Though this year’s pre-Christmas bowl games do not feature many power five teams and have some tongue twisters for names, they still offer some competitive matchups from teams that have been under the radar all season. Two ranked teams are scheduled to play tough opponents, and many of these bowls have teams that made the postseason last year. Fans still have to wait more than a week for the College Football Playoff, but these games will preview the exciting football that’s on the way.
Dec. 20: Charlotte vs. Buffalo
Charlotte will face off against Buffalo in the Bahamas Bowl in their first bowl game since joining the FBS in 2015. The 49ers went 7-5, good enough for fourth in Conference USA. Though they got off to a 2-5 start, they finished strong with five straight wins, including one against a bowl team in Marshall.
Buffalo also finished 7-5, landing them in second in the MAC-East. The Bulls had an inconsistent season that featured questionable losses to teams like Ohio and Liberty and solid wins against Temple, Toledo, and Central Michigan. Buffalo has appeared in three bowl games but has yet to win one.
Prediction: This game will be played in the Bahamas, so neither team will have home-field advantage. Buffalo is the stronger, more experienced team and should have no problem handling the upstart 49ers.
Final Score: Buffalo 33, Charlotte 17
Dec. 20: Kent State vs. Utah State
The Frisco Bowl will pit Kent State against Utah State in Frisco, Texas. Kent State was just good enough to be bowl eligible with their 6-6 record. They finished tied for second in the MAC-East and had to win their final three games just to reach .500 for the season. The Golden Flashes got blown out by powerhouses like Auburn and Wisconsin but managed to take down two bowling teams in Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. They’ve been bowling three times and are still seeking their first victory.
Utah State, a bowl season regular, went 7-5 and placed third in the Mountain West. All of their losses came to teams in bowls this year, and they have solid wins against conference opponents like San Diego State, Nevada, and Wyoming. The team had a scare when quarterback Jordan Love and two other players received marijuana citations, but all three are expected to play. Although the Aggies are 5-8 in bowl games, they blew out North Texas, 52-13, in last year’s New Mexico Bowl.
Prediction: Utah State has the upper hand when it comes to postseason experience and strength of schedule. Kent State will struggle to keep up with Love and the rest of the Aggies’ offense.
Final Score: Utah State 42, Kent State 16
Dec. 21: San Diego State vs. Central Michigan
In one of the better mid-major matchups this bowl season, San Diego State will take on Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl. SDSU tied for first in the MW-West with a 9-3 record. They recorded impressive wins against UCLA, Wyoming, and BYU and only lost to teams currently in bowls. The Aztecs are 8-9 all-time in bowls and got blown out 27-0 by Ohio in the 2018 Frisco Bowl.
Central Michigan went 8-5, landing them in first place in the MAC-West. They suffered poor losses to teams like Western Michigan and Miami (OH) but saved their season by beating bowling teams like Eastern Michigan and Toledo. They have a 3-8 record in bowl games and did not reach the postseason in 2018.
Prediction: This game will likely be close and low-scoring, but San Diego State should come out on top in nearby New Mexico after surviving a tough Mountain West schedule.
Final Score: San Diego State 27, Central Michigan 23
Dec. 21: Georgia Southern vs. Liberty
The Cure Bowl will feature Georgia Southern against Liberty in the Flames’ first bowl appearance. Georgia Southern went 7-5 and finished second in the Sun Belt East. Despite losses to Louisiana, Troy, and Arkansas State, the Eagles defeated #20 Appalachian State and lost to Minnesota on the road by just three. They’ve won their only two bowl games, including last year’s victory over Eastern Michigan in the Camellia Bowl.
Liberty, an independent, finished the season with a 7-5 record. Their only significant win came against Buffalo, as they suffered losses to teams like Louisiana, Syracuse, and Rutgers.
Prediction: Georgia Southern should continue their undefeated streak in bowls against an inexperienced Liberty team.
Final Score: Georgia Southern 34, Liberty 20
Dec. 21: Florida Atlantic vs. SMU
The Florida Atlantic Owls will take on the SMU Mustangs in this year’s Boca Raton Bowl. The Owls finished first in the C-USA East with a 10-3 record that included wins over numerous bowling teams. They ended on a high note with six straight wins, including a 49-6 blowout of the bowling UAB Blazers. FAU is 3-0 in bowl games, though they didn’t make one last year.
SMU compiled a 10-2 record this season, good enough for 3rd in the AAC-West. They started 8-0 and had an impressive win over No. 25 TCU on the road. Their only two losses came to quality teams in Memphis and Navy, both on the road. The Mustangs are 7-8-1 in bowl games and didn’t qualify for one last year.
Prediction: Though this game is in Florida, FAU will be overmatched against an SMU team with a much more impressive resume.
Final Score: SMU 44, Florida Atlantic 23
Dec. 21: Arkansas State vs. Florida International
This year’s Camellia Bowl pits Arkansas State against Florida International in Montgomery, Alabama. Arkansas State went 7-5 this year and placed second in the Sun Belt West. Their only semi-notable win came against Georgia Southern, and they concluded their season with a terrible loss to South Alabama. The Red Wolves are 3-6 in bowl games and lost to Nevada in the 2018 Arizona Bowl.
Florida International barely made this bowl game. They finished with a 6-6 record and even had a 3-5 record in the C-USA East. However, they did beat Charlotte and concluded their season with an upset over Miami and a close road loss to Marshall. The Panthers are 2-2 in bowl games and beat Toledo in last year’s Bahamas Bowl.
Prediction: Though FIU might have more momentum heading into this game, Arkansas State has more firepower and will be playing close to home.
Final Score: Arkansas State 30, Florida International 24
Dec. 21: Washington vs. #19 Boise State
The Las Vegas Bowl will likely be the most high profile pre-Christmas bowl with Washington taking on Boise State. Washington entered the season with high hopes but fell short to the tune of a 7-5 record and a second-place finish in the Pac 12 North. Disappointing losses to California, Stanford, and Colorado ruined any chance the Huskies had at making the Playoff. Still, they had quality wins against BYU, Washington State, and a ranked USC team. Washington is 18-20-1 in bowls, and they lost to Ohio State in last year’s Rose Bowl.
The No. 19-ranked Boise State Broncos went 12-1 this season, topping the Mountain West standings. They did not play a difficult schedule, but they did beat ACC foe Florida State on the road and took down multiple bowling teams. The Broncos are 12-6 in bowl games.
Prediction: Boise State is known for their success in bowl games, but they haven’t played any teams close to the caliber of Washington this season. The Huskies should finish their season on a strong note in this one.
Final Score: Washington 33, Boise State 27
Dec. 21: UAB vs. #20 Appalachian State
The New Orleans Bowl will have a matchup between an established team in Appalachian State and an up-and-coming program in UAB. UAB went 9-4 and finished atop the C-USA West. The Blazers’ resume does not have a signature win, though they did beat a bowl team in Louisiana Tech. They’re 1-2 in bowl games, having won their first against Northern Illinois in the 2018 Boca Raton Bowl.
App State had a strong season, finishing 12-1 and in first place in the Sun Belt East. Their lone loss came against a bowling Georgia Southern team, and they defeated strong opponents on the road in UNC and South Carolina. The Mountaineers are 7-6 in bowl games and have won four straight over the past four years.
Prediction: This is an extremely lopsided matchup that App State should dominate. UAB is new to the postseason and the Mountaineers are looking to win their fifth straight bowl.
Final Score: Appalachian State 42, UAB 13
Dec. 23: Marshall vs. UCF
The 2018 Gasparilla Bowl features Marshall against UCF in Tampa, Florida. Marshall went 8-4 this season, placing second in the C-USA East. The Thundering Herd had questionable losses to Middle Tennessee State and Charlotte, but won six of seven games to finish the season. They’re 12-3 in bowls all time and have won seven straight, including last year’s victory over South Florida in the same bowl.
UCF certainly did not live up to expectations this year after its undefeated season in 2018. Still, they went 9-3 and came in second place in the AAC East. The Knights had surprising losses to Pittsburgh and Tulsa and only beat one power five team in Stanford. They’re 4-6 in bowl games and lost to LSU in the 2018 Fiesta Bowl.
Prediction: Though UCF had a disappointing season, this is practically a home game for them and they’re still far more talented than Marshall. The Knights should blow out the Thundering Herd in the most unfair matchup of the 2019 bowl season.
Final Score: UCF 49, Marshall 6
Dec. 24: BYU vs. Hawaii
The final pre-Christmas bowl game will have BYU facing Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. BYU, an independent, went 7-5 this season. They had strong wins against Tennessee, USC, and Boise State, but also questionable losses to Toledo and South Florida. They’re 15-20-1 in bowl games and won last year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in a blowout over Western Michigan.
Hawaii finished 9-5 this season, good enough for first in the MW West. Although they lost to Air Force and Fresno State, the Rainbow Warriors picked up strong wins over Arizona, Nevada, and Army. The team has an 11-15 all-time bowl record and lost to Louisiana Tech in the same bowl last year.
Prediction: This is a home game for Hawaii but BYU is the more talented and more consistent team. The Cougars should be able to take down Hawaii in a hostile environment.
Final Score: BYU 34, Hawaii 23