2020 Birmingham and Gator Bowl Preview

January 2, 2020

As some of us go back to work following the holidays, the college football bowl season continues on to provide entertainment for those extending their holiday.

K. Becks is one of those people extending their holiday.

And although I will be watching the games, I’m hardly rooting for teams simply because I picked them in Bowl Mania. My entry has been terrible in the Von Hugendong group this year, and I have no shot at winning. My buddy Andrew still leads the group, although it’s getting tight at the top.

I’m already preparing my strategy for March Madness brackets.

Thursday provides us two bowl games to watch. Let’s take a look at them.

TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl

Boston College vs. #21 Cincinnati (Thursday, 3 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: The Eagles will be led by interim head coach Rich Gunnell in this game after parting ways with Steve Addazio following the regular season. Boston College will have a tough opponent in its first contest of 2020, as Cincinnati very nearly captured the AAC title, which would have led to a Cotton Bowl berth instead.

Why to Watch: The Bearcats have only lost to two teams this season – CFP participant Ohio State, and Cotton Bowl participant Memphis. This Cincinnati team is one of the more underrated squads in the country, with a stifling defense and an offense that can also do damage thanks to a powerful rushing attack and continually developing passing game.

What Will Happen: Boston College had the worst total defense in the ACC this season, a big reason why Addazio is no longer with the program. Of particular concern is the pass defense, which surrendered nearly 300 yards per contest, better than only three teams in the country. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder claims that his shoulder is good to go for this game, which could translate to having a huge day through the air. Even if the Bearcats are unable to slice and dice the Eagles’ secondary, the run game and defense will take care of business for Luke Fickell. If Cincinnati comes out strong, this one shouldn’t be all that close.

My Pick: 37-17 Cincinnati for 37 points in Bowl Mania

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Indiana vs. Tennessee (Thursday, 7 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: Either the Hoosiers or Volunteers will be responsible for breaking the 1-1 tie between the Big Ten and SEC in bowls this season. With the exception of Michigan State, Indiana only lost to ranked teams this season. Tennessee started off terribly with a home loss to Sun Belt member Georgia State, but finished the year by winning six of its final seven games.

Why to Watch: Indiana took care of business, all things considered, only dropping games to teams that most people thought they would lose to anyway. But there’s no hardware that comes with that kind of result. This is a chance for the Hoosiers, who were second to Ohio State in passing offense in the Big Ten, to finally make a statement on the national stage. Tennessee is by no means a great team, but plays in the SEC and defends the pass well. For the Volunteers, an eight win season after the way it started would be impressive.

What Will Happen: The Volunteers will need to keep the ball out of Peyton Ramsey’s hands to win this game. The Indiana signal-caller leads an offense that was second to just Wisconsin in the Big Ten in time of possession, impressive considering that the Hoosiers passed for more than twice as many yards as they ran. Not only does Indiana have the ability to score a lot of points, but can do so while taking time off the clock. This is bad news for Tennessee, which moves the ball at an anemic rate and averaged just 24.3 PPG this season. The Volunteers can slow down Indiana’s offensive attack, but will also need to produce more offensively than it did the majority of the season to win. It may not mean much this season, but the Hoosiers will break the tie and give the Big Ten bragging rights over the SEC.

My Pick: 33-24 Indiana for 13 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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