There is no better time of the year (well, except maybe the start of a new season), than college football bowl season. We are excited about the 23 bowl games with G5 teams this year and believe there are some excellent matchups. Below we give you the predictions for every bowl game. A helpful table summary is provided at the end of this article showing our confidence ratings in our picks. Let’s kick it off on December 17 with the Bahamas Bowl!

Bahamas Bowl

Toledo Rockets (7-5) vs. Middle Tennessee State Raiders (6-6)

Toledo enters this game on a three game winning streak in which they destroyed the bottom teams in the MAC. The Rockets lost 4 games this year by 3 points or fewer, including a 3 point loss to Notre Dame. Middle Tennessee State has had an up-and-down season, mixing wins and losses throughout. They handled Florida Atlantic in what was a bowl play-in game in their last outing.

Toledo’s offense was sluggish early in the season but picked up steam, scoring more than 30 points in their last 5 games. They have the top scoring defense in the MAC, allowing only 21 points a game. The Raiders offense and defense were in the top 5 in CUSA and are capable of playing with the Rockets. However, what sways us is that the Raiders are 1-5 in games played as an underdog.

Pick: Toledo to win cover the 9.5 point spread

Cure Bowl

Coastal Carolina (10-2) vs. Northern Illinois (9-4)

This game features two offenses that average a combined 73 points a game. The Chanticleers were the darling of the 2020 FBS season. The Huskies remarkable turnaround from zero wins in 2020 to conference champions in 2021 is equally compelling stuff.

The Chanticleers are averaging 40 points a game, good for second best in the Group of Five. Their defense is allowing 20 per game, good for eighth best. The Huskies offense has been strong most of the season, averaging over 31 per game, good for fourth in the MAC. However, their defense has struggled, allowing nearly 33 a game, including more than 50 to Michigan, Wyoming, and Kent State.

Coastal’s offense is unique and difficult for teams to contain when they are not accustomed to it. While Northern Illinois has had to prepare, we don’t see them being able to stop the balanced Coastal attack. Northern Illinois does not quit, so expect this to be a fight, but the Chanticleers have too much for the Huskies to overcome.

Pick: Coastal Carolina to win and cover the 10 point spread.

Boca Raton Bowl

Appalachian State (10-3) vs. Western Kentucky (8-5)

In a matchup of conference championship runner-ups, Appalachian State takes on high-scoring Western Kentucky. These two offenses average a combined 77 points a game and have shown the ability to be explosive. WKU’s Bailey Zappe is chasing the single season record for passing touchdowns and averages 443 yards passing a game. He will face a Mountaineer defense that has yielded only 240 yards a game passing and no more than 347 in any single game this season.

The Mountaineers have a balanced offensive attack with Chase Brice leading the Sunbelt in passing and Nate Noel leading the Sunbelt in rushing. Their defense is led by Sunbelt Defensive Player of the Year Demarco Jackson and ranks fourth in the Group of Five, allowing only 18.9 points per game . The Hilltoppers counter with Zappe, who leads FBS with 5,545 yards passing and 56 passing touchdowns. Jerreth Stearns leads FBS with 137 receptions for 1718 yards. The Hilltopper defense has struggled at times this year, yielding an average of 29 points a game. Both teams can be sloppy at times, with the Mountaineers giving up 22 turnovers and the Hilltoppers giving up 20. The Hilltoppers’ defense have been adept at forcing turnovers, capturing 27 including a season-high 7 against MTSU.

This game could come down to a turnover or a special teams play. It will be hard to gauge the Hilltoppers’ mindset coming into this game with the tornado damage that ravaged Bowling Green this past week. We see Mountaineers’ defense being the better of the two units and making just enough plays to pave the way for a victory.

Pick: Appalachian State to win and cover to 2.5 point spread.

New Mexico Bowl

Fresno State (9-3) vs. Texas El-Paso (7-5)

Fresno State enters the New Mexico Bowl with an interim coach after head coach Kalen DeBoer left the Bulldogs to coach Washington. However, after initially entering the transfer portal, star Bulldog QB Jake Haener has withdrawn and is practicing with the team in preparation for the bowl. UTEP enters the New Mexico with less drama, but excited to be playing in their first bowl game in 7 years after a 7-5 campaign in CUSA.

The Bulldogs will definitely welcome Haener’s production back to the squad as he passed for 3810 yards, 32 touchdowns against only 9 interceptions this season. The Bulldogs averaged 33 points a game this season and had big wins over UCLA, Nevada, and San Diego State in route to a 9-3 mark in the tough MWC. The Miner’s started hot, winning 6 of their first 7 games, before stumbling to 4 losses in their final five games. The Miner offense has been remarkably consistent all year long, gaining more than over 300 yards in every game with a high of 488 against Rice. The Miner defense faired well against the pass, but dodged the stronger passing team in CUSA via their schedule.

With Haener returning we see Fresno having too much in their arsenal for the Miners defense to handle. However, with the Miners playing in their first bowl in 7 years on their home field (where they were 5-1 this season), we expect this game to be tighter than some might expect.

Pick: Fresno State to win but not cover the 12.5 point spread

Independence Bowl

Brigham Young (10-2) vs. Alabama Birmingham (8-4)

BYU is coming off a second consecutive stellar year. After going 11-1 in 2020 and having their QB Zach Wilson selected as the #2 pick in the NFL draft, expectations were a bit lower. The Cougars responded with a stellar 10-2 campaign that included a perfect 5-0 mark against the PAC-12. Since returning from a three year absence from FBS football, UAB has been a consistent winner. The Blazers have five consecutive winning seasons since the program’s return to FBS, including an 8-4 mark this year.

The Cougars are led by their Swiss army knife back Tyler Allgeier, who has rushed for over 1400 yards and has nearly 200 yards receiving. His 20 rushing touchdowns is tied for the FBS lead. Jaren Hall has been steady in his first season as starter, passing for 20 TDs against 5 interceptions. The Blazers counter with a balanced offensive attack led by running back DeWayne McBride who has rushed for 1185 yards and 12 touchdowns. QB Dylan Hopkins, also in his first season as a starter, has improved through out the year and enters the bowl with 15 TDs against 6 interceptions.

On paper, this looks as though the Cougars should win going away. However, the Blazers have been in every game down the stretch, including a close 3 point loss to CUSA champ UTSA. We just don;’t think they will have enough to stay with the battle-tested Cougars.

Pick: Brigham Young to win and cover the 7 point spread

Lending Tree Bowl

Liberty (7-5) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5)

Few teams have been as mystifying as the Liberty Flames in 2021. The Flames opened the season 5-1 with wins over 3 bowl-bound teams, stumbling only once in a three point loss to Syracuse. An unexpected loss to UL Monroe had us scratching our heads. The Flames righted the ship with two wins, only to lose three straight down the stretch, all by 13 points or more. Eastern Michigan emerged from a wildly unpredictable MAC West with a 7-5 record, finishing on a down note with a loss to rival Central Michigan in their regular season finale.

The Flames are led by dual-threat QB Malik Willis. Willis has passed for 2600 yards and rushed for over 800. Simply put, Willis is one of the more dynamic playmakers in FBS. The Eagles counter with Ben Bryant who was among the MAC leaders in completions and passing yards. Bryant emerged as the clear starter after 3 games and has been solid down the stretch. Defensively, the Flames are holding opponents to 21 points per game, giving up 300 yards or more passing yards in only one game. The Eagles’ defense has a bit more porous, allowing 28 points per game and yielding a season high 460 yards passing against Toledo.

This is a game between two teams that are hard to predict. In his last three games, Willis threw 3 touchdowns against 7 interceptions after going for 21 TDs and 5 Ints in the first 9 games. For the Flames to win, they need the old Willis back. We believe Malik will be better, but the Eagles will prove to be a tough out.

Pick: Liberty to win but not cover the 8.5 point spread.

Kimmel LA Bowl

Utah State (10-3) vs. Oregon State (7-5)

In the inaugural LA Bowl, the surprising Utah State Aggies face Oregon State Beavers from the PAC-12. The Aggies rebounded for a horrible 2020 season to win the MWC championship in stunning fashion over San Diego State. The Beavers finished 7-5 and had an impressive win over PAC-12 Champ Utah.

The Beavers average 33 points a game and allow 26. They possess a balanced and efficient offensive attack. The Aggies counter with a more explosive, pass-oriented attack led by Logan Bonner. The Aggies average 33 points a game and allow 25. In other words, this is a statistical dead-heat.

Bonner, the Arkansas State transfer who followed his former coach Blake Anderson to Utah State, has been stellar passing for 36 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Oregon State balances the run and pass well with Chance Nolan passing for 2400 yards and B.J. Baylor rushing for over 1200 yards. In 8 of their 12 games, the Beavers have eclipsed 400 yards of total offense.

It is hard to go against the Aggies given what they have accomplished this season. However, the Beavers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games against teams with winning records. This one may go down to the wire, but we see the Beavers squeaking by with a win.

Pick: Oregon State to win and cover the 7.5 point spread.

New Orleans Bowl

Louisiana (12-1) vs. Marshall (7-5)

Louisiana will try to cap an outstanding 2021 with a record 13th straight win in the New Orleans Bowl. To do so they will have to get by a tough Marshall team, looking for a win to build on for next season.

Marshall has a potent, but somewhat turnover prone offense and a stingy defense. The Herd is averaging 471 yards of offense a game, third best in the G5. The Herd averages over 300 yards a game passing relying on the strong arm of Grant Wells. They also have a very capable rushing attach led by freshman Rasheen Ali. The Cajuns are the best in the FBS at protecting the ball and feature a superbly balanced attack led by QB Levi Lewis. Lewis has passed for 2600 yards with 19 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. The rushing attack is a tandem, led by Chris Smith, Montrell Johnson, and Emani Bailey (all with over 500 yards rushing).

The Cajuns are on a major roll. 12 straight wins in 2021, three straight seasons with ten or more wins. The Herd struggled at times in 2021 with turnovers. We believe that will be their undoing against a team that simply doesn’t beat itself, playing in front of what will essentially be a home crowd.

Pick: Louisiana to win and cover the 6 point spread.

Myrtle Beach Bowl

Old Dominion (6-6) vs. Tulsa (6-6)

In a battle of two 6-6 teams, the ODU Monarchs battle the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the second annual Myrtle Beach Bowl. The Monarchs are an impressive story. After sitting out the 2020 season due to COVID, they opened 2021 1-6 against a schedule that included 5 bowl eligible teams. They closed with 5 wins to become bowl eligible. The Golden Hurricane also comes into this game on a roll, winning their last 3 games including a season-ending win over bowl-bound SMU. This winning streak came after close losses to Navy and Cincinnati.

The key to Monarchs’ turnaround has been cutting down on turnovers and stellar play in the fourth quarter. In their final five wins they outscored the opposition 71-33 in the fourth quarter to close out wins. The Golden Hurricanes rediscovered their passing attack in the last two games, averaging 270 yards after being held to under 200 yards passing in 3 of their previous 4 games.

We believe there is a lot of fight in both these programs. However, we feel that ODU faced less stiff competition down the stretch and the battle-ready Golden Hurricane will be able to take down the Monarchs.

Pick: Tulsa to win and cover the 9.5 point spread.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Kent State (7-6) vs. Wyoming (6-6)

In Idaho, we will get matchup of a survivalist against one of the more mercurial teams of 2021. Kent State opened its season with a gauntlet set of games including Texas A&M, Iowa, and Maryland. A 1-3 start was almost predictable. However, the Golden Flashes recovered, going 6-2 to march into the MAC Championship game. However, they were soundly beaten by Northern Illinois to close 7-6. Wyoming started with 4 straight wins and then stumbled through a curious 2-6 final eight games to finish 6-6. However, during that stretch, the Cowboys thoroughly dominated MWC Champion Utah State on the road 44-17.

Kent State’s offense is led by Dustin Crum, the MAC leader in total yards and touchdowns responsible for. After their first 4 games, the Golden Flashes have averaged 37 points per game. Wyoming’s offense has been wildly erratic. They have averaged 36 points a game in their 6 wins and 11 points a game in their 6 losses. The Cowboys are a run heavy offense featuring Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen, each with more than 700 yards rushing.

The Guru panel was split on this game. Some not trusting the Cowboys offense, others pointing out the Golden Flashes allowing 190 yards a game on the ground. The latter is what drives our pick. The Cowboys are 6-1 this season when rushing for 150 yards or more.

Pick: Wyoming to win and cover the 3 point spread.

Frisco Bowl

UT San Antonio (12-1) vs. Houston (11-2)

In one of the marquee matchups of the G5 bowl season, 11-2 MWC runner-up San Diego State clashes with 12-1 CUSA champion UT San Antonio.

This game will feature a strong Aztec defense looking to control Frank Harris, Sincere McCormick and the high-powered Roadrunner attack. The Aztecs will be looking to rebound from a miserable MWC Championship game, while the Roadrunners come in on a high note after capturing their first CUSA championship.

With his 1479 yards this season McCormick has rushed for nearly 3000 yards in the last two seasons. Harris is a strong duel-threat QB, throwing for 2900 yards and rushing for nearly 600. This 1-2 punch makes defending the Roadrunners a challenge. The Aztecs offense revolves around RB Greg Bell. The passing game is fueled by a QB tandem of Lucas Johnson and Jordan Brookshire. However, the Aztecs only throw for about 158 yards a game.

The Aztec defense is their strength. The Aztecs allow about 19 points a game and are especially stingy against the run, allowing less than 80 yards a game rushing, best in the G5. The Roadrunner defense had been solid against the run all season long before UAB and North Texas ran for a combined 560 yards. The defense righted the ship and held WKU to -9 rushing in the CUSA Championship.

We believe Utah State provided a blueprint on how to handle the Aztec defense. Look for Harris to have a stellar game and the Roadrunners to find a way to close out the season with their 13th win. Meep, meep!

Pick: UT San Antonio to win and cover the 2.5 point spread.

Armed Forces Bowl

Army (8-4) vs. Missouri (6-6)

Army comes in on the heels of a tough 17-13 loss to arch rival Navy. Missouri enters the Armed Forces Bowl with two close wins over South Carolina and Florida to clinch bowl eligibility before being dominated by Arkansas 34-17 in their season finale.

There is no mistaking Army is a run first, run often, run some more, team. The Black Knights average 301 yards a game rushing, training only fellow service academy member Air Force. Army has 5 runners with more than 350 yards rushing with QB Christian Anderson and RB Tyler Robinson leading the way. The Tigers have a solid, balanced offense led by QB Connor Bazelak (2540 yards, 16 TDs and 11 Ints) and running back Tyler Badie, the third leading rusher in FBS with 1612 yards.

The Black Knight defense is sound, allowing 22 points a game and have held their last four opponents to 17 or less. The Tiger’s defense is giving up nearly 35 points a game and 229 yards rushing per game. However, they held their last 3 opponents to an average of 105 a game.

This game will come down to which defense can find ways to stop the other offense. Army would love to control the clock with their running game and keep the Missouri offense off the field. We believe the Black Knights are unlike any running offense the Tigers have faced and it will be tough to get them off the field. Look for this one to come down to the fourth quarter and the Black Knights to find a way to win.

Pick: Army to win and cover the 3.5 point spread.

Gasparilla Bowl

Central Florida (8-4) vs. Florida (6-6)

In their first meeting in over 15 years, Florida and Central Florida will battle in the Gasparilla Bowl. These two teams will meet again as part of a three game series beginning in 2024. This game may provide some early glimpses of players that will play a big role in the future matchup.

Florida had a rollercoaster season and will be playing with an interim coach as Louisiana coach Bill Napier will take the helm of the Gator program in 2022. The Gators went 2-4 down the stretch with the only two wins coming against FCS Samford (a game in which the Gator defense surrendered 52 points) and Florida State. The Florida offense is led by QB Emory Jones who has passed for 2500 yards and 19 TDs against 13 Ints. Jones is also the team’s leading rusher with almost 700 yards. The Gator defense has struggled down the stretch. In their last 6 games they have surrendered 37 points per game.

UCF had a difficult transition after losing QB Dillon Gabriel to injury, but were buoyed by a surprisingly strong season by their defense. In addition, a solid running attack evolved led by Isiah Bowser and Johnny Richardson. Freshman QB Mikey Keene has replaced Gabriel and performed well with 1600 yards passing, 16 TDs and 6 Ints. But make no mistake, this is not the same explosive UCF offense we saw in 2020. By the same token, the UCF defense isn’t the swinging door we saw in 2020. In 5 of their last six games, the Knights held opponents to 17 points or less.

The Knights will look at this as a rivalry game and will be up to play the Gators. After a dismal season, by their standards, it is unsure how the Gators will respond to playing UCF. The last time the Knights faced a QB similar to Jones came against SMU and they surrendered over 600 yards. This is what drives our pick for this game.

Pick: Florida to win but not cover the 7.5 point spread.

Frisco Football Classic

Miami (OH) (6-6) vs. North Texas (6-6)

In a bowl added just for this season, the Redhawks from Miami battle the North Texas Mean Green.

The Redhawks enter the the game having won 4 of their last 6. Their last game was a heartbreaking 48-47 loss to Kent State that kept Miami out of the MAC Championship. Sophomore Brett Gabbert leads the Redhawk offense with 2400 yards passing, 24 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. The running game is by committee, with 5 running backs having 30 carries or more. The Redhawk defense was second best in the MAC allowing 24 points a game.

The Mean Green comes in on a five game winning streak including a shocking 45-23 upset of previously undefeated UTSA in their last regular season game. The Mean Green has built a dangerous running attack that has amassed over 300 yards rushing in 3 of their last 4 games. Deandre Toney leads the Mean Green with over 1200 yards rushing. Four other runners including QB Austin Aune have more than 300 yards on the season. After giving up 35 points a game in the first 7 games this season, the Mean Green defense has settled down and has allowed an average of 17 points per game in the their final 5 games.

The Mean Green enter this game on a major roll. Knocking off UTSA was no small feat and they did it in dominating fashion. The Redhawks are also playing well, with only 3 points separating them from a six game winning streak. In the end, we believe the Mean green rushing attack will too much for the Redhawks and allow North Texas to escape with the win.

Pick: North Texas to win and cover the 2 point spread.

Hawaii Bowl

Memphis (6-6) vs. Hawaii (6-7)

The Hawaii bowl will feature the home-standing Hawaii Rainbow Warriors for the fourth time in the last six years as they take on the Memphis Tigers.

The Rainbow Warriors gained eligibility with the addition of the Frisco Football Classic, despite their 6-7 record. The Rainbow Warriors closed with wins over Colorado State and Wyoming and have been a handful to play on the island this year. Hawaii was 4-2 at home, with both losses coming in low-scoring one possession games. They average 29 points a game behind a balanced offensive attack led by dual threat QB Chevan Cordeiro. Corderio passed for over 700 and ran for over 100 in the Hawaii’s last two games. The defense has been porous throughout the season, allowing 31 points per game, but has played well in spots.

Memphis is coming off a disappointing season. After amassing 8 wins or more the previous 7 seasons, the Tigers slide to 6-6 after opening the season 3-0 with a win over Mississippi State. Seth Henigan stepped into the starting QB role and has performed well with 3300 yards passing 25 TDs against 8 Ints. Brandon Thomas leads the ground attack with nearly 700 yards rushing. The Tiger’s defense has struggled and surrendered 30 or more points in 5 of the Tiger’s 6 losses.

This comes down to who wants it more. The Rainbow Warriors, playing on their home field, or the Tigers who want to have something to build on heading into 2022. The Rainbow Warriors have struggled against strong passing teams this season and we expect those struggles will continue into the bowl game.

Pick: Memphis to win and cover the 3.5 point spread.

Camellia Bowl

Georgia State (7-5) vs. Ball State (6-6)

The Camellia Bowl hosts one of the hottest teams in the Group of Five, when the streaking Georgia State Panthers meet the Ball State Cardinals.

Georgia State comes into the game having won 3 in a row and 6 of their last 7 games. Their only loss was to nationally ranked Louisiana by 4 points. The Panthers resurgence coincides with the play of QB Darren Grainger. Grainger has passed for 1500 yards and ran for over 500. The rushing attack is led by two 800 yard plus rushers in Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams. The Panther defense, which surrendered 38 points a game in the first five games, also keyed the turnaround by allowing only 20 points a game in the final 7 games.

After a stellar 2020 season, the Cardinals have been up-and-down in 2021. The Cardinals enjoyed impressive wins over Army, Western Michigan, and Eastern Michigan. However, a tough schedule and missed opportunities led to a 6-6 record. QB Drew Plitt had a solid season with over 2200 yards, 17 TDs and only 5 interceptions. Carson Steele led the rushing attack with over 800 yards. The defense had some moments, but too few of them, surrendering nearly 27 points a game. In 5 of their 6 losses, the Cardinals allowed 170 yards or more rushing.

The oddsmakers have this one closer than we expected. The Panthers are playing as well as anyone coming into this game. We see this game being higher scoring, but the Panthers’ rushing attack looks too good.

Pick: Georgia State to win and cover the 4 point spread.

Quick Lane Bowl

Nevada (8-4) vs. Central Michigan (7-5)

In a matchup of two sterling quarterbacks, Nevada and Carson Strong battle Western Michigan and Kaleb Eleby in the Quick Lane bowl. However, Strong’s participation is uncertain as of this writing.

Nevada’s Strong has passed for 4186 yards, 36 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. His primary target is Romeo Doubs (1109 yards, 11 TDs). The Wolfpack’s running game is spearheaded by Toa Taua.

The Broncos’s sophomore QB Eleby, has passed for 3155 yards with 21 touchdowns against only 5 interceptions. His primary target is Skyy Moore (1247 yards and 10 TDs). Sean Tyler and La’darius Jefferson lead a potent Bronco rushing attack.

We could probably give a lot of different takes on this game, but much of it comes down to whether or not Carson Strong plays. If he plays this game, it will be tough for a Bronco defense that yields 29 points a game to stop the Wolfpack. If he doesn’t play, we believe the Broncos have the tools to spring an upset.

Pick: Nevada to win and cover the 2.5 point spread.

Military Bowl

Boston College (6-6) vs. East Carolina (7-5)

The Military Bowl features a streaking G5 team against a Power 5 team that has struggled down the stretch.

East Carolina comes into the Military Bowl with wins in 5 of its last 6 games. The only loss coming to CFP entrant Cincinnati in their last game of the season. QB Holton Ahlers leads the Pirates offense with 3100 yards passing, 18 TDs against 10 Ints. The rushing game features dynamic Keaton Mitchell who has over 1100 yards, averaging a hefty 6.5 yards a carry. The Pirate’s defense was solid down the stretch, but has been put in tough positions at times during the year due to turnovers.

Boston College started the season with 4 wins before stumbling down the stretch to finish 6-6. Injuries, especially an injury to star QB Phil Jurkovec’s throwing hand was a key factor in BC’s sputtering down the stretch. Jurkovec will be back for the bowl game and his presence should help the BC offense. Pat Garwo leads the BC rushing attack with over 1000 yards. The BC defense has been strong most of the season, allowing 22 points per game.

This is another game that gave our G5 panel fits. The Eagles are a different team with Jurkovec at QB. His hand injury kept him out of six games and he was limited when he returned. We believe the time off will help him come back with a strong performance that should be just enough to carry the Eagles to victory.

Pick: Boston College to win and cover the 3.5 point spread.

Birmingham Bowl

Houston (11-2) vs. Auburn (6-6)

Houston looks to rebound from their loss to Cincinnati in the AAC Championship against an unpredictable Auburn team in the Birmingham Bowl. Houston played Cincinnati on even terms until the third quarter when the Bearcats pulled away for a 15 point win.

Auburn comes into this game having lost their last game of the season in 4 overtimes to Alabama, who has staked their annual claim to the top slot in the College Football Playoff.

The Cougars offense is lead by QB Clayton Tune with nearly 3300 yards passing, 28 TDs against 9 interceptions. Alton McCaskill (883 yards and 16 TDs) and Ta’Zhawn Henry (515 yards and 7 TDs) lead the rushing attack

The Tigers’ offense is in a state of flux. Long-time starting QB Bo Nix has a broken ankle and is out. TJ Finley has played the last two games with mixed success (325 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Int). As a result, the Tigers rely heavily on their running game led by Tank Bigsby (1003 yards, 10 TDs).

This is another game where the panel was noticeably split. Some pointed out a likely unmotivated Auburn team with a a backup QB going up against a Houston team trying to prove it belongs in the P5. Others pointed to the fact that the Auburn defense held Alabama and all its weapons to 10 points (in regulation) in its last game. The latter won the day in terms of the pick.

Pick: Auburn to win and cover the 3 point spread.

First Responder Bowl

Air Force (9-3) vs. Louisville (6-6)

The First Responder bowl gets a unique matchup of two different offensive styles when the Air Force Falcons take on the Louisville Cardinals.

The Falcons come into the bowl leading the nation in rushing per game at 341 yards per game. QB Haaziq Daniels doesn’t throw it much, with only 932 yards passing on the year with 5 TDs against 3 Ints. Brad Roberts leads the running attack with nearly 1300 yards. Daniels chipped in nearly 700 yards. Six other runners had 150 yards or more. The Falcon defense is among the best in the country only allowing 19 points a game.

The Cardinals have had an up-and-down 2021. Three one-score losses (Wake, NC State, Clemson) punctuated the difficulty the Cardinals had closing out games during the season. The Cardinals are led by everything QB Malik Cunningham. Cunningham passed for 2700 yards with 18 TDs against 6 Ints. He is also the team’s leading rusher with nearly 1000 yards. The Cardinal defense has struggled at times and were gouged for over 360 yards rushing in their last game against Kentucky.

The G5 panel debated this one back and forth. It will come down to whether the Cardinal defense can standup to the pounding Falcon offense. We believe Cunningham will make some huge plays and this one may come down to a FG or late stand.

Pick: Louisville to win and cover the 1.5 point spread.

Fenway Bowl

SMU (8-4) vs. Virginia (6-6)

The inaugural Fenway Bowl features two high-powered offenses as the SMU Mustangs take on the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Mustangs opened the season 7-0 before struggling to a 1-4 record in their last 5 games to finish 8-4. The Mustangs come into this contest averaging 38 points a game behind a stellar season by QB Tanner Mordecai. Mordecai has passed for 3600 yards, and 39 TDs against 12 Ints. The SMU running attack is led by Tre Siggers and Ulysses Bentley IV, each with more than 600 yards. However, the story of the late season swoon is the Mustang defense which gave up nearly 39 points a game in their four losses.

The Cavaliers have experienced a similar season. They started 6-2 before dropping four in a row to finish 6-6. Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong had a break-out season with over 4400 yards passing, and 31 TDs against 10 Ints. The Cavalier rushing attack features five runners with more than 200 yards rushing (including Armstrong). Just as the SMU defense struggled down the stretch, so did the Cavaliers’. In their four closing losses the Cavaliers surrendered nearly 43 points a game.

This is a game with two struggling defenses and two offenses that can light up the scoreboard. We fully expect a shootout. The Cavalier’s final four losses included nationally ranked BYU, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and arch rival Virginia Tech. Other than the Notre Dame game, the Cavaliers proved they can score on anyone. We think they will have just enough offense to squeak by the Mustangs.

Pick: Virginia to win in an upset.

Arizona Bowl

Boise State (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (8-4)

The Arizona Bowl sees the streaking Chippewas of Central Michigan facing the always tough Boise State Broncos.

The Chippewas enter the game on a four game winning streak, with all wins being by 12 points or more. In fact, the Chippewas have won 6 of their final 7, their only loss coming to MAC Champ Northern Illinois by 1 point. COVID freshman QB Daniel Richardson has passed for nearly 2400 yards with 23 TDs against 5 Ints. But the story of the Chippewas offense is running back Lew Nichols. Nichols leads the FBS in rushing attempts and rushing yards with over 1700. The Chippewas defense has been strong against the rush (best in the MAC), but susceptible to the pass (near the bottom of the MAC).

The Broncos come in the Arizona bowl likely disappointed in five loss season. After 4 consecutive seasons of ten wins or more (excluding the partial 2020 season) the Broncos were a few plays away in 3 one-score losses. The Broncos offense is lead by QB Hank Bachmeir who passed for 3000 yards with 20 TDs against 8 Ints. The normally powerful Bronco running game struggled, exceeding 200 yards in only 1 game. Sophomore George Holani came on strong at the end of the season with 100 yard rushing efforts in 3 of the final 4 games. The Broncos’ defense was strong throughout the season, allowing only 19 points a game.

This game will be decided by the matchup of the Bronco run defense against Lew Nichols. Down the stretch the Broncos run defense allowed only 103 yards per game rushing. Nichols is special, but he hasn’t faced a defense like the Broncos throughout the MAC season. We believe the Broncos will win the line of scrimmage and limit the big plays.

Pick: Boise State to win but not cover the 9.5 point spread.

Cotton Bowl (CFP)

Alabama (12-1) vs. Cincinnati (13-0)

In a game the entire G5 nation will be watching with interest as the Cincinnati Bearcats battle the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first game of the 2021 college football playoffs.

The Bearcats have put together a special season and will look to continue their winning ways against Alabama, the CFP juggernaut. The Bearcats are led by QB Desmond Ridder who has passed for 3200 yards with 30 TDs to only 8 interceptions. Jerome Ford leads the rushing attack with 1200 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Bearcat defense is #1 in the G5, #4 in FBS, allowing only 16 points a game.

What can we say about Alabama? They are nearly unstoppable. 14 straight years with 10 or more wins, 6 national championships in the last 14 years. The Tide is led by Heisman winner Bryce Young who has passed for 4322 yards, 43 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions. Brian Robinson, Jr. leads Tide rushers with just over 1000 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Tide defense has been a bit unsteady at times this year, but still ranks in the top 20 in scoring defense allowing only 20 points per game.

This is the prototypical “David versus Goliath” matchup. Cincinnati is the first G5 team to ever make the CFP. Alabama is the dominant king of college football. In their last five semifinal games in the CFP the Tide has dominated their opponents by an average score of 32-12. What chance does Cincinnati have? The answer lies with the Alabama-Auburn game. Auburn provided a blueprint based on QB pressure. Can Cincinnati execute in the same manner? Consider that Cincinnati has 37 sacks on the year (Auburn has 34). Cincinnati is ranked 12th in FBS with 96 Tackles for loss, Auburn is ranked 14th. It may be too much to ask for an upset, be we believe the Bearcats will prove they belong.

Pick: Alabama to win but not cover the 13.5 point spread.

The table below provides a summary of the G5 Guru Panel predictions for the 2021 Bowl Season. The Confidence Factor is a scale of 1-5:

5- Supremely confident, 4 – Confident, 3 – Somewhat confident, 2 – leaning towards, 1 – toss-up.

Bahamas Bowl12/17/2021 @ 12:00pmToledo (7-5)Middle Tennessee State (6-6)Toledo – 9.553.5ToledoYesOver3.4
Cure Bowl12/17/2021 @ 6:00pmCoastal Carolina (10-2)Northern Illinois (9-4)Coastal Car -1062.5Coastal CarolinaYesOver4.0
Boca Raton Bowl12/18/2021 @ 11:00amAppalachian State (10-3)Western Kentucky (8-5)App State – 2.567Appalachian StateYesOver3.2
New Mexico Bowl12/18/2021 @ 2:15pmUTEP (7-5)Fresno State (9-3)Fresno St -12.552Fresno StateNoOver3.0
Independence Bowl12/18/2021 @ 3:30pmBYU (10-2)UAB (8-4)BYU -754.5BYUYesUnder3.4
Lending Tree Bowl12/18/2021 @ 5:45pmLiberty (7-5)Eastern Michigan (7-5)Liberty -8.557LibertyNoUnder2.6
Kimmel LA Bowl12/18/2021 @ 7:30pmUtah State (10-3)Oregon StateOregon St -7.564.5Oregon StateYesUnder3.0
New Orleans Bowl12/18/2021 @ 9:15pmLouisiana (12-1)Marshall (8-4)Louisiana -651.5LouisianaYesOver3.4
Myrtle Beach Bowl12/20/2021 @ 2:30pmTulsa  (6-6)Old Dominion (6-6)Tulsa -9.551.5Tulsa YesOver3.4
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl12/21/2021 @ 3:30pmKent State (7-6)Wyoming (6-6)Wyoming -358.5WyomingYesUnder3.0
Frisco Bowl12/21/2021 @ 7:30pmSan Diego State (11-2)UT San Antonio (12-1)UTSA -2.549UT San AntonioYesOver3.0
Armed Forces Bowl12/22/2021 @ 8:00pmArmy (8-3)Missouri (6-6)Army -3.560ArmyYesUnder3.4
Gasparilla Bowl12/23/2021 @ 7:00pmFlorida (6-6)UCF (8-4)Florida -7.557FloridaNoUnder2.6
Frisco Football Classic12/23/2021 @ 3:30pmMiami (OH) (6-6)North Texas (6-6)Miami (OH) -453North TexasYesOver2.8
Hawaii Bowl12/24/2021 @ 8:00pmHawaii (6-7)Memphis (6-6)Memphis -3.560.5MemphisYesUnder2.8
Camellia Bowl12/25/2021 @ 2:30pmGeorgia State (7-5)Ball State (6-6)Georgia St -450Georgia StateYesOver3.0
Quick Lane Bowl12/27/2021 @ 11:00amNevada (8-4)Western Michigan (7-5)Nevada -2.563NevadaYesUnder2.6
Military Bowl12/27/2021 @ 2:30pmEast Carolina (7-5)Boston College (6-6)Boston Coll -3.549.5Boston CollegeYesOver3.2
Birmingham Bowl12/28/2021 @ 12:00pmHouston (11-2)Auburn (6-6)Auburn -352AuburnYesOver3.2
First Responder Bowl12/28/2021 @ 3:15pmLouisville (6-6)Air Force (9-3)Louisville -1.554.5LouisvilleYesUnder2.8
Fenway Bowl12/29/2021 @ 11:00amVirginia (6-6)SMU (8-4)SMU -1.572.5VirginiaNoUnder3.8
Arizona Bowl12/31/2021 @ 4:30pmBoise State (7-5)Central Michigan (8-4)Boise St -9.553Boise StateNoOver3.2
Cotton Bowl12/31/2021 @ 7:30pmAlabama (12-1)Cincinnati (13-0)Alabama -13.558AlabamaNoOver3.6