Little Caesars Bowl
Ohio (-3) vs. Marshall
Saturday, December 26, 1 pm ET
If you are a big believer that motivation is a key factor in bowl games then you won’t have any problems picking a side in this one. Ohio hasn’t won 10 games since 1968, but they have the chance to do it this year if they win this one. That’s a huge milestone for any team. Marshall, on the other hand, had such a frustrating season that their head coach resigned right after the season – just before he would likely have been fired. They are coming into this game with an interim coach, and that almost never goes well. On the plus side for Marshall, stud running back Darius Marshall is back in action for this one after missing two games due to injury.
Meineke Car Care Bowl
Pitt (-2.5) vs. North Carolina
Saturday, December 26, 4:30 pm ET
My first thought in looking at this one is that it would be a better basketball game than it is a football game. This is one of those games that is strength versus strength. Led by the incredibly impressive Dion Lewis, Pitt has a punishing running game that they use relentlessly. North Carolina excels at stopping the run more than almost anything else – they are ninth in the country. If North Carolina can stop the run then this one should be interesting. If Pitt can score, though, then the Tar Heels and their underwhelming offense might struggle to keep up.
USC (-7.5) vs. Boston College
Saturday, December 26, 8 pm ET
The question here is what USC’s mindset is going to be. They are playing a week sooner than they are used to, and in a bowl far less prestigious than their normal spot. They also have the uncertainty around Joe McKnight circling around them. They are clearly the best team, and their defense is far better than others that have given Boston College a very tough time, but there s at least a chance that they will be uninterested and under-prepared for the game. There is no good reason why USC shouldn’t win this one, but bowls don’t always make sense.
Music City Bowl
Clemson (-7) vs. Kentucky
Sunday, December 27, 8:30 pm ET
Motivation should be a serious factor here as well. Clemson had visions of the Orange Bowl a few weeks back, but then they laid a major egg against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship. Playing in December in Nashville is not at all what they were hoping for. On the other hand, Kentucky didn’t have a huge season, so they are happy to be in any bowl, and this is a perfect one for them – it’s close to home so the stands will be full of their fans. The challenge for handicapping, then, is to determine if Clemson’s skill advantage outweighs Kentucky’s motivational advantage.