College Football: 5 Lesser-Known Bowl Games to Watch
The sports world is now patiently awaiting the College Football Playoff. While diehard college football fans just want the Playoff to arrive already, they're ready for bowl season to get started. Well, those appetites are about to satisfied.
College football bowl season kicks off on Saturday, and it's one of the best times of the year. Now, if you're not a diehard fan, you'll be quick to dismiss a lot of the lesser-known bowl games. After all, you're probably not getting up for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Popeyes Bahamas Bowl or the Dollar General Bowl.
On the contrary, there are other bowls to watch, even if you're simply a casual fan of good, close football games.
Outside of the two big ones, many will tell you to check in for Florida State/Michigan, LSU/Louisville or even Auburn/Oklahoma. They're chasing the teams who could've but didn't make the Playoff. But, there are other lesser-known games to tune into.
With the help of Vegas' odds and our own rankings, I'm here to provide you with five good suggestions. As for our rankings, they are sorted by nERD -- a number that measures the amount of points we would expect a team to beat an average team by on a neutral field. Fittingly enough, bowl games are played on a neutral field, so nERD is even more relevant than it is during the regular season.
But, let's cut to the chase. Here's the five games you don't want to miss.
|Boca Raton Bowl||Memphis vs. Western Kentucky||79 O/U||WKU -5|
While the Tigers own a rush offense with three players averaging at least 5.7 yards per carry and, overall, an adjusted 4.36 yards per rush, the Hilltoppers sport the nation's 8th-best passing offense, with an adjusted yards per pass attempt of 10.41. Don't expect much defense, though.
|Pinstripe Bowl||Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern||65 O/U||PITT -5|
Despite the fact that Pitt's offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, was recently stolen away by LSU, points will be had in this one. Canada will stay on to call his last game as OC for a team ranked among the best in both adjusted yards per rush (5.38) and per pass (9.55).
As for the Wildcats, they enter the matchup with a decent offense but an even better defense, allowing just 6.33 adjusted pass yards and 3.92 adjusted rush yards per play to opposing teams. With their overall play on the season, Northwestern, at 22nd overall, ranks 9 spots ahead of Pitt in our rankings as we head into bowl season.
|Russell Athletic Bowl||West Virginia vs. Miami||57 O/U||MIA -3|
At the open, this game was a pick 'em in Vegas. It's since worked its way to a three-point spread in favor of the Hurricanes, who will be playing in their home state of Florida. That shouldn't come as a giant surprise given Miami comes in at 18 and West Virginia at 28, by our math.
The pivotal matchup here will be West Virginia's rush offense versus Miami's rush defense. The Mountaineers have averaged 5.23 adjusted yards per rush this season, meanwhile the Hurricanes have allowed just 3.41 adjusted yards per tote. Who wins might be decided by that one game within the game.
|Advocare V100 Texas Bowl||Texas A&M vs. Kansas St.||56.5 O/U||TEXAM -2|
This game isn't likely to be the points-fest it would've been in certain years past. Neither of Kansas State's offensive games are all that great, but, if anything, their rushing game -- with an adjusted yards per rush of 4.97 -- has found some success.
On the other side of the matchup, Texas A&M and its 5.6 adjusted yards per rush will be forced to reckon with the Wildcats' stingy defense that has allowed just 3.57 adjusted yards per rush attempt. Given the minimal separation between our 21st-ranked team (Texas A&M) and the 31st-ranked team (Kansas State), the mere two-point spread is both understandable and exciting at the same time.
|Music City Bowl||Nebraska vs. Tennessee||60.5 O/U||TENN -3|
There probably aren't many that would find Nebraska and Tennessee all that interesting. That's especially so considering Nebraska's current uncertainty at quarterback with starter Tommy Armstrong dealing with a hamstring injury. But, it's two high-profile teams separated by just one spot in our power rankings.
The Cornhuskers, number 38 in our rankings, are an all-around solid offensive team, with marks of 6.96 and 4.34 as it pertains to adjusted pass and rush yards per attempt, respectively. The Volunteers' offense is a little better with 9.19 and 5.4 adjusted yards per pass and rush attempt.
Defensively, however, the Huskers are roughly a half-yard better against the pass and the rush. These are two evenly matched teams and it should come down to the wire a couple weeks from today.
So, while you wait for the College Football Playoff to get underway, at least you have an idea of what you can watch to pass the time.