2019 Belk, Sun, Liberty, Arizona and Alamo Bowl Preview

December 31, 2019

A sad tweet I read from @RedditCFB this morning:

“The 2019-2020 NCAA D1 Football season has 1,626 games. With the #OrangeBowl we’ve passed the 99% mark, only 16 remain. :(“

That’s right. The season is nearing its end. And so is the year.

So really, are you going to spend 3 hours getting ready for a celebration that literally signifies nothing other than the disposal of old desk calendars, or are you going to soak in every last bit of college football that this season has to offer?

There are five games being played on the final day of 2019. Previews of them are below:

Belk Bowl

Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech (Tuesday, 12 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: Near the end of the year, the Hokies were playing like one of the best teams in the ACC. The Wildcats will look to slow down an offense that was progressing nicely and turn this one into a defensive struggle.

Why to Watch: Sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker took full control of the starter’s role for the Hokies this season, and has he improved, so did the entire team. The bowl practices and extra game should help him get a head start into next season, where he’ll need to take yet another step forward for Virginia Tech to compete for the conference title.

What Will Happen: Kentucky’s defense is adept at preventing long plays from scrimmage and will look to keep Hooker off-balance by mixing in various coverages downfield with solid pressure up front. If the Wildcats can force Hooker into at least a couple of turnovers, this one gets very interesting. But there is enough talent in the backfield for the Hokies that if turnovers do not become an issue, Virginia Tech should win this one without too much issue.

My Pick: 31-21 Virginia Tech for 36 points in Bowl Mania

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl

Arizona State vs. Florida State (Tuesday, 2 PM ET – game on CBS)

The Skinny: The Seminoles certainly did not expect to be in El Paso for the holidays, but granted, former head coach Willie Taggart didn’t expect to be let go after just two seasons, either. Florida State will be looking to win amidst chaos within the program as it takes on an Arizona State team that is probably far happier to be playing in this bowl game.

Why to Watch: Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels is a star in the making as a freshman. Despite his ability to hurt opponents with his athleticism, Daniels is a true quarterback at his core and could have a massive afternoon against a Florida State defense that was atrocious at stopping the pass this season.

What Will Happen: The absence of some key contributors for the Sun Devils, most notably running back Eno Benjamin, could make this one interesting. Benjamin’s abilities in the backfield served as a catalyst for the development of Daniels this season and it is unclear whether the freshman will try to force things without his experienced running back opening up the passing game. On the other hand, with Florida State’s program in relative disarray at this point, there’s probably too much going on there to assume anything but a victory for Arizona State, even if it’s an ugly one.

My Pick: 34-28 Arizona State for 10 points in Bowl Mania

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Kansas State vs. #23 Navy (Tuesday, 3:45 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: Chris Klieman proved that his run first offensive philosophy could win games in the Big 12 this season, landing him in a bowl game against a team that does that better than any other team in the country. The Midshipmen are looking to get to the 11-win mark for just the second time in program history.

Why to Watch: The Wildcats run defense was statistically solid but somewhat inconsistent throughout the regular season. With over a month to prepare for this game, Kansas State should either be very ready for what Navy will bring to the table or too rusty to contain the triple option.

What Will Happen: The Wildcats run defense was statistically solid but somewhat inconsistent throughout the regular season. With over a month to prepare for this game, Kansas State should either be very ready for what Navy will bring to the table or too rusty to contain the triple option. Discipline is always an attribute of Navy football, but in this game the Midshipmen are going up against a team with an old school coach with tendencies to match. There will be a lot of run calls in this game, but when push comes to shove, Kansas State proved it could win that type of game as well as a shootout with Oklahoma. They’re just a bit too versatile for Navy.

My Pick: 31-27 Kansas State for 28 points in Bowl Mania

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Georgia State vs. Wyoming (Tuesday, 4:30 PM ET – game on CBS Sports Network)

The Skinny: Georgia State’s introduction to the country came way back in Week 1 when the Panthers upset Tennessee in Knoxville. Shawn Elliot’s side will be looking for its second bowl victory in three seasons against the defensive-minded Cowboys.

Why to Watch: Both of these teams establish a rhythm offensively with the run game and feature talented backs in the stable. Georgia State senior Tra Barnett led the Sun Belt by averaging 115.7 yards per game, while sophomore Xazavian Valladay was the workhorse of the Mountain West, averaging just over 20 carries per game and 96.4 yards per contest.

What Will Happen: Establishing the run game will be paramount among the priorities for both of these squads, but Wyoming may cause Georgia State to divert from that plan. The Cowboys were second in the Mountain West this season in run defense, allowing just 99.4 yards per game on the ground. However, if Barnett isn’t able to get things going, it isn’t necessarily game over for the Panthers. Senior Dan Ellington is normally an accurate passer and can pick up the slack offensively when things are going well on the ground. Wyoming will keep things close because of its defense, but the Panthers are more dynamic offensively and should win a close one.

My Pick: 24-16 Georgia State for 3 points in Bowl Mania

Valero Alamo Bowl

Texas vs. #11 Utah (Tuesday, 7:30 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: We were reminded in 2019 that Texas is, in fact, not back, but the Longhorns did still show signs of life at various points throughout the regular season. Utah is built to take full advantage of all of the weaknesses that Texas has, but the Utes had everything in front of them to punch a bid to the CFP and couldn’t get it done against Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. Even Kyle Whittingham may have trouble motivating his team this time around.

Why to Watch: In what is starting to seem like a broken record, Texas could really use a boost heading into the offseason. Like the Sugar Bowl last season, the Alamo Bowl could provide that boost as the Utes are a formidable opponent that had real CFP aspirations until Championship Weekend. Both teams should be ready to play, making it a worthwhile use of your time to watch the final football game of 2019.

What Will Happen: Sam Ehlinger’s unknown status about returning to school next year is a good thing for the Longhorns. So is wide receiver Collin Johnson deciding to play in his final collegiate football contest. As is Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson deciding to sit out the game in preparation for next year’s NFL Draft. And the game being played in the heart of Texas doesn’t hurt, either. In short, lots of things are stacking up for Texas to at least be competitive in this game, if not a quiet favorite. As long as some semblance of a defense shows up and prevents Utah from simply running it down Texas’s throat all game, Ehlinger & Co. will make this one very exciting for all the fans in attendance.

My Pick: 40-35 Texas for 15 points in Bowl Mania

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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