2019 Celebration, New Mexico, Cure, Boca Raton, Camellia, Las Vegas and New Orleans Bowl Preview

December 21, 2019

The MAC has started off 2-0 in bowl games this season, so that’s a sign that nothing expected is assured.

In Bowl Mania news, ATC has started off terribly and currently sits in last place in the Von Hugendong group. A shout out goes to my buddy Andrew, whose entry name I approve of but whose opinion on how an eight-team Playoff will work I wholeheartedly disagree with. Enjoy first place for the moment, sir.

Saturday is jam-packed with bowl action, giving serious fans a reason to do nothing but sit on the couch all day and take it all in.

Let’s take a look at Saturday’s slate for Bowl Mania.

Celebration Bowl

Alcon State vs. North Carolina A&T (Saturday, 12 PM ET – game on ABC)

The Skinny: One of two games that crowns a champion in the HBCU ranks sees a North Carolina A&T team looking for its third Celebration Bowl title in as many years and its fourth in the last five. Alcorn State is the challenger this season, looking to exact revenge following a tough 24-22 loss in 2018’s edition of the game.

Why to Watch: Because this is for a national championship, you don’t have to wonder whether the two teams are excited to play. And Rod Broadway’s departure from NC A&T means that both coaches will be looking for their first national title with their respective school.

What Will Happen: Both teams have athletes all over the field on offense, so expect counter punches to be thrown by both offenses all day. The keys to watch are running back Jah-Maine Martin for NC A&T and LeCharles Pringle for Alcorn State. If Martin can find running room against the Alcorn State defense, the Aggies can make it a three-peat in this game.

My Pick: 41-34 North Carolina A&T for 2 points in Bowl Mania

New Mexico Bowl

Central Michigan vs. San Diego State (Saturday, 2 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: The Chippewas travel West to take on a stifling San Diego State defense that led the Mountain West in yards allowed per game this season. On the other side of the ball, the Aztecs struggle mightily, which could be a problem against a Central Michigan team that can move the football at ease (3rd overall in the MAC in YPG).

Why to Watch: The MAC may have turned over a new leaf for itself if the Chippewas can get the job done here. Jim McElwain’s offense has been impressive this season, but is going up against the No. 5 defense in the country in terms of yards per game allowed. Strength against strength ensues here.

What Will Happen: Despite only scoring more than 27 points once this entire season, the Aztecs are very comfortable playing in tight defensive battles. This should help Rocky Long’s team, as there appears to be little chance this one turns into a track meet. Even if San Diego State has to go running back by committee in this one, the Aztecs will rely on their defense to capture this bowl victory.

My Pick: 24-20 San Diego State for 27 points in Bowl Mania

FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl

Georgia Southern vs. Liberty (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET – game on CBS Sports Network)

The Skinny: The Flames are making their first ever bowl appearance. Being led by former disgraced Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is also an interesting storyline – if not for his antics while in Biloxi, he’d probably already have left the school following its bowl game berth for greener pastures.

Why to Watch: To figure out whether Freeze’s Flames, who lead the Independents this season with over 440 yards of offense per game, can handle a triple-option offense, which is not only tough to stop but will likely limit the amount of time that Liberty’s offense has to work.

What Will Happen: Liberty can be exciting on offense, but its wins this season came against some of the worst teams in all of FBS. Georgia Southern isn’t flashy offensively, but it knows what it does best and will be able to do so against a porous Flames defense.

My Pick: 34-28 Georgia Southern for 14 points in Bowl Mania

Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

Florida Atlantic vs. Southern Methodist (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – game on ABC)

The Skinny: FAU won Conference USA, then lost Lane Kiffin and a handful of players prior to this bowl game. Oh, and the game is being played at the Owls’ stadium. Happy Bowl season, Florida Atlantic!

Why to Watch: Will the Owls show up? What about any semblance of a defense for the Mustangs? Things are definitely pointing towards SMU caring more to play in this one, but that may not matter if the defense is as bad as it has been at points throughout 2019.

What Will Happen: Both of these teams can score, but the loss of starting wideouts Deangelo Antoine and Tavaris Harrison could really hurt the Owls. Additionally, starting linebacker Keke Leroy will also be out for the game, one of FAU’s best players on either side of the ball. The Mustangs should be too much offensively for the Owls if Sonny Dykes has his team ready to play.

My Pick: 42-31 Southern Methodist for 35 points in Bowl Mania

Camellia Bowl

Arkansas State vs. Florida International (Saturday, 5:30 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: Over the past several years, these two teams have been two of the more consistent in the Group of Five in terms of making the postseason. Florida International is making its third straight bowl appearance under Butch Jones, and the Red Wolves are making their ninth straight appearance and fifth under head coach Blake Anderson.

Why to Watch: Panthers quarterback James Morgan has been very solid this season, throwing just three interceptions. Against a suspect Arkansas State secondary, Morgan could have his best game of 2019.

What Will Happen: The Red Wolves are not particularly strong on either side of the ball, but have been held to fewer than 30 points just three times this season. Expect an offensive battle, with the more consistent quarterback being the winner.

My Pick: 34-31 Florida International for 1 point in Bowl Mania

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

#19 Boise State vs. Washington (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET – game on ABC)

The Skinny: The marquee matchup on Saturday, Washington head coach Chris Petersen will take on his former school and offensive coordinator in the final game of his career with the Huskies.

Why to Watch: Chris Petersen has always been one of ATC’s favorite coaches in college football, and the chess match on the sideline should be as good as anything happening on the field. Watching Petersen try to counter Bryan Harsin’s offensive decisions should be fascinating, as the two coaches were once bouncing ideas off of each other in Boise.

What Will Happen: The Boise State defense is underrated, and it could end up being the difference in this game. If the Broncos can rattle Jacob Eason, the Huskies are in trouble. But Eason, as inconsistent as he has been in 2019, has shown up in the bigger games Washington has played this season. He’ll help his coach ride off into the sunset with a victory in Vegas.

My Pick: 30-28 Washington for 18 points in Bowl Mania

R+L Carriers New Orelans Bowl

#20 Appalachian State vs. UAB (Saturday, 9 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: The Mountaineers had one of the most successful seasons in Sun Belt history, narrowly missing out on a New Year’s Six bowl berth and gobbling up almost every offensive award that the conference hands out at the end of the season. They’ll take on a UAB team that just keeps rolling since reinstating the football program three seasons ago.

Why to Watch: This is hands down one of the best matchups between two Group of Five conference teams that the bowl season has to offer. Appalachian State can play with anyone in the country, and UAB’s defense is elite.

What Will Happen: Although a lot of attention will be paid to the Appalachian State offense, the team also led the Sun Belt in total defense this season. The Blazers will keep things interesting in NOLA, but the Mountaineers will cap off its first 13-win season as part of the FBS.

My Pick: 34-24 Appalachian State for 22 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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