Confidence Pool Rankings
ATS Confidence Pools bring a whole different level of fun to the proceedings, but here, we'll be using the more traditional straight-up pool format. 40 points = most confident and on down from there. You're up, team-who-plays-Nebraska.
40- UCLA vs Nebraska, Foster Farms Bowl (9:15 PM, December 26)
Should you find yourself wandering through the kitchen for leftover figgy pudding on the 26th, do not approach your television set, lest you find yourself feeling twinges of sadness as you contemplate a life that's led you to watching a 5-7 Nebraska team play at 11:00 PM the night after Christmas. Bruin QB Josh Rosen's shown his freshman a few times this season, but Nebraska offers one of the worst pass defenses in the country. That they're in this position at all is a wonder of nature. The last time we saw Cornhusker QB Tommy Armstrong play, he threw five interceptions against Iowa. UCLA wins 35-17.
39- Ole Miss vs Oklahoma State, Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:30 PM, January 1)
In a few weeks, Ole Miss might transform into a historical footnote to Alabama's championship as the only team to slay the 2015 Tide. They've played erratically in the interim but still managed to finish out with a 9-3 record. While the Rebels are likely bemoaning what-could-have-been, it's possible that Oklahoma State's actually broken beyond repair after suffering their first loss of the season against Baylor on November 21. They looked catatonic in a home Bedlam loss to Oklahoma to close out the regular season. Assuming no other Rebs fall out of their windows in questionable circumstance, they should control this game. Lock those windows. Ole Miss wins 42-29.
38- Boise State vs NIU, San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (3:30 PM, December 23)
I hail from the small hamlet of Eagle, Idaho—hometown of BYU freshman QB Tanner Mangum, by the by—about twenty minutes outside of Boise. The Broncos are the only game in town. And they're maddening to watch. Despite three dynamic offensive players in QB Brett Rypien, RB Jeremy McNichols and WR Thomas Sperbeck, BSU's dropped several turnover-filled head-scratchers, including one as a 31-point favorite against New Mexico. I continue to cling to my faith in their potential, though, however misguided. Injuries plagued NIU down the stretch. While they won't have to start third-string quarterback Tommy Fiedler—as they did in the MAC Championship Game against Bowling Green—they're still working with backup Ryan Graham. If Rypien and company can avoid serving the game on a dinner platter, NIU doesn't have the offensive punch to hang with them. Boise State wins 27-13.
37- Memphis vs Auburn, Birmingham Bowl (Noon ET, December 30)
It's somewhat mystifying that Auburn's favored here, though that can probably be chalked up to the exit of Memphis HC Justin Fuente and the impending departure of QB Paxton Lynch to the NFL. Neither factor's enough to sway me off the Tigers (Memphis species). Auburn's dealing with internal strife of their own, as coordinator Will Muschamp jumped to South Carolina before even completing a season with the team. Auburn's defense did improve by degrees as the season unfolded, but the offense remained dormant throughout. They scored 13 points on the dot in two of their last three games. Memphis is the better team. Memphis wins 35-21.
36- Michigan vs Florida, Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (1 PM ET, January 1)
Slotting the Wolverines this high is dangerous given that they'll be playing the best defense they've seen this side of Ohio State and hey, oh, the Buckeyes beat them 42-13 over the Thanksgiving weekend. Scary. Fortunately, Florida's not going to drop 40 on Michigan. They haven't dropped 40 in their last three games combined. Giving Jim Harbaugh a month to prepare for Treon Harris should probably be illegal. Michigan wins 24-10.
35- Alabama/Michigan State, Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (8 PM ET, December 31)
Michigan State's biggest problem here is that you can't beat Alabama by turning the game into a slugfest. Alabama wants the game ugly. That's what they do best. Ole Miss provided the offensive blueprint—throw a ton, force it into a shootout, hope you get a few blown coverages. Sparty does not play that way. Expect the game to remain close throughout and for the Tide to win by 10-13 points. Speaking of which, fun with stats: While Alabama's just 7-6 against the spread, with the seventh win coming in the SEC Championship Game, they've won 11 games by double-digits. They might not blow teams out enough to cover Vegas' naturally inflated lines, but this game is in Alabama's sweet-zone. Alabama wins 31-17.
34- LSU vs Texas Tech, AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (9 PM ET, December 29)
For the first two months of the season, Leonard Fournette held the college football world in the palm of his hand. Then, Alabama happened on November 7. He finished with 31 rushing yards in the loss as he saw his Heisman hopes crumble. It seemingly took several games to recover, but Fournette finished the season strong with 159 yards against Texas A&M. He now draws the juiciest running match-up in the entire bowl slate. The Red Raiders rank as the third-worst rushing defense in the country, with only Idaho and Eastern Michigan surrendering more on average. Against the spread, I would be tempted to take Texas Tech plus the points (at last check, the line sat around Tigers minus-seven depending on your source), but in a straight-up situation, it'll take Urban Meyer whispering in Les Miles' ear "just give him 13 carries, he'll be fine" for this game to turn completely against the Tigers. LSU wins 35-24.
33- BYU vs Utah, Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (3:30 PM ET, December 19)
Utes running back Devontae Booker suffered a season-ending knee against Arizona in the third-to-last game of the season, which proved a crippling blow for the Utah offense. They scored just nine points in a loss to UCLA and 20 in their season-ending win over Colorado. At the same time, BYU absolutely thrashed its final two opponents, laying 50+ on both Fresno State and Utah State. I love Utah's defense, but QB Travis Wilson's not equipped to carry an offense. Call them Florida West. BYU wins 24-13.
32- Mississippi State vs NC State, Belk Bowl (3:30 PM ET, December 30)
NC State's served as the pesky little brother in many a game this season, badgering the likes of Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina while never really getting to playing with the toys. Wolfpack runner Matt Dayes should post nice numbers against a slightly suspect Bulldog defense, but I like the balance of Mississippi State's offense. Mississippi State wins 38-31.
31- Louisville vs Texas A&M, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (7 PM ET, December 30)
Sorry, Agggie fans. It's been a trying week, I know. Louisville wins 24-6.
30- Stanford vs Iowa, Rose Bowl (5:00 PM ET, January 1)
Many a profanity shook the windows of the Lindqusit household when L.J. Scott magically twisted through two tackles to score the game-winning touchdown in the Big Ten Championship Game. A Rose Bowl appearance for my alma mater is a nice enough consolation prize, but my beloved Hawkeyes came so, so close to something greater. I'm probably feeling a little too blue about Iowa here, but I think Christian McCaffrey will start off the New Year with a bang and take down what's been one of the best defenses in the country. Stanford wins 35-27.
29- North Carolina vs Baylor, Russell Athletic Bowl (5:30 PM ET, December 29)
North Carolina flew through the regular season only to hit a brick wall against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. They could well be spent, with nothing in the gas tank. For their part, Baylor is a mystery box. We could see a sparkling offensive performance behind Chris Johnson. We could see a third-string quarterback making his second start and making second-start mistakes. We could see an actual live bear charge onto the field. We just don't know. I feel comfortable picking against Johnson. If he destroys UNC, I'll accept that. I don't think it happens, though. North Carolina wins 34-28.
28- Arkansas vs Kansas State, Autozone Liberty Bowl (3:20 PM ET, January 2)
Kansas State's leaky pass defense has just one team between them and Nebraska in terms of passing yards allowed on average. Wedged between those two teams statistically? That would be Arkansas. While Kansas State's played in a number of Big 12 shootouts, they sat at 3-6 less than a month ago. That they beat Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia is great, in the way that finding a quarter on the ground is great. Arkansas wins 45-31.
27- Oregon vs TCU, Valero Alamo Bowl (6:45 PM ET, January 2)
It's a pity we won't see more of Oregon's offense with Vernon Adams at the helm. No coincidence that their current six-game winning streak started on October 17, when Adams returned from injury to throw two touchdown passes against Washington. The once quiet pond is now, indeed, filled with Ducks. Oregon RB Royce Freeman will take advantage of a sub-par Horned Frog run defense to push that winning streak to seven games. TCU has a bit of rust to shake off with offensive stars Josh Doctson and Trevone Boykin missing the final two games of the season. Oregon wins 51-43.
26- San Diego State vs Cincinnati, Hawaii Bowl (8 PM ET, December 24)
Gunner Kiel won't be traveling to Hawaii with his Bearcat teammates, as he's dealing with a personal matter. Hayden Moore slots in as starting quarterback instead. You might vaguely remember Moore coming on to throw for 557 yards and four touchdowns against Memphis in October. He's yet to throw for 300 yards in any of his five appearances since, with just four touchdowns in those games combined. Perhaps more distressingly, Aztec running back Donnel Pumphrey's sitting on 1,554 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Cincy's surrendering almost 200 yards rushing on average. Oh, and San Diego State owns the 10th best scoring defense in the country. San Diego State wins 30-21.
25- Middle Tennessee vs Western Michigan, Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (Noon ET, December 24)
The bowl that makes you jealous, just in time for the holidays. Both offenses are among the most prolific in the country, with MT sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill leading the Blue Raiders' charge and Corey Braverman (second-most receptions in the FBS) running wild for Western Michigan. The Broncos defense has coughed up 477.7 yards on average over their last three games. Unless they've taped that down over the last few weeks, they're at a disadvantage. When I look out my window right now, it's dark and snowy and there are probably wolves. Yay Bahamas! Middle Tennesee wins 35-31.
24- Ohio State vs Notre Dame, BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl (1 PM ET, January 1)
The Buckeyes saved their best for last, demolishing Michigan 42-13 in their final game. That's the team we wanted to see all season. I think we see it again on New Year's Day. Notre Dame's persevered through a number of would-be season-destroying injuries and has playmakers on offense, but Deshone Kizer's decision-making makes me nervous against a defense as good as that of Ohio State. Ohio State wins 35-24.
23- Houston vs Florida State, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Noon ET, December 31)
Houston turned in impressive wins over Memphis, Navy and Temple in the second half of the season, with their lone defeat coming at the hands of Connecticut after quarterback Greg Ward was forced out injured. Dalvin Cook could win this game if he can break out into the open field, but Houston's housing the 10th best rushing defense in the country on a yards-per-game basis. Rapper Paul Wall fitted Tom Herman for a grill to fulfill a preseason promise to his AAC-winning team. If he's not wearing it post-game, we'll all have lost something. Houston wins 24-17.
22- West Virginia vs Arizona State, Motel 6 Cactus Bowl (10:15 PM ET, January 2)
Four of West Virginia's five losses came in a brutal October that saw them fall consecutively to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU. They've been fine otherwise, which, I suppose, is no different than seeing a tree fall on your car and noticing that your collection of Christmas music survived the impact. Still, losing to those teams carries no shame, just as your love of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” carries no shame. Arizona State's zigged and zagged through the regular season to their 6-6 record, mixing nice wins against UCLA and Washington with defensively uninspiring defeats to Oregon and Cal. I'll back the more consistent team. West Virginia wins 31-24.
21- Clemson vs Oklahoma, Capital One Orange Bowl (4 PM ET, December 31)
Let's tap the brakes on Oklahoma's bandwagon just a bit. Their best win came against Baylor in a rainstorm on a night when Jarrett Stidham broke his ankle. They proceeded to pull out a one-point win against the Trevone Boykin-less Horned Frogs before flogging the shattered remnants of an Oklahoma State team coming off their first loss of the season. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon have yet to face a rushing defense like that of Clemson. Clemson wins 45-35.
20- Central Michigan vs Minnesota, Quick Lane Bowl (5 PM ET, December 28)
Chippewa quarterback Cooper Rush has notched six 300-yard passing games in his last seven contests. He's also thrown interceptions in all but two games, but Central Michigan's offense should score enough to keep this one out of reach for the Gophers. Minnesota's cracked the 30-point barrier just three times this season. Central Michigan wins 28-21.
19- Bowling Green vs Georgia Southern, GoDaddy Bowl (8 PM ET, December 23)
Georgia Southern won't be taking advantage of Bowling Green's sometime-sketchy pass defense. They've logged just 127 attempts through the air all season. Instead, they rely on a triple-option attack that averages 355.58 rushing yards. Such offenses can prove difficult to prepare for on short notice, as Georgia would testify to after enduring an almost-loss against the Eagles on November 21. There's plenty of notice here for Bowling Green, though, and Matt Johnson and company score in bunches. Bowling Green wins 48-31.
18- Virginia Tech vs Tulsa, Camping World Independence Bowl (5:45 PM ET, December 26)
Frank Beamer's final game as Hokies' head coach comes against a Tulsa squad that surrenders an average of 38.53 points per contest. That figures to provide a boost for a Virginia Tech offense that's been serviceable, if not much more. Leave the rest to the defense. This isn't Beamer's best defensive squad—you have eons of Beamer Ball outfits to choose from for that honor—but they should send him out with a double-digit win. Virginia Tech wins 35-24.
17- Georgia vs Penn State, TaxSlayer Bowl (Noon ET, January 2)
First to 14 points wins? Georgia's defense should fluster Christian Hackenberg into doing Christian Hackenberg things, while Isaiah McKenzie and Sony Michel offer just enough offense—14 points?--to bring home a hollow bowl win. And then it's onward to the Kirby Smart era. Georgia wins 17-13.
16- Wisconsin vs USC, National Funding Holiday Bowl (10:30 PM ET, December 30)
The Trojans are drawing a ton of public love in Vegas, but I'm not sold. Wisconsin holds the opposition to just over 13 points per game on average, the best scoring mark in FBS ball. They're quietly 9-3. More than that, though, USC's offense tends to play in a flash-and-fade mode, exploding for the occasional big passing play to Adoree' Jackson or JuJu Smith-Schuster but struggling to maintain the roll for an entire game. Cody Kessler's shown regression on several fronts this year, with nine fewer touchdown passes than in 2014 and a career-low 8.02 YPA. Wisconsin wins 21-17.
15- New Mexico vs Arizona, Gildan New Mexico Bowl (2 PM ET, December 19)
Both Anu Solomon and Scooby Wright are expected to play on Saturday. That's an obvious boost for the Wildcats, but Wright alone is not enough to shore up a defense that struggles to contain both the run and the pass. New Mexico thrives on explosive plays, too, with 34 of at least 30 yards in 2015. Lobos senior RB Jhurell Pressley's hit 130-plus rushing yards in two of his last three games. They should lean on the run here. By the time the game kicks off, Solomon will have last played almost exactly a month ago. New Mexico wins 27-21.
14- Western Kentucky vs South Florida, Miami Beach Bowl (2:30 PM ET, December 21)
South Florida's best hope for a win is RB Marlon Mack (1,273 yards, eight touchdowns) grinding the clock and keeping the ball out of Hilltopper magician/quarterback Brandon Doughty's hands. Said magician's thrown at least three touchdown passes in every game since the second week of the season. An elite defense like LSU's can stop Doughty and friends. The Bulls just don't have that. Abracadabra. Western Kentucky wins 44-31.
13- Duke vs Indiana, New Era Pinstripe Bowl (3:30 PM ET, December 26)
Penn State, Maryland, Michigan and Purdue combined to score 141 points against Indiana. That's not good. Also not good, Duke's tailspin. They jumped out to a 6-1 start on the season before Miami conjured some Halloween spookery to beat them on a series of laterals and several embarrassing busted officiating calls. The Blue Devils proceeded to lose three straight before recovering for a 27-21 win over Wake Forest to close the season. With breathing room from that losing streak (and an opponent that allows you to breathe), HC David Cutcliffe will have his boys finishing strong. Duke wins 34-27.
12- Louisiana Tech vs Arkansas State, R+L Carriers Bowl (9:00 PM ET, December 19)
Points, points, all of the points. Star Wars will be in theaters for the next four months. If you're wrestling with your inner sports geek and your inner geek geek for control of your Saturday night, let the force guide you to all of the points that will be scored here. The R+L Carriers Bowl comes around but once a year. Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel finishes out his collegiate career with a high-scoring win. Louisiana Tech wins 48-41.
11-Washington State vs Miami, Hyundai Sun Bowl (2:00 PM ET, December 26)
With Luke Falk back in the fold, the Cougars should return to their blistering offensive ways. Miami's done well to win four of their last five games, but they lack the same kind of firepower on offense. I see Hurricane QB Brad Kaaya keeping the game close for three quarters before Falk and company salt it away late. Washington State wins 37-29.
10- Washington vs Southern Miss, Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl (2:20 PM ET, December 26)
Washington's offense worked like an old motor early in the season, sputtering and dying as freshman QB Jake Browning tried to find stable ground. The motor revved late, as Browning helped to drop 52 on Oregon State and 45 on the aforementioned Cougars. They've got a superb defense, too, one they'll need against Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens, who finished the regular season with a 36/12 TD/INT ratio. This game would weight higher if Browning's play wobbled a bit less. Washington wins 27-21
9- Utah State vs Akron, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (3:30 PM ET, December 22)
Fact: License plates in Idaho actually say “Famous Potatoes.” Fact: While a ball drops to ring in the New Year over in New York, a potato drops in Boise. Fact (or thing Wikipedia says, anyway): 1/3 of the potatoes in the country are grown in Idaho. Fact: Utah State will win the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl? Utah State wins 21-14.
8- Toledo vs Temple, Marmot Boca Raton Bowl (7:00 PM ET, December 22)
Temple's shining moment came in a tough loss to Notre Dame, but the game also illustrated a problem—that with a modicum of offense, you can beat the Owls. Toledo scores 35 a game. My uncertainty comes from where the team's head is at after head coach Matt Campbell jumped to fill Iowa State's vacancy. Bowl season is a strange beast. Temple QB P.J. Walker should turn in a nice game in a losing cause. Toledo wins 31-24.
7- Navy vs Pittsburgh, Military Bowl (2:30 PM ET, December 28)
Color me unimpressed with Pittsburgh's offense. Tyler Boyd's numbers indicate the point. While Boyd notched seven more catches than last season, he totaled just 873 receiving yards with a 10.3 YPC average. Both well off of last season's 1,261 and 16.2. There's just no real spark here. Navy QB Keenan Reynolds deserved deeper Heisman consideration. He'll have a chance to make voters second-guess themselves just a little bit. I don't think Pittsburgh's completely classed off the field here, but I do think Navy's better. Navy wins 28-17.
6- Marshall vs Connecticut, St. Petersburg Bowl (11:00 AM ET, December 26)
The Huskies handed Houston its lone loss of the season, nailed into place by star corner Jamar Summers when he made a late interception. He's third in the nation with seven picks on the season. Unfortunately, Uconn's offense does their defense no favors. They rank near the statistical bottom-of-the-barrel in a number of categories. They can hang their hat on the Houston win, at least. Marshall wins 27-10.
5- Cal vs Air Force, Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (2:00 PM ET, December 29)
Cal's been flimsy against the run versus traditional offenses, allowing just over 200 yards on average. Imagine what'll happen when they face Air Force's triple-option. I could see a huge day for Jacobi Owens, who's rushed for 145-plus yards in two of his last three games. If Cal QB Jared Goff doesn't start out sharp, the clock could slip quickly here. I don't expect a slow start from Goff, though, not in his final opportunity to dazzle the gaggle of NFL scouts that will be on hand. Cal wins 35-24.
4- Colorado State vs Nevada, NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl (7:30 PM ET, December 29)
Colorado State deserves a better bowl draw than this, but hey, at least they get to watch UCLA trounce Nebraska like the rest of us. I love CSU wideout Rashard Higgins to an uncomfortable degree, even if his numbers aren't as eye-gougingly gorgeous as those he posted last season. Both James Butler and Don Jackson surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the Wolfpack, but their offense as a whole ranks in the uninspiring middle nationally and they just lost offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich to Hawaii. Colorado State wins 34-24.
3- Tennessee vs Northwestern, Outback Bowl (Noon ET, January 1)
I have no read on this game. Northwestern's defense is a constant while their offense houses Justin Jackson and not much else. The Volunteers enter on a five-game winning streak, but that streak includes lackluster performances against South Carolina and Missouri. I think that Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs wills his way to a win here, but ranking it above single-digits would scare me. Tennessee wins 27-13.
2- San Jose State vs Georgia State, Cure Bowl (7 PM ET, December 19)
San Jose State finished 5-7 and wouldn't be bowl-eligible in most seasons, while Georgia State needed to upset Georgia Southern as a double-digit dog to complete the drive for six. So that's how we got here. Despite their record, San Jose State actually ranks as the second-best pass defense in the country in terms of average yards allowed. Georgia State operates one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the country behind quarterback Nick Arbuckle, which could lead to a tough day if the Spartans play up to pace. San Jose State wins 20-17.
1- Ohio vs Appalachian State, Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (5:30 PM ET, December 19)
Led by RB Marcus Cox (1,261 rushing yards, eight touchdowns), Appalachian State offers a strong ground game. They aren't inept through the air, either, as QB Taylor Lamb finished the regular season with a 29/8 TD/INT ratio. I like that combination to pull through for the win against an Ohio team that's serviceable—but not spectacular—on offense. Appalachian State wins 33-30.
Bonus National Championship Prediction: Simplicity is beauty . Alabama's the epitome of that concept.
Alabama defeats Clemson 29-24.