The binge-worthy college football bowl season is upon us, with 80 teams scheduled to begin play Saturday in a record 40 bowl games, plus the College Football Playoff championship game Jan. 11.
With such a large number of bowls, organizers scrambled to fill slots with three teams that finished with losing records — but decent academic scores.
So welcome 5-7 Nebraska, San Jose State and Minnesota to a bowl menu that might grow even larger next season.
Here are the games, in chronological order, with predicted winners:
Las Vegas, Utah (9-3) vs. Brigham Young (9-3), Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7: After Utah scheduled a home-and-home series with Michigan, the Holy War game between the in-state rivals was not supposed to resume until next season. Now it reprises nine months ahead of schedule in Las Vegas. Predicted winner: Utah. Final score: Utah 35, BYU 28.
Camellia, Ohio (8-4) vs. Appalachian State (10-2), Saturday, 2:30 p.m., ESPN: Ohio’s Frank Solich continues to show that Nebraska might have erred letting him go. See: Callahan, Pelini and Riley eras. Appalachian State is making its first bowl appearance. Predicted winner: Appalachian State. Final score: Appalachian State 31, Ohio 29
Cure, San Jose State (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6), Saturday, 4 p.m., CBSSN: Nothing like a matchup between 5-7 and 6-6 teams to kick things off. Susan Wilson, San Jose State’s interim president, told the San Jose Mercury News : “I’m delighted the students earned it with No. 2 pencils.” Predicted winner: San Jose State. Final score: San Jose State 27, Georgia State 16.
New Orleans, Arkansas State (9-3) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4), Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN: USC’s season-opening opponent finished with a better record than the drama-riddled Trojans. Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon has scored 83 career touchdowns. Predicted winner: Arkansas State. Final score: Louisiana Tech 47, Arkansas State 28.
Miami Beach, South Florida (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (11-2), Monday, 11:30 a.m., ESPN: Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Tyson Helton is the little brother of USC Coach Clay Helton. Sixth-year senior Brandon Doughty has passed for 45 touchdowns. Predicted winner: Western Kentucky. Final score: Western Kentucky 45, South Florida 35.
Famous Idaho Potato, Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6), Tuesday, 12:30 p.m., ESPN: Akron Coach Terry Bowden has Zips in a bowl game for the first time since 2005. Utah State might have Potato fatigue: Aggies are playing in the game for the third time in five years. Predicted winner: Utah State. Final score: Akron 23, Utah State 21.
Boca Raton, Temple (10-3) vs. Toledo (9-2), Tuesday, 4 p.m., ESPN: All-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich helped Temple defeat Penn State for the first time in 74 years. Toledo Coach Matt Campbell has already gone to Iowa State. Predicted winner: Temple. Final score: Toledo 32, Temple 17.
Poinsettia, Boise State (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5), Dec. 23, 1:30 p.m., ESPN: No arguments for inclusion in major bowls this season. Boise State defeated Washington and Virginia. Shawun Lurry has nation-leading nine interceptions for Northern Illinois. Predicted winner: Boise State. Final score: Boise State 55, Northern Illinois 7.
GoDaddy.com, Bowling Green (10-3) vs. Georgia Southern (8-4), Dec. 23, 5 p.m., ESPN: Dino Babers rolled out of Bowling Green to become coach at Syracuse. Georgia Southern is playing in a bowl game for the first time in school history. Predicted winner: Bowling Green. Final score: Georgia Southern 58, Bowling Green 27.
Bahamas, Middle Tennessee (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5), Dec. 24, 9 a.m., ESPN: Average records aside, both teams can proudly proclaim victory: They earned a postseason trip to the best bowl destination. Predicted winner: Western Michigan. Final score: Western Michigan 45, Middle Tennessee 31.
Hawaii, Cincinnati (7-5) vs. San Diego State (10-3), Dec. 24, 5 p.m., ESPN: Cincinnati Coach Tommy Tuberville: “Unless you’re playing for the national championship, what better place to spend the holidays than Hawaii?” San Diego State makes second trip to Oahu after beating Hawaii in October. Predicted winner: San Diego State. Final score: San Diego State 42, Cincinnati 7.
St. Petersburg, Connecticut (6-6) vs. Marshall (9-3), Dec. 26, 8 a.m., ESPN: UConn’s Bob Diaco has the Huskies in a bowl game for the first time since 2010. A Marshall victory would make the Thundering Herd the first Group of 5 team with three straight 10-win seasons. Predicted winner: Marshall. Final score: Marshall 16, Connecticut 10.
Heart of Dallas, Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Mississippi (9-4), Dec. 26, 11:15 a.m., ESPN: Chris Petersen is 14-12 in his first two seasons at Washington. Southern Mississippi Athletic Director Bill McGillis said, “We need to get ready for one heck of a holiday party!” Predicted winner: Washington. Final score: Washington 44, Miami 31.
Pinstripe, Duke (7-5) vs. Indiana (6-6), Dec. 26, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7: To be honest, we’d rather see the Blue Devils and Hoosiers playing hoops at Madison Square Garden than football at Yankee Stadium. Indiana, making its first bowl appearance since 2007, has not won a bowl game since 1991. Predicted winner: Duke. Final score: Duke 44, Indiana 41 (OT).
Independence, Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Tulsa (6-6), Dec. 26, 2:45 p.m., ESPN: In Frank Beamer’s final game with Virginia Tech, it would be fitting for the outcome to turn on a perfectly executed special-teams play by the Hokies. Predicted winner: Virginia Tech. Final score: Virginia Tech 55, Tulsa 52.
Foster Farms, Nebraska (5-7) vs. UCLA (8-4), Dec. 26, 6:15 p.m., ESPN: Bruins won their last two bowl games under Jim Mora, who will not look out of place on sideline at an NFL stadium. Like Mike Riley. Love classy Cornhuskers fans. But 5-7? Riley was on hand but did not the coach in 2014 Holiday Bowl loss against USC. Predicted winner: UCLA. Final score: Nebraska 37, UCLA 29.
Military, Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Navy (9-2), Dec. 28, 11:30 a.m., ESPN: This game should be dubbed the Keenan Reynolds Bowl in honor of record-breaking Navy quarterback who will be playing his final game in Annapolis. Predicted winner: Navy. Final score: Navy 44, Pittsburgh 28.
Quick Lane, Minnesota (5-7) vs. Central Michigan (7-5), Dec. 28, 2 p.m., ESPN2: Central Michigan says 75% of its roster are Michiganders, so a bowl trip to Detroit is considered a reward for the team and fans. Minnesota played four opponents that won at least 10 games. Predicted winner: Central Michigan. Final score: Minnesota 21, Central Michigan 14.
Armed Forces, Air Force (8-5) vs. California (7-5), Dec. 29, 11 a.m., ESPN: Cal Coach Sonny Dykes signed an extension and got a raise last week after he reportedly interviewed at Missouri. Cal beat Air Force in the 2007 Armed Forces bowl. Predicted winner: California. Final score: California 55, Air Force 36.
Russell Athletic, North Carolina (11-2) vs. Baylor (9-3), Dec. 29, 2:30 p.m., ESPN: Tar Heels fell short of possibly crashing the playoff party with loss to Clemson in ACC title game. Baylor receiver Corey Coleman won the Biletnikoff Award on a team that averages 48 points and 605 yards a game. Predicted winner: Baylor. Final score: Baylor 49, North Carolina 38.
Arizona, Nevada (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-5), Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m., ASN: It’s the Mountain West Conference Bowl. Two MWC teams that did not play during regular season must travel to the University of Arizona to do so. Predicted winner: Colorado State Final score: Nevada 28, Colorado State 23.
Texas, Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Louisiana State (8-3), Dec. 29, 6 p.m., ESPN: LSU Coach Les Miles isn’t going anywhere — except possibly recruiting in Houston. Texas Tech averages 47 points and 595 yards a game under Kliff Kingsbury. Predicted winner: LSU Final score: LSU 56, Texas Tech 27.
Birmingham, Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3), Dec. 30, 9 a.m., ESPN: Both teams are in transition. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp left Auburn to succeed Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. Justin Fuente left Memphis for Virginia Tech. Predicted winner: Auburn. Final score: Auburn 31, Memphis 10.
Belk, North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4), Dec. 30, 12:30 p.m., ESPN: Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott is fun to watch. But the bowl highlight might be Carrie Underwood’s performance at FanFest. Predicted winner: Mississippi State. Final score: Mississippi State 51, N.C. State 28.
Holiday, Wisconsin (9-3) vs. USC (8-5), Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m., ESPN: A repeat of the classic 1963 Rose Bowl would be worth the price of admission. Wisconsin fans are expected to converge on San Diego. USC is scheduled to hold seven practices and a walk-through in bowl run-up. Clay Helton is 1-0 in bowl games. Predicted winner: USC. Final score: Wisconsin 23, USC 21.
Peach, Houston (12-1) vs. Florida State (10-2), Dec. 31, 9 a.m., ESPN: Houston’s Tom Herman, he of the Urban Meyer coaching tree, tests wits against Jimbo Fisher, who led the Seminoles to a national title in 2013 and College Football Playoff semifinal last season. Predicted winner: Houston. Final score: Houston 38, Florida State 24.
Orange, Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1), Dec. 31, 1 p.m., ESPN: Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield are playmaking quarterbacks. Sooners fans do not have fond memories of their last Orange Bowl appearance in 2005: USC 55, Oklahoma 19. Predicted winner: Clemson. Final score: Clemson 37, Oklahoma 17.
Cotton, Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1), Dec. 31, 5 p.m., ESPN: Now that Derrick Henry has the Heisman, maybe Lane Kiffin will keep giving him ball like he should have in last season’s semifinal against Ohio State. If Michigan State wins, it might be wise to keep Connor Cook off0. the podium. Predicted winner: Alabama. Final score: Alabama 38, Michigan State 0.
Outback, Northwestern (10-2) vs. Tennessee (8-4), Jan. 1, 9 a.m., ESPN2: The Outback isn’t a major bowl, but Tennessee Coach Butch Jones just got a $500,000 raise, increasing his salary to $4.1 million. Northwestern has never won 11 games in a season. Predicted winner: Northwestern. Final score: Tennessee 45, Northwestern 6.
Citrus, Michigan (9-3) vs. Florida (10-3), Jan. 1, 10 a.m., Channel 7: Both first-year coaches revitalized their programs. Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines lost to Utah, Michigan State and Ohio State. Florida’s Jim McElwain was SEC coach of the year. Predicted winner: Florida. Final score: Michigan 41, Florida 7.
Fiesta, Ohio State (11-1) vs. Notre Dame (10-2), Jan. 1, 10 a.m., ESPN: Former Irish assistant Urban Meyer was Utah’s coach when he opted for Florida over South Bend before 2005 season. Brian Kelly joked they would arm wrestle before the game and “whoever wins gets the Notre Dame job.” Predicted winner: Ohio State. Final score: Ohio State 44, Notre Dame 28.
Rose, Iowa (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2), Jan. 1, 2 p.m., ESPN: Hawkeyes fans descend on Pasadena for the first time since 1990 season. National television audience finally gets a decent TV window to see Christian McCaffrey and what all the Heisman buzz was about. Predicted winner: Stanford. Final score: Stanford 45, Iowa 16.
Sugar, Mississippi (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2), Jan. 1, 5:30 p.m., ESPN: Mississippi beat Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season for the first time. Oklahoma State has not played in the Sugar Bowl since 1945, when it defeated St. Mary’s. Predicted winner: Mississippi. Final score: Mississippi 48, Oklahoma State 20.
TaxSlayer, Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3), Jan. 2, 9 a.m., ESPN: Georgia is playing between the Mark Richt and Kirby Smart eras. Penn State is 3-0 against interim-coached teams this season, defeating Rutgers, Illinois and Maryland. Predicted winner: Georgia. Final score: Georgia 24, Penn State 17.
Liberty, Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5), Jan. 2, 12:15 p.m., ESPN: Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema was co-defensive coordinator under Bill Snyder at Kansas State in 2002-03. Back then, Snyder joked, Bielema “was about 200 pounds lighter.” Predicted winner: Arkansas. Final score: Arkansas 45, Kansas State 23.
Alamo, Texas Christian (10-2) vs. Oregon (9-3), Jan. 2, 3:45 p.m.; ESPN: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. make this must-see TV and one of the highlights of the bowl season. Winner: Oregon
Cactus, West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6), Jan. 2, 7:15 p.m., ESPN: Coach Dana Holgorsen recently got a vote of confidence from West Virginia’s athletic director. Arizona State tries to avoid its first losing season since 2011 after opening as a projected title contender in the Pac-12 South. Winner: Arizona State
College Football Championship, Jan. 11, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Prediction: With Derrick Henry running the ball and Alabama’s defense controlling the line of scrimmage against Clemson, Nick Saban wins his fifth national title.
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