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MC&J: We close out the bowl season with the Rose Bowl, CFP, more

The long grind of picking college football winners this season has finally come to a close with one last barrage of bowl picks

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Ohio State at Indiana Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bowl games ATS: 13-11 (12-10 National, 1-1 B1G) (3 games pending)

Season ATS: 121-94-5 (64-56-2 National, 57-38-3 B1G)

Business started to pick up for us as the bowl season rambled on. As we moved into games with teams that were a little more familiar, the wins started to pile up, and we posted a more respectable record. Hopefully this last set of games caps off a strong season in style. For those that were with us all season, thank you for putting up with my odd pick style. Hopefully dealing with me paid off!

Bowl games 12/31/21 - 1/4/22

(All lines courtesy of DraftKings sportsbook.)

Gator Bowl: No. 17 Wake Forest (-14.5) v. Rutgers - Friday 12/31 11:00 AM EST - ESPN

All it took for Rutgers to receive their first trip to a bowl game since 2014 was a global pandemic. With a 5-7 record, Rutgers wasn’t originally eligible to go to a bowl game, but the Scarlet Knights were selected as a replacement for Texas A&M because of their APR. While it’s not a good sign for a competitive bowl game, at least Rutgers and the Big Ten get that bowl payout.

The only way this game should be close is if Wake Forest actually falls asleep on the field in Jacksonville during the game. Wake Forest is one of the highest scoring teams in the country, while Rutgers can’t really score. Even though the defense of the Demon Deacons leaves a lot to be desired, it’s not like Rutgers has the tools to take advantage of it. Wake Forest should win by at least three touchdowns.

Wake Forest 45, Rutgers 17

Sun Bowl: Washington State (-7.5) v. Central Michigan - Friday 12/31 12:00 PM EST - CBS

Really we are all winners here because there is no Barstool bowl game now. Central Michigan definitely upgraded, as they’ll get substantially more money playing in the Sun Bowl than they would if they played in the Barstool Broke Bowl. Even though many look at the Chippewas as a last minute replacement, they are actually a pretty fun team. Lew Nichols III led the nation with 1,710 yards rushing, and is a name you’ll hear throughout the day in El Paso.

Washington State found their groove after they got rid of noted loser Nick Rolovich. Jake Dickert impressed enough after replacing Rolovich that he got the interim tag lifted off his job title. This isn’t quite the same Washington State team that we became used to under Mike Leach, as the Cougars can run the football a bit and control the clock. This should be a real fun game that I see being decided by a touchdown or less

Washington State 38, Central Michigan 34

Outback Bowl: Penn State v. No. 21 Arkansas (-1) - Saturday 1/1 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2

Will the last one at Penn State this year turn out the lights? Alright, maybe it’s not that bad, but the Nittany Lions have a number of opt-outs for this game, most notably stud wide receiver Jahan Dotson. Honestly, it felt like Dotson was pretty much Penn State’s whole offense this year. Not like Sean Clifford won’t be able to figure something out, since he has 54 years of experience at Penn State to draw from.

Honestly, give me Arkansas whatever the number is. The whole state of Pennsylvania sucks. I just had to drive the small stretch of I-90 on my way back home to Western New York over the holidays and my goal is to get through Pennsylvania as fast as I can, which is tough because for some reason they drop the speed limit down to 55 for about a 15-mile stretch around Erie. Plus, it’s always fun to see James Franklin mad and trying to figure out how to blame anyone except himself.

Arkansas 31, Penn State 21

Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 Oklahoma State v. No. 5 Notre Dame (-2.5) - Saturday 1/1 1:00 PM EST - ESPN

I hope you didn’t come here for scientific analysis on this game, because you’re not going to get it. I’m going to keep this simple. Mike Gundy sucks and Marcus Freeman rules. Honestly, I hope Oklahoma State gets plowed here since it’ll mean that new Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was the one who really made the difference on defense for the Cowboys.

Also, it’s great that Knowles isn’t running the defense for Oklahoma State in this game since that way Marcus Freeman can’t get a true read on how Knowles calls a game. Now the first time that Freeman and the Notre Dame staff will try and solve a true Jim Knowles defense will be in the 2022 season opener. Give me a convincing Notre Dame win to bump up their 2022 expectations and set the table for an epic season opener with the Buckeyes.

Notre Dame 34, Oklahoma State 23

Citrus Bowl: No. 15 Iowa v. No. 22 Kentucky (-3) - Saturday 1/1 1:00 PM EST - ABC

If you had too many drinks on New Year’s Eve and need to get a couple more hours sleep before the Rose Bowl, this is the perfect game for you. Both teams are led by their defenses, with Kentucky having a little more pop on offense. Really though, just about anyone has more juice on offense than Iowa.

I know Iowa loves to make games ugly. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, so does Kentucky. The Wildcats do a great job at forcing turnovers, and they should be able to do just that against Iowa, especially if Spencer Petras starts. Maybe Kentucky has gotten a little extra info on how to attack Iowa since Wan’Dale Robinson is now a Wildcat after starting his career at Nebraska. This just feels like a horrible matchup for Iowa, which is why I like Kentucky to win.

Kentucky 23, Iowa 14

Sugar Bowl: No. 7 Baylor v. No. 8 Ole Miss (-1) - Saturday 1/1 8:45 PM EST - ESPN

Baylor and Ole Miss each come into this game riding four-game winning streaks. This could be one of the most entertaining bowl games of the year since the Bears and Rebels each have pretty balanced offenses, as well as great minds at coach. The only real difference is Baylor has a better defense, but the Rebels have improved on that side of the football as the year has gone on.

With this game being essentially a coin flip, I’ll go with the flashier squad. Quarterback Matt Corral will be looking to add to his draft stock, so expect him to go all out on Saturday night. It also doesn’t hurt that Corral has had a month to rest and recover from some of the knocks he has picked up throughout the season. Baylor makes some plays, Ole Miss just makes a few more in the end.

Ole Miss 37, Baylor 27

Texas Bowl: LSU v. Kansas State (-3.5) - Tuesday 1/4 9:00 PM EST - ESPN

What a weird spot for this bowl. I guess the Texas Bowl wanted to make sure all eyes were on it. Too bad this matchup is what it is. LSU comes in with an interim coach, backup quarterback, and a load of other players who are either transferring or opting out of this game. Makes you wonder if they regret winning their final two games of the year to become bowl eligible.

On the other hand, Kansas State probably wants to be here. Then again, the Wildcats might be wishing they would have been in a better bowl game. Unfortunately Kansas State lost their last two games of the year or else they might be bowling somewhere a little more high-profile. Still, I think the Wildcats are going to be a lot more motivated in this game than we’ll see from the Tigers.

Kansas State 28, LSU 20

Cotton Bowl Classic (CFP Semifinal): No. 4 Cincinnati v. No. 1 Alabama (-13.5) - Friday 12/31 3:30 PM EST - ESPN

I know Cincinnati and their fans are excited for this game, but are you sure you really want the smoke? I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. <Insert upstart team here> draws Alabama in the CFP and gets suffocated. I know the Bearcats hung with Georgia last year in the Peach Bowl, I’m just not sure how invested in that game the Bulldogs were.

This Alabama team isn’t as dominant as we have seen in years past. That might not matter this year, since there really isn’t a true standout team in college football. I think the Alabama we saw in the SEC title game is closer to what we’ll see than the Alabama we saw struggle with a number of lesser opponents. Plus, do you really doubt what Nick Saban can do with almost a month to prepare for Cincinnati? I know I don’t. Sorry Cincinnati, your magical run ends here.

Alabama 38, Cincinnati 21

Orange Bowl (CFP Semfinal): No. 3 Georgia (-7.5) v. No. 2 Michigan - Friday 12/31 7:30 PM EST - ESPN

So now we move on to the second playoff game. Do we want to see Georgia rematch with Alabama or the hated Michigan Wolverines get a crack at the Crimson Tide? I wish neither was an option. Not that Ohio State fans are rooting for Michigan, but I almost feel like they would rather see the Wolverines win here just to justify the Buckeyes losing to Michigan a little more. I know my logic is kind of flawed, it just seems like let Michigan get as far as they can before getting their heart broken in the title game.

Is Georgia as bad as we saw against Alabama? I don’t think they are, the Crimson Tide are just their kryptonite. The Bulldogs seem to look really good against everyone that isn’t coached by Nick Saban. Georgia will get a boost with the return of wide receiver George Pickens, who we saw play a little in the SEC Championship Game. Both defenses will have a field day attacking the opposing quarterback, I just think Georgia will be able to handle the pressure a little better than Cade McNamara and the Wolverines.

Georgia 28, Michigan 17

Rose Bowl: No. 11 Utah v. No. 6 Ohio State (-4) - Saturday 1/1 5:00 PM EST - ESPN

Finally, we come to our last game of the season. I know, there is still the championship game that I could pick, I just don’t think I can write a whole article on the game when Ohio State isn’t involved. Stay tuned to my Twitter and I might drop a pick in the days leading up to the game.

Ohio State definitely had dreams of playing in the CFP this year. If the Buckeyes took care of business against Michigan last month, they certainly would be one of the four teams left playing for a national title. Instead, the Buckeyes have to settle for a trip to the Rose Bowl, which isn’t a shabby consolation prize. I just don’t know exactly how excited they’ll be to be here after playing in this game in 2018, and since they’ll be missing a number of key players who have opted out.

The Buckeyes also drew one of the toughest teams in the country for this game. Utah destroyed Oregon twice in the last month of the season to earn their first trip to the Rose Bowl. The Utes undoubtedly are excited to be here, as they are gunning for their third 11-win season under Kyle Whittingham. Utah is just one of six Power Five schools ranked in the top 30 in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

For most teams, having Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave opt out of this game would be bad news. Luckily Ohio State isn’t most teams. The Buckeyes will still have Jaxon Smith-Njigba on the field, and they’ll also get an extended look at guys like Julian Fleming, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka. Wide receivers coach will definitely have the trio working along with Smith-Njigba ready to go.

Ohio State would be wise to try and mix in some running plays to try and get TreVeyon Henderson going since we haven’t heard all that much from the freshman lately. No matter if Henderson is toting the rock, or C.J. Stroud slinging it, Ohio State is going to have to be aware of where Devin Lloyd is at all times during the game. Lloyd had over 100 tackles this year and his 22 tackles for loss ranked second in the country.

I know there are a lot of people wondering what Ohio State’s motivation is in this game, and I totally understand that. While I think Utah is probably the smart play here, I’m going to show just how big of a homer I am by siding with the Buckeyes. Ryan Day and the rest of the team have been hearing how soft they are for over a month. You gotta think they are sick of it and want to prove everyone wrong. What better team to do it against than one of the toughest in the country? Ohio State wins their fourth straight Rose Bowl.

Ohio State 38, Utah 31

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.