If you have been shopping or you just hate the holidays, you can finally sit back and enjoy some college football. This three game slate has plenty to offer.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Indiana vs Duke
ABC 3:30pm est
Yankee Stadium , Bronx, New York
In a match up where both schools are more known for their basketball programs, this one should still offer a quality match up. You may have missed it but New York City’s Empire State Building was lit up blue and white on one side and cream and crimson on the other in honor of the Pinstripe Bowl game. There have been several great football games in Yankee Stadium; the most notable is the “Greatest Game Ever Played” between New York Giants and Baltimore Colts.
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With two teams that came in close to .500 winning record, they are much better than their records show. Indiana won its first four games before they played an undefeated (at the time) Ohio State and lost on what would have been game tying touchdown. Also close games against top ranked Iowa and a loss to Michigan could have really helped this team. As for Duke, they started off like Indiana: Duke won six of it’s first seven games before losing four straight. Their strength of schedule was not comparable to Indiana’s, but that doesn’t mean they won’t match up well against the Hooisers.
Indiana has a big play maker on the team, and that’s junior Jordan Howard who was second in BIG 10 in rushing behind Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott. Howard played just nine games but was able to rack up 1,300 all purpose yards and ten touchdowns. Senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld had a nice but quiet season, throwing for 24 touchdowns and five interceptions, while rushing for five touchdowns.
As for the Blue Devils, the offense runs through Thomas Sirk, who led the team in rushing with 648 yards and six touchdowns. He also added 2,462 yards in the air and 15 passing touchdowns. He is a true dual-threat quarterback and Indiana’s defense will need to keep an eye on him to win this game. Sirk was middle-of-the-road in the conference as far as stats go, and that’s because he rushed some and threw some instead of sticking to one attribute. On the road or a neutral site, Duke tends to pass more, and that will be the story of this game. Keeping pressure on Sirk so he has to make quick passes and providing enough pressure so he can’t tuck the ball and run will be key for Indiana.
Camping World Independence Bowl
Tulsa vs Virginia Tech
5:45 pm ESPN
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
The story line for this game isn’t about any of the players, it’s about Frank Beamer’s final game. He has coached the Hokies to 23 straight bowl games and a loss here could be his first losing season since 1992. As for Tulsa, they have missed bowl games the past two seasons but won the last game of the season to become bowl eligible.
Tulsa was never really able to start a win streak as the most they could put together this season was two. They can move the ball in the air, that’s for sure, they were 11th in FBS this season with 329 yards a game in the air. The defense wasn’t able to help out much though, allowing 38.6 points a game. Junior Dane Evans will be eager to pass and pass often in this game as they have a very fast tempo and they spread the field. Keyarris Garrett is Evans’ favorite target as he was able to pull in 88 receptions this season. The junior Josh Atkinson had 932 receiving yards this season and averaging 77.7 yards a game. If he stays on his pace, he will break a thousand yards and Tulsa would have two receivers with that accomplishment this season.
Virginia Tech really tries to be a balanced offense. The Hookies have dealt with injuries and that is why they have been a more balanced team this season. In the final two games of the season Virginia Tech had 600 passing yards compared to a 197 rushing yards. The games were both won and lost by three points. I look for them to lean on Senior Michael Brewer as he completed 57 percent of his passes in those games for four touchdowns. Not too many teams have tight ends that show flashes of anything at the college level, but Bucky Hodges is just a sophomore and was able to have six touchdowns. He is someone you want to keep an eye on as he could develop into a NFL starter. Freshman Travon McMillan has shown up this year and looks to be the feature back in the coming years. He is averaging about 15 carries a game and 80 yards rushing.
Foster Farms Bowl
UCLA vs Nebraska
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
It would be pretty awesome to play a bowl game in the same stadium that Super Bowl 50 is being held. There isn’t a lot of history as this is a new stadium, but history will be made and this could shape up to be a game that is remembered for years.
UCLA has been a disappointment this season and it’s been more of a learning experience for the team as they have freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. I plan to watch him and his decision making as a freshman and see if he has developed from the beginning of the season to now. The rushing attack is by far the biggest part of UCLA’s offense, but Rosen will need to step up and make plays. I mentioned the running game and junior Paul Perkins has been the anchor of this offense. He has 1,200 rushing yards this season and 13 touchdowns. He is averaging over 5.67 yards a carry and if Nebraska is able to stop the running game it will be a long day for UCLA.
Nebraska has had a very disappointing season. The BIG 10 has been tough this season but the Cornhuskers are one of the few teams to be in a bowl game with a losing record. This game can be decided by one player on the offensive side and that’s Tommy Armstrong Jr. He has had an up and down kind of season (and that’s a nice way to put it). He has 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He has struggled badly in his last four games with nine passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The average reception for top receiver is 5.3 yards when some players are near 16.00 yards a catch. I wish Nebraska luck, but their offense won’t be able to hang with UCLA.