By Ryan Nelson (@TheRyanNelson_)
New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6) vs. Southern Mississippi (6-6), Dec. 17
At 6-6, Southern Miss will take on Louisiana-Lafayette under first-year head coach Jay Hopson. The Golden Eagles rank 29th in total offense (5,660 yards), and average 33.3 points per game.
Though USM’s rushing attack as a whole has struggled at times, the Golden Eagles have one of the most explosive running backs in the country. Ito Smith has gone for over 1,000 yards rushing for the second consecutive season (1,321 in 2016, 1,128 in 2015).
QB Nick Mullens is an efficient passer. Mullens has a passer rating of 150.1, which ranks 23rd among FBS quarterbacks.
Louisiana-Lafayette is led by their QB Anthony Jennings. Jennings played quarterback at LSU from 2013 to 2015. Right now he is completing 60.9% of his passes, and has 11 touchdowns on the season.
Yet, Jennings has tossed 12 interceptions on the season. Overall, ULL’s offense is floundering. The Ragin’ Cajuns rank 105th in total offense, with 4,382 yards on the season.
ULL is back in the New Orleans Bowl for the fifth time in six years under head coach Mark Hudspeth.
The Ragin’ Cajuns won each of those games by an average margin of victory of 6.75 points.
New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico (8-4) vs. UTSA (6-6), Dec. 17
UTSA is bowl eligible for the first time in program history. The Road Runners' football program is only six years old now.
UTSA made plays when it mattered most, winning five of their final eight games to reach bowl eligibility.
Frank Wilson’s team ranks near the bottom of the barrel in offensive production nationally.
The Roadrunners are 97th in total offense (4,517 yards), and rank 64th in points per game (29.9). UTSA QB Dalton Sturm has 2,082 passing yards on the season, and 18 touchdowns.
UTSA is led on defense by Josiah Tauaefa, who was selected as a member of C-USA's All-Conference First-Team.
New Mexico is back in the New Mexico Bowl for the second consecutive year under head coach Bob Davie. UNM's 11 conference wins over the last two seasons is a school record. The Lobos improved to 8-4 after going 7-6 in 2015.
UNM ranks 30th in total offense with 5,643 yards.
The Lobos have two 1,000+ yard rushers on offense, with very similar stat lines. Teriyon Gipson has 1,209 yards on 131 carries and 12 touchdowns. His teammate Tyrone Owens has 1,084 yards on the season on 134 carries, and seven touchdowns.
Gipson’s longest run on the season is 84 yards, and Owens' is 83 yards.
Boca Raton Bowl: West. Kentucky (10-3) vs. Memphis (8-4), Dec. 20
Western Kentucky is coming off a 58-44 Conference USA championship win over La. Tech.
The Hilltoppers have one of the most powerful offenses in the nation. WKU is behind only Texas Tech in total offense (6,799 yards) this season, and is ranked just ahead of their conference rivals La. Tech --- the Bulldogs come in at third.
QB Mike White was honored as the Conference USA newcomer of the year. White has 4,027 passing yards on the season and 34 touchdowns.
WKU has two wide receivers who rank in the top ten nationally in receiving yards. Taywan Taylor is second with 1,586 receiving yards, and Nicholas Miller is tenth with 1,253.
Memphis is completing their first season under head coach Mike Norvell. After losing their head coach Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech, and QB Paxton Lynch to the NFL Draft, the Tigers are back in the post season after reaching an 8-4 record.
The Tigers are coming off an impressive 48-44 win over the Houston Cougars. QB Riley Ferguson makes this offense tick. Ferguson has 3,326 yards on the season and 28 touchdowns.
Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. Navy (9-3), Dec. 23
It all starts under center for the West Division C-USA champions.
QB Ryan Higgins is the catalyst for an offense averaging 44 points per game, and 4,208 passing yards on the season--- third most among FBS quarterbacks.
The Bulldog offense features two explosive athletes at wide receivers --- Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson.
Taylor has 1,570 receiving yards on the season, which ranks third among FBS pass catchers. Henderson isn’t far behind at eighth with 1,406 yards, to go along with 17 touchdowns on the season.
Navy is strong on offense as well. The Midshipmen rank 39th in total offense (5,476 yards), and average 39.1 points per game.
Navy relies heavily on their rushing attack. The Midshipmen is second among FBS teams in rushing yards (3,930), and QB Will Worth leads the nation in rushing touchdowns (25).
Navy will take on Army in their annual rivalry this Saturday in Baltimore.
Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3), Dec. 23
The Monarchs will escape a New York winter for a date with Eastern Michigan to the sun beaten shores of Nassau, Bahamas.
ODU's offense ranks 55th this season in total yards (5,207), and 27th in points per game (36). The Monarchs run a balanced offensive attack.
No one’s more important to the Old Dominion offense than RB Ray Lawry. Lawry owns the ODU record for total rushing touchdowns (39). Lawry averages 102 yards per game.
The Monarchs can get it done in the trenches as well.
Eastern Michigan is ranked ahead of the ODU at 41st in total offense (5,447 yards). The Eagles are averaging 30.4 points per game, but are giving up 30.3 points per game.
EMU is in a bowl game for the first time in 29 years. EMU’s last bowl appearance came in 1987, when the Eagles beat San Jose State 30-27 in the California Bowl.
The Eagles finished with a 7-5 record, after going 1-11 in 2015.
Hawai’i Bowl: Hawaii (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-4), Dec. 24
Middle Tennessee’s offense ranks 12th in total yards (6,188), and 16th in points per game (40.1). The Blue Raiders are led by their explosive talent at wide out. WR Richie James is third in total receiving yards in the nation (1,463), and has 11 touchdowns on the season.
MTSU can also get it done on the ground. RB I’Tavius Mathers ranks 10th among FBS running backs in total rushing yards (1,504), to go along with 16 touchdowns.
Hawai’i’s offense has struggled this season. The Rainbow Warriors average 26.5 points per game.
Their defense is in much worse shape. This defense allows 455 yards of offense per game, which ranks 104th out of 128 FBS teams.
The Rainbow Warriors do tackle well. Their 971 total tackles rank eighth in the country.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army (6-5) vs. North Texas (5-7), Dec. 27
North Texas ranks among the worse offensive teams in the FBS, coming in at 118th nationally in total offense (4,034 yards).
The Mean Green do have a legitimate offensive threat in RB Jeffrey Wilson, who has amassed 855 yards rushing this season, and 13 touchdowns. Wilson’s longest run on the season is 75 yards.
Army is slightly more effective on offense, having compiled 4,500 offensive yards on the season. That ranks 98th nationally. The Black Knights have an impressive rusher on their squad as well.
Andy Davidson has 818 yards rushing on the season, and nine touchdowns.
Army is in a bowl game for the first time since 2010, when they narrowly escaped the Armed Forces Bowl with a 16-14 win over Southern Methodist.
Army will take on Navy this Saturday in their annual rivalry game.