Ready, set, bowl! Picking 41 winners, including the national champion

Can Alabama slow down Clemson? (2:07)

Joey Galloway, Booger McFarland and Kirk Herbstreit expect the Crimson Tide to crowd the line and force Kelly Bryant to throw the ball. (2:07)

If you thought I got out of the bowl predictions business after last year, you thought wrong. Here are my picks for 40 bowl games, plus the national championship game. They're all guaranteed to be correct. Or something like that. Don't worry, I'll be keeping score.

Ready, set, bowl!

Dec. 16

Celebration Bowl: North Carolina A&T vs. Grambling

(Noon ET on ABC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)

Grambling won a low-scoring game in last year's bowl matchup (10-9), but both of these offenses can put up points. I'm going with North Carolina A&T, led by quarterback Lamar Raynard, who has 26 touchdown passes this season.

Prediction: North Carolina A&T 38, Grambling 27

Score: North Carolina A&T 21, Grambling 14

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas

(1 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)

Neal Brown's Trojans come in on a six-game winning streak, and the last time they played in the state of Louisiana they beat LSU. Troy will survive a late push for its 11th win.

Prediction: Troy 24, North Texas 21

Score: Troy 50, North Texas 30

AutoNation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State

(2:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

There's not too much to get excited about here -- Georgia State was outscored 280-217 this season, while Western Kentucky lost to 2-10 Illinois and dropped four of its past five games -- but the Hilltoppers will get it done behind Mike White, Conference USA's top passer.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 31, Georgia State 21

Score: Georgia State 27, Western Kentucky 17

Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon vs. No. 25 Boise State

(3:30 p.m. ET on ABC at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas)

The uncertainty surrounding Oregon coach Willie Taggart's future makes this a tough call, but after watching the Ducks since quarterback Justin Herbert returned from injury, it's tough to pick against them, even against a solid Boise State defense.

Prediction: Oregon 35, Boise State 32

Score: Boise State 38, Oregon 28

GILDAN New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State

(4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Get to know the name Michael Gallup. Colorado State's Biletnikoff Award finalist is one of the nation's best under-the-radar players, and he will shine for the Rams in his final game against a Marshall team that has dropped four of its past five.

Prediction: Colorado State 41, Marshall 31

Score: Marshall 31, Colorado State 28

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama)

Arkansas State's Justice Hansen is a feast-or-famine quarterback, recording six games with three or more passing touchdowns, but three with three or more interceptions. Hansen is the key here, and Middle Tennessee has only four picks all season.

Prediction: Arkansas State 38, Middle Tennessee 30

Score: Middle Tennessee 35, Arkansas State 30

Dec. 19

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Florida Atlantic vs. Akron

(7 p.m. ET on ESPN at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida)

The good news for Terry Bowden's team is it gets to escape frigid northeast Ohio for South Florida. The bad news is it faces the Lane Train and its record-setting offense in its home station. After allowing 45 points to Toledo in the MAC title game, Akron's defense will have another tough game.

Prediction: FAU 45, Akron 27

Score: FAU 50, Akron 3

Dec. 20

DXL Frisco Bowl: SMU vs. Louisiana Tech

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas)

I expected more out of SMU, which dropped three of its past four games and was extremely fortunate to win the finale. But Louisiana Tech doesn't inspire a ton of confidence either, and Mustangs receivers Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn will be too much to handle.

Prediction: SMU 35, Louisiana Tech 31

Dec. 21

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida)

Both first-year coaches -- Temple's Geoff Collins and especially FIU's Butch Davis -- did really nice jobs getting their teams to this point. I like the Owls' defense to make the difference down the stretch in a very competitive game.

Prediction: Temple 26, FIU 23

Score: Temple 28, FIU 3

Dec. 22

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio

(12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas)

It has been an incredible season for coach Bill Clark and the Blazers, whose program returned to competition with eight wins and have the run defense (25th nationally) to contain Ohio's ground game (5.6 yards per carry, 40 TDs). But I like Frank Solich's crew to rebound from its November struggles with a close win.

Prediction: Ohio 31, UAB 27

Score: Ohio 41, UAB 6

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Wyoming vs. Central Michigan

(4 p.m. ET on ESPN at Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho)

Josh Allen's status is the great unknown in this game, as Wyoming looked lost without him down the stretch. Perhaps he returns for what will be his final game before declaring for the NFL draft, but I like Central Michigan QB Shane Morris and a surging Chippewas team, which won its final five games.

Prediction: Central Michigan 34, Wyoming 31

Score: Wyoming 37, Central Michigan 14

Dec. 23

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. USF

(Noon ET on ESPN at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama)

Points, please. Lots of them. Texas Tech's defense is significantly improved numberswise, but USF QB Quinton Flowers presents a huge challenge and will lead a talented Bulls team to its 10th win in his final game.

Prediction: USF 47, Texas Tech 41

Score: USF 38, Texas Tech 34

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army

(3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas)

Jeff Monken has done an incredible job boosting Army, which leads the nation in rushing (368.1 yards per game). But San Diego State has been tested more this season, boasts another stifling defense and the best player on the field in 2,000-yard running back Rashaad Penny. This game will be quick, but SDSU wins.

Prediction: San Diego State 31, Army 20

Score: Army 42, San Diego State 35

Dollar General Bowl: Toledo vs. Appalachian State

(7 p.m. ET on ESPN at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama)

This is one of the better Group of Five bowl matchups featuring two up-and-coming coaches in Toledo's Jason Candle and Appalachian State's Scott Satterfield. While I liked how the Mountaineers' defense played down the stretch, Toledo QB Logan Woodside presents a much tougher challenge.

Prediction: Toledo 38, Appalachian State 29

Score: Appalachian State 34, Toledo 0

Dec. 24

Hawai'i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston

(8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu)

I really like the defenses in this game as Fresno State allowed 21 points or fewer in all but one league game, while Houston held USF to 24 points in a win. This is a really tough call, but Houston has the talent edge as Cougars DT Ed Oliver will come up with a late game-changing play.

Prediction: Houston 24, Fresno State 21

Score: Fresno State 33, Houston 27

Dec. 26

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: West Virginia vs. Utah

(1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Cotton Bowl in Dallas)

There are few guarantees in bowls, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's record in bowl games comes close (he's 10-1). This isn't a great Utah team, but it has enough on defense to take down a West Virginia team missing star quarterback Will Grier.

Prediction: Utah 27, West Virginia 24

Score: Utah 30, West Virginia 14

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois

(5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Ford Field in Detroit)

The Blue Devils emerged from their midseason swoon with a good finish, and their speed on defense will give Northern Illinois' run-heavy offense some problems. NIU counters with its own stingy defense, but Duke will have enough with Daniel Jones, Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown to get the win.

Prediction: Duke 23, Northern Illinois 17

Score: Duke 36, Northern Illinois 14

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA

(9 p.m. ET on ESPN at Chase Field in Phoenix)

This might be tricky. A Baylor team with a coaching staff heading out the door stunned Boise State last year. Can UCLA do something similar? Maybe, but Kansas State is a more complete team with a hot quarterback (Skylar Thompson) to counter Josh Rosen. Bill Snyder will avenge the 2014 Alamo Bowl loss.

Prediction: Kansas State 37, UCLA 35

Score: Kansas State 35, UCLA 17

Dec. 27

Walk-On's Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State

(1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana)

Motivation level is a factor in a matchup like this, and the Seminoles brought the energy for interim coach Odell Haggins on Saturday and should want to send the coaching staff out with another win. Running back Cam Akers will end his freshman season with a big performance.

Prediction: Florida State 31, Southern Miss 14

Score: Florida State 42, Southern Miss 13

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College

(5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Yankee Stadium in New York)

Iowa's recent postseason no-shows make it hard to remember when the Hawkeyes performed well in bowls. They will finally get back on track with running back Akrum Wadley as the difference-maker in a low-scoring slog at Yankee Stadium.

Prediction: Iowa 19, Boston College 16

Score: Iowa 27, Boston College 20

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue

(8:30 p.m. ET on Fox at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California)

This will be a really fun game as first-year Purdue coach Jeff Brohm takes the Boilers to their first bowl since the 2012 season. Both offenses are dynamic and Arizona QB Khalil Tate will deliver some highlights, but Purdue is so much better on defense.

Prediction: Purdue 35, Arizona 31

Score: Purdue 38, Arizona 35

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri

(9 p.m. ET on ESPN at NRG Stadium in Houston)

This is a huge springboard game for both teams, pitting a very talented Texas defense, anchored by Poona Ford, against a Missouri offense led by QB Drew Lock. Texas will have the home crowd but won't be able to keep up on the scoreboard.

Prediction: Missouri 35, Texas 28

Score: Texas 33, Missouri 16

Dec. 28

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Virginia vs. Navy

(1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland)

Both of these teams are slumping, having each dropped five of their past six games (Navy still can get on track by beating Army on Saturday). The Midshipmen's defense will be the difference on their home field.

Prediction: Navy 21, Virginia 17

Score: Navy 49, Virginia 7

Camping World Bowl: No. 22 Virginia Tech vs. No. 19 Oklahoma State

(5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

One of the best postseason pairings features Mason Rudolph, James Washington and a Cowboys offense averaging 46.3 points per game going against a Bud Foster-coordinated defense featuring linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. I don't see the Hokies keeping pace as Rudolph will shine in his final game.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 31, Virginia Tech 27

Score: Oklahoma State 30, Virginia Tech 21

Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 13 Stanford vs. No. 15 TCU

(9 p.m. ET on ESPN at Alamodome in San Antonio)

Two of the game's more solid programs and coaches (Stanford's David Shaw and TCU's Gary Patterson) match up in what should be a highly competitive contest. Both teams are solid defensively and in the running game, but I think Stanford freshman quarterback K.J. Costello will make a big jump in bowl practices and lead a game-winning drive for the Cardinal.

Prediction: Stanford 27, TCU 24

Score: TCU 39, Stanford 37

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: No. 18 Washington State vs. No. 16 Michigan State

(9 p.m. ET on Fox at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego)

Both of these teams had quality home wins and some clunkers away from familiar soil. After being upset in last year's bowl game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Washington State will find a way as record-setting quarterback Luke Falk will go out a winner.

Prediction: Washington State 35, Michigan State 31

Score: Michigan State 42, Washington State 17

Dec. 29

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

(1 p.m. ET on ESPN at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina)

Despite a surprising loss to Duke to end the season, Wake Forest should be geared up and boasts an offense, led by quarterback John Wolford, to cause problems. How much does Texas A&M really want to be here after Kevin Sumlin was fired? The Deacs will notch their second straight bowl win.

Prediction: Wake Forest 36, Texas A&M 28

Score: Wake Forest 55, Texas A&M 52

Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 24 NC State vs. Arizona State

(3 p.m. ET on CBS at Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas)

NC State is the better and more talented team, but Arizona State will go all out for Todd Graham, its fired coach who is sticking around for the bowl game. Still, the Wolfpack will find a way to win behind Bradley Chubb and one of the nation's top defensive fronts.

Prediction: NC State 30, Arizona State 23

Score: NC State 52, Arizona State 31

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. No. 21 Northwestern

(4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee)

The Wildcats win! OK, the ones from Northwestern, which has a better defense and comes in on a seven-game winning streak, eyeing its third 10-win season since 2012. Running back Justin Jackson will go off in the final game of a record-setting career.

Prediction: Northwestern 34, Kentucky 27

Score: Northwestern 24, Kentucky 23

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State

(5:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona)

It was great to see New Mexico State getting so much love Saturday after securing its first bowl berth since 1960. Both teams lack impressive wins, but Utah State gets the nod thanks to a defense led by cornerback Jalen Davis.

Prediction: Utah State 26, New Mexico State 21

Score: New Mexico State 26, Utah State 20 (OT)

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State

(8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas)

Quite possibly the best non-playoff matchup features star power on both sides and teams motivated to show they should have been in the playoff. USC QB Sam Darnold will make some highlight-reel plays, but Ohio State's defensive line and Texas natives J.T. Barrett and J.K. Dobbins will come up big late.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, USC 30

Score: Ohio State 24, USC 7

Dec. 30

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. No. 23 Mississippi State

(Noon ET on ESPN at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida)

If you forgot about Lamar Jackson this season, he will remind you why he might still be the nation's most outstanding player. Mississippi State's defense will keep the Bulldogs in this game for a bit, but Jackson and Louisville will overwhelm the Nick Fitzgerald-less Bulldogs.

Prediction: Louisville 37, Mississippi State 31

Score: Mississippi State 31, Louisville 27

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. No. 20 Memphis

(12:30 p.m. ET on ABC at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee)

This is a brutal draw for Iowa State, which has one of the nation's more underrated profiles, but must face Riley Ferguson, Anthony Miller and the Tigers in their home stadium. Joel Lanning and the Cyclones' defense will be up for the challenge, but Ferguson will win it for Memphis in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Memphis 38, Iowa State 36

Score: Iowa State 21, Memphis 20

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 Washington vs. No. 9 Penn State

(4 p.m. ET on ESPN at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona)

Another delicious Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup could come down to whether Penn State's iffy offensive line handles Vita Vea and Washington's defensive front. Expect Penn State RB Saquon Barkley to dazzle in his final game, but Washington's offensive balance is the difference.

Prediction: Washington 37, Penn State 35

Score: Penn State 35, Washington 28

Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida)

We know how good Miami can be on its home field, but unless the turnover chain comes out 3-4 times -- Wisconsin has committed 23 turnovers this season -- the Canes could be in trouble. Wisconsin's defense will redeem itself in a big way, and running back Jonathan Taylor will have a strong finish to his freshman season.

Prediction: Wisconsin 23, Miami 17

Score: Wisconsin 34, Miami 24

Jan. 1

Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina

(Noon ET on ESPN2 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida)

Year 4 is everything for Jim Harbaugh, but it's important to end this season on a strong note. Michigan will do just that behind Maurice Hurst Jr. and a defense that will fluster Jake Bentley and the Gamecocks in a low-scoring contest.

Prediction: Michigan 23, South Carolina 14

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 12 UCF vs. No. 7 Auburn

(12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)

This will be a playcalling showcase as both offenses are so much fun to watch. But Auburn has the major edge on defense against a UCF team that hemorrhaged points down the stretch. A healthy Kerryon Johnson will go off in the second half.

Prediction: Auburn 43, UCF 34

Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton's: No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU

(1 p.m. ET on ABC at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

Things came together nicely for Ed Orgeron and the Tigers down the stretch, while Notre Dame fell apart. This isn't the game for Notre Dame to fix its passing-game issues. LSU will seal the win with a late interception.

Prediction: LSU 28, Notre Dame 24

Jan. 1

College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

(5 p.m. ET on ESPN at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California)

The Georgia defensive front seven facing Oklahoma's offensive line will be a treat to watch, and UGA QB Jake Fromm should have some opportunities against the Sooners' defense. But it's hard to go against Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield on this stage.

Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Georgia 29

Score: Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48 (2 OTs)

College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson

(8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)

The trilogy is completed with another instant classic, this time more of the defensive variety. Clemson's defensive line, anchored by Dexter Lawrence, will do enough to contain Alabama's running game, and the Tigers will get a late rushing score from running back Travis Etienne.

Prediction: Clemson 27, Alabama 24

Score: Alabama 26, Clemson 6

Jan. 8

College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)

The nation's most complete team and the nation's best quarterback square off, but Clemson knows what it takes to finish the job. Clemson DL Christian Wilkins will shine in his final college game as the Tigers become the first team to repeat since Alabama in 2012.

Prediction: Clemson 38, Oklahoma 30

Score: Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT)