It is the most wonderful time of the year! It’s time for the College Football bowl season! There are 40 bowl games (plus the National Championship game) to look forward to. In this series, I will be looking at all 80 teams who qualified for the postseason and breaking down their matchups. Each installment will focus on teams from a respective conference (or lack thereof in the case of these Independents). This year, two teams will be making their bowl debut, one bowl-eligible team was left home, and there are 14 instances where the teams are facing for the first time in history! Let’s take a look at the 2019 FBS Independent Bowls.
2019 FBS Independent Bowls Preview
FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl:
Liberty vs Georgia Southern
The first bowl game of this series pits the 7-5 Flames against the 7-5 Eagles. First off, congrats to Liberty for making their first-ever bowl game in their 2nd season at the FBS level! The former FCS squad managed to go winless against Power 5 opponents this year, so they can thank the two FCS schools they played for this bowl bid.
Offensively, they will need to get going with senior quarterback Stephen Calvert. Calvert has actually had a solid season this year. His touchdown-to-interception ratio improved to 26:5 as compared to 21:18 in 2018. This shows great improvement, considering he has only thrown for 325 more yards this year (3,393 compared to 3,068). Quietly, the senior threw for over 300 yards in six games. In addition, those five interceptions came in three games, so he had nine contests where he threw a total of 23 touchdowns without a single turnover. Perhaps he will lead the 2019 FBS Independent Bowls quarterbacks in passing this year.
Senior running back Frankie Hickson is just 79 yards away from eclipsing 1,000 yards in 2019. His 13 total touchdowns are most on the team, outside of Calvert. Watch out for the potential first-round draft pick, Antonio Gandy-Golden. The stud senior wide receiver has amassed 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns. The unreal part of it all is the fact that he averages 18 yards a touch. Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has the Flames on the right track to compete in the future. In this particular game, however, I do believe that Georgia Southern will come out on top. Don’t be surprised with the Flames qualify for a bowl game next season with a relatively easy schedule in 2020.
Next up, we have BYU traveling to the Hawai’i Bowl to take on…Hawai’i. BYU’s season was enigmatic. On one hand, they beat Tennessee, USC, and handed Boise State their only loss. On the other side, they lost to a pair of teams that did not make a bowl game: Toledo and South Florida.
The 71st-ranked offense is led by Sophomore transfer quarterback Zach Wilson. Wilson is a good quarterback, but he struggled as most young quarterbacks do. He is coming off a performance against San Diego State where he threw for over 300 yards, but threw two interceptions and was shut out of the endzone. The issue with this offense is the lack of a rushing attack. After 12 games, a total of 21 players registered a rush, but their leading rusher in terms of yards is only at 359.
Defensively, the Cougars give up more than 24 points per game and 385 yards. When matching up against a prolific passer like Cole McDonald and the MWC Mountain Division Champions, Hawai’i. It is due to this passing attack that I expect the Rainbow Warriors to beat BYU in this game. 2020 is not going to get any easier. In their first four games, they will have to travel to Utah, Arizona State, and Minnesota. Good luck, Cougars.
Camping World Bowl:
Notre Dame vs Iowa State
Finally, we have the 2019 FBS Independent bowls bowl-eligible team that carries the flag yearly: Notre Dame. Well, they’d carry the flag if the Independents were even a conference, but I digress. The Fighting Iris will have to play a solid Iowa State team in what I believe will be one of the more intriguing matchups of the bowl season.
The 10-win Notre Dame team was led by a stout defense as well as an electric combination of Ian Book and Chase Claypool. Book threw for 2,792 yards thus far, which is not exactly elite. His 33 touchdowns, however, certainly is. Probably more of a game manager, Book is capable of stepping up when needed, but he also faltered in big situations as well (SEE: at Michigan). Claypool is an established number one receiver and averages 15 yards every time he touches the ball. His 891 yards and 12 touchdowns have propelled him into the conversation for a high draft pick. With all of the hype surrounding the LSUs, Oklahomas, Clemsons, and Ohio States, Notre Dame has quietly scored 37 points per game which is good for 13th in the nation.
This Fighting Irish team is surprisingly balanced between their offense and defense. They give up just over 18 points a game. I am extremely interested to see how the Cyclones respond to Notre Dame’s pass defense which has only given up 164 yards per game. All in all, I do expect one of the blue-bloods of college football to take care of business against ISU. If they can stifle the Cyclone offense, look for the Fighting Irish to cover whatever spread Vegas gives them. If Notre Dame wants to compete in the CFP next season, they are going to have to go through Wisconsin AND Clemson.
2019 FBS Independent Bowl Results
When the dust finally settles, the Independent teams will go 1-2 in bowl games this year. Despite this, I think that all three matchups will be exciting to watch. Liberty will make its first bowl game in the history of the program. BYU will look to improve on their 23-8 advantage in head-to-head matchups against Hawai’i and their 15-20-1 all-time bowl record. This will be their first-ever Hawai’i Bowl appearance. That is, however, if you don’t count the 1992 Aloha Bowl with the legend Steve Young. Finally, Notre Dame sports a 17-19 all-time record in the postseason. Despite this, their matchup against the Cyclones in the Camping World Bowl will be their first meeting.
Check back daily because we have ten more conferences to cover!
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