Most of the games in this set are going to be full of offensive talent. However, most of these teams don’t have top NFL-level talent. Even though the offenses are strong in these slate of games, the defenses are a weak point. These contests should all be high scoring.
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Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Old Dominion vs. Eastern Michigan
Friday, December 23rd on ESPN at 1:00 PM ET
The Bahamas Bowl is into its third season and has had two highly exciting games in the past. In 2014, Western Kentucky defeated Central Michigan 49-48, and last season Western Michigan defeated Middle Tennessee 45-31.
This game should also demonstrate some electricity on the scoreboard. Old Dominion Monarchs (9-4) are favored over Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-5) by 3.5 points and the over/under is 64. It is the first time the Eagles have been in a bowl game in 30 years, and this will be the Monarchs’ first bowl game ever.
Both teams have an outstanding offense. Eastern Michigan averages 30.4 points per game while Old Dominion is at 36.0 a game. Both defenses are on the opposite side of the spectrum, The Eagles allow an average of 30.3, while the Monarchs 27.8 points a game.
It took some fight for Eastern Michigan to get into their bowl game. Facing Ball State, they had to come from behind 21 points to defeat them 48-41 on the road. Quarterback Brogan Roback was the key to victory as he threw for 468 yards and three touchdowns.
The game flows through Roback. He is their key to victory. On the season, he has passed for 2394 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also adds excitement with his feet. Rushing for 195 yards and two scores. In five of six games he was able to throw for over 300 yards, and completed 20 or more passes in six of seven contests (59.2). Roback also has a streak of three games rushing for over 40 yards.
He is tall and lanky and has good accuracy. Roback will struggle with the deep pass, but he is good in the intermediate range. He lacks zip on the pass to get it into tight windows, but his mobility will get him away from the rush and can throw on the run.
He has a talented group of wide receivers (10) who all have double-digit reception totals. The quarterback has won the MAC Offensive Player of the Week honors three times this season. Roback helped the offense set new school marks for total offense (5,447), passing offense (3,549), total points (365),
Sergio Bailey is the top receiver on the team. He has 55 receptions for 799 yards and six touchdowns. Bailey himself is on a three-game streak of scoring a touchdown. He has gone over 50 yards seven times this season. Bailey is a junior and has good hands. He has a 6’1 and 186 body frame which is solid for the next level. However, his speed is what hampers him.
For Old Dominion it’s about their quarterback David Washington. He has passed for 2648 yards and 28 touchdowns, and just like Roback he has the talent to run with the ball, as he has rushed for 205 yards and a touchdown. He isn’t the most consistent of signal callers, topping 260 yards just once this season, but he can get the ball in the end zone. Washington has thrown for multiple touchdowns in all but two games, and has thrown three or more in five. He is one of just four quarterbacks in FBS to have 25+ touchdowns and four interceptions or less. It is highly doubtful that Washington is chosen in the 2017 draft, but perhaps he can be a target for UDFA status. He has the size (at 6’3 and 210 pounds).
Running back Ray Lawry is a big reason why the yardage totals are not there for David Washington. On 177 attempts he has 1122 yards and 11 touchdowns. He doesn’t do much in the passing game as he only has nine receptions but has scored once. In his last five games, he rushed for 732 yards and eight touchdowns, putting a great distance between himself and teammate Jeremy Cox. Lawry is a junior and most likely return next season.
Wide receiver Zach Pascal is Washington’s number one target. He has caught 63 passes for 893 yards and eight scores. He is a multi-talented athlete as he has run for 120 yards. His last two games he has caught 17 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns. As for Pascal, he has a legitimate shot to be drafted in the seventh round or more likely will be a UDFA.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Navy
Friday, December 23rd on ESPN at 4:30 PM ET
This bowl game dates back to 2003. In this matchup Navy Midshipmen (9-3) is favorite (1.5) going in and playing Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-5). Navy averages close to 30 points a game, and allows 27. On the flip-side, the Bulldogs have a supreme offense scoring 44 points per game (ranking fifth in the country) but their defense has been awful giving up 32.7 per contest.
Senior quarterback Ryan Higgins is the man making this offense move, and he has a talented group of wide receivers. On the season, Higgins has thrown for 4208 yards and 37 touchdowns with three scores by run. Both his touchdowns and passing yards are in the top ten nationally. He finished with five 400+ yard passing games and had at least three touchdowns in 11 of the 12 games played. Higgins has been all Conference USA, but lacks the skill set to turn pro.
Wide receiver Carlos Henderson caught 72 passes for 1406 yards and 17 touchdowns. He ranked in the top ten in receiving yards and had five 130+ yard games. Henderson finished second in the FBS for touchdowns. The junior wide receiver will fall somewhere on day three. He is a smallish slot type wide receiver who stands at 5’11 and weighs 191 pounds. He has solid hands and good speed.
Trent Taylor is also an exciting receiver. He finished with 124 receptions for 1570 yards and ten touchdowns. He is tenth in the nation in receptions and yards. He had ten 100+ yard receiving games and caught ten passes in seven contests. The 5-8 and 178 pounds senior will have a good chance at playing the slot receiver in the NFL. He has solid hands and runs good routes.
Notre Dame has had a mess at the quarterback position. Zach Abey is their third starting signal caller this season. Tago Smith started the season, but tore his ACL. Will Worth, was next up, and he broke a bone in his foot. Worth led the nation in rushing touchdowns with 25. Navy is a team that relies on the legs of their quarterback and don’t throw a lot of passes. For instance, Abey has 104 passing yards and 197 rushing yards.
Dollar General Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy
Friday December 23rd on ESPN at 8:00 p.m.
This bowl has been around since 1999, known by several names such as the Alabama Bowl, GMAC, and Go Daddy. For the first time, it is the Dollar General. The game usually hosts teams from the Sun Belt and the MAC conferences. Last season, Georgia Southern defeated Bowling Green 58-27.
In 2016, Ohio Bobcats (8-5) from the MAC will take on the Troy Trojans (9-3) out of the Sun Belt. Troy is the favorite (3.5) and the over/under is at 49. This game doesn’t appear to be the fireworks show it was last season. Ohio’s offense scores about 26.5 points a game while allowing 22.2 points on defense. For Troy they are more offensive minded scoring 34.2 points a game, but also giving up 22.
There is not much exciting outside of the quarterback position with the Bobcat’s offense. Senior quarterback Greg Windham has passed for 1580 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is a talented runner who moves well in the pocket. He has rushed for 382 yards and three touchdowns. He was injured for three games, before the MAC Championship, and returned with a flurry. He connected on three touchdowns in the loss. More than likely he will get at least 30 rushing yards against Troy. He has done so in six of nine games played.
The Trojans play more of a rounded offense than does Ohio. Junior quarterback Brandon Silvers threw for 2945 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 123 and four touchdowns. He had 200+ yards in 11 of 12 games played and passed for three or more scores in five games. He does a great job of getting multiple receivers involved in every game. Look for him to connect with Deondre Douglas and Tevaris McCormick.
Junior running back Jordan Chunn will be hard to stop. He has 1232 yards on just 259 attempts (4.75 ypc) with 13 touchdowns. He has some value in the passing game as he has 29 receptions for 225 yards. Chunn has five 100+ rushing games and has totaled over 100 yards of offense in eight of twelve games. He also has scored in 10 of 12 games.
The big time receiver for Troy is junior Emanuel Thompson (6’1 and 220 pounds). He should get the majority of the looks from Silvers. He has 72 receptions on the season for 737 yards and five touchdowns, although he has had a hard time scoring. Four of his total touchdowns were in the first five contests this season.
Hawai’i Bowl: Hawai’i vs. Middle Tennessee
Saturday December 24th on ESPN at 8 p.m.
The Hawai’i Bowl has been in effect since 2002. It hosts a match between either the Pac-12 or Conference USA against a Mountain West opponent. Last season, San Diego State beat Cincinnati 42-7. This season will showcase the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors from the Mountain West and Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (8-4) from Conference USA.
Hawai’I offense scores 26.5 points per game while their defense gives up a whopping 37.5 a game. While on the opposite side Middle Tennessee State racks up a jackpot of points with 34.4 a contest and allow 34.4. This game should be a pinball wizard full of points style match.
Sophomore quarterback Dru Brown passed for 2214 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 283 yards and three scores. He has been solid for Hawai’i. He didn’t start until game four and threw two touchdowns in five of nine games played, and rushed for at least 30 yards seven times. He is not a prototypical sized quarterback standing 6’0 and weighing in at 200 pounds. We will see if he has another growth spurt left.
Senior receiver Marcus Kemp is a big dude. He stands at 6’4 and weighs 200 pounds. He has caught 70 passes this season for 1036 yards and seven touchdowns. Clearly the best receiver for the Rainbow Warriors he snagged at least five passes in 10 of 13 contests and topped over 80-yards seven times. He can get deep as well. Catching at least one pass of 30+ yards in eight of 13 games.
More than likely you are going to see freshman John Urzua as the quarterback for the Blue Raiders, as sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill is injured. He still has a chance to play, but he is suffering from a broken collarbone.
Senior running back I’Tavius Mathers has one of the best chances to make the NFL on both starting squads. He rushed for 1504 yards and scored 16 times to go along with his 62 catches for 589 yards and three touchdowns. He had eight 100 yard games and scored at least once in nine of twelve contests. As you can see in his numbers he is a very good receiver out of the backfield, grabbing at least five passes in eight games. He will get a heavy workload if Stockstill cannot go. The Hawai’I Bowl will be a chance for him to shine.
Sophomore receiver Richie James is turning out some big numbers. On the season he has 97 grabs for 1463 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has also been useful in the running game, gaining 300 yards on the ground with another four scores. James ranked in the top ten in the nation for receptions and yards, and had eight 100+ yard games and scored in nine of twelve contests. James only stands at 5’9 and weighs just 180 so he is on the opposite side of Marcus Kemp. Look for him next season to join forces once again with Brent Stockstill as they churn out the statistics together.