Forde-Yard Dash: Predictions for every game of 2018 college football bowl season, continued

Pat Forde

[More of Pat Forde’s Bowl Dash: First 20 bowls]


Where: Houston
When: Dec. 27, 9 p.m. ET
Who: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt
Line: Vanderbilt by 3½

Why watch: To see which coach, Baylor’s Matt Rhule or Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, wins his first bowl game as a head coach.

Dash pick: Vanderbilt 34, Baylor 27. Commodores senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur is finishing strong, with 11 touchdowns and one interception over Vandy’s last four games (three wins, one loss). The Bears don’t play the cleanest football, with a minus-9 turnover margin and ranking ninth out of 10 in the Big 12 in penalty yards per game. Vandy is the least-penalized team in the SEC and is third in the league in turnover margin at plus-8.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Bluebonnet Bowl was a vibrant part of the postseason for nearly 30 years, with most of those spent in the Astrodome. In the game’s final 20 iterations, from 1968-87, 19 of them featured at least one top-20 team.


Where: Nashville, Tennessee
When: Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. ET
Who: Purdue vs. Auburn
Line: Auburn by 3½

Why watch: For the matchup of one fanbase thrilled to retain its head coach (Purdue) against a fanbase disappointed to retain its head coach (Auburn). This also kicks off the Big Ten vs. SEC matchups.

Dash pick: Auburn 27, Purdue 22. Embattled Tigers coach Gus Malzahn is calling his own plays for the first time in a couple of years, going back to what he does best both in this bowl game and in a make-or-break 2019 season. If Malzahn channels the creativity that made him a multi-millionaire it will pose problems for a rebuilt Purdue defense that finished 13th in the 14-team Big Ten.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Bluegrass Bowl was a one-shot deal in 1958, up Interstate 65 from Nashville, in Louisville. Kentucky and Alabama both turned down bids to the game, so Oklahoma State played Florida State instead in a matchup of meager local appeal. The game’s one claim to fame: it was the first national broadcast for Howard Cosell.


Where: Orlando
When: Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET
Who: West Virginia vs. Syracuse
Line: West Virginia by 1½

Why watch: If you’re nostalgic for old Big East matchups.

Dash pick: Syracuse 43, West Virginia 31. The Orange should be fired up for their first bowl bid in five years. The Mountaineers? Well, star quarterback Will Grier is sitting this one out, and the trickle-down effect from that could be substantial. Grier threw 397 of West Virginia’s 407 passes this year; what does the offense look like without him? WVU has performed poorly in its last two bowl games, and this has a chance to be the third.

Corresponding dead bowl: San Diego East-West Christmas Classic. This was the first bowl game in West Virginia history — a 1922 matchup with Gonzaga that the Mountaineers won 21-13. It was the second and last game in the bowl’s existence.


Where: San Antonio
When: Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET
Who: Iowa State vs. Washington State
Line: Washington State by 3½

Why watch: For the matchup of a really good defensive coach who maximizes his talent (Matt Campbell) against a really good offensive coach who maximizes his talent (Mike Leach).

Dash pick: Washington State 31, Iowa State 25. The Cyclones are tough to run against, so the Cougars won’t even try — it will be Air Raid as usual with Gardner Minshew and the offense that has attempted the most passes in America (628 and counting). Of note: Iowa State had a minus-7 turnover margin its final three games, and Washington State was plus-7.

Corresponding dead bowl: There was an Alamo Bowl before the Alamo Bowl — a 1947 game in San Antonio between Hardin-Simmons and Denver University. Hardin-Simmons won 20-0 before a crowd sparse enough to discourage playing another Alamo Bowl for 46 years.

Gardner Minshew will take his glorious mustache to the Alamo Bowl where Washington State plays Iowa State. (AP)
Gardner Minshew will take his glorious mustache to the Alamo Bowl where Washington State plays Iowa State. (AP)


Where: Atlanta
When: Dec. 29, noon ET
Who: Florida vs. Michigan
Line: Michigan by 7½

Why watch: Two high-profile programs kick off the biggest day of the year in the sport.

Dash pick: Florida 23, Michigan 21. Dan Mullen is a good bowl coach (5-2, including a beatdown of Michigan while he was the coach at Mississippi State). He also has quarterback Feleipe Franks playing his best football in the last few games. What is the Wolverines’ level of motivation for this game after having their playoff dreams crushed by Ohio State?

Corresponding dead bowl: The Poultry Bowl corresponds to this game via kinship with a bowl named after America’s favorite chicken sandwich, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s avowed distrust of ingesting a “nervous bird.” The Poultry Bowl was played once in Gainesville, Georgia, in 1973, and once in Greensboro, North Carolina. Stephen F. Austin and Guilford were your winners.


Where: Charlotte
When: Dec. 29, noon ET
Who: South Carolina vs. Virginia
Line: South Carolina by 4

Why watch: Worth flipping over during timeouts in the Florida-Michigan game. And to see which third-year coach is farther along in the building process, Will Muschamp or Bronco Mendenhall.

Dash pick: South Carolina 35, Virginia 24. The Gamecocks have played six teams better than the best opposition the Cavaliers have faced. Yeah, they lost to five of those six, but the level of competition has been substantially better. We’ll see whether Virginia has recovered from the psychic wound of giving away the regular season-ending game against rival Virginia Tech.

Corresponding dead bowl: Belk Bowl, meet Elks Bowl. It, too, was played in North Carolina — from 1952-54, at three different locations. North Carolina won the first, a regular season game against Wake Forest, and then it became a postseason affair for smaller colleges. Morris Harvey (now the University of Charleston in West Virginia) beat East Carolina in ’53, and Newberry defeated Appalachian State in ’54.


Where: Tucson, Arizona
When: Dec. 29, 1:15 p.m. ET
Who: Arkansas State vs. Nevada
Line: Arkansas State by 1½

Why watch: Not many good reasons, unless (Red) Wolf-on-Wolf (Pack) crime intrigues you. But it’s worth finding time while the noon games are at halftime to check out the tireless Justice Hansen of Arkansas State. The junior quarterback has run or passed 1,548 times in three seasons for 10,808 yards — with four catches for another 95 yards thrown in.

Dash pick: Arkansas State 36, Nevada 33. Red Wolves are a hot team, winning four in a row (against admittedly weak competition). Wolf Pack were a hot team until being upset by rival UNLV. This is a Body Clock Awareness Game, with kickoff at 10:15 a.m. Reno time for Nevada.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Salad Bowl was the original bowl game in Arizona, dating to 1948 — when its first winner was none other than Nevada. For five years it was a college bowl game before matching military teams for two years and then all-star teams for two more.


Where: Arlington, Texas
When: Dec. 29, 4 p.m. ET
Who: Clemson vs. Notre Dame
Line: Clemson by 11

Why watch: If you don’t know why, The Dash can’t help you.

Dash pick: Clemson 34, Notre Dame 21. This is by far the best competition either team has faced — but the Tigers have been considerably more dominant than the Fighting Irish, winning by nearly twice as many points per game (31.7 to 16.5). Clemson’s defensive front is the biggest difference in the matchup — the Tigers are second nationally in sacks and tackles for loss, habitually knocking opposing offenses off schedule. Ian Book has been great this year for Notre Dame, but he hasn’t been chased like he will be in JerryWorld. The only Clemson question is whether true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence can be harassed into a true freshman performance, but he’s shown little sign of it all season.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Kanza Bowl doesn’t correspond in the slightest to a national playoff semifinal. But it’s worth mentioning this four-year fandango from 2009-12 between teams from the Lone Star Conference and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, played at the Hummer Sports Park in Topeka, Kansas.


Where: Miami Gardens, Florida
When: Dec. 29, 8 p.m. ET
Who: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Line: Alabama by 14

Why watch: See above.

Dash pick: Alabama 60, Oklahoma 35. What guarantee is there that the Crimson Tide doesn’t score every possession? If Texas Tech can score 46 on the Sooners (nine more than its season average), Oklahoma State can score 47 (nine more than average), Kansas can score 40 (16 more than average) and West Virginia can score 56 (14 more than average) — what’s to stop the Tide from scoring 12 more than its 48 per game? Perhaps only a still-hobbled Tua Tagovailoa. If he’s 100 percent, look out.

Corresponding dead bowl: Festival of Palms Bowl. This was the precursor to the Orange Bowl, and it had a lifespan of two seasons — Miami defeated Manhattan in 1933, and Duquesne defeated the Hurricanes in ’34.

Heisman-winning Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray (L) will face off against runner-up Tua Tagovailoa (R) from Alabama in the Orange Bowl. (AP)
Heisman-winning Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray (L) will face off against runner-up Tua Tagovailoa (R) from Alabama in the Orange Bowl. (AP)


Where: Annapolis, Maryland
When: Dec. 31, noon ET
Who: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Line: Cincinnati by 5

Why watch: It’s too early for New Year’s Eve drinking at noon — but it’s not too early for football.

Dash pick: Cincinnati 35, Virginia Tech 24. The Hokies gave up 31 or more points five straight times between Oct. 25 and Nov. 23, first time Virginia Tech has done such a thing since it went winless in 1950. So a Cincy offense that has been good but not great should be able to score. Meanwhile, the Bearcats fielded one of the nation’s best defenses.

Corresponding dead bowl: Operating on the theory that one questionable dead-of-winter bowl location deserves another, give it up for the Refrigerator Bowl, which actually had a nine-game existence in Evansville, Indiana, from 1948-56. Evansville was allegedly known as the “refrigerator capital of the United States” at the time.


Where: El Paso, Texas
When: Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET
Who: Stanford vs. Pittsburgh
Line: Stanford by 6½

Why watch: More than 80 years into life as a non-major bowl game, the esteemed old Sun Bowl deserves your respect.

Dash pick: Stanford 37, Pittsburgh 30. This is a completely different Cardinal team from the David Shaw archetype, throwing it more than running it and allowing its most points per game since Jim Harbaugh was the head coach in 2009. The Panthers have had some very good moments (a late four-game winning streak that won the Coastal Division) and also lost four times by three touchdowns or more. Motivation will be key.

Corresponding dead bowl: A decade after the Sun Bowl began, another bowl game tried to make a go of it on the other side of Texas. The Oil Bowl was played three times from 1944-47, with games won by Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), Georgia and Georgia Tech.


Where: Santa Clara, California
When: Dec. 31, 3 p.m. ET
Who: Michigan State vs. Oregon
Line: Oregon by 3

Why watch: To see whether Justin Herbert looks like the best NFL prospect QB in the 2019 draft. And to see whether the Spartans are still the offensive train wreck they were in November.

Dash pick: Oregon 24, Michigan State 14. The Spartans’ defense will make it hard for the Ducks to score. The Spartans offense will also make it hard for the Spartans to score. It will be interesting to see Oregon’s two dynamic freshmen running backs going up against a very tough front seven.

Corresponding dead bowl: Before Northern California had a Bay Area bowl of continually shifting names, it had the Grape Bowl in Lodi. It was played in 1947-48, with Pacific going 1-0-1 in those games.


Where: Memphis, Tennessee
When: Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m. ET
Who: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
Line: Missouri by 7½

Why watch: To see Drew Lock close his Mizzou tenure by making a run at 12,000 career passing yards. And to see what sort of mood Mike Gundy is in.

Dash pick: Missouri 49, Oklahoma State 38. The Tigers have closed the season with a rush, winning four straight by a combined margin of 97 points. The Cowboys have a minus-8 turnover margin on the year and have intercepted just one of the last 193 passes thrown their way. Lock’s eyes are lighting up watching tape of that secondary.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Delta Bowl was played in Memphis from 1948-49. The first game matched Mississippi against TCU, with the Rebels winning. The second game was a classic bowl scam: Bowl officials signed a deal with Tulsa before the season, but then Tulsa started 0-8 and had to be replaced by William & Mary. Bill & Mary then shut out Oklahoma A&M in the bowl, 20-0.


Where: San Diego
When: Dec. 31, 7 p.m. ET
Who: Northwestern vs. Utah
Line: Utah by 7

Why watch: To see whether the Utes’ ridiculous 21st-century bowl success continues. They’re 13-1 under three different coaches, 10-1 under Kyle Whittingham.

Dash pick: Utah 24, Northwestern 16. Like most Wildcats games, expect this to be close and relatively low scoring. Theoretically, Utah freshman quarterback Jason Shelley should take some steps forward during bowl prep after being pressed into emergency service in early November.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Harbor Bowl was a New Year’s Day game in San Diego from 1947-49. Participants: Montana State, New Mexico, Hardin-Simmons, San Diego State, Villanova and Nevada.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is 10-1 in bowl games as the Utes head coach. (AP)
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is 10-1 in bowl games as the Utes head coach. (AP)


Where: Jacksonville, Florida
When: Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET
Who: North Carolina State vs. Texas A&M
Line: Texas A&M by 5.

Why watch: You’ll want it on at whatever bad New Year’s Eve party you’re dragged to, in part to see whether either team has another brawl left in it. NC State closed the regular season by fighting off North Carolina on Nov. 24, and Jimbo Fisher’s nephew famously squared off with some LSU staff later that day.

Dash pick: North Carolina State 33, Texas A&M 31. Dave Doeren is a sneaky-good bowl coach, 4-1 and owning consecutive blowouts of opponents from the SEC and Pac-12. And if karma is an even-sum deal, it would seem that the Aggies used all of theirs to beat LSU in that seven-OT freak show.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Pecan Bowl, via considerable leap of logic. Doeren went to Drake, and Drake played in the 1969 Pecan Bowl in Arlington, Texas.


Where: Tampa, Florida
When: Jan. 1, noon ET
Who: Mississippi State vs. Iowa
Line: Mississippi State by 6½

Why watch: To see whether Kirk Ferentz’s face has healed after being busted up in the celebration that followed the last-second win over Nebraska. And to see whether Joe Moorhead is still firing off cuss words like he was after the Egg Bowl.

Dash pick: Mississippi State 17, Iowa 10. These are two top-10 defenses, so prepare accordingly. State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald doesn’t throw it terribly well or often, but he hasn’t thrown an interception since serving up four picks to LSU on Oct. 20. Unless the Bulldogs give the Hawkeyes short fields, Iowa will struggle to score.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Corn Bowl was played in Central Illinois from 1947-55, sponsored by the Hybrid Seed Corn Breeders of Illinois. The connection to this Outback Bowl? Few programs can appreciate the premise of a Corn Bowl or hybrid seed breeding like Iowa.


Where: Orlando, Florida
When: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
Who: Kentucky vs. Penn State
Line: Penn State by 6½

Why watch: To see Kentucky All-American pass rusher Josh Allen chase Penn State star quarterback Trace McSorley, 20 years after roles were reversed — Penn State All-American Courtney Brown was chasing Kentucky star quarterback Tim Couch in the 1998 Outback Bowl.

Dash pick: Penn State 27, Kentucky 19. James Franklin has covered the spread in the last six bowls he’s coached — two at Vanderbilt and all four at Penn State. Hard to imagine McSorley going out any way but with a victory, especially since he’s had time to heal his battered body after running a career-high 151 times this season.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Bean Bowl was played in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, in 1949-50. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops once worked as an assistant coach at Wyoming. Scottsbluff is a mere 23 miles from the Wyoming border. You’re welcome.


Where: Glendale, Arizona
When: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
Who: LSU vs. Central Florida
Line: LSU by 7½

Why watch: To see whether UCF can complete a second straight unbeaten season with a second straight upset of an SEC West opponent and claim a second straight bogus national championship. And to hear Ed Orgeron bark unintelligibly into a sideline reporter’s microphone.

Dash pick: LSU 28, UCF 24. This is a better SEC West opponent than UCF faced last year, and the Knights are not as good. Give Darriel Mack credit for filling in admirably for injured star McKenzie Milton at quarterback — he was spectacular against Memphis in the AAC title game — but the LSU secondary is an entirely different challenge. The Knights won’t be blown out, but the streak dies here.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Will Rogers Bowl was played in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Day 1947, with Pepperdine defeating Nebraska Wesleyan 38-13. It remains the only bowl game in which either school competed. A reported crowd of only 800 attended when a snowstorm hit that day, which is a good reason why there wasn’t a second Will Rogers Bowl. The connection to this bowl: UCF coach Josh Heupel played and coached at Oklahoma, just down the highway from Oklahoma City.


Where: Pasadena, California
When: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
Who: Washington vs. Ohio State
Line: Ohio State by 7

Why watch: Urban Meyer’s last roundup (for now). And because it’s the Rose Bowl, and if you don’t watch, Jim Delany will be sad.

Dash pick: Ohio State 31, Washington 21. Strength on strength: The OSU offense vs. the Washington defense. The Huskies have not allowed more than 30 points all season, but they also haven’t faced explosive playmakers like the Buckeyes possess. Dwayne Haskins will make enough plays for the victory on his way to the NFL draft, and Meyer will exit with a bowl win. Combine this result with two non-competitive playoff semifinals and there will be plenty of grumbling about how the Buckeyes should have been in the top four.

Corresponding dead bowl: Roses grow in gardens, and there once was a Garden State Bowl from 1978-81. But it was played in Giants Stadium near an exit ramp in New Jersey, which is about as far away — geographically and aesthetically — as imaginable from the Rose Bowl.


Where: New Orleans
When: Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. ET
Who: Texas vs. Georgia
Line: Georgia by 11

Why watch: Because this is the best non-playoff matchup. And because after this game, it’s six days without another one.

Dash pick: Georgia 28, Texas 24. Will the Bulldogs be flat after having a playoff-clinching triumph within their grasp and losing it? It’s been known to happen, and the Longhorns are a quality opponent. But if the ‘Dogs are ready to play and Kirby Smart avoids the urge to attempt another disastrous fake kick (LSU, Alabama), Georgia is demonstrably better.

Corresponding dead bowl: The Burley Bowl was played in Johnson City, Tennessee, on Thanksgiving Day from 1945-56, almost always with at least one Tennessee team involved. The name of the bowl is derived from burley tobacco, and the game was part of an annual two-day tobacco festival. It just so happens that Texas coach Tom Herman is a former tobacco chewer who dipped during games as an offensive coordinator sitting in the press box. He’s since reformed and gone to bubble gum since becoming a head coach.


Where: Santa Clara, California
When: Jan. 7, 8 p.m. ET
Who: Alabama vs. Clemson

Why watch: This is why you’ve been watching all season, dummy.

Dash pick: Alabama 38, Clemson 34. A fourth straight Tide-Tigers playoff showdown? Yes, please. They’ve been the best two teams all season, seemingly on a collision course yet again. Alabama has won two of the three playoff meetings but they’ve split two thrilling title matchups. It might be greedy to request another classic, but here’s asking.

Corresponding dead bowl: BCS Championship Game. Gone. Not missed.


When thirsty in the Bay Area during CFP championship weekend, hit the Uproar Brewing Co. in San Jose – and to be specific, hit it Friday night, Jan. 4, for the Yahoo Sports College Podcast live event. We will be podcasting live, taking listener feedback and interaction, and, of course, drinking beer. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop by or regret it for the rest of your life.

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