The bowl “season” begins in earnest Tuesday with three games, and Tuesday is the first day in a seven-day stretch in which there will be 25 postseason contests.
Alas, Tuesday’s games aren’t exactly big-time affairs. UCLA and West Virginia will be in action – but neither will have its high-powered quarterback. WVU’s Will Grier will miss the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Utah with an injury, and UCLA’s Josh Rosen almost certainly will sit out the Cactus Bowl against Kansas State as he recovers from a concussion.
Is there a storyline of interest? It may still be in the Cactus Bowl because K-State coach Bill Snyder, who is 77, has refused to say whether he plans to return next season. Thus, even though there won’t be a marquee player on view, the Cactus Bowl may be worth watching to see what could be the final game for one of the greatest coaches of his generation.
Here’s a look at Tuesday’s three games.
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Utah (6-6) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
WHERE: Cotton Bowl, Dallas.
TIME/TV: Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN
BUZZ: This is the first bowl of the year that matches two Power Five teams, but it isn’t exactly must-watch football. With QB Will Grier out, Chris Chugunov gets the start for WVU. To further complicate matters, WVU will be without 1,000-yard rusher Justin Crawford, who is bypassing the game to get ready for the draft. One positive for WVU is that Crawford’s replacement is Kennedy McKoy, who ran for 137 yards and three TDs in a loss to Oklahoma to end the regular season. Utah has been inconsistent offensively, and the Utes need to run well to win this game.
OFFICIATING CREW: from the ACC.
LINE: Utah by 6.5.
THE PICK: Utah 23-20.
Quick Lane Bowl
Duke (6-6) vs. Northern Illinois (8-4)
WHERE: Ford Field, Detroit.
TIME/TV: Tuesday, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
BUZZ: This is the fifth bowl in six seasons for Duke; before this stretch, Duke had played in eight bowls in 99 years. The Blue Devils are at their best when they get their rushing attack cranked up. RBs Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown and QB Daniel Jones are threats on the ground. Jones has struggled as a passer this season, and if he is forced to throw, Duke is in trouble. NIU is in a bowl for the ninth time in 10 seasons. The Huskies are all about the run, and they use a running back-by-committee approach. TE Shane Wimann is a weapon; he has 30 receptions and seven have gone for TDs. NIU’s best defensive player is sophomore DE Sutton Smith – all 6 feet 0 and 225 pounds of him. Smith is undersized but relentless; he leads the nation with 28.5 tackles for loss and is tied for the national lead with 14 sacks.
OFFICIATING CREW: from the SEC.
LINE: Duke by 5.5.
THE PICK: Duke 27-23
Kansas State (7-5) vs. UCLA (6-6)
WHERE: Chase Field, Phoenix.
TIME/TV: Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPN
BUZZ: Rosen averaged 41.1 passing attempts per game this season; he will be replaced by redshirt freshman Devon Modster, who has 45 career attempts. And UCLA has no real rushing attack to lean on. K-State is nothing special offensively, but the Wildcats do like to run the ball and UCLA is bad – actually, make that atrocious – against the run. The Bruins surrender 282.7 rushing yards per game, a figure that ranks next-to-last nationally. K-State, which has won four of its past five, will be more than content to run the ball, take zero chances offensively and wait for a UCLA mistake.
OFFICIATING CREW: from the ACC.
LINE: Kansas State by 6.
THE PICK: Kansas State 27-14.
(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)
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