College Football Bowl Games Preview, TV Schedule — Dec. 26-Jan. 2
The second week of bowl season boasts some solid matchups that will make for great watching before we get to the playoffs. Here is the schedule for this week’s bowl games. (All times Eastern.)
*Note: we will have separate in-depth previews of the Big Six bowl games—including the playoff semifinals—coming next week.
St. Petersburg Bowl
Dec. 26, 11:00 AM (ESPN)
Connecticut (6-6) vs. Marshall (9-3)
A Marshall victory would not only give the Thundering Herd its fifth straight bowl win, but would secure their place as the only “Group of Five” team to win ten games in its last three seasons. Connecticut made it into the postseason by winning three of its last four games, including an upset of then-No. 19 Houston. The Huskies need a win to secure their first winning record since 2010.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Dec. 26, 2:00 PM (CBS)
Miami, FL (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, who leads the nation in passing yards per game, will be back under center after missing the Cougars’ loss to Washington with a head injury. But he’ll face one of his toughest tests against a Miami defense that has held four of its last six opponents to less than 200 yards passing while allowing just four passing touchdowns and forcing four interceptions.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Dec. 26, 2:20 PM (ESPN)
Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Mississippi (9-4)
Washington needed an upset of archrival Washington State just to earn bowl eligibility for the sixth straight year. The Huskies won their last two games by a combined score of 97-17. But their stout defense (29th nationally) will be tested by a Southern Miss backfield that boasts two 1,000-yard rushers.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Dec. 26, 3:30 PM (ABC)
Indiana (6-6) vs. Duke (7-5)
Duke is playing in a school record fourth consecutive bowl game, but is seeking its first bowl win since 1961. The Blue Devils will be without ACC Defensive Player of the Year and first team All-American safety Jeremy Cash, who had wrist surgery last week. The Hoosiers’ led the Big Ten in total offense but had to win their last two games to snap a six-game losing streak and make their first bowl game since 2007.
Camping World Independence Bowl
Dec. 26, 5:45 PM (ESPN)
Tulsa (6-6) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
Frank Beamer’s legendary run at Virginia Tech comes to an end in the Hokies’ 23rd-consecutive bowl game. Look for a big game from Hokie receiver Keyarris Garrett (second in the nation in receiving yards) against a Tulsa defense that ranks 124th nationally in pass defense.
Foster Farms Bowl
Dec. 26, 9:15 PM (ESPN)
UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)
UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen was named Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year and could have success against a Nebraska defense that ranks 122nd nationally against the pass and surrendered 300+ passing yards seven times this year. But don’t be surprised if this game is close late: five of Nebraska’s seven losses were by five or fewer points and four were decided in the game’s final minute or overtime.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrup Grumman
Dec. 28, 2:30 PM (ESPN)
Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Navy (10-2)
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds broke the FBS record for career rushing touchdowns and gets to end his storied career with a bowl game in his home stadium. But he’ll face a tough test against a Pitt defense that ranks 20th nationally in rush defense and has allowed only four rushing touchdowns in its last six games.
Quick Lane Bowl
Dec. 28, 5:00 PM (ESPN2)
Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Minnesota (5-7)
Central Michigan is seeking its first bowl win since 2012 and first eight-win season since 2009. Minnesota is one of three teams to make a bowl game this year with a losing record after a tumultuous season that included the resignation of beloved coach Jerry Kill for medical reasons. The Gophers are in a bowl game for the fourth straight year, but have not won one since 2004.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Dec. 29, 2:00 PM (ESPN)
California (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5)
It will be a contrast in styles as Air Force’s ball-control triple option takes on Cal’s potent passing game. Cal quarterback Jared Goff has already broken many of Aaron Rodgers’ school passing records and, projected to be the top quarterback taken in next year’s NFL draft, will likely be playing his final collegiate game.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Dec. 29, 5:30 PM (ESPN)
No. 10 North Carolina (11-2) vs. No. 17 Baylor (9-3)
Despite falling just short in the ACC title game, North Carolina still has a chance to rewrite the school record books as a win here would give the Tar Heels their first-ever 12-win season and ensure they finish the season as a ranked team for the first time since 1997. Baylor, meanwhile, is limping into the homestretch of a disappointing season. A final week loss to Texas cost the Bears a Big 12 championship and Sugar Bowl bid. They’ll be playing this time without their two top quarterbacks, starting running back and Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver.
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Dec. 29, 7:30 PM (American Sports Network)
Nevada (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-5)
You know there are too many bowl games when the biggest storyline for this game has been Nevada and the Mountain West Conference claiming disrespect when the Wolf Pack got sent to this new bowl game in Tucson (which the Mountain West was instrumental in creating) instead of the Cure Bowl in Orlando.
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl
Dec. 29, 9:00 PM (ESPN)
No. 20 LSU (8-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
LSU running back Leonard Fournette leads the nation in rushing yards per game (158.3) and will be facing one of the worst rush defenses in football (126th nationally). Look for this one to be a shootout as LSU gives the ball to Fournette early and often while Texas Tech tries to keep pace behind the nation’s second-ranked scoring offense.
Dec. 30, 12:00 PM (ESPN)
Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3)
Both teams are looking to finish on a strong note after disappointing final months of the season. Auburn limps in after losing four of its final six games. Memphis, meanwhile, started the season 9-0 before dropping three of their final four.
Dec. 30, 3:30 PM (ESPN)
North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)
North Carolina State is in a bowl game for the second consecutive year, but is 0-5 this year against bowl-eligible teams. The Bulldogs’ Dak Prescott has rewritten the school record book and could have luck against a porous Wolfpack defense, but will have to deal with a hostile crowd in NC State’s back yard.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Dec. 30, 7:00 PM (ESPN)
Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Louisville (7-5)
This is a matchup of two teams with recent success who took a couple steps backward in 2015. Both teams feature young, inconsistent quarterbacks that have been aided by stout defenses. So expect this to be a low-scoring affair with the team that makes the fewest mistakes likely coming out on top.
National Funding Holiday Bowl
Dec. 30, 10:30 PM (ESPN)
No. 25 USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
This could be one of bowl season’s more entertaining matchups as Wisconsin’s defense, which leads the nation in scoring and is sixth or better in most every category, takes on a balanced USC offense that has put up at least 27+ points in all but two games this year.
Jan. 1, 12:00 PM (ESPN2)
No. 13 Northwestern (10-2) vs. No. 23 Tennessee (8-4)
Northwestern won’t wow anyone on offense (115th nationally), but ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense and held all but three opponents to 21 or fewer points. Tennessee choked away a game against Oklahoma and failed to take advantage of a weak SEC East, but closed the season on a five-game winning streak. The last four Outback Bowls have been decided by a touchdown or less and this could be another close matchup that goes down to the wire.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Jan. 1, 1:00 PM (ABC)
No. 14 Michigan (9-3) vs. No. 19 Florida (10-3)
Two of college football’s biggest comeback stories square off in a matchup that could signal the winner as a player in next year’s playoff mix. Michigan got it done with defense, ranking 11th nationally in total defense and fourth in scoring. Likewise, Florida boasts NFL talent in the secondary and the defense has been called on to bail out a putrid offense that has been going in reverse (literally) late in the season. Florida has the edge in turnover margin (+10 vs. -6 for Michigan) and this game could well come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes.
Jan. 2, 12:00 PM (ESPN)
Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3)
Georgia’s defense was outstanding this season (eighth nationally), but the offense could never find a passing rhythm and never recovered from a season-ending injury to star running back Nick Chubb. Penn State closed the season on a disappointing three-game losing streak. But all five of the Nittany Lions’ losses have been to ranked opponents and the defense led by Lombardi Award winner Carl Nassib ranks tenth nationally. Expect this to be a low-scoring matchup.
Autozone Liberty Bowl
Jan. 2, 3:20 PM (ESPN)
Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5)
Arkansas has the talent edge in this matchup, but Kansas State’s All-American kick returner Morgan Burns, who leads the nation in kickoff return touchdowns (4) and is second in kick return average (33.8 YPG), could be an equalizer on special teams.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Jan. 2, 6:45 PM (ESPN)
No. 15 Oregon (9-3) vs. No. 11 TCU (10-2)
Oregon started the season 3-3 but was arguably the hottest team in the country down the stretch, scoring nearly 45 points a game during a six-game winning streak that included upsets of USC and Stanford. TCU limped down the homestretch of the season (2-2 the final month of the season) after injuries took out star quarterback Trevone Boykin and wide receiver Josh Doctson. But Boykin is healthy again and, with the Alamo Bowl’s history of high-scoring shootouts, this could be one of bowl season’s more entertaining games to watch.
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
Jan. 2, 10:15 PM (ESPN)
West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6)
West Virginia’s usually potent offense struggled with inconsistency this year against good opponents and will be challenged by a Sun Devil defense that leads the nation in sacks.