NCAA Bowl Week 1 Picks - Early Games

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NCAA Bowl Week 1 Early Games

All times Eastern

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Week 15 Results: Rick 0-1; Coin: 0-1
Cumulative: Rick: 106-115-5; Coin: 111-110-5


Friday, December 17

Bahamas Bowl
12:00 pm Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo (-10, 50 1/2) - The Rockets of Toledo finished 5-3 in Mid-America conference games and 7-5 overall, while Middle Tennessee's Blue Raiders finished with a 6-6 record, including a 4-4 mark in Conference USA.

The Raiders ended their season with multiple QBs winning four of their last six with some improvement on defense. Toledo was solid on defense all season, lost by three points to Notre Dame, and fell to defeat, 22-20 to MAC powerhouse Northern Illinois.

While heavily-favored, the Rockets will put up points, but the Blue Raiders will represent their conference well.

Coin Flip: Middle Tennessee

Prediction: Rockets 31 Blue Raiders 26


Cure Bowl
6:00 pm Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina (-10 1/2, 63 1/2) - Northern Illinois' Huskies enter at 9-4 (6-2 in MAC) and won the MAC title with a commanding 41-23 win over Kent State. QB Rocky Lombardi is a throwing machine and the Huskies have a solid running game, led by Jay Ducker.

A darling of college football media, Carolina's Chanticleers were somewhat of a letdown, losing two Sun Belt games (App. St. and Georgia State) and failing to qualify for the conference championship game. Their offense struggles at times, leaving the defense with too much time on the field. Northern Illinois may be able to control the clock and the scoring.

Coin Flip: Northern Illinois

Prediction: Huskies 34 Chanticleers 27


Saturday, December 18

Boca Raton Bowl
11:00 am Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State (-3, 67 1/2) - By winning six straight, the Mountaineers of Appalachian State qualified for the Sun Belt championship game, falling to Louisiana-Lafayette, 24-16, after losing to them in the regular season, 41-13. The only other loss for the Mountaineers was a 25-23 setback at Miami (FL), back in September. They are one of the most solid small conference teams in the country.

Like their opponent, Western Kentucky's Hilltoppers won seven straight in conference play, finishing 7-1, but losing in the title game to the only team that topped them, UTSA, 49-41. UTSA defeated the Hilltoppers, 52-46 at the start of conference play in early October. Their QB, Bailey Zappe, is a pro prospect, throwing for 300 yards in all but one game and hitting a season-high of 523 yards in that October loss to UTSA. The Hilltoppers also play stout defense and may ruin the afternoon for Sun Belt fans.

Coin Flip: Appalachian State

Prediction: Hilltoppers 41 Mountaineers 34



New Mexico Bowl
2:15 pm UTEP vs. Fresno State (-11 1/2, 51) - Going 7-5 and 4-4 in Conference USA play, the UTEP Miners were a mixed bag in 2021. After a 6-1 start, the defense collapsed, resulting in the Miners losing four of their final five. Their pro style offense will be chewed up by Fresno State defenders, as the Bulldogs look to improve on their 9-3 season.

Fresno went 6-2 in Mountain West Conference play, defeated eventual conference contestant, San Diego State, 30-20, though losses to Hawaii and Boise State kept them out of the title game. To their credit, the Bulldogs defeated UCLA, 40-37, and lost to Oregon, 31-24, proving that they can stay on the field with the best of the West.

Coin Flip: UTEP

Prediction: Bulldogs 38 Miners 17


Independence Bowl
3:30 pm UAB vs. #13 BYU (-7, 54 1/2) - Going 10-2, independent BYU played one of the stronger schedules of the college season, losing only to Boise State, 26-17, and Baylor, 38-24. They boast a resume that includes wins over Utah, Arizona State, Utah State (MWC champion), Virginia and USC. They are the top team not playing in a major bowl.

Their opponent, the UAB Blazers, should avail themselves of the opportunity to prove they belong. After early blowouts from Georgia and Liberty, the Blazers went 5-2, their only losses a 30-24 setback against Rice and a 34-31 defeat at UTSA, the Conference USA champion.

Should be a good one.

Coin Flip: BYU

Prediction: Cougars 27 Blazers 24


LendingTree Bowl
5:45 pm Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty (-9 1/2, 58 1/2) - Disappointing describes the season for the Liberty Flames. The independent was touted as a top college team, but suffered losses to Syracuse (5-7, not going to a bowl) and UL Monroe (4-8) before losing their final three games to Ole Miss, Louisiana, and Army, a tough way to end the season.

They may be looking for redemption against the 7-5 Eastern Michigan Eagles, though it may not be an easy task. The Eagles were 4-4 in the MAC, and were only blown out once, in their last game at Central Michigan, 31-10. Other than that and a non-conference loss to Wisconsin, 34-7, the Eagles aren't bad and hope the game turns into a shootout, because their offense can go toe-to-toe with most squads at this level.

Coin Flip: Eastern Michigan

Prediction: Flames 38 Eagles 31


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