LAS VEGAS — Some quarterbacks are game managers, and others are gunslingers. Bailey Zappe could be a character from the Wild West, and he pulls the trigger on a wide-open passing attack that will make Saturday’s Boca Raton Bowl worth watching.
Zappe has passed for 5,545 yards and 56 touchdowns this season — bigger numbers than many quarterbacks put up in a career — and is set to add to those totals when he leads Western Kentucky against favored Appalachian State.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Zappe is a late-round NFL draft prospect. He transferred from Houston Baptist after passing for 10,004 yards and 78 touchdowns in 36 games at the FCS level. For the Hilltoppers, Zappe has completed 69.2 percent of his 639 passes while minimizing mistakes (11 interceptions) and negative plays (15 sacks).
The Mountaineers might be able to control the game with their superior defense, but the better offenses often shine early in the bowl season when the teams are looser and the stakes not as high. The Hilltoppers finished November with a seven-game winning streak and have scored 41 points or more in all six games since Oct. 30.
The pick: Western Kentucky, +3
Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl (Sat.): Utah State (+7.5) over Oregon State
Beavers coach Jonathan Smith has done a phenomenal job since 2018, when he took over a 1-11 team. Oregon State made the climb to 7-5 in Smith’s fourth season and will be fired up for this rare bowl appearance. Both teams are excited to be here, so forget any motivational edge.
The Aggies’ Logan Bonner passed for 36 touchdowns, including four in a 33-point victory over San Diego State in the Mountain West title game. Utah State is 7-0 away from home.
Frisco Bowl (Tue.): San Diego State-UTSA (Under 49.5)
It’s imperative to know who’s in and who’s out during the bowl season. Roadrunners running back Sincere McCormick, the best offensive player in this game, opted out to declare for the NFL. The Texas-San Antonio offense revolves around McCormick, who rushed for 1,479 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Aztecs win with a defense that overcomes their poor quarterback play. San Diego State allowed 20 points or fewer in six of its last nine games.
Hawaii Bowl (Fri.): Memphis (-7.5) over Hawaii
Warriors quarterback Chevan Cordeiro was a one-man wrecking crew in the regular-season finale at Wyoming, passing for 323 yards, running for 86 yards and accounting for four touchdowns. In a big surprise, Cordeiro entered the transfer portal and announced plans to leave for San Jose State. The team’s top running back is also transferring.
According to reports, several players want coach Todd Graham ousted. Hawaii was a bet-on team in the home dog role this season (4-0 against the spread), but it’s now a much different team without Cordeiro and with dissension in the locker room.
Last Week: 2-2. Iowa (L), Alabama (W), Wake Forest (L), Utah State (W)