I didn’t think we’d make it this far. I didn’t think there’d be a season. I didn’t think there’d be a national champion.
But I’m happy I was wrong. I’m happy Saturdays weren’t as empty as so many stadiums. I’m happy we could watch the final college seasons of Trevor Lawrence and DeVonta Smith. I’m happy that I could get angry about Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina being insulted by a committee with less courage than a BCS computer.
I’m even happy the still-bloated Bowl Season is here. It would’ve been so easy for there to have been nothing at all.
New Mexico Bowl
Houston (-10.5) over Hawaii
The Cougars are grateful for one more opportunity to play in a season in which eight of their games were canceled or postponed. The jet-lagged Rainbow Warriors have dropped their past two games on the mainland by an average of 24 points.
Buffalo (-5.5) over Marshall
At the start of December, both teams were undefeated. By the end of the month, one season will feel like a disappointment, following both teams’ disastrous showings in their respective league title games. While Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson should bounce back from his worst outing of the year, Marshall’s meltdown will continue. After a 7-0 start, the Thundering Herd have lost both games since a three-week break, scoring a total of 13 points.
Coastal Carolina (-7) over Liberty
After a month off, the Flames are set up for failure against the little undefeated engine that could. Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze losing the Auburn job to Boise State’s Bryan Harsin stings even more.
First Responder Bowl
Louisiana-Lafayette (-13.5) over UTSA
A brilliant season that began with a convincing road win at Iowa State ends with rage after the Sun Belt title game was canceled. The No. 19 Cajuns deserve a better ranking, bowl and opponent.
Lending Tree Bowl
Western Kentucky (+3.5) over Georgia State
The Hilltoppers have won three straight games. The Panthers will have had a four-week layoff. Don’t overthink it.
Oklahoma State (-2.5) over Miami
The Hurricanes’ defense looked like it was hit with a Category 5 against ranked teams this season, surrendering more than 48 points per game. The wreckage will continue, with Miami’s star defensive linemen Quincy Roche and Jaelen Phillips opting out to prepare for the NFL draft.
Texas (-9.5) over Colorado
The Longhorns are sticking with Tom Herman for at least another season. So, you can count on him and senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger to cap another underachieving season by leading Texas to a fourth straight meaningless bowl victory.
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Wake Forest (+7) over Wisconsin
It makes sense that the most repulsive bowl game sponsor gets paired with one of the sport’s least palatable offenses. Averaging 10 points over the past four games, the Badgers will either bring struggling freshman quarterback Graham Mertz back from a concussion or turn to Chase Wolf, who has thrown six career passes.
Music City Bowl
Iowa (-14.5) over Missouri
The Hawkeyes’ six-game winning streak featured numerous blowouts, but no victories against teams with winning records. Fortunately for Iowa, the Tigers (5-5) fill that bill, entering with a defense giving up at least 49 points in its past three games.
Oklahoma (+3) over Florida
The Big 12 champs — riding seven straight wins — can finally enjoy this time of year, knowing another playoff embarrassment won’t come. Putting up points against the Gators will be no problem. Florida QB Kyle Trask’s chance of winning the shoot-out go down drastically with top target Kyle Pitts leaving for the NFL’s green room.
Armed Forces Bowl
Tulsa (-2.5) over Mississippi State
I don’t understand this line and I don’t care to. Just happily snatch up the two-loss Golden Hurricane, who nearly took down undefeated Cincinnati and have a linebacker (Zaven Collins) who will single-handedly wreak havoc against the Bulldogs’ wildly inconsistent attack.
Ball State (+8) over San Jose State
The Cardinals just spoiled one perfect season with their upset of Buffalo. Senior quarterback Drew Plitt has led Ball State to six straight wins, so another spoiler game isn’t impossible.
Army (+8) over West Virginia
The Black Knights were put in the position of desperately wanting to play in a pedestrian bowl — and more than motivation is in their favor. The last time the Mountaineers faced a triple-option offense, the oldest player on their current roster was a junior in high school.
Arkansas (+6.5) over TCU
The record book will show that Sam Pittman went 3-7 in his first regular season with the Hogs. I’ll remember that he went 7-3 against the spread.
Cincinnati (+7) over Georgia
The Bearcats have been waiting for such an opportunity all season. Like Central Florida in 2017 — which knocked off Auburn to complete an undefeated season — Cincy should have had a chance to play for a national championship. Playoff expansion can’t come soon enough.
Northwestern (-3.5) over Auburn
The Tigers may not mind parting with a $21.5 million severance package, but they will miss having underappreciated Gus Malzahn to kick around. Until Nick Saban steps down at Alabama, the inferiority complex will remain.
Notre Dame (+19.5) over Alabama
The line is an overreaction to the Fighting Irish getting blasted by Clemson last week. It’s rooted in history that’s no longer relevant, like Alabama’s 2012 BCS title game blowout of Notre Dame and Clemson’s 30-3 win over the Irish two years back. It pretends Notre Dame’s win over Clemson last month never happened. It acts as if Alabama is invincible, when Nick Saban’s defense no longer strikes fear into its opponents. Four teams have stayed within 20 points of the Crimson Tide this season. The Irish can achieve that much.
Ohio State (+7.5) over Clemson
In 2018, Justin Fields was the No. 2 high school recruit in the country. Fellow Georgia native Trevor Lawrence was the first. Last year, Fields suffered his only loss at Ohio State after a last-minute playoff interception against Clemson. Next year, Fields could be picked as high as No. 2 in the NFL draft, and no player will be picked ahead of Lawrence. For one night, Fields will look like Lawrence’s equal.
North Carolina State (+2.5) over Kentucky
The Wildcats’ four wins this season came against teams with a combined record of 8-31. The nation’s 107th-ranked offense will look the part after a month off.
Indiana (-6.5) over Mississippi
The Hoosiers could have received a New Year’s Six bowl appearance. Instead, they’ll play a sub-.500 opponent that sports the nation’s worst defense. After five interceptions against LSU, wild-card Matt Corral of the Rebels meets the defense with more interceptions per game (2.4) than any in the land.
Iowa State (-4.5) over Oregon
The Ducks’ season peaked with an undeserved Pac-12 championship, but the Cyclones’ best season in decades is no fluke. The nation’s leading rusher, Iowa State’s Breece Hall, will pad his stats against a defense torched by every decent ground game this season.
North Carolina (+6.5) over Texas A&M
The Aggies are where they belong. The 28-point loss to Alabama is proof. Even against a soft schedule, A&M couldn’t show strength. An Aggies defense accustomed to cupcakes will show its true colors against the sixth-highest scoring offense in the nation.
Best Bets: Texas, Oklahoma, Tulsa, N.C. State, Iowa State
This Season (Best Bets): 113-100-3 (23-21-1) (entering Monday)
2014-19 Record: 772-756-13