Bowl season ATS: 8-0 (6-0 National, 2-0 B1G)
Season ATS: 100-103-5 (51-51-2 National, 49-52-3 B1G)
The last set of bowl games really saved MC&J’s bacon. Hopefully this last set of games is just as good as we ring in the New Year.
Citrus Bowl: No. 20 LSU (-3) v. No. 13 Louisville - 12/31 11:00 AM EST - ABC
The Citrus Bowl lost a little luster when Leonard Fournette announced he was skipping the game to prepare for the NFL Draft, but there are still plenty of reasons to watch this game. Derrius Guice will get the majority of the carries for LSU, and he has been outstanding for the Tigers this year, running for 1,249 yards and 14 touchdowns. Today’s game marks the first Ed Orgeron will coach for LSU after having the interim tag removed.
Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson will have his work cut out for him against a defense that only saw Texas A&M score more than 21 points against them. Jackson not only threw for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns, but also added 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. The Cardinals will be without offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway, who was suspended for the game for his part in the Wake Forest scandal.
A lot of the talk about this game has been about the LSU defense, but Louisville sports a pretty good defense as well. I know the Tigers will likely get after Jackson, but in a tight game I’ll take my chances with the Heisman winner over Danny Etling.
Louisville 27, LSU 24
Taxslayer Bowl: Georgia Tech (-3.5) v. Kentucky - 12/31 11:00 AM EST - ESPN
The Taxslayer Bowl should last about two hours with the way both teams love to run the football. After a slow start, Georgia Tech closed out the regular season on a high note, winning five of their last six. The Yellow Jackets got everyone involved in their triple-option attack. Nobody on Georgia Tech ran for more than 624 yards this year, but the Yellow Jackets had six players rush for more than 200 yards during the season.
After narrowly missing a bowl game last year, Kentucky finally was able to become bowl eligible for this first time since 2010. While the Wildcats don’t boast the triple-option attack that Georgia Tech did, Kentucky still found a lot of success on the ground. Stanley “Boom” Williams rushed for 1,135 yards and seven touchdowns this year, while Benny Snell Jr. added 1,057 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
In a game that will likely feature a lot of running, I like the points here. Kentucky had some issues against the run this year, but they have had a few extra weeks to prepare for the triple-option. The Wildcats end up being successful in their bowl game return.
Kentucky 24, Georgia Tech 20
Outback Bowl: No. 17 Florida (-3) v. Iowa - 1/2 1:00 PM EST - ABC
Run. Run far away from this game. Watch anything else than this. Do your taxes. Take a nap. Anything. If you do watch it get ready for punts and turnovers. First one to double-digits wins. Hell, first one to score wins.
Florida 10, Iowa 6
Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 15 Western Michigan v. No. 8 Wisconsin (-8) - 1/2 1:00 PM EST - ESPN
Everything that could possibly go right for Western Michigan did this year. Not only did the Broncos join Alabama as the only teams to go 13-0 this year, but they also won’t lose head coach P.J. Fleck. Quarterback Zach Terrell was outstanding throughout the year, throwing for 3,376 yard and 32 touchdowns. Terrell only threw three interceptions in 13 games, with two of those coming in the MAC Championship Game against Ohio. The Wisconsin secondary will by tested by Corey Davis, who caught 91 passes for 1,427 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Wisconsin has to be kicking themselves because had a couple bounces gone the other way they might be in the Rose Bowl or even the College Football Playoff. All three of Wisconsin’s losses came by seven points. The loss that is the toughest to swallow for the Badgers has to be the Big Ten Championship game, where Wisconsin held a 28-7 lead but ended up losing to Penn State.
The first two Group of Five teams to play in a New Year’s Six bowl ended up beating their power conference foes. I don’t see Western Michigan extending that to three games, but I do see them making Wisconsin sweat. A late Corey Clement touchdown ends up being the difference and giving Wisconsin the win.
Wisconsin 30, Western Michigan 27
Rose Bowl: No. 9 USC (-7) v. No. 5 Penn State - 1/2 5:00 PM EST - ESPN
Two of the hottest teams in the country will square off in the “Grandaddy of Them All”. It looked like USC made a mistake in hiring Clay Helton as their head coach after a 1-3 start, but the switch to Sam Darnold at quarterback sparked an eight-game winning streak for the Trojans. Darnold finished his freshman season with 2,633 yards and 26 touchdown passes. After a freshman year in which he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards, Ronald Jones II made it past that mark this year, running for 1,027 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Penn State put together an even longer winning streak as they had into the Rose Bowl, winning their last nine games. The most memorable of those wins came in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin, as the Nittany Lions rallied from a 28-7 deficit to earn the win. Trace McSorley showed the future is bright at quarterback for Penn State, with the sophomore throwing 25 touchdowns this year. McSorley was helped greatly in his first season as starter by fellow freshman Saquon Barkley, as the running back piled up 1,302 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns.
I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop on Penn State during their winning streak, but it never ended up happening. This will be a fun matchup in Pasadena of a couple good young quarterbacks. I see this as being a back-and-forth affair, and while Penn State won’t get the victory, they’ll at least give USC all they can handle.
USC 34, Penn State 31
Sugar Bowl: No. 14 Auburn v. No. 7 Oklahoma (-3) - 1/2 8:30 PM EST - ESPN
I’m not exactly sure what Auburn did to deserve a spot in the Sugar Bowl, but I guess the SEC had to send somebody here. The Auburn defense deserves pretty much all the credit for getting them here since they did most of the work. Carl Lawson is the leader of the defense and could end up creating a lot of problems for the Sooners if he is able to get into the backfield.
After starting the season 1-2, Oklahoma really turned things around and won their last nine games of the year. The Sooners sent both Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook to New York City as Heisman Trophy candidates. Mayfield finished the year with 3,669 yards pass and 38 touchdowns, while Westbrook caught 74 passes for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns. Running back Samaje Perine needs just 26 rushing yards to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the third straight year.
Auburn’s defense may be good but with the way Oklahoma has been playing they could score on just about any defense in the country. If the Sooners get a couple early scores and put Auburn in a hole, the Tigers will be in big trouble since they don’t have the weapons to keep up. I’ll gladly lay the points in a game where I thought the spread would be bigger.
Oklahoma 33, Auburn 23
Peach Bowl: No. 4 Washington v. No. 1 Alabama (-14) - 12/31 3:00 PM EST - ESPN
Finally we get to the games that truly matter. No offense to the other 30-whatever bowl games, most of you are fun and all, but you aren’t the playoffs. Alabama is making their third trip to the College Football Playoff, and will be trying to defend their title. The Crimson Tide come into Atlanta riding a 25-game winning streak. It isn’t just the offense that can put points on the board for the Crimson Tide, as Alabama has scored 14 non-offensive touchdowns this year.
Chris Petersen has led Washington back to national prominence, with this being the biggest game for the Huskies in quite some time. Quarterback Jake Browning is the leader of the Washington offense, tossing 42 touchdowns this year. John Ross is Browning’s preferred target, but Browning has a lot of success in finding Dante Pettis. The Huskies lost defensive stars Joe Mathis and Azeem Victor to injury earlier in the season, but playmakers like Budda Baker and Psalm Wooching are still healthy.
All Washington has heard about for nearly a month is how Alabama is going to kick their teeth in, and the Huskies have to be sick of it. If there ever was the perfect coach to lead David against Goliath, it is Petersen, who relished the underdog role while at Boise State. Maybe this game turns out like last year when Michigan State got smoked by the Crimson Tide, but I’m having my doubts that it does. Alabama will end up moving on to the title game, but not by more than two touchdowns.
Alabama 34, Washington 24
Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Ohio State (-3) v. No. 2 Clemson - 12/31 7:00 PM EST - ESPN
In the other College Football Playoff semifinal, Clemson and Ohio State will face off for just the third time ever. The last meeting between the two schools saw Clemson take down the Buckeyes 40-35 in the 2014 Orange Bowl. The loss was just the second time Urban Meyer has been beaten in a bowl game. Now Meyer is eager to even up his record against Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
Clemson will be looking to make the College Football Playoff National Championship Game for the second year in a row, possibly setting up a rematch with Alabama. Quarterback Deshaun Watson does it all for the Tigers on offense, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards this year and adding over 500 rushing yards. The Tigers have great depth at receiver, with Mike Williams being the star of the group.
Ohio State needed double-overtime against Michigan to clinch their spot in the College Football Playoff, but Curtis Samuel’s game-winning 15-yard touchdown run made it impossible for the committee to leave the Buckeyes out. Mike Weber became just the third Ohio State freshman running back to rush for over 1,000 yards, joining Robert Smith and Maurice Clarett as the only ones to do so.
The quarterback matchup between J.T. Barrett and Watson will be really fun to watch. Ohio State has intercepted 19 passes this year, while Watson has thrown 15. The Buckeye secondary will likely be the difference in this one as I can see Watson throwing a couple interceptions which Ohio State will capitalize on. This will be one of the most entertaining bowl games of the year, but in the end Ohio State’s defense steps up when it counts the most to secure a spot in Tampa for the title game.
Ohio State 38, Clemson 31