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2015-16 NCAA College Football Playoff Sleepers and Sleeper Picks

2015-16 NCAA College Football Playoff Sleepers and Sleeper Picks

With so many different types of interesting matchups among the 40 scheduled bowl games, bowl season can throw up some very surprising results. For anyone who knows where to look, it’s a perfect time to capitalize on some undervalued sleepers that have the ability to pull an upset over their favored foes.

Let’s take a look at five such sleepers and make a case why they will (or will not) deliver the goods – either against the spread or straight up. And for more top bowl season coverage, check out our writer’s predictions for the College Football Playoff here, as well as the top non-CFP bowl games here.

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Top 5 Sleepers of the 2015-16 Bowl Season

2015-16 NCAA College Football Bowl Season Sleepers

Rose Bowl – Iowa Hawkeyes (12-1) vs. Stanford Cardinal (11-2)

When: January 1, 5:00 PM ET

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

TV Broadcast: ESPN

Line: Iowa Hawkeyes (+7) vs. Stanford Cardinal (-7) – view all NCAA football lines

[sc:NCAA240banner ]Why Iowa will win: Iowa’s defense is legit. The Hawkeyes proved themselves on the big stage against Michigan State, holding the Spartans offense to a season-low 16 points and 5.8 yards per play. Iowa’s run defense, in particular, was rock solid and should hold up just enough to slow down Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey on the ground.

Meanwhile, Iowa’s own running game, which was seventh in the nation with 35 touchdowns, couldn’t get going against Michigan State. However, it should have much better success against a Stanford run defense that has been markedly worse this year than in past seasons.

Why Iowa will lose: Stanford’s offense has been pretty stellar all season long (37.2 points per game, 18th in the country). Kevin Hogan, in particular, has been very reliable for the most part as a passer, and has proven he can carry the offense when needed. The Hawkeyes offense, on the other hand, is nowhere near as reliable, and could struggle to keep within a touchdown for long.

Writer’s Prediction: Iowa (+7) hangs on to cover in a 31-27 loss.

2015-16 NCAA College Football Bowl Season Sleepers

Russell Athletic Bowl – North Carolina Tar Heels (11-2) vs. Baylor Bears (9-3)

When: December 29, 5:30 PM ET

Where: Orlando Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida

TV Broadcast: ESPN

Line: North Carolina Tar Heels (+3) vs. Baylor Bears (-3) – view all NCAA football lines

Why North Carolina will win: North Carolina more than held its own against No. 1 Clemson in the ACC title game, and if it weren’t for the botched onside kick offsides call, might have drawn even closer. With Marquise Williams at the helm, the Tar Heels have the firepower to keep up with any team in the nation.

There’s arguably no team in the nation that has more firepower than Baylor, but it has a lot of uncertainty at quarterback. It’s still unknown whether Jarrett Stidham can start again, while Chris Johnson has been unconvincing during his time under center.

Why North Carolina will lose: The Tar Heels’ run defense is still a bit suspect. Even with Baylor’s question marks at quarterback, it still has a stable of terrific running backs it can hand the ball to and lean on for stretches. The Baylor defense has also shown at times this season that it can come up with some timely stops.

Writer’s Prediction: North Carolina (+3) beats Baylor, 41-37.

2015-16 NCAA College Football Bowl Season Sleepers

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl – BYU Cougars (9-3) vs. Utah Utes (9-3)

When: December 19, 3:30 PM ET

Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada

TV Broadcast: ABC

Line: BYU Cougars (+3) vs. Utah Utes (-3) – view all NCAA football lines

Why BYU will win: The Cougars ended their regular season putting up back-to-back 50-point performances against Fresno State and Utah State, which should give you an indication of how potent this offense can be. Freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum has had an excellent season playing place of the injured Taysom Hill, as he passed for 3,062 yards with 21 touchdowns.

But the biggest reason to back BYU is because its defense won’t have to worry about Utah’s dynamic back Devontae Booker, who will miss out due to knee surgery. Booker’s absence has not surprisingly coincided with the Utes scoring just 29 points in their last two regular season games.

Why BYU will lose: The Utes defense might still be the best unit on the field. It gave up just 21.8 points per game against FBS opponents, good for 24th in the nation. They were also inside the top 10 in terms of interceptions (19), which should match up well with BYU’s main strength of throwing the football.

The Utes have also proven they can still move the ball, with junior Joe Williams averaging 154 yards per game in two starts in place of Booker.

Writer’s Prediction: BYU (+3) beats Utah outright, 34-28.

2015-16 NCAA College Football Bowl Season Sleepers

Birmingham Bowl – Memphis Tigers (9-3) vs. Auburn Tigers (6-6)

When: December 30, 12:00 PM ET

Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama

TV Broadcast: ESPN

Line: Memphis Tigers (+2.5) vs. Auburn Tigers (-2.5) – view all NCAA football lines

Why Memphis will win: Despite losing its three biggest games of the year at the back end of the schedule, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Memphis went 8-0 to start the year.

Paxton Lynch (3,670 yards, 28 touchdowns and just three interceptions) has been one of the best quarterbacks of the season, and will go up against a subpar Auburn defense that lost defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who took up the head coaching gig at South Carolina.

Lynch already lynched one of the better SEC defenses earlier this season, as he passed for 384 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Tigers to a huge 37-24 win over Ole Miss.

Why Memphis will lose: Auburn’s not the only team that will have an interim coach. Memphis lost head coach Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech, and will not have him around for the bowl game.

Furthermore, one thing common with all of Memphis’s losses this season has been its inability to stop the run. That just so happens to be one of the things Auburn has done pretty capably this season. Auburn’s ability to sit on the ball will help keep Lynch off the field.

Writer’s Prediction: Memphis (+2.5) mauls its fellow Tigers, 41-28.

2015-16 NCAA College Football Bowl Season Sleepers

GoDaddy Bowl – Georgia Southern Eagles (8-4) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (10-3)

When: December 23, 8:00 PM ET

Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama

TV Broadcast: ESPN

Line: Georgia Southern Eagles (+7) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (-7) – view all NCAA football lines

Why Georgia Southern will win: Armed with the most prolific rushing attack in the country, Georgia Southern can put points up on the board while burning time off the clock. The Eagles very nearly took down Georgia in November, but lost 23-17.

Their offense should be able to keep them well within a touchdown against a Bowling Green team that will have an interim head coach in charge after Dino Babers left for Syracuse.

Why Georgia Southern will lose: Bowling Green can put more points up in a much shorter amount of time. The Falcons possess an incredibly prolific offense (43.4 points per game, fifth in the nation) led by the highly productive Matt Johnson, who ranked second in the country in both yards per game (361.5) and touchdown passes (43).

Writer’s Prediction: Bowling Green outguns Georgia Southern, 41-38, but the Eagles (+7) easily cover.

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Brad
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