Game played at Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
Cal Golden Bears vs. Air Force Falcons (+7, 67)
LOCKHEED MARTIN ARMED FORCES BOWL STORYLINES
1. Two teams with very different offensive styles meet Dec. 29 as Air Force takes on California in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. Air Force’s ground game ranks third nationally with 321.8 rushing yards per game, while Cal boasts an explosive aerial attack led by junior quarterback Jared Goff, who broke his own single-season school records for passing yards and touchdowns. The teams are meeting for the first time since the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl, when the Golden Bears overcame a 21-point deficit and escaped with a 42-36 victory.
2. Cal won two of its final three games to secure its first postseason appearance since 2011, while Air Force won five straight to clinch the Mountain West Mountain Division title but fell 27-24 to San Diego State in the conference championship game. The Falcons’ triple-option offense has received a boost from tailback Jacobi Owens, who started the final seven games and rushed for a season-best 156 yards against San Diego State. The Golden Bears also will need to keep a close eye on senior quarterback Karson Roberts, who has rushed for nine touchdowns and thrown for nine others.
3. All five of Air Force’s losses came away from home this season, but it should have solid backing in Fort Worth, which is less than a 12-hour drive from Colorado Springs. Safety Weston Steelhammer recorded a team-high 80 tackles and five interceptions as well as 10.5 tackles for loss and seven pass breakups to lead the Falcons, who ranked third in the Mountain West in scoring defense at 23.2 points per game. Steelhammer will need another strong effort against the Golden Bears, who closed the regular season with a 48-46 home win over Arizona State.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened Cal as a 7-point fave. The total is up to 67 from the opening 65.5.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the mid-40s under partly cloudy skies with wind blowing toward the northwest endzone at around six mph.
* Golden Bears are 2-5 ATS in their last seven Bowl games.
* Falcons are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in Falcons last four games overall.
* Over is 6-2 in Golden Bears last eight Bowl games.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Game played at Orlando Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
(11) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (19) Baylor Bears (+2.5, 69.5)
RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL STORYLINES
1. North Carolina goes after its school-record 12th victory of the season when it takes on injury-plagued Baylor at the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla. The No. 10 Tar Heels lost their opener to South Carolina and won 11 consecutive games before dropping the ACC Championship game 45-37 against No. 1 Clemson. North Carolina has won 11 contests for the fourth time (also 1972, 1980 and 1997) and faces the No. 17 Bears, who lost three of the last four games.
2. Four different quarterbacks have been under center this season for Baylor and freshman Jarrett Stidham (broken ankle) is not expected to be ready, which will hand the start to Chris Johnson. The sophomore won’t be able to look in the direction of Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman (74 receptions, 1,363 yards and a nation-leading 20 touchdowns), who has been ruled out due to a sports hernia. Coach Art Briles also announced that running back Shock Linwood (1,329 yards rushing, 10 TDs) would not play against North Carolina due to a broken foot.
3. There’s no doubt who will be at the helm for North Carolina as senior quarterback Marquise Williams attempts to end his final campaign with another strong performance. Williams is one of five ACC players in history to accumulate more than 10,000 yards of offense and threw 12 of his 21 touchdown passes this season in the last six games while suffering only two interceptions in that span. The 6-2, 225-pound Williams has also rushed for 867 yards and 11 scores in 2015, and has been responsible for a school-record 94 touchdowns in his career.
TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened Baylor as a 2.5-point fave, but that has been adjusted to +3. The total is up one point from the opening 68.5.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the high-70s under partly cloudy skies with wind blowing toward the north endzone at around six mph.
* Tar Heels are 1-4 ATS in their last five neutral site games.
* Bears are 1-5 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Over is 4-1 in Tar Heels last five games overall.
* Over is 5-0 in Bears last five neutral site games.
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Game played at Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Colorado State Rams (-3, 55.5)
NOVA HOME LOANS ARIZONA BOWL STORYLINES
1. For the first time since the Big Eight’s Nebraska and Oklahoma met in the 1979 Orange Bowl, two opponents from the same conference will square off in a non-playoff bowl game when Nevada and Colorado State of the Mountain West meet Dec. 29 in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson. With only 77 bowl-eligible teams to fill 80 slots and several conferences unable to fill their affiliations, the selection process became a scramble and, when the dust settled, the West-Division Wolf Pack and Mountain-Division Rams wound up pitted against each other in the first-year bowl. The teams did not meet in the regular season due to the conference’s unbalanced-schedule rotation, but Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson quickly issued a statement following the bowl-pairings announcement Dec. 6, saying: “It is a travesty the Mountain West has been forced into this situation. Clearly, the system is broken. … There is consensus change needed, and this year’s outcome must not be repeated.”
2. Nevada struggled offensively this season, ranking 87th in the FBS in scoring (26.1 points per game) and 83rd in total offense (377.7 yards), and will have an interim play-caller in Tucson with offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich leaving to accept the head-coaching position at Hawaii. Wide receivers coach Jim Hofher, a former head coach at Cornell and Buffalo, will handle the duties and also will switch from coaching the receivers to quarterbacks. And with the Wolf Pack playing in a post-Christmas bowl game, coach Brian Polian has started his search for the team’s next offensive coordinator to step in for Rolovich, who had served in that capacity the last four seasons.
3. Mike Bobo already has had the most successful initial coaching season in Colorado State history, and the Rams are building on that with the additional practices and the extra game itself. In particular, quarterback Nick Stevens has shown strides under Bobo, the offensive coordinator at Georgia the previous eight seasons, as he set the program’s sophomore record with 2,369 passing yards. Stevens also has thrown a Mountain West-leading 21 touchdown passes – the fifth-highest single-season total in Colroado State history.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, American Sports Network/Campus Insiders.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Rams as 3.5-point faves but that’s moved to -3. The total opened at 56 and is down to 55.5.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the low-40s under clear skies. Wind will blow across the field at around six mph.
* Wolf Pack are 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven bowl games.
* Under is 4-1 in Wolf Pack last five Bowl games.
* Under is 5-0 in the last five meetings.
* Over is 4-1 in Rams last five Bowl games.
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl
Game played at NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
(21) LSU Tigers vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (+7, 73.5)
ADVOCARE V100 TEXAS BOWL STORYLINES
1. LSU coach Les Miles spent the last few weeks of the regular season unsure about his job security but comes into bowl season armed with the knowledge that he’ll be back to guide Leonard Fournette and company again next year. Miles will try to reward the school’s faith in him when he leads the Tigers against Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl in Houston on Dec. 29. The Red Raiders enter the postseason with some momentum after knocking off Kansas State and Texas in their final two games.
2. Texas Tech boasts the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation at an average of 46.6 points and the No. 2 passing attack (389.7 yards). LSU proved to be more vulnerable in the defensive secondary than usual and slipped to 47th against the pass, surrendering an average of 211 yards through the air. The Tigers were in the mix for a spot in the National Championship Playoff before surrendering 30 or more points in three straight losses, but finished the regular season with a 19-7 triumph over Texas A&M.
3. The Red Raiders will put their passing offense up against any opponent behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who enters bowl season third in the nation with 4,283 passing yards. The sophomore threw for 32 touchdowns and rushed for 10 more in a breakout campaign. The Texas Tech passing game is in direct contrast to LSU’s attack, in which quarterback Brandon Harris heads an offense that averages 173.1 yards – 110th in the nation.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Red Raiders as 7-point dogs but that is now +7.5. The total has is at the opening number of 73.5.
* Tigers are 0-4 ATS in their last four bowl games.
* Red Raiders are 2-6 ATS in their last eight Bowl games.
* Over is 5-0 in Tigers last five non-conference games.
* Over is 6-1 in Red Raiders last seven Bowl games.