This will be a much different holiday season than years past but for all the uncertainty that 2020 as brought, the best part will never change.
Forget about presents, families or good old fashioned Christmas cheer, I’m talking about college football Bowl season!
All year long, I’ve previewed and predicted every single NCAA game featuring Canadians. It was an impressive slate that amounted to 261 games through 16 weeks and produced some stellar performances. I hit more than I missed, correctly predicting the results of 73.5 percent of the match-ups, but now it’s time to do it one more time for all the marbles.
Canadians will suit up for 15 high-profile games in the coming weeks, including both CFB Playoff games and some of the most well-known Bowls outside the big show. As you get set to enjoy the festive season and ring in the New Year in front of a flat screen, I have all these Canadian matchups previewed and picked for your viewing pleasure.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 23)
Louisiana Tech vs Georgia Southern
CanCon: Gabe Semieniec, PK, SR (LATech)
Result: 38-3 Georgia Southern
New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 24)
Hawai’i vs Houston (-11.5)
CanCon: Nick Mardner, REC, SO (HI), Olivier Charles-Pierre, NT, SR (Hou)
Preview: It’s the New Mexico Bowl, just being played in Frisco, Texas. If that pandemic-fuelled irony isn’t enough for you, Canadian Nick Mardner has been quiet since a 147-yard performance seven weeks ago but he went off in the team’s Bowl last year. Getting the passing game going will be key for the Rainbow Warriors in this one, but Houston has the better team around quarterback Clayton Thune. Take the Cougars.
Camellia Bowl (Dec. 25)
Marshall vs Buffalo (-4.5)
CanCon: Dominic Johnson, REC, SR (Buf), Gabe Wallace, RT, SO (Buf), Cole Burniston, TE, SO (Buf), Deondre Dorion, OL, FR (Buf)
Preview: Consider this a Christmas gift to fans of old-school football. Buffalo’s offensive line is the best outside of the Power 5 and a top ten unit nationally, paving the way for the stellar Jaret Patterson to the tune of 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns in just six games. That run game stalled out in a shocking loss to Ball State in the MAC Championship and re-establishing it will be key against a Marshall defence that tops the nation in scoring and sits third overall. Buffalo has a rough history when it comes to Bowl games however, especially coming off emotional losses. This smells like a Thundering Herd upset.
FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl (Dec. 26)
Liberty vs No. 12 Coastal Carolina (-7)
CanCon: John Kourtis, C, SO (Lib), Enock Makonzo, WLB, JR (CC), Wilt Gabe II, DE, SO (CC)
Preview: If you are a fan of a Group of 5 CFB Playoff, this could be the game for you. Undefeated Coastal Carolina didn’t have a chance to claim the Sun Belt title because of a COVID-19 outbreak but they are an excellent team with two big victories over ranked teams. Quarterback Grayson McCall has been spectacular all year and All-American DE Tarron Jackson has helped lead the Chanticleers to their first ever Bowl appearance. 9-1 Liberty has one more appearance under their belt and dynamic dual-threat passer Malik Willis should give Lachine native Enock Makonzo some headaches on the edge, but betting against the Chants has been a fools errand in 2020.
Pick: Coastal Carolina
Cheez-It Bowl (Dec. 29)
No. 21 Oklahoma State (-2) vs No. 18 Miami
CanCon: Amen Ogbongbemiga, MLB, SR (OkSt)
Preview: There will be no Chuba Hubbard for Oklahoma State, but Calgary’s Amen Ogbongbemiga will be keeping the Canadian Cowboy moniker alive as one of the headliners on a strong defence. Ogbongbemiga has been stellar recently but the group as a whole has been trending down over the last three week. That doesn’t bode well against the hot hand of Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King. While Cowboys’ receiver Tylan Wallace is one of the countries best, sophomore Spencer Sanders isn’t consistent enough to let him take over a game. The outlook for this one is pretty stormy.
TransPerfect Music City Bowl (Dec. 30)
No. 15 Iowa (-14.5) vs Missouri
CanCon: Alaric Jackson, LT, SR (Iowa)
Preview: Windsor-born Alaric Jackson will be a hot commodity on Day Two of the 2021 NFL Draft but first he’ll get to show off by grinding down a dirt poor Mizzou run defence with the rest of the Hawkeyes O-line. Mizzou is overmatched here if the game goes ahead, but they will have an outside chance if Iowa can’t field its best lineup after temporarily halting operations due to COVID-19 in the program. Under normal circumstances, take Iowa.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (Dec. 30)
No. 7 Florida (-3) vs No. 6 Oklahoma
CanCon: Lamar Goods, DT, FR (Flo)
Preview: If this game isn’t on your must-watch list, you must not like scoring. Spencer Rattler leading a usually high-flying Lincoln Riley offence. Likely Heisman finalist Kyle Trask taking on a burgeoning Oklahoma. It’s a recipe for excitement and intrigue. Florida will have quite the come down after going shot for shot with Alabama, especially with star tight end Kyle Pitts opting out to focus on the NFL, but Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes can make the aerial attack explosive on their own. The Gators defence will give up plenty of points to Rattler, Rhamondre Stevenson and company, but should have the offensive juice to overcome.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31)
West Virginia (-7.5) vs Army
CanCon: Alonzo Addae, FS, SR (WV), Akheem Mesidor, DE, FR (WV)
Preview: West Virginia’s Canadian contingent has been spectacular all season long, with Addae holding down the back-end and freshman sensation Mesidor taking a major rotational pass-rushing role on one of the country’s best defensive lines beside All-American Darius Stills. Unfortunately neither of them will have a chance to show off their best skillset against nine win Army. Their original pre-COVID-19 match-up against Tennessee would have been a cake walk, but the West Point cadets will keep it on the ground and dominate on defence. That’s a tough combo for the Mountaineers to deal with on short notice.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Jan. 1)
No. 9 Georgia (-7) vs No. 8 Cincinnati
CanCon: Bruno Labelle, TE, SR (Cin)
Preview: Cincinnati got the stiff-arm from the playoff committee but they have a chance to prove they belonged against a major SEC opponent that most think was ranked higher than they deserved. Georgia quarterback JT Daniels has the team firing on all cylinders in his three starts but the quality of opponents leaves a lot to be desired. The Bearcats are a much tougher test. Quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Gerrid Doaks are a tough duo to stop on the ground, especially when Canadian tight end Bruno Labelle is in the lineup and moving bodies on the edge. This will be tight, but I believe in Cincinnati.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One – CFP Semifinal (Jan. 1)
No. 4 Notre Dame vs No. 1 Alabama (-20)
CanCon: John Metchie III, REC, SO (Ala)
Preview: Sure, Notre Dame dealt Clemson their only loss this year but don’t overthink this. The Crimson Tide are as close to an unstoppable force as you’ll find, with Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith forming a three-headed monster of Heisman candidates. All due respect to Ian Book but the Fighting Irish quarterback is not good enough to compensate for that talent deficit, especially when his entire defence will be too scared to force a turnover lest they suffer a death blow from the John Metchie III. Roll Tide.
Allstate Sugar Bowl – CFP Semifinal (Jan. 1)
No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson (-7.5)
CanCon: Ajou Ajou, REC, FR (Clem)
Preview: Last year’s semi-final between these two teams was an absolute thriller, but don’t bet on this being a repeat. Justin Fields has shown some flaws of late, the Buckeyes defence isn’t as good as the 2019 version and Trevor Lawrence is still Trevor Lawrence. This will still be competitive so don’t expect the pride of Brooks, Alberta Ajou Ajou to see much action, but bet on the Tigers heading back to the show.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (Jan. 2)
No. 23 NC State vs Kentucky (-2.5)
CanCon: Daniel Joseph, DE, SR (NCSt)
Preview: When it comes to post-season action, the SEC teams will always get the benefit of the doubt, but it’s not merited here. Kentucky is a losing team coming into the game without an offensive coordinator, while NC State has two ranked wins and kept it within a field goal against Miami. The Wolfpack run defence has been questionable at times and there won’t be a ton of opportunities for Canadian Daniel Joseph to rush the passer against the Wildcats old school attack, but Bailey Hockman should get it done under centre for the ACC squad.
Pick: NC State
Outback Bowl (Jan. 2)
Ole Miss vs No. 11 Indiana (-6.5)
CanCon: Tavius Robinson, OLB, JR (Miss), Deane Leonard, CB, SR (Miss), DK Bonhomme, OLB, SO (Ind)
Preview: This could well be the only Bowl with Canadians starting for both teams so it is definitely one to circle for Canadian fans. Ole Miss’ pair of U Sports transfers have become instant key contributors for a questionable SEC defence and Indiana has high hopes for Bonhomme off the edge, providing a trio of Canucks for you to sink your teeth into in the New Year. The game should have plenty of excitement to boot, with the Rebels offence able to compete in a shootout or die trying. Quarterback Matt Corral has thrown five or more picks on two occasions this year and Indiana leads the nation with 17 interceptions. There will be fireworks one way or another, but the Hoosiers are plenty motivated to win their first Bowl since 1991 after a New Year’s Six snub.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 2)
No. 25 Oregon vs No. 10 Iowa State (-4.5)
CanCon: Nick Wiebe, LB, SO (Ore)
Preview: Oregon is the Pac-12 champion that wasn’t supposed to be, vanquishing USC after serving as Washington’s emergency COVID-19 replacement. A talented defence led by edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux helped put the Trojans on ice and the Ducks hope to force the same type of rocky performance from hot-and-cold Cyclones starter Brock Purdy. Unfortunately for them, All-American running back Breece Hall has been much tougher to stop.
Pick: Iowa State
Capital One Orange Bowl (Jan. 2)
No. 5 Texas A&M (-7) vs No. 13 North Carolina
CanCon: Patrice Rene, CB, SR (UNC)
Preview: Texas A&M has been much aggrieved that their early season loss to Alabama kept them out of the College Football Playoff and now they have a chance to prove their worth against a very talented North Carolina squad. The Tar Heels offence will be a test for the Aggies, led by talented quarterback Sam Howell, dynamic receiver Dyami Brown and the backfield duo of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. A&M will try and keep that group off the field with the talents of their Joe Moore Award finalist offensive line and All-SEC running back Isaiah Spiller. I pick the Aggies to take it, but selfishly hope they let Kellen Mond throw the ball so Patrice Rene can strut his stuff in his final college game.
Pick: Texas A&M