The 43rd Independence Bowl (1:30 p.m. ET) is the first of three games on Thursday, December 27. It's difficult to imagine that this bowl game, which is played in a horrible stadium that should be demolished, is still around. We have people who have been there and came away shocked and appalled. More concession stands were closed than open, the women's restrooms lacked toilet paper, the staff seemed ill-informed or didn't care, the parking lots hadn't seen an upgrade since the dawn of time.... well, you get the idea. We've been to numerous stadiums in America and this one easily rates at the bottom of the spectrum. The Football Bowl Association should have some basic requirements regarding venue quality before accepting their proposal to host a postseason affair.
With that off our chest, here's a preview of the game between a 7-5 Duke team that ranks 48th in the Congrove Computer Rankings and an 8-4 Temple team that ranks 50th. The Blue Devils played the 41st-ranked schedule while the Owls' slate ranks 95th. This is the first meeting between these two teams and Temple arrives without head coach Geoff Collins who has moved on to Georgia Tech after just two seasons with the Philadelphia school. Ed Foley, who primarily coached tight ends and special teams, will serve as interim head coach. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is making his fourth appearance in Shreveport after having brought his Ole Miss teams here three times in 1998, 1999 and 2002. This is Duke's fifth trip to a bowl game in the past five seasons, having won its last two to improve its bowl record to 5-7. Duke played 10 bowl teams this season, and went 5-5 in those contests. Temple faced 5 bowl teams and went 3-2 in those games. Owl quarterback Anthony Russo sat out the regular season finale vs. Connecticut, but Temple still routed the Huskies 57-7. He was listed as questionable for the bowl game as of December 16. Ryquell Armstead, the conference's second-leading rusher at 109.8 yards per game, was listed as probable for the Owls. The Blue Devils were inexplicably blasted 59-7 by Wake Forest in their season finale, a week after getting blown out 35-6 by Clemson - part of a disastrous 1-4 finish which is likely the catalyst behind the oddsmakers installing Temple as a 3-point favorite. That line had risen to 4 as of December 16, but the computer has Duke favored by 9.02.
The Independence Bowl is followed by the Pinstripe Bowl (5:15 p.m. ET) at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx and features an ACC/Big Ten matchup of No. 34 Miami and No. 37 Wisconsin. It's the second consecutive matchup of these two schools in the postseason, following Wisconsin's 34-24 Orange Bowl win last year when Alex Hornibrook threw 4 TD passes and Jonathan Taylor rushed for 130 yards. Sophomore Jack Coan will start at QB for the Badgers in this year's bowl game after it was reported on December 20 that Hornibrook is dealing with concussion symptoms. Coan started three games this season, completing 61% of his throws with 4 TD passes and 2 INT's. The Hurricanes started the season 5-1, then lost 4 straight before righting the ship with victories over Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh to close the season at 7-5. Wisconsin is also 7-5 after starting 4-1. The Badgers were just 2-5 versus bowl teams while Miami was 4-5 in such games. Miami is only 7-8 overall in its last 15 games. Wisconsin is on a 4-bowl winning streak while Miami is 1-7 in its last 7bowl games. Nonetheless, the computer favors Miami by 3.35.
The Texas Bowl (9:00 p.m. ET) in Houston is the final game on December 27 and pits No. 70 Baylor (6-6) against No. 67 Vanderbilt (6-6). Vandy finished 6th out of 7 teams in the SEC East by finishing 3-5 vs. league foes. The Commodores closed the season by winning 3 of their last 4 to become bowl eligible. Baylor tied for 5th in the Big 12 by going 4-5 in conference play, but won an all-important regular season finale at Texas Tech in what was essentially a de facto playoff game for bowl eligibility. After that game, Texas Tech wound up firing head coach Kliff Kingsbury while the Bears found themselves back in the postseason after missing a trip in 2017 on the heels of the Art Briles debacle. Baylor improved by 5 wins in 2018 over its 1-11 performance in the first season under Matt Rhule. The Bears are 12-11 in their bowl history. Vanderbilt also missed the 2016 bowl season while going 5-7 a year ago. The Commodores are 4-3-1 in bowl games and are favored by 2.78 to win this one.