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2014 Bowl Notes and Facts

33 of 38 games have a projected margin of less than 7 points

by Dave Congrove
December 13, 2014

According to my Congrove Computer Rankings, UCF is favored by 12.18 points over N.C. State. Additionally, Utah State is an 11.52-point choice over UTEP, and Stanford is projected to prevail by 11.20 over Maryland. Why are those picks highlighted in the opening paragraph of this bowl season preview? Because they are the only games out of 38 set preseason matchups that have a double-digit spread in the computer.

Last season, 6 games had a computer spread larger than this season's highest spread, and 10 games had predicted margins above 10 points.

Here's a better example of how tight this year's postseason games could be - 8 games have less than a single-point separation, and over half of the games (20, to be exact) are under 4 points.

The 2014 bowl season commences on Saturday, December 20 at 11:00 a.m. eastern time in New Orleans, and ends on January 12th in Arlington, Texas with the first College Football Playoff Championship game.

The bowl season has swelled to 39 contests altogether, if you include the final 4 playoffs and title affair. A record 76 teams have advanced to the postseason. That represents nearly 60% of the 128 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. (By the way, don't we have to do away with calling this the "bowl" subdivision now that a champion is determined via a quasi-playoff format?).

81 schools met postseason eligibility requirements. The 5 which were left behind are Temple, MTSU, Ohio, Texas State and newly defunct UAB. All were 6-6, except Texas State (7-5).

The computer calls for several outright upsets, including Ohio State over Alabama by 5.51 points after the Vegas spread opened with Alabama favored by 9-1/2.

The new bowls this year are the Camellia in Birmingham, the Miami Beach and Boca Raton bowls (at obvious destinations), The Bahamas Bowl in Nassau, and the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, which comes under management from the NFL's Detroit Lions and replaces the Motor City/Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Several bowls underwent name changes. The Most notable of these is the Capital One Bowl becoming the Citrus Bowl, the Chick-fil-A reverting back to the Peach Bowl (sponsored by Chick-fil-A), the Gator officially becoming the TaxSlayer Bowl, and the Copper/Insight/Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl becoming the Cactus Bowl.

Sponsorships have changed all over the place, as they often do. For instance, the San Francisco area bowl game has been called the San Francisco Bowl, the Emerald Bowl, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the Fight Hunger Bowl. This year the game moves to the NFL 49ers' new home in Santa Clara and becomes the Foster Farms Bowl.

All of the traditional bowl games will be played within a 16-day span, concluding with the GoDaddy Bowl on January 4.

Last year, the computer was 21-14 in picking bowl winners and is 350-223 since the inception of the rankings in 1993.

As of this writing, 4 teams will be led in their bowl games by assistants who were appointed as interim head coaches - Colorado State, Florida, Houston and Nebraska. And for the second time in 3 years, Barry Alvarez will come of coaching retirement to lead Wisconsin in its bowl game.

10 BOWLS FEATURE FIRST-TIME MEETINGS:
Thanks to a bloated bowl season, 10 games will feature these first-time matchups:
Utah State vs. UTEP (New Mexico Bowl)
Air Force vs. Western Michigan (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl)
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green (Camellia Bowl)
BYU vs. Memphis (Miami Beach Bowl)
Duke vs. Arizona State (Sun Bowl)
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia (Liberty Bowl)
Louisville vs. Georgia (Belk Bowl)
Maryland vs. Stanford (Foster Farms Bowl)
Arizona vs. Boise State (Fiesta Bowl)
Oregon vs. Florida State (Rose Bowl)

COMPUTER SUCCESS and FAILURES:
It's been a mixed bag of results for the computer this season. The preseason forecast correctly pegged the conference titles in the ACC (Florida State), American (UCF tied), Big Ten (Ohio State), CUSA (Marshall), and Independents (picked BYU to share). It picked additional division winners in the MAC East (Bowling Green), MAC West (Northern Illinois) and MWC Mountain (Boise State). During the season, the computer has picked the winner in over 76.3% of all games played for its 4th-best mark in 22 seasons. But it has hit just 47.9% against the spread for its worst mark ever in that category. It's previous worst was 48.9% in 2010 and its historical average is 53.7%.

The Congrove Computer Rankings came within two wins or losses of predicting the final regular season record of 67 teams.

BOWL FACTS:
Only the newest teams in the FBS - Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Massachusetts, Old Dominion, Texas State and UTSA - have not made it to a bowl game. Of those schools, only Georgia State, UMass, Texas State were fully ineligible for selection this year.

South Alabama is bowling for the first time this year after just 3 seasons in the FBS.

Western Kentucky made its only previous bowl appearance in 2012 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl when it faced Central Michigan. The Hilltoppers made it back to the bowl season this year and are paired with the Chippewas in the Bahamas Bowl. Incidentally, the 2012 matchup with WKU was also Central Michigan's last bowl trip.

Alabama is making its 15th Sugar Bowl appearance overall, and 2nd in-a-row.

Florida State is making just its 2nd Rose Bowl appearance and they're back-to-back.

Texas will play in the Texas Bowl for the first time, and its only the second time in 53 bowl appearances that the Longhorns will play Arkansas in a bowl game.

This is the 4th straight season that Arkansas State will appear in the GoDaddy Bowl, but the first time the Red Wolves will have their actual head coach with them. Three previous appearances came under interim head coaches (John Thompson in 2012 and 2013, and David Gunn in 2011). So far, current head coach Blake Anderson has not been hired away like his predecessors were after just one season. Anderson replaced Bryan Harsin who replaced Gus Malzahn who replaced Hugh Freeze.

Louisiana-Lafayette will play in the New Orleans Bowl for the 4th straight season after winning the previous three. It is the only postseason game the Ragin' Cajuns have ever played in as a member of the FBS.

First Time Ever In A Bowl Game
South Alabama.

First Time In A Long Time
Of the teams that made it this year, these had the longest wait to get back to a bowl game:
Memphis, 2008
Tennessee, 2010
UTEP, 2010

Waiting To Return
These teams have the longest continuing current streaks of bowl absence:
New Mexico State, 1960
Eastern Michigan, 1987

Bowl Appearance Streak
These teams have the longest continuing current streaks of bowl appearances:
Florida State, 33
Virginia Tech, 22
Georgia, 18
Georgia Tech, 18

Bowl Winning Streak
These teams have the most consecutive bowl victories (last season of a bowl loss in parenthesis):
Florida State, 6 (2007)
Mississippi, 6 (2000)
Texas Tech, 4 (2008)
Louisiana-Lafayette, 3 (Never)
Marshall, 3 (2004)
Michigan State, 3 (2010)
San Jose State, 3 (1987)
South Carolina, 3 (2010)
Syracuse, 3 (2004)
Texas A&M, 3 (2010)
UCF, 3 (2009)

Bowl Losing Streak
These teams have the most consecutive bowl losses (last season of a bowl win in parenthesis):
Ball State, 7 (Never)
Minnesota, 6 (2004)
Fresno State, 5 (2007)
UTEP, 5 (1967)
Western Michigan, 5 (Never)
Boston College, 4 (2007)
Bowling Green, 4 ( 2004)
Duke, 4 (1960)
Miami (Fla), 4 (2006)
Wisconsin, 4 (2009)

Bowl Winless (at least 1 appearance)
Ball State, 0-7
Western Michigan, 0-5
Buffalo, 0-2
Kent State, 0-2
Akron, 0-1
Louisiana-Monroe, 0-1
UAB, 0-1
Western Kentucky, 0-1

Best Bowl Winning Percentage
(Minimum 20 appearances. Source: College Football Data Warehouse)
USC, .660 (33-17)
Mississippi, .657 (23-12)
Florida State, .643 (26-14-2)
Penn State, .636 (27-15-2)
Oklahoma State, .625 (15-9)
Syracuse, .620 (15-9-1)
Oklahoma, .606 (28-18-1)
Auburn, .605 (22-14-2)
Alabama, .598 (35-23-3)
Georgia, .582 (27-19-3)
Boston College, .565 (13-10)

Most Bowl Wins
Alabama, 35
Southern Cal, 33
Oklahoma, 28
Georgia, 27
Penn State, 27
Texas, 27
Florida State, 26
Nebraska, 25
Tennessee, 25
Georgia Tech, 23
LSU, 23
Mississippi, 23
Auburn, 22
Florida, 20
Michigan, 20
Ohio State, 20

UNDEFEATED AND WINLESS TEAMS:
Only Florida State (13-0) finished the regular season unbeaten. No team went winless, and only 3 schools won less than 2 games - Georgia State (1-11), Idaho (1-10) and SMU (1-11).

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS schools were 100-8 (.926) in matchups vs. FCS teams this year, and they now have a cumulative record of 931-89 (.913) since 2003.

Here are the results from all of this season's FBS losses to FCS schools:
8/30: Bethune-Cookman 14, FIU 12
8/30: North Dakota State 31, Iowa State 14
9/6: Eastern Kentucky 17, Miami (Ohio) 10
9/13: Indiana State 27, Ball State 20
9/13: Abilene Christian 38, Troy 35
9/20: NW State (La.) 30, Louisiana Tech 27
9/27: Yale 49, Army 43 (OT)
10/11: Liberty 55, Appalachian State 48 (OT)

North Dakota State's win over Iowa State on opening weekend was the 5th straight over a FBS team for the three-time defending FCS champions. Since 2010, NDSU has won road games at Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State, and now Iowa State. Conversely, Iowa State has lost 2 straight to FCS schools after opening last season with a loss to Northern Iowa.

Bethune-Cookman's win over FIU on opening weekend was its second straight over the Golden Panthers.

This year, 103 FBS schools scheduled a total of 108 games against FCS foes. Appalachian State, Army, Ball State, Buffalo and FIU each played 2 such games.

STREAKS:
Florida State - 29-game winning streak (FBS longest), 22-game conference winning streak (FBS longest). Beat Georgia Tech 37-35 in ACC Championship.

Alabama - Won 16 straight home games (tied for FBS longest). Beat Missouri 42-13 in SEC Championship at Atlanta.

Baylor - Won 16 straight home games (tied for FBS longest). Beat Kansas State 38-27 at home.

Ohio State - Won 13 straight road games (FBS longest). Beat Wisconsin 59-0 in Big Ten Championship at Indianapolis (not a true road game).

LSU - Won 49 straight regular season nonconference games (FBS longest). Regular season complete.

Georgia State - Lost 11 straight overall (FBS longest). Lost 14 straight conference games (FBS longest). Regular season complete.

Kansas - Lost 30 straight road games (FBS longest). Regular season complete.


2014 PRE-GAME ARCHIVES
12/13: 2014 Bowl Notes and Facts
12/04: Championship Week
11/25: Rivalry Week
11/18: Updated Projections Of Final 4, Conference Champions and Season-ending Rankings
11/10: Computer Updates Final 4 Projection; Week Features 5 More Matchups Of Top 25 Teams
11/03: Computer Updates Final 4 Projection; Week Features 5 Matchups Of Top 25 Teams
10/27: Playoff Committee's First Rankings Coming Tuesday Night; Computer Projects Final 4
10/20: Ole Miss Visits LSU In Week's Only Top 25 Matchup
10/13: Notre Dame at FSU Heads 5 Matchups Among Top 24 Teams
10/08: Upcoming Week Could Create "Chaos, The Sequel"
10/01: Conference Play Heats Up As 16 Teams In Top 25 Square Off
09/22: PAC-12 Takes Center Stage With A Pair Of Top 25 Showdowns
09/15: Conference Clashes, Intersectional Battles Spice Up Week
09/08: Georgia-South Carolina Highlights Slim Week 3 Schedule
09/02: Five Big Games Highlight Week 2 Schedule
08/26: 2014 Season Preview - FSU over UCLA For National Title


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