Friday, Dec. 17
Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina
6 p.m., ESPN
Northern Illinois was one of the best stories from 2021 - the Huskies were winless in 2020, only to have a complete turnaround and a MAC Championship this season. They will take on Coastal Carolina, who was the feel-good story of the 2020 season. The Chanticleers followed that up with a 10-win season, as they look to become one of the premiere programs of the Non5s.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina-28, Northern Illinois- 23
James Madison at North Dakota State
9:15 p.m., ESPN2
Two FCS powerhouses duking it out for a trip to the championship game on Jan. 8. James Madison has an electric passing game, with quarterback Cole Johnson tossing 39 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and not one, but two 1,000-plus yard receivers in Antwane Wells Jr. and Kris Thorton. North Dakota State will be using its deep backfield to move the ball on the ground, with six players who have at least 350 yards rushing this season.
Prediction: North Dakota State-30, James Madison-28
Saturday, Dec. 18
(#13)BYU vs. UAB
3:30 p.m., ABC
Most of the games during the first week of bowls feature teams from smaller conferences that did enough to become bowl eligible. This is an opportunity to watch a team just out of the top 10 while you wait for some of the more enticing post-Christmas bowls to arrive. Plus, you’ll probably flip on ABC at 3:30 on Saturday out of muscle memory anyways.
Prediction: BYU-37, UAB-27
Tuesday, Dec. 21
Idaho Potato Bowl
Kent State vs. Wyoming
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Kent State is looking for just its second bowl victory in program history. The Golden Flashes have an electric offense and a porous defense, leading to some exciting shootouts throughout the year. Wyoming’s key to success is its defense, and they will look to replicate Northern Illinois’ performance in the MAC Championship game as they mostly shut down Kent State’s offense.
Prediction: Kent State-38, Wyoming-34
UTSA vs. #24 San Diego State
7:30 p.m., ESPN
This may be the most meaningful games of the week for the players on the field. The winner will finish in the top 25, while the loser will be on the outside looking in. While San Diego State spent a chunk of the season in the rankings, UTSA had a remarkable year with an 11-1 record - and even managed to beat Illinois!
Prediction: UTSA-24, San Diego State-21
Thursday, Dec. 23
UCF vs. Florida
7 p.m., ESPN
Thankfully there is a bowl game to watch in between the airing of grievances and the feats of strength. While Florida seemed to have packed it in around midseason, this will be an opportunity for players to prove themselves to new head ball coach Billy Napier.
Prediction: Florida-34, UCF-31