As we begin December, 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. Lastly, as noted below, the Armed Forces Bowl is no longer a possible destination due to a change in affiliation as a result of multiple cancellations elsewhere.
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 is likely the American’s only chance for the NY6 as the winner of the Sun Belt Championship Game between Coastal Carolina and Louisiana would jump into the NY6 slot should Cincinnati lose to Tulsa in the American Conference Championship Game, as Tulsa is behind both Sun Belt teams in the pecking order.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
December 19 - G5 pool (AAC, MAC, C-USA, MWC)
Andrew: SMU Mustangs vs. UTSA Roadrunners
It was announced this week that the Armed Forces Bowl was changing affiliation for the year in light of all the canceled PAC-12 bowls. As a result, an AAC team is going to be disappointed and Houston is the worst of the group. SMU moves from the Armed Forces Bowl to the Frisco Bowl and won’t need to travel far.
Eric: SMU Mustangs vs UTSA Roadrunners
I agree with Andrew.
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: UCF Knights vs. Liberty Flames
All signs are pointing towards UCF ending up here. This past week, the American announced the men’s basketball conference game start times except for the Dec 22nd game between Cincinnati and UCF, which just so happens to conflict with the Boca Raton Bowl. Hmmm. That would suggest they may start the Knights-Bearcats game earlier in day with anticipation of UCF playing that night in this bowl game. I would expect it to be official this week. Liberty is an option here for reasons Andrew mentioned. It would also be a better TV matchip than UCF vs. the MAC champion. If the bowl decides to stay with a MAC school, I would project Buffalo.
December 23 - AAC vs. ACC
Flip flop from last week: Virginia Tech out, Virginia 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 State
I think the ACC will not end up here, and a team from Sun Belt will, as teams like Troy or Georgia State makes more sense to play in Montgomery. I’ll go with Georgia State, which is an easy bus ride away, vs. Tulane, which makes tons of sense here although I am getting nervous with bowl cancellations and changes that Tulane may get left out all together.
New Mexico Bowl
December 24 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MWC)
Andrew: No AAC team
Eric: No AAC team.
IF Andrew is correct about BYU landing at this bowl game. I wonder if Tulsa may prefer to play in this game considering it is in Frisco, Texas against top 25 BYU team. This also could be where C-USA or Mountain West end up as Andrew mentions
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: No AAC Team
As much as I like prefer to see UCF here for reasons I mention last week, all signs are pointing to Boca as I mentioned earlier.
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
December 26 - Pool (AAC, ACC, Big XII)
Big XII out, ACC in due to the Pinstripe getting the axe.
Eric: Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. Virginia Cavaliers
With the American losing the Armed Forces Bowl, I moved Tulsa here. I also think the Birmingham Bowl is play for Tulsa if they win the AAC, but not NY6 Bowl.
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 PAC-12 vs SEC
Andrew: No AAC team.
As of this past week, the Armed Forces Bowl changed conference affiliations due to the increasing number of canceled bowls. The bowl is now a PAC-12 vs SEC matchup.
Eric: No AAC team
Disappointing to lose this Bowl game as Big 12 vs. AAC made a ton of sense here.
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
January 1 - Pool (AAC, ACC, SEC)
How the mighty have fallen. LSU’s down year relegates the Tigers to Birmingham. Has any reigning national champion have as bad of a follow up season as LSU?
I think Memphis is close to a lock for this bowl game. The opponent is interesting. I think it will be either Arkansas or one of Mississippi schools. I will go with Arkansas this week.