The regular season and championship Saturday have concluded in college football, and now, the bowl schedule has been set. And, we’re obviously keenly interested in the Florida schools that are involved in the upcoming games, including the two “New Year’s 6” contests.
Here are the matchups again with the initial odds from Las Vegas, courtesy of Vegasinsider.com
In the Gasparilla Bowl Thursday December 20th, USF is a surprising 2 1/2 point underdog to the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall, out of Conference USA, did pull off an upset of Florida International on the final day of the regular season. And, you are probably aware that the Bulls lost their last five games in a row doing them no favors with the oddsmakers. Still, it’s interesting that in a game that is essentially a home one for USF, they are not at least favored.
The following day on Friday December 21st Butch Davis’ FIU Panthers will be playing Toledo in the Bahamas and the Rockets have been installed as a six-point favorite in that one. While that might be surprising, Toledo did win four of their last five games and scored at least 45 points in all four wins.
On Thursday December 27th. the Miami Hurricanes get a rematch with the Wisconsin Badgers out of the Big Ten in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Wisconsin handled Miami in the Orange Bowl a year ago, and the Canes obviously have payback on their mind. Miami played well in their last two wins of the regular season at Virginia Tech and against Pitt. So the Hurricanes being installed as a four-point favorite looks about right
One line that is surprising is the Peach Bowl for Saturday December 29th. That’s when the Gators take on the Michigan Wolverines out of the Big Ten. And, the oddsmakers already have great belief in Jim Harbaugh and his team, installing them as a seven-point favorite. Florida won their final three games of the regular season to finish with a 9-3 record, while Michigan was wiped out by Ohio State in their rivalry game two weeks ago.
Still Vegas believes much more in Harbaugh and the Big Ten, at least initially, in this one.
And finally, UCF is playing New Year’s afternoon in the “New Year 6” Fiesta Bowl against LSU, and they still aren’t getting very much respect. That’s because the oddsmakers have the Tigers favored by 7 1/2 over the unbeaten Knights. UCF however, is going to be undaunted coming off of their blowout win over Memphis in the American Conference Championship Game 58 to 41.
LSU meantime has dropped three games, including their 7 overtime 74 – 72 lost to Texas A&M two weeks ago. The SEC traditionally has the deepest and most talented league in college football, and that has to be why Vegas is disrespecting UCF once again.
Coaches and rosters finalized for East-West Shrine Bowl
The NFL and the newly-renamed East-West Shrine Bowl are finalizing not only their player rosters, but their coaching staffs for next Saturday’s game in St Petersburg, FL.
Late this week, the longest running college all-star game, the East West Shrine Bowl, named its head coaches, both of whom have ties to the Tampa Bay Area.
Bucs inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell will coach one of the teams, while former Buccaneers and current Falcons tight end coach, Ben Steele will be in charge of the other.
Caldwell, who came to the Buccaneers in Bruce Arians’ first season has been in the NFL for a total of 11 years and had previously served as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the New York Jets under Todd Bowles for 4 seasons.
Steele, who has coached in the NFL for seven seasons reunited with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter in Atlanta after previously having been his tight end coach in Tampa Bay last year.
Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl, said in a statement about the coaching selections,
“We’re very excited to have Mike Caldwell and Ben Steele as head coaches for our East-West Shrine Bowl all-stars,” said Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl. “Ben was a coordinator for our 2019 game and both coaches have ties to the Tampa/St. Pete area. They will lead two strong staffs of NFL assistant coaches that will be invaluable to our players as they begin their own journey to the NFL”
Meanwhile, the rosters do have some Florida flair, as several noteworthy names will be on the East team. That’s led by speedy UCF running back Adrian Killins, Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain and USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox. On the East defensive squad, FAU linebacker Rashad Smith, Miami linebacker Shaq quarterman and UCF defensive back Neville Clark are part of the roster.
This will be the 95th playing of the East-West Shrine Bowl and it boasts 71 Pro Football Hall of Famers that have played in their game. And, they also had more than 300 players who were on an NFL roster for Week 1 last year that have played in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
The game also announced that there will be four legendary mentors working with the players in practices later this week in St Pete. Those include: Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields, Super Bowl Champion defensive end Willie McGinest, as well as, long time safety Bobby Taylor and long time wide receiver Amani Toomer.
The game will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays and televised nationally on the NFL Network at 3 p.m., Eastern Time next Saturday.
New Year’s Day has prominent teams in Florida Bowls
As the new year begins, traditional college football bowl games will be taking place. And even though there are no Florida teams battling on New Year’s Day, there are two prominent bowl games in the state.
First, two of college football’s “Blue Bloods” play Wednesday afternoon, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines will do battle in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Both programs come off of disappointing end to their regular-season, as they both lost to their rivals. Alabama dropping a wild 48 – 45 game in the Iron Bowl to Auburn and Michigan losing badly 56-27 to Ohio State and their finale at home.
The Tide are without All American caliber quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who suffered a fractured hip late in the year. However, Nick Saban has arguably the best wide receiving corps in all of college football to compensate for Tagovailoa’s absence.
Michigan has perennially under-achieved under coach Jim Harbaugh, but would love nothing better than to score a head-to-head win against Bama in this one.
Meanwhile across I-4 in Tampa, the 25th playing of the Outback Bowl will take place and it’s a first-time matchup between the SEC Auburn Tigers and the big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Gophers were Darlings of the Big Ten late in the year that they got to 9 – 0 for only the second time in program history before faltering with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin which knock them out of the Big Ten championship game. Their coach P.J. Fleck is the Big Ten coach of the year and has done an amazing job of making Minnesota nationally relevant.
As for the Tigers, we mentioned the victory over Alabama which was particularly sweet for Coach Gus Malzahn, who has been under fire in recent years for not living up to success earlier in the 2010s. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix, the son of the former Auburn star Patrick Nix, leads a high-powered attack that will look to finish the season on a winning note. The Tigers lost their three biggest games of the year to Florida, LSU, and Georgia, but wins over Alabama and Minnesota will help.
The Gophers have had their most important season since they played in the Rose Bowl in 1962 and would love nothing better than to upset the Tigers in this one.