College football bowl game picks 2018: Six Pack of predictions for Birmingham, Armed Forces, more
#TrustTheProcess despite our struggles during the first week of the 2018-19 bowl season
I'm off to a horrible start this bowl season. I put out a Four Pack instead of a Six Pack over the weekend, and believe me, while there were fewer picks, they were not higher in ABV. I went 0-4, which is quite the hole to dig out of in bowl season and drops my record on the season to 43-43-2. It's been my worst season since I started picking games here at CBS Sports, but you know what that means?
All the winners are still to come! I hope.
Anyway, we've got a full slate of six games for you in The Six Pack this week, and I'm ready to go 6-0. Let's get to it.
Lock of the Week
Hawaii Bowl -- Louisiana Tech (+1) vs. Hawaii: I know that this is a home game for Hawaii, but I'm not worried about it. The Warriors have played in the Hawaii Bowl eight times, and they're 4-4 in it, so it's not like they've some dominant history. It's essentially come down to their matchups in the games, and I don't like this matchup for Hawaii. While relying on Louisiana Tech's offense can be frustrating as hell for any bettor, things will likely run a lot smoother against the Hawaii defense.
Whether it's stopping the run or stopping the pass, Hawaii hasn't been very good at either this season, and it's allowing 35.4 points per game. Against teams with a winning record, that number jumps up to 40.8 points per game. On the other side of the coin, Louisiana Tech doesn't have a shutdown defense, but it's respectable, and it's been better against the pass than the run. That should help against a Hawaii offense that looks to air it out more than anything. So, I like the Bulldogs here, and you should, too. Louisiana Tech 38, Hawaii 30
Under of the Week
Boca Raton Bowl -- UAB vs. Northern Illinois (Under 43.5): These two teams have built their entire seasons upon their defenses. Using S&P+, UAB and Northern Illinois enter this game with the No. 27 and No. 15 defenses, respectively. Their offenses, meanwhile, are not very potent, checking in at No. 89 and No. 115 in the same metrics. Furthermore, UAB is never in a hurry, as it's adjusted pace on offense ranks 93rd in the country. Northern Illinois's adjusted pace might surprise you when you learn its ranked 11th in the nation, but that's countered by the Huskies having one of the least explosive offenses in the country. Seriously, using IsoPPP (an advanced metric that measures a team's explosive plays), the Huskies rank 128th of 130 teams. What I'm trying to tell you is there's a reason the under has gone 9-4 in Northern Illinois' games and 8-5 in those played by UAB. Look for defense to win the day once more for both down in Boca. UAB 21, Northern Illinois 20
Ancient Warriors of the Week
Frisco Bowl -- San Diego State (+2.5) vs. Ohio: This is an interesting matchup, but what else would you expect from the Frisco Bowl? What this game will come down to is how Ohio's rushing attack fares against San Diego State's run defense. While the Bobcats are quite effective in their passing attack, their run game is elite, ranking third in the country according to S&P+. A.J. Ouellette and Maleek Irons are both big and can wear defenses down, and both are capable of breaking off big runs as well. Then there's quarterback Nathan Rourke who has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards this season himself.
I like the Aztecs, though, because they've proven to be one of the toughest run defenses in the country and have done an excellent job all season long of limiting big plays. Furthermore, playing in the Mountain West and against teams like Stanford and Arizona State, the Aztecs have done all this against much stiffer competition than the Bobcats have. Using S&P+ rankings, Ohio has played five top 75 teams this season, and it's gone 1-4 against them. San Diego State 24, Ohio 21
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Power Five Dog of the Week
Birmingham Bowl -- Wake Forest (+3.5) vs. Memphis: I've got to be honest, this pick is more of a gut feeling than any metric or statistic in particular. Wake Forest hadn't been to a bowl game since 2011 before Dave Clawson showed up, and after missing out on the postseason his first two years, the Demon Deacons have now reached their third straight bowl game under Clawson. They've won the first two, beating Texas A&M in a wild Belk Bowl last season and a ranked Temple team in the Military Bowl the year before. They were underdogs in both of those games as well.
In Birmingham, the Deacs will be facing a Memphis team that proved to be one of the best Group of Five teams in the country all year long but also has a defense that's prone to allowing big plays. The Tigers will also be without their best player as running back Darrell Henderson is sitting this game out to prepare for the NFL Draft. I have to take the Wake Forest team that doesn't come out flat in its bowl games against the team without its best player. Wake Forest 42, Memphis 38
Home Team of the Week
Dollar General Bowl -- Troy (+2) vs. Buffalo: These are two similar teams in a game I'm very much looking forward to watching regardless of any action on it. Both finished as runners-up in their respective conferences, and both feature coaches who I thought should have earned more consideration for bigger jobs this winter, yet remain at their current jobs which is very good for both schools. Troy has been better on defense, while Buffalo has been better offensively, but neither team is imbalanced. Both have played similar schedules when it comes to the strength of the opponents they've faced.
So, when we're looking for a reason to favor one of these two over the other, we've got to dig deep, and I found an area where they're very much different. Using S&P+ rankings, Troy's special teams units rank 11th in the country. Tyler Sumpter's been effective for the Trojans both kicking and punting, and the team's coverage units have been solid. Buffalo's special teams units, on the other hand, rank 124th. They've struggled with both field goals and extra points, and they don't bury their opponents on kickoffs. In a game I expect to be as close as this one, special teams often makes the difference, and considering the wide gap between the special teams units of both these teams, give me Troy in a game that might come down to a kick. Troy 27, Buffalo 24
Texans of the Week
Armed Forces Bowl -- Houston (+3.5) vs. Army: I don't like going against Army here as Army has been one of my favorite teams to watch over the last two seasons, but I'm doing it anyway. I just don't like this matchup for the Knights, even if Houston doesn't have D'Eriq King at quarterback. Clayton Tune was inefficient in his two starts without King, but the time off before the bowl game should help him get more comfortable in the role. If that happens, this Houston offense has proven to be so explosive, and I'm not sure how the Army defense will handle a lot of the athletes Houston will be throwing its way.
And while Houston will be without Ed Oliver on its defensive line, which is a blow to its ability to stop Army's option attack, Houston does have the benefit of facing Navy every season. So it won't be seeing anything it hasn't seen before. There's definitely a chance Army can control the clock and keep Houston's offense off the field, as it wouldn't be the first time the Knights have done it to a strong opponent this season (hey, Oklahoma), but I don't trust the defense to make enough stops. So I have to go with the Cougars here. Houston 35, Army 28
Game(s) of the Week
Lock of the Week
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