The college football season moves into the bowl season. The first several bowls have been lopsided, but maybe they will begin to be more competitive. Who knows? The bowl season is always volatile, because certain teams are more motivated than others, and some teams with more talent just don’t play very inspired football. In the pandemic, with teams finishing their seasons after months of isolation from their families and friends, the nearness of a return home could cause teams to mentally check out. Other teams, however, might be extremely enthusiastic about getting to play one final game. It’s really hard to predict, but if we had to make an informed analysis of games, here are three under-the-radar plays to consider.
First Responder Bowl
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (-13.5) vs. UTSA Roadrunners
This is a chance for ULL coach Billy Napier to continue to develop his credentials. He was rumored to have been part of the Auburn coaching search before Boise State coach Bryan Harsin took the job. Many people believe that he will get a head coaching job at a Power Five program before too long, but for now, he is still with the Ragin’ Cajuns. ULL was 9-1 on the season. Louisiana-Lafayette was scheduled to play 11-0 Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game, but that game was canceled due to COVID-19. Louisiana-Lafayette got the weekend off, albeit in a way it never wanted or hoped for. Nevertheless, the Cajuns should be physically and mentally fresh, which goes a long way in a bowl game. UTSA had a solid seven-win season in San Antonio, but beating ULL in a bowl game is going to be a very tough task for the Roadrunners.
Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette -13.5
Colorado Buffaloes vs. Texas Longhorns (-9.5)
This is a fascinating game for a number of reasons. One is that Texas played nine games this season, while Colorado – being in the Pac-12, which started very late relative to the other major conferences – played only five games. Another reason this game is interesting is that Colorado was unbeaten in its first four games but then blew a 21-10 lead to Utah in its most recent game. The Buffaloes looked like a strong team at the start of the season but became noticeably weaker as games moved on. If Colorado played a 10-game schedule, would the Buffaloes have remained a good team, or would they have collapsed? It’s hard to answer that question, but having played only five games to Texas’s total of nine games leaves the Buffaloes undercooked. They simply might not have the game rhythm Texas has. Add on the fact that this game is in the state of Texas, and the Longhorns have a situation they should feel comfortable about. Colorado is mysterious, and probably not in a good way.
Pick: Texas -9.5
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Wisconsin Badgers (-7)
The Wisconsin Badgers beat Michigan 49-11 and looked like an elite team… but then everyone saw how bad Michigan was, and then Wisconsin’s offense fell apart. The Badgers scored seven points or fewer in three straight losses: at Northwestern, home versus Indiana, and at Iowa. Freshman quarterback Graham Mertz looked lost in those games, and he is still struggling entering this bowl game. Wisconsin’s defense allows just 16 points per game, while Wake Forest’s offense scores 37 points per game. It’s a battle between the Badgers’ defense and the Wake Forest offense… but what might decide the game is the other matchup: Wisconsin’s offense (22 points scored per game) against Wake’s defense (32 points allowed per game). Given Wisconsin’s struggles, it’s unlikely the Badgers are going to pull away here. Wake Forest not only covers; it wins outright.
Pick: Wake Forest +7
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