Monday night, on the final episode of the Directors’ Cut this semester, Isaiah and I broke down a dozen of the upcoming bowl games. We also spoke to former NFL quarterback, and current ESPN color analyst, Dan Orlovsky, about the three games he’ll be on call for (the Gasparilla, Pinstripe and Liberty bowls). Here’s what he had to say, along with our picks and analysis for every bowl game this year.
Saturday, December 15
Autonation Cure Bowl – Orlando, FL
Tulane (6-6) vs Louisiana-Lafayette (7-6) – CBS Sports 1:30 PM
Joe: Both teams rank in the bottom third of the country in terms of total defense, but both squads boast top-30 running games. Advantage to the Cajuns and RB Trey Ragas. Louisiana-Lafayette.
Isaiah: The Rajun-Cajuns win because of their offensive balanced attack. Louisiana-Lafayette.
New Mexico Bowl – Albuquerque, NM
Utah State (10-2) vs North Texas (9-3) – ESPN 2 PM
Joe: Expect a shootout as Mason Fine (UNT) threw for the eighth most yards in the country. Ultimately, the Aggies have a more versatile offense, and defend the pass slightly better. Utah State.
Isaiah: Utah State’s only losses are on the road against quality opponents, and they’ve been impressive on both sides of the ball. The Aggies will be too much for North Texas. Utah State.
Las Vegas Bowl – Las Vegas, NV
Arizona State (7-5) vs #21 Fresno State (11-2) – ABC 3:30 PM
Joe: The Sun Devils will be without star wideout N’Keal Harry as he will likely be a first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. KeeSean Johnson had the eighth most receiving yards in the country and will play for the Bulldogs. Give me Fresno and their top-three scoring D. Fresno State.
Isaiah: Without N’Keal Harry, Arizona State is going to struggle to move the ball on offense. Fresno State picks up the victory. Fresno State.
Camellia Bowl – Montgomery, AL
Georgia Southern (9-3) vs Eastern Michigan (7-5) – ESPN 5:30 PM
Joe: Georgia Southern has one of the best ground games in the country, and MAC teams don’t win bowl games. Georgia Southern.
Isaiah: Eastern Michigan won’t be able to stop Georgia Southern’s ground attack. Georgia Southern.
New Orleans Bowl – New Orleans, LA
Middle Tennessee State (8-5) vs Appalachian State (10-2) – ESPN 9 PM
Joe: The Blue Raiders always turn in a dynamic air attack, but the Mountaineers defense might be too stout. Most would be concerned with the fact that App State’s coach left for Louisville, but I say they use it as fuel. Appalachian State.
Isaiah: Appalachian State has been impressive on both sides of the ball, which should carry them to victory over the Blue Raiders. Appalachian State.
Tuesday, December 18
Boca Raton Bowl – Boca Raton, FL
UAB (10-3) vs Northern Illinois (8-5) – ESPN 7 PM
Joe: Coach Bill Clark at UAB just won the Eddie Robinson Award which goes to the coach of the year. Last year, after taking a newly revived program to the Bahamas Bowl, the Blazers got blown out. I expect a different outcome this year. UAB.
Isaiah: Northern Illinois’s defense carries the team one last time this season to a victory in Boca. Northern Illinois.
Wednesday, December 19
Frisco Bowl – Frisco, TX
San Diego State (7-5) vs Ohio (8-4) – ESPN 8 PM
Joe: The Aztecs’ lack of a passing game concerns me here. Juwan Washington is a good RB, but he isn’t Donnell Pumphrey or Rashaad Penny. Look for a Bobcats team that averages over 40 ppg to put up some points. Ohio.
Isaiah: A high-powered Bobcats offense leads them to another win over the Aztecs. Ohio.
Thursday, December 20
Gasparilla Bowl – Tampa Bay, FL
Marshall (8-4) vs USF (7-5) – ESPN 8 PM
Joe: USF hasn’t won a game since starting the year 7-0. In those five straight losses, their QBs have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Marshall’s defense should have a field day. Marshall.
Isaiah: South Florida is too talented for Marshall. After five straight losses, the Bulls will end their season with a win. USF.
Friday, December 21
Bahamas Bowl – Nassau, Bahamas
Florida International (8-4) vs Toledo (7-5) – ESPN 12:30 PM
Joe: Only once in the four-year history of the Bahamas Bowl has the winning team not scored 40 points. Expect a shootout between two programs that average over 34 ppg each. The Panthers have the better quarterback and the better defense though, so that leads them to a win. FIU.
Isaiah: The Rockets’ offense puts them over the top in a tight game with FIU. Toledo.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Boise, ID
Western Michigan (7-5) vs BYU (6-6) – ESPN 4 PM
Joe: BYU has a top-20 defense and the MAC doesn’t see a lot of D. In a low scoring affair, WMU wouldn’t stand a chance. BYU.
Isaiah: BYU’s defense is too much for the Broncos to score on. BYU.
Saturday, December 22
Birmingham Bowl – Birmingham, AL
Memphis (8-5) vs Wake Forest (6-6) – ESPN 12 PM
Joe: This would be different if Memphis RB Darrell Henderson was playing, but the nation’s second-leading rusher is sitting out to prepare for the NFL Draft. Wake Forest.
Isaiah: Even without Darrell Henderson, the Tigers are the superior team in this one and have too much offense for Wake. Memphis.
Armed Forces Bowl – Fort Worth, TX
Houston (8-4) vs Army (10-2) – ESPN 3:30 PM
Joe: The Knights had one of their best seasons in the last 50 years. They sold me when they took Kyler Murray and the Sooners to OT in Norman back in September, and I think they’ll slow down a potent Houston offense in Fort Worth. Army.
Isaiah: Army has had a great season, and Houston has fallen off as of late, so the Knights will win this one. Army.
Dollar General Bowl – Mobile, AL
Buffalo (10-3) vs Troy (9-3) – ESPN 7 PM
Joe: UB didn’t end the year on a good note, losing two of three and this game is in Troy’s backyard. As explosive as Tyree Jackson is, I think the Trojans defense contains him and B.J. Smith runs rampant. Troy.
Isaiah: The Bulls’ explosiveness offensively will carry them to a win over Troy. Buffalo.
Hawaii Bowl – Honolulu, HI
Hawaii (8-5) vs Louisiana Tech (7-5) – ESPN 10:30 PM
Joe: Not being on Christmas Eve makes this the first Hawai’i Bowl I’ll watch in my life. Cole McDonald was one of the best quarterbacks in the country this year so give me him and the Rainbow Warriors in Aloha Stadium. Hawai’i.
Isaiah: Despite Hawaii being the home team, I’ve got the Bulldogs pulling off the upset because of Hawaii’s poor defense. Louisiana Tech.
Wednesday, December 26
First Responder Bowl – Dallas, TX
Boston College (7-5) vs #25 Boise State (10-3) – ESPN 1:30 PM
Joe: BC really tailed off to end the year, losing three straight. Boise was better on both sides of the ball, and after blowing an early season matchup with Oklahoma State, will get revenge against a Power-Five team. Boise State.
Isaiah: BC’s offense is too one-dimensional. Boise State’s balanced attack will lead them to victory. Boise State.
Quick Lane Bowl – Detroit, MI
Minnesota (6-6) vs Georgia Tech (7-5) – ESPN 5:15 PM
Joe: Georgia Tech and the triple option are coming into this one hot, and led by new head coach Geoff Collins, who knows a thing or two about winning, the Yellow Jackets should run all over Minnesota. Georgia Tech.
Isaiah: Minnesota will slow down the Georgia Tech triple option and win this one. Minnesota.
Cheez-It Bowl – Phoenix, AZ
California (7-5) vs TCU (6-6) – ESPN 9 PM
Joe: Cal had a top-20 defense in the country while playing in a conference where defense is not a point of emphasis. The Horned Frogs struggled to find any consistency all year. Cal.
Isaiah: The Golden Bears’ defense leads the way to a victory in a low scoring game. Cal.
Thursday, December 27
Independence Bowl – Shreveport, LA
Temple (8-4) vs Duke (7-5) – ESPN 1:30 PM
Joe: If you watched Temple’s interim head coach, Ed Foley, the other day and you pick against the Owls, you’re crazy! Temple.
Isaiah: Temple’s offense will avoid turning the ball over and beat the Blue Devils. Temple.
***Just in case you didn’t see the press conference, take a look. You won’t regret it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoGyJfSMyrw
Pinstripe Bowl – Bronx, NY
Miami (7-5) vs Wisconsin (7-5) – ESPN 5:15 PM
Joe: A matchup of two teams that were ranked in the top eight this preseason. Jonathon Taylor finished just shy of 2,000 yards this season yet only came in ninth in Heisman voting. He’ll come in chippy, and the Badgers ground game should knock Miami’s second-ranked D on its heels in the brutal cold of a New York winter. Wisconsin.
Isaiah: A big day from Jonathon Taylor will lead the Badgers to victory. Wisconsin.
Texas Bowl – Houston, TX
Baylor (6-6) vs Vanderbilt (6-6) – ESPN 9 PM
Joe: Neither of these teams are good, but here we are. The Commodores play more defense and a tougher schedule, so I guess I’ll take them with little confidence. Vanderbilt.
Isaiah: Vandy’s defense steps up in this game and gets them a win. Vanderbilt.
Friday, December 28
Music City Bowl – Nashville, TN
Purdue (6-6) vs Auburn (7-5) – ESPN 1:30 PM
Joe: Tyler Strong. Expect Purdue to come out here and play this game for their superfan, and honorary team captain, Tyler Trent, who’s currently fighting for his life. Auburn’s also 1-4 in their last five bowl games. Purdue.
Isaiah: Auburn’s defense slows down Purdue’s aerial attack and wins the game. Auburn.
Camping World Bowl – Orlando, FL
#16 West Virginia (8-3) vs #20 Syracuse (9-3) – ESPN 5:15 PM
Joe: No Grier = No shot. Expect Eric Dungy to light up a non-existent West Virginia D in a game that would’ve been a shootout, and probably a win for the Mountaineers, had Grier played. Syracuse.
Isaiah: No Will Grier for WVU opens the door for Syracuse’s explosive offense to win a one-sided game. Syracuse.
Alamo Bowl – San Antonio, TX
#13 Washington State (10-2) vs #24 Iowa State (8-4) – ESPN 9 PM
Joe: Iowa State’s great at home but was just 2-3 away from Ames this year. Their passing D is middle of the road and going up against the best aerial attack in the country, they don’t stand a chance. Gardner Minshew and the Cougars roll. Washington State.
Isaiah: Washington State rolls in this game behind a big day from Gardner Minshew II. Washington State.
Saturday, December 29
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl – Atlanta, GA
#10 Florida (9-3) vs #7 Michigan (10-2) – ESPN 12 PM
Joe: Michigan’s only losses came against an unbeaten Notre Dame team and the second-best offense in the country in Ohio State. As good as Florida’s defense is, they struggled to score any time they faced a formidable D. Michigan.
Isaiah: Florida won’t have enough offense to keep up with the Wolverines. Michigan.
Belk Bowl – Charlotte, NC
Virginia (7-5) vs South Carolina (7-5) – ABC 12 PM
Joe: The ACC just wasn’t good outside of Clemson and Syracuse. South Carolina’s 7-5 looks a lot better than Virginia’s, who gave away their last game of the year to V Tech. Jordan Bentley and the Cocks win a close one over a team that can’t finish games. South Carolina.
Isaiah: The Gamecocks are the better overall team here. South Carolina.
Arizona Bowl – Tucson, AZ
Arkansas State (8-4) vs Nevada (7-5) – CBS Sports 1:15 PM
Joe: Things were going well for the Wolfpack before surrendering 34 points in a Rivalry Week loss to UNLV (4-8). Arkansas State hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in four games. Arkansas State.
Isaiah: Nevada beats the Red Wolves in a shootout. Nevada.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl – Arlington, TX
#3 Notre Dame (12-0) vs #2 Clemson (13-0) – ESPN 4 PM
Joe: Notre Dame is excellent on both side of the ball, and they’ve managed to do what’s necessary to win this season without that almost annual slip up, but Clemson is superior in every category. If Lawrence limits his number of mistakes to one, the Tigers will win the TO battle and Etienne should find the endzone as he’s done 21 times this year (3rd best nationally). Clemson.
Isaiah: Clemson’s balanced attack will help the Tigers pull away from the Irish in the second half. Clemson.
Capital One Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
#4 Oklahoma (12-1) vs #1 Alabama (13-0) – ESPN 8 PM
Joe: Look for a shootout as the top-two scoring offenses in the country match up. Unfortunately, the Sooners D that let up 40+ points in four straight games before holding Texas to 27 won’t be able to stop a Bama O that averages 47. On the flip side Oklahoma’s #1 scoring O that averages 49 per game won’t be able to score more than 35 against Nick Saban’s defense. Alabama.
Isaiah: Alabama is going to slow down Kyler Murray a little bit, but it will be enough because Oklahoma’s defense isn’t good enough to stop the Tide. Alabama.
Monday, December 31
Military Bowl – Annapolis, MD
Cincinnati (10-2) vs Virginia Tech (6-6) – ESPN 12 PM
Joe: Usually the Hokies win with defense. This time, it’s the Bearcats who rank in the top eight in both total defense and scoring. V Tech had to pay Marshall to be bowl eligible and keep their streak alive, but they’ll go home with a losing record. Cincinnati.
Isaiah: The Bearcats are better than the Hokies on both sides of the ball. Cincinnati.
Sun Bowl – El Paso, TX
Stanford (8-4) vs Pittsburgh (7-5) – CBS 2 PM
Joe: It’s pretty uncharacteristic of a Stanford defense to rank 78th in the country. Even more shocking is that Bryce Love is the second-best RB in this game. Qadree Ollison and Coach Narduzzi’s Panthers will blow by the Cardinal. Pitt.
Isaiah: The Cardinal defense will slow down Pitt’s rushing attack enough to win the game. Stanford.
Redbox Bowl – Santa Clara, CA
Oregon (8-4) vs Michigan State (7-5) – FOX 3 PM
Joe: Michigan State hasn’t scored more than 14 points since November 3 and has only eclipsed 20 points six times all year. The Ducks have scored less than 20 just once. While Sparty’s run D is strong, their pass coverage won’t be able to slow Oregon down. Oregon.
Isaiah: Michigan State won’t be able to keep up with Oregon offensively, and the Ducks will come away with the win. Oregon.
Liberty Bowl – Nashville, TN
#23 Missouri (8-4) vs Oklahoma State (6-6) – ESPN 3:45 PM
Joe: It’s Drew Lock’s last chance to air it out in a game before scouts and who better to do it against than a bottom-25 passing defense. Missouri’s much more component on each side of the ball and will win against their former Big12 opponent. Missouri.
Isaiah: Drew Locke is going to lead an explosive offense past an inconsistent Oklahoma State team. Missouri.
Holiday Bowl – San Diego, CA
#22 Northwestern (8-5) vs Utah #17 (9-4) – FS1 7 PM
Joe: Utah has a great defense, but like Iowa State, struggles away from home. They’ll be closer to the neutral site in San Diego than Northwestern, but I doubt their ability to show up as prepared and pumped as Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats. Northwestern.
Isaiah: The Wildcats have been good on the road this season and I think they travel to the west coast and win again. Northwestern.
Gator Bowl – Jacksonville, FL
NC State (9-3) vs #19 Texas A&M (8-4) – ESPN 7:30 PM
Joe: Ryan Finley is a top-10 QB in the country for a second year in a row. He’ll have to outscore an Aggies offense led by 1,500-yard rusher Trayveon Williams and his six yards per carry. This one should come down to defense, and the Aggies allowed just 22 ppg, not counting their seven-overtime, 74-72, win over LSU to cap off their year. Texas A&M.
Isaiah: NC State has struggled against explosive offenses, and they’ll lose to the Aggies. Texas A&M.
Tuesday, January 1
Outback Bowl – Tampa Bay, FL
#18 Mississippi State (8-4) vs Iowa (8-4) – ESPN2 12 PM
Joe: The 11th-best scoring defense of the Iowa Hawkeyes heads down south to take on the most stubborn defense in the country, allowing just 12 ppg, in Mississippi State. Nick Fitzgerald, one of the best dual-threat QBs in the country, should be able to navigate the black and gold en route to a Bulldog victory. Mississippi State.
Isaiah: Mississippi State’s defense has been outstanding this year, and they play well again and beat the Hawkeyes. Mississippi State.
Citrus Bowl – Orlando, FL
#12 Penn State (9-3) vs #14 Kentucky (9-3) – ABC 1 PM
Joe: Penn State’s offensive line has only allowed 25 sacks this season. Getting to Trace McSorely is going to be the only way for Kentucky to win, led by the nation’s best linebacker, Josh Allen. If they pressure McSorely they have the advantage because each team has a great ground game, but Penn State’s versatility gives them the W. Penn State.
Isaiah: McSorely puts Penn State over the top in this one and helps them beat Kentucky. Penn State.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl – Glendale, AZ
#8 UCF (12-0) vs #11 LSU (9-3) – ESPN 1 PM
Joe: Even though LSU’s defense ranked 57 spots higher in terms of ypg, these two teams have nearly identical scoring defenses, and Greedy Williams, the Tigers’ star cornerback, will skip the game for NFL Draft preparation. UCF’s offensive versatility will enable them to win even without McKenzie Milton because of RB Greg McCrae who’s amassed 1,100 yards on just 120 carries (over nine yards per carry). UCF.
Isaiah: Greedy or not, LSU is just too good defensively. They’ll have enough on offense to beat the Knights. LSU.
Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
#6 Ohio State (12-1) vs #9 Washington (10-3) – ESPN 5 PM
Joe: The Granddaddy of ‘em all pins the fourth best scoring offense among Power-Five teams against the fourth best scoring defense. Much like college football has gone this year, I’ll go with the offense in this one. Dwayne Haskins is making one last case to move ahead Herbert, Grier and Lock in scouts’ eyes. Ohio State.
Isaiah: The Buckeyes’ offense is too much to keep up with for Jake Browning and the Washington Huskies. Ohio State.
Allstate Sugar Bowl – New Orleans, LA
#5 Georgia (11-2) vs #15 Texas (9-4) – ESPN 8:45 PM
Joe: Sam Ehlinger is a great QB who had a phenomenal season, and it’s been fun to watch the connection between him and Lil J Humphries, but Jake Fromm is a future first rounder and the backfield duo of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield that ran for a combined 1,993 yards is just as effective as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were last year. Expect the Bulldogs to pull away in the second half. Georgia.
Isaiah: The Bulldogs are just too good on each side of the ball for Texas. Georgia.
Monday, January 7
CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T – Santa Clara, CA
Teams TBD – ESPN 8 PM
Joe: Part IV. This would make three of the past four title games a Bama-Clemson match up, and four straight years in the CFP where these two have met. Trevor Lawrence is primed for that freshman slip up, and we all know Tua has proven to be primetime ready. Tide Roll, 24-13.
Isaiah: Tua Tagovailoa and that defense are too much for Clemson to handle so Alabama wins another national title. Alabama.