2017 Action Network bowl confidence pool selections

2017 Action Network bowl confidence pool selections article feature image

Bowl Confidence Pool

As we near the start of the 2017-2018 bowl season, it’s time to enter your annual bowl confidence pool! A standard bowl confidence pool consists of selecting outright winners and assigning point values that represent confidence levels for each pick. Below, you will find our official selections in ascending order of confidence with some brief commentary, followed by a chronological summary chart.

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R+L Carriers Bowl, North Texas vs. Troy
Confidence Level:  1

Date: Saturday, December 16th
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Spread: Troy -7
I’m not high on Troy, but you can’t ignore the fact that they have won six straight games. I will side with the Trojans’ top-five red zone defense in a game they should be supported by a favorable crowd.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl,  Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State
Confidence Level:  2
Date: Saturday, December 16th
Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Spread: Middle Tennessee -3.5
My numbers have this as a true coin flip, but Arkansas State’s Passing IsoPPP  defense (defense against passing explosiveness) is 96th nationally, and Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill is primed to take advantage.

Birmingham Bowl, Texas Tech vs. South Florida
Confidence Level:  3

Date: Saturday, December 23rd
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Spread: South Florida -2.5
Quite the letdown for the Bulls after a last-minute loss against UCF kept them out of the AAC Championship. I’m not sure how high their motivation level will be for a repeat trip to the Birmingham Bowl.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Central Michigan vs. Wyoming
Confidence Level:  4
Date: Friday, December 22nd
Location: Boise, Idaho
Spread: Wyoming -1
You cannot find anyone in the MAC hotter than Central Michigan, who has won, covered, and gone over the total in each of its past five games. Wyoming has plenty of question marks, especially after ending its regular season with an embarrassing loss to San Jose State.

Dollar General Bowl, Appalachian State vs. Toledo
Confidence Level:  5
Date: Saturday, December 23rd
Location: Mobile, Alabama
Spread: Toledo -7.5
Appalachian State has a great chance to pull off the upset as a touchdown underdog in a battle of two teams that rank in the top 15 in offensive explosiveness. App State’s offense ranks ninth in adjusted sack rate and in the top 25 nationally in yards per play. They’ll face a Toledo defense that ranks 97th in defensive red zone points per attempt.

Cactus Bowl, UCLA vs. Kansas State
Confidence Level:  6
Date: Tuesday, December 26th
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Spread: Kansas State -2
Josh Rosen will play in this game, which could be Bill Snyder’s last as a coach. UCLA has a substantial advantage in third down conversion rates, but this is a true coin flip. I’ll side with Rosen against a Kansas State pass defense that even decent Big 12 quarterbacks shredded.

Military Bowl, Virginia vs. Navy
Confidence Level:  7
Date: Thursday, December 28th
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Spread: Navy -3.5
Bronco Mendenhall has plenty of experience facing the triple option, and his Cavaliers notched an upset win over Georgia Tech earlier this season. Navy ranks 112th in sacks, which should give the Wahoos all day to pass. Preparation advantage for Virginia, who won’t lack in motivation for the program’s first bowl appearance since 2011.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Iowa State vs. Memphis
Confidence Level:  8
Date: Saturday, December 30th
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Spread: Memphis -3.5
You must relentlessly expose the Tigers’ 106th S&P+ ranked defense in order to keep up with their offense, which UCF just did in the AAC Championship. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell will throw everything at Memphis, but I ultimately don’t think they have enough firepower to defeat the Tigers in Memphis’ home stadium.

AutoNation Cure Bowl, Georgia State vs. Western Kentucky
Confidence Level:  9
Date: Saturday, December 16th
Location: Orlando, Florida
Spread: Western Kentucky -6
Both teams will move the chains through the air, but I refuse to side with Georgia State, whose best win of the season came against 97th S&P+ ranked South Alabama. Give me the Hilltoppers straight up.

Gillian New Mexico Bowl, Marshall vs. Colorado State
Confidence Level:  10
Date: Saturday, December 16th
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Spread: Colorado State -5.5
Colorado State, who hasn’t covered since October 7th, will have trouble getting the Thundering Herd off of the field with a defense that ranks 121st in opponent third down conversion percentage.

DXL Frisco Bowl, Louisiana Tech vs. SMU
Confidence Level:  11
Date: Wednesday, December 20th
Location: Frisco, Texas
Spread: SMU -5
Good spot to pick a relatively low confidence upset. SMU’s motivation is in doubt after losing head coach Chad Morris to Arkansas. Also, Louisiana Tech ranks 43rd in defending explosive passing, which should generate enough stops to give them a shot against the Mustang passing attack.

Hawaii Bowl, Fresno State vs. Houston
Confidence Level:  12

Date: Sunday, December 24th
Location: Halawa, Hawaii
Spread: Houston -2.5
In a battle of two defensive minded teams with similar advanced stats and strength of schedules, I will side with Fresno State, who already made the road trip to Hawaii in a road victory earlier this year. I also think Fresno will be fully motivated after failing to make a bowl the previous two seasons.

Quick Lane Bowl, Northern Illinois vs. Duke
Confidence Level:  13
Date: Tuesday, December 26th
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Spread: Duke -4.5
Northern Illinois’ solid defense owns substantial advantages in defensive efficiency against a Duke offense that ranked 117th in yards per play during the season. Daniel Jones should be under pressure from the opening snap against an NIU defense that had the second-most sacks in the country during the regular season.

Texas Bowl, Texas vs. Missouri
Confidence Level:  14

Date: Wednesday, December 27th
Location: Houston, Texas
Good luck figuring out Texas, who almost beat Oklahoma, USC and Oklahoma State, but lost to Texas Tech and Maryland. We will side with a hot Missouri team, who should exploit a Texas secondary that has been vulnerable against high-powered passing attacks this season.

San Diego Credit Union Holiday Bowl, Michigan St vs. Washington St
Confidence Level:  15
Date: Thursday, December 28th
Location: San Diego, California
Spread: Washington State -3
Michigan State’s strength is their rush defense, which will not impact how Washington State will attack them. Sparty lost to a number of teams on their schedule that rate highly in passing success (Northwestern, Ohio State, Notre Dame); Wazzu ranks 39th in that category.

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Arizona State vs. NC State
Confidence Level:  16
Date: Friday, December 29th
Location: El Paso, Texas
Spread: NC State -6
I have this game closer to a pick’em, and the possible loss of Bradley Chubb doesn’t help matters for NC State. With Todd Graham hanging around to coach one last time for his seniors, the the Sun Devils should have motivation, making this a good chance to take a shot with an underdog.

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, New Mexico State vs. Utah State
Confidence Level:  17

Date: Friday, December 29th
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Spread: Utah State -4
New Mexico State should be one of the most motivated teams in the postseason after making a bowl for the first time in 57 years. Neither Aggies team does anything significantly better than the other except in converting third downs; NMSU ranks in the top 10 nationally in the country in that category, while Utah State is among the nation’s worst third down offenses.

TaxSlayer Bowl, Mississippi State vs. Louisville
Confidence Level:  18
Date: Saturday, December 30th
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Spread: Louisville -6.5
Louisville seems like the obvious choice after Mississippi State’s entire staff took off for Gainesville, leaving the running backs coach behind to coach this game. More importantly, Cowbell will also be without star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.

Citrus Bowl, Notre Dame vs. LSU
Confidence Level:  19
Monday, January 1st
Location: Orlando, Florida
Spread: LSU -3
Notre Dame has lost two of its past three games because of explosive plays allowed and turnovers. LSU limits turnovers in their ball control offense. I expect the Tigers to pull out a close one in Orlando.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Boston College vs. Iowa
Confidence Level:  20

Date: Wednesday, December 27th
Location: The Bronx, New York City
Spread: Iowa -3
Iowa’s defense ranks 16th in S&P+ overall and sixth in defending power success runs, which spells trouble for a Boston College team that can only generate points on the ground.

Belk Bowl, Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Confidence Level:  21
Date: Friday, December 29th
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Spread: Wake Forest -3
Jeff Banks moves from special teams coordinator to interim head coach for Texas A&M, who I’m not sure really cares about this matchup. Wake Forest should keep their big play offense rolling close to home while also finishing off drives with touchdowns against a poor Aggies red zone defense.

Playstation Fiesta Bowl, Washington vs. Penn State
Confidence Level:  22
Date: Saturday, December 30th
Location: Glendale, AZ
Spread: Penn State -2
If Penn State wins this game, it will need a big day from Trace McSorley, as Saquon Barkley should be contained by a Washington defense ranked first in defending rush explosiveness. That could prove to be a difficult task, as I think Washington can also get pressure in passing situations against an offensive line ranked 74th in adjusted sack rate.

Outback Bowl, South Carolina vs. Michigan
Confidence Level:  23
Date: Monday, January 1st
Location: Tampa, Florida
Spread: Michigan -7.5
Can the offensively challenged Gamecocks even score enough points against Michigan to cover? The 88th ranked S&P+ offense of South Carolina will face a Michigan defense that ranks in the top 10 in almost every category. I’ll trust Jim Harbaugh with the month of prep in this matchup.

Camping World Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State
Confidence Level:  24
Date: Thursday, December 28th
Location: Miami Gardens, Florida
Spread: Oklahoma State -5.5
Most will focus on Oklahoma State’s offense against Virginia Tech’s defense, but I can’t see the Hokies scoring enough to beat a Cowboys defense ranked 23rd in Rushing S&P+ and 37th in Passing S&P+.

Foster Farms Bowl, Purdue vs. Arizona
Confidence Level:  25
Date: Wednesday, December 27th
Location: Santa Clara, California
Spread: Arizona -3.5
Khalil Tate should be a good enough reason to back Arizona, as Purdue ranks 92nd in defending rush explosiveness.

Las Vegas Bowl, Boise State vs. Oregon
Confidence Level:  26
Date: Saturday, December 16th
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Spread: Oregon -7.5
While I respect Boise’s defense that ranks ninth in defending pass explosiveness, the Ducks’ offense is just on another level with Justin Herbert back under center. I trust that Ducks’ co-OC Mario Cristobal, the interim head coach for this game, will have his offense ready to roll in Vegas.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Army vs. San Diego State
Confidence Level:  27
Date: Saturday, December 23rd
Fort Worth, Texas
San Diego State already has victories over the triple option offenses of New Mexico and Air Force. Expect Rashaad Penny to beef up his NFL draft stock with a big day on the ground against an Air Force defense that ranks 99th in the country in rushing yards per attempt allowed. There will be a prep advantage for SDSU as a result of Army/Navy, which will be held on Saturday, Dec. 9.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Central Florida vs. Auburn
Confidence Level:  28
Date: Monday, January 1st
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Auburn -9.5
Fascinating matchup with Scott Frost hanging around to coach and Gus Malzahn signing an extension. Central Florida has simply never faced a defense like Auburn’s this season. The Tigers rank fifth in the country in Defensive S&P+, and they’re among the nation’s best in numerous defensive categories.

Valero Alamo Bowl, Stanford vs. TCU
Confidence Level:  29
Date: Thursday, December 28th
San Antonio, Texas
TCU -2.5
I have written about both of these two teams all season, with an emphasis on explosive plays. Stanford ranks eighth in the nation in explosiveness, which is problematic for a TCU defense that ranks 126th in defending it. Look for big days out of K.J. Costello, who has improved dramatically in each start, and Bryce Love, whose injured ankle should benefit from the time off.

The Rose Bowl, Oklahoma vs. Georgia
Confidence Level:  30
Date: Monday, January 1st
Location: Pasadena, California
Spread: Georgia -2
In the first meeting between these two programs, I side strongly with Georgia, as the Bulldogs rank fifth in limiting explosiveness. Oklahoma has feasted on soft secondaries, which will not be the case against Georgia.

Allstate Sugar Bowl, Clemson vs. Alabama
Confidence Level:  31
Date: Monday, January 1st
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Spread: Alabama -2.5
Even with a plethora of injuries, the Alabama defense still ranks first in opponent yards per play. Imagine what they will do when healthier against a Clemson offense that lacks explosiveness, ranking 119th in IsoPPP, which measures the explosiveness of successful plays. I side with Saban, who has more than a month to prepare more the game with revenge on his mind.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City, Kentucky vs. Northwestern
Confidence Level:  32
Date: Friday, December 29th
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Spread: Northwestern -7.5
This game features two fantastic running backs, but Kentucky will have much more trouble running it against the Northwestern defense that ranks 21st in rushing success rate. We roll with high confidence on the Wildcats… of Northwestern.

Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami vs. Wisconsin
Confidence Level:  33
Date: Saturday, December 30th
Location: Miami Gardens, Florida
Spread: Wisconsin -6.5
Miami will finally run into a unit better at creating havoc than its own defense, as Wisconsin ranks No. 1 in overall havoc rate. With injuries piling up on offense, Miami won’t benefit from turnovers against a very disciplined Wisconsin team that will use a heavy ground attack.

Walk-On’s Independence Bowl, Southern Miss vs. Florida State
Confidence Level:  34
Date: Wednesday, December 27th
Location: Shreveport, LA
Spread: Florida State -15.5
Odell Haggins, a position coach for Florida State since 1994, takes over as the interim head coach. The current Seminole roster should be fully motivated to play for Haggins, who could be personally coaching for his DL position job, with Willie Taggert and Jim Leavitt heading to Tallahassee.

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, West Virginia vs. Utah
Confidence Level:  35
Date: Tuesday, December 26th
Location: Dallas, Texas
Spread: Utah -7
Will Grier is doubtful for West Virginia on offense, and their defense is one of the nation’s worst, allowing well north of 6 yards per play. Utah should make it 12 victories in their last 13 bowls with a win against the Mountaineers.

Bahamas Bowl, UAB vs. Ohio
Confidence Level:  36
Date: Friday, December 22nd
Location: Nassau, Bahamas
Spread: Ohio -7.5
UAB is certainly the feel-good story, but their rush defense may not be able to handle the bread and butter of Ohio, their rushing attack. The Blazers rank in the bottom half nationally in opponent rush yards per attempt, leading us to a high confidence selection on Ohio.

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, FIU vs. Temple
Confidence Level:  37
Date: Thursday, December 21st
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Spread: Temple -7
The Owls finished the year strong, covering four of five, with the one exception coming as a result of turnover issues against Central Florida. FIU’s defensive Rush S&P+ ranking of 109th and Pass S&P+ ranking of 124th should be exposed.

Boca Raton Bowl, Akron vs. Florida Atlantic
Confidence Level:  38
Date: Tuesday, December 19th
Location: Boca Raton, Florida
Spread: Florida Atlantic -22.5
Lane Kiffin could move on on by kick, but that shouldn’t slow down the Owls in their home stadium. The FAU rush offense should feast against an Akron team ranked among the nation’s worst in opponent yards per play.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl, USC vs. Ohio State
Confidence Level:  39
Date: Friday, December 29th
Location: Dallas, Texas
Spread: Ohio State -7
USC ranks 76th in defending explosiveness, but they still pulled out victories over Khalil Tate and Bryce Love by running Ronald Jones II. That strategy won’t work against an Ohio State defense ranked first in the country in Rushing S&P+ defense. We have the highest confidence in an angry Urban Meyer with almost a month to prep for a favorable matchup.

Chronological Summary

Date Bowl Opponent  Selection Spread Confidence
12/16 R+L Carriers North Texas Troy -7 1
12/16 Cure Georgia St WKU -6 9
12/16 Las Vegas Boise St Oregon -7.5 26
12/16 New Mexico Colorado St Marshall +5.5 10
12/16 Camellia Arkansas St MTSU +3.5 2
12/19 Boca Raton Akron FAU -22.5 38
12/20 DXL Frisco SMU LA Tech +5 11
12/21 Gasparilla FIU Temple -7 37
12/22 Bahamas UAB Ohio -7.5 36
12/22 Potato Wyoming C. Michigan +1 4
12/23 Birmingham USF Texas Tech +2.5 3
12/23 Armed Forces Army San Diego St N/A 27
12/23 Dollar General Toledo App St +7.5 5
12/24 Hawai’I Bowl Houston Fresno St +2.5 12
12/26 Dallas WVU Utah -7 35
12/26 Quick Lane Duke N. Illinois +4.5 13
12/26 Cactus Kansas St UCLA +2 6
12/27 Independence S. Miss Florida St -15 34
12/27 Pinstripe BC Iowa -3 20
12/27 Foster Farms Purdue Arizona -3.5 25
12/27 Texas Texas Missouri -3 14
12/28 Military Navy Virginia +3.5 7
12/28 Camping World Virginia Tech Oklahoma St -7 24
12/28 Valero TCU Stanford +2.5 29
12/28 Holiday Michigan St Wash St -3 15
12/29 Belk Texas A&M Wake Forest -3 21
12/29 Hyundai Sun NC State Arizona St +6 16
12/29 Music City Kentucky Northwestern -7 32
12/29 Arizona Utah St NMSU +4 17
12/29 Cotton USC Ohio St -7 39
12/30 TaxSlayer Miss St Louisville -6 18
12/30 Liberty Iowa St Memphis -3.5 8
12/30 Fiesta Penn St Washington +2 22
12/30 Orange Miami Wisconsin -6.5 33
1/1 Outback S. Carolina Michigan -7.5 23
1/1 Peach UCF Auburn -9.5 28
1/1 Citrus Notre Dame LSU -3 19
1/1 Rose Oklahoma Georgia -2 30
1/1 Sugar Clemson Alabama -2.5 31

*All odds retrieved on 12/7.

*All stats retrieved from footballstudyhall.com and NCAA.com following games played on 12/2.

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