After a 3-day lay-off for Christmas, bowl season resumes today (Wednesday, December 26) with the SERVPRO First Responders Bowl, the Quick Lane Bowl, and the Cheez-It Bowl. All three will be broadcast on the main ESPN channel in your area.
The SERVPRO First Responders Bowl (1:30 p.m. ET) was previously known as the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and the Ticket City Bowl. This game was toast until September 12 when the Dallas City Council voted 8-6 in favor of giving ESPN a $300,000 subsidy out of its Parks and Recreation Department budget to keep the game at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Fair Park for this year and 2019.
The decision came after months of government leadership wrangling and the rejection of an initial $800,000 request. ESPN had sent out a press release in August announcing the bowl name change and title sponsor. The bowl has a history of allotting 4 free tickets to the families of first responders on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The bowl began in 2011 when the Cotton Bowl moved relocated from Cotton Bowl Stadium to "Jerry World" in Arlington. Dallas has hosted a bowl game every year since 1930.
This year's game was supposed to draw teams from the Big Ten and Conference USA, but the bowl's position in the pecking order left it scrambling for 'leftovers' and, luckily, they were able to slot two good teams in Boise State (10-3, 7-1 MWC) and Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC).
Boston College finished the regular season on a 3-game losing streak after a 7-2 start. Boise State fell at home to Fresno State in the MWC title game for just its 9th home loss since 1999. The BC offense completely disappeared over the last 3 games, averaging just 16 points per contest against Florida State, Clemson and Syracuse. The Broncos enjoyed a 7-game winning streak before the loss to Fresno.
The Eagles are 1-6 in bowl games since 2008, including 1-3 under Steve Addazio. Boise State is 7-2 in the school's last 9 postseason trips, including 3-1 under Bryan Harsin. Boston College was a 27-21 winner in the only other meeting between these schools in the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl, now known as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The Broncos were installed as a 3-point by oddsmakers, but the computer favors Boston College by 2.52.
The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit is next at 5:15 p.m. ET and features the first-ever meeting of Georgia Tech against Minnesota for its planned Big Ten/ACC line-up. The game will serve as a career-ending one for Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson who announced his retirement on November 28 after a 45-27 loss to Georgia completed a 7-5 season. Johnson is 189-98 overall heading into this game, including a record of 82-59 with the Yellow Jackets. This year, Georgia Tech was 2nd in the ACC Coastal with a 5-3 mark.
Temple head coach Geoff Collins was announced as the new head man in Atlanta on December 7.
Georgia Tech led the nation in rushing this year with an average of 334.92 yards per game, some 38 yards more than 2nd-place Army. The Jackets attempted only 114 passes all season (3rd fewest of 130 FBS teams) and completed only 51 (2nd fewest).
Minnesota finished 5th in the Big Ten's west division with an overall record of 6-6 and a Big Ten mark of 3-6. The Golden Gophers rank 86th in total offense and 69th in scoring compared to ranks of 52 (scoring) and 22 (total offense) for Georgia Tech. The Jackets also out-rank Minnesota on defense, 46-to-64. The Gophers rank 76th at stopping the run.
Oddsmakers have Georgia Tech as a 6-point favorite (as of December 15) after the line opened at minus-4. The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com give Georgia Tech a 2.72-point advantage.
The last game up is the Cheez-It Bowl, formerly known as the Arizona Bowl. The 8:30 p.m. ET game will pit TCU against Cal in another first-time matchup. The Horned Frogs tied for fifth in the 10-team Big 12 while Cal was next-to-last in the 6-team north division of the PAC-12.
2018 was TCU's worst regular season won-loss performance since 2014. Preseason expectations of a 10-2 season turned into a 6-6 overall (4-5 Big 12) campaign on the field. Cal finished exactly as predicted (7-5, 4-5 PAC-12) by the Congrove Computer Rankings.
Cal's big win of the season came against Washington on October 27 when the Bears upset the Huskies 12-10 in Berkeley. Their only other win over a bowl team came on September 8th when the downed BYU 21-18 in Provo. But they also defeated USC 15-14 in L.A. to snap a 14-game losing streak to the Trojans while notching their first win on USC's home field since 2000.
TCU collected wins over three bowl teams - Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State - the last two of which were needed to avoid missing the bowl season altogether.
The line on this game opened with TCU favored by 1, but oddsmakers were all over the map as of December 15. Many list it as 'pick 'em' while some have Cal by 1 and others have TCU by 1. The computer favors the Horned Frogs by 2.86.