News, thoughts and more from the world of college sports across the nation and Long Island.
Fearless predictions: Jan. 7-8
BBVA Compass Bowl
SMU vs. Pittsburgh (-3.5), 1 p.m.: Pittsburgh will be without head coach Todd Graham, who left for the Arizona State job. The Panthers won three of five to end the season and the two losses were by a combined four points. Leading rusher Ray Graham suffered a season-ending knee injury in late October. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked an incredible 57 times this season, which is the worst in the nation. SMU lost four of six to end the season. The Mustangs also lost their leading rusher in November when Zach Line (1,224 yards and 17 touchdowns) had toe surgery. Quarterback J.J. McDermott threw for over 3,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, but also had 16 interceptions. Don’t expect a ton of points in this game and look for the Pittsburgh defense to step up late. Pittsburgh 23, SMU 17
Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois (+1.5), 9 p.m.: This should be one of the better match ups of the bowl season. Sun Belt champion Arkansas State has won nine straight and MAC champion Northern Illinois has won eight straight. It should be a great match up of the Northern Illinois offense against the Arkansas State defense. Northern Illinois was eighth nationally in total offense (482 yards per game) during the regular season. The Huskies were also 13th nationally in scoring (38 points per game) and eighth nationally in rushing offense (248 yards per game) during the regular season. Arkansas State will need to shut down quarterback Chandler Harnish, the MAC offensive player of the year. Harnish has thrown for 2,942 yards and 26 touchdowns (with just five interceptions) and has rushed for 1,382 yards and 11 touchdowns. Arkansas State was 20th nationally in total defense (326 yards per game) during the regular season and 18th nationally in sacks (32) during the regular season. Northern Illinois has been playing very well and Harnish is a really good player. But Arkansas State’s defense will come up big. Arkansas State 27, Northern Illinois 20