Photo via Matt Bush - USA Today Sports
The day after Christmas, or the day that bowl season starts up again after an interruption? These three games don’t tout any ranked teams, but there are a couple of historically strong programs squaring up on Monday, and the potential for some good football.
The St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami (Ohio) vs. Miss St.
11 AM EST on ESPN
Tropicana Field—St. Pete, Florida
Winner: Mississippi State
The St. Pete bowl isn’t the most glamorous of bowl games, but both teams have something to prove. Miami started the season at 0-6, but instead of buckling and resigning themselves to their fate, head coach Chuck Martin rallied back and led his team to 6 straight victories. Miss. St. has a record of just 5-7, but of course, deals with a harder schedule in a tougher conference.
You don’t have to think too far back to remember how powerful the Bulldogs used to be. They had a Gator Bowl appearance in 2013 and an Orange bowl appearance in 2014—two years ago, not many people would be able to guess how far St. would fall.
Nick Fitzgerald will be the key to victory for the Bulldogs: he has 3,524 yards on the season, making him the SEC leader in yards. The Bulldogs will also need to watch out for a Miami run defense that holds opponents to 3.9 yards per carry.
Miami’s Gus Ragland touts some impressive stats as well, with 0 interceptions and a 62.4% completion rate.
Ultimately, MSU is the stronger of the two programs. 5 wins in the SEC is a whole world of difference compared to 6 wins in the MAC. The Bulldogs will handle them well.
Quick Lane Bowl: Maryland vs. Boston College
2:30 PM ET on ESPN
Ford Field—Detroit, Michigan
This is gonna be a close game, and there’s no question about that. It’s putting one of the absolute worst defenses in the Big 10 against a struggling BC offense. Whoever has the best run defense will most likely win the game, because both teams have a more than an alright run game (well, Boston College’s run is pretty bad but the Terps’ run defense is even worse).
Harold Landry, of the Golden Eagles, has 15 sacks on the year and has the potential to disrupt Maryland’s game plan.
When Maryland drops back to the throw the ball, they are going to have to slide protection towards Landry if they want their quarterback upright for the whole game.
Neither offense will be able to put many points on the board, and Maryland will probably win by 3 or less in a game where neither team gets past 20 points.
Independence Bowl: NC State vs. Vanderbilt
5PM ET on ESPN2
Independence Stadium—Shreveport, Louisiana
It’s hard to tell who will win this game because both have strengths that play off the other team’s weaknesses. In Vandy’s last game, Kyle Shurmur was on fire and passed for 416 yards. The Commodores also have a great asset in linebacker Zach Cunningham, who boasts 119 tackles on the season.
Things are looking up for the NC State offense because QB Ryan Finley has a pretty great record against teams with a limited pass rush (guess who?).
The NC State defense is a top defense and will look to force a few turnovers to help the NC State offense.
This game is important for both teams. Both teams are looking for the win in order to finish the season with a winning record. If Vanderbilt’s Shurmur can heat up and stay on top, the Commodores will be able to take the game.
Vandy will need to be efficient passing, but if they do, they will have the game in the bag. My final prediction is a close Vanderbilt win.