NCAA: 5 Underrated Bowl Games to Watch

Arizona State features a can’t miss talent in their bowl game.

The NCAA’s regular season went by in the blink of an eye. Now, bowl season is upon us. Here are the most underrated bowl games of the holiday season that you won’t want to miss:

Dec. 15: New Mexico Bowl

Utah State comes in with a 10-2 record, only dropping games to ranked Michigan State and Boise State.  North Texas comes into the game at a 9-3 record with the three losses coming at a combined 13 points. Both teams have high-powered offenses that rank in the top 15 nationally.

Utah State ranks only behind Alabama and Oklahoma in points per game at 47.2. But the Aggies can play defense, too, and they thrive on turnovers, leading the country in pick sixes with six on the season. Both team’s signal callers have been brilliant this season.

Utah State’s Jordan Love leads the offense with 3,208 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. North Texas’s Mason Fine has 3,734 yards, 27 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. The over/under is around 68, and if you like offense you might want to pick the over on this one.

Dec. 15: Las Vegas Bowl

The Bulldogs come into the game at 11-2 and are coming off an overtime win at Boise State to win the Mountain West. First-year coach Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils at 7-5 after winning four of their last five games, including an 18-point win over ranked Utah. Each of the Sun Devils’ losses has come within seven points.

Fresno State is one of the most well-balanced teams in the country, ranking in the top 30 in total defense and points per game. For the Bulldogs, look for the tandem of quarterback Marcus McMaryion and wide receiver KeeSean Johnson. Johnson accounts for over 1,300 of McMaryion’s 3,453 passing yards and eight of his 25 touchdown passes. 

The Bulldogs defense ranks second nationally in defensive touchdowns with three fumble returns and three interceptions returned for touchdowns. Jeff Tedford’s defense ranks second nationally in points per game given up at just 13.7 per game.

For Arizona State, keep an eye on running back Eno Benjamin.  He has 15 touchdowns and 1,524 rushing yards, which leads the Pac-12 and is tied for third nationally.

Dec. 15: New Orleans Bowl

Appalachian State has won at least a share of the Sun Belt Championship for the third year in a row. Middle Tennessee State came within just a few points of winning the Conference USA title. Now, the two will meet in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a high-profile G5 matchup.

App State will have to move on without head coach Scott Satterfield, who has departed for Louisville. The Blue Raiders will have Rick Stockstill, who’s in his 13th season at head coach.

Outside of a loss at Georgia Southern, the Mountaineers faced little resistance in the Sun Belt, allowing under 20 points in eight of nine conference games this season. In fact, the defense ranks sixth nationally in total and scoring defense, allowing just 15.7 points per game and 279 yards per game.

App State’s defense will face one of the best quarterbacks it’s seen all season in Brent Stockstill. He has thrown 3,214 yards and 28 touchdowns for the Blue Raiders this season. His 70.5 completion percentage ranks fourth nationally.

Stockstill will have to come up because his run game, which ranks 104th nationally, will likely not help him much. Bettors have App State as a touchdown favorite in a low-scoring game compared to the rest of the games.

Dec. 18: Boca Raton Bowl

UAB is in just its second season back after the football program got shut down. Now, they’re conference champions, and they’ll take on Northern Illinois, who won the Mid-American Conference over Buffalo.

UAB and NIU rank 11th and 31st, respectively, in total defense. Both teams only allow just under 119 yards per game on the ground.

On offense, the Blazers hang their hat on the ground game, which ranks 28th nationally. Spencer Brown is one of the conference’s top running backs with 1,149 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns this season.

The Huskies aren’t spectacular offensively either, but its trio of running backs, Tre Harbison, Marcus Childers and Marcus Jones combined for 2,004 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Bettors have the over/under around 43, so if you like defense then this will be the match-up for you.

Dec. 22: Armed Forces Bowl

Bowl season usually produces some great match-ups between teams with different offensive philosophies, and this game will be no different.

Army comes in the game 10-2 and second in the nation in rushing offense at 296.3 yards per game.

Houston comes in the game in the top 20 in both rushing and passing offense and fourth in the country in points per game with 46.4. But they’ll be without star quarterback D’Eriq King and star defensive tackle Ed Oliver. So, advantage Army, right?

The Black Knights have just two losses on their record, including an overtime road loss to playoff team Oklahoma. The triple option is a difficult offense to defend, so the Cougars, who rank 124th in total defense and allow 488 yards per game, will have to repeat the performance it put up against Navy, whom they beat on the road in October.

Army is a 3.5-point favorite with an over/under hovering around 60.

Bowl season produces classic games and three of the most underrated matchups take place on the first day. 

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