Bowls ATS: 14-11 (11-9 National, 3-2 B1G)
Season ATS: 116-100-4 (62-48-3 National, 54-52-1 B1G)
The Ohio State didn’t end how many of us were hoping, but MC&J can’t throw in the towel on the rest of the bowl games just because the Buckeyes lost. Following the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bowls, there will be one last picks piece for the final six games of the season, including the national title game.
12/31 and 1/1 bowl games:
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech (-3) v. Kentucky - Tuesday 12/31 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
Kentucky’s season was turned upside down when quarterback Terry Wilson was lost for the year early in the season due to an injury. The Wildcats turned to backup Sawyer Smith for three games before deciding to shift wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. to quarterback. Don’t expect Bowden to throw the football much though, as he only attempted 62 passes this year.
Virginia Tech had quarterback issues of their own early in the season, but they righted the ship when they elevated Hendon Hooker to starter. Hooker can throw the football with more confidence than Bowden, but his legs are what causes opposing defenses the most trouble. The Hokies should be able to find a little more offensive success in this one than Kentucky, who will be going up against a Virginia Tech defense that will be coached by Bud Foster for the final time. Virginia Tech wins by at least a touchdown.
Virginia Tech 31, Kentucky 23
Sun Bowl: Florida State v. Arizona State (-4.5) - Tuesday 12/31 2:00 PM EST - CBS
We almost had one of the best running back battles during bowl season on Tuesday afternoon in El Paso, but Florida State’s Cam Akers and Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin have decided to sit out this game to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Sun Devils will also be without leading wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who like Benjamin has decided to ready himself for the draft.
Even with Arizona State having a couple key players sitting out this game, it’s hard to back the Seminoles. Florida State has been dreadful on defense, which should allow for quarterback Jayden Daniels to close out a strong freshman season with a big performance. The Seminoles will have interim head coach Odell Haggins coach once more before Mike Norvell takes over, but Haggins won’t be able to have the success in this bowl game that he did as interim head coach in the 2017 Independence Bowl against Southern Miss.
Arizona State 33, Florida State 20
Liberty Bowl: No. 23 Navy (-3) v. Kansas State - Tuesday 12/31 3:45 PM EST - ESPN
If you like quick football games, this is the game for you. Navy rarely throws the football, while Kansas State ran over 200 more running plays than passing plays. The Midshipmen ran for over 360 yards per game this year, with quarterback Malcolm Perry doing most of the work. Perry rushed for 1,804 yards and 21 touchdowns.
With a few weeks to prepare for the Navy attack, I like Kansas State’s chances in this game. The Wildcats are sound defensively and should be able to at least slow down Perry. If the Wildcats can jump out to an early lead they could make Navy throw the football more, which is something they don’t want to do. Kansas State gets the win to cap off a success first season for head coach Chris Klieman.
Kansas State 30, Navy 20
Arizona Bowl: Wyoming (-7) v. Georgia State - Tuesday 12/31 4:30 PM EST - CBS Sports Network
Wyoming lost starting quarterback Sean Chambers in late October to injury, and since then the Cowboys haven’t been very good, losing three of their last four games. While Wyoming has a good defense, I think Georgia State is going to find some success against the Cowboys. The Panthers are a fun team and gave us one of the best moments of the college football season when they beat Tennessee. Georgia State covers and I think they even have a shot at an outright win.
Georgia State 24, Wyoming 20
Alamo Bowl: No. 11 Utah (-7) v. Texas - Tuesday 12/31 7:30 PM EST - ESPN
Normally this would be a tremendous spot for a “hangover game” after Utah lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game and missed out on the College Football Playoff, but Texas has plenty of their own problems. There are changes coming to the coaching staff of the Longhorns, which could lead to miscommunication in this game. Tom Herman is 3-0 in bowl games as a head coach, but Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham might just be the master of bowl games, as he is 11-2 in his career as head coach in bowls.
Even though Utah isn’t playing in the bowl game they hoped to be playing in, I still think they have plenty to prove here. Quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss could be in for big gams against a Texas defense that gave up nearly 450 yards per game this year. The Utes will be playing angry after the loss to Oregon and they take their frustrations out on a Texas team that is ready for the season to be over.
Utah 34, Texas 21
Outback Bowl: No. 18 Minnesota v. No. 12 Auburn (-7.5) - 1/1 1:00 PM EST - ESPN
I wonder if Auburn’s bowl game was the Iron Bowl? It’s pretty hard to top a win over your rival that keeps them out of the College Football Playoff for the first-time ever. The good news for the Tigers is running back JarTarvious Whitlow should be healthy after missing some time earlier this season. Auburn is at its best when their running game is working, since Bo Nix still has some freshman moments when throwing the football.
Minnesota had their eyes on a bigger prize when they started the season 10-0, but the Golden Gophers faltered down the stretch, losing two of their last three games. Quarterback Tanner Morgan was really good for Minnesota this year, throwing 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Running back Rodney Smith joined J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor as the only running backs in the Big Ten to rush for over 1,000 yards this year.
This feels like a game that Auburn could come out flat for. The Golden Gophers have a great pass defense, which will make life difficult for Bo Nix. P.J. Fleck pushes the right buttons to get the most out of his team, which will at least keep things close against their SEC foe.
Auburn 27, Minnesota 24
Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Michigan v. No. 13 Alabama (-7.5) - 1/1 1:00 PM EST - ABC
Normally when Alabama is not involved in a bowl game that has national title implications they end up laying an egg. Look at the 2014 Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma and the 2009 Sugar Bowl against Utah, which saw the Crimson Tide lose each of those games by 14 points. This year has a different feel since Alabama lost Tua Tagovailoa last month for the rest of the season to injury, leaving Mac Jones to take the snaps for the Crimson Tide. With Tagovailoa likely having taken his last snap as Alabama quarterback, expect Jones to state his case to be the starter next season.
After suffering losses to Wisconsin and Penn State earlier this year, Michigan improved dramatically prior to the Ohio State game. Shea Patterson has thrown for at least 300 yards in three straight games and will be playing his final game for the Wolverines. Patterson will likely be called on to throw the football plenty in this game, since it’s hard to see the Wolverines having much success on the ground.
If the Wolverines had problems slowing down Ohio State’s passing attack, how are they going to stop Alabama’s trio of terrific wide receivers. Mac Jones isn’t Justin Fields, but he will be motivated to close out this season with a big performance to set the town for next season. It won’t be a beatdown like the 2012 season opener, but Alabama wins by double digits.
Alabama 38, Michigan 24
Rose Bowl: No. 6 Oregon v. No. 8 Wisconsin (-3) - 1/1 5:00 PM EST - ESPN
Aside from the College Football Playoff games, this is the bowl game I’m most excited for. It might not be quite as good as the 2012 Rose Bowl which saw Oregon beat the Badgers 45-38, but it should be pretty darn good. The Ducks have moved their way back into the national conversation by going 11-2 in Mario Cristobal’s second season as head coach in Eugene. Wednesday’s game will be the final for quarterback Justin Herbert at the school.
Nothing has been announced as of yet, but this could also be the final game for Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, who is just under 100 yards away from becoming just the second running back in NCAA history to rush for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. It won’t be easy for Taylor though, as he’ll be going against an Oregon defense that allowed just over 100 yards per game to opponents on the ground.
This game isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. Wisconsin has tremendous linebackers Chris Orr and Zack Baun to try and disrupt Justin Herbert, while Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux looks like he is on the verge of becoming a star. I think the Ducks are a little more dynamic on both sides of the football, which has me taking the points in what will end up being a close game.
Oregon 31, Wisconsin 28
Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Georgia (-5.5) v. No. 7 Baylor - 1/1 8:45 PM EST - ESPN
Remember last year when a Georgia team that fell just short of making the College Football Playoff didn’t show up for the Sugar Bowl and got beaten by a Big 12 team? Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing is going to happen this year. The Bulldogs are banged up and will be missing a few players, which adds to why I don’t like Georgia in this game. Jake Fromm will likely struggle against a Baylor defense that Matt Rhule has put his stamp on.
This game isn’t going to be pretty, so it’s best to take the points in this spot. Baylor will be motivated to go from 1-11 in Rhule’s first season in Waco to 12-2 with a Sugar Bowl win two years later. Georgia is more talented, but for some reason Kirby Smart’s teams have wasted all the talent they’ve amassed over the past few years. It’s probably best if you fall asleep by halftime and wake up to find out the score of this game on Thursday morning.
Baylor 23, Georgia 20