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40 college football bowl picks: 2016-17’s schedule is loaded with tight matchups

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Is 40 bowls excessive? Sure. But there are gonna be lots of good games in here.

NCAA Football: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl-Western Michigan vs Air Force Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Both sides are right. Bowls are a cynical money-making exercise, an excuse for ESPN inventory, and an outdated way for all the wrong people to maintain some semblance of control over college football. They're also happy, bonus football.

We are at both extremes in 2016. We once again had 80 bowl bids to give out and fewer than 80 bowl-eligible teams, a sure sign of bloat and excess. We're also loaded with perhaps more interesting bowl matchups than we've ever seen.

Looking at S&P+ projections for the 40 bowl matchups, we find that 25 of them are projected within one possession and 12 are projected within four points. Sure, there are some potential blowouts in the mix (hello, Colorado State-Idaho), and sure, coaching changes will render some of these projections potentially moot.

But here’s a look at how each game is projected to go.

2016-17 S&P+ bowl projections

Individual team S&P+ rankings can be found here.

December 17
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
New Mexico New Mexico UTSA 7.2 66.2%
Las Vegas Houston SDSU 3.6 58.3%
Cure UCF Ark. St. 5.0 61.5%
Camellia App. St. Toledo 0.3 50.6%
New Orleans So. Miss UL-Laf. 7.6 67.0%
December 19
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Miami Beach Tulsa CMU 9.7 71.2%
December 20
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Boca Raton WKU Memphis 8.7 69.3%
December 21
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Poinsettia BYU Wyoming 9.1 70.1%
December 22
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Potato Colo. St. Idaho 18.2 85.3%
December 23
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Bahamas ODU EMU 4.6 60.4%
Armed Forces LA Tech Navy 5.2 61.9%
Dollar General Troy Ohio 3.9 59.0%
December 24
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Hawaii MTSU Hawaii 5.4 62.2%
December 26
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
St. Pete Miss. St. Miami (OH) 5.8 63.0%
Quick Lane Maryland BC 0.1 50.2%
Independence NC St. Vandy 11.7 75.0%
December 27
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Dallas Army UNT 7.5 66.7%
Military Temple Wake Forest 14.1 79.3%
Holiday WSU Minnesota 0.5 51.1%
Cactus Boise St. Baylor 17.3 84.2%
December 28
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Pinstripe Pitt Northwestern 5.1 61.7%
Russell Athletic Miami WVU 11.0 73.8%
Foster Farms Utah Indiana 1.9 54.4%
Texas Texas A&M Kansas St. 4.6 60.4%
December 29
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
B'ham USF S. Carolina 14.4 79.7%
Belk Va. Tech Arkansas 7.1 66.0%
Alamo Colorado Okla. St. 4.0 59.1%
December 30
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Liberty TCU Georgia 7.7 67.1%
Sun Stanford UNC 0.2 50.6%
Music City Nebraska Tennessee 1.1 52.5%
Arizona Air Force South Alabama 8.7 69.2%
Orange Michigan FSU 11.8 75.2%
December 31
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
TaxSlayer GT Kentucky 5.1 61.6%
Citrus LSU Louisville 0.2 50.5%
Peach Alabama Washington 9.7 71.2%
Fiesta Ohio St. Clemson 4.9 61.2%
January 2
Bowl Proj.
Winner
Proj.
Loser
Proj.
Margin
Win
Prob.
Cotton Wisconsin WMU 8.0 67.7%
Outback Iowa Florida 4.6 60.5%
Rose USC Penn St. 3.4 57.9%
Sugar Oklahoma Auburn 0.3 50.6%

Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody bowl and CFP reactions


From the start of bowl season on Dec. 17 to the (pre-national title) end on Jan. 2, nine dates have at least three bowls. Here they are, ranked in order of watchability (i.e. average win projection for each game on that date):

  1. Jan. 2: four games with 59.2% average win probability (tightest game: Oklahoma-Auburn at 50.6%)
  2. Dec. 23: three games with 60.4% average (Troy-Ohio, 59.0%)
  3. Dec. 17: five games with 60.7% average (Appalachian State-Toledo, 50.6%)
  4. Dec. 31: four games with 61.1% average (LSU-Louisville, 50.5%)
  5. Dec. 28: four games with 62.6% average (Utah-Indiana, 54.4%)
  6. Dec. 26: three games with 62.8% average (Maryland-BC, 50.2%)
  7. Dec. 30: five games with 62.9% average (Stanford-UNC, 50.6%)
  8. Dec. 29: three games with 68.3% average (Colorado-OSU, 59.1%)
  9. Dec. 27: four games with 70.3% average (Wazzu-Minnesota, 51.1%)

The bowl season starts with a bang on Dec. 17, especially when you add what should be a fun Celebration Bowl (Grambling vs. NC Central) to what is otherwise an excellent mid-major showcase. Then, it wraps up with two powerhouse days full of tossup games.

Bowls may be all that's wrong with the old guard of college football, but that's easier to swallow when there are this many fun games.