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MC&J: The first of this season’s New Year’s Six bowls will be played on Friday night

The Orange Bowl will truly live up to its name when Clemson takes on Tennessee.

NCAA Football: ACC Football Championship-Clemson at North Carolina USA TODAY NETWORK

Season ATS: 106-114-6 (57-65-3 National, 49-49-3 B1G — with a number of results still to be decided)

Bowls ATS: 10-9-1 (9-9-1 National, 1-0 B1G)

Instead of cramming the rest of the bowl games into one article, I figured I’d split them up, with the Thursday and Friday games in this article, and predictions for the games on Saturday and Monday in one last MC&J picks piece that will drop in the near future.

Bowl games 12/29 - 12/30

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)

Pinstripe Bowl: Syracuse v. Minnesota (-9.5) - Thursday 12/29 2:00 p.m. - ESPN

Both of these teams had their eyes on more prominent bowl games after the way they opened up their seasons. Syracuse started the season 6-0, while Minnesota opened up the year 4-0 before dropping three straight games. To the credit of the Golden Gophers, they rebounded with four wins in their final five games of the regular season.

After blowing a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter against Clemson, Syracuse didn’t show much life the rest of the season, dropping four more games before beating a lifeless Boston College team in their final game of the regular season. The Orange will not only be without running back Sean Tucker in this game, their offensive and defensive coordinators have already left to take other jobs.

As if Syracuse wasn’t dealing with enough issues right now, they’ll have to try and slow down Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who ran for 1,594 yards and 19 touchdowns this year. I just don’t see that happening. The Orange show about as much pop in Yankee Stadium as the New York Yankees did in the playoffs.

Minnesota 27, Syracuse 13

Cheez-It Bowl: Oklahoma v. No. 13 Florida State (-9.5) - Thursday 12/29 5:30 p.m. - ESPN

Remember when this was a BCS National Championship Game? Never forget that Florida State’s only score of the game was a safety against the Sooners. The Seminoles should be able to score quite a few more points than they did a couple decades ago against Oklahoma. The Seminoles have scored at least 38 points in each of their last five games.

Brent Venables’ first season in Norman has been a mess. Oklahoma finished the season 6-6, marking their lowest win total since 1998 when they won just five games in John Blake’s final season as head coach. Even though the Sooners have a dynamic quarterback in Dillon Gabriel, their defense is grotesque. In a 51-48 loss in overtime to Texas Tech to end the regular season, Gabriel threw six touchdowns, but got no help from the defense.

After wondering if Mike Norvell was the right man for the Florida State job, it looks like the Seminoles are headed in the right direction. A win on Thursday would give Florida State their first 10-win season since 2016. Oklahoma’s offense won’t be quite as tough to stop in this game since running back Eric Gray has opted out of the bowl and declared for the NFL Draft. Even had Gray played, I likely would have still sided with the Seminoles here.

Florida State 44, Oklahoma 28

Alamo Bowl: No. 20 Texas (-3.5) v. No. 12 Washington - Thursday 12/29 9:00 p.m. - ESPN

Find yourself something you love doing as much as Texas loves going to the Alamo Bowl. The Longhorns will be making their third Alamo Bowl appearance in the last four years, winning in San Antonio in both 2019 and 2020. Texas will be without running back Bijan Robinson in this game, who unsurprisingly declared for the NFL Draft. Former Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers will try and give the coaching staff something to think about before top prospect Arch Manning arrives in Austin.

What a first season it was for Kalen DeBoer in Seattle. After coming over from Fresno State, DeBoer brought in Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr., and the Huskies finished the season at 10-2. Penix had a monster season, throwing for 4,354 yards and 29 touchdowns, setting himself up for a possible run at the Heisman Trophy in 2023. As a whole, the Washington offense averaged 521 yards per game this year.

This should be a real fun game to watch, even without Robinson on the field for Texas. Both quarterbacks are looking to make statements before the calendar turns to 2023. Even though the Longhorns have plenty of experience making the short trip to San Antonio, I just think Washington is the better team. Texas may be more talented, but the Huskies play better together. I’ll gladly take the points here.

Washington 38, Texas 34

Duke’s Mayo Bowl: Maryland v. No. 23 NC State (-1) - Friday 12/30 12:00 p.m. - ESPN

Before the season I thought NC State could be a sleeper team for a New Year’s Six bowl. Obviously that didn’t pan out. The Wolfpack were looking good after starting the season 4-0, then they lost at Clemson and Devin Leary got hurt a short time after. NC State did find a way to piece some nice wins together late in the year, beating Wake Forest and then closing out the regular season with a double overtime win against North Carolina.

Will Maryland run all over a team from the ACC in a bowl game for the second year in a row? I don’t think it’s going to be as easy this year against NC State as it was last year at Yankee Stadium against Virginia Tech. Taulia Tagovailoa won’t have many reliable targets to throw to, as Rakim Jarrett, Dontay Demus, Jacob Copeland, and CJ Dippre all won’t play in this game. The Wolfpack still have a stingy defense, which will be tough for Tagovailoa to find much success against.

NC State 24, Maryland 20

Sun Bowl: Pitt v. No. 18 UCLA (-5.5) - Friday 12/30 2:00 p.m. - CBS

This will be the second time Pitt will be making the trip to El Paso for a bowl game under Pat Narduzzi. In 2018, the Panthers fell to Stanford 14-13. Pitt enters this game having lost five of their last six bowl games, with the only win during that span coming in the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl.

The Panthers will be without key players on both sides of the football in this game. Running back Israel Abanikanda, who rushed for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns this year, and leading tackler SirVocea Dennis have declared for the NFL Draft, while quarterback Kedon Slovis is transferring to BYU.

Unlike Pitt, UCLA has pretty much their whole roster available for Friday’s game. Dorian Thompson-Robinson will take the snaps, and be joined by running back Zach Charbonnet and wide receiver Jake Bobo. Even though Pitt likes to pride themselves on playing gritty football, they just don’t have the horses to keep up with a UCLA offense that averaged over 500 yards per game this year.

UCLA 37, Pitt 17

Gator Bowl: No. 21 Notre Dame (-2.5) v. No. 19 South Carolina - Friday 12/30 3:30 p.m. - ESPN

Marcus Freeman’s first season as head coach of the Fighting Irish certainly hasn’t been boring. Notre Dame opened up the year with losses to Ohio State and Marshall, lost starting quarterback Tyler Buchner to injury, and then went 8-2 in their final 10 games. Following the loss to USC, Drew Pyne announced he would be hitting the transfer portal, and we’ll see Buchner back behind center against the Gamecocks.

Not that South Carolina’s season was boring, either. For most of the year Spencer Rattler was a running joke because he wasn’t doing much of anything after transferring from Oklahoma. Then Rattler and the Gamecocks finished the regular season with wins over Tennessee and Clemson, with Rattler throwing for 438 yards against the Volunteers, followed by 360 yards in the 31-30 win over their in-state rival.

Not only will Notre Dame be trying to shake some of the rust off Buchner in this game, the quarterback will be without massive target Michael Mayer, who has declared for the NFL Draft. Even though Notre Dame did get better as the year went on, South Carolina will be a little sharper in this game.

South Carolina 28, Notre Dame 24

Arizona Bowl: Ohio (-1.5) v. Wyoming - Friday 12/30 4:00 p.m. - Barstool

Barstool is a cesspool and it’s a farce they have a bowl game. This is the only bowl game I can definitively tell you that I won’t be watching this year since I can’t under any circumstances support Dork Portnoy and the rest of the trash in that company.

Ohio puts the loss to Toledo in the MAC Championship Game behind them and wins their fourth straight bowl game. I would expand on why I picked the Bobcats but I’m not going to waste your time with a game I’m not going to watch one second of.

Ohio 31, Wyoming 20

Orange Bowl: No. 6 Tennessee v. No. 7 Clemson (-5) - Friday 12/30 8:00 p.m. - ESPN

This is going to be the orangest Orange Bowl to ever orange. The only way this Orange Bowl could be any oranger is if it was sponsored by Sunkist or Crush. Can we get Orange Cassidy (all my professional wrestling peeps will get that reference) on commentary or reffing this game?

It’s too bad we didn’t have a chance to see Hendon Hooker in this game. Maybe the Tennessee quarterback would have opted out, but the decision was made for him when he was injured in the 63-38 loss to South Carolina. Hooker was outstanding this year, throwing 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Also not available for the Volunteers in this game are wide receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman.

It’s not like Clemson won’t be without a few players in this game, most notably defensive end Myles Murphy. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has already announced he is transferring to Oregon State, leaving freshman Cade Klubnik to take the snaps. Honestly though, Klubnik has already proven to be an upgrade, leading the Tigers to an easy 39-10 victory over North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game.

I can’t take Tennessee seriously with former Michigan man Joe Milton at quarterback. Not only that, Milton won’t have Tennessee’s two best wide receivers in this game. We are going to see a lot better effort from Clemson in this game, as they work to get Klubnik even more comfortable running the offense, sending the freshman into the offseason with plenty of confidence for 2023.

Clemson 38, Tennessee 23

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