Fearless Rick's 2016 College Football Picks - Bowl Games Week 1 early games

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WEEK 1 NCAA Football Bowl Game Picks

All times Eastern

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Week 15 Results: Coin: 0-1 Rick: 1-0
Cumulative Final Regular Season: Coin: 85-97-3 Rick: 97-85-3

Note: Rankings are via AP Coaches Poll except for the college football national playoff games.

Saturday, December 17

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico (-7, 62 1/2) vs. UTSA, 2:00 pm, ESPN, University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
- University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) finished 6-6 on the season, though the schedule had some significant challenges such as Texas A&M (the Roadrunners lost 23-10, not bad), Colorado State (23-14 loss) and Arizona State (32-28 loss). Otherwise, UTSA was a respectable Conference USA team with a 5-3 mark. Their key will be to stop New Mexico's top-rated rushing attack, no easy feat.

The Lobos had a successful season, leading the nation in rushing (360.9 jpg) and finishing with an 8-4 record overall, going 62 in the Mountain West conference. They've shown a willingness to finish games though they're shaky on defense. Still, they have the advantage of playing against decidedly better competition and scored at a rate of 37.8 points per game (21st) and that should carry through for the win here.

Coin Flip: UTSA

Rick's Pick: Lobos 45 Roadrunners 31

Las Vegas Bowl Presented by Geico
Houston (-3 1/2, 54 1/2) vs. San Diego State, 3:30 pm, ABC, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
- This is a great match-up for so early into bowl season. The San Diego Aztecs went 10-3, including a 27-24 win over Wyoming in the Mountain West conference championship game, avenging an earlier 34-33 loss to the Cowboys in mid-November. With a impressive blend of offensive prowess and defensive utility, the Aztecs are a fine opponent for giant-killer Houston, which toppled both Oklahoma and Louisville during the regular season.

Despite their big victories, the Cougars were inconsistent in 2016, finishing just 5-3 in the ultra-competitive American Athletic conference, losing their final regular season game to perennial contender, Memphis, 48-44. The Cougars had the 14th-best defense in the country allowing a mere 325 yards per game and 22.6 points per outing. The Aztecs were 12th, giving up 320 yards and 21.o points. This might be going out on a limb against a real glamor team, but the Aztecs appear to be the better, if unnoticed team.

Coin Flip: Houston

Rick's Pick: Aztecs 31 Cougars 26

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Toledo (-1, 57 1/2), 5:30 pm, ESPN, Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, AL
- The Mountaineers ripped through the sun Belt with a 7-1 record (9-3 overall), but perhaps telling was their performances against non-conference foes, losing the Tennessee, 20-13 in overtime in their season opener, whipping Old Dominion 31-7, but being completely outclassed on September 17 hosting Miami, in a 45-10 defeat. Obviously, Appalachian State is not a team that would challenge any squads coming out of the Big Five conferences.

Toledo was likewise 9-3 overall, but went 6-2 in the Mid-American conference, losing their regular season finale to powerhouse Western Michigan, 55-35 a team that was ranked anywhere between 22 and 15 depending on the poll. Other than that the best teams they played were BYU (lost 55-53) and Northern Illinois (won, 31-24). The Rockets have sufficient offense (38.8 ppg, 18th) and a relatively supple defense, allowing 25.5 points per contest. The Mountaineers' stats simply do not measure up, nor does their conference opposition. This looks like a mismatch.

Coin Flip: Appalachian State

Rick's Pick: Rockets 42 Mountaineers 17

AutoNation Cure Bowl
UCF (-5 1/2, 50) vs. Arkansas State, 5:30 pm, CBS Sports Network, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
- Central Florida has been to any number of bowls over the past two decades, so the coaches and some players have requisite experience. So too, the Red Wolves, who captured the Sun Belt championship with a 7-1 mark and a title game victory over Texas State, 36-14. Arkansas State began the season on a down note, losing all of their first four games to Toledo, Auburn, Utah State and Central Arkansas, but that girded them for conference play, where they ripped, typically hammering conference foes.

Central Florida will have to do better than their 6-6 record if they don't want to be blown away by the opportunistic Red Wolves, who are always ready to rumble. UCF managed just a 4-4 record in the American Athletic conference, defeating only the scrubs of the league. They're in for a tussle, despite playing close to home.

Coin Flip: UCF

Rick's Pick: Red Wolves 27 Knights 21

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Southern Mississippi (-4, 58) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 9:00 pm, ESPN, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
- Good thing this one's on Saturday night, because there should be better things to do at that time. One of the poorest match-ups of this or any bowl season, the Golden Eagles were just 6-6 (4-4 in Conference USA), including some very ugly losses (55-32 at UTSA, 45-10 at LSU, 51-35 at Old Dominion), though they reached bowl eligibility by defeating LA Tech, 39-24. That may be misleading as the Bulldogs had nothing to gain from a win against Southern Miss, as they were to meet Western Kentucky the following week for the conference championship.

On the other side of the ball are the Sun Belt's Ragin' Cajuns, also a 6-6 squad, though two of their losses (Tulane, New Mexico State) were in overtime. They won three of their last four to reach this bowl, so something can be said of the coaches and the overall tenacity, especially on defense (25.1 ppg). Look, the Golden Eagles are nothing special, so take the points and cheer on the Cajuns.

Coin Flip: Louisiana-Lafayette

Rick's Pick: Ragin' Cajuns 31 Golden Eagles 24

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