Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe
Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) runs against UTSA during the first half of an NCAA college football game in the Conference USA Championship, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


Mike Shara

Admittedly, you have to be kind of a maniacal college football fan or an alumni of one of the schools playing this weekend to get really excited about the mid-December bowl games. The bowl games that happen before Christmas are not generally known as the cream of the crop. They tend to be the bowl games that you’ve never really heard of (or never knew existed in the first place) and tend to feature matchups of schools that finished third or fourth in their division with records hovering somewhere around .500

That doesn’t mean that the games won’t be interesting, though. To wit:

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-In Friday’s Bahamas Bowl (going to Nassau for a week is a nice reward for a mediocre season), Middle Tennessee will have freshman quarterback Nick Vattiato facing off against Toledo, who boast one of the country’s better defenses and almost pulled off an upset of Notre Dame earlier in the year.

-In the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl (catchy title, huh?), Coastal Carolina – who have a 21-3 record over the last two seasons, will try to win their first-ever bowl game against Northern Illinois, who finished the season 9-4 after a disastrous, winless, Covid-shortened season in 2020.

-In Saturday’s Roofclaim.com Boca Raton Bowl (say that five times fast), Appalachian State will try to win their seventh consecutive bowl game. Yes, you read that correctly – since joining the FBS in 2015 the Mountaineers have made a bowl game every year and have won every time. Their opponents this year are the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky, whose QB Bailey Zappe led all of FBS with over 5,500 passing yards.

-Head Coach Deion Sanders (that still sounds crazy to people of my generation) will lead his 11-1 Jackson State Tigers into Saturday’s Celebration Bowl. Sanders has already had a good week, having signed 5-star recruit Travis Hunter to a scholarship for next season. Now he’ll try to make it a great week by beating South Carolina State who won a lot of close games to salvage their season after losing four of their first five in 2021.

All games listed below are at Eastern Standard Time.


BAHAMAS BOWL – Toledo vs. Middle Tennessee State (+10 on BetMGM)
LOCATION: Robinson Stadium, Nassau | TIME: 12 noon | NETWORK: ESPN   

TAILGREETER CURE BOWL – Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina (-10.5 on FanDuel)
LOCATION: Exploria Stadium, Orlando     TIME: 6 pm | NETWORK: ESPN2


BOCA RATON BOWL – Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State (-3 on DraftKings)
LOCATION: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton    TIME: 11 am | NETWORK: ESPN

NEW MEXICO BOWL – UTEP vs. Fresno State (-11.5 on BetMGM)
LOCATION: University Stadium, Albuquerque  TIME: 2:15 pm | NETWORK: ESPN

INDEPENDENCE BOWL – Alabama-Birmingham vs. #13 BYU (-7 on DraftKings)
LOCATION: Independence Stadium, Shreveport  TIME: 3:30 pm | NETWORK: ABC

LENDING TREE BOWL – Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty (-9.5 on FanDuel)
LOCATION: Hancock Whitney Stadium, Mobile   TIME: 5:45 pm | NETWORK: ESPN

L.A. BOWL – Utah State vs. Oregon State (-7.5 on FanDuel)
LOCATION: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood    TIME: 7:30 pm | NETWORK: ABC

NEW ORLEANS BOWL – #23 Louisiana vs. Marshall (+5.5 on BetMGM)
LOCATION: Superdome, New Orleans   TIME: 9:15 pm | NETWORK: ESPN

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