As we get through the Thanksgiving weekend, the college football season continues working its way towards the postseason. It’s time to once again do some projecting on how the bowl season is going to shake out. Obviously, this continues to be a moving target, but that’s half the fun.
As mentioned in our previous predictions, we have a few challenges when it comes to bowl predictions:
1) COVID-19 has more than once thrown a monkey wrench into a number of schools’ seasons. We assume no further games are postponed or canceled as a result of COVID-19.
2) This is the first year of the new bowl contract cycle, which has many of the lower end ESPN owned games as part of a pool, where the match-ups can vary within a select group of conferences. This is definitely a new thing in college football. It was common for a third conference to have a backup tie-in to a game, but that’s not what this is. This is multiple primary conferences that will juggle bids.
3) Based on the above, we also assume that no new bowl games will be canceled. The Hawaii Bowl has already been canceled and that the AAC was one of the conferences potentially involved. Also, the Fenway Bowl won’t happen in 2020. Because of that, the Montgomery Bowl exists as a one year stand-in.
4) For 2020, having a winning record is not a prerequisite for being eligible.
Here are our takes regarding the bowl games tied to the American Athletic Conference.
New Years Six/College Football Playoff
Unchanged from last week. The NY6 spot is still Cincinnati’s to lose.
If Cincinnati wins out, they will be in a New Year’s Six Bowl game. But they need help to make the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati got some help this past week for the college football playoff with Oregon losing at Oregon State basically eliminating the Pac 12 from the equation and Ohio State status in limbo for Big Ten title game with covid cases. The Bearcats need to root for Alabama to beat Florida in SEC title game unless the Vols or LSU do it before SEC title game and Have Texas A&M lose at Auburn this Saturday. A Notre Dame win over Clemson in ACC title game would also help Cincinnati make the playoff.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
December 19 - G5 pool (AAC, MAC, C-USA, MWC)
Andrew: Houston Cougars vs. UTSA Roadrunners
Unchanged from last week.
Eric: Houston Cougars vs UTSA Roadrunners
This makes sense. Andrew nailed this 100%.
Boca Raton Bowl
December 22 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MAC)
Andrew: UCF Knights vs. Liberty Flames
I’d still love to see Kent State meet UCF on the field again, but that’s for biased reasons. Liberty has had an amazing season and the bowls will want them to play a good team, such as UCF. I see the Cure as UCF’s only other possible destination. I still have FAU in Orlando. Those two could still change places, but I don’t think the bowl executives want FAU in Boca Raton for a second straight year.
Eric: No AAC Team
Andrew’s logic makes sense and may end up being correct. I am just not sold UCF really wants to play in Boca as a first option, considering the experience last year at FAU was not a good one by many UCF fans that made the trip. I am also not sure a game against Liberty or a MAC school gets anyone excited. I would argue the Cure Bowl provides better options for UCF, which I will explain when we get to that bowl game.
December 23 - AAC vs. ACC
Virginia out, Virginia Tech in. With the Pinstripe Bowl being canceled, the ACC will end up dipping further into their tie-ins. With that said, this bumps up the value of the Montgomery Bowl, which is the one year replacement for the Fenway Bowl.
Eric: Tulane Green Wave vs. Georgia Southern
I think the ACC will not end up here, and a team from Sun Belt will, as teams like Troy or Georgia Southern make more sense to play in Montgomery. I’ll go with Georgia Southern, which is an easy bus ride away, vs. Tulane, which makes tons of sense here.
New Mexico Bowl
December 24 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MWC)
Andrew: No AAC team
Unchanged from last week. This looks to end up being a Mountain West vs Conference USA match-up.
Eric: No AAC team.
I think we will end up with the Mountain West vs C-USA here, as the AAC has better options from a location standpoint than New Mexico, er, Frisco, Texas.
Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl
December 26 - Pool (AAC, ACC, SEC)
Andrew: No AAC team.
Unchanged from last week. This looks like it will end up being an ACC vs SEC matchup.
Eric: No AAC Team.
I agree with Andrew. USF is struggling and UCF will not go back there for a second year in a row.
December 26 - G5 Pool (AAC, MAC, Sun Belt)
Andrew: No AAC team.
Unchanged from last week. I do believe Florida Atlantic will end up in Orlando, but there is always a possibility of FAU and UCF switching places. I don’t think that will happen though.
Eric: UCF Knights vs Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
If I am UCF, I’d rather play in the Cure Bowl. You can treat it like a normal home gameday, which helps with finances. Plus if you end up in Boca Raton on Dec 22nd, that would conflict with Men’s Basketball’s home game against Cincinnati. I also argue you’d get a better marquee opponent at the Cure Bowl, playing the likely loser of the Sun Belt Championship game between Louisiana and Coastal Carolina.
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
December 26 - Pool (AAC, ACC, Big XII)
Big XII out, ACC in due to the Pinstripe getting the axe.
Eric: SMU Mustangs vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
SMU’s back-to-back losses at Tulsa and East Carolina drops them to Dallas to play Texas Tech.
Military Bowl presented by Perspecta
December 28 - AAC vs ACC
With the Pinstripe Bowl being a no go, I shifted Boston College to the Military Bowl, which has geographical proximity and BC gets the preferential treatment over Pitt..
I agree with Andrew. Navy stays in their backyard to play at home against Virginia Tech, which is not far from Annapolis.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
December 31 - Big XII vs G5 Pool
Andrew: SMU Mustangs vs. TCU Horned Frogs
Unchanged from last week.
I flipped to Tulsa in this bowl game, ahead of SMU, to play in Ft. Worth against TCU. I can even see a scenario where Tulsa ends up in Birmingham, but Tulsa is only 279 miles away from Ft. Worth.
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
January 1 - Pool (AAC, ACC, SEC)
How the mighty have fallen. LSU’s down year relegates the Tigers to Birmingham. Ole Miss winning the Egg Bowl helps their case for a better bowl while LSU has a makeup game with Alabama looming.
I think Memphis is close to a lock for this bowl game. The opponent is interesting. I think it will be either Arkansas or Ole Miss. I will go with Lane Kiffin’s Rebels.