2021 College Football Bowl Confidence Draft: Ianniello & McGrath’s Favorite Picks

2021 College Football Bowl Confidence Draft: Ianniello & McGrath’s Favorite Picks article feature image
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Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Graham Mertz (5) and the Wisconsin offense.

If you haven’t been following, Action Network analysts Mike Ianniello and Tanner McGrath have created a heated rivalry. Each week, Ianniello and McGrath bet different sides on a college football game, arguing their picks in a head-to-head column.

To end the season, the two engaged in a fantasy-style bowl pick draft, wherein they drafted their top straight-up picks for this year’s bowl games. Whichever writer wins more games will ride off into the sunset with their own personal “bowl win.”

Given Ianniello won the season series, 6-4, he earned the right to pick first.

Current Leaderboard & Betting Results

Betting results updated as of Saturday, Jan. 1.

Tanner McGrath
Overall: 8-6-2
Pick Selection Result
2.
Toledo
Bahamas
LOSS
4.
Coastal Carolina
Cure
WIN
6.
Army
Armed Forces
WIN
8.
Liberty
LendingTree
WIN
10.
Ohio St.
Rose
12.
Oregon St.
LA
LOSS
14.
Kansas St.
Texas
16.
Arkansas
Outback
18.
Georgia St.
Camellia
WIN
20.
Virginia
Fenway
Push
22.
Iowa St.
Cheez-It
LOSS
24.
Houston
Birmingham
WIN
26.
UTSA
Frisco
LOSS
28.
NC State
Holiday
Push
30.
Kentucky
Citrus
32.
Maryland
Pinstripe
WIN
34.
Oklahoma
Alamo
WIN
36.
Florida
Gasparilla
LOSS
38.
Baylor
Sugar
40.
Kent St.
Idaho Potato
LOSS
42.
Air Force
First Responder
WIN
Mike Ianniello
Overall: 8-7-5
Pick Selection Result
1.
Alabama
Cotton
WIN
3.
Mississippi St.
Liberty
LOSS
5.
Wisconsin
Las Vegas
WIN
7.
Georgia
Orange
WIN
9.
Memphis
Hawaii
Push
11.
North Carolina
Duke’s Mayo
LOSS
13.
Texas A&M
Gator
Push
15.
BYU
Independence
LOSS
17.
Tennessee
Music City
LOSS
19.
Fresno St.
New Mexico
WIN
21.
W. Kentucky
Boca Raton
WIN
23.
Boise State
Arizona
Push
25.
Notre Dame
Fiesta
27.
Old Dominion
Myrtle Beach
LOSS
29.
Miami
Sun
Push
31.
Louisiana
New Orleans
WIN
33.
W. Michigan
Quick Lane
WIN
35.
Minnesota
Guaranteed Rate
WIN
37.
Pitt
Peach
LOSS
39.
North Texas
Frisco Classic
LOSS
41.
Boston College
Military
Push

Bowl Game Draft: Recap

1.

Alabama over Cincinnati

Cotton Bowl · Dec. 31

Ianniello: This is the biggest spread of any bowl game, and rightfully so. Cincinnati is absolutely deserving of a playoff spot, but Alabama is still in a different class. Don’t overthink this; Nick Saban’s team is the clear first pick.

2.

Toledo over Middle Tennessee

Bahamas Bowl · Dec. 17

McGrath: Not only is Middle Tennesee bad, but the Blue Raiders are also without their first- and second-string quarterbacks. Four of Toledo’s five losses this season came by three points or less, and it led the MAC in scoring offense and defense.

3.

Mississippi State over Texas Tech

Liberty Bowl · Dec. 28

Ianniello: There is no better motivation than cold hard cash. Mike Leach believes he is still owed $2.5 million from his time at Texas Tech and sued the school to try and get the money he feels he is owed. This game is personal for him, and I expect him to run it up.

4.

Coastal Carolina over Northern Illinois

Cure Bowl · Dec. 17

McGrath: Northern Illinois cannot keep doing this. It’s won twice as a double-digit underdog. But the Huskies are bottom-10 in every defensive metric, and they will get shredded by Grayson McCall and the nation’s top offense in Success Rate.

5.

Wisconsin over Arizona State

Las Vegas Bowl · Thursday, Dec. 30

Ianniello: Wisconsin won seven of its last eight games by an average margin of victory of 21.6. That stretch corresponds with the emergence of star running back Braelon Allen.

The Badgers have gotten back to their identity of running the ball and playing elite defense. Wisconsin is No. 1 in the country in Defensive Success Rate and has won six of its last seven bowl games.

6.

Army over Missouri

Armed Forces Bowl · Wednesday, Dec. 22

McGrath: Army’s triple-option is second nationally in Rush Success Rate. Mizzou’s defense is fifth-to-last in Rush Success Rate. Need I say more?

7.

Georgia over Michigan

Orange Bowl · Friday, Dec. 31

Ianniello: Alabama beat Georgia with big plays through the passing game.

Michigan does not have the same ability to throw the ball as Bama and instead relies on running the ball, which plays right into the strength of the Bulldogs defense.

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8.

Liberty over Eastern Michigan

LendingTree Bowl · Saturday, Dec. 18

McGrath: This line opened at Liberty -6.5 and closed at -9.5. Liberty’s offensive line is the weak link, but EMU’s defensive line — which ranks last in Stuff Rate and 120th in Havoc — can’t take advantage of that.

9.

Memphis over Hawaii

Hawaii Bowl · Friday, Dec. 24

Ianniello: Hawaii’s program is in disarray right now. Reports have leaked of players accusing head coach Todd Graham of verbal abuse and “killing their love of football.”

Hawaii’s starting quarterback and running back have already transferred, and Memphis should light up this defense.

10.

Ohio State over Utah

Rose Bowl · Saturday, Jan. 1

McGrath: Buy low and sell high spots for these two. Utah is coming off two blowouts of Oregon, while Ohio State is coming off a devastating Michigan loss.

11.

North Carolina over South Carolina

Duke’s Mayo Bowl · Thursday, Dec. 30

Ianniello: What could be better than watching 70-year-old Mack Brown get a bucket of mayo dumped on him?

Sam Howell was banged up late in the year but should be healthy now after a month off. North Carolina ranks fourth in Rush Success and 13th in Line Yards and will have plenty of success against a South Carolina team that is 99th in Rushing Success on defense and 113th in Line Yards.

12.

Oregon State over Utah State

LA Bowl · Saturday, Dec. 18

McGrath: Oregon State is top-10 in almost every offensive metric. Utah State is bottom-10 in almost every defensive metric.

13.

Texas A&M over Wake Forest

Gator Bowl · Friday, Dec. 31

Ianniello: Texas A&M will be without Zach Calzada and Isaiah Spiller, but the Wake Forest defense is 116th in Rush Success and 89th in Pass Success, so whoever is playing for the Aggies should be able to move the ball.

Texas A&M’s defense is fourth in the country in Success Rate and has way more talent than the Demon Deacons.

14.

Kansas State over LSU

Texas Bowl · Tuesday, Jan. 4

McGrath: I haven’t believed in LSU all season, as it can’t run the ball. Kansas State’s ground game is top-notch. Plus, I’m questioning LSU’s motivation.

15.

BYU over UAB

Independence Bowl · Saturday, Dec. 18

Ianniello: BYU went 10-2 this season, led by running back Tyler Allgeier, who paced the country with 20 touchdowns.

The Cougars just signed Kalani Sitake to a contract extension, and UAB is probably disappointed after failing to reach the conference title game for the first time since 2017.

college football-odds-picks-betting-week 5-byu vs. utah state-iowa vs. maryland-houston vs. tulsa-friday, october 1
Chris Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: The BYU Cougars.

16.

Arkansas over Penn State

Outback Bowl · Saturday, Jan. 1

McGrath: As our first underdog pick, I took the Hogs because I knew it would irk Penn State alum Mike Ianniello.

However, I also believe Arkansas is the better all-around team, while PSU’s offense consists entirely of Clifford-to-Dotson deep shots. Our betting power rankings make Arkansas the favorite as well.

17.

Tennessee over Purdue

Music City Bowl · Thursday, Dec. 30

Ianniello: This game will basically be a home game for Vols in Nashville.

Hendon Hooker announced he is returning to Tennessee next season, while Purdue’s two best players — wide receiver David Bell and defensive end George Karlaftis — have opted out of this game.

18.

Georgia State over Ball State

Camellia Bowl · Saturday, Dec. 25

McGrath: Our betting power rankings make Georgia State a nine-point favorite rather than just -3.5.

The Panthers were the hottest Sun Belt team down the stretch, while Ball State is nothing more than a middling MAC team.

19.

Fresno State over UTEP

New Mexico Bowl · Saturday, Dec. 18

Ianniello: This pick is assuming Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener is going to play after removing his name from the transfer portal.

UTEP got off to the best start in program history before finishing the year in free-fall, dropping four of its final five games.

20.

Virginia over SMU

Fenway Bowl · Wednesday, Dec. 29

McGrath: My favorite pick in this game is the over.

But in a shootout between two good offenses and two bad defenses, Virginia is the offense to trust. I love SMU, but Tanner Mordecai and Co. underachieved this season after starting off hot.

21.

Western Kentucky over Appalachian State

Boca Raton Bowl · Saturday, Dec. 18

Ianniello: Bailey Zappe leads the nation with 56 touchdown passes and needs four touchdowns to tie Joe Burrow for the single-season record. He has thrown at least four touchdowns in six straight games, and I’m confident Western Kentucky will make sure he gets the record here.

The Hilltoppers defense is second in the country with 19 interceptions, and Chase Brice has thrown 25 interceptions in the last two years.

22.

Iowa State over Clemson

Cheez-It Bowl · Wednesday, Dec. 29

McGrath: I am a proud member of Clemson Faders Anonymous, and the Tigers finished 4-8 against the spread this season. Clemson is bad at football, and I love Brock Purdy to win the Cheez-It Bowl.

23.

Boise State over Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl · Friday, Dec. 31

Ianniello: Boise State needs quarterback Hank Bachmeier to play, but if he does, the Broncos should have success against the 77th-ranked pass defense.

Central Michigan has an awesome offense, but Andy Avalos is a defensive guy and has a unit that ranks top-30 in Success Rate against the run and the pass.

24.

Houston over Auburn

Birmingham Bowl · Tuesday, Dec. 28

McGrath: I trust in Dana Holgorsen’s defense — even more so considering Auburn will be without Bo Nix and four other players who entered the transfer portal.

25.

Notre Dame over Oklahoma State

Fiesta Bowl · Saturday, Jan. 1

Ianniello: Notre Dame should be highly motivated to make a statement here after the way Brian Kelly left.

This team is clearly fired up for new head coach Marcus Freeman, and it will play hard for its new coach while Oklahoma State is likely disappointed it missed a playoff spot by a few inches.

college football-picks-predictions-betting-ohio state vs. oregon-saturday-september 11
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team.

26.

UTSA over San Diego State

Frisco Bowl · Tuesday, Dec. 21

McGrath: Meep Meep!

27.

Old Dominion over Tulsa

Myrtle Beach Bowl · Monday, Dec. 20

Ianniello: Ricky Rahne’s squad is one of the hottest in the country, winning five straight games to end the year and reach bowl eligibility.

The win streak happened after the switch at quarterback to Hayden Wolff, which opened up both the passing game and the running game behind Blake Watson.

Tulsa is unable to run the ball, and Davis Brin has as many interceptions as touchdowns this year.

28.

NC State over UCLA

Holiday Bowl · Tuesday, Dec. 28

McGrath: Dorian Thompson-Robinson will struggle against a Wolfpack defense that ranks first in pass rush and sixth in Pass Success Rate. UCLA has a great ground game, but NC State also ranks sixth in Rush Success Rate.

29.

Miami over Washington State

Sun Bowl · Friday, Dec. 31

Ianniello: The Miami football program seems to have an injection of life after the hire of Mario Cristobal from Oregon.

It got off to a rocky 2-4 start as the transition from D’Eriq King to freshman Tyler Van Dyke took place at quarterback. After Van Dyke settled in, the Hurricanes won five of their last six games with the quarterback throwing 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

30.

Kentucky over Iowa

Citrus Bowl · Saturday, Jan. 1

McGrath: Iowa is so fraudulent, and the Hawkeye voodoo will not bail it out this time. Iowa’s supposedly “elite defense” is outside the top 90 in both Havoc and pass rush.

31.

Louisiana over Marshall

New Orleans Bowl · Saturday, Dec. 18

Ianniello: After losing Week 1 at Texas, Louisiana rallied off 12 straight wins, capped off with a Sun Belt Championship.

Marshall ranks just 113th in rush rate and throws the ball a ton. That will be difficult against a Ragin Cajuns secondary that ranks 15th in Passing Success Rate.

32.

Maryland over Virginia Tech

Pinstripe Bowl · Wednesday, Dec. 29

McGrath: This pick is gross. But the Hokies are missing four starters, three of them on defense. Taulia Tagovailoa will pass all over a shorthanded defense.

33.

Western Michigan over Nevada

Quick Lane Bowl · Monday, Dec. 27

Ianniello: This game opened Nevada -6 and has swung all the way to Western Michigan -4.5.

Nevada coach Jay Norvell left for Colorado State, and quarterback Carson Strong and tight end Cole Turner have declared for the NFL and opted out. Three of Nevada’s top four wide receivers are also in the transfer portal.

This game is in Detroit and will be a Western Michigan home crowd in MAC country.

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34.

Oklahoma over Oregon

Alamo Bowl · Wednesday, Dec. 29

McGrath: Oregon is too one-dimensional. Anthony Brown can’t throw the ball. Oklahoma is in turmoil, but Caleb Williams can still create explosive plays and the Sooners will win on the back of them.

35.

Minnesota over West Virginia

Guaranteed Rate Bowl · Tuesday, Dec. 28

Ianniello: Look for Minnesota to stop the West Virginia rushing attack and force Jarret Doege to beat it with his arm, which he has struggled to do.

The Gophers will run the ball and out-physical the Mountaineers to secure the win.

36.

Florida over UCF

Gasparilla Bowl · Thursday, Dec. 23

McGrath: A seven-point favorite shouldn’t be going this late in our draft.

I would never lay seven points with Florida, but the Gators should end their unfortunate season with a victory.

37.

Pitt over Michigan State

Peach Bowl · Thursday, Dec. 30

Ianniello: If Kenny Pickett plays for Pitt, this could be a lopsided affair.

Michigan State ranks just 106th in Passing Success, and Pickett and Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison lead the seventh-best passing attack in the country.

The Panthers defense ranks 17th in Rushing Success and eighth in Line Yards and should be able to limit the damage by Kenneth Walker III.

38.

Baylor over Ole Miss

Sugar Bowl · Saturday, Jan. 1

McGrath: I love Baylor’s ground game. The Bears can run the ball better than anyone in the nation, which creates a level of week-to-week consistency rarely seen among college football teams.

Matt Corral will score, but the Ole Miss defense is weak, and I trust the team less as a whole.

39.

North Texas over Miami (Ohio)

Frisco Football Classic · Thursday, Dec. 23

Ianniello: North Texas finished the year winning five straight games and with an against-the-spread mark of 9-2-1, the third-best cover rate in the country.

The Mean Green are 29th in Rushing Success behind workhorse back DeAndre Torrey, and Miami (Ohio) struggled to stop the run.

This game is like a half-hour from the North Texas campus and will basically be a home game for the Mean Green.

40.

Kent State over Wyoming

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl · Tuesday, Dec. 21

McGrath: I was high on Wyoming in the preseason, but then the Cowboys drastically underachieved.

Kent State has an electric offense that led the MAC in total offense. And while Kent State’s defense is horrendous, the Wyoming offense is even worse.

41.

Boston College over East Carolina

Military Bowl · Monday, Dec. 27

Ianniello: Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec announced he will return next season and is projected to be a first-round pick. After a month off, he should be fully healthy and look more like himself after struggling to regain form returning from injury.

Holton Ahlers will also return for East Carolina and is terrific, but Boston College is 11th in coverage grade and has allowed over 300 yards passing just once all season.

42.

Air Force over Louisville

First Responder Bowl · Tuesday, Dec. 28

McGrath: With the last pick in the draft, I am trusting in the triple option. I will be taking no questions at this time.

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