Submitted by Jim Feist on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 at 12:00 AM
by Jim Feist
As 2016 draws to a close, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the bowls. You shouldn't be bowled-out, either, as they slowly build to the crescendo until Alabama, Ohio State, Washington and Clemson duke it out.
San Diego Bowl (Wed, Dec. 21): A pair of teams with different styles clash as BYU and Wyoming pair off. Wyoming lost three of four down the stretch as the defense fell apart, allowing 69, 33, 56 and 27 points. They were an 8-point favorite and lost to UNLV, 69-66. At least they can score points behind QB Josh Allen (26 TDs, 13 INTs) and super-back Brian Hill (1,767 yards, 5.5 ypc). And WR Tanner Gentry (1,213 yds) averaged 18.7 yards per catch.
BYU went 7-1 SU, 5-3 ATS down the stretch and suffered close losses to Utah and UCLA back in September. The Cougars lost four games by a total of eight points. The offense lost QB Taysom Hill in the finale, so QB Tanner Magnum will hand off a lot to RB Jamaal Williams (1,165 yards, 5.6 ypc). BYU has a strong defense and is on a 6-1 run under the total.
Idaho Potato Bowl (Thurs., Dec. 22): Yes, it will be cold in Boise as Idaho and Colorado State clash. Idaho was a great story, carrying a 6-1 SU, 7-0 ATS run into this bowl against Sun Belt competition. It's not a strong offense, with three QBs combining for 15 TDs, 11 picks and top RB Allen Duckworth had just 619 yards. They squeezed by Montana State, 20-17, as a two-TD chalk.
Colorado State is remarkably balanced offensively behind junior QB Nick Stevens (14 TDs, 3 INTs) and RBs Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews, both topping 700 yards. Colorado State is on a sizzling 10-1 spread run and 6-2 over the total with a red-hot offense down the stretch. Will the long layoff slow them down? Or the Boise cold?
Dollar General Bowl (Fri., Dec. 23): Another clash of styles as Ohio's strong defense tangles with Troy's wide-open offense down in Mobile, Alabama. Frank Solich's Bobcats won't dazzle on offense, tallying 52 points the last three games (two losses). But the defense is outstanding, anchored by Tarell Basham (10 sacks), the MAC defensive player of the year. Ohio lost just 28-19 at Tennessee as a +27 dog.
Troy and offensive coordinator Neal Brown run a wide-open attack behind junior QB Brandon Silvers (22 TDs, 10 INTs), RB Jordan Chunn (1,232 yds) and WR Emmanuel Thompson (737). Troy topped 50 points three times and hit 40 once. This was the team that lost at Clemson in September, 30-24 as a +35 dog and beat Southern Miss (37-31) as a +10 road puppy.
Hawaii Bowl (Sat., Dec. 24): Aloha, as Hawaii hosts Middle Tennessee State. MTS has 11-year coach Ricky Stockdale running a wide-open attack, topping 50 points three times including a 77-56 win over Florida Atlantic in the finale. They don't play any defense, thought, allowing over 40 points six times! They carry an 8-3 run over the total into this bowl.
Hawaii will make its seventh appearance in the Hawaii Bowl, though the first since 2010. Hawaii's QBs threw 21 TDs, 15 picks and prefers to run behind a pair of backs who average 6 and 7 yards per carry. They squeezed into the bowl with a losing record, needing to win the final two games against Fresno (14-13) and UMass (46-40). Hawaii is on 1-6 spread run.
Independence Bowl (Mon., Dec. 26): NC State and Vanderbilt meet up in Shreveport, Louisiana. NC State stumbles in losing five of its last seven. But they have shown plenty of fight, beating Notre Dame (10-3) and losing at Clemson (24-17) as a +21 dog. They also topped rival North Carolina (28-21) in the final as a +9 dog. Defensive end Bradley Chubb (9 sacks) anchors a line that is among the most underrated groups in college football.
Vanderbilt went 6-6 in the rugged SEC despite QB Kyle Shurmur throwing 9 TDs, 7 picks. They are the little engine that could, winning four of their final six to make this bowl, including a wins at Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee at home as dogs of +14, +9 and +7 -- the latter two to end the season.