2019 Military and Pinstripe Bowl Preview

December 27, 2019

As we near the weekend and the two semifinal Playoff games loom large over the rest of the bowl games being played, it’s difficult not to look at Thursday evening’s results and not question the strength of the ACC even more than we were already doing prior to those games.

Miami’s absolutely horrible performance against Conference USA foe Louisiana Tech appeared to be partially orchestrated by a coaching staff looking to protect a quarterback decision for the 2020 season. But the fact that the Hurricanes failed to score a single point against the Bulldogs still speaks volumes for how far the program has fallen.

Pittsburgh nearly found itself answering questions for a similarly embarrassing loss, albeit against an Eastern Michigan squad that looked very excited to be playing in Detroit. If not for a game-winning drive in the final minutes of the game, the Panthers would have successfully completed an 0-2 start for the ACC this bowl season.

Which leaves us at this: if Clemson’s competition struggles with Conference USA and MAC squads in the postseason, how can we honestly believe that the Tigers are simply “lying in the weeds”, ready to strike at an Ohio State team that faced, and beat, three top 15 teams in its final three games of the regular season?

Luckily for us fans, there isn’t much time left to wait for the answer to be revealed on the field.

For now, let’s take a look at the early games of a packed Friday for Bowl Mania.

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman

North Carolina vs. Temple (Friday, 12 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: Mack Brown’s return to Chapel Hill has been a success in year one, with the Tar Heels making it back to the postseason for the first time since 2016. North Carolina will be seeking its first bowl victory since 2013 against a gritty Temple side that was amongst the AAC’s best in total defense.

Why to Watch: North Carolina’s offense continued its ascension in 2019 under Brown to near the top of the charts in the ACC, thanks in large part to a freshman quarterback named Sam Howell. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Howell in action, you’re in for a treat. How he fares against Temple’s disciplined defensive unit will be very interesting.

What Will Happen: Temple’s strength is really its defense, but don’t be surprised if the Owls come out strong on the offensive side as well. Freshman back Re’Mahn Davis could have a big day against the North Carolina defense, which has allowed over 200 yards rushing twice already this season (both losses). Brown will have his team ready to play and will have used the bowl practices wisely, but so will Temple. The Owls have been to five straight bowl appearances under four different coaches, but Rod Carey isn’t going anywhere after this season and wants to end on a high note.

My Pick: 34-30 Temple for 17 points in Bowl Mania

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Michigan State vs. Wake Forest (Friday, 3:20 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: The Spartans had a rough year, struggling mightily on offense at times and not getting quite the bailout from the defense that fans have come to expect from Mark Dantonio’s teams. Coach Dantonio will need to get creative to slow down Wake Forest’s potent offense, which trailed just Clemson in the ACC in yards per game during the regular season.

Why to Watch: Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman took the next step in 2019 to become one of the ACC’s best signal-callers, a journey that started around the time last year in the Demon Deacons’ bowl game against Memphis. Watching how Newman deals with Michigan State’s defense, which was really not all that great this season against the pass, will be exciting.

What Will Happen: The Spartans really struggled to compete with the upper echelon of the Big Ten this season, but chances are the Demon Deacons would have had similar struggles as well. Dave Clawson’s football team resembles Indiana in a lot of ways, a team that the Spartans managed to post 40 points on in late September. That may have been a long time ago, but don’t be surprised if an offensively minded Michigan State team comes to play in the Bronx. A lot of points will need to be scored by the winner of this game.

My Pick: 37-33 Michigan State for 25 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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