mediocrity within their respective conferences as far as major offensive statistics are concerned, and only the Wolfpack have a strong unit defensively (105 yards per game allowed on the ground).

Although stopping the run is the strength of both defenses, each team has a running back that could prove to be the star of this game. For Vanderbilt it’s Ralph Webb and for North Carolina State it’s Matthew Dayes, both 1,000 yard rushers for the year. Webb has actually been the more consistent runner this year, but the Wolfpack allow fewer yards on the ground. It’s difficult to use one statistic to make a prediction about a bowl game, but in reality these two teams are fairly even. I’m going with North Carolina State as much on a hunch as anything else.

My Pick: 28-24 North Carolina State

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 14

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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