2018 Music City, Camping World and Alamo Bowl Preview

December 28, 2018

As we move towards the weekend and the College Football Playoff games become a topic of conversation amongst more than just the talking heads on the sports networks, it’s interesting to note just how much happens between the end of the regular season and the actual Playoff games.

In the past week we’ve learned news of suspensions on two teams playing in the semifinal games that could have a real impact on the outcome of these games. It begs the question, “if this type of activity is happening in just one month, how are these programs able to keep players out of trouble throughout the entire offseason?”

Rhetorical question? Maybe. But it’s somewhat disappointing that those headlines take over just days away from the biggest game of these players’ career.

Before we get too deep into that topic, we’ll refocus on the task at hand – more non-New Year’s Six bowl games. Friday brings another full day of action and potentially a change at the top of the Von Hugendong Bowl Mania group leaderboard. My dad still leads, but the margin is as slim as it’s been since near the beginning. Luckily, the first person chasing him is me.

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

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Auburn vs. Purdue (Friday, 1:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Put simply, the winner of this game will be the team that wants it more. One would assume that both teams are going to be focused, given the camaraderie surrounding this Purdue team throughout its inspirational season and Auburn’s senior class looking to avoid becoming the first group in the program’s history to lose three straight bowl games. These two teams have never played each other before, but surprisingly Purdue may be in better position to take the victory. The Boilermakers can light you up in the passing game, averaging 317 yards per contest through the air. Freshman wideout Rondale Moore is a tremendously difficult target to contain and if he’s able to provide excitement in this one, it will likely mean Purdue is moving the ball well.

Auburn can be dangerous offensively at times as well, but Jarett Stidham just wasn’t consistent enough in the regular season for the Tigers to be a legitimate threat for the SEC West title. In a somewhat surprising decision, Stidham decided to declare for the NFL Draft prior to this game, meaning he should be focused on having a good last performance for scouts to chew on. However, in my opinion he’s not ready and even a suspect Purdue defense will have its moments stopping him. Given Purdue’s journey to this game, I like the Boilermakers to take it to Auburn in Nashville. I have the Big Ten representative for 10 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 33-28 Purdue

Camping World Bowl

#16 West Virginia vs. #20 Syracuse (Friday, 5:15 PM ET – ESPN)

This is the first matchup of the bowl season between two ranked opponents, but don’t let the numbers fool you into thinking this will be the same as if these two had met in a regular season showdown. West Virginia’s No. 7 ranked offense nationally could be a shell of itself in this game without quarterback Will Grier, top offensive linemen Yodny Cajuste and wideout Gary Jennings, Jr., all of whom will be sitting out this game in preparation for next year’s NFL Draft. While Syracuse has been poor at defending the pass this season, backups Jack Allison and Trey Lowe have seen little time for the Mountaineers this season and won’t have the protection from Cajuste against a defense that racked up 38 sacks this season.

On the other side, Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey has decided to suit up for his final opportunity in an Orange uniform and is a dangerous passer in his own right. The battle between Dungey and Grier would have been one of the most anticipated of the entire bowl season, but without Grier playing, Dungey should be the brightest star of this game. Expect Syracuse to win this one relatively comfortably, because with so many West Virginia players out, I question the drive of the rest of the team that will actually put on the pads and play. I have Syracuse for 35 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 41-27 Syracuse

Valero Alamo Bowl

#13 Washington State vs. #24 Iowa State (Friday, 9 PM ET – ESPN)

The nation’s top passing attack will face the Big 12’s second ranked pass defense unit in San Antonio on Friday night, suggesting that something’s got to give in this one. If you haven’t heard of him by now, Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew is a diamond in the rough hanging out in the Pacific Northwest, quietly amassing nearly 4,500 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns this season. His ‘stache isn’t too shabby, either, and he has swagger to go along with it which should give him all the confidence he needs going up against the scrappy Iowa State defense.

The Cyclones are interesting in that they were the upset darlings a couple of times during the regular season but never quite elevated themselves to the level of Oklahoma or Texas when it mattered most. Iowa State is known for its defense but can also engage in a shootout – at least, when going up against Big 12 competition. The Cyclones were stifled by Texas’s defense in mid-November and Mike Leach’s squad is sneaky good on defense, allowing just 210 yards per game through the air. As long as Minshew & Co. aren’t turning over the ball on offense, Washington State should win this game. I have the Cougars for 32 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 45-35 Washington State

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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