Bowl prediction record: 11-10 SU, 9-12 ATS, 12-8-1 O/U
Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Navy (10-2), Annapolis, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Navy – 3 – O/U 52.5
This could end up being one of the better bowl matchups this year. One of the few clues we’ll get about how the two teams will fare against one another is how they both did against Notre Dame – both lost, Navy on the road, 41-24, and Pittsburgh at home, 42-30. Other than that, this is largely a guessing game. Pittsburgh is average to below average in both phases of offense (186 ypg passing, 195 ypg rushing) while Navy dominates in the rushing game (319 ypg rushing) but is non-existent in passing (92 ypg passing). The Panthers’ biggest asset may be that they’re 21st in the nation on defense against the rush, and they’ll need everything they can muster to slow down the Midshipmen. Navy’s worst output of the season came against Army – a team that runs the exact same offense. Teams that are unfamiliar with the flexbone tend to struggle against it. The Panthers did face Georgia Tech, which runs a similar offense, and Tech racked up close to 500 yards of offense. Navy is far better at executing the flexbone, and QB Keenan Reynolds (1,077 yards passing, 1,279 yards rushing) should keep the Panthers guessing all day. Pitt’s hopes will largely rest on how the defense, led by LB Matt Galambos and Ejuan Price (combined 29 TFL, 16.5 sacks) can wrangle the Navy rushing onslaught. Prediction: Navy 31, Pittsburgh 27.
Quick Lane Bowl
Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Minnesota (5-7), Detroit, 5 p.m., ESPN2
Minnesota – 4.5 – O/U 48.5
In another forgettable matchup, Central Michigan should be very careful. Minnesota was one of only three losing teams who got bowl bids to ensure every game had two opponents. The other two – San Jose State and Nebraska – have already won their bowls. Fortunately for Minnesota, their bowl opponent lost all three of its games against non-conference, Division I teams. And it’s likely to lose its fourth today. Regardless of how bad it is on offense – and it is bad in the pass and the run – Minnesota has a fairly decent defense that kept it in most of its seven losses. Without a first-rate runner to carry the load, and with middling QB Mitch Leidner (2,478 yards, 57.8 pct., 13 TDs, 10 INTs) leading the way, the Golden Gophers will need that defense to keep Central Michigan off the scoreboard. The Chippewas have a woeful rushing attack (125th out of 128 teams), but a potent passing attack led by QB Cooper Rush (3,708 yards, 25 TDs). Passing defense is Minnesota’s specialty, as they rank 14th in the nation – and they earned that ranking playing teams like Michigan, Ohio State and Texas Christian. The Chippewas struggled to their rankings in the lower-rung MAC. This one won’t be pretty, but the Gophers should outclass and outlast the Chippewas. Prediction: Minnesota 24, Central Michigan 17.